As Randidly understood it, the military on Tellus was divided into 5 ranks: Sergeant, Captain, Colonel, Field Marshal, and Auroch. These ranks each could have up to two Lieutenants as personal aides and controlled 100, 1000, 10,000, 100,000, and 1,000,000 men respectively.
Sentinel Viro Roonst, the leader of Niergem, was politically between Colonel and a Field Marshal simply based on being the capital of the Western Domain, but was much closer to Colonel, relatively speaking. Still, he cut an impressive figure as he stood in front of the people who had gathered in the uppermost floor of the government building of Niergem.
He was apparently an incredibly powerful Pontiff, who could strike with the strength of his image without even moving a muscle. The people around him included a dozen or so Pontiffs that were likely the leaders of their Styles and talented Adepts who would assist in the siege.
Against all odds, Randidly found himself in this group rather simply. No one asked for a demonstration or proof of his loyalties. Once it came out that he was one of the tournament representatives, he and Azriel were rushed over immediately. Helen used her military rank to join with them.
“And you all thought me crazy,” Sentinel Roonst said, grinning around. There was no happiness in his gaze, but there was a wild glee that Randidly recognized. He had some of that himself. It was battle lust. “Yet here they are. A full two hosts of Wights, knocking on our door. After we survive, I will be waiting with great anticipation for the apologies.
“But let’s set the jokes aside. Two hosts are beyond our ability to withstand. Although the exact number in each host remains in constant flux, it is close to 10,000. That puts them at a little less than double our number. And we spotted a Witch King amongst the Wights.”
There were mutters in the crowd at that. Several elders leaned towards each other and exchanged meaningful looks. Randidly glanced at Helen.
Not their leaders, per se… but they are the great shamans of the Wights. Helen explained in a message to Randidly. The presence of one is important because each Witch King amongst them has one of five rings. To send one of only five here means they intend this to be more than a token offensive. They want to take and hold land.
“Obviously, they are posturing to strike at the Central Domain,” An old woman with coppery hair said. “But why? Now that the Spear-source is captured, what point is there to go offensive?”
“Two points,” The Sentinel said as he glared at the woman. “The leadership of the Schools decided to leave a known threat alive. We won the war in the past and did not stamp out the threat in order to possess a legitimate threat that our young could sharpen themselves against. This strategy has led us to be ambushed into losing almost everything.
“Point number two; our greatest loss in the most recent memory is assuming they were about to attack when they were simply solidifying their defenses. Is it so strange to believe that now, as we believe they will bunker down, that they launch an offensive? Catching us by surprise has worked thus far, has it not?”
The woman said nothing in response, looking at her hands. Sentinel Roonst’s sharp gaze scanned through the room. “Excellent. If that is all the questions, let’s begin with your assignments. You all are the best and brightest of the Western Domain. We have less than two hours until the force arrives. Let’s get down to business.”
An hour and a half later, Randidly stood on top of the wooden walls, looking down as the Wights approached. They were aptly named, or the translator function of the System was being cute because they certainly looked like Wights. They were humanoid in shape, with skin so pale it appeared luminescent at a distance.
Perhaps strangest of their appearance was that everyone appeared to be wearing a diaphanous gauze cloak that seemed to float around them. It was almost see-through, so one could see their long and bony limbs within, but it also seemed to bend light and make it difficult to pin their location down.
Beside Randidly were almost two dozen men that were assigned to his section of the wall. They all were nervously fiddling with their equipment. Coughing lightly, Randidly attracted their attention. Although it still felt strange, his time working with the Erickson Steel employees at least gave him an idea what he should do in this situation.
“Don’t die. And whoever gets the most kills, I’ll…” Then Randidly grinned ruefully. “...I happen to know a friend in the Engraving Guild. Whoever accomplishes the most will receive a powerful engraving for their trouble.”
It was simple, but it perked them up a bit. Randidly followed it up with, “And don’t worry about not having the chance, with my bright emerald Tassle, plenty of these Wights will head this way.”
A few of the guards chuckled at that. Others began shaking their heads, with mock dismay at the heavy responsibility that fell to them to be assigned to Randidly’s portion of the wall. It wasn’t directly in front of the Wights that were rushing up out of the West, but it wasn’t that far past the Southwest corner. And certainly, the emerald and gold Tassle caught the eye easily.
Looking at the thousands on the different tiered walls around him, and the reserves waiting below, Randidly realized this would likely be the largest battle he had ever participated in. There really weren’t that many battles on Earth aside from weathering monster waves, but this was a confrontation on another order of magnitude entirely. His Skills would have some effect here, but not enough to assure a positive outcome. He simply didn’t have enough Mana.
Thinking of something, Randidly sent a message to Helen. What about Leveling while fighting these guys? Do they give low experience like attacking someone of your race?
There was silence for a long time, before Helen respawned. Idiot. We can’t level anymore, that’s the problem. Or it’s just extremely slow for now, and getting slower.
After a few seconds of pause, while Randidly digested this information, Helen sent him another message. Well, it’s an assertion based upon honor anyways. Considering the circumstances, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a few people as high as 30 in the tournament, and the Schools will turn a blind eye. They have bigger problems right now.
Randidly looked at that message for a long time. Then his eyebrow twitched. He had been repressing himself for so long… and it meant… nothing….?
There were a few people as high as 30…? Turn a blind eye…?
And the people of this world were losing their access to Aether, so they also felt their Skills and Levels stagnating. Meanwhile, Randidly had no problem Leveling, and he was sitting at 98% experience towards Level 25.
With eyes that were glowing emerald, Randidly turned and regarded the assembling Wights moving through the dense trees towards Niergem. Although this area was more temperate than the Northern Domain, it was still heavily forested. And where there were plants, nothing was outside of Randidly’s reach.
He selected a group at the edge of one of the hosts that was stretching out to encompass the entirety of Niergem. Randidly smiled. “Spearing Roots.”
The first wave ripped up into about 20 Wights. It took them completely by surprise. They began to wail in a strange sing-song cadence and Randidly poured Mana into two more waves of Spearing Roots to silence them. The nearby Wights hurried over to investigate, and only found their compatriots riddled with holes, without any sort of apparent culprit.
Very quickly after his attack, the feel in the air around the Wight’s at the edges of the army was subtly shifting. Randidly grinned down at them, showing all of his teeth as they approached.
If you build a bridge of bodies, you may reach me. But no one man can reach up and touch a King.
And as he began attacking another group, he received the notification that he was waiting for.
Congratulations! You have reached Level 25! +5 Stats distributed between Vitality, Perception, Resist, Intelligence, and Control, +14 Free Stats! +1 Stat to a Mental Stat. +1 to a Physical Defense Stat. +1 to a Mental Support Stat. +2 Control. +20 Health, +24 Mana, +23 Stamina, +.5 to all Regenerations! +1 to Health and Stamina Regeneration! +20 Progenitor’s Influence.
Congratulations! You have learned the Skill Scarlet Burst ® Lvl 1! You have learned the Skill Volatile Ash (A) Lvl 1! You have Learned the Skill Visualization ® Lvl 1!
Scarlet Burst: Erupt in a fiery burst of energy, launching yourself 1 meter in any direction from your current position. You leave a cloud of superheated ash at your previous location. Distance traveled and speed increases with Skill Level.
Volatile Ash: The strength and potency of the energy in your body have ignited a variant kind of fire. All flames and ash produced by your Skills will infect any opponent with a virulent poison on physical contact. Damage inflicted increases with Skill Level.
Visualization: Your ability to focus and predict outcomes has increased. In addition, the effects of training and the power of your images increases.
“As long as I keep the Level gain modest…” Randidly said slowly to himself. “No one will notice, right?”