Unlike the days before, the sky above everyone's heads was dreary. A sense of worry carried itself over the men who marched over the modestly tall grass. However, such a sense was overshadowed by the desire and ambition the militia held.
Revenge was what kept this group moving. Revenge for those who were killed over the past few months and all the trouble the city had to endure. For Maple revenge was also on her mind, but also whiplash for how fast everything was moving. It was only yesterday that she killed a man and even only been few hours ago was stuck in her room dreading such an outcome. Now though…
"We are two miles away from the target." Maple heard the King say. She moved over to him as he was looking over the forest covered hills, "It's a good thing we did not bring Cavalry."
"I-is that so?" Maple asked while riding the back of a shrunken Syrup the Second Serving.
"If the information from the Locals is correct, that is where I would place my main base. A great tree covered mountain is what we will be looking for." Aultcray said with certainty in his voice.
Maple just gave a nod as they approached the forest from the plains. The timber was still fairly thick even when most of the trees were burnt to a crisp. Still, the trees still stood which meant things were going to become a much tighter squeeze for Syrup.
"Come on Syrup, you need to shrink now."
"Kue!" The abomination called back as it reduced its size from a large horse to only that of a large dog. Even with the smaller size, Syrup still maintained enough strength to carry Maple on its back.
"Good idea, though I also advise you to prepare yourself." Aultcray said as he turned his eyes to Maple's mount, "There is a large chance we will be ambushed."
"A-ambushed! What will I do if that happens?!" Maple said with panic in her voice.
"Just as you will during the raid, staying at my side. Though I might be able in body, my inability to wield a weapon is a grave detriment."
"So that happens to you too?" Maple asked with a slight pity in her voice.
"...Yes" Maple noticed his eyes narrow, though she could not tell if that was from sadness or frustration.
"Well if you have the same problems, can you do game stuff?"
"Game stuff? What are you referring to?"
"Like, uh, do you see your health bar and level up?"
Aultcray seemed to ponder for a moment before giving a slow nod, "If you are referring to the Bar that dictates my Vitality, then you are correct. I do see that. Everyone in this world has levels."
"Really!? That's cool!" Maple exclaimed while finally finding a topic the King was willing to answer to, "How about making Parties?"
"Parties? Like what the Heroes call their groups of followers."
"Well, yes and no." Maple admitted while quickly pulling up a screen, "Here, I'll send you an invite to join a Party with me!"
"I am not your follower, Shield Hero." The King said while his face turned away from her face in what was obviously some prompt for him, "I will not join your Party for I am not your follower."
"Eh? Well, uh, m-maybe we are having a misunderstanding here. Parties are, like, a group of people who all want to complete a quest together. We laugh and fight together because we are not strong enough by ourselves to complete the quest!"
"Hmm," The King placed his hand on his chin for a moment of thought, "It will be interesting, seeing what kind of powers the Heroes have access to."
Maple watched as the King's information populated her display. However what came up was something she was not expecting at all.
[Luge Lansarz Faubrey: Hero of the Cane] [Lv: ?]
"Tsk, damn pesky thing." He growled as Maple too saw the wrong name being placed there. She turned to him with a minor question on the edge of her mouth when he cut her off, "Do not speak of it. Simply help me change it."
"Uh, alright. Click the little gear in the top corner and…" Maple said while guiding the man through the name changer. She of course had to do it once herself, since [Kaede Hondo] was her default apparently.
Actually, now that she thought about it, doesn't that mean Luge was his true name?
[King Aultcray Melromarc the XXXII] [Lv. ?]
The King simply gave a nodding of the head as he looked over the screen, "There, it is fixed. I can see this… Party thing allows me to see your Vitality. Is there anything else it can do?"
"Yup!" Maple announced while messing around with the setting a little more, "You can send messages to other people, assign them to a guild, and…"
It took her a bit to find what she was looking for in the menu, a smile growing on her face when she found it, 'And we can even have a voice chat!'
It seemed Aultcray could not help but widen his eyes as Maple's voice carried through to his mind. It was quite unbelievable for sure, but it took only a moment for him to realized the implications. A more fleshed out scheme came together in his mind.
"Am I able to invite others into this and assign them into groups?"
"I.. do not know." Maple admitted before looking through some options, "Oh cool, I can make you the Party Leader."
"Party Leader?" The King asked before messing with whatever just appeared in front of him. Honestly Maple had no idea what he was doing, however within a few moments the party that she made suddenly expanded to include several men of both the King's Guard and the peasants.
As they finally approached the final hill, Maple was looking over something she barely understood. The Party system she had been looking at before was heavily modified, or maybe she should be using the words perfected. The entire force they were bringing was now infront of her, each given their own section with literal lines of command displayed.
Of course the King placed himself at top, with almost all the lines directed towards him. After that plenty of other dotted lines were layered everywhere, making what was now an intricate web. The reason for them though, Maple could not tell. All she knew was that she herself had three lines, a solid one going towards Aultcray while the others were attached to what she assumed to be squad leaders.
Soon enough the voice of Aultcray ringed through her mind, 'Alright men, can you all hear me?'
In response she heard several cries of approval coming through the channels.
'Good. Go to your stations and prepare your attacks. However do not use the Flare Spells, as now we can use this system to our advantage.' Maple turned to see the King confident with himself, 'Move out!'
"Wow." Maple called out as with that command all the men broke off, each going their own separate way.
"Amazed are we?" The King said with a prideful smile upon his face, "Many of these men have each been trained under their captains, many of whom served me in the final years of the Great War. With such experience and training, they all easily follow my words to the letter and carry out my will with ease."
Indeed the man was extremely prideful about his command. Many would admit that all this pride was easily backed up with action, however, right now Maple kinda imagined his nose getting a little too long.
Indeed, such a large amount of pride was never a good thing even if you can back it up. A harsh lesson that will be learned much later.
It was not much longer as they crossed the horizon and came across the large mountain-like place. Maple was quick to note that it was only mountain-like in height, the majority of the place was covered in a thick cover of trees. There was a slightly noticeable bare spot within it, revealing the small collection of wooden structures.
Most of their forces have disappeared in the trees long ago, Maple noticed. The only two people who were actually visible to the naked eye were herself and the King, which gave a minor tug to her heart.
"Do not worry yourself." The King announced with a stern order in his voice, "The men we will be facing are not a high enough level to harm you greatly. That is why you are acting as my personal guard."
"U-understood." Maple answered while preparing her shield. Somehow that made her feel a little better, knowing that the King was relying on her thanks to her raw ability.
Maybe he was warming up to her after all.
The structure that was once so far away finally came within view for the two. Rough wooden walls obscure the small amount of buildings that were there. A single guard tower stuck out above the rest, allowing an overlook of both the compound and the exterior around it. Quickly a man became visible in the tower, and his attention was quickly taken up by the approach of his majesty and Maple.
"Halt there you fuckers!" The man yelled with what Maple could only assume was a megaphone, "Turn your asses back around or be shot!"
"Is that a way to speak to your King, criminal scum!" Aultcray announced right back at the men with a voice that carried through the air, "I give you this ultimatum! Open these walls and give us your swords, or be put through the sword."
The man seemed to have been taken aback, with a sudden chattering of murmurs reaching Maple's ears. However, they were soon followed by a series of jeers and cheers as the man seemed to regain his confidence.
"Bullshit!" He announced without a single hint of regret in his voice, "That lazy ass King would not come all the way here just to arrest us! Even if we have, we have done nothing wrong except bring a few demi-humans to understand who is truly above them!"
After that the cheers got louder, overcoming the entire compound with a dumb happiness and ignorance. Such belief in the capabilities in their overlord had brought about a stupid disbelief in the events that were occuring to them right now.
Now, a wise lord would answer back with their [Authority], the one proof they have over even heroes that they are the true monarch of these lands. A devious monarch would answer back with a final warning, neglecting to use the authority. This would have put the blame on these men without themselves knowing they had fucked up.
However, Aultcray was none of these, neither wise nor subversive. Instead he was forged in a time of unrestricted war. Where nations fought with thousands of men in a mass slaughter of revenge and retribution. His true authority was not in lineage or scheming, but of blood made on the battlefield.
Thus he gave the command without a second thought, 'Attack'.
When Maple heard the message going through her mind, she was not expecting the loud crashes coming from around the compound. The next the moment the walls around the enemy began to shatter. Systematically the walls that were separating the bandits from the rest of the world were replaced with angry men all charging the camp. The man on the guard tower did not even have a chance as a dozen of fireballs slammed into the structure, igniting it and forcing it to fall.
"Come." Aultcray called out as he started to march in front of Maple, "Have your beast shatter these walls so that you can join the battle."
"Y-yes!" The Shield Hero answered before kneeling down to Syrup, "Come on, lets go help everyone."
"Kyu!" The beast answered before releasing whatever restraints it had on size growing faster than a balloon inflating. Its massive size had easily triumphed over everyone else and the remains of the guard tower. As it did so, one of the creature's heads moved in a swift motion to remove the King from his horse.
"W-what are you doing you-!" The General cried out before being placed on the shell with Maple. The girl could not help but laugh a little at the King expression, which was somewhere in the realm of confusion, surprise, and mildly terrified, "W-what in the?"
"I think Syrup wants you up here, so you can be safe." Maple answered with a silly smile before looking over the edge, "Um, uh, I guess I should head down there right?"
"Indeed you shall," The King answered as he finally got his footing right, "The men on the eastside are in need of assistance."
"I understand." Maple answered while looking over the edge for a moment. There was the quick thought of her using [Meteor Crash], but she hesitated for just a moment. Who wouldn't, and if Maple was to go through with that idea more than just a couple of people were going to die.
In her confused state she did not notice the King creeping up on her, "Tsk, still having second guesses?"
"There are times to talk and times where action is needed. Now I think it's time to act" He said before arriving next to her, "So get out there soldier, soldier!"
Maple, of course, did not expect the King to kick her off Syrup's back.
With her path forcibly laid out for Maple, she quickly brought the shield in front of her and braced. With the knowledge that enemies would be at her landing sight, she instinctively called out her skill, "[Meteor Crash]!"
Like a falling asteroid, the Shield Hero crashed onto the ground, causing a minor shaking of seismic proportions. Everyone who was not immediately crushed by the attack were forced to brace at the sudden impact.
"That hurt…" Maple announced while slowly crawling from her hole in the ground. Of course she was feeling bad at the fact she killed a dozen people in that single crash, but the deed was already done.
Automatically she turned her Shield to receive an attack from the right, the momentary stun finally wearing off from everyone. She was in a battle now, and slowly Maple was realizing what a battle meant.
Either take out her enemy or they will harm her and everyone she cared about.
She properly got behind her shield reengaged on the assault, "[Shield Bash]!"
And like the men who were just pulverised by Maple, the remaining bandits faced a similar fate. Those who tried to fight the Royal Guard were instantly flatlined. Those who tried to back their comrades up faced an one-sided fight against the Shield Hero's bludgeoning attacks. Those who were cowards and ran indoors were dead before they realized the giant monstrosity was breathing a poisonous attack through all the standing buildings.
"Attention people of this damned keep." Maple heard the King as he announced with his Authority, "You have been put to the sword, those who comply now will be spared from my forces. Do so and face justice!"
"Never!" A man near Maple announced as he attempted to stand against the giant that was Syrup. The Shield quickly noticed how the man's level was higher than the others she had been fighting, and even though she had leveled up a few times from the fight, the man was still a good bit above her.
However the moment he raised a weapon to attack one of Syrup's heads, Maple acted fast and started to see red, "[Shield Bash]!"
With a cry Maple crossed the entire length of the keep and slammed into the man. The man surprisingly was able to react to her attack, bringing up his sword to deflect. He gave a simple click of the tongue turning to Maple, "You some sort of Shield Devil worshipper?"
"I-I am the Shield Hero!" Maple answered back while preparing her weapon.
"You are, huh? To think the King would betray us to the Devil." The man raised his sword with a smirk, "Get ready to be cut down."
"W-why don't you surrender!?" Maple asked just moments before the man attacked.
"Why would I surrender when I am doing God's W-" He was not able to finish that sentence, as several beams of energy rained down on top of his head. It was horrifying to Maple and almost completely unfair to the man who she was about to face. Though that also placed an idea in Maple's head that she already knew for so long.
War is not fair at all.
With (who Maple realised) was the leader dead, the rest were easy enough to mop up. The dust settled, and the only men who were standing were the one brought to clear out the bandits. There was a momentary beat as all those present were simply taking a breather from the fight they had only moments ago. It was broken only from the plop of Syrup's heads to the ground.
From one of the monstrosity's mouths spat the King, luckily not covered in monstrous solivia. There was of course the look of irritation in his eyes as he rose up and cleaned himself of the dirt from his landing.
"Swartz, were we able to take any prisoners?"
"No we were not your Majesty!" The man announced while giving a salute.
"Then we are done here, with no remains there is nothing we can search for." He announced, "Move out, all of you!"
As they began to move, the King walked up to Maple with his chest held high, "Did you have a good fight?"
"Y-yes… I think I did." She answered meekly.
"Good, if you have any nightmares about tonight I order you to talk to me or my men immediately, understand?"
"Because you will."
"Halt in the name of this land!" A round object came closer to the armed guards as an accelerated speed.
"Sir, its NOT SLOWING DOWJN!"
"HOLD THE LINE! Its GOING TO STOP" Yet the object never slowed down. A pause of moment as the object kept rolling. Suddenly all the men in the group were pushed out of the way by the strange object. Some were thrown with such force to get caught in some nearby trees.
In the distance someone yelled strike. "Ohhhh Syrup, let not use cannon for the moment..."