Chapter 17:

CHAPTER 12: CHERSEA'S STALINGRAD

The Human Saint is Bored, so I was Summoned to Another World Vol. 4


The city of Amaranth was a walled city centered on the royal fortress, and there were several approaches to enter the city…as well as exit from it. The sound of the marching army was coming to its southern side, towards the direction of the Duchy of Braunhauer, and the field of mediation. So, with that, we took the northern route, intending to turn east to Savoy once we traveled far from the capital.Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

There was a deafening silence inside our carriage as it traversed the dust path northwards. Eris, because of her grief, fell asleep on Jessica’s shoulder, who was the first one to rest. So was Maddie, who had been continuously awake for two ‘long sleeps’ now. Lily was also tired, but she was trying to keep herself up.Bookmark here

“Hey!”Bookmark here

Lily looked at me.Bookmark here

“Try to catch some rest.” I told her, “Everything will be alright soon.”Bookmark here

“Kuro…” the sadness in her eyes was so overwhelming it caused pain in my heart as well.Bookmark here

“Don’t worry. We’ll get through this, and hopefully, we’ll be able to save those people we love.”Bookmark here

Tears fell from Lily’s eyes. She tried to hide it at first, but she couldn’t keep herself from crying. I offered her my shoulder; I’m sure Maddie would do the same if she’s awake…Bookmark here

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Meanwhile, the Marquise of Monfort wasn’t taking any chances. She would send a scouting party ahead of us from time to time since we haven’t really exited the borders of the royal fiefs. Our travel so far had been uneventful.Bookmark here

“Kuro…” she reported to me at the carriage, “Everything’s fine so far.”Bookmark here

“Well, then it’s good. Hopefully, we’ll be crossing the kingdom’s borders by lunchtime later.”Bookmark here

“I don’t like it.”Bookmark here

“Eh?”Bookmark here

“Now that war has begun, I’m sure those nobles had already roused their allies to attack the royalty-held territories. And if you remember, the prince was telling us that the royal fief was surrounded by the noble forces, and was cut off from outside help.”Bookmark here

“Yes, he said that.”Bookmark here

“Well, if it is true, then why is it so peaceful in here?”Bookmark here

I fell silent upon hearing that. Indeed, we’ve been traveling for a while, and yet there’s not a sign of any approaching army. Of course, maybe this was a relatively peaceful road. But then again, if the Duke claimed the nobles had been surrounding and preparing to attack the royal capital, then how come that this part of the region was devoid of any armed force?Bookmark here

Either the Duke is lying to us, or the nobility had forgotten this path…Bookmark here

“Lady Monfort, we should keep up our guard.” I told her, “Or we might head for an ambush.”Bookmark here

“I already had reconnaissance around the area, they should be back—oh, there they are!”Bookmark here

Coming in front of our path was a pair of knights the Marquise had sent to scout the road ahead. They’ve been waving their hands and were shouting incomprehensible words. The Marquise met them halfway and then went back to the carriage.Bookmark here

She had a pale, terrified expression, “Kuro, they’re here.”Bookmark here

“What do you mean? The rebel army?”Bookmark here

“No, it’s much worse. It’s the Imperial legionnaires, marching directly down this path. The scouts reported that at least two columns are heading our way.” the Marquise was panicking, “Her Holiness is right all along; the Empire had a hand on this!”Bookmark here

“Well, I’ll be damned. We should turn back then!”Bookmark here

“Aren’t you going to play diplomatic games with them? We’re not at war with these guys, after all!”Bookmark here

“Indeed. There’s no declaration of war.” I explained to the Marquise, “However, with someone going after Her Holiness’ life, and an imperial agent trying to capture the Head Maid into slavery before, I don’t think we’d want to negotiate with such people. We might run right into their trap.”Bookmark here

Ah yes, the Battle of Hagena Castle.” she recalled, “You told me that story before. Anyway, let’s find another route.”Bookmark here

“Are you familiar with this place?”Bookmark here

“Well, a bit. I’m not really confident with my knowledge around this area.”Bookmark here

Damn…let’s retreat to Amaranth then!”Bookmark here

After careful deliberations about our situation, we turned back our convoy and headed to the capital city, hoping that we could still enter it before it was fully surrounded by the rebel armies and the Imperial Legions.Bookmark here

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***The path between the cities of Amaranth and Devyere, in the temporary headquarters of the Imperial Expeditionary Forces***Bookmark here

The empire had allotted five legions out of 35 for its invasion force in Amaranth, a formidable army of 20,000 well-trained legionnaires and 7,500 auxiliaries like the cavalry, archers, magicians, and siege engineers. Excluded were the various allied armies of the rebellious nobles, and their hired mercenaries, which would amount to about 30,000 additional friendly forces.Bookmark here

Meanwhile, the royal armies in the capital of Amaranth could amount to only 2,700 levy militias—composed of men pressed into military service, and the core 1,000-men royal guards. They were reinforced by a few military orders inside the city—of doubtful allegiance to the crown, and some private armies by the guilds that were headquartered in the merchants’ quarter.Bookmark here

General Umberto Benicci watched from afar as his forces invested around the city. He could still make out the old royal fortress where his family took their last stand before the armies from Nerfes overwhelmed their soldiers. The banner of the rival royal family that replaced his house in the past still flew at the towers of the castle, and it was an ugly sight for him.Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

An imperial legionary came to him, “Sir, Her Holiness the Saint Seirna of the Flame had finished teleporting the rest of the siege engineers, including their equipment.”Bookmark here

“Good. Tell them to get into their positions and fire at those castle spires. Those banners taint the Amaranthine sky with their filth. Take those down.”Bookmark here

The soldier saluted and went to do his orders. Another one came and reported to General Umberto.Bookmark here

“Sir, our scouts have reported that a convoy of royal knights was seen coming from the direction of the city of Amaranth. They are escorting several carriages.”Bookmark here

“Carriages?”Bookmark here

“Yes sir. The scouts say that it was flying the banner of the Human Saint.”Bookmark here

“Oh…” a foul smile appeared on the general’s lips, “Captain, take four full cohorts of men, and pursue that convoy. That must be Her Holiness, the Saint of Chersea’s party. Capture her alive, so we can get her to safety.”Bookmark here

The captain, realizing that he was given a highly important task, hopped enthusiastically to do his orders. Soon enough, about two thousand men were marching toward the northern walls of the city of Amaranth.Bookmark here

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**Kuro**Bookmark here

“This is not happening…this is not happening…this is not happening…”Bookmark here

Uh…Lady Monfort, it is happening. Right now.”Bookmark here

“Oh…” the Marquise sat down on a rock nearby.Bookmark here

Well, I could understand her concern, though. Especially when you realized you’ve been trapped in an open field, with an enemy army coming behind, and another enemy force before you. The city of Amaranth was now under siege, with several siege towers, catapults, and trebuchets being assembled at a relatively safe distance from the defenders.Bookmark here

Fortunately, we found a copse of trees in which we could hide our company of paladins and royal knights.Bookmark here

“Could we try to the left and right?” I asked.Bookmark here

The other members of the paladin corps brought over a map to help us consider our options.Bookmark here

“We could try to take the direction to the right since it’s the shortest way to the border of Savoy.” the Marquise offered her solution.Bookmark here

“And risk capture, of course.” I countered, “You think these legions won’t know about that? A Saint was working with them, so yeah. Not possible.”Bookmark here

“Uh…yes. It’s a stupid choice.” the Marquise admitted, “How about the left?”Bookmark here

“I don’t know about that? You think it’s a viable option?”Bookmark here

“Well, aside from running to several nobles supporting the rebellion, I guess it’s a safer option.”Bookmark here

“How many nobles are we talking about here?”Bookmark here

“Around four? That includes the fief belonging to the family of the Ban of Kistral.”Bookmark here

“So yeah, it’s four different people of doubtful loyalties that we need to convince about our safe passage. And with the princess of Amaranth with us, I guess we’re going to commit suicide.”Bookmark here

“Oh, come on! I guess it’s worth the try than being captured here at the open field.” the Marquise of Monfort had resigned to our fates, thinking for viable choices, so she suggested that.Bookmark here

I fell silent for a moment, attempting to squeeze my mind for other options. But well, so far, those choices had eluded me…Bookmark here

“I suggest we run and break through these armies.”Bookmark here

“So it has come to thi—wait, what?” I turned around and saw Maddie standing behind me, wearing the full plate armor of the paladin guard, “Hey, Maddie, you don’t mean to say…”Bookmark here

“Well, for as long as it’s not the highly trained and disciplined imperial legionaries, we could do it.” she explained, “Besides, my powers got suppressed, and for now, I’m just Madelaine Ann, Duchess of Rubinforth.”Bookmark here

“Correction!” Lily also appeared dressed in another spare plate armor of the paladin guard, “You’re indeed Madelaine Ann, Duchess of Rubinforth…but you forgot your other human title: the Flower of Dawson Valley, commander of the right wing of the Iron Princess’ army.”Bookmark here

“And that’d be you, right, Lily?” I asked.Bookmark here

“I am.”Bookmark here

“So yeah, now we got two legendary generals from Nerfes to lead us…” I heard the Marquise of Monfort say.Bookmark here

“What are you saying?” Maddie laughed, “Aren’t you Amaranth’s Golden Sword of Heaven?”Bookmark here

Wow…these ladies with me talking with all their titles in the past were making my head spin. Honestly, I have little idea what could those titles mean; what I’m confident with was that they’re not just your common damsels-in-distress. These girls could actually kick asses should they choose to do it.Bookmark here

So, uh…can’t we just move ahead and fight if we’re going to do it? The enemies are upon us, see?Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

Damn, now that I remembered it…I forgot about my dagger and matchlock at the Braunhauer guesthouse. How will I fight without a weapon?Bookmark here

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And so, we all agreed that rather than let ourselves be captured without a fight, our group would try to break through the enemy lines, to the western direction. The decision came after we determined that the eastern and northern approaches to the borders would probably be secured by enemy armies, for that was our likely route to escape. Running to the south would only exhaust us since Amaranth’s southern borders were the sea itself.Bookmark here

Only to the west we can find the allies we need to escape to our freedom.Bookmark here

The royal knights and the paladin guards never aired a protest. In fact, I could feel their enthusiasm now that they’d be in ‘the charge of their lives’. These young men and ladies were just too excited for something like this to happen, and they wouldn’t want to miss a second of it. I only hoped this would go well.Bookmark here

“Don’t worry Kuro, as you’ve told me before, it’s either we stop, or die trying.” Maddie tapped my shoulder to reassure me, once she noticed the anxiety on my face, “Besides, I won’t die easily; and so is Lily. Back in the old war, we’re a force to reckon with.”Bookmark here

“And now we also got the Marquise to join our forces.” Lily reiterated, “Besides, we’re only breaking through, we will not stay long in the battlefield to fight.”Bookmark here

I noted our two ‘non-fighting’ passengers, “Well, how about the Amaranthine princess and the Duchess of Braunhauer?”Bookmark here

“Princess Jessica would ride with Lily, while Eris comes with me.” Maddie elaborated their plan, “We’ll leave the carriages behind, along with most of our equipment and clothes.”Bookmark here

Lily further explained, “The royal knights would form the outer ring, with the paladin guards in the inner formation. The Marquise of Monfort—since she’s a seasoned cavalry commander—will lead our forces. Maddie and I would ride behind her. As for you, go with the Marquise, just be careful not to fall off the horse again.”Bookmark here

“Ask the paladin guards to be wary of arrows and other magical projectiles to be hurled at us,” I suggested.Bookmark here

“They knew about that already, don’t worry.” Maddie winked at me.Bookmark here

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With our plans fully ironed-out and the responsibilities distributed to everyone, Maddie and the rest rode our horses and prepared for the charge to break through the enemy lines. From the copse of trees where we hid earlier, we could make out the enemy lines besieging the city of Amaranth, as well as the secondary armies coming in from the distance to reinforce their forces.Bookmark here

The kitchen princess was uttering a prayer. I wondered where could’ve she praying to, since the Saint beside her, currently powerless. In contrast, Eris tried to keep a brave front; clinging to the book her father gave to her.Bookmark here

“Alright, here we go!” the Marquise prodded her steed to gallop forward. Soon, our entire force was following her lead, charging to the enemy at full speed.Bookmark here

“Enemy attack!” We heard the thunderous shout from the opposing army once we came into their full view. As if on cue, the paladin guards chanted the barrier magic to shield us from the incoming arrows and magic spells. The explosions reverberated inside our formation; but it didn’t faze us.Bookmark here

“It’s the army of the Count of Nejar!” the Marquise shouted, to notify Maddie and Lily, “It’s not the imperial legions; we can do this! For the Saint, and Chersea’s glory!”Bookmark here

“Yaaaaaahhhhhh!!!” As if their spirits were buoyed by the information, the knights and the paladins shouted, and I could feel their fury as we charged to the first lines.Bookmark here

Although they gave me a pole weapon to fight, soon it became apparent that it’s better if I did nothing. The Marquise of Monfort was an unstoppable force on the battlefield. With her sword, she skillfully rode down the enemy infantry, all were armed with spears. Her war steed used its momentum to throw-off the opponents, inadvertently causing a dent to the shield-walls put up to counter us.Bookmark here

However, the Iron Princess and Maddie won’t be left behind with their share of the kill.Bookmark here

Lily, using a lance while holding the horse’s reins with her other free hand, cut a vast swath of death and destruction through the enemy line, leaving a few to the following paladins and knights. What’s even unbelievable was that she hadn’t activated the ‘Bloodbath’ skill just yet.Bookmark here

What more can happen if she did just that?Bookmark here

Maddie, on my left side, carved a path of casualties for the enemy forces. She was using a paladin sword, and with it, she felled many of the opposing infantry.Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

Watching her do that gave me a mixed feeling of awe and terror. Her beautiful silver hair danced as she skillfully hacked and slashed through the defensive lines. Her silvery-blue eyes remained emotionless, as scores of men were mowed down like grass under her blade.Bookmark here

So this is the Flower of Dawson Valley, Madelaine Ann Rubinforth.Bookmark here

The rest of our forces followed-up with their own kills, usually the stragglers of the broken shield wall formations. The knights and the paladins never gave the enemy quarter; for those who could stand, they decapitated, and those who fell yet still alive were trampled under the hooves of their horses.Bookmark here

Such a gory, sick sight. But it’s part of war…and it’s either kill or you’ll be killed.Bookmark here

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The initial shock of our cavalry charge, however, was soon lost. Though we broke through the first and second lines of the defense, the Marquise of Monfort had to slow her pace, since her horse was visibly exhausted, the resistance was getting stiff, and the paladins maintaining the barriers were tired as well.Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

A moment later, it became apparent to us it’s not over just yet. The third line of enemy soldiers barred our way to freedom, and from the Marquise’s ‘Sharp Eyes’ ability, she determined that two more rebel armies lay between us, and safety.Bookmark here

Well, fuck. We’re dead.Bookmark here

“Let’s head to that place!” she cried out to us. What the Marquise meant was the Red Diamond Palace, the chateau a few distances outside the city’s northwestern limits. We could see that it was occupied by enemy soldiers, but with no other choice other than to stop and rest, we immediately took the chance.Bookmark here

“Get out of our way!” the Marquise ran the enemy sentries through her sword, and using her quick reflexes on the horse, held the gates open for us to storm the palace. The next thing that happened was that the cavalry battle turned into a horseman-versus-infantry melee between our forces and the rebels.Bookmark here

Lily then activated her ‘Bloodbath’ skill and killed every soldier on her path. Good thing Maddie was quick to pull away from our own men to safety, just as the head maid unleashed her ‘berserker mode’. Cutting through a hail of magic spells and arrows, Lily pushed through the opposing forces as if they’re made of paper.Bookmark here

It was a terrible display of power. Blood and gore were scattered everywhere, with some splattering on the palace’s blue walls. A few moments later, the entire premise of the Red Diamond palace was cleared of the enemy army.Bookmark here

“Quick! Man the walls!” Maddie immediately ordered.Bookmark here

However, I cried out, “Maddie! Don’t do it; let’s retreat inside the building! It’s more defensible, and it’s not exposed.”Bookmark here

Maddie nodded and asked everyone to follow my suggestion, just as the reinforcing enemy soldiers appeared outside the perimeter of the Red Diamond palace. A paladin was quick to fortify and lock the main gate, and, aided by two knights, safely retreated to the interior. By then, a few of our number had already fallen on the garden, with some being dragged by their comrades to safety.Bookmark here

“Eris, come back!” I suddenly heard Maddie cried out. Eris was running after the history book her father gave her, which she may have dropped when we fought in the melee earlier. My mind was racing; the enemy archers had already positioned themselves on the other side of the palace’s walls and were aiming to rain down their lethal arrows on us.Bookmark here

“Fuck!” Adrenaline took over me, and I rushed to intercept Eris.Bookmark here

“Noooooo!!! Mister Kuro, the book!Bookmark here

“Just go back! I’ll try to get it for you!” I quickly pulled her away as she screamed and kicked, pushing her over to Maddie, who was waiting at the palace’s doors.Bookmark here

“Kuro, the arrows!” she tried to stop me, but I didn’t hear her in time.Bookmark here

“Fire!” was the thunderous order from the leader of the enemy archers.Bookmark here

The deadly rain of arrows that fell on the Red Diamond palace gardens not only killed our horses—whom we were forced to leave on open ground, it also told me that my efforts to retrieve Eris’ history book was as futile as our current situation.Bookmark here

Luckily, I was not hit by those deadly projectiles. I dashed back to the palace.Bookmark here

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Once inside, the able-bodied paladins and knights quickly fortified the windows, as well as the big oak doors of the palace. They also barred the hallways and the doors of the rooms on the second floor with all the furniture and wardrobes, so as not to allow the attacking army inside.Bookmark here

We stayed on the first floor as we caught our breaths, while the wounded were taken to the basement where the kitchen was located.Bookmark here

At least, we’re given rest before we die…Bookmark here

Lily, because of the exhaustion brought about by using her ‘Bloodbath’ skill to the full, was soundly sleeping in the kitchen. Joining her were a dozen injured knights and paladins, with Maddie manually attending to their wounds. Eris was also with them, but she was awfully silent, possibly depressed over losing the only memento she had of her parents.Bookmark here

The Marquise of Monfort quickly came to comfort her sister. She was busy consoling the young duchess that the knights, and the paladins, were left to their own devices. I couldn’t blame her, it was a low moment. With everything in chaos, the burden of command inevitably fell on me. I quickly worked to organize the defenses.Bookmark here

Good thing the royal knights are cooperative. It’d be a problem if they acted arrogantly in this situation.Bookmark here

Meanwhile, we could hear the enemy soldiers pounding their way in on the first floor. They’ve been ramming the doors of the palace, as well as attempting to tear down the barricades we put over the windows. The dread of what was to come was clear on our faces.Bookmark here

Man…I wonder what would God say when we meet each other once again…Bookmark here

“Kyaaaa!!!”Bookmark here

I quickly rushed back to the first floor when I heard someone shout, followed by a commotion. I thought the enemy had broken through, but thank goodness, it’s just a false alarm.Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

But still…do we even need additional people with us?Bookmark here

In one cupboard we used as a barricade, the knights found a hiding lady. Much to our surprise, it’s one maidservant of the royal family…Bookmark here

Err…what are you doing here, Miss Tatiana?” I asked her.Bookmark here

The maid was visibly shaken, but she tried to answer me, “Th-The prince l-l-let me escape the c-city. I wanted t-t-to go back to m-my mother! She’s sick! I-I don’t want to die here!”Bookmark here

“Then if so, why are you here?” I felt pity for her. She must’ve been way too scared to think that she’s basically trapped here, with us.Bookmark here

“S-S-S-S-Sir K-K-Kuro…th-th-there’s a w-way, at the k-kitchen.” She was offered a glass of water to drink, which she gladly accepted. And then, when she calmed down, she told us, “There’s an underground passage here that led to the village of Nebat to the west. In the kitchen, there should be a false wall. If I could find it, we could escape from there.”Bookmark here

“Ha?” a knight asked, “How d’you know?”Bookmark here

“I’m a former maid of the La Vebrunes family, good Sir. I worked in this estate long ago, so my memory is muddled. But I could say that the escape route should still be here.”Bookmark here

The knights, paladins, and I exchanged hopeful looks. At least, we’re not totally trapped like we thought we were. However…Bookmark here

“The enemy’s about to break in!” someone shouted.Bookmark here

The knights quickly threw their bodies to keep the barricades on the door. Indeed, at any moment now, those wooden doors could fall, and the enemy outside would pour into either capture or murder us all.Bookmark here

“Hey, guys!” I sent the paladins with an order, “Help Miss Tatiana find that false wall. Evacuate Her Holiness, along with the wounded.”Bookmark here

At once the paladins and the royal maid went to work. Time was of the essence, and soon Maddie and the rest of the wounded who could still move were looking for the elusive secret passageway.Bookmark here

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While the others searched for our escape route, we’ve noticed that the enemy outside ceased attacking our defenses. The knights were relieved, and so did I. However, someone pointed out that we should still be on alert, for it might be just ‘the calm before the storm’.Bookmark here

A young knight went to the window and peeked. Indeed, the enemy had stopped trying to break down our barricades. But what followed was much worse.Bookmark here

“Sir Kuro, I can see some imperial legionnaires marching with a flaming ram outside.”Bookmark here

“Well, I guess, we’re going to make a stand here, then.” I picked up a spear and a shield. Though the shield was quite heavy, I’d rather go down with it than let these bastards kill me easily.Bookmark here

Taking it as an encouragement, the royal knights took up positions on the passage that led to the basement kitchen. Using their lances for spears, I had them form a human wall that blocked the choke point. In case that the enemy broke through, and we hadn’t found the escape route just yet, we’ll hold off their assaults so that the people below would have a few more seconds to search.Bookmark here

Who knows, it can lead to a breakthrough!Bookmark here

The flaming battering ram began knocking on our barricade. The scene was horrible, as it looked like the battering ram was a live dragon trying to force its way in.Bookmark here

“Here comes the fun part!” a knight shouted. Where’s the fun in this?Bookmark here

The second hit caused cracks to form on the wooden door.Bookmark here

“…” By now every one of us was silent, in fearful anticipation of what’s coming. Oh well, at least, I did my best to protect the girl I love…it’s not that bad at all to die then!Bookmark here

Third hit!Bookmark here

“Success! Success! Success!” A paladin came rushing above to the first floor to deliver the good news, “We found the passageway!”Bookmark here

Once again, our hopes went up. The knights were all smiles, and I told the paladin to put Maddie first on their priority list, and then the wounded.Bookmark here

Eh? But how about you, Sir Kuro?”Bookmark here

Fourth hit!Bookmark here

“Well, I’ll stand with these guys to allow you to escape.” I winked at her, “You know, you paladin ladies had several VIPs to protect, and as I am your co-captain, it’s my job as well.”Bookmark here

“But…”Bookmark here

“Don’t worry. We’ll also make a run for it once you guys are safe.”Bookmark here

The paladin saluted me for the last time and then disappeared into the basement.Bookmark here

Then, a knight asked me, “Sir Kuro, don’t you think it’s better if we attack them once they broke through?”Bookmark here

Eh? Why?”Bookmark here

“Well, I’m thinking, Sir, if we take positions here, and we got eliminated early, won’t these bastards know that something’s going on below?”Bookmark here

Fifth hit!Bookmark here

I pondered on what the knight raised. Indeed, if they took us out and the evacuation below was not yet completed, then our sacrifices here would be in vain.Bookmark here

“Alright guys, transfer some barricades into this passageway. Block it well, so that even us wouldn’t be able to get in.” I ordered them, “As soon as these guys break through, don’t give them any quarter. The future of Chersea rests on our hands!”Bookmark here

“Yes!”Bookmark here

I don’t know, but learning that they’re about to die for some noble cause gave the knights the morale boosts they needed, and I could feel that my companions were all fired-up to give their best in fighting for their beloved saint, and her ideals for humanity.Bookmark here

I guess this is the power of chivalry, huh?Bookmark here

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**Madelaine**Bookmark here

Good thing we found the hidden passageway that the royal servant Tatiana was telling us about. It was a narrow, dark path that led to nowhere. However, this was not the time to question things now that the enemy was about to pounce on us.Bookmark here

“Hurry! Get the wounded inside!” I ordered the able-bodied paladins to carry their wounded allies to safety.Bookmark here

I took the sleeping Lily with me. Back in the last war, I used to carry her whenever she fell asleep and exhausted after the ‘Bloodbath’ rampage, so this task was no big-deal to me. The Marquise of Monfort also led her sister inside, with the princess, Jessica, following them.Bookmark here

“Your Holiness!” a paladin then called out to me. She was panting, a sign that she came from the upstairs at the first floor, and hurried down here, “Sir Kuro and the royal knights blockaded the passageway to the first floor, and they stood to fight the rebels trying to get in!”Bookmark here

My heart immediately melted when I heard that. My legs wobbled and nearly gave way. Lily almost fell from my back, fortunately, the Marquise was quick to assist me. The other paladins also moved in to stop me from going back.Bookmark here

“Your Holiness! Please stop this!” they pleaded, “It’s your safety that’s our priority; please don’t do this!”Bookmark here

Aaaarrrgh! Please work! Teleport! Teleport!” I desperately tried to activate my teleportation spell, but it was all in vain.Bookmark here

“Your Holiness!” the Marquise wrapped her arms around me, “Please calm down.”Bookmark here

“Kuro! He’s back there!” I cried out, “I need to go back to him!”Bookmark here

“His sacrifice would all be wasted if you go back, Your Holiness.” she reiterated, “Kuro had created this opportunity for us, using his life, so that you could continue on your ideals for this land! Please don’t throw away his trust in you!”Bookmark here

“Your Holiness…please be strong!” Jessica also came to encourage me, “We all wanted to go back for him, but knowing Kuro, we would only get him mad for wasting this opportunity he created for us.”Bookmark here

The Marquise and Princess Jessica’s words felt like a heavy hammer that crushed my spirit, and though I wanted to run back to the palace, I realized I would only throw away Kuro’s sacrifice—as well as the others—if I did just that. My heart was heavy, and tears were falling uncontrollably from my eyes.Bookmark here

Still, I picked myself up and ordered the other paladins…Bookmark here

“C-Continue…f-for…ward.”Bookmark here

Those were the heaviest words that came from my mouth. Kuro, a good friend and the man I loved, would be sacrificed just for me to live and continue my beliefs.Bookmark here

The Marquise and Jessica stayed with me for a while I cried my heart out…Bookmark here

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When I finally got back to myself, the Marquise had told me we should carry on with our escape. Then she entrusted me to Jessica and asked her to take me to the very end of this tunnel we’re in. Our other companions were sent ahead, so as not to be burdened by my earlier episode.Bookmark here

“Where are you going, Lady Monfort?” I asked.Bookmark here

“Rearguard duties, Your Holiness,” she answered, having selected twenty of her paladins. I guess they’d try to block the enemy from pursuing us, should they find the hidden entrance to the passageway?Bookmark here

I quickly gave my blessings to the Marquise and ordered her to, “Come back safely, Lady Monfort! If it is time to run, by all means, don’t delay.”Bookmark here

“Yes, Your Holiness!” she gave me a wink, “Let’s meet again at the Nebat. Please be safe!”Bookmark here

And with that, the Marquise of Monfort and her paladins disappeared into the relative darkness of the escape route.Bookmark here

“Your Holiness…” the princess Jessica was prodding me, “Don’t abandon us; let’s go!”Bookmark here

“Don’t worry, Your Highness!” I reassured her, “I will be strong for those people who sacrificed their lives, and are still devoted to me.”Bookmark here

We continued our escape through the narrow tunnel underneath the countryside. The passageways were narrow, only enough for three people to fit shoulder to shoulder. Our only source of light was Princess Jessica’s own light magic spell. The route was simple; we’re not afraid that we’d get lost. We expected to find the other party somewhere ahead of us.Bookmark here

Soon, the narrow tunnels gave way to a vast system of underground caverns. There were spots where we could see the light from the outside penetrating through the small cracks on the rocks; a clear sign that we’re nearing the surface.Bookmark here

However, what’s more astonishing to find was the walls made of brick stones that formed a part of a ruin we saw in these caves. It’s as if an old civilization, or some lost kingdom, had once stood here. Here, we found our companions waiting for us.Bookmark here

“Greetings. Your Holiness!” the Dame Atkins greeted me. Lily was still unconscious on her back.Bookmark here

“How are the others?” I asked about the other paladins and knights who were with us and assisting their injured friends.Bookmark here

“Rested. Well.” she curtly answered, as always.Bookmark here

“Good. Could you still continue?”Bookmark here

“Yes.”Bookmark here

“Then, by all means, please go ahead. Wait for us at the village of Nebat.”Bookmark here

The paladin vice-captain nodded and motioned for the others to follow her, which they did after I gave them my approval.Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

However, I noticed that our young escapee, Eris, was still tired.Bookmark here

“Eris, are you okay?” I sat on one stone among the ruins and invited her to sit beside me.Bookmark here

The young duchess never answered. She dragged herself forward, yet I could tell that she’s already spent.Bookmark here

“Hey, Braunhauer, take a rest.” Princess Jessica told her, “It’s not good that we continue and you’re like that. It might end up badly for all of us.”Bookmark here

‘Useless…useless…’Bookmark here

Hm? Did you say something, Your Highness Jessica?” I asked my royal companion about what I heard.Bookmark here

“Your Holiness?” the princess had a confused look on her face, “I said nothing other than to advise this kid to take a rest.”Bookmark here

“Oh?”Bookmark here

‘You’re useless! You should’ve died! You’re harming this land!’Bookmark here

“I keep on hearing things!” I admitted to the princess.Bookmark here

Hm? I don’t, Your Holiness.”Bookmark here

‘You’re useless, Madelaine Ann Rubinforth!’Bookmark here

“!!!”Bookmark here

At that moment, a bright flash of light suddenly appeared and almost blinded me. Then, I felt a gust of wind blew against my face, as I heard the princess Jessica von Albert attempted to utter a barrier spell.Bookmark here

“Kyyyaaaaa!!!” However, she was the one who got hit by the magic spell and was thrown a few distances away from where I was, losing consciousness.Bookmark here

“Your Highness!” I tried to reach out to her, but another blast of magic made me stop and retrace my steps.Bookmark here

And then, I realized it. Those voices I keep on hearing were my power of reading thoughts coming back to me. But what’s more disturbing was that those words came from that young duchess with a drawn wand and a large burning ember on its tip, standing before me…Bookmark here

“E-Eris…?”Bookmark here

----------
Bookmark here

**Kuro**Bookmark here

“Chhaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrggggggggeeeeee!”Bookmark here

“Aaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrggggggggghhhhh!”Bookmark here

The makeshift barricade fell on the sixth hit of the battering ram. By then, we finished fortifying the defenses in the passageway to the basement kitchen. Once the wooden doors of the palace crumbled, enemy magicians quickly moved in to pepper us with magic spells.Bookmark here

However, we didn’t let them finish. We brought the fight to them.Bookmark here

Since it took time to chant a spell, the knight made quick work of the magicians. Right at the door, the enemy poured their soldiers, led by the disciplined legionnaires. I attacked with my spear, dropping the heavy shield, and felled four of the rebels before I let go of my weapon.Bookmark here

I grabbed a sword nearby. Fighting with a spear in such a cramped space was a disadvantage to me.Bookmark here

“Sir, the windows!” I heard a knight shouted.Bookmark here

While focused on the main door, the enemy tried to flank us by attacking through the windows, where the barricades also fell apart. The other knights rushed to meet the threat of encirclement, and they cut down a considerable number of the rebels, before being killed themselves.Bookmark here

The fighting turned into a desperate stand. One by one I could see my allies fell around me. The group of knights defending the doorway slowly thinned out to cover and defend all the palace’s entry points. Deep inside, I was thinking, what the hell did I just get myself into?Bookmark here

We were slowly pushed back, ’till I felt my back against the wooden barricades we set up in the kitchen passageway.Bookmark here

A legionary thrust his sword towards my neck, and I narrowly avoided his attack. Using his momentum, I countered him by slashing his neck. Once dead, I pushed away his corpse and went for another man to kill.Bookmark here

There was no time to think of what I’m doing. In my mind was Maddie, and her safety was my concern. The longer we fight, the longer we delay the enemy, and the farther our group’s escape would reach.Bookmark here

By this time, there were only a few knights standing. The second floor of the palace was clearly in control of the rebel and imperial forces, while the desperate fighting raged on the first floor. At least, the kitchen is still in our hands…Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

What’s this? A Chersean ‘Stalingrad’?Bookmark here

From the corner of my eyes, the imperial soldiers would kill our injured, so that they could pass on quickly. It’s considered a barbaric act in my world, but for a place like Chersea where battlefield medical care was non-existent, this was an act of mercy.Bookmark here

Well, at least these guys are honorable…Bookmark here

Just as my hands were about to give way to exhaustion, however, the defensive barricade behind me exploded, sending wooden shrapnel to hit the enemy and throwing most of them a few distances away from us. I felt someone pull me back, and I inadvertently fell through the passageway that led to the kitchen.Bookmark here

“!!!”Bookmark here

“What, do you think the Paladin Corps would abandon their captain?” It was the Marquise of Monfort, together with her fellow paladins, breaking through the other side of the barricade we set up. Their smiles and presence became a big help for our beleaguered forces just as we’re about to fall.Bookmark here

“But, aren’t you in charge of evacuating Her Holiness and the wounded?” I asked, still bewildered.Bookmark here

“Well, they’ve been safely led away by the others. I tasked the Dame Atkins for that job, and Her Holiness was helping her.” she explained to me, “Meanwhile, I and 20 of my girls came back to rescue their captain and the remaining knights.”Bookmark here

I looked to the ladies that volunteered to help us, “You don’t know how happy we are to see you.”Bookmark here

“Well, of course, Sir Kuro.” a paladin saluted me, “We would stand with our cowardly captain.”Bookmark here

The rest of the paladins agreed in unison. Their mere presence immediately breathed a new life to our failing defense, and we quickly reformed our forces to defend the kitchen passageway.Bookmark here

Bookmarked
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