Chapter 61:

Battle Cry III

Sword Quest

Cedric crushed the moonlit grass underfoot as he followed the narrow path hugged by overhanging trees- his sights set on the beach ahead. His left leg suddenly tinged with pain at the joint of the knee, forcing him to stop briefly to try and stretch the pain away.

I must keep moving.

This Suguille guy is insane; he’ll by on me in no time if I linger…

He glanced back at the sound of steps, and his eyes grew wide. It was not the man named Suguille, but the horse that Melvin Cillavier had been riding. It clopped over to him as if lost, surprisingly devoid of injury from its fall.

Cedric wasted no time in goading the horse to him and mounting it. The saddle had been knocked off during the fall, but the reins and bridle were intact. He gripped them and spurred the horse ahead, through the small path that lay between overhanging trees.

He soon arrived where the wall had been broken through by large rocks. The beach before him bore an ominous air—the fires that ravaged the beach had died down, leaving smoke rising over scattered rock and countless bodies from both armies.

With a gulp, Cedric dismounted the horse and stepped onto the charred beach, stifling the nausea that rose within him at the sight and stench of death.

If I’m going to be the Heir, I must overcome this.

If I want to be a Knight, I must become familiar with this.

This… is war.

Clenching his trembling fists till they held still, he took his first step onto the battlefield. He accepted the air of death surrounding him, and continued on. As the sound of multiple footsteps came into earshot far to the left, he stayed his path ahead.

I’m pretty sure I saw them behind two big rocks near the center of the battlefield.

In that case, the people moving over there are probably the enemy.

He continued until the two V-shaped rocks he’d seen earlier came into view, smashed together to form a small shelter.

Carefully, he trod over, hand gripping the sword. Taking a deep breath, he whispered, “Galgi, Ralin… is that you?”
A moment of silence passed by before the two faces of his friends poked out from the gap between the rocks, sending a sweet surge of relief through Cedric’s chest.

Their faces wore shock like he’d never seen before, but they quickly recovered and ushered him inside the rocks.

He slowly crept in the small gap between the rocks and looked around. The other eight members of Ralin and Galgi’s squad lay scattered and unconscious, their wounds wrapped carefully. Ralin and Galgi themselves were bloodied and bruised, seemingly on the verge of collapse. As they slumped down against the rock’s inner wall, Cedric eyed their uniforms.

What should have been emerald green and grey, was now red and gold, and wrapped around Galgi’s neck was the red sash he’d shown him the previous day.

“Wolverine… uniforms?” Cedric asked, dumbfounded.

“Well, we saw the ship,” Galgi replied in a low voice.

“And we figured we might save ourselves if we dressed up like them,” Ralin continued, grimacing as he sniffed the sleeve of his uniform, which was too small for him.

“What were you going to do, then?” Cedric asked. “What if there’s so many of them you can’t catch them off guard?”
“We hadn’t had a chance to think that far ahead, to be honest,” Galgi said, rubbing his temples. “But just what the hell are you doing out here, Cedric?”

“I can explain later, but I need to leave the island right now,” he answered without hesitation.

“What?” they both replied, their shock returning.

“More importantly, I need to get this thing off the island,” he said, flashing the sword from his utility belt. Their shock grew into amazement before excitement broke out on their faces.

“You actually did it, eh Cedo?” Ralin said with a chuckle.

“I’m assuming there are Red Wolves on your tail, then?” Galgi followed in a more serious tone.

“That’s right,” Cedric answered, narrowing his gaze. “That’s why I have to get out of here right now. I’m not sure how much longer I can fight, honestly.”

“Same for us,” Galgi muttered, scratching his head in thought. “I think I have a plan, but you’ll really have to trust me to talk our way through it.”

“Got it,” Cedric said with a quick nod. “I’ll follow your lead, so tell me what the plan is.”

Moments later, the smoke cleared in front of the two V-shields as three Red Wolves approached, crossbows readied. They stopped when they noticed the two red and gold-clad soldiers rounding the corner of the shields, dragging a motionless green-clad person between them. The three stared at the group in silence for a moment, fixing their aim on them.

“What’s that you have, soldiers?” the man in ragged clothes standing in the middle asked with a strict tone.

“This is the target,” Galgi answered, holding up the left arm of the boy whose head hung low. Ralin followed suit with some hesitation, raising the boy’s right arm much higher than Galgi had before awkwardly lowering it.

“And what is… the target?” the man asked, eyeing Ralin suspiciously.

“The Teuton Heir, as well as the Red Sword,” Galgi answered with haste, partially withdrawing the sword from Cedric’s utility belt.

The man’s eyes grew wide, and his crossbow lowered.

“Who is your captain?” he asked, narrowing his eyes.

“We’re Suguille’s men,” Galgi answered, stepping forward, to which Ralin hastily followed. “Sir, you should know there are pursuers close behind us.”

“Lieutenant Suguille, eh?” the man mumbled, ignoring him.

“Sir, we have to get out of here with the sword before the Teutons get here!” Galgi shouted, stepping in front of the man.

“So, the rest of your party… it was at least thirty, I think—were wiped out, and you somehow got away with the target—is that right?” the man prodded unflinchingly.

“Yes, Lieutenant Suguille included,” Galgi insisted, “the boy put up such a fight that he rendered everyone either dead or unconscious—including himself.”

“That’s right, we just happened to wake up before anyone else,” Ralin added with desperation in his voice. “So, we made off with him like we were instructed, but before we made it here we spotted a pursuit force coming down the hill behind us!”

The man regarded their plea in silence, gazing beyond the beach to the region of cliffs surrounding the volcano.

“Please, we must deliver the target—for our leader’s sake!” Galgi cried, his voice straining.

“Tch…” the man replied, letting his crossbow hang to his side. “Let’s get on the boat, then. We haven’t time to waste, it seems.”

The three men turned their back to them, and Cedric cracked his eyes open, his heart racing.

The man in ragged clothes led the way to the shoreline, where a small ship was waiting. It was only large enough to be a transport ship, as it contained no armory or cannon. Instead the railed balcony running along its portside gave it a look of a large luxury cabin on water. The inside was closed, topped with a sloped roof rather than a deck. Its head was coated in a thick canopy, covering its captain’s room which was exposed by an opening that allowed a ladder to run from the inside to the top of the canopy.

The man skipped up a ramp going down from the starboard side of the ship and ushered them inside. Cedric continued to hang his head, playing the part of the unconscious captive. Once his friends had entered the ship, the men raised the ramp, latching it onto the wall of the ship’s main room—a small, torchlit square lined with aged shelves full of various trinkets and weapons.

“Oy, big guy,” the man in ragged clothes barked at Ralin. “You help Gaz get the ship moving.” Ralin hastily nodded and followed the larger of the two silent men into the captain’s room.

“And you, clean-cut, watch the kid,” he said as he turned toward the sliding bamboo doors on the portside of the ship. “Lex and I will set the flare off to let the General know we’re coming to them.”

“Understood,” Galgi responded in a formal tone, glancing at Cedric curtly.

“Ah, right,” he said, stopping and turning back to them. He approached Cedric, walking almost into Galgi’s arm and forcing him to release his grip on the boy’s arm.

Cedric felt his grip release and did his best to fall limply to his side.

“I’ll be the one holding on to this,” he said as he wrenched the sword from Cedric’s utility belt, and promptly walked away. The other man had opened the sliding door, allowing him to rush out onto the balcony alongside his comrade, who shut the door behind them.

In just seconds, the boat began to move across the silent water, and Galgi and Cedric were left in the main room.

“Cedric, it’s okay to get up,” Galgi whispered.

“Well then, would you mind untying me, clean-cut?” Cedric quipped, rolling over to show Galgi his back. He squatted down and made quick work of the bonds wrapped around his wrists and forearms.

“Well, what now?” Galgi mumbled, folding his arms and tapping his bicep with a finger. “They shut the door and took the sword, so we can’t exactly surprise them with force. Should we wait for Ralin to take out his man, and then attack using our numbers?”

“I don’t know,” Cedric responded, standing to his feet. “If Ralin makes a ruckus they’ll surely hear it from out there. I think our only choice is to attack at the right time.”

“Hmm,” Galgi pondered, “he did mention setting a flare off to alert their leader… should we use that moment, or is it unwise to let them send that communication?”

“No, it should be fine,” Cedric answered. “He did say it was to let the General know that we’re heading to them, which should mean they’ll hold their position and wait for us to get there. Otherwise, they might come looking if they don’t receive communication, right?”

“Yeah, you’re absolutely right,” Galgi replied with a smile. “I guess our intuition to allow our capture rather than to fight, was correct. That’s really quite impressive, Cedric. It doesn’t surprise me that you turned out to be the Heir—you’ll make a fine Knight-General someday.”

“Ah, save that,” Cedric said, chuckling through his nose. “I was playing asleep while you did all the talking, so I had time to think about the things that were being said… that’s all.”

“Modest as always, I see,” Galgi remarked with a grin. “Now then, let’s prepare for the moment they set the flare off.”

“Right,” Cedric replied with a firm nod. The two slinked over to the door and pressed their ears against the soft bamboo. Just as they did, a shouting voice reached their ears.

“Dax, what the bloody hell are you doing? Your orders were to wait for me!”