The low rumble of engines came down the paved path that was overgrown with weeds. Four armoured vehicles came rolling down cautiously, the lead IFV's gun pointing forward, while the rest had their turrets facing left, right and the last vehicle's gun covering their rear. Along the sides of the IFVs, were two rows of archaic cavalry riding war dragons, making the scene look surreal.

Some infantry were seated on the hull while others remained inside the troop compartment, those outside kept their eyes open for any trouble. Suddenly the lead Infantry Fighting Vehicle came to a halt, which the rest of the column followed. The lead vehicle commander called out to the troops. "Dismount! Dismount!"

The infantry hoped off from the sides of the vehicle and those inside the troop compartment rushed out too. The soldiers automatically spread out to the side of the road, taking a stance as they scanned their surroundings with their weapons at the ready.

The vehicle commander raised his binoculars and observed the remains of the ruined city that appeared entered their visual range, trying to find signs of life. But all he can see around the once proud city was the vast rows and rows of dried and rotted corpses that was left impaled on the fields. The only signs of life were the hundreds of cawing scavenger wyverns that pecked at the corpses.

"Advance!" The company commander called out to the troops and vehicles. The men started moving forward in two rows, while the vehicles gently rolled forward in support. The archaic cavalry consisting of a mixture of different local lords' soldiers and household guards that tagged along the UN forces, moved with practised ease with the rifle toting soldiers' advance as they spread forward to provide a screen for the company.

Cork followed along with his men as they advanced towards the ruins that were once the royal capital of Mecca. Memories of a past life came flashing across his eyes as he remembered how he once did the same, following behind hundreds and hundreds of black clad Imperial soldiers and banners.

Now, he has returned with a very much smaller force that could easily raze down the heavens and kill gods! He looked up as a low droning noise came overhead and saw the underbelly of two attack helicopters circling above as they provided close air support for the scouting company.

Sticking close to Cork's elbow was the pretty female knight. Her armour clanged with each step she made as she followed Cork closely behind. She had become meeker after the battle of Turnstead and no long acted superior to Cork and his men. Now she listened to Cork's instructions like as if she was just a lowly private instead of a proud Knight.

Jeanne Von Iris was a proud woman, hailing from a proud lineage of Knights. She had once looked down upon the world from above her mount even where men and women worshipped her strength and station. Even with the loss of the Old Meccan Kingdom, the Empire still treated her house with due respect as Knights were revered regardless of which master they served.

When the Empire pulled back their forces after the loss of their Emperor, her services were immediately sought after by the different factions seeking to reunite the lands under the banners of the Meccan Royalties. A short bloody civil war boasted her reputation among the people and when the new King was crowned, she returned to her home and the local lord hired her as the local bailiff to oversee the security of the land.

It was hard at first with the defeated remnants of the previous order turned bandits and insurgents, especially with a low season of harvest. It took her much effort before the bandits were subdued and peace reclaimed the lands.

When rumours came of an invasion from the northern coast, she readied her men for battle, just in case of a summon from the King. But instead, weeks passed without a word, only to suddenly have some unknown soldiers appearing inside their lands like magic!

She quickly sallied fore with her men to confront the unknown force, only to find that they had even constructed a fort and that the uninvited guests were from the Un An which she had heard so many rumours about.

To her surprise, the so called warriors of the Un An seemed so disappointing. Her expectations were dashed when she met one of the leaders of the Un An soldiers. Despite his muscular frame and somewhat good looks, his dirty clothes like the rest of the Un An soldiers, looked like they were scavaged and stitched together in a lazy way.

There wasn't even a piece of proper armour issued, as she noted the Un An soldiers wore some kind of light leather chest piece, shoulder guards, helmet and a crossbow like weapon. How could the Un An that was rumoured to be about to defeat the Empire looked so shabby be something that she could not conform?

Her disappointed in meeting the Un An made her irritated as she followed around the familiar looking small unit leader, making captious comments to soothe over her disappointed heart. She had imagined the Un An troops to be riding on powerful mounts and heavy armour, wielding thunder weapons that can smite down monsters and demi gods.

But reality showed her otherwise, making her very disappointed. When she found out the Golden Lords had invited the Un An in to help with the invasion up north, she did not doubt their words, as she did not think one would ever dare lie to a Knight. She even volunteered to her Silver Lord to follow the Un An when they started heading towards the enemy, wanting to see how powerful the shabby looking soldiers were, and if they were weak and useless, she planned to expose them for being a fraud.

But when she followed along with the Un An soldiers, she slowly realised a few points. The soldiers despite looking laid back and carefree, were extremely quiet and fast on their drills or reactions. At first, Jeanne assumed that they were trying to impress her at first when the small leader Cork gave commands with just wordless gestures, but soon it turned out to be natural to them.

The way the men move and responded surprised her too as they seemed to know what they were doing without needing someone to supervisor them or remind them. And unlike the foot soldier tactics, she learned and knew, the Un An seemed to prefer a loose formation and loves to prone or crouch. She questioned the rationality of such tactics with the small leader Cork, who replied that it made the soldiers hard to spot or get hit and she did realise that the shabby uniforms did a good job of blending the soldiers into the background if viewed from a distance.

She argued that if the loose formation were to be hit with a square of charging foot or cavalry, the line will be broken and overwhelmed. People will always feel safer standing together than alone facing the enemy. By having the men spread out thinly in a line or column, the men's' morale will break easily if they encountered a charge.

The small leader Cork sitting by the campfire shook his head and replied to her , "Those tactics you spoke of are only suited for a cold tactics army, and not against an army trained in modern warfare."

She did not accept his vague explanation, thinking he was just blowing her off. She fumed and waited to see what will happen to his men when they encountered such a situation in the future. She was pretty sure she had to save them with her own troops if that happened and she certainly will gloat over it.

It all changed when they arrived at the ruined town. Seeing the way the Un An soldiers laid out the wasteful rolls of metal wire and hiding like rats within the buildings, holes in the ground and trees, she felt scorn for their cowardly methods.

If one were to face his enemies, they should do it face to face! She thought. The opponent must be treated with respect and not with cowardly tricks. Yet none of the Un An soldiers listened to her, some even laughed at her antics, making her angry.

In the end, she gave up and deployed her men in a line behind the hidden Un An soldiers, with the plans to save the day as she judged from the cowardly tactics they used, the Un An soldiers will break if any of the enemies made it through the ruined walls.

But when the enemy came, the thunderous roars of the rumour thunder weapons nearly made her own men break instead. She stared in wide eye astonishment at the thunderous roars from the Un An soldiers' thunder sticks felling the enemy in droves without them even knowing nor seeing what killed them from distances that were even further than crossbows or bows!

The enemy's giant golems that appeared scared her despite her abilities as a Knight. She judged that she as a fifty fifty chance of bringing one down with her magic and skills but seeing the dozens of golems appearing in the front made her lose all hope. She was about to yell at the small leader Cork to ask his men to retreat and run when the magical metal wagon snuggled inside a ruin spat out a beam of fiery bolts that slammed down an enemy golem with ease!

The ripping roar of the magical metal wagons continued, again and again, each time a golem will either be felled or knocked back. She and her men could only stare at the battle as their swords and magic would be useless against such a battle with these monsters.

When she thought she couldn't get more shocked or amazed, in the skies, came another magical flyer. Like some kind of flying insect, it hovered in the air and the same ripping roar came from it cast beams of flames down from the skies, creating rolling balls of flames and smoke among the enemy, like a fire breathing dragon.

While she hurdled with the ruins in shock, another event nearly broke her mind. A monstrous metal flying contraption dropped off a huge scorpion golem down. And that scorpion golem almost single handedly took down a dozen enemy golems without even taking a scratch! It easily weaved around the enemy golems that were trying to encircle it without any effect, and each time the long barrel on the back of its body roared, there will be a flash of flames and smoke when the spell impacted. Looking at such a monstrous weapon, Jeanne realised that just one of this weapon, the Un An could have conquered the whole world!

To her common sense, the strength of a nation involved the number of flying dragons and Knights, followed by spell casters, cavalry then foot soldiers. Yet, the weapons and magical contraptions of the Un An showed otherwise. A small company of roughly forty common men could defeat numbers many times greater, just like what a Knight could do while a single magical wagon could down giant golems that would require a heavy weight dragon.

One after another shock shattered her conception of the Un An. When the battle was over and she looked at the bodies of the Un An soldiers being carried out and placed respectfully aside, she felt it was funny that she had ever thought of these people as cowards when not one of her own men could even stand up and face off a single golem.

She joined the small leader Cork, watching him removed pieces of metal off the bodies of the dead, her haughtiness gone and replaced with respect. In her heart, the disappointment was totally gone, only to be replaced with awe and respect.

A note from neo Koh

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