Akira rode on his horse next to Marc at the front of 300 soldiers. They had been marching for two days, as fast as they could as they headed towards the route the king was supposed to be taking.
Akira's gaze kept staring at Marc's two swords. Red gems glinted in the sunlight, on each sword. The gems reminded him of the time he had visited the magic guild shop and saw similar [Magic gems].
Judging by the size, the cost must have been extremely expensive.
Akira finally built up enough courage and decided to ask Marc about the swords, “I can't help but notice the swords you have, Marc. Where did you get them?”
“Father had them commissioned when I was promoted. The gems have a buff [Double critical strike],” said Marc proudly with a smile on his face.
“Wow, it must have cost a lot,” said Akira, in awe of the swords.
Just then the second-in-command Aaron galloped up next to Marc, interrupting their conversation.
“We should be reaching the king's group soon. Should we send out a messenger to inform the king of our arrival?” asked Aaron.
Marc thought for a moment and then looked over at Akira.
“Akira, go ahead of us and inform the king that we are on our way to escort him. If he needs more information, tell him I will give him all the details when I get there,” Marc ordered Akira.
Akira spurred his horse to its top speed, heading ahead of Marc. After an hour had passed, he was able to see a small trail of dust from the king's small escort.
He picked up his horn and blew out a signal, letting them know of his presence and that he was an ally.
As the king drew near, he was able to see that the escort numbered 60 or 70 of the king's elite guards. They stopped a small distance away from where Akira was waiting.
A knight in full plate armor separated from the group and stopped in front of Akira.
“What are you doing here, Akira?” a familiar voice called out to him from under the helmet.
“I have come to give you a message,” said Akira calmly.
“What message? How did you find the king? Only a few know we have left the capital and the route we're taking,” asked Silias, the commander of the elite guard.
“I am here to let you know in a few hours officer Marc of the king's elite guard, along with the soldiers under his command, will soon meet up with you to escort the king safely to the main army,” Akira replied.
“Marc? Why is he coming to us? He'll just bring attention to the king if he moves around with a large group.”
“He is acting on urgent orders from the commanders of the main army. I was told to tell you, that he would explain everything to you when he meets up with you in a short while.”
Another hour and a half of riding passed until they met up with Marc's group.
Both groups halted to allow both the horses and soldiers some rest.
“Marc, the king wishes to speak with you,” said Silias, before escorting him to the king.
Akira was allowed to follow them into a makeshift tent that had been hurriedly erected for the king.
“Marc, can you please explain why you were sent to escort us?” asked the king.
After saluting the king, Marc silently handed over the orders he had received just days before.
After he read the orders, the king with shaking hands handed it to Silias.
“Are you sure this is true?” asked Silias after he finished reading.
“Akira delivered it to me directly from my father at the headquarters of the main army. It says that the information was given to them by a demigod. I know no reason for them to lie about this. It was decided that it is better to be cautious and escort your majesty to the main army safely than risk assuming that the information is false. We should deviate from the previously planned route and escort you using a different route that has the lowest chance of being ambushed,” replied Marc.
“Well, this is troubling. It is good that Command acted swiftly. It's also reassuring that the young star of the Elite guard is with us. Who knows, one day you might take my spot as commander when I retire,” laughed Silias as he slapped Marc on the back a few times.
“I am honored that you think so highly of me, Commander,” said Marc with a short bow.
“Go tend to your men. I will call you back when the king and I have worked out a new route. Then we will move out. It will be your duty to keep any enemy as far away from his majesty as possible,” said Silias.
Akira and Marc exited the tent and walked back to the 300 men, where they rested for more than a half hour before being called back.
“Akira, stay here as this involves our strategy and only Marc can hear it,” said Silias.
A short time later, Marc came back and started giving out orders to his men.
“Everyone will divide into four groups of 75. Each group will be placed around the king. One to protect the front, left, right, and the last protecting the rear. Aaron the second-in-command will take charge of the vanguard, while I command the rear guard, get to your positions.”
After sorting out the formation around the king's 70 guards, a now larger and more alert escort moved out.
The original route they were going to take would have led them through a wide and short but densely packed hunting trail not used by many travelers. The new route that was decided on was to take a detour left and go around the woods.
A few days passed and they were already halfway to their destination while traveling on the outskirts of the forest. Luckily there had been no signs of enemies showing up.
They had set up camp for the night far enough away from the forest, to make sure they would not be surprised by an enemy suddenly appearing.
Akira was on sentry duty along with a handful of others. He was drowsily staring at the woods and rubbing his eyes, trying to stay awake.
His left arm was tired from the heavy shield he had been holding for most of the night.
It was a peaceful night, stars shining, the moon was bright.
Until multiple arrows flew out from the forest and struck the soldier next to Akira in the neck and chest, killing him instantly.
“Ambush!!” shouted another soldier on watch somewhere to the right of Akira.
Akira was jarred awake from his drowsiness and from the death of the soldier in front of his eyes. He crouched down and hid behind his shield before he began to blow on his horn as loud as he could, warning the group of the enemy attack. All thought of sleep was cleared from his head as he ran to find cover.
Another wave of arrows rained down upon them. Cries of pain could be heard as a dozen more soldiers were wounded.
With a shout, the enemy charged forward from the forest screaming their war cries.
“Everyone, form up! We are to protect the king!” shouted Marc.
It took less than a minute for the seasoned veterans to get into a protective semicircle formation around the king and his own elite bodyguards.
With Marc's quick commands, they were able to stop the enemy's advance towards the king and keep them at bay.
Akira was hiding behind a large rock, watching in shock at the first battle he had ever seen. It was horrifying.
The sight of men having their body parts chopped off, their heads bashed in, bodies being stabbed or sliced open, spilling the owners’ intestines out onto the ground.
The smell of battle was even worse when the wind brought the smell of blood and human waste over to Akira's hiding spot.
From what Akira could see, Marc was fighting in the center of the battle along with his troops. They were able to hold off the enemy while suffering fewer losses than them.
The enemy was, in fact, being slowly pushed back, largely thanks to Marc's fighting prowess.
The battle was swift and brutal. The enemy's forces were already halved from what they had started with.
A loud voice boomed over the din of battle.
“You guys are useless! Why can't you take care of a few guards? So what if there's a few more then we planned for. Making me have to join the fight... how annoying,” Someone stepped out of the Forest and started running towards the fight.
Akira could tell he was a male from the voice but the face was covered by a black half-face mask that only showed his mouth. He was lightly armored and was carrying a one-hand sword.
Akira was stunned not by his odd choice of equipment but the aura that he could feel emitting from him across the battlefield. Others noticed it, some cheered, others groaned.
A demigod had joined the fight!
The enemy soldiers opened up a path to let the demigod reach the front line of the fight.
“Akira, inform the commander there's a change of plans. He needs to escape with the king. We will try to hold the enemy off,” shouted Marc before charging forward and intercepting the demigod who was killing soldiers left and right with swift movements of his sword.
It took a few seconds for the words to register in Akira's brain before he ran off to the center where Silias and the king were stationed.
“Marc, says you need to escape with his majesty right away, the enemy has a demigod with them! He will try and hold them off long enough for you to escape. The main army should be only a day or two ahead of you,” Akira blurted out while gasping for air.
“May the creator be with him,” said Silias solemnly, “Everyone, form up. Let's not waste any time, we're leaving immediately.”
The king's guards quickly surrounded the king and when given the order a few seconds later, they escaped the fight.
Akira ran back to his hiding spot to watch the rest of the battle.
There were cries of alarm from the enemy when they saw the king and his guards escaping on horses.
The demigod who was fighting Marc tried to disengage and chase after the king, but he was being blocked by Marc's attacks, allowing the king to get farther and farther away.
The demigod was getting frustrated at being blocked and let out a roar of anger before shouting, “Get out of my way.”
“Your battle is with me,” Marc shouted back and again blocked the demigod’s attempt to chase after the king.
“I've had enough of you! Fine if you want to die so badly, I'll deal with you first, then I'll kill your king,” roared the angry demigod.
He immediately launched a flurry of attacks at Marc. The attacks were either reflected or dodged by Marc, who was able to counterattack.
One of Marc's swords landed a hit, causing a gash on the demigod’s left arm. The gems on Marc's sword shone, indicating it had been a critical strike and allowing the [Double critical strike] buff to take effect, dealing double the damage.
This only enraged the demigod even more, and he started to swing his sword even faster. Marc was able to evade most of the attacks while giving the demigod more minor wounds. But instead of weakening, the demigod seemed to be getting stronger and wilder the more wounds he received.
Marc was being pushed back due to the increased flurry of attacks. The attacks were coming in so fast it was all he could do to block them and was unable to counterattack.
Other soldiers tried to jump in and help him but they were either wounded or killed by the demigod before they could offer much help. Marc was being pushed back towards the large rock Akira was hiding behind.
Marc's breathing was getting ragged and he was receiving a large number of small wounds. He decided to gather his strength for one last desperate attack.
When the next attack came, he blocked it and shot forward, putting all his strength behind his thrust and stabbed at the demigod.
The sword pierced the demigods light armor piercing his stomach. The sword pushed all the way to the hilt.
The demigod stopped his attacks and fell to one knee while a discomforted grunt escaped his lips. Akira and all the allied soldiers who had been watching the battle all gave a sigh of relief.
Marc changed his stance and tried to pull his sword out of the demigod’s body.
Like a snapping turtle, the demigod's hand shot out and grabbed onto Marc's hand, not allowing him to escape, his grip tightened when Marc tried to pull away.
“Here let's be twins,” said the demigod. Before Marc could do anything, the demigod’s sword stabbed into and went all the way through his stomach and out his back. Marc gave off a pained expression and slumped forward.
The demigod pushed Marc off of him and slowly and shakily stood up. He pulled the sword out of his stomach, blood gushing everywhere and threw it onto the ground.
His shaky hands reached into a bag on his back and pulled out a potion which he splashed over his wound, it stopped the bleeding and slowly began the process of healing.
Now there were groans from the allied soldiers and cheers from the few enemy soldiers that had managed to stay alive.
Akira was in shock as he stared at Marc who he and Rodger idolized because he was the smartest and strongest of the three.
He was still alive but was having a hard time breathing only ten feet away from his hiding place. Blood was dripping from his mouth every time he gasped for breath.
“HA, HA, HA. Is that the best you got! You guys are nothing,” said the demigod as he coughed and spat out a large amount of blood from his mouth. He was leaning on his sword, breathing hard while looking at the remaining soldiers.
“I'll make sure you all die. As soon as I catch my breath,” said the demigod. “I guess I should take my reward for defeating you.”
The demigod reached over to take the sword from Marc's hand but was unable to pry it from his grasp. The demigod cursed him and kicked Marc's side, causing Marc to let out a groan.
“You're dead already so just give it to me, die already,” shouted the angry demigod, trying to wrestle the sword out of Marc's grip with kicks and punches.
Something broke inside Akira, waking him up from his daze. Akira was now burning with hatred of the demigod and decided that he would kill him even if it meant he would also have to die to save Marc or at the very least get revenge for Marc.
The demigod’s back was towards Akira and was bent over while still trying to take Marc's treasured swords.
Akira waited for a second to gather his courage and then he leaped out of his hiding spot and swung his sword at the taller man’s unprotected legs, slicing through the leg muscle.
The demigod gave a surprised shout of pain and he fell onto his face as his legs could no longer support his body.
Before the demigod could prop himself up with his hands, Akira jumped onto his back, pushing him back onto the ground with his feet. With tears in his eyes, Akira repeatedly stabbed at the demigod’s back piercing him over a dozen times.
The demigod stopped breathing. A bright light appeared, covering his body, which slowly disappeared along with his body like dust in the wind.
“I'll remember you, boy! You think you can kill me and get away with it?. I'll be back for I am a demigod. Next time I'll have the whole Osma kingdom’s army with me!” boomed the demigod’s voice, which was full of pain and anger.
The voice echoed for a few seconds and slowly faded away. There was a cheer from the rest of the allied soldiers who gained a second wind and were able to kill all but ten of the enemy soldiers, who threw down their weapons and surrendered.
Akira ran over to Marc to see what he could do to help him or even if he was alive.
When he reached Marc, a field medic had just finished applying a potion to his wounds. Marc was barely breathing and was very pale due to large blood loss from the many minor cuts and massive wound in his stomach.
“We did it, Marc. Thanks to you we were able to win this battle,” said Akira with tears and snot falling from his face.
“Eww... get away from me... with your snot. It wasn't me ...that killed him... it was you. I … got careless and let my guard down,” said Marc as he gave a pained expression and gasped in between words and began to cough up blood.
“Enough. Stop talking, you need to save your strength for the ride to the main army, where we can get you fully fixed up,” Commanded Aaron.
It took only ten minutes to bandage everyone and place Marc on a makeshift straw bed in one of the wagons the king's escort had left behind. They cleared more room and hoisted the other heavily wounded onto the wagon. The prisoners were chained together and placed onto another special caged wagon made for prisoners.
“Form up and let’s move out,” shouted Aaron.
It took them three long days due to the wounded before they finally saw the large sea of tents belonging to the main army. All through the travel, Akira had ridden next to the wagon Marc was on to keep him company.
They did not sleep for fear of another enemy attack, causing them to be expressionless and extremely tired from being constantly alert, reacting to the slightest sound.
When they got closer to the camp, Akira was ordered to sound the warhorn to let the camp know it was allied troops that were returning. After a few failures, he was able to do it successfully.
He could see many people gathering at the entrance to see who was returning.
The convoy stopped before entering the camp.
Nine expressionless elite guards, including Akira, walked to the side of the wagon with the wounded soldiers. Two of the wounded soldiers inside the wagon helped picked up Marc, and placed him onto the raised shields of the other Nine.
Akira was in the front, and because shorter than the other eight, he held his shield above his head, supporting Marc's feet while the other eight elite guards placed their shields flat on their shoulder, interlocked with the other shields to support the rest of Marc's body and head.
“Forward march,” shouted Aaron who was also one of the nine people supporting Marc with his shield on the right side.
The Nine men moved forward, marching slowly through the gates and then down the main road between the tents leading to the commanding tent.
There was now a large crowd gathered around them, staring as they passed by.
When they finally reached the command tent, they all knelt down, still supporting Marc on their shields. The faces of the guards in charge of guarding the tent paled.
“Commander Brutus, your son...” said one of the guards.
“Ah! Marc's back!” shouted Brutus's happy voice from inside the tent. He came out holding a cup of wine and a smile on his face.
Then he saw Marc on top of the shields. The smile only lasted for a second.
“NOOO!!!” he shouted and threw his glass at the ground in anger, where it shattered spilling its contents all over the ground.
He stormed back into the command tent where Akira could hear things being thrown, tables and chairs being overturned.
The voice of the king could be head “Someone restrain him. Have you gone mad, Brutus? Silias go find out what the problem is.”
Silias exited the tent and after seeing the body of Marc, all he said was “Oh.”
Thanks for reading.