~ Side Story: Felicity (Part 1) ~
[Prince Reynolds's point of view]
“We're under attack! Protect the base!” shouted the pathetic men who were supposed to guard this establishment.
I paid no heed to their cries as I stormed in on horseback. My stallion neighed as it jumped over the small barricade, and with one slash, I ended the life of one of them. The other was met with a pair of hooves to the face.
“Hahaha! Don't keep all the fun to yourself, my Prince!” shouted Braigun, one of my draconian knights.
“Be at ease, my friend, there are plenty of these wretched foes where they come from! Unfortunately...” I shook my head at the end as I dismounted.
“Bah! Fools such as these with a nose for gold and a stomach for violence will always be like a plague of pests upon one's country! Not even the Paramanium Empire managed to get rid of them!” he replied as he jumped over the barricade and aimed his black halberd at one of the mercenaries who ran at us with their swords unsheathed.
The poor man was unable to dodge the blow and was cut in half at the waist. One part landed at the draconian's feet, while the other stumbled on the ground, spreading his inside all over the place. It was a gruesome sight.
Three arrows flew by me and landed in the noggins of three others who tried to ambush me from behind. The men were killed on the spot and dropped their weapon on the floor.
“You two should pay attention to your surroundings. I don't want to be the one to bring your bodies back to his Majesty.”
The grumpy voice belonged to Ellen, a beautiful el'doraw who specialized in archery and stealth missions, but she was quite proficient with Earth Magic too. There were very few like her, and I was glad I had her on my team.
“With you guarding our tails, I need not fear any hidden foes!” Braigun laughed as he struck the ground with the hilt of his halberd.
“That's why I brought you with us, Ellen. A wise woman with a sharp eye is always needed to keep us alive.” I smiled and made a small bow towards her.
“Courteous as ever, my Prince, but if my husband heard you, he would chase you with his sword for an entire day.” she sighed and shook her head.
“And I would run like the wind.” I nodded and smiled back.
“Don't worry, Ellen, I'll keep ya safe from the prince, nya~!” the voice belonged to a fierce brown-furred nekatar who went by the name Mayana.
She appeared from the shadows behind Braigun and climbed up on on his shoulder. With the long scar across her right eye, you would think she was not one for combat, but this woman was a former assassin and master of stealth more than Ellen could ever be. She also loved to be cuddled and petted for some reason.
“Hey! I'm not your scratching post!” the draconian huffed.
“I know, nya~ You are my meat shield, nya~!” she rubbed her furry cheek to his scaly face, earning her a low growl from him, but the big draconian did not dare to strike or push her off.
As much as he showed to be displeased by her actions, he was in fact somewhat of a foster brother to her.
This odd bunch were both my personal guards and also the squad I gathered throughout the past two years. All of them were former slaves whom I saved one way or another. The dragon and nekatar duo were once used by the strongest noble who opposed me and my brother in our reform to abolish slavery. It was our toughest battle yet, but we managed to win in the end.
Now, one and a half year had passed since then, and we managed to weed out almost all the slave traders and nobles who opposed me and my brother. Two years and a half since Illsyore first stepped foot in Elora, the capital of Aunnar Kingdom.
The curse was still scarring my flesh, but since I had constantly fought against oppression and slavery, it barely showed any reaction. The last thing I had to do had yet to be fulfilled. As for the said Godlike Dungeon Lord, no word of him had yet to reach my ears, but I had the strange feeling that I was going to meet him again soon. Maybe after my curse was completely removed?
Speaking of which, I wasn't in Aunnar right now but in the Serdannya Kingdom to the West. Through comparison, it was about a fifth of my own, but it held a powerful army thanks to the Ancient Dungeon they used to train their soldiers with. Above all, this place was notorious for using slaves in the most brutish and hellish ways. To them, they were nothing but slobs of meat to be used as one pleased.
As for why we were currently in this ridiculous kingdom bursting into a well-defended hidden encampment in the middle of the forest, far away from the nearest civilized city?
This place was actually the main Headquarters of the Aunnar Slave Dealers, and I was here on a mission to strike down the last of them as well as to rescue the daughter of one of my kingdom's most well respected nobles. She was kidnapped two weeks ago and held here in an attempt to use her father's power and influence to change the reforms in Aunnar.
It was a foolish attempt because the first one that man went to when he heard the news was my brother, the current king of Aunnar. As a result of his action, I was sent here on an stealth mission to retrieve her. If by chance the Serdannya authorities discovered me, I would act like a foolish prince and claim that I was here to visit these beautiful lands and what not. There were many excuses I could use, so I did not worry about it.
“Where do you think they are holding here?” Braigun asked.
“I suppose inside there?” I pointed at he cave in the far back.
“I'll go on ahead, nya~!” said Mayana as she jumped off the big draconian and vanished within the shadows.
“I'll keep a watch on your backs.” Ellen said and prepared her bow.
“Thank you!” I said and turned around.
With a steady step, we approached the cave. Several humans could be seen dead on the ground with their necks slit open, Mayana's work. Braigun walked close to me just in case a trap or an arrow came flying in my direction. All of them were at the very least of Godlike Rank, while I was barely an Emperor Rank.
As soon as we reached the cave, we were greeted with the corpses of several archers. Once more, Mayana was the one behind this. The nekatar was as swift on her paws as she was with her dagger, making me wonder if all we had to do now was to walk through without worry of enemies.
“That bloody furball! She's keeping all the fun for herself!” Braigun grumbled.
“You'll get your share too, my friend, relax.” I smiled back at him.
Indeed, this trio was a very dangerous one to have as your enemy.
The draconian could work well as a vanguard, while the nekatar made good use of the shadows to strike our foes from where they least expected. Meanwhile, Ellen was able to keep our backs safe as a rearguard, but when needed, she was more powerful than an entire battalion of catapults with her ranged Earth Magic. Then lastly, there was me... the swordsman who knew a bit of Fire Magic. Well, I was better than nothing... and I still had some sort of Authority as a Prince and current Prime Minister of Aunnar, so that was something.
“This place stinks of dead rats!” grumbled Braigun.
“Indeed... it's worse than the sewers of Elora.” I confirmed.
“You went inside the sewers? For what reason?” the draconian asked surprised.
“Not long before I met you two, I received a tip about a secret slave brothel somewhere in Elora. My investigation led to the sewers, and since I was unable to find out the front gate, I had to make my own. This led to me crawling through the gunk in there... Not the best of ways to get rid of your nose hair if I may say.” I chuckled.
“You had guts, my Prince.” said Braigun.
“I had to. The slaves used there were treated very badly, and I couldn't allow something like that to exist right underneath my feet.” I replied shaking my head.
“But did you really have to go through the sewers?” he asked.
“Not really. After I managed to rescue the slaves there, imagine my surprise when I discovered the fact that there were several entrances to this place. One of them was right underneath the bathhouse.” I said.
“Sounds like the maids had a tough time afterwards.” he snickered.
“They? When we returned to the palace, everyone kept a ten meters distance. My own brother refused to see us because of the stench! He gave us orders from the balcony... on the other side of the garden. When the maids finally got their hands on us, they scrubbed us ten times each! My flesh was in agony for several days afterwards!” I let out a sigh as I shuddered just thinking about those awful moments.
“But you saved a lot of lives too...” he pointed out.
“True... and we also gave orders for a new sewer system to be made.” I nodded.
Almost half an hour later, we finally arrived at a large underground cavern where dozens of mercenaries awaited us in what could only be described as a fortress. The stalagmites and stalactites were all cleared, and magic crystals took the place of torches, removing the danger of smoke.
From left to right, it was at least 100 meters long and over 150 meters in length. The ceiling of the cave was almost 50 meters above the ground, but the fortress itself stopped at roughly 25 meters. This was so that the archers on top could still shoot their arrows at any potential intruders. The walls were made out of solid stone, but if they were enchanted or not remained to be seen. The former were the most troublesome ones for a siege.
“This... was unexpected.” said Braigun.
“Indeed. Any suggestions?” I asked as I looked at the fortress from afar while being careful not to be spotted by their guards.
“Mayana could infiltrate it from above and open the gates for us, but we would need to act quickly. I have a feeling they are already on alert from the moment we arrived.” suggested the draconian.
“Maybe charging in like that wasn't such a wise idea after all?” I showed them a wry smile.
“Nya~ Yup!” the nekatar said and giggled as she appeared behind me.
“Well... I can't do anything about it now.” I let out a sigh and rubbed the back of my head.
“When Mayana is ready to open the gates, I could offer some range support. Making a fortress underground isn't very wise when you are confronted with an Earth Magic specialist such as myself.” said Ellen as she put away her bow.
“I will feel much better if you provide cover support, miss Ellen.” I said.
Before the nekatar went ahead to open the gates, we also made a couple of strategies about what we should do once inside. We all agreed that Mayana should keep to the shadows and try to find the ringleader here. Ellen was to take out all the archers on the walls, then she was to regroup with us or keep bombarding the place, whichever she thought to be best. Meanwhile, me and Braigun were to make as much noise as possible to keep them focused on ourselves. In this whole plan, Mayana was the key to success. Without her, rescuing the slaves would have been a bit harder, especially if the noble in charge of this place gave an order of suicide.
“If you can locate our target, make sure she's safe before proceeding.” I gave her one last order before the sneaky nekatar was off.
“Of course, nya~!”
“Let's do this!” Braigun said with a big smirk on his lips.
Without a second to lose, we launched our attack on the underground fortress.
The nekatar slipped past the defenses without any of those inside realizing they had an intruder. Ellen was preparing a dangerous Earth Spell, while Braigun and I dashed with our swords unsheathed towards the gates of the fortress.
The moment we were seen, someone shouted “Intruders!”
Then ten warriors were sent outside. All of them merely a Master Rank and no worthy pray for either of us.
“I want the big guy's sword!”
“Let me have his boots!”
Some of them shouted.
“By the gods! What is it with bandits and boots?!” Braigun asked annoyed as he swung down his sword and cut the first man in half.
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