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553 First Victory

 "Phew..."

Lize witnessed the barrier before her covered by flames and she heaved a sigh of relief, softening her knees to the ground. Although, strictly speaking, this battle didn't seem as intense as expected, this was, after all, Lize's first battle where she was responsible for the strategy. Now that the plan had entered the final stage, Lize was finally feeling relieved. Joey and the others had arrived by her side and gazed at her with strange expressions.

Joey, Randolf, and Marfa knew that the tactics that Lize came up with weren't as simple as they appeared. This was the first time that she had worked out her tactics down to the smallest details. Lize split her Clerics into teams of four. One of the teams was responsible for deceiving the enemies with Glittering Rays while another was in charge of maintaining the Decelerating Haloes. Lize personally led the remaining two teams to activate the 'Divine Edifice', which was the core of this ambush.

Lize had never thought of relying on Marfa's Swordsmen or Randolf's Rangers to accomplish this mission. After all, there were too many enemies and they wouldn't be able to annihilate them all even if the enemies simply stood there without retaliating. Fortunately, Lize had experienced plenty of battles with Rhode which they had won with lesser men than the enemies. Lize realized that Rhode normally placed Mages or Clerics in the front line instead of close-combat units and she imitated his style of using the spellcasters as the main attackers and planned this ambush.

She used the sudden outburst of holy rays to throw the enemy formation into disorder and force them forward. Then, she made use of the Decelerating Haloes to hinder their movements and to buy some time for the casting of the 'Divine Edifice'. At the same time, the Rangers distracted the enemies to prevent them from breaking through the Decelerating Haloes while the Swordsmen lurked in front of the Clerics who were casting the 'Divine Edifice' and served as a defensive line in case of any accidents. The Thieves wandered the perimeter swiftly to investigate the front and rear. When the 'Divine Edifice' was completed, Gillian descended and used her trump card to deal the final blow to the trapped enemies.

Frankly speaking, this tactic wasn't grand and honorable at all. Anne was responsible for protecting the Clerics who were maintaining the Decelerating Haloes in the front. But apart from her, there were two more Clerics lying low by the sides and they would cast defensive spells on their companions if the situation had gone south. The Rangers and Thieves lurked in the forest to minimize contact with the enemies and once the enemies entered the forest, they immediately retreated without hesitation like a timid person who was fearful of death wandering in the forest and a light breeze could break him into fleeing... This wasn't worth showing off at all.

In order for this battle to be successful, Lize spent the entire night explaining to the others about their specific roles. She knew that she wasn't an experienced commander like Rhode and she thought that she might as well consider all the possible scenarios before the battle commenced. What should I do if the enemies came to a halt? What if the enemies continue to break through without stopping? What if the enemies break away from the encirclement? What if there is an unexpected powerful presence among the enemies? What if we are sandwiched between the enemies? What if the enemies destroys us first?

The team leaders didn't ask for her advice after the battle started. She had clearly gone through the scenarios with them.

It was tedious, dogmatic, and even rigid.

Lize was aware of it herself, but she chose not to care. Even after listening to Gillian's opinion, Lize didn't give up on her thoughts. After all, she was a stubborn person and it was this stubbornness that helped minimize the chances of her men dying recklessly. All she could do was rely on the battle experiences she had with Rhode to consider the possible scenarios during battle.

Honestly speaking, if both sides were fighting to their deaths, this thought of Lize's might be a lethal weakness. As the saying 'only the brave wins' go, there were many times when one must possess such an attitude to be victorious. There would be situations where one could only win after putting everything on the line. Although Marfa led 50 Peak Elite Swordsmen, he wasn't that foolish to suggest leading them against 3000 Cavalrymen. That wasn't being heroic. That was purely an IQ problem.

"Woah, this is really..."

Joey gazed at the surging flames in astonishment before sweeping a glance at Lize with lingering fears. Gillian's [Seven Hells] was the combination of massive fireballs and flares. Its effects were doubled in the 'Divine Edifice' and loud explosions were heard booming from within. They couldn't see the Cavalrymen inside, but they could easily imagine their terrible state. Even the most well-equipped soldiers couldn't survive such an attack.

However, Joey wasn't only in awe over the Fire Elemental Lord's capabilities. Instead, he shot a meaningful look at Randolf while Randolf shook his head and sighed in response.

Frankly speaking, this battle had astounded them.

Lize's head had been occupied with various methods to protect every single one of them. She had worked hard in stopping the Cavalrymen from breaking through the defensive line that she didn't notice the meaning of everything that she had done. To Joey and Randolf, they realized that they actually didn't understand this quiet, gentle young lady at all.

Not only that, but the unique style of the traps also forced the Cavalrymen to focus on their front and rear, which hindered their speed greatly. Thereafter, the enemies realized that the disturbance from Randolf's men wasn't actually as threatening as they thought. They continued to advance forward and eventually plunged into the trap of the Decelerating Haloes. Afterward, their movements and reactions were within Lize's predictions and all the naggings before the battle had taken effect completely. Although Lize's decision making wasn't as lethal and crucial as Rhode's, her abilities to ensure the entire process worked was equally outstanding!

Of course, Lize had sought Randolf and Marfa's opinions on what they do when they faced various situations. During the battle, although the Cavalrymen tried to counterattack more than once, the mercenaries didn't panic at all because Lize had briefed them in accordance with the various scenarios.

And this way, there was another interesting response. Lize focused fully on the defensive line and she didn't have the time and energy to consider other problems. However, to Joey and the others, Lize appeared to them as she was secretly plotting against the pitiful Southern Legion from the start where she had calculated their every move. Those who knew her were aware that she wasn't this vicious, but those who didn't understand her enough would perhaps think that she had some hatred against the Southern Legion.

After five to six minutes, the flames in the 'Divine Edifice' weakened and the golden barrier vanished into speckles of golden dust. Then, the smoke dissipated and the battlefield unveiled itself. Everyone sucked in a deep breath in unison.

The green grassland was filled with holes from the explosions and stacked with corpses of warhorses and Cavalrymen that laid across the ground. Although the entire world appeared to be melting in Gillian's [Seven Hells], she, after all, had similar strength to Rhode and it was inevitable that her core spell would be weakened after a period of time. The Cavalrymen didn't melt entirely in the flames, but the seal of the 'Divine Edifice' and the series of explosions within were enough to deal fatal damage to them.

"Phew..." Lize heaved a sigh of relief.

She had conflicting emotions about the scene before her, but she bestirred herself and stood to her feet. "Mr. Marfa, please lead your men to sweep the battlefield. Mr. Randolf, please gather your men and check for any losses. Joey, please go check out the surroundings for any abnormalities."

This time, the mercenaries team leaders hesitated no more. They nodded in agreement and left swiftly. Lize loosened her shoulders and looked up at the azure sky. The pitch-black, thick billows of smoke were soaring gradually, smearing a ghastly scar to the beautiful heavens.

"Well done, Little Lize," Gillian giggled as she descended from above and gazed at Lize with an amusing smile. "Your first battle is a huge success. To be honest, I never thought that you actually considered this much. But it seems that Master's expectations of you were correct."

"... Is this fine, Miss Gillian?"

Lize revealed a complex expression. She puckered her brows and turned to the disorderly, stacked burnt corpses. The battlefield looked like a living hell...

"Everything that I've done..."

"Aiya, Little Lize. The battle is over so why are you worrying about this?"

Gillian interrupted cheekily. She held Lize in her arms and spoke softly into her ears. "Alright alright, stop thinking about unnecessary matters. You've spent a long time with Master and this isn't the first time that you've witnessed such a horrible scene so what's there for you to not let go? This is a battle, Little Lize. You did well and no one will reprimand you for it. Let it go and stop showing such an expression to your men. If you feel guilty, they will feel uneasy too."

"... Okay." Lize lowered her head instinctively as she sensed that something was off from the fox-eared young lady's words. However, she couldn't figure out what exactly was wrong.

At this point, Lize was feeling extremely emotional. After all, the tactics that she came up with had finally worked. On the other hand, she felt horrible because so many lives were gone because of her, and yet, she felt this excited and accomplished. Although she understood that these people were her enemies and defeating them was her duty, she couldn't help but feel uneasy witnessing the corpses laid across before her. But shortly after, she stifled the fluster in her mind and calmed herself down.

"Our job here is done. Not sure about the situation on the other side... Miss Gillian... Will it really be fine?"

"Huhuhu, don't worry, Little Lize," Gillian let out a chuckle and scratched Lize's nose lightly. "I guarantee you that there isn't any problem at all. Hehe. Some people are just too prideful and we must give them a way out before they're willing."

"???" Lize turned to Gillian curiously, but Gillian simply squinted at the horizon meaningfully.

It's about time now.

A look of vigilance and concern emerged on the Cavalry Leader's face as he observed the thick dark smoke coming into view from the horizon in the distance. He knew the battle plan with the utmost importance was going on in that direction. Initially, General Dade had planned to split the Cavalrymen into two teams and penetrate the defensive line as quickly as possible while the others pinned down the Fortress. Afterward, they would attack the city of Paphield altogether after converging their forces. As long as their breakthrough was successful, it would mean that their battle plan had worked out perfectly. General Dade was extremely confident in this battle plan because he had dispatched scouts to investigate the forces in the Cloud Summit Fortress and he learned that the Fortress didn't have enough manpower to defend against his attacks. Moreover, based on the Reformist Party's intelligence network, there weren't any troops deployed by the King's Party at the rear of the Fortress, which meant that if they could break through the defensive line, victory would be within their reach!

But... What was going on now? The sparkling flares and deep, loud explosions... He felt rather anxious, but he couldn't link up with the forces there. Although it was the reliable General Dade who led the Cavalrymen personally for the breakthrough, he still expected some sort of resistance from the enemies.

However, this stillness... didn't seem like...

"-!"

Suddenly, a deep, ear-piercing sound broke out and struck his chest like an invisible steel hammer. The Cavalry Leader let out a groan and he almost fell off his horse. He tugged the reins hurriedly to secure his position, but the soldiers around him had fallen to the ground.

At this moment, the Cavalry Leader discovered a black-haired young lady seated on the ground, strumming the strings of a tall harp. Even though the young lady was alone, the Cavalrymen sensed an overwhelming pressure as though she possessed the might of a thousand soldiers. The warhorses below them neighed uncertainly and even though they tugged their reins, they couldn't control them at all. The black-haired young lady knitted her brows as she looked at the shameful Cavalrymen. "How ugly."

Her voice wasn't loud, but it sounded so crisp and clear like she was whispering straight into their ears.

"This is the shameful behavior of the weak. How unbearable... I had no intentions of dealing with you people, but since I've received an order, I have to finish it... It's normal for a strong one to show pity for the weak, so I will give you all a chance to turn around and return to wherever you came from. This is my mercy to you and this is your only chance."

The young lady remained in silence as she waited for their responses. Meanwhile, the soldiers were dumbstruck. They never thought that this young lady would dare threaten a brigade of thousands of soldiers.

She must be insane!

The Cavalry Leader knitted his brows slightly. Although he felt something strange in the way she spoke, he didn't believe that she was bluffing. The weird voice remained in his mind clearly and the unbearable sensation he felt in his body was still present. This proved that the young lady wasn't easy to deal with. But... would they back down just like this?

"We will never back down!" The Cavalry Leader raised his sword and pointed at the black-haired young lady. "We fight for the freedom of the Southerners! We will use our lives to defend and protect our families! We will not succumb to sinister ruler! We will go all-out and never give up!"

The Cavalry Leader grunted, blew a long whistle, and urged on his warhorse forward. The Cavalrymen behind him lifted their weapons and darted toward the black-haired young lady. In an instant, the entire Calvary team had as though transformed into a berserk tornado, whizzing and pulverizing everything before them.

"Hmph..." The young lady revealed a look of disdain. "How dare you weak ones rebel against the strong and continue to revel in your foolish behaviors? This is disgustingly loathful!"

Her brows snapped together furiously and she readied her fingers on the fine strings.