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748 A Stalemate

 Dazzling radiance flashed. Erin raised her long neck and scanned the area ahead. Shortly after, two dazzling light beams descended from above and struck the pitch-black land heavily. Then, the darkness that enveloped the sky and land dispersed and dazzling light filled up the gaps. Shortly after, a string of flares and explosions erupted on the city walls. Erin narrowed her eyes because she was aware that she would be witnessing an incredibly beautiful view soon.

As expected, after a series of explosions, the fortress in the distance had as though been submerged in darkness and death. But, in the blink of an eye, dense flares emerged across the sky and bombarded the land like pouring rain, where the land lit up in flames instantly. But the Undead Army charged forward again as chilly blue spiritual flames erupted.

Erin shook her head slightly before shifting her attention away because she didn't need to watch this battle anymore. The marble white color of dawn emerged on the other side of the horizon. Soon, the sun would rise and the Undead Army would be retreating in no time. Then, hours later when the sun set again, they would continue their attack in the darkness. Such a similar scenario had repeated over a span of 10 days. As soon as darkness fell, Cullen's Undead Army attacked and the humans used the holy spears to defend against them.

Indeed, in less than half an hour, the Undead Army retreated in order. As the first ray of sun struck the ground, the Undead Army left the land that was protected by the Light Dragon Soul and returned into their eternal darkness.

"Damn it..."

Rhode stared at the battlefield from above the city wall-blood, corpses, and putrid stench polluted the land and air. Not only that, but black, filthy blood belonging to the Undead Creatures and humans also stained the city walls.

It had been over 10 days since Cullen launched his attack with the Undead Army. Every night, Rhode led his men and fought with them. But he was clear that Cullen was conserving his strength because the latter occasionally changed his tactics with different troops as though to catch the former off guard. However, Rhode knew that Cullen did that to see if he had other trump cards up his sleeves. Rhode admitted that Cullen was rather smart. Since the latter failed to obtain intelligence with his scouts earlier on, he was better off forcing the former to reveal all his trump cards.

Therefore, within the 10 days, Rhode faced all kinds of attacks from the Undead Army. The Skeletal Trolls and Ghouls launched frontal attacks, Gargoyles, Bone Griffins, and Vampires used airborne tactics, and the Necromancers strengthened the Undead Army's attack and speed with their spells. However, no matter which tactics Cullen deployed, Rhode only retaliated with the holy spears before coordinating with Gillian's fire elemental spells to bombard the enemies. Meanwhile, the soldiers defended the city walls and sometimes Mini Bubble Gum would counteract the Necromancers' spells. As for the Battle Angel Army and Magic Fleet, Rhode continued to keep them a secret. Even though Leader Beni and the commander of the Magic Fleet requested to join the battle, Rhode stood firm on his decision that they were the final trump cards for the victory and requested for them to stay patient.

Strictly speaking, Rhode's side was capable enough to withstand the attack without sending out the Battle Angels, Magic Fleet, or blasting off his newly-built magic cannons. At most, he would need Gillian to cast her 'Seven Hells' and 'Sulfur River' to defend against the Undead Creatures.

Rhode was aware that both sides were competing on patience and the side that lost its patience first would lose. Cullen was also meticulous. He spent all his attention on probing in the last 10 days, lost nearly 30,000 troops, and wasn't able to find anything new in Rhode's camp. However, it wasn't right to also say that Rhode didn't suffer any losses.

Although Rhode used the holy spears as the main attack, assigned Gillian and Mini Bubble Gum in alternate offense and defense, and placed Marlene and the others to guard the city walls, their losses increased day by day. Up until this moment, almost a thousand soldiers had died. Rhode was sure that he would need to recruit more of them after this battle ended.

But this wasn't the main problem. What was most important was that... they were exhausted from the relentless attacks.

Morale was the biggest headache for Rhode. The Undead Army didn't require morale support and could strike continuously even if they failed. But, humans were different. The Undead Army always attacked at unearthly hours which turned his soldiers into night owls. It was imaginable how much mental pressure was placed on them to adjust their biological clocks and simultaneously fight the enemies to their death. The only thing supporting them now was their continuous victories and Rhode's prestige. Rhode was glad that even though hierarchy was strict in this world, there were also benefits, such as his subordinates respecting him as the commander and not making a fuss over anything. If not, he couldn't guarantee how the situation would develop.

All he could do now was to appoint the Clerics and Battle Angels to cure the injured soldiers with their healing spells and also treat the soldiers to delicious feasts in order to boost their morale. However, he knew that the effects were limited.

Rhode gazed at Serena at this thought-this rising star from the Mage Association no longer looked as clean as before. Her long, silky hair had wrinkled. Her fair, dewy face was full of dirt and blood stains. Not only that, but the filth on her expensive magic robe also made her look like a pitiful beggar. She looked forward with her eyes half-shut while yawning non-stop. The mannerism of a rich young lady in her was nowhere to be seen.

War-nothing could spur on growth in humans quicker than cruel wars. After all, even though the Undead Army's relentless attacks pressured Rhode's side, the latter gained a vast range of knowledge about the Undead Army's tactics thanks to Cullen, which was a great asset to the Munn Kingdom. After all, almost no one had experienced battles with the Undead Army in the past, not to mention understood their tactics. Never would Cullen expect to be used by Rhode in this aspect. The various tactics which he deliberately thought of became the best source of information for Rhode to teach and demonstrate the characteristics and tactical skills of the Country of Darkness. Under Cullen 'selfless' dedication and Rhode's theories, almost all the soldiers who participated in the battle understood everything about the enemies.

"Miss Serena... Miss Serena?"

"Hmm... hmm?! Ah! S-Sir Overlord, is anything the matter?"

Serena nodded and responded while dozing off. Then, she lifted her head abruptly and blushed embarrassed at the sight of Rhode. She hurriedly tidied her hair.

"You must be exhausted. Go and get some rest."

"Yes, thank you, Sir Overlord. I was just..."

"Oh-no, Serena, stop trying so hard. Everyone can see that you can't hang on any longer."

At this moment, Frederick turned around the corner. His armor was also stained with filthy blood. Even though he had been through a rough night, he appeared cheerful. He scrutinized his fiancée while she puckered her brows slightly and rolled her eyes.

"No one will treat you as a mute even if you don't speak, Frederick. Come to think of it... those Undead Creatures are so stubborn. We've struck them off several times but..."

"They're not stubborn. They're just brainless, Miss Serena."

Rhode shrugged and spread his arms apart.

"Alright, I suggest you take a shower and have a rest. After all, we're gonna have a busy night."

In order to maintain morale, Rhode helplessly withdrew some money to build three hot springs (men and women were separated, of course) in the fortress, campsite, and Mage Tower. The hot springs were supplied with the underground spring water from the nearby mountains, which allowed the bloodied soldiers to relax themselves. Apart from the hot springs, Rhode also hired many experienced chefs to cook delicious meals for the soldiers, and the results were great. But this was all because they were fighting from the fortress. If they were in the wild and facing the Undead Army, perhaps they would have crumbled much earlier on.

Of course, this required a lot of ingredients for cooking. Rhode's system could set things up for him, but it couldn't produce ingredients out of nothing. He assigned Shauna to purchase fresh ingredients from Deep Stone City and Paphield Plains in the name of Lydia's order and transport them back using the teleportation door. This left some people dissatisfied, but Rhode didn't care at all. If his fortress fell to the enemies, those people didn't even have the right to be unhappy.

Serena revealed an obvious, glad expression. Every woman fancied being beautiful, especially a well brought-up, young lady like her. She almost fainted every time the violent battles ended, since her robe was smeared with blood and the rotten stench from corpses assailed her nostrils. If it wasn't for the hot spring in the Mage Tower for her to clean her fatigue away, she didn't know how much longer she could tolerate. As for her filthy clothes, the Ocean Elves were her best servants. They quietly washed every piece of clothing and armor and make sure that they were sparkling clean before the next battle started.

"Perhaps you can shower with Frederick?"

Rhode gazed at Frederick and said. The latter's eyes glinted and he let out a whistle.

"That's a good idea. Serena, let's go!"

"You can go and have a shower with the skeletons instead!"

Serena blushed instantly. Then, she glared fiercely at Frederick, stomped her foot, and stormed off. Frederick saluted to Rhode in a playful way to signal his departure and cheekily gave chase to Serena. It seemed that Frederick intended to turn Rhode's words into reality.

Rhode shook his head. His exhausted mind became slightly energized after cracking a joke with them. At this moment, the sun revealed itself from the horizon. The dazzling rays shone on him and brought him warmth while he squinted at the pitch-black darkness in the distance. Perhaps others didn't discover it, but he sharply realized that the battle last night wasn't as intense-the Undead Army seemed to be conserving their strength and their attack appeared more like harassment.

This means that...

"Are you ready, Cullen?"

Am I ready?

Cullen sat on the stone chair while gazing at the military sand table with black flags filling the battlefront. He prodded them with his finger and pondered in silence. After the days of probing, he believed that he knew the young overlord inside out now. It seemed that the holy spears were indeed his only trump card. Cullen admitted that this young overlord, as a human, held quick and accurate judgment about the Undead Army. But the strength of humans was limited, after all. All the young overlord did was to rely on the holy spears with massive attacking range while other humans dealt with the scraps. This didn't surprise Cullen. Instead, it was the young overlord's accurate predictability on the Undead Army's movements, where the holy spears identified and devastated the core units of each wave of attacks that astonished him.

Of course, this was also related to the fact that Cullen didn't dispatch too many Undead Creatures. Ever since his first failure, he regrouped his troops and sent only small teams to probe the situation. Not only could he probe the humans' trump card, but he could also test the bottom lines that they could bear.

There were a few times when Cullen thought that he had a grasp on the range of their tolerance. But the young overlord was too capable. Even though his side was in a flurry, he could instantly stabilize his defense and ready his attacks. If it was possible, Cullen hoped to pressure them again and again before completely overwhelming them. But it was a pity that Rhode's resistance was more than he expected, which forced him to make another decision. Up until this moment, he lost nearly 50,000 troops and was left with only 100,000. What would happen if he increased the number of troops and changed the tactic to harass the humans? Even though the humans seemed rather miserable, they were still able to defend their fortress. How long could he hang on?

If I lose another 50,000 Undead Creatures, what else will be left for me to battle with?

Cullen pondered deeply. The usages of the fire elemental teleportation doors was almost at their end. Meanwhile, he couldn't sacrifice too many troops anymore. What remained were the elites-Cullen heard that Burks and Duran were dissatisfied with his meticulous tactics. If Cullen were to use Burks's and Duran's elites as bait, they would surely be unwilling.

The Bone Griffins and Gargoyles had also suffered different degrees of damage. If Cullen held an army of 500,000 troops, perhaps he would dare to do so. But now, only 100,000 was left from the 150,000 troops... The young overlord also didn't show anything surprising... Was there a need for Cullen to continue probing?

Cullen had an answer in his mind. But he was searching for a reason for him to give him the confidence.

He stood up and stepped out of the campsite. Then, he looked up at the massive shadow at the peak of the mountain.

"Tonight will be the night..."

He said softly. His hoarse voice revealed some determination while the spiritual flames in his eyes burned as though they seeked to demolish everything.