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The Girl Who Bore the Flame Ring (Web Novel) - Chapter 31: Battle at Daybreak

Chapter 31: Battle at Daybreak

This chapter is updated by Wuxia.Blog

“Are you really going to come fight with me?”

“Yes sir! We are volunteering our services! To attack those who are enemies of Commander of One Thousand Dirk, and to protect Coimbra, we ask that you place us on the front lines!”

“Then I look forward to working with you!”

The day before the battle, they received two hundred reinforcements from Madress, bringing Noel corps’ total manpower up to one thousand. Having not expected it at all, Noel’s eyes were round with surprise. She now had enough men to strike at least one good blow. Grohl had been safely returned to Madress, and so Noel was fighting alone, hoping to repay the traitorous lords that had been attacking one after the other. That all aside, the infantry reinforcements they had managed to somehow scrape together were the two hundred odd survivors of Dirk corps. Only those two hundred men and the supplies they required could be spared from Madress without compromising the defence. The Ribeldam navy had blockaded Madress harbour, temporarily causing the circulation of supplies to come to an end, and because the land routes had already been cut off, they had to make do with what stockpiles they had. Even the navy had beached its ships to man the city, so there wasn’t a single redundant soldier.

While that had been going on, peace talks had opened, but they were still incredibly stormy. At the same time that Perius heard the punishment for defeat, he received instructions from Grohl forbidding him from responding. Such was the decision of Grohl, his will having broken. Perius sent his own messenger to engage in secret negotiations. Fully confident of victory, Bahar had no intention of receiving anything less than unconditional surrender, and responded repeatedly that they wanted Coimbra to simply put down their swords. Perius himself could fully understand their position, but as he was in charge of negotiations, he had to secure safety for Grohl and his family as well as pardon for the sins of the Coimbran officers and men. The retainers had thrown away both their shame and their honour as they hardened their resolve to fight to the end. He felt that he could get some kind of deal, so Perius sent appeal after appeal to Amil, unwavering in the face of threats, and enduring in the face of scornful gazes. Then one day, the man appointed as provisional viceroy, Wilm, came to his tent to deliver to him who could not hide his emotions, an ultimatum.

“Now then, since we haven’t met for a while, let’s eat up! Cheers!”

“Cheers!”

And so Noel began her meagre dinner party to welcome her new companions. Originally, she had intended to boost morale by giving them a feast before the sortie so it wasn’t a problem. In fact, it had put some life into them, which she thought was nice. She herself was making merry rather happily despite the minimal amounts of wine. The reason for her mood lay in the two rewards she had received from Grohl. The first was the highest honour in all of Coimbra: a golden ring bearing the Coimbran scales. Its delicate ornamentation and brilliant golden lustre made it a thing of beauty. If it wasn’t for the current situation with the enemy, it wasn’t something he should have bestowed upon anyone, but Grohl had decided that he might not have another chance to reward her. The second was a promotion to Commander of One Thousand. Skipping the rank of Senior Commander of One Hundred, he had given her a so-called double promotion. Noel had received a letter from him which contained a sincere apology for the matter of his reassigning her as well as his doubting her. It contained much self deprecation on his part, including a statement that he couldn’t bear to face her directly. Almost his final will, the concluding statements included a request that she continue to look after Elgar.

Noel had no particular loyalty to Grohl, but as they were fighting together, she knew they were allies. He was also the man who paid her salary and had appointed her to her position in the military —which was why she had stepped beyond her bounds in advising him on how to attain victory—.

Barbas had wanted to know, “What the fuck does he think he’s sayin’ after all this!?” but Noel managed to assuage him.

He had apologised and even given her gifts, so Noel thought it was probably fine. He properly apologised for his wrongs, so the way to accept it was with a smile. Number 150 had taught her that doing so was one of the foundations of friendship.

“It looks like you’ve been promoted too, Cynthia. Now we’re the same rank, eh?”

“Congratulations, captain. It’s late, but there’s no changin’ the fact that it’s good. So, here’s a toast!”

“Thanks, Barbas.”

He made her cup overflow, and Noel decided it would be her last refill. She couldn’t let a single thing go wrong with the battle on the following day. Surely Barbas and the others knew that much as well, for despite their usual clamouring, the wine did not flow as freely as normal.

“That’s… strange. Why am I the only one left out? I think I did quite enough.”

“Ha?” Barbas seemed shocked, “What’s this shit you’re tryin’ to pull? Try rememberin’ with that pretty little head o’ yours just who your father is. If it wasn’t for the captain, you’d have been executed first.”

Riglette herself hadn’t seemed to serious about it either, likely just wanting to add a few words to the conversation. Being unable to honestly give her congratulations was simply Riglette being Riglette.

“Hmph, I’ve already cut ties with that man. He put me through that, of all things, so I’ll make sure to get my revenge.”

“I see, I see. Well, the most important part is from here on out, so watch your words. Don’t give us that damned tut again.”

“Tsk, you’re as insufferable as always. It’s because you’re like this that you became a bandit.”

“Aaaah, that’s exactly what I was talkin’ about. I really should have just killed you back then.”

“Hmph, well that’s too bad, isn’t it.”

As Noel watched their amusing little quarrel, she thought about how Riglette’s tutting could likely never be cured. Once a habit was deeply ingrained, it was hard to remove. No matter how many times Cynthia hit her, Noel did not fix her speech. It was essentially the same thing. Now that her rank was the same as Cynthia’s, Noel thought that the frequency of being struck would go down, but that the intensity would go up. As that was fun in its own way, Noel didn’t particularly mind.

“Tadaaah, this is the insignia of a Commander of One Thousand. Isn’t it cool! This medal is nice too, but it’s pointlessly large!”

Having quickly sewn her new insignia to her uniform, Noel walked through the ranks of men with a smile as if she was showing off. Being fundamentally carefree, and having always been amiable, Noel was fairly popular with the troops. On top of that was her strength and the fact that she wouldn’t abandon her men. The soldiers met her with applause and celebration. She couldn’t see where she was going, but she lived her life to the fullest, and would enjoy what she could, when she could.

“You’ve become a Commander of One Thousand!”

“I’ll follow you all my life!”

“Ahaha, thanks!”

Noel met them all with a smile as they came one after the other to give her their congratulations. She thanked each man and patted him on the shoulder with words of encouragement.

“Still, the captain’s really pretty, and has a good figure to boot.”

“It’s a shame she’s not interested in men! Aaah, a real shame!”

One of the young soldiers held his head and sighed. There wasn’t anything wrong with her physically, and she cut a good figure so there were probably many men who had fallen for her at first sight, but once they got to know what she was really like, her desirability in that way essentially disappeared; primarily due to her childish nature. She quickly expressed her emotions, and usually in a manner very unlike the standard military way. Even still, she had a mysterious charm to her. She was happy on sunny days, and distressed enough to die on rainy ones. There was also her demonic strength and tendency for plans that would set the enemy on fire. Not a single other officer in the Coimbran army was as curiously endearing as her, but the young men all felt that she wasn’t a very balanced person, unfortunately.

“I want my daughter to be that lively. I bet every day would be fun.”

“Hmmmm, really? If she got going with a hammer, there’d be no stoppin’ her. And she specializes in arsony…”

“Nonono, isn’t it fine to be flamboyant? That’s how kids should be.”

“Mmmh, you think?”

“Well, live or die, every moment would be fun; right to the end. Even though it’s an awful war, I feel like she’s made things a little better.”

“With the captain, it’s not that war becomes fun, but really profound; it’s the depth, you know.”

“Mnh, really?”

“Well, uh, the words might not be so deep?”

The older man narrowed his gaze. From the north, he had experienced both Coimbra’s greatest prosperity and its decline. He didn’t have any particular hopes for the future, but he was optimistic about how things would turn out; the type of man who was a good fit for Noel, and found her vivid life attractive.

After their enjoyable meal, Noel led all the men out of the captured town and to the difficult Yavits pass on the Kanan highway. They had prepared the area because it was a highway. Surrounded by steep slopes, and faced with elevated trees and a thick brush. In reality, the pass was frequented by bandits, bears, wolves, and the like, so that it was feared by travelers even to the present. Spatters of rain began to fall over the high ridges at Yavits, and so Noel could look down over the highway. Bahar had already begun its advance, and the vanguard had already passed by her with banners of the glorious sun proudly flying. Just to the west of Noel’s location lay Barbas in command of three hundred men. When she gave the signal, he would release the fire upon the enemy and throw their vanguard into the crucible so that in the confusion, Noel could raid Amil’s location in the main force.

“Captain. There’s no time, the main force is here. That is unmistakably Amil’s banner.”

Three suns were crossed by sabres. According to Riglette, that was his banner. It was proof that he had been aiming for the throne from the time he had been first appointed viceroy. Riglette made sure to indifferently point out that he was well on his way to fulfilling his ambitions.

“Does he want to become the emperor that badly?”

“That’s probably it. He’d rule the continent after all. From the start this had been a war of succession. All this talk of rebels has been nothing more than excuses.”

“Hhhhm. It doesn’t really resonate with me.”

“That’s probably just you. Either way, could you please have some tension in you now that you’ve become a commander of one thousand? Though you might not want to hear it from a humble commander of one hundred like myself.”

“I’m properly listening, I really am.”

Noel brushed aside Riglette’s bristling as she gazed through her telescope at Amil’s main body of troops. After what appeared to be an imperial guard consisting of cavalry and infantry had passed by, a line of war wagons stretched out led by two men.”

“Is he in there, I wonder?”

“They’re probably worried about archers. It would be laughable if he was cut down by a hail of arrows just as the throne was in sight. Looks like we can’t hit them directly.”

“I’d thought of picking him off with arrows, though. If we want to confirm his death we’ll have to attack and take his head after all, eh?”

Noel could use a bow too, but it wasn’t her speciality. She wasn’t so sure that she could bring him down in a single blow, and her finger would slip a bit in the rain. Most people wouldn’t be bothered by that, but Noel couldn’t help but mind.

It isn’t much, but rain is rain. I’m getting a bad feeling about this.

The rain was not heavy enough to muddy the ground, only enough that occasional raindrops could be felt on the skin. Even still, bad was bad.

“It’s probably that big wagon there in the front. See, it’s got quite the flag.”

“It’s really obvious, isn’t it. They even went as far as to use gold leaf. It’s like he’s proclaiming to the world that he’s the commander.”

“Probably to raise morale, to show his allies that he doesn’t fear the enemy one bit.”

The wagon decorated in gold that announced the presence of the supreme commander drew nearer. Soon enough it would be time to signal Barbas and the seven hundred men that Noel had in waiting would charge down the hill to take Amil’s head. The enemy may have numbered over fifty thousand, but Noel’s troops held local superiority.

“No matter how you look at it, their defences are thin. Just a small amount of fog is out. This is a chance we might never get again. Mountainous terrain is the Gembi speciality. If we strike now we can get him for sure.”

Kai nodded quietly.

“Uuum, what should we do? Hey, I’ve gotten a really bad feeling about this.”

“What are you saying after all this time? We’ll never get another chance like this for attack.”

“That’s true, but…”

“All that bait you sprinkled everywhere, was it not for today? If you won’t make the decision, and give the signal… I will. Everyone, get ready.”

Riglette made as if to blow her bugle, and Noel reflexively stopped her and was met with a critical gaze from Riglette, but Noel’s hand did not lift.

“What should we do?”

“Sir Noel, you are the commander. Whatever you decide, we shall abide with.”

“Let’s attack already! If you spend too much time worrying, the opportunity will pass. As if that white haired monkey wouldn’t move if you didn’t give the signal!”

Riglette spoke harshly, but Noel calmly evaluated the situation. She did technically agree. A second opportunity like this would probably never come again, and it was their last great chance to attack. The next battle would be on the open field and Amil would be guarded as well as usual, but, Noel thought, things were going way too well. Her enemy had fallen into each one of her traps, and had become more worn out every time. She wondered if they really hadn’t noticed what she was up to. She wondered if the enemy really didn’t know they were marching through the valley of the shadow of death. She wondered if Amil knew, having used a similar plan to trap Grohl.

Her head spun. She wondered what Cynthia would say; probably something along the lines of what Riglette had pointed out. They couldn’t turn things around if this didn’t work out. They had to. Cynthia would have already been attacking herself, as a chivalrous knight, but Cynthia she was not. Therefore, she had to come to a conclusion herself. No commander was fit for purpose if he only mimicked another. For ten seconds, Noel considered in silence before coming to a decision.

“Stop. We’re withdrawing. Do not blow that bugle Riglette. If you start, you’ll stop if it means knocking you out.”

“W-what are you…”

“There’s no time for questioning. We’re withdrawing now. Send a messenger to Barbas at once.”

They had to tell Barbas to cancel the attack. If she didn’t give the signal, he wouldn’t attack, but there was a chance that he would strike on his own if he saw a good opportunity. Barbas’ decisiveness was both a strength and a weakness. She summoned her soldiers to send a messenger.

“W-wait! I want to know why. Even as a commander of one thousand, I can’t let you advantage the enemy. Give me the reason for the cancellation of the assault!”

“I’ve got a bad feeling about it. Also, it’s raining a bit, so I’m in a terrible mood.”

“T-that’s it? It’s raining a bit, so you’ll call off the assault?”

“It’s good enough for me. If you’re fine with lies, I could give you some better reasons, though. Time is of the essence now, so I’d rather not. If you get it, hurry up and send the messenger.”

Riglette went beet red at Noel’s response. Thinking that it wasn’t working out, and just as Noel was about to plug her ears. she heard screams and angry voices from Barbas’ location.

“W-what!?”

“Looks like we’re the ones being ambushed after all.”

“It is unfortunate, but Sir Noel’s observations appear to be correct.”

“It can’t be an ambush, not here, how!?”

“The enemy thought of how to move through here too, I bet. I’ve pulled them into lots of traps, but didn’t think they’d turn the tables on me this quickly. If they’ve come from the other side, it’d make this an easy twist, and that’s what it looks like.”

“A, a trap. Then we’ve been lured out!?”

“Looks like it… Riglette, and everyone else, I’m sorry that it didn’t work out.”

After bowing in apology to them all, Noel took her hand from the bugle and placed it on the bident beside her.

“Wait, you can’t be thinking of saving them? Reinforcing them with these numbers is unreasonable! I’m sorry, but it’s too late for that white haired monkey, so we should focus on getting ourselves out of here first. Isn’t that the correct judgement!?”

“The failure of the mission is my responsibility. I’ll never throw away my companions. Never. Barbas and the others are my precious companions, and besides, I’d be sad to be abandoned myself.”

“So because of that?”

“It’s more than enough reason to fight.”

Riglette shuddered at Noel’s words and Kai had nothing to add, so Noel gave her orders.

On the receiving end of the ambush, Barbas’ men had fallen into a state of chaos. It was only natural as they had thought to be the ones attacking from their lair. While the men of the White Ant Bloc immediately returned fire, the Coimbran soldiers were unfortunately slow. Noel corps had high morale but couldn’t keep up with the quick witted enemy’s movements, and were being beheaded by black clad enemy soldiers in the blink of an eye.

“Shit, they’re the Black Sun Cavalry! Those bastards should just be riding around on their horses! What a pain!”

A woman with a sharp longsword charged at Barbas screaming, “You’re the commander, you fuck? Then die! Kill all those who get in my way!”

Turning in a rush, Barbas readied his own longsword to meet her. Her armour was the same as all the others’, but without a helmet on, her long brown hair stood out along with the fact that she was clearly very muscular, even in her armour. She could clearly wield her longsword with ease and speed.

“Recently all the ridiculously strong women have been after me. The captain, and now you! The fuck’s wrong with the world!?!?”

“Your captain’s Noel, right, you bastard? She’s fuckin’ killed a lot of my brothers, so I’ll make sure to get her ass too!!”

“That won’t do you bitch!”

“HA!? You’re the bitch!”

Barbas repeatedly fended off the quiveringly angry blows from the woman, his hands shaking with the impacts, and found himself faltering at her unwavering smile.

She’s fuckin’ strong! In terms of brute force she’s about as strong as the captain, or maybe more!?

“Ahaha, you won’t win by only defending yourself! If you’re one of the fiend’s men, why not bite back!?”

Laughing, she struck and struck and struck, chipping away at the swords as her force steadily increased. At that rate, in only a few more blows, she could take Barbas’ head, but even in pursuit, the other Black Sun Cavalry had their hands full, no, they themselves were being pushed back; as if their opponent was playing with them; as if they could be killed at any moment, but were being toyed with.

“I can get the location of the fiend from any number of people. Only, I’m going to kill you. Cause you talk so much shit.”

“Heh, well too bad for them, bitch!”

“You shit!! I’m going to dye that white hair red!!”

She put all of her strength into a blow that came rushing down. Just as Barbas was sure that he had died, somebody kicked him flying from behind, and rushed at the woman. Knocked to the ground, she struck at it angrily as her nose bled from the impact.

“Kh…”

“I was a little late, eh? But I won’t let you kill any more.”

Noel had murderously headbutted her with her iron headband.

“Heh, so you’re the fucking fiend, are you!? I, I am the second in command of the Black Sun Cavalry, Rebecca, and I will take revenge for my brethren!!”

“You’ve got a nosebleed, you know.”

“S-shut up!!”

Pointing to the tip of her own nose, Noel provoked Rebecca into a rage. The blood gushed from her nose ever stronger as her face went red and her concentration was broken by her rage.

“Wait. You’re too worked up and might die. I’ll handle this.”

“Falid! I’ll kill her for sure! I will!”

Falid thrust a finger at her as she objected.

“Silence, my orders are absolute. Go cut off their escape. We’ve managed to lure out the fiend, so all we have left is to clean up.”

“B-but!”

“What’s your answer?”

“U-understood… aaaah damn!”

The man wore a black helmet through which red hair could be seen. Red of a colour almost identical to Noel’s.

“Barbas, go help the others.”

“B-but if that muscle woman cut off the retreat, we’ll have nowhere to go, Captain!”

“Just go!”

Kicking Barbas away again, she sent him off, and turned to face the man.

“I’ve heard rumors of your valour. My name is Falid, and I am a Commander of One Thousand in the Baharan army, the commander of the Black Sun Cavalry. You are?”

“Coimbran Commander of One Thousand Noel. I’ve only just recently been promoted, though.”

“Congratulations.”

“Thank you very much!”

Noel smiled lightly and finally met eyes with the redheaded Falid as he had only been paying attention to her movements and bident up until that point. Though they seemed to be having a regular conversation, there wasn’t a wasted moment. Naturally the same could be said for Noel. Either one would go for the jugular as soon as an opening appeared.

“Oh, so you’re a fellow redhead?”

“Ahaha, that makes us match.”

“It is rather unexpected… well then, I should like to witness the fiend for myself. Let us carry out our duties!”

Falid raised his spear slowly as he spoke. Noel hurriedly knocked it aside and in that moment, Falid closed the distance to deliver a strong kick to Noel’s torso.

“Khh…”

“It seems like you see well, but your body isn’t responding… no, it is a strange sensation.”

Falid suddenly stopped his movements. Noel quickly regained her posture, and thrust her bident. Twisting himself out of the way as if he had known it was coming in advance, he brought down the but of his spear on her head. Avoiding a direct hit, it grazed her hair, but the blade of the weapon was coming back around for another attack which she also managed to evade somehow by throwing herself clumsily to the ground, but she didn’t see an opportunity for a counter attack. All she could see herself doing in an attack was creating an opening through which she would be pierced.

“You avoided that? The fiend is truly fearsome.”

“Haa, ha!”

“You can follow my movements clearly, but unfortunately, your body can’t keep up. You seem tired, too… both of which remind me of something.”

As he had said, Noel was watching him closely. It was through careful observation that she had been able to survive so long. She concentrated as much as she could to observe her opponent’s movements. When she did, it felt like she could watch it in slow motion, and she was usually able to end a fight in one strike by attacking as it happened. It wore her out, but it was her best technique for dispatching her foes. She, however, could not see Falid’s movements so clearly despite her best efforts. In fact, it was almost as if he could see through her movements as he attacked. The man was incredibly dangerous.

“Aaaaah!!”

Noel shot out a faint and an attack without stopping as to prevent a counter attack. She hid her true blade amidst a flurry of lies in her final method of attack. If she couldn’t read her opponent, this was all she had left. Three, four, five blows flew out before her final attack. Wrenching her whole body around, she brought down a blow with all her might that aimed for Falid’s head. If any part of her bident could graze his helmet, it would knock him out, and there was nothing more that Noel could do.

“I can see my opponents well, too, so you’ll never beat me.”

It didn’t connect. Falid tossed aside his spear and easily drew his sword to deflect the blow, despite the staggering effect it should have had on a direct confrontation. He kicked her forcefully in the side, knocking her off balance and made to run her through before she recovered, but the blow never landed. Grinning like an animal, Noel had caught the blade which bit deep into her palm, and ran red with blood, the red droplets dripping onto her face. In that moment, a certain someone’s expression floated through Falid’s mind.

“You… you’re…”

“I lose when my death has been decided. If I can live even a second longer than you do, I’ll win, so don’t run.”

Noel put some strength into her other hand, and a blaze roared up in the nearby brush. The flames quickly swallowed up the nearby trees, and smoke rushed in between the soldiers. Clearly a man made fire, it wasn’t going to be extinguished by the slight drizzle that day. Memories of the purgatory at Carness came roaring back.

“Fire? You can’t plan to get your allies caught up in this too, can you!? At this rate, you’ll burn to death too!”

The flames made ovens of their armour, and they began to hear crackling sounds grow ever louder. They began to choke. Falid looked down at Noel’s face as he remembered Carness. Her eyes were prepared for death. Some pain was nothing to a dead man. He thought to force the sword aside and grab the spear that lay beside her, but that would have been difficult. She’d probably jump on him, and take them both into the flames the second he tried for it. It was a situation in which he couldn’t stop her, even if he knew what she would do.

“It’d be lonely to die by myself, but I’m fine if its with everyone else, so I’ll have you lead the way.”

She had begun to laugh like a madman. Even the Black Sun Cavalry groaned under the heat of the flames. Death was not something that they feared, but meeting their ends there in the flames wasn’t something to be joked about. All their eyes turned to Falid, Rebecca’s too.

“Don’t run. You’ll die here too.”

“I’m sorry, but I can’t die here! Black Sun Cavalry, retreat at once!”

“You fuckers, fight dirty just cause you can’t fuckng win! Fucking burn!”

Dropping his sword and moving quickly, Falid and the other Black Sun Cavalry made haste down the hill. Only the fallen Coimbrans remained in the blaze that was thick with smoke, and it was difficult to tell if they were alive or dead.

“C-captain. I appreciate yer comin’ to save us, but I’d rather not burn to death.”

“Ahaha, me neither. I don’t like things this hot.”

“Weren’t we all going down together?”

“Ah, that was a bluff. Nobody wants to burn to death after all.”

Just as Noel thought things were about to get really really bad, she heard a familiar tut over her own ragged breathing. Riglette and the others had come with thick cloths over their faces, and soaked in water.

“There’s something wrong with your head! Burning to death with the enemy is insane!”

“But you came for me didn’t you?”

“Be, be quiet! There’s no time to think!!”

Riglette’s eyes went wide and she started muttering. Rushing into the flames, seemed to have taken a toll on her.

“S-she’s going to complain l-like a baby until she dies, this one will.”

“Shut it! Hurry and get the living out of here! I’m taking this idiot! Kai’s trying to hold back the flames, but that won’t last!”

As Noel was being roughly carried by Riglette, she called out to Barbas, “The Black Sun Cavalry is really strong, so I couldn’t think of anything else. We didn’t have enough soldiers, either. Sorry.”

“N-no, it couldn’t be h-helped.”

Noel indicated to Riglette who’s idea it was to use the combustion stones. It was the place where Barbas had been lurking. Naturally it was going to engulf their side as well, but they didn’t think they were going to get away from the Black Sun Cavalry anyway. Noel had done her best, but her failure, she probably doomed a great many companions. That was why she had tried to rescue as many as she could by herself. She had wanted to at least burn a path out, and had hoped for them to be saved. It wasn’t an order, but a wish, and yet Riglette had come. For that, Noel was very grateful.

“It was a bluff, but it wasn’t a lie that I’m not lonely when I’m with you all.”

“It’s an honour.”

“Shut it, you fools! Just keep those mouths closed!! Do you think I’ll let you die now that I’ve come all this way!”

Riglette retreated desperately. Noel watched the faces she knew amidst the thick smoke in the forest. She saw the corpse of the commander of the military police, bloody and with an expression of pain. He had been a haughty man, but was surprisingly entertaining. She had wanted to speak with him more, but was never going to get another chance again. Soon enough, the bodies would be incinerated. They didn’t have the time to take them away.

Sorry I couldn’t die with you. I’ll remember the promise, everyone.

Noel mourned for the commander of the military police and all the other men who had died. Imperceptible tears began to well up in her eyes, and she quickly wiped them away and hurried her feet along. Consciousness fading, she ran and ran so as not to be left behind by Riglette or her companions. If she couldn’t, she would be alone again.

And so the battle of Yavits pass came to a close. A minor skirmish overall, it was not particularly of note. Amil had prepared human shadows from the start, and all the men under his banner were impostors. It would have been pure foolishness to behave so conceitedly in such an infamous territory. The imperial guard would be able to rush out from the wagons and exterminate the enemy on the off chance that Noel decided to attack. Displeased with having to have fled from the enemy, Falid was readily congratulated for driving off the rumored fiend, and applauded for his bravery. When told of her use of fire, Amil had remarked that the fiend was truly to be feared. Having passed the most perilous stretch, the Baharan army resumed its westward march toward Madress. The yet to be repaired Rockbell district lay before them, after which lay the capital. It was plain to see that the war was coming to an end.

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