Chapter 193:

Retaking Fort Valga (1)

Atk 0 Crit All ~My attack stat is negligible, so I can't help but rely on critical hits to succeed!~

My eyes darted back and forth between the mess of round balls on the ground. The scent of gunpowder was now recognizable. By reflex, I stepped back two paces.Bookmark here

“B-Bombs!”Bookmark here

“Don’t worry, these aren’t going to explode unless you activate the fire stone inside. Then you have around two seconds to leave the room.” Gadwin looked at me with a fearless grin.Bookmark here

“Two seconds is hardly enough time to put a wall in between us and a bomb!” I said, a bit louder than I meant to. Quickly, I clamped a hand over my mouth, forgetting that we were in hiding.Bookmark here

“Even in these circumstances?”Bookmark here

I shot him an inquisitive glance. What could he possibly mean by that?Bookmark here

“While I was sneaking around, I got a good look at what those invaders were using. Rather fortunate that I had been on break and noticed the faint mana signatures. Old age tells you when stuff is off, you know?”Bookmark here

Surely, Gadwin must have meant experience, since he was only in his late forties, but I let him continue explaining. He had been one of the few guards at the time that was awake during the night shift. With his years of training, he had been able to detect something strange creeping around the fort, so he immediately stepped into a secluded place and waited.Bookmark here

Sure enough, he watched as portals flew around, silently approaching the other guards before stabbing them. Instantly, Gadwin knew that this was an attempt to capture the fort by assassins.Bookmark here

Though he ran around trying to inform the others, he soon discovered that the fort had already been compromised. Unable to help anyone, he prioritized collecting information over all else.Bookmark here

The sight of portals, like the ones the Queen used, was shocking at first. But the outfits that the attackers wore were unmistakably Purnesian in design – overcoat-like robes with thick lining to ward from the cold. Bookmark here

Even though it was summer in Sistina, the regions to the north still faced a certain coolness that prevented all but the hardiest of vegetation from growing. As such, Purnesian clothing always looked sweltering to Gadwin.Bookmark here

Not worrying about how they had obtained such trinkets, his mind became swept up with thoughts of how to defeat them instead.Bookmark here

Since they attacked from the safety of the portal, he could maneuver into a blind spot and rush in with his spear. However, he had no way of knowing who was watching and what was on the other side. If his spear was caught in a trap, then he would be done for.Bookmark here

“So, hurling a bomb into a passing portal is your alternative?” I sighed, wondering if it would be that easy.Bookmark here

“At the very least, the explosion would reveal where the attacker is hidden.” The grip on his spear tightened.Bookmark here

Granted, it wasn’t like blindly stabbing his spear would guarantee a direct hit. Often, Katalina would position portals at a distance and call for them only when she was about to dive in. Who knew how these were being used?Bookmark here

In the heat of the moment, while the attacker defended from the bomb blast, Gadwin could then charge in with a follow-up attack. Frankly, the plan was growing on me.Bookmark here

“Still, how are you planning to carry all of these bombs and launch your assault? Can’t imagine you getting very far alone.”Bookmark here

“You know… I didn’t think about that….” Gadwin snorted, forgetting about this little detail in execution.Bookmark here

I sighed, knowing full well what I had to do. Since I was stuck in the same boat as him, we would have a better chance at succeeding by working together. I walked over and started shoving the makeshift bombs into my Item Box.Bookmark here

Giving me a nod of acknowledgement, he quickly showed me how to light one of them.Bookmark here

“Just focus your mana into the center, and you’ll hear a fizz from the fire stone inside igniting. That’s your cue to throw it in. I would advise you to not hesitate at that point if you want to keep that hand of yours.”Bookmark here

He handed me a loose fire stone and had me mimic its activation. After a few tries, I could gauge how much mana to use.Bookmark here

With that, Gadwin gripped his spear, while I held a bomb in each of my hands. Since the portal user had to be somewhere in direct line of sight to control it, he would be paying close attention to where the bomb I shoved into any portal would end up. Bookmark here

After leaving the darkness of the armory, it didn’t take long for Gadwin to feel one of the hovering signatures approaching. We parked ourselves against the wall on either side of a doorway and waited for the portal to hover by.Bookmark here

Catching sight of it pass right by the doorway without turning toward us, I leapt out and plopped the bomb right into the opening, making sure to trigger the fire stone before releasing. A clunk sounded to my left before an explosion shook the hallway.Bookmark here

With little time to even flinch at the result, Gadwin was already charging in the direction of the noise, his spear shoved out in front of him. A moment later, I heard a pained grunt and a momentary struggle before it became quiet once again.Bookmark here

I turned toward the direction of the explosion, only to see a scene that turned my stomach slightly. Crimson red splattered on the ground, some of it dripping down the weapon shaft impaled into the body.Bookmark here

Gadwin had sent his spear cleanly through a woman’s torso, who now dangled lifelessly on the other end. The pale expression of death hadn’t set in yet from the fresh kill, but the hollow eyes that drooped down at the ground gave me an instant sense of pity.Bookmark here

With a hefty kick, Gadwin shoved the woman off his spear, leaving her body to messily dye the ground and wall red. Stifling a bitter wave of disgust inside, I looked away from the gruesome scene.Bookmark here

“What are you standing around for? They are going to converge on this place soon! Get running!”Bookmark here

Like molasses, it took my legs a moment to push through the heaviness. My mind knew that I needed to make distance from here, but my body wasn’t responding correctly. Finally, Gadwin shoved me along, breaking me free from the sensation. Together, the two of us bolted to find another hiding spot.Bookmark here

In my mind, I knew that these people were going to kill us. They had already slain the other guards besides Gadwin. It made perfect sense that he would not hesitate to kill back. He had every right to.Bookmark here

But for me, there was still a disconnect since I hadn’t felt the same loss. The reality of this situation was still behind a set of curtains. An understanding of what needed to be done was present, but it felt like a mere outline of a truth only glanced over. Pulling back the curtains resulted in adding detail to the vagueness – details that I really didn’t want to acknowledge.Bookmark here

My hands felt cold and clammy, and my fingertips shivered until I clasped my hand over them. And as we approached another portal searching the area, I almost hesitated to throw the next bomb in.Bookmark here

Still, a jab by the butt of the spear was enough to get my limbs moving. I heaved the bomb into the portal in front of me before I could regret it. Another explosion sounded, and with that, a body dropped to the ground in surprise. This time, it was a man who had tripped to dodge the bomb being thrown right at his face.Bookmark here

Since he was aware of the bomb enough to dodge it, the explosion itself caused him only minor burns. However, it had also kicked up a cloud of smoke, which left him open to a downward thrust of the spear.Bookmark here

Once again, the splatter of red gushed onto the stone hallway. The gurgle of the last dregs of life erupted from his mouth before his head turned to the side.Bookmark here

My eyes lingered for a bit longer on his fresh corpse than the woman before. Biased as it may have been, I was able to stomach his death enough to notice who we were fighting – a sunken face that appeared malnourished, thin appendages that suggested little strength, and poor equipment that was no better than winter’s clothing for peasants.Bookmark here

Since he was already dead, I couldn’t even bring up a command window to find out his name. From the way Gadwin slayed him easily, his stats and level had likely been low, but that was something that I would never know. Bookmark here

In fact, I wasn’t sure I wanted to, as it would only reinforce the idea that we were bullying them.Bookmark here

“Hey Gadwin, couldn’t we like, just knock them out or something? Is there really a need to-“Bookmark here

My words were cut off as Gadwin’s presence loomed over me with a silent rage. One look at his mocking eyes told me that I had said too much.Bookmark here

“I-I’m not trying to be insensitive. It just doesn’t feel right somehow.…” I tried to quickly defend my prior statement.Bookmark here

Gadwin scanned my face, his eyes flicking back and forth across my nervous face and trembling body. Finally, he sighed and backed off.Bookmark here

“Must be nice not experiencing the true perils of war. With all due respect, Chancellor, you’re too naïve.”Bookmark here

“I… can’t refute that.”Bookmark here

By now, most of the top people in the kingdom knew about my tendency to simply ‘knock people out’ rather than inflict physical harm. However, few knew the reason behind it – that I simply didn’t want to relive the mistakes made in my past life.Bookmark here

“I’m a softie that doesn’t want to kill when there are other ways. I mean, we’re so much stronger than they are, right?”Bookmark here

My shirt bunched up as a rough hand pulled my entire body forward. Gadwin looked straight into my eyes.Bookmark here

“Knock them out, and then what? Leave them for the others to revive? It is just us here, against all of them. Tens, who knows, maybe even a hundred. Imagine that many attacks surrounding you with no way of knowing when one will hit you in a blind spot.”Bookmark here

After a momentary silence, Gadwin let go and pushed me back. “We don’t have the luxury of letting them live. That is the reality. Nothing more."Bookmark here

As much as it went against my principle, I couldn’t encumber him anymore with my ideals. This wasn’t the time and place for it.Bookmark here

I ground my back teeth as my fist clenched, knowing that it would be best to set those feelings aside. Bookmark here

My eyes glanced over to the portal gun that the man wielded before. Picking it up, I checked whether I could use it. Fortunately, a set of portals formed in front of me.Bookmark here

“Good, no lock on the device.”Bookmark here

“You any good with that?” Gadwin questioned, rubbing his chin.Bookmark here

“Had a little bit of practice. In theory, I should be able to do anything they can.”Bookmark here

Before long, the sounds of footsteps could be heard in the distance. Once again, we had to move back into hiding, ducking into the doorway of a side room.Bookmark here

This time, a group of four assassin moved together, guns at the ready. It looked like they were still using portals to search all the rooms.Bookmark here

Suddenly, I had an idea. I motioned to Gadwin to get his spear ready, parking one portal in front of him. Another portal was formed and drifted off toward the group, blending in with the others flying about. Since there was no way to distinguish the mana signature coming from the same slew of guns, they would likely believe that it was one of their own.Bookmark here

The portal that I sent floated past the group, hovering right behind their backs. Closing my eyes, I knew what would come next.Bookmark here

A sequence of screams sounded out as a spear exited from the portal, jabbing into each assassin in an instant. The swiftness of Gadwin’s thrusts were too fast for them to react.Bookmark here

I opened my eyes to see that all four had been knocked down, but still alive. Gadwin had apparently coated his spear with mana to prevent it from piercing through their bodies, opting to hit them hard with a strong knockback. Still, the result had been broken backs that caused the assassins to painfully crawl upon the ground, tears flooding their eyes.Bookmark here

Gadwin walked over to them, ending their suffering with a stab to the heart. By this time, I could feel a murkiness bubbling within me, which happened to trigger the charm that hung around my neck. It was fortunate that there was something controlling the darkness that flared up occasionally.Bookmark here

Hopefully, I would continue to hold out. The fear of going berserk like I had at the Divine Isles lingered heavily on my mind.Bookmark here

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