A total of almost one thousand soldiers was facing an army of upwards of thirteen thousand, after the wounded, dead and routed were considered. If anyone outside of this battle heard of this, they would assume that a big army attacked a smaller, defending army.
But they would be wrong.
The smaller army attacked the larger one! For the enemy commander, this was something he probably never experienced. Surely, as a mercenary, he must’ve had the annoying task of defeating a much smaller defending army. But how does one defend against a smaller attacking army. Common sense dictates to turtle and avoid losses, but that strategy has utterly failed.
First the archers were gunned down by the enemy and their strange weapons, and then their barriers were completely dismantled by a creature he never even saw before. Now another kind of creature was in their ranks, creating mayhem.
Somnus watched from the distance as the commander did the only other thing that Somnus thought was an appropriate move to do in this situation, considering the terrain and weapons available. Surround the enemy. Crush them from all sides.
But the Ashborn would not be trapped so easily. Their swords were as black as the night sky, and with each slash a trail of black ink lingered in the wake of their swords. Each strike robbed the lives of the enemy and retaliation seemed impossible. Countless times, the Sylv’alf infantry tried to stab and slash at the Ashborn, but the moment their weapons touched that shroud of ash, their weapons would warp or turn to dust. Even more alarmingly was the appearance that the Ashborn became stronger with each enemy they killed. Was this the power of the Herald of Ash?
Somnus became quite interested in the Ashborn Knights and their panoply of death-bringing skills.
Aeon was not as impressed.
[Threat level updated. Designation Ashborn Knight. Threat level: 5]
The enemy mages rearranged their ranks, the surviving members of some of the platoons, if they can be even called that, joining the others. The mecha-spiders were constantly being surrounded and attacked from all sides by infantry that didn’t seem to care about living or dying. Compared to the archers, Somnus began to suspect that this was not about honor anymore.
Somnus could not clearly see them from here, but even if he was closer, there was no guarantee that he’d be able to make out their features. They were entirely clad in plate armor. There was not a patch of skin visible on them. Were they really living beings?
To begin with, meeting death with honor was one thing, but dying for no reason was not. There was nothing to be gained by throwing themselves on the spiders, only to be cut down.
One of the Ashborn Knights suddenly appeared in the air and hovered. Was that short-range teleportation?
The Knight pointed a finger at the ranks beyond the infantry and a spell circle flashed into existence for only a brief moment. That was an incredibly fast Realize rate. A black beam of energy erupted from the Knight’s fingertip and crashed into the ranks of the enemy mages. A late barrier deflected the rest of the beam, but the damage had already been done. Dozens were dead, just like that.
[Threat level updated. Designation Ashborn Knight. Threat level: 6]
That was about Frigate level. It was fairly decent. If that beam was to strike Somnus’s old body, it could considerably deplete his Theta superalloy armor.
To Somnus it looked like that each one of the spiders could take on at least one thousand of the enemy, and each one of the Ashborn Knights could take on a few dozen. That was the difference in their relative power.
Still, Somnus did not want to suffer losses. He was not worried about Baryon or Photon, but the Ashborn Knights still had extreme potential that was untapped.
The Deathbringers had finally advanced close enough. Their platoon wedge formations were quite… well, they weren’t exactly a wedge. More like a… wet spaghetti. It was embarrassing, really. Good thing no one on this battlefield knew what a wedge should look like.
“Don’t worry about friendly fire,” Somnus said, looking to Lod and Det. “Finish this.”
“Yes, master,” Lod said and ran to the company commanders, relaying the orders.
Quickly enough, the army that was encircling the Ashborn Knights found itself surrounded by a half circle of peasants, all wielding weapons from another world.
The Deathbringers opened fire, raining hell on the infantry that was between the Ashborn Knights and the Deathbringers.
A single soldier with that rifle could engage a hundred enemies and never even face danger. This kind of weaponry was the death of the warrior’s soul and spirit. It was a fruit, growing on a strange vine, and it offered power—but it was nothing but poison. Between the Humanity of the future that simply pressed a button and allowed computers to fight their battles for them, and the Humanity that stood here, with bloody sword in hand, in a way, Somnus preferred the latter. It was more poetic. It was more appealing. Perhaps Somnus was a bit of a romantic when it came to things like this, but that still did not change his goal. This Humanity—it was no good. They did not know the desperation of fighting for the survival of their entire race. They did not know the crushing feeling one had when they realized the entire legacy of their race ends with them. The Humanity Somnus fought was a cornered beast that would stop at nothing to exterminate Somnus and his kind. Somnus respected honor, but he respected desperation even more.
The enemy lines crumbled under the constant barrage of gunfire and the whole field of Ord Pass echoed with the litany of fury that the barrels ceaselessly chanted into the air. It was like a symphony in the mind of Somnus—a sound he hasn’t heard in so long. The jingle of empty casings as they fell on the ground, the warped report of gun barrels that were overheating—they were all precious treasures to Somnus. Priceless.
What would the God of War think of this? Was there any other entity, in the whole wide universe, that could appreciate this moment like Somnus could?
This was War.
Not the thing that these carbons practiced until now—that “civilized” affair. No. This was War. Fields drowned out in the smell of oxidized metal and the cries of the wounded and dying. The heaviness in the atmosphere before an enemy breaks. The hopeless expressions on their faces. The disgust the one who pulled the trigger felt. The confusion. The shock.
It was a world where all lies and half-truths were banished and only the true worth of a thinking being remained. A world where words no longer had meaning, and where rational thought was in low supply.
Was this a gift that Humanity could appreciate?
Unlike machines, flesh and blood people tend not to fight to the last breath. They shy away from the thought of being unmasked and stripped of their facade. Especially when they are losing.
A horn sounded through the ranks, louder than even the gunfire and a white, magical flare popped into the sky, followed by another one and then another one again. It was a sign of surrender. The gunfire ceased.
Somnus felt a bit disappointed. Let down.
Indeed, this was not the Humanity he fought.
“Bring me their leader,” Somnus said, looking to Lod.
Lod was about to set off and look for their commander, when a detachment of cavalry slowly walked over the field towards Somnus. Or rather, towards Peron who was still on the other side of the Pass.
The cavalry did not have the battle strength to be a fighting force, so Somnus realized that they must’ve been a diplomatic attachment. Perhaps they wanted to negotiate a treaty to end the war now that they lost Ord Pass.
The one at the head of the detachment looked towards Somnus and was taken aback to see the black halo and metallic, glowing wings. He stopped next to Somnus.
“Could it be that you, sir, were the Commander of the noble Gram forces?” the man asked. He was middle-aged and already had several greys in his full-beard and hair.
Somnus considered the man. He was very well-dressed and only wore light armor. To be specific, he wore pieces of heavy plate, but only a few of them.
“Affirmative,” Somnus replied.
“I am the King of Sylestra,” the man said. “Frederick the Fourth. May I know your name, sir?”
“Designation Somnus,” Somnus replied.
Frederick’s eyes widened as he heard the name and then he coughed to clear his throat. “My apologies, I did not realize. You were splendid today.”
Somnus never met anyone who spoke in such a way. Even at the Empress’s court, in Neo-Kyoto, nobility was not this fake and shallow.
Frederick waited for an acknowledgement to his words, but when he realized that wouldn’t happen he continued on. “I believe it is time to end the war between our nations,” Frederick said. “Please state your wishes.”
Somnus tilted his head. “Query, when Astoria and Theoria surrendered to Gram upon the Declaration of War, you chose not to. Why?”
Frederick swallowed. His retainers had already taken positions just slightly behind him and they all seemed to be warriors. “Well, at the time I did not see the need to. The Arsalan King was dead and you were… an unknown. Had I known better, I would’ve…” he trailed off.
Somnus knew what he was going to say. “I would’ve bent my knee and sworn allegiance.” But Frederick seemed like the kind of man who would never do such a thing. He would not surrender his Kingdom, which was his wealth.
“And now Subject Frederick wants peace,” Somnus said.
Frederick smiled, “Well, a white peace would be nice, but I suppose that is not in the cards. After all, you certainly did not decide to stretch your legs and march to the border for a little bit of harmless fun.” One of the retainers laughed at Frederick’s joke.
“Objective: Terminate King of Sylestra,” Somnus said. That has always been the plan, but after meeting the King, that desire was only reinforced further.
“K-kill me?” Frederick asked, eyes wide. “You can’t be serious. That must be a joke.”
Some of the retainers around the King reached for their weapons.
Somnus drew his sword.
“If you kill me, you will release the Herald!” Frederick protested, glaring at Somnus.
“Long live the King,” Somnus said and slashed his sword at the empty air.
A thin cyan line hurled itself through the few meters that separated them like a ripple on a lake’s surface.
The King and his retainers fell off their horses, in two pieces—both dead.