「Zaitlead was defeated?」
「Yes, your majesty.」
Prime minister Toscan bowed his head in respect as Wolf thoughtfully ran his fingers through his beard.
Zaitlead had said that his unworthy opponent was insignificant, a mere sorcerer. He, who had been unique Hero that repelled all magic, he would not have fallen by just any witless scheme.
「…He may be worthy of some expectations after all.」
Toscan raised his voice in reproach as Wolf broke into an unconscious grin.
「Lady Yunis….the princess, what did she…!」
「O Toscan. Your anger is justified.」
Wolf replied magnanimously to Toscan who had gambled his own life with the outburst.
「However, those that are born Heroes have the values of Heroes. It is a much happier thing for one to die swiftly and leave this wretched world.」
「…It is difficult for me to see it that way.」
「Your sincerity is the reason that I choose to keep you by my side. But, eventually, the day will come when you understand.」
「Your Majesty. I have news.」
Toscan continued to protest but his words were cut off by the messenger.
「You have my ear.」
「The Demon Lord has appeared with an army of 3,000 near the plains about 10 miles north of the royal capital. Unlike the previous battle, the majority of his force are magical beasts. They are currently marching straight for us, they will arrive here at any moment now.」
The messenger took a knee and calmly relayed the message. Even if each individual monster was superior to a human soldier, 3,000 was still no match.
「Close the gates of the city, send the entire army to take up the defenses.」
「You will…hold the castle, my lord?」
The messenger exclaimed in surprise at the king’s words. He was not one to react in such a way. This issue could have easily been dealt with by sending out 10,000 troops to the field to fight. Allowing the enemy to besiege the castle would cost time, equipment and manpower. It was a method used when you were at a disadvantage in numbers and have to wait for your enemy to run out of resources, or when you wait for reinforcements.
「Yes. With our entire force of 100,000 troops!」
「…Yes, my lord!」
The messenger bowed and quickly retreated from the room. The unexpected order had caused him to question the king, something a mere soldier such as he, had no business doing.
More importantly, he needed to relate the command to the order of knights who were preparing for an attack, they must prepare to take a defensive position instead.
「Now…I will go out in full force. What will you do with just 3,000? Demon Lord Aur…」
「…He’s holding the castle?」
Aur’s voice was filled with suspicion as he saw the gates close and the enemy soldiers surround the walls.
「They are not underestimating you this time.」
Lilu said in a stiff voice as she floated behind him.
「…Even so, our strategy will remain unchanged.」
The fighting force he had brought for this battle centered around demi-humans such as giants, lizard men, and centaurs; the elite of the elite from Aur’s labyrinth. They were superior compared with regular soldiers of Grandiera, they beat them by just the merits of their own race.
Even so, the enemy was 100,000. That was not a number that could be dealt with, with just 3,000. And the enemy had chosen to hold the castle.
「I am counting on you, Logan.」
「Aye. Leave it to me. I’ll accomplish it in one blow.」
Logan laughed as he accepted the responsibility. His fighting force this time would consist only of Logan and Lilu. Ellen, Mio and the others were kept in the labyrinth for defense.
「Your face is gross when you laugh.」
「Shut up, I don’t have this face because I like it!」
With Lilu and Logan arguing behind him, Aur gave the order.
「All troops, attack!」
And so the march of death began.
「…So they have come.」
Wolf murmured as he saw the Demon Lord’s army approaching from afar. Covered in armor and brandishing the sword of his early years, he was the perfect image of the praised Heroes in sagas. His presence that was so full of spirit and power caused the morale of the soldiers to reach its peak.
The monstrous gates were tightly closed, even siege level sorcery would have a difficult time breaking it. Atop the strong walls were lines of weapons that included catapults and ballista. Soldiers armed with bows filled the gaps between the machines.
Once the enemy entered firing range, the projectiles would immediately fall like rain, they would die before they could even reach the gates. That is what the numbers 100,000 against 3,000 truly meant.
And since no troops were being sent out, they would not fall for any traps such as pitfalls. Even the boulder attack that Aur had employed previously would not work, as they had users of aerial sorcery and crossbowmen with incredible range, who would shoot them down as soon as they were spotted.
Realistically speaking, Wolf’s victory was something unshakeable. But even then, Wolf had long desired for someone to appear that would exceed all expectations. Years before Aur had appeared.
「They are almost within range. Soldiers, in position!」
The catapults and ballista were cranked back tightly. The firing range of these weapons was about 400 yards(approximately 360 meters), allowing them to attack targets twice as far as what was capable with a longbow.
All at once, uncountable arrows and boulders flew in the sky. And at the exact same instant, Aur’s entire army vanished.
「Was it an illusion!? …no, they were teleported!」
Caution over illusions was the first step of any battle. There was no possibility that Wolf’s sorcerers had not anticipated such a thing. But even Wolf had not expected a teleportation at such a close range. Teleporting your troops would cause unavoidable confusion. Furthermore, the teleportation itself would cost tremendous amounts of Magic. It was not sensible to teleport your army as they were in the middle of marching.
「Your majesty, there they are!」
He drew his attention to where the soldier indicated, the Demon Lord’s army had relocated to a place that was nearly 100 yards from where they had been. It was about 200 yards from the position of Wolf’s archers. It would be a lot more difficult to use their weapons at such a close range.
The hefty soldiers immediately drew their longbows. The enemy had just used a significantly costly spell. Demon Lord or not, he would surely have no magical energy left to stop the arrows.
That assumption of Wolf’s would be proven wrong once again.
「Your majesty, half of the enemy troops have teleported once again!」
「They have done what!?」
The rear half of the Demon Lord’s army, the cavalry…no, the group of centaurs had teleported once again, this time they landed 100 yards from the outer walls. No one would have anticipated that Aur would split up his small army even further.
「…Stop the succeeding army without fail. Shoot the mounts from the outer walls!」
The archers began to target the succeeding troops of the Demon Lord’s army; arrows began to fly. The stalwart lizardmen and giants did not balk from the attacks, they continued to slowly move forward to the outer walls, even as their numbers decreased.
「The enemy has reached the walls!」
「Drop the boulders, let them taste burning oil!」
At the king’s orders, the soldiers threw boulders and burning oil from the castle walls. The centaurs were wounded by the attacks but did not stop in their rush towards the castle walls.
In truth, the castle walls had inferior magical defenses compared to the gates. Compared to the painstakingly enchanted gates, the castle walls might as well have been bare of magical protection.
Even so, the castle walls made of bricks were sturdy. No ordinary attack would break it, and even if it could, it would merely open a small hole. Unlike the main gate that would allow a large army to pass, a small hole that allowed one or two people to pass would have little tactical value.
Was it just a reckless suicided attack…? As Wolf pondered suspiciously, there was a sudden explosion in the castle walls, a giant hole appeared. All at once the beasts passed through the hole and invaded the royal capital. No matter how many of their own were killed, they showed no sign of caring; it was an incredible suicide attack.
Wolf realized the enemies aim when he saw the figure leading the attack. Indeed, it was what would be inevitable should Aur win against Wolf. …But, that would be going too far in exceeding his expectation.
「Your majesty! …Uh, in the enemy…」
「Zaitlead is among them.」
He finished as the messenger hesitated, the messenger looked at Wolf’s face in surprise.
「Likely, his body is being manipulated by a demon. He is the one who broke the castle walls.」
Wolf unsheathed the treasured sword, 『Flant』and raised his voice in anger.
「Call the troops back. I will have him know what a true Hero really is!」
Wolf jumped down from the ramparts and shouted. Even the stone walls shook from his voice and echoed loudly. He swung his sword at the onrush of beasts, cutting in half even monsters that were 10 feet out of the reach of his sword.
Wolf dashed on like the wind. He soon descended to the place where the man who wore the face of his son stood.
「You over there. I think I would like the body of my son returned.」
Zaitlead gave a flippant smile that he had never shown in life, and said:
「I won’t return such a convenient body easily. Oh, I may consider it in exchange for 10 girls.」
Wolf spat and held up his sword. In life, had Zaitlead raised a serious revolt, he may have won against his father. But Wolf had no intention of allowing himself to be beaten by this sham that was a manipulated corpse.
「I would love to fight with you as a test. Unfortunately, today, I am only here for a delivery.」
As Wolf furrowed his brows, a young man with amber colored hair descended in front of him.
「You must be the Demon Lord.」
「The one and only.」
Wolf gave him an appraising look. His magical power, his physique, none of it was noteworthy. Wolf was not surprised that Zaitlead had declared him as insignificant.
But at the same time, he was sure of another thing as he looked into his eyes.
They were the eyes of one who would do anything to get what they want. Not so much cunning or daring, they were the eyes of one whose will was evil-natured and pure and unyielding. In his whole life, the people that had been capable of pushing Wolf to the brink had had these kinds of eyes.
「…O Demon Lord. Surely, you did not believe that demon over there could defeat me? What trick have you prepared?」
「Indeed…I do believe he could win against the likes of you.」
Wolf’s brows narrowed at Aur’s odd claim. Aur then pulled out a crown of gold from a pocket in his robes.
It was a glittery crown encrusted with jewels.
「Wolf. You are a Hero amongst Heroes, a king amongst kings. The Hero King who defeats all. You are the only one who is worthy of this crown.」
Wolf accepted the crown that Aur held out. He could not perceive any magic, let alone curses of any sort. The jewels were all real, the frame was pure gold. It had considerable value in terms of price, but Wolf did not understand the significance of the gift.
「What is this?」
「It is poison.」
Aur answered bluntly to the king’s question. With those words, Wolf reached a certain conclusion.
「You, is this really…!」
「It is a poison that will destroy this country. …I expect a lot from you, Wolf. That you put up a good fight.」
Wolf would have liked to cut Aur down, but it was already too late. Whether he received the crown or not, it being brought here was what established Wolf’s defeat.
The demon that controlled Zaitlead’s body had disappeared without notice. Their purpose fulfilled, Aur’s troops began to fall back one after the other.
The soldiers were cheering with joy over their victory, but this was not victory. Wolf tightly gripped his sword and looked up into the sky.
It would come. To find it’s precious, lost treasure.
The oldest, most powerful dragon.