Chapter 8:

Battle of Eiden Gorge (part 3)

Painted Tale

My fight with the Pack Leader begins.

Dark blue.

I start with a water spell.

The Pack Leader easily dodges it.

Damn it! Even though he's this big, he's just as agile as the other malfs.

"Hey you, big guy! I'm your opponent!"

The malf turns in my direction and howls as if he can understand my words.


How do I beat this monstrosity?

He's fast, so spamming him with spells in hopes that one of them will hit is a no-no.

If we get in a close combat fight, my chances are also very slim.

Ranged attacks won't work, and trying to cut him down will just get me killed...

Damn it! How do I win this?

While I'm thinking, The Pack Leader starts running towards me.

I start casting a mid-level shadow spell.

Dark purple splashes onto a pure white canvas.

The paint forms a stain.

The stain starts leaking, transforming itself.

It starts branching off into lines with sharpened tips.

Shadow Spikes!

I stretch my hand forward, launching the spell in the direction of the malf.

A dark purple ray launches from my hand.

He stops his charge to evade it.

When he jumps away, the ray starts branching off into spikes.

They make sharp turns, aiming at the malf, and fly towards him, threatening to pierce his body.

Dark blue.

I fire another spell and rush towards The Pack Leader. He dodges both the water spell and the spike flying at him.

I once again start visualizing.

Dark blue splashes onto the white canvas.

It forms into a round stain.

I move my brush and as if matching its movements...

The circle moves all over the canvas according to my will.

Water Ball!

I release the spell.

The last spike is flying towards The Pack Leader.

Simultaneously, Water Ball is closing in...

He leaps into the air to avoid both of them.

He's coming in my direction.

Seeing that, I pull my left hand back in a sweeping motion.

He keeps running at me.

Good, just a little bit more...


Suddenly, his ears twitch, and he jumps away.

At that moment, Water Ball flies through the spot where the malf just stood.

Shit, are you telling me the malf heard the sound the spell made when it was flying through the air? How am I even supposed to deal with that?

The Water Ball stops right above my hand.

I start swinging my arm, directing the spell into the malf.

*Swish* *Swish* *Swish*

He keeps dodging the ball, but he can't advance like this, so we're in a stalemate.

I keep attacking him with the spell while trying to conceive a way to beat him.

Suddenly, he starts dashing in my direction.

What is he doing? That just makes him easier to hit.

I steer the ball in his direction and...

That's when I realize—

He's not planning to dodge.

The spell crashes into him, causing his body to bleed, but he doesn't stop.

He ignores the wound and keeps dashing towards me.

I need to cast a spell... No, I'm not making it in time!

I put my sword forward to use the force of the collision to pierce The Pack Leader.

Time seems to be slowing down as the malf closes in.

He meets my sword with his front paw, sacrificing it to keep his dash going.

I hear the sound of my sword piercing his flesh.

He crashes into me, and I can feel my body leaving the ground.

Pain threatens to overflow my senses. I desperately cling to my fading consciousness...

I see The Pack Leader ignoring his wounds as he rushes towards me to deal the finishing blow.

Even before my body lands, his maw will bite into me, and his teeth will tear my flesh.

There's nothing I can do as my body keeps falling to its death...

Suddenly, my dad's words echo in my fading consciousness.

"Take care of your mother. The territory is also on you... I'm sure you can manage."

That's right. Dad put his trust in me. I need to win this and protect the Arklight domain.

I will win this

It feels like a fire has been lit up in my fading mind.

All of a sudden, everything is crystal clear.

The Pack Leader is closing in. His maw is about to tear me down.

Dark blue.

We're still suspended in midair, and I cast a spell to get some distance away from him. The force of my magic turns my body around, allowing me to dodge his attack.

Now, I'm staring right into his muzzle.

His mouth is wide open, and it keeps closing in as we fall towards the ground.

When our fall ends, his teeth will bite into me. That's unavoidable.

So what? He can have my flesh all he wants.

Dark purple.

I can feel my feet touching the ground, and I fall backward, unable to resist the impulse of my flight.

A line that branches off in all directions...

I see his jaws closing in, and I thrust my hand into them.

...Its ends are sharpened, and their movement obeys my will.

I can feel the sensation of his teeth on my hands. Blood starts flowing, and I feel immense pain.

Shadow Spikes!

The Pack Leader's eyes open wide.


His jaw, pierced by numerous shadow spikes, ruptures into a bloody mess.

Before I start celebrating I check the situation on the rest of the battlefield.

I turn around to see Mom's magic striking down the last malf.

We did it.

We won.

Edward Arklight

*Drip* *Drip*

I hear the sound of drops of liquid hitting the ground.

I hear the sound of my blood.

"Sir! Are you alright?"

"Yes, I'm fine. Don't worry about it."

Luckily, the arrow only hit my arm.

When I was shot, I was able to react and cover my face with my hand.

In the last mission, we've lost five more men.

However, we succeeded at taking out the rune cannon.

Right now, we're keeping up the harassment.

At this rate, we can probably last a couple of hours longer.

The amulet on my neck starts twinkling.

I touch it with my hand.

"Sir Edward, what's the situation?"

"Your Excellency, we successfully took out one more rune cannon. Now, we can buy a couple more hours."

"Great job, Sir Edward. Things are pretty good on our end as well. Our frontal assault has succeeded, and we're advancing at a good pace. We will need around an hour to reach your positions. Soon, they will start retreating. Using cannons is impossible if they're not stationed, so your work will be over very soon. Rejoice, Sir Edward! This is our victory."

"Yes, Your Excellency... However, for some reason, I just can't shake away this bad premonition..."

As I say that, the ground starts rumbling.

As if something massive is coming.

William Arklight

I stand up and walk to the corpse of The Pack Leader.

For a pack this big to appear inside The Kingdom's territories...

Something is wrong.

I don't think that looking at the monsters' bodies will tell me anything, yet I can't help but try.

I look over the massive body of The Pack Leader from close up.

Its purplish gray fur is riddled with wounds.

That's when something interesting catches my attention.

A massive scar on its body.

It's so big that it can't be caused by a human sword.

Was it magic?

No, it feels like the cut was made by tearing the flesh open with something sharp.

Claws, maybe?

Does that mean he got this after fighting against a monster?

I can't imagine him winning after getting this wound.

Did he run away? With that wound?

It might be possible, but I can't quite believe that.

"Heh, maybe monsters also know the concept of mercy." I jokingly say.

Wait, mercy?

I have a feeling I've heard something like that before...

It must have been one of Edward's lessons...

What was it again?

"! " I gasp.

I remember now.

This is bad.

After all, our army might have to face...

Edward Arklight

"Monster Horde?!"

"That's right, Sir Edward. Our intel says that they're coming from the north. Pull back immediately. Our army will wait for your squad. Then, we will regroup and try to retreat to our territories."

William Arklight

Monster Horde. The greatest threat to humanity's peace.

When a strong enough monster appears, he becomes a Horde Leader.

By defeating the strongest monsters of other species, it establishes a hierarchy.

The difference between Monster Kings and Horde Leaders lies in the lack of territory.

Monster Kings reign supreme over their own part of The Wasteland, while Horde Leaders are yet to capture their own lands.

Sometimes they take them away from already existing Monster Kings, sometimes — from humans.

Monster Hordes are considered a threat to entire countries.

If the nation's army is not in good shape, that could spell doom for the entire country.

If there is actually a Monster Horde near the border, then we need to start evacuating right now.

I call one of the soldiers and tell him to start gathering the villagers.

Dad, Edward, I can only pray for your safety.

Please, come home safe.

Edward Arklight

"Where is The Horde passing through?"

"I believe they have surrounded almost the entirety of the western side of the gorge. My scouts have seen a griffon flying towards the center of Eiden. We suspect that it might be the Horde Leader."

"The center? That's a bit to the east of my squad, right?"

"...? Yes, that is the case. However, Sir Edward, what are you planning to do with that information?"

For a few seconds, I stay silent. I think through every option I can see.

Finally, I make a decision.

"Your Excellency... Leave us here."

"What? What are you even saying?"

"The gorge is about to be surrounded by the horde, right? You need to try to break through as soon as possible. Waiting for us will only increase the army's losses... No, rather than that, it will only decrease our chances of getting back whatsoever."

"... I admit there is truth in your words... However, if I do that, your squad won't be able to come back alive. I've already left such a difficult mission on you. I can't just abandon you like used up tools."

"Your Excellency. That's you speaking as a knight. But please remember... Right now, first and foremost, you are a commander. You can't make decisions based on how honorable or dishonorable they are."

"... Damn it! Is there nothing I can do?... Listen up, kid! No matter what, you have to come back alive! You are this kingdom's most talented knight! If you put your mind to it, coming back is not impossible!"

"... Your Excellency... No, Master, thank you for your concern. Also, thank you for teaching me so much. Those 5 years were unforgettable... At first, I thought you were just a grumpy middle-aged man, but now I respect you as someone who taught me so much... I'm glad I was able to talk with Master for the last time instead of His Excellency."

I pause here.

After a few seconds, I keep on talking.

"However, I will not try to make a breakthrough."

"Why? With your strength, there should be a chance. You can escape to the south and—"

"Master, do we have any chances of winning against The Horde? I don't mean right now. After we regroup with the rest of the army, can we defeat it?"


"In the first place, there's no guarantee that we will be able to escape. As you mentioned before, there are no forts between here and the capital. We will have to retreat throughout the entire country and then take them on in the capital. Even then, there's no guarantee we will win. Our losses in this war are substantial. We will lose even more as we retreat. The kingdom's forces are not enough to defeat The Horde."

"Edward... What are you planning to do?"

"It's simple. There's a way to stop a horde once and for all: kill the Horde Leader."

"This is madness! Your remaining men will never be enough to kill the griffon. It is surrounded by subordinate monsters, and even if you get to it, killing a griffon is an impossible task for a single wounded knight!"

"That's why I won't fight it. I will use the Inferno scroll."


"Master. I have a little brother back home."

"You've mentioned him before. You said he's really talented, right?"

"Yes, incredibly so... Listen, Master... I want him to be happy. I don't want him to live through such painful times. Even if we defeated The Horde, the losses would be massive. They would cause the kingdom to descend into dark times. Hunger, poverty, violence... William... my little brother is weak. Not physically but emotionally. He would never be able to stay sane in that kind of environment... At least not right now."

I wait a bit, thinking of words to say.

After a while, I make a final request to my one and only teacher.

"Master, I have final words for William. You can relay them directly or tell my father to do so— it doesn't really matter..."

"...I'm listening."

"William... I want you to keep on living. Not just existing but living.

I know you're going to feel betrayed once the news will get to you but still...

Live, William, live. Never give up hope.

Someday, you will find your reason for living, and then... Then you will shine brightly!

Brighter than anyone else! After all, you are William Arklight, the only man I've ever felt jealous of!

William, my dear little brother, become happy!"

A moment of silence descended upon us.

"I will make sure those words make it to him... Goodbye, Edward... You are no longer a snot-nosed brat. You've become a real hero... I'm proud of you, my boy."

"Thank you, Master... And goodbye."


I'm walking through an army of monsters.

My body is bleeding, my hands are weary, my armor is in tatters.

Only my mind is crystal clear.

Mom, Dad... I'm sorry.

I'm sorry for leaving this world before you.

You've had great expectations of me:

As a knight, as a person, but most importantly, as a son.


Dad... You're a disciplined soldier through and through.

And yet, when it comes to your kids, you become such a softie.

For one of your children to pass away before you...

I'm sorry for bringing such grief upon you.

I love you, Dad.


Mom... You always spoil William and me.

Thanks to tour warmth, I managed to become a true knight.

You taught me kindness and showed me how gentle this world can be.

Thank you.

I'm sorry I can't spend more time with you.

I didn't manage to give back even a tenth of the warmth you gave me.

I know you care about your children more than anything else...

I'm sorry for stealing something so important to you.

I'm sorry... and I love you.

I love you, Mom.


Everyone in my squad is already dead.

I see a griffon standing 20 meters away from me.

I'm surrounded by monsters.

William... I'm sorry.

I'm sorry that I have to hurt you.

That day, I've decided to see your journey through to the end.

I believe that you will shine brighter than anyone.

Live... Live William!

I love you.

I pull the scroll out of my belt.

I point it at the slopes above the griffon.

I activate it.

As I see the world transform into a burning hell, I think about my last regrets.

I want to live...

I want to live alongside everyone...

I want to spend more time with everyone...

I want to see Willaim shine brightly as he finds his ray of hope...

I want to become a father...

I want to see Dad's face as he is surrounded by his grandchildren, trying his best to refrain from doting on them, like a loving grandpa...

I want to see Mom surrounded by my and William's kids act as a wise grandma...

I want to see William genuinely smile for the first time...

I want to experience love...

I want to see the world...

I want to live.

That's why...

William, you have to live!

Experience everything I could not! live the life I've failed to achieve!

Experience enough happiness for both of us!

Mom... Dad... Will...

Thank you for everything...

I love you.