Chapter 6:

Battle of Eiden Gorge (part 1)

Painted Tale

William Arklight

How do malfs find their prey?

Even though they've never been in those territories, they've been steadily moving in the direction of the village ever since we spotted them.

The answer is simple.

They sense magic.

I was taught that by Ed quite a while ago: Some monsters can sense magic. That's how they track humans.

For monsters, humans are a source of both nutrition and mana. That's why they're beloved prey and why living outside of the protected borders is close to impossible.

Knowing that they sense magic makes it possible to come up with a plan.

"Will, they tend to focus on eating the spellcasters first. That's why we can make bait out of one of them," Mom proposed a plan.

"That's great. With this, we might have a chance to win... I will be the bait," I say as I start creating a plan in my head.

"That is unacceptable."

Only to be denied.

"Mom, I know that you're worried about me, but I'm actually pretty strong. I can hold my own against Dad and Big bro, so malfs should be manageable. In case things go south, I'm confident I can run away."

"I know that, but making a bait out of you is not an option.

First of all, I'll be worried. I can't entrust those muscleheads your safety. But, most importantly, that just guarantees our loss," Mom says and looks at me, making sure I understand.

After a few seconds, she continues her explanation.

"Even if the trap is successful, it won't be able to eliminate our numerical disadvantage. Even if it becomes twenty against fourteen, the soldiers will surely lose. They won't have any time to worry about each other. Malfs, on the other hand, are great at functioning as a single pack, even in the middle of a tense fight. If you're not somewhere where you can simultaneously engage in the fight while commanding the soldiers, we don't have a chance." She finished her explanation.

I stay silent for a few seconds. After thinking through Mom's words, I ask.

"So, what's your plan? There's no one else who can act as bait."

"There's someone. In fact, she is standing in front of you."

In front of me? Does she mean herself? But if that's the case, it means that...

My mom is a spell caster? I didn't know if it's surprising or to be expected.

The ability to cast spells is usually reserved for either nobles or those from well-off households.

The reason for that is the difference in education.

The ability to use magic requires a developed mind. That development is enhanced by continuous mental activity, in other words, by studying.

Mom is the daughter of a wealthy merchant. She has received the proper education and, as a result, learned magic. There shouldn't be anything surprising about that.


"Making bait out of you? I can't do that: you will be in danger."

"Don't worry. I might not trust those muscleheads, but I do trust you. I know you can protect me, Will. Besides, you shouldn't underestimate your mother."

After a short pause, she adds.

"After all, your mother is a mage."

Esteban Arkuz, the captain of the third squad of The Duchy's army.

We're moving through the infamous Eiden Gorge. We're getting close to the end of it. The general has told us to be careful there since Renoa's army might be laying a trap. He also said that it's unlikely for them to commit to the attack. If they do that, they won't be able to retreat to the fort, so they will most likely prepare a trap to poke us with a guerilla squad.

Though there is a reason why they might fight in the gorge.

Rune cannons.

If they know of their existence, they will most likely fight us here.

However, that's impossible.

Before the campaign started, cannons' existence was only revealed to a select few from the higher-ups. Even if there is a spy in our midst, he can't communicate their existence. That's because we've been keeping a tight watch, ensuring that no information will leak. We forbid the soldiers from using any means of communication, and the trusted officers pay attention to everyone's actions.

There also should be no way to sneak behind us.

We are in the gorge. Even if the kingdom's soldiers ambush us with the intent of getting information, all of the cannons are stationed far in the back. Eiden only has one entrance, so flanking is impossible.

That's why our victory is secured.

Still, we have to be careful. After all, there are no guarantees in war.

We've almost reached the end of the gorge.

My squad is leading the way, so we have to be especially careful.

"Listen up, folks! From here on is the territory of the enemy. There's a big chance there is an ambush, so be careful! Be prepared for anything and listen to my orders!" I say to my squad before we keep going.

The front line of the soldiers is carefully moving forward, shields in their hands.

I can sense their nervousness with every step they make.

There's only a couple of steps until we finally leave the gorge.

The frontline squad soldiers lift their shields to cover their faces.

They make the last step and...

Nothing happens.

They wait for a few seconds before bringing the shields down.

*Swish* *Swish* *Swish*

*Swish* *Swish* *Swish*

*Swish* *Swish*

Suddenly, a torrent of sounds enters my ear.

"Shields! Bring your sh..."

*Thunk* *Thud* *Thud* *Thunk*

*Boom* *Thunk* *Thud* *Boom*

*Thunk* *Thunk* *Boom* *Bang*

*Thud* *Boom* *Clatter*

The world is filled up with light.

I'm blinded by the barrage of spells.

"Retreat! Retreat!" I scream as I struggle to figure out the direction the magic came from. From their trajectories, I can see that the spells came from different angles. They probably spread in a fan shape some distance away from the passage.

But how? Do they really have enough spell casters to do this? I doubt that.

As our soldiers retreat to the gorge, I hear a report.

"Captain! There are a lot of hooded silhouettes in the distance. They seem to be mages."

"Mages? How many?"

"A-at least a hundred!"

"A hundred?! Bullshit!"

I doubt they even have that many mages in the service of the kingdom.

Does that mean they used their magical scrolls? Here, before we even got to the fort? What's their goal? Are they really going to give us a fight here? I can't understand their reasons.

It doesn't matter. The kingdom can't keep up its barrage forever. Meanwhile, our rune cannons...

Rune cannons? Are they trying to get rid of them? But how? Even if there are spies in the army, there's no way a few of those can destroy the well-guarded cannons. A guerilla squad infiltrating is also impossible...

At that moment, a thought ran through my mind.

I've assumed flanking us is impossible since we're in the middle of the infamous Eiden gorge.

But, what if there's a way...

"You! Run to the back of our army and tell them to reinforce the defense of the cannons. They need to be on the lookout for enemy soldiers. It's an order from me, Captain Arkuz!"

"H-huh... I mean, yes, sir!"

While I'm busy sending a messenger to the backlines, I hear another report.

"Captain! They're engaging us in a frontal attack. Several squads are making a breakthrough!"

That confirmes my suspicions. They're planning to fight here, in the gorge.

"Hold the lines! There's no way they can have a numerical advantage! Their forces were made in a hurry in response to our war declaration. We have cannons. As long as we hold out, we will win this!"

As I'm saying this, I realize: this battle is going to be harsh.

While we might have more forces, we're fighting against the kingdom known for its soldiers. They're trained in swordsmanship, and some of them are even able to use spells. If we're not able to keep our cannons safe, this fight can go either way...

Edward  Arklight

It's time.

I can hear the magical barrage, signifying the beginning of the battle.

Right now, we're inside the slopes of the gorge.

In my head, I visualize an image of a sword striking an earth wall.

It crumbles from the force of the strike and turns into dust.

I touch the stone wall in front of me with my hand.

That dust flies forward with great force.

Stone Explosion.

The wall in front of me explodes in the direction my hand is pointing.

"Agh," I hear a scream on the other side.

*Boom* *Boom* *Boom*

I can hear similar explosions occurring on the other side of the gorge.

Our attack begins.

I run forward and see an enemy soldier, still shocked at his comrade blown away in the Stone Explosion.


I finish him off with a single sword strike.

"You basta— Agh." An enemy soldier tries to slash at me, but a spell, sent from atop the slopes, hits him, and he loses consciousness.

I run towards the cannon, slashing every enemy in my way.

*Slash* *Slash*

I keep cutting them down until I get to the cannon.

"Break it!" I order the soldier behind me.

He runs up to the cannon and lays down his hands on the bottom part of the barrel. He closes his eyes, concentrating. A few seconds later, I see his hands turn red and the barrel melting down. It's not enough to make it completely lose its form, but it is enough to render it unusable.

Meanwhile, my squad has already finished everyone from the cannon's escort squad and is holding out against the enemy's reinforcements.

"Our job here is done! Fall back!"

On my cue, my men on the ground start retreating. Those who stayed on the slopes cast a barrage of spells as a cover.

We run to the tunnels that we came from. When the last man gets into the tunnel, we use magic to make it collapse.

I'm running to the top as fast as I can.

As soon as I get on the surface, I turn to my right.

After running for a bit, I see another tunnel.

I jump right into it, landing on my back. The moment I dive into it, I can feel my body sliding downwards at high speed.

It's an artificial slide. We prepared a number of those to get to the tunnels as soon as we can.

I can see the end closing in.

Even before my descent is over, I jump onto my feet using the impulse to carry me forward.

I see one of my soldiers left to oversee this spot.

"Is it still fine?" I ask him about the situation

"Yes, sir. They still haven't gotten the information about your previous assault."

I nod to him.

This is good. So that means the enemy doesn't have any means of distant communication.

By this time, almost every one of my squad has arrived.

We go through the tunnel until we reach its end.

We don't have any time to waste, so I start casting.

An earth wall.

Sword strike.

Dust blast.

Stone explosion.

Another attack has begun.

Daniel Gorzof, the general of The Duchy's army.

I hear a torrent of magical spells.

Have they decided to ambush us?

The ambush itself is within our expectations, however...

What's with that force? Considering the power, they must be using up a lot of their magical scrolls. Are they really planning to hold the battle here? Something is wrong. I can feel it.


Think, think, think, thi—


"General? Is there an—"

"You there! Tell the 8th... No, tell the 5th, 7th, 14th, and 17th squads to reinforce the cannons' defenses! Hurry!"

"F-four squads! Bu—"

"I said hurry! I don't have time to explain!"

"Y-yes, general!"

With that confirmation, one of the messengers runs towards the squads closest to the cannons.

Around 40 seconds after he leaves, I receive another report.

"General! The 3rd rune cannon has been rendered unusable!"

As I thought, I was too late.

I knew that scaling the slopes is possible if you're proficient at using earth magic. However, a few men would never be enough to defeat the cannons' escort squads. That means the enemy has an entire group capable of using earth magic to such an extent... Damn it! How is it even possible?

As I was basking in regret, another report came in.

"General! The 1st rune cannon has been rendered unusable!"


How are they this fast?... I see. They probably prepared slopes in advance to ensure the maximum movement speed.

Not bad. I commend you for your sharp wits, knight of Renoa.

However, we still have three cannons left. The reinforcements must've already arrived. They can't destroy any more of our rune cannons.

I predict that their next course of action will be long-range harassment. The enemy will last for some time, but even magic has its limit. It's impossible to keep casting for hours on end. Besides, I've sent the squads that have a significant number of archers among them. The enemy is at a significant numerical disadvantage. They won't last long, so the question is:

Will the guerilla squad last long enough for the kingdom's forces to break through?

Or will we hold out to win the battle of attrition and win through the power of our cannons?