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A note from kosnik4

New month, best time to join Patreon. Read up to chapter 86 for all your binging needs!

 

General Emily Pitz’s Point of View:

 

Like a specter, I glide across the rocky ground, hugging the canyon wall. The loose terrain doesn’t slow me down in the least as I climb the steep canyon walls.

 

I’m nearing Scholl’s camp as I come up to the first lookout position I scouted before they arrived. I personally searched for the best vantage points for our scouts to use while keeping in mind they might need an escape route should they be discovered.

 

Our scouts and Scholl’s have had multiple run-ins with each other, but even though their scouts out leveled ours, it was thanks to my planning that our scouts were always able to escape entrapment.

 

This isn't good; I bend over and inspect the ground.

 

It’s faint, but I can see traces of someone approaching from the side and which direction they came from. The whole area has been swept clean, but my skills can pick out the minute details they missed. Whoever attacked did so without our scout having time to react. There wasn't a struggle, and based on the hidden drag patterns, they removed the body when they were finished.

 

I move onto the next spot and the next only to find the same hidden signs as I inspect each of vantage in turn.

 

If Scholl thought it needed to move against our scouts like this, they must be planning something big.

 

As a general, I should turn around and assign a unit to investigate rather than risk proceeding further by myself, but as someone used to acting as the scout, I know I’m the only one fit to figure out what Scholl has planned.

 

I activate Silent Footsteps and Hide Presence before I move forward. Thanks to my family's resources, I've always had a higher level than people my own age, so I've never had to be stealthy, leaving both of my skills at a low level. The only reason I have these two skills is so I can approach magic beasts that have already tried to run away from me.

 

I slowly creep along the canyon wall, scanning Scholl’s camp for anything new. I spot a few new fortifications they’ve slowly been building up but not much else.

 

Pushing farther into the canyon, I reach our scouts farthest vantage point that overlooks the first significant bend. The canyon isn't one strait ravine; it twists and turns through the rock.

 

“Shit!” I immediately curse. “That’s why they killed our scouts.”

 

Steadily moving across the canyons rocky floor is an army of Scholl reinforcements. I spot at least twenty thousand soldiers filling their way closer to Scholl's camp. That’s double the size of the forces they first sent to take the fort!

 

If we knew they were coming just an hour ago, we might have been able to send a small magic squad to ambush them, but they're too close now.

 

The fortifications Scholl has been constructing were only a front to make us think they were digging in for a long fight, while their reinforcements were on their way the whole time.

 

Turning around, “I need to get back to the fort and ready…”

 

My Danger Sense rings in my ears, and I immediately throw myself to the side. My keen eyes track a steel blade as it flashes inches away from my throat.

 

The assassin that materialized out of nowhere doesn’t let up just because his first strike missed. His figure blurs as he activates a movement skill and tries to flank me from my left. His duel daggers held in a reverse grip are aimed at any of the seams in between my armor.

 

I can tell just by his movements that he’s around level 90, someone even I have to be wary of.

 

Assassins are known to employ poisons, and even a single nick from his blade can be troublesome for me.

 

He expertly closes the distance between us and keeps me on my back foot, trying to keep me from drawing one of my arrows.

 

This is why I prefer to hunt magic beasts; they don’t have strategies to deal with me the first time we meet.

 

The assassin uses his movement skill again to keep pressuring me, not caring how quickly he’s burning through his Stamina. If he gives me a single opening or hesitates for a moment, I’ll be able to hit him with an arrow.

 

Unfortunately, my wait-and-see approach is quickly discarded when my senses pick up three more people rapidly approaching us from all directions. And I highly doubt it’s my missing men.

 

Even if the assassin’s backup isn’t as high leveled as him, having to deal with another three close-range fighters isn’t my specialty.

 

I’ll have to pay a price to kill my opponent before this becomes more complicated.

 

Continuing to dodge his whirlwind of blade strikes, I activate Fast Hands. In one flawless motion, I'm able to retrieve an arrow from my quiver. The assassin presses harder, not giving me the chance to nock my arrow.

 

All I need is a single opening.

 

I shift my stance to my back leg, but the ground underneath shifts from my spontaneous movement. My stance crumbles as I start to fall backwards.

 

The assassin doesn't miss the opportunity and swings his left blade at my exposed neck. I bring up my bow and deflect his first strike, only to have him attack a second time with his right blade. I try to block his second strike with the arrow in my other hand, but I can't…

 

I feel the assassin's dagger rub up against my neck.

 

Quickly channeling my mana, a cracking sound like shattering glass rings out from my arm. One of the three gems on my right bracer cracks and crumbles to pieces, instantly sending a healing wave of mana throughout my body. Before his dagger’s blade even leaves my neck, the wound is already closing.

 

Using the arrow in my right hand, I copy the assassin's strike and jab my impromptu weapon into his own throat. With my Strength, the arrowhead slices through his neck, and the tip pokes out the back. I rip the arrow back out, opening up a wider hole in the assassins’ throat.

 

I watch as panic quickly flickers through my opponent's eyes. His high stats ensure he remains alive just long enough to realize he’s going to die.

 

Even though I dealt a mortal blow to the assassin and everything went according to my plan, I’m still falling backwards with more enemies soon to arrive.

 

Taking my bow and stabbing it into the ground, I use my Strength to reorientate myself. I flip backwards and land on my feet in time to watch the assassin fall to the ground in a bloody mess. With a quick tug, I yank my bow out of the rock and knock the bloody arrow.

 

I release my shot as soon as the first Scholl soldier appears around a corner. His level doesn’t match his deceased counterpart, and my arrow easily pierces his chest, bulls-eyeing his heart.

 

I don’t wait for the other two approaching soldiers to show up, choosing to rush back to the fort immediately.

 

Through the corner of my eye, I see a few of Scholl's battalions setting up to launch siege spells and arrows in my direction.

 

And here I thought I wasn’t noticed.

 

I draw in a huge breath of air and push my body to its limit. My limbs are slowly going numb, meaning the assassin was using a poisoned blade, and it's strong enough to bleed through my Poison Resistance skill.

 

I watch the first siege fireball spell sore through the air and explode behind me. Even suffering through the poison, I'm still too fast for them to lock on with such slow-moving spells.

 

The next fireball is already on its way, but just like the last time, I'll…

 

All at once, I feel a quarter of my remaining Stamina being drained away, causing me to slow!

 

“Shit, I know this feeling!” I curse.

 

I activate a magic ring on my left hand, and the stamina drain stops. The fireball is closing in on me, and this time it’s close enough that the blast will hit me. Activating my movement skill, Long Leap, I make it out of the spells blast radius just in time.

 

“Who brings a hex mage on a military campaign?” I protest.

 

The same people who brought an assassin capable of harming me, that’s who. Hex mages focus on debuff magic that works with line of sight. Even the highest leveled hex mages can only cast small area of effect spells, making them worthless in a siege.

 

That means they’re here solely to deal with me. If I were any slower killing the assassin, the hex mage probably would've had time to curse me during the fight.

 

I keep running, but I scan Scholl's forces again, looking for anyone sporting a feather like the assassin or commanders I saw leading their reinforcements. A hex mage able to curse me at this distance is definitely over level 80.

 

But sadly, no one stands out.

 

A few arrows from high leveled archers reach up the canyon walls, but I easily dodge them.

 

Once I have a generous distance between me and Scholl's camp, they stop wasting their mana and arrows, knowing they won’t be able to hit me.

 

Racing back to the fort, I feel my limbs become heavier and notice they aren’t responding as they should. My bracelet has three; no, now two charges left. Each can send a strong wave of healing mana throughout my body instantly but only to close wounds. I wish I had an artifact to cure poison, but Poison resistant artifacts are rarer than their healing counterparts because poisons vary to such a degree. You could be covered in head to toe in artifacts, and you could still be affected by a poison you weren't prepared for.

 

I've fought many magic beasts that use poison, and my resistance skill is pretty strong, yet my body is still shutting down on me.

 

I see the walls of the fort growing bigger as my vision starts to become fuzzy. Using the last of my Stamina and Strength, I launch myself up onto the ramparts.

 

I vaguely hear voices around me, but I can't make out what they're saying. "Poison! Get the medical corps," I wheeze out.

 

Remaining still, I enter a meditative state. The more I can reduce my heart rate; the less the poison will spread.

 

Scholl was more than enough prepared for me, ambushing me with such a potent poison and making sure I struggle to run away.

 

I feel a prick on my forearm and targeted healing magic applied to my body. Healing magic for poisons is a nasty business. The foreign healing magic subverts my mana network and gathers all my infected blood in my body, and pulls it to the opening in my arm.

 

Because I had to move so much after being stabbed, the poison spread through most of my body, and if it wasn't for my high Vitality removing the poison itself could kill me.

 

I start to feel my arms and legs again, and my head becomes clear enough to listen to the people gathered around me.

 

“General, are you alright!?” Cristopher’s panicked voice rings the loudest in my ears.

 

“Will you be quiet! I’m trying to work,” the healer sitting next to me berates my steward.

 

“That’s a lot of blood.”

“Do you think she’ll be alright?”

 

By the sound of it, more than one soldier is close by.

 

My vision is the last of my senses to return.

 

“General Pitz!” Cristopher exclaims when I finally open my eyes again.

 

“Will you stop yelling, you’re giving me a headache,” I snap at him.

 

“How do you feel?” The female healer asks me.

 

She has a mage’s star on her chest, meaning she's one of the fort's senior healers. "I'm light-headed from the blood loss," I tell her.

 

"That's to be expected. It's amazing you're alive in the first place." She says, remaining focused on the incision on my left arm. A nearby bucket is filled with black blood, and a second is close to filling up as she drains more from my system.

 

“Cristopher, is the fort on high alert?”

 

“General, you should remain still. I haven’t finished your treatment yet,” the healer urges me.

 

I ignore her suggestion and stare at Cristopher until he answers me. “Yes, general. The fort and the supply corps in Teeburn are on alert. What happened to you?” He nervously asks.

 

“Scholl has reinforcements marching through the canyon, maybe twenty thousand strong.” Everyone around us gasps at the news. “They must have assumed if they took out all our scouts, I would be the one to investigate. They had a high leveled assassin and a hex mage for support.” I watch traces of fear flicker across everybody’s faces, even the healer losses control of her magic for a moment.

 

“How far are they out?” Cristopher inquires.

 

"Maybe an hour or two. I don't know if they're well-rested or not," I tell him.

 

“That means they can attack us in as little time as four hours or any time after that.” He darkly remarks.

 

“Scholl isn’t known for their patience. I’d say they’ll attack sooner rather than later.” I inform Cristopher. "Go double-check everything around the fort and send word to the supply corps and our reinforcements. We need them to pick up their pace."

 

Cristopher sends me a worried look before taking off.

 

“How much longer until you’re done?” I ask the healer.

 

"Would the general prefer it if I rush the process?" I'm a little taken back by her blunt attitude, but I can respect it. It’s been a while since someone hasn’t cringed at the sight of me. I wonder if it’s because she could use her magic to siphon the rest of the blood from my body that she’s not scared of me?

 

I look away from her, not answering the superfluous question. The few other soldiers standing around me do flinch when I meet their eyes. "What are you all standing around for? We're on high alert; get back to your posts." My lips form a small smile as they trip over one another to rush back to their posts.

 

Only one soldier remains because he’s supposed to be stationed where I collapsed. He walks over to the wall and watches Scholl’s camp, trying to distract himself from his bloody superior lying on the ramparts behind him.

 

I feel a different wave of mana enter my body and feel my arm closing. "You're not completely healed; I only removed the poison." The healer tells me with a sober expression. A quick check reveals half my Health is gone. "I noticed your body was recently exposed to a concentrated form of healing magic. Because of that, your Health will be slow to recover for the rest of the day.” Great, more good news.

 

Healing magic is truly a blessing, but it can't perform divine miracles. Each time a person is exposed to large amounts of healing magic, the body becomes slow to recover. Not the ideal situation with an army at your gates. "Is there anything you can do to speed up the process?"

 

The healer has the gall to actually frown at me. “I can put you to sleep? Studies have shown people heal faster while they’re sleeping.” I can’t help but frown myself. Did Scholl plan it this way, reducing my fighting capabilities before they even start their attack?

 

The healer raises her hands and chants a spell under her breath. A massive wave of white light cleans up the bloody mess I left behind, including the stains on my clothes. "Is there anything else I can help you with, general?" The healer stands up and dusts the black flakes from her clothes.

 

“What is your name?” I ask her as I slowly stand up.

 

“I’m Senior Healer Elease, general.” She promptly tells me. No last name meaning she joined the army as a commoner.

 

“Thank you for saving me, Elease.”

 

“Your high Vitality saved you, I mealy did my job. If the general is better now, may I return to the infirmary? I have a feeling we’ll be busy soon.” She asks in a no-nonsense voice.

 

“You may go,” I dismiss her.

 

She moves over to the stone steps leading to the courtyard but stops at the foot of the stairs and turns to me. “Please be careful, general. Few people openly say it, but it’s your presence here that gives everybody hope.”

 

Elease doesn’t wait for me to answer and makes her way down the steps. “Cheeky girl, does she not know I’m over double her age? If anything, I should be worrying about her, not the other way around.”

 

I put her out of my mind and stand up towards Scholl's camp. Scholl's entire base is shifting; the fortifications they've thrown up the last couple of weeks are being laid down in sections, being transformed into leveled campsites for their reinforcements. How could I have missed that?

 

I lean up against the stone watchtower and watch Scholl’s forces slowly gather as the fort around me becomes an ant hive of activity.

 

I won't say it out loud, but we're at the mercy of Scholl's forces, and all I can do is watch.

 

The fort's mood begins to plummet as people spread word of how many more Scholl soldiers arrived. We've bolstered our numbers through recruiting locals but our forces only near three thousand.

 

It will be a miracle if Scholl simply doesn’t charge our gates with their numbers.

 


 

I lean back in my chair in my office. I am looking between my captain's and squad leaders nervously shifting their feet during an impromptu morning meeting.

 

“What are they waiting for? It’s been almost sixteen hours; why aren't they attacking us?" A squad leader says what's on all of our minds. Maybe Scholl’s forces were more tired from their journey than I thought possible.

 

“Anything important to report, Cristopher?” I ask my steward.

 

He shakes his head, "I'm sorry, general, but there is nothing to report. Their army has long settled in. They didn't so much as test our defenses yesterday."

 

"Maybe we can wait them out until our reinforcements arrive?" A captain, hopefully, remarks. There’s no possibility of that happening.

 

But why are they waiting to attack? I've nearly recovered to my full strength. After all the effort they put into trying to kill me, I'd thought they'd charge the gates as soon as they settled. What can they be planning?

 

Everyone in the room has their head snap up when we hear the signal bell being wrung. I stand up from my desk, “Everyone, take up your positions.” The captain’s and squad leaders rush out my door to their battle stations.

 

I take the faster route and hop directly out my office window and onto the nearby ramparts. My Stamina and Health are hovering around 80%, but at least I've gained full motor control back.

 

Leaping over soldiers hurrying to their positions, I make my way to one of the central towers that looks over the canyon.

 

In the distance, I can see Scholl’s entire forces are mobilizing in mass.

 

They’re forming two ranks of soldiers with a large divide separating the two.

 

With my visual skills, I can see that they've adopted their previous style of organizing their forcers. At the front of the two forces are individuals with feathers adorning their uniforms. Some wear their feathers in hats while others have them clipped to their chests.

 

One, two… eight people are sporting feathers. Eight individuals above level 80, fuck me. And judging from that assassin earlier, I doubt they're in the low 80’s either.

 


 

Master Pacore the Deathless’ Point of View:

 

“Tellis, are our forces ready?” I ask the nervous commander as I stretch out my old joints.

 

“Yes, Master Pacore, our men are in formation and waiting on your orders,” he tells me.

 

“Good, any sign of General Pitz?”

 

“Our scouts place her on top of one of their towers.”

 

“Tell me, Tellis. Does she look ready for battle?” I look over at the man with a smile on my face.

 

His face loses a bit of color. “She has her bow and looks to be standing strong.”

 

“That’s excellent!” I can’t help but laugh.

 

Tellis looks like he swallowed something bitter until he works up the courage to ask me what’s on his mind. “Master Pacore, if I may, why didn’t we attack after the general was injured? We could’ve taken the fort soon after our reinforcements arrived."

 

“We could’ve,” I casually remark.

 

“Then why didn’t we?” Tellis asks, disbelief written all across his face.

 

“Because that wouldn’t have been sporting of us, now would it?” I tell Tellis with a savage grin plastered on my face.

 

“But Zikeil, he was one of our strongest men; why send him to kill the general in the first place?" Tellis stutters.

 

I slowly walk over to the inexperienced commander. He visibly cowers as I near him, until I'm standing over him. "I told you I would take you under my wing, so let me explain something to you. During the war, you don't have to just worry about your enemy; you have to worry about who is standing with you as well. You weren’t officially appointed as a commander, meaning until I showed up, your allegiance was in question."

 

“I would never turn on Scholl!” Tellis cries out.

 

"I never said you'd betray Scholl; I said your allegiance was in question." Tellis gives me a confused look, so I explain. "You should know our countries customs, the strong stand over the week and lead. Our king is the highest leveled person in our kingdom, but he is old. That may sound funny coming from someone as old as me, but I was around when the previous king passed. Different fractions centered around the highest leveled people in our kingdom are readying themselves for when the king passes, regardless of the problem our kingdom is facing.”

 

“When you took over the forces here, people started to notice you. Whoever was appointed by his majesty would meet with you first and pull you into their fraction.” Tellis finally realizes what I’m saying. “Zikeil was sent by another fraction to silence you during our siege on the fort. So, I sent him to test our opponent. If he succeeded, taking the fort would be child's play, and when he failed, it was simply one less person I had to watch during the fighting.”

 

“So, now I’m in your fraction?” Tellis hesitantly asks.

 

“You can say that.”

 

"Then, does that mean you wish to be the next king?" He asks wide-eyed.

 

I scoff at the idea. “Do kings get to step onto the battlefield?” I shake my head in disgust at the idea. “I serve the same king I’ve served for over a hundred years now, and I'll continue to serve his bloodline until I finally experience death. Serving under me means you serve the king's oldest son Kaliks Ven Heltan future leader of Scholl. Do you have any objections to that?" I ask, Tellis, not concealing my bloodlust.

 

“May the Heltan family forever rule Scholl,” he proclaims, dropping to one knee.

 

“Good, now go get everything ready while I make my final preparations,” I order him.

 

“Right away, Master Pacore,” I watch my new subordinate rush out of the tent.

 

There is one more reason I waited to take the fort; I think to myself as I adjust my equipment. General Pitz was able to kill Zekil and escape my hex mage proving she could put up a decent fight. When I make my entrance, she'll be forced to confront me, and I want her at her best.

 

I had Tellis spread the word that I wanted everybody rested for our big push today, which should’ve bought the general enough time to recover from her injuries, at least I hope so.

 

Now that I’m here, the fort is all but guaranteed to fall under our control. And it’s been so long since I had a decent fight, someone capable of making me bleed.

 

Pitz didn’t use one of her specialty arrows against Zekil or take a shot at our approaching forces when she had the chance. Most likely, she's out of her expensive arrows. The one we recovered from the soldier's corpse was amazing at channeling magic but wasn’t on par for someone like General Pitz.

 

I hope she proves me wrong.

 

Throwing my special cloak over myself and activating each of my magic items, my body starts to turn translucent before disappearing completely. I slip through my tent flaps, heading for my position at the front of the army. "Let the fun begin," I chuckle to myself.

 


 

General Emily Pitz’s Point of View:

 

“They’re moving closer,” Cristopher mumbles.

 

“I can see that,” I tell him in an even tone.

 

“Your orders, mam?” Cristopher looks at me like he’s expecting me to pull a miracle out of my ass.

 

“Send word to our best archers and the mage divisions to target the feather wearing bastards at the front. They'll be protected with magic and other defenses, but each we manage to kill will deliver a serious blow to the enemy. And contact Norah, tell her I want my arrow, whether it’s done or not.” I confidently rattle off some quick orders.

 

Cristopher is happy to revive my orders and quickly runs off to complete them. If only he knew how bleak I thought the situation is.

 

I don't have the heart to tell him I'm not confident in repelling Scholl this time. I'm not entirely recovered yet, and I'm out of my special arrows. I might score a lucky hit on the weaker soldiers, but even I won't be able to punch through the feathered commanders’ defenses with Aaliyah's regular arrows.

 

The only way I'll be able to do any significant damage is to leave the safety of the fort and challenge their higher-level forces at closer ranges, which is, of course, the worst way for me to use my skill set.

 

The world appears to slow around me as Scholl’s forces slowly march towards the fort in their weird formation. At some point, Cristopher returned with my enchanted arrow, but I sent him off to coordinate with the other units. I can feel the nervousness radiating from my men increase as Scholl's army's full size becomes apparent.

 

I’ve already given out my orders.

 

Everyone knows to hold their fire until after the first few of Scholl’s ranks enter our range. I myself have already picketed my target, A middle-aged man wielding two swords with a red feather pinned to his chest. As Scholl approaches, I notice their smiling faces.

 

Even as the feathered individuals enter our range, they continue strolling confidently forward. If I had just one more of my special arrows, I could wipe those smirks clean off their faces.

 

If they think this fort will fall without a fight, then they're sadly mistaken.

 

More and more of their faces get closer to our fort, only stopping when their mage units are in range to return fire on us.

 

A silence falls over the fort and is mimicked by Scholl's army. I notice most of the feathered individuals leading Scholl's army are watching me like they're waiting for me to make the first move.

 

“So be it,” I say to myself.

 

I raise my left hand straight up into the air and point at the invading army. A horn signals behind me, and every one of my soldiers on the walls release everything they have all at once.

 

In one motion, I draw and knock my first arow, only activating two of my skills as not to obliterate the projectile. I draw my bow back halfway and release my arrow with everybody else.

 

As a storm of arrows and magic sail across the open sky, I watch closely, hoping to pinpoint their barrier mages to target later.

 

Only Scholl's armies remain steadfast in their positions, and not a single counterspell comes to life.

 

What are they?

 

Suddenly I feel something shift in the air, and every arrow and siege spell we fired starts to turn mid-flight.

 

All our projectiles are drawn to the front of the gap, separating Scholl's forces.

 

Over a thousand arrows converge on a single spot, followed closely by a rain of fire. The resulting explosion rings in everybody’s ears. “How did they!?” I curse out loud. Is it a spell formation or something they secretly buried there?

 

I stare at the resulting crater, mouth agape.

 

My trained eyes pick out a ripple in the air.

 

In the crater's center, a man removes a cloak that now has multiple holes in it. It must have been a magic device meant to make someone invisible. I was so focused on the feathered soldiers; I didn’t inspect the divide.

 

My heart starts beating rapidly as I take the measure of the man that just tanked our first volley singlehandedly.

 

Standing a respected 5’ 10’’, the man looks ancient. He has short grey hair and a grey beard lined with multiple feathers. He's wearing no armor yet doesn't have a scratch on him.

 

Our eyes meet for a moment across the battlefield, and I get the impression I'm looking at a living mountain.

 

Fuck!

 

There's only one person he can be. Pacore the Deathless, the oldest, and one of the highest leveled people on the continent. Survivor of too many conflicts to even count. Pacore is known as Scholl’s ace.

 

“Hit them again!” I hear Cristopher shout in the distance.

 

Another volley of arrows is sent towards Scholl's forces, and just like last time, they’re all drawn to Pacore.

 

Another explosion happens, but this time Pacore walks out of the fireball before the flames can completely disperse.

 

Every one of Scholl’s soldiers starts cheering at the display.

 

So that’s Pacore’s tier 5 skill, the ability to draw in attacks. He’s the only man who could use such a skill. His build is legendary, and none have been able to replicate it.

 

It’s well known that Pacore has only distributed his points into Endurance and Vitality. The only way a build like that can grow is with the support of others. His estimated Vitality is over 500, and his Endurance is even more ridiculous at over 800. The man needs other people to charge his magic items for him, but because of that, he's never distributed a single point in any of his other stats.

 

Pacore slowly raises his hands, and all of his soldiers stop cheering. I notice a quick flash of light on his left hand before his voice booms out for everyone to hear. "General Pitz, surrender the fort, and you have it on my honor you and your men may retreat. If not, come out and face me. If you don't, I'll stand here and take everything your men can dish out. And we will take the fort without substring any injuries!”

 

“Come out!” Every one of Scholl’s soldiers starts to chant.

 

Our men are frozen in place, and I can feel Cristopher rapidly approaching me. "General," he strains to call out to me over the chanting. "You can't! You saw what that monster did; you won't be able to beat him!" Cristopher says in a panic.

 

“Ready!” Pacore shouts out. His men stop chanting and ready their weapons. His mages are channeling their mana for their first barrage.

 

Our own mages hastily erect their own defenses. A few people try shooting more arrows, but each is drawn to Pacore. I heard his skill only requires him to focus, but I have no idea how he keeps it activated for so long. He can keep it active indefinitely for all I know, and we really won't be able to touch his men.

 

“Cristopher!” I shout to grab his attention.

 

“General?”

 

"From here on out, you're in charge," I tell him.

 

“What!?” Cristopher shouts in disbelief, but he’s not the only one. The communications mage behind him and the other men on the tower stare at me, shocked as well.

 

"No matter what happens to me, you're to defend the fort. I'll distract Pacore while you deal with his men. As soon as we start fighting, send everything we have at them,” I tell him emotionlessly.

 

“You can’t; you'll die," Cristopher immediately rejects my plan.

 

I ignore him and turn to one of the other archers on the tower. "Your quiver, soldier." I hold out my hand. He silently hands me his arrows, and I pull out all the best ones Aaliyah made and filled up my quiver. I won't have a chance to grab more latter.

 

Cristopher continues to hound me as I make my way over to the wall. I jump on top of the ledge and look across Scholl's army. I feel two hands grab my ankles. Looking back, Cristopher is now trying to hold me in place.

 

“Let go,” I tell him. Cristopher shakes his head in refusal.

 

The usual snarky look on Cristopher's face is gone, replaced with a look of deep concern for my well-being. It's almost enough to make me want to reconsider.

 

I send a quick jab with my bow to his chest, causing him to let go of me and fall backwards. Without looking back, I hop off of the tower. I hope I didn’t hurt him too much. I ponder as I fall to the canyon floor. I never thought I would grow so attached to having the annoying man around. But he was an excellent subordinate despite his personality quirks and the fact he was sent to keep an eye on me.

 

I gracefully land on the rough ground.

 

Every frontline soldier in Scholl's army is watching me. I walk along the fort's walls in case this is all a trap, and I need to hop back up quickly.

 

“No one is to touch her!” Pacore roars out as he sees me nearing him.

 

I debate trying to kill one of the feathered people in the front but decide against it. Pacore would probably just activate his skill, and I would quickly be surrounded.

 

I can feel the eyes of everybody focusing on me.

 

Stopping 100 feet in front of Pacore, I take a better look at my opponent. He may lack armor, but I see more than a few magical items on his hands and arms. The short sword he's carrying on his side radiates a lot of magic, and I'm sure it's like my bow. He also has three vials strapped to his side.

 

Now that I’m closer to the man, I can see a depth of wisdom in his eyes that a man gets when he lives as long as he has. I'm considered quite old myself but nothing compared to Pacore. Despite his loose and wrinkly skin on his face, his body is in excellent condition. He's fit and doesn't have an ounce of fat on his body.

 

I keep Pacore in my sights while I carefully scan his ranks of men on either side of us. Where is his damn hex mage hiding?

 

“You don’t need to worry; I left my mage behind. No one will interfere with our fight.” Pacore smiles at me like a grandparent talking to a child.

 

“How generous of you,” I reply with no small amount of sarcasm and scan again, not taking his word for it.

 

Pacore just laughs. “Please don’t be like that. It’s rare for me to meet someone close to my level. This should be a glorious occasion for the both of us.”

 

“What is that supposed to mean?” I send him a challenging look.

 

“Yes! Those are the eyes I want to see. It was agonizing waiting for you to recover.” Pacore’s laughter sends shivers down my spine.

 

He waited to attack, so I had time to recover! I can't help but frown when I notice he isn't trying to play mind games with me; he genuinely wants a fair duel. How sick in the head is he? This isn't a duel between two youngsters; this is a war between nations.

 

“It’s been so long,” he continues to rant. I relaxingly take a step back when I see his eyes. They’re the eyes of a beast that doesn’t care if it dies in battle. “I miss the days when I was younger. Charging into a battle knowing I could die, it's been so long since I last felt that alive." Pacore slowly draws his sword.

 

"Ready yourself, General Pitz of Olebert. Our men can handle themselves; let us enjoy ourselves!” Pacore dashes towards me, leaving himself wide open.

 

Horns blare on either side of me. I jump back, thinking it's a trap, but I quickly see it's just Scholl signaling their mage divisions to raise their shields now that their leader isn’t using his skill. Not one of Scholl's soldiers turns to interfere with our fight.

 

Mayhem erupts around us as the fighting begins.

 

To me, the time it takes Pacore to dash over to me is incredibly long. He has his body trained to peak performance, but that can't make up for someone's lack of stats.

 

I draw my first arrow and aim for Pacore's left eye; I have no intention to have an honest duel.

 

Releasing my fingers, a loud twang comes from my bow as my arrow sails straight to its target. I observe to see how Pacore responds.

 

Only he doesn’t!

 

The charging beast doesn’t so much as flinch as my arrow closes in on his face. The manic look on his face screams danger to my senses.

 

Once the arrow is an inch from his face, it's deflected by some sort of barrier. The arrow is diverted and sticks into the ground beside the charging Pacore. I quickly nock and release a second arrow, this time aimed at his heart.

 

Again, the arrow strikes a barrier inches from his clothing.

 

He's now ten feet away from me. I activate Rapid Reload and shoot the third arrow at almost point-blank range, this time aiming for his left leg. His barrier has to be from a magic item, and they usually don't cover the extremities as well as the head and torso.

 

“Shit!” I curse when my third strike is also deflected in the same manner. Pacore charge is stopped for a moment from the force of my arrow striking him, but he's soon running at me again.

 

I simply jump backwards and move out of the range of his sword, preparing another arrow.

 

I’m about to shoot again when I notice a siege spell heading towards me. Using my movement skill, I flash to the side right as the spell detonates. Pacore doesn’t miss his opportunity and gets within striking distance of me.

 

The man puts everything into his swing, sacrificing any notion of blocking a counter for more power behind his strike. His age is further highlighted with his swordplay. Though his swing is barbaric in nature, he expertly targets the small gaps in my hide armor.

 

I don’t risk using my bow to block his sword and instead use my Dexterity to dodge his strikes. Pacore tries to keep me from regaining my distance by pressing on the attack.

 

In a brief opening between his strikes, I try hitting him with another arrow in the center of his chest.

 

The loud ringing noise of my arrow impacting his invisible barrier at close range sounds oddly metallic. The force of my arrow caused Pacore to pause just long enough for me to gain another fifteen feet between us. I noticed when I hit him with my arrow, his boots lit up.

 

"I saw that," I narrow my eyes at Pacore. I usually avoid talking during a battle, but he seems like the kind of man who loves to talk, and any information I can pull out of him might help me.

 

Pacore smiles at me as the world around us falls deeper into the madness that is war. I use the brief pause to look around for any of his feathered officers. Even if I can land a lucky shot on one of them while they’re focused on taking the fort, Cristopher’s chances at repelling Scholl would vastly increase.

 

“And what is it that you think you saw?” Pacore self-assuredly asks.

 

Good, the longer I can draw this out, the more time I have to figure out his weak points. "Your shoes are enchanted to keep you in place. If they weren't, each of my strikes would send you tumbling back."

 

“Is that all?” Pacore mocks, once again charging me. “I thought a rouge of your level would prove more insightful!”

 

I hold my ground, counting the arrows I shot and how many remain. I've already used four of my arrows; I still have seventeen similar arrows and the special one Norah enchanted.

 

“Finished running!?” Pacore shouts as he nears me once again.

 

"Testing out another theory," I retort. Pacore looks surprised, as this time, I step into his strike. Even with his abysmal Strength stats, he can still cut me with his sword, so I strike his sword arm with my armguard, deflecting his slash.

 

I reach out with my free right hand towards Pacore’s face. His eyes widen further when I firmly grasp onto his invisible barrier. The familiar feeling of metal is undeniable.

 

I’m forced to let go and retreat when he pulls out a dagger and tries to open up my belly. This time he doesn’t immediately charge me again.

 

"You're full of shit; you know that," I yell at him, which only causes him to laugh. "Just like that cloak you used to make yourself invisible earlier, the armor you're wearing is also enchanted to be invisible. You make it seem like you can withstand everything with your stats alone, but you're wearing armor like everybody else."

 

Now that I know what to look for, I can see that his clothes are designed to hide where his invisible armor is secured to his body. No wonder he can survive a volley of siege spells and arrows. His armor takes the brunt of the damage, and his stats take care of the rest, making it appear that he can't be injured by traditional means.

 

I wonder if he’s really put all his points into Vitality and Endurance? His armor and other magic items have to use up an incredible amount of magic.

 

"And why wouldn't I wear armor? Is that against the rules?” He taunts me.

 

We both spring into action. I keep moving around him while Pacore chases after me; neither of us able to damage the other.

 

A one-sided game of cat and mouse ensues between us while siege spells detonate around us.

 

If he's wearing armor, then that means there have to be weak points I can exploit, I ponder.

 

It will just be hard to find them because his armor is invisible. I activate Rapid Shot, shooting three arrows in a tight grouping around the bottom of his neck, the area a helmet and chest piece rarely fully cover.

 

I carefully watch how each of my arrows bounce off his invisible armor, hoping just one will snag on an opening.

 

A variety of solutions filter through my mind. Maybe Pacore would die if I burred him alive or dropped him in the middle of a lake, but I doubt he doesn't have a counter for such a situation.

 

“You shouldn’t be frowning already,” he quips. I already regret getting him to talk. The berserking monster has the Stamina to run at me while wildly swinging his sword and talking simultaneously.

 

“Will you shut up unless you’re going to tell me how to kill you,” I growl at him, aiming another arrow at his throat.

 

“Sorry, I’ll leave that to your imagination. I’m happy to see you taking this seriously, though." This bastard, I've been serious from the start. It's him who sees this as a game.

 

The longer our battle continues, the worst my situation becomes. Scholl’s army is steadily inching forward, advancing on the fort’s walls, and I can see them preparing to try and scale them soon. I need to kill Pacore and return to help my men!

 

I send another arrow at him, this time enhanced with two of my skills, Empowered Shot and Piercing Strike. A louder ring resonates through the air when it strikes his invisible armor, and Pacore is even forced to take a step back. That was a good hit!

 

But my enthusiasm is quickly doused by reality. Pacore recovers with no sign that my arrow did anything to him or his armor and continues to try and make this a close-quarters fight.

 

I usually would be Pacore's perfect counter because of how hard I can hit when I have time to prepare. A close-range tank against a powerful archer, the archer wins 99.999% of the time.

 

*Bang**Bang**Bang*

 

A loud noise behind me draws my attention. I see Scholl has started focusing their siege spells on the fort's main gate. Oh no, I need to hurry!

 

“Don’t look away from me!” I turn back to Pacore in time to see him activate a movement skill, possibly Double Step. He rapidly closes the distance between us and swings his sword at my head.

 

I lean back, avoiding the strike, only to watch Pacore twirl in place like an awkward dancer and bring his sword back around for a second strike.

 

I use my Dexterity to flip backwards, narrowly avoiding his second strike. I draw and lose another arrow at the man, but at this point, it's just a token response. I've hunted lesser dragons that were easier to wound.

 

I jump back, expecting another strike from Pacore, but he doesn't pursue me. "This is becoming disappointing; he says with a sad look on his face. I gave you time to recover, but it looks like you aren't a challenge without your special arrows." He stops down on one of my arrows at his feet.

 

"When I was dispatched by my king to deal with you, I was so excited. But after listening to Tellis describe how you killed the previous commander and dealt with our forces, I questioned if you had any more of your special arrows. After the fight with our assassin, it became clear you don't."

 

“I can still kill you!” I gnash my teeth at him.

 

“No, you can’t.” My anger further erupts when I see he has the gall to actually look sad at my weakness. "You should surrender. I stand by my previous promise, surrender, and I'll spare you and your men. They won't be able to hold out for much longer, this force was assembled to take the fort, and that's what we'll do."

 

I scoff at the old man. “Do I appear so weak to you? Just as you were ordered to take the fort, I was sent to defend it. I’ll stop you here and then kill your men before they ever step foot past our walls,” I boldly proclaim.

 

A sad smile forms across Pacore's face. "As you wish. It was probably foolish for me to ask such a question. Show me your resolve General Pitz, draw blood if you can; then I'll lay you to rest.”

 

Pacore starts walking towards me with a blank look on his face.

 

Like I’ll die that easily.

 

If he wants me to hit him so badly, I won't disappoint him. I nock another arrow and fire it straight at his head, looking for any disturbances in his skin or hair.

 

I dodge one of his strikes and then aim for his chest.

 

I again hit him square in the chest and study the reaction his armor has on his body. His armor and sword are still brimming with magic, and I don't think they'll run out soon. When I hit his head, the hair on top of his head and his braided beard moved as one, meaning his helmet is tightly hugging his skin with small holes for his facial hair to pass through.

 

But when I hit his chest piece, there was a moment before his clothes moved, meaning there’s a gap between his chest piece and the cloth I see through his armor.

 

I need to finish this, and I only have one option left. Jumping back, I rapidly extend the distance between us. I'm far enough away that he'll still charge at me and not draw me in by reactivating his attraction skill that draws in attacks.

 

I take up my full stance and draw the enchanted arrow from my quiver.

 

Pacore isn't stupid, he sees I'm trying something big, and he's all too happy to play along. Sick bastard.

 

I hope Norah enchanted this arrow to be strong enough.

 

I start activating my skills; Steady Hands, Exceptional Aim, Enhanced Perception, Strong Bow, Perfect Draw, and Reinforce Arrow, a new skill I recently picked up after working with weaker arrows than usual. I’ve been passively using it since our fight began, but now, I can use it to its full potential.

 

Pacore pays no mind to what I’m doing and continues to run straight at me.

 

Wait for it, I repeat to myself.

 

Thirty feet.

 

Twenty feet.

 

Ten feet.

 

I wait until the last second before I activate Instantaneous Strike when Pacore is right in front of me.

 

A sharp wailing sound pierces my ears, as I release my bowstring.

 

My Mana and Stamina rapidly drop as my arrow disappears as soon as my bowstring snaps back into place. The arrow only teleports a few feet before a black arrowhead materializes right up against Pacore’s clothes.

 

Everything happens so fast, Pacore doesn't realize I bypassed his armor until the hole where his heart should be, starts gushing blood. The red liquid that flows from his chest is more akin to tree sap than human blood, clotting to the naked eye.

 

Pacore starts to buckle forward.

 

I did it!

 

I…..

 

Pacore looks up at me with blood dripping from his mouth with a smile of ecstasy. He steps forward, and with a flick of his wrist, he runs me through with his sword before I can react.

 

I helplessly look down at the blade that’s skewering me through the stomach and collapse to my feet.

 

“That was a good hit,” I barely hear Pacore’s words.

 

I channel my remaining mana to the healing bracelet on my wrist. The two remaining magic gems shatter, and a large wave of healing mana washes through my body.

 

I can still fight.

 

I move to stand up and pull the blade out of myself, but my body doesn't respond. The healing energy released from my magic item is trying to heal the damage, but it's being drained into Pacore’s sword instead.

 

The small amount of healing mana that my body does absorb is only enough to push the feeling of death back a bit and clear my head a little. I fall back on the stony ground, looking up at Pacore, who's still bleeding from his chest.

 

“Healing item, huh. I never cared for them; alchemical solutions work slower but aren’t as easy to counter.” I watch, unable to speak, as Pacore reaches up and flips an invisible latch on the side of his head and peels his face guard open. He grabs two of the vials at his side and quickly drinks both. His flesh around the hole I put in him starts to wriggle and slowly mend itself back together like a mass of worms wriggling as one.

 

I want to shout for Cristopher to pepper the area with siege spells now that his face is open, but my lungs don't want to comply with me.

 

“Then again, it’s only because of my stats that I can heal like this,” Pacore takes the time to explain to me.

 

I feel the world becoming darker as my hands and feet become cold. So this is how I die.

 

"When I fight, it's hard for me to hit my opponents, and when I do, I quickly learned they always had a healing magic item on hand for emergencies. My scouts saw you using yours during the fight with Zekil. To bypass that pesky problem, I long ago commissioned a Dwarven sword enchanted to absorbed healing magic. Of course, that means I can’t use it myself, but that hardly matters to me.”

 

The sounds of the battlefield fade away to the point I can only hear Pacore.

 

“Thanks for not giving up. It has been a while since someone was able to make me bleed.” Pacore stands over me and yanks his sword out of me. I can’t even feel it as the blade leaves my flesh.

 

"Sleep well, general; it was fun while it lasted." Those are the last words I hear as I go to meet the Goddess Ebeon.

 

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A note from kosnik4

 

8,900 words.

 

Did you see that coming!?

 

I don't advertise it, but my story planning is actually pretty nonexistent. I know which direction I want to go, but I let my imagination and the story dictate the chapter. 

 

The first time I wrote this, it was only 5,000 words, and it ended with me forcing a convoluted method for Emily to win. After I reread it, I realized my previous chapters had already backed her into a deep corner. She had none of her proper gear, Scholl’s army was much bigger, and Pacore was prepared for his opponent when Emily wasn’t.

 

It was then that I realized I was falling into the trope of always having the main character pull a win out of their ass, and I didn't like it.

 

Does everyone hate me now? Tell me what you think below.

 

Hope you enjoyed the chapter, and as always, stay safe.


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kosnik4

Bio: Just love a good story.

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