I nocked an arrow into my longbow and enjoyed the wind rushing over my face while Anna whipped the horses into a full gallop. From the stony glare in her eyes, I knew the maid was resolved to get us past the city gates or die in the attempt. My role would be to ensure we all made it through the next few hours alive. My enemies were anyone with Lord Cedric Hastings’ insignia emblazoned on their armor. Lydia explained that Renalis used a levy system, where the local lord of a region would conscript troops to fight on the kingdom’s behalf. Essentially, there were a bunch of private militaries that all fought under one banner.

One major part of our plan was not to needlessly antagonize the other lords. This was a tall order, but I saw the merit in winning over hearts and minds as early as possible. Thankfully, the royal levies made up over 90% of the forces garrisoned in the capital city. Unless Lord Hastings was willing to move his personal troops out of his own lands, then the composition of the capital’s military power shouldn’t have changed that much. Incidentally one of the first things Lydia wanted to reform after she became Queen was to establish a standardized military that only answers to the royal family - her detractors had too much power.

Almost in range.

I leveled my longbow and pulled down the wagon cover. Our little wagon was filled with bundles of arrows, bought using what Magic Crystals we had left. With a plethora of ammunition available, it was now time for me to finally let loose. A morbid part of me really wanted Hastings to station as many of his own men as possible within the city so I could grind for levels, but that train of thought was a dangerous one to follow, so I stifled it.

I was a professional soldier, not some barbaric man-killer.

As soon as the city walls came into my maximum engagement range, I activated «Designated Marksman» and zoomed in with my dominant eye. At 16x magnification, I could clearly identify any insignias or markings that denoted rank and affiliation. As Lydia suspected, a majority of the men on the walls were levies belonging to her territory.

“Most of the men are yours, Lydia,” I confirmed. “But the ones in charge are not.”

“So Lord Hastings only changed the upper echelons in order to influence and control their lessers.”

“How loyal is the common man to the royal family?”

“Our bloodline stems from an ancient dragon, so we are idolized.”

“It’s time to test that theory, then. I’ll focus on eliminating the leadership and we’ll see if your troops turn on their masters.”

“«Charisma» is my highest «Attribute». I’ll show you what that means soon, Levin.”

I raised a brow at Lydia then returned my attention to the walls. There were three men who seemed to be in charge of the gate guard. All of them had Hasting’s insignia of a «Barghest» sitting upright with a sword and shield in each of its front paws.

We rode with the dawn light at our backs, and based on their lackadaisical reaction, they didn’t see us yet.

I fired three arrows at the leader closest to an alarm bell. I relied purely on my proficiency, my «Marksmanship», and my «Dexterity». The first arrow bounced off the man’s head and almost bowled him over. The second arrow knocked off his helmet, and the third arrow pierced his skull. Another six arrows followed suit even before the first set landed. The results were the same. All three men fell off the walls, dead, within a single breath.

So that confirms it: «Health» isn’t a direct representation of your physical body. It’s an invisible barrier that protects you from harm. That’s what Seras meant when I rifle-butted her and why those bandits were able to survive my first few arrows even though they took direct hits. So does my rifle just bypass «Health»? Or does it do so much damage it wipes out all of their «HP»?

I’d get a chance to find out soon enough. Panic and confusion soon echoed once all the commanding officers on that section of the wall were slain. Several more men with Hasting’s insignia barreled out of the garrison towers dotting the wall and I picked each of them off.

“Levin! What are you shooting at?!” Lydia demanded. She couldn’t see as far as I could, so my sudden barrage of arrows left her confused.

“Eliminating hostiles. Trust me. Anna, don’t slow down for anything. They are going to try to close the gates. Lydia, if you can’t take down that gate, we’re going to be pasted across it.”

“W-worry not, my champion. I shall not fail.” Lydia settled away from me and began to mutter quietly to herself. I didn’t try straining my hearing to listen in because I was too busy focusing on taking down anyone bearing Hasting’s emblem. By the time we crossed the 300 meter line, the walls were littered with bodies riddled with arrows.

I saw one of Hasting’s newly appointed commanders rally the defenders enough for them to load and draw their bows. I answered his bravery and competence with six arrows. One to drain his «Health», one in each eye, one through the mouth, one through the nose, and one through the throat. The violent and gruesome death gave the defenders pause and Anna managed to close even more distance before they recovered enough to fire.

Their shots were wide and inaccurate at this range, but some were obviously better than others and it stood to reason quite a few archers would have an «Aspect» like «Marksmanship» or something similar.

But I was better than all of them combined and more. I traced the paths of only the most dangerous of the barrage and fired rapidly. My arms blurred and my arrows flew to intercept only a select few projectiles.

Anna gasped when the first volley landed harmlessly around the wagon. “They all missed?!” The shock and awe in her voice was palpable.

“Just keep going, Anna!” I reloaded and refocused on the defenders.

I was worlds faster than the guards and fired my own return volley even as they nocked their arrows and bolts. The looks on their faces were priceless when my arrows sliced their bow and crossbow strings in half. We were now at the 100 meter mark and the city gates were slowly coming down like a guillotine over our heads.

“Lydia! Any time now!” I shouted while I continued to cut the strings of bows and crossbows. At some point, the defenders just stopped popping out from cover. I wasn’t sure if they were afraid or if they realized it was pointless.

Lydia finally fully stood, her red dress flapping around her legs. She wore a tiara that marked her station and the necklace she kept hidden was proudly displayed over her breasts. Her eyes were practically glowing and I noticed her pupils had turned to slits.

“Behold my power and glory!” Her voice boomed. It was almost as loud as my rifle’s bark. “I am Princess Lyudmilia, Heir-Apparent to the Kingdom of Renalis and its rightful ruler! Stand down or face my wrath!”

The back of her dress ripped and burned as a pair of flaming wings with golden scales erupted out like an angry volcano. Her wings were so long they were almost double the length of the wagon. My eyes widened and I felt a primal fear grip me - almost as if I were staring at an apex predator. But the feeling disappeared as soon as it came, leaving me to stare in awe at Lyudmilia’s beautiful majesty.

Even at a distance, the lightshow must have been impressive because the guardsmen manning the walls stood up and began shouting their allegiance. I tore my gaze away from Lydia’s glorious visage and eliminated anyone still trying to rally the guards against her, regardless of what emblem they wore.

With my arrows following her declaration, any semblance of military order the defenders still had crumbled. The gates were hastily raised at the last second, barely giving Anna enough room to clear it. We all had to duck beneath it and what was left of the wagon roof was peeled off by the overhang.

Phase 1, complete.


About the author



Log in to comment
Log In