Volume 5 – A Distance Within Reach, Chapter 57: Eve of The Tempest
The woman was fairly delicate and pretty, but nothing more than that.
But when Brudo glanced at her, his eyes were no longer cold and gradually became gentle.
This time, Brudo spoke in a rather deep voice, “I’ve never thought so far ahead. First and foremost, the werewolves must survive the impending tempest.”
The lady asked, “Why have you not asked the Summit of Peaks for help?”
“The Summit of Peaks’ strength is currently waning because they have left the ancestral path. Only under the protection of our ancestors’ heroic spirits will the werewolves gain power! Explosive, destructive, and b.l.o.o.d.y-thirsty power!”
Brudo’s roar echoed throughout the hall.
“Werewolves were born of the darkness, and our most powerful weapons are our fangs and claws. This is our own power handed down from generation to generation. But that group from the Summit of Peaks makes us wear human armor and use those weak origin power weapons! Do those old fellows not know that the vampires and demonkin wish to see the werewolves rely upon their frosty goods? So much that these things will eventually become our bridles and reins! In their eyes, werewolves are no more than warbeasts who know only to kill and bleed!”
The werewolf viscount waved his claws violently and left numerous deep azure traces in the air.
The lady spoke softly when he had calmed down, “I don’t understand these things, but I have a feeling that the tempest this time will be very, very big, and many totems will collapse.”
Every tribe had their own totem, and the fall of a totem signified the destruction of a tribe.
Brudo gazed at the deep twilight outside of the window with resolution in his eyes. “The werewolves will survive!”
Atop the distant mountain ridge, a dark brown arachne had just climbed up to the very peak. There were thousands of servspiders rolling forth under his feet, crawling into the distance. The several units of arachne warriors moving amidst the sea of servspiders would occasionally shoot out spider webs and sweep away all life forms that had failed to escape in time.
There was a number of small units made up of a mixture of werewolves and vampires. Their treatment was obviously inferior by a grade and had to make way for the arachne.
The dark brown arachne shouted with an impatient voice, “Any news from that rabid dog Brudo?”
The arachne guards on each side glanced at each other. Apparently, they had no news to report.
At this moment, an entirely azure arachne with exceptionally long limbs appeared at the base of the mountain and approached at great speeds. The craggy mountainous terrain was like a flatland under its five-meter-long legs. This was a storm arachne—speed being their forte, they made natural scouts and orderlies.
It ran straight for the summit where it came to a halt before the brown arachne and said with a bow of its human upper-body, “Sire Musk, I have brought two bad news. Viscount Brudo refuses to field troops and even abandoned all of his surrounding settlements, withdrawing all civilians and warriors to the area around his castle. Our messenger went to seek an audience but wasn’t able to meet him even after waiting for so long.”
The dark brown arachne was Viscount Musk. After hearing this, he said furiously, “What?! Brudo this b.a.s.t.a.r.d!”
Musk’s army would become an isolated unit if Brudo refused to field troops—this human force could devour him without much effort since he was capable of swallowing Thomas so easily.
Musk collected his thoughts and asked, “What’s the second piece of news?”
The storm arachne replied, “Our scouts reported that the human army has arrived at Black Ridge and have set up camp there.”
“Black Ridge?” Musk’s expression s.h.i.+fted immediately, and his two hind legs even wavered for a little bit.
The occupation of Black Ridge meant that Musk’s communication with the count’s territory had been cut-off. Now, he could no longer join forces with Stuka’s army even if he wanted to.
“Sire, what should we do?”
Musk paced around the mountaintop a dozen or so times before calming down. “Turn the army around. We return to Fort Legarne!”
Fort Legarne was one of Musk’s border strongholds and, although not very large in scale, should provide some degree of defense. Musk was prepared to pull back there and watch the movement of the human army.
This human unit’s designation was unfamiliar, and they had appeared too suddenly. Presently, it was unclear whether the aim of their invasion into dark race territory was to occupy land or to plunder resources.
Although it was also an arachne castle, Count Stuka’s was significantly more magnificent and several times larger. At this moment, Count Stuka was standing in his study and reading a thick ancient book.
His external appearance was a lanky old man with perfectly groomed greyish-white hair. He wore a gold-rimmed monocle with a thumb-sized black gem attached to the end of its chain.
It was apparent that this count was fairly attentive of his appearance and sought perfection in every detail. This quality of his wasn’t the slightest bit inferior to the vampires who cared most about their looks. However, faint speckles could still be seen on his skin.
These were senile freckles that would appear as one arrived at the end of their lives. They were actually caused when the slow but uncontrollable seeping of darkness origin power from the body produces an irreversible erosion of the skin. Count Stuka had already dabbed a thick layer of powder but still found it difficult to suppress the deep colors.
There came a knock on the study door at this time.
A wisp of annoyance flashed across Stuka’s countenance. “Enter,” he said, his eyes never leaving the page he was on.
It was a vampire who entered. Seemingly in his middle age, this handsome and elegant person was Stuka’s a.s.sistant. Even most members of the count’s race couldn’t understand why he kept a vampire at his side and even trusted him so much.
“Your Excellency, I had to disturb you because we received news of the human invaders.”
Count Stukas asked without looking up, “Oh? Where are they now?”
“Have you found out what they are here for?”
The count still refused to raise his head and said indifferently, “Then let’s just keep observing and make sure what exactly it is that they want. Deschamps, take a look, there’s a rather interesting legend here related to the seven hallowed objects: ‘The gus.h.i.+ng spring of blood shall bring about eternal and unfading youth’.”
Deschamps didn’t go and read the book in the count’s hands, but said anxiously, “Your Excellency, the viscounts to the east of your territory will be wiped out if you don’t take action!”
The count finally raised his eyelids and gazed at the vampire until his bright eyes had forced the latter to lower his head. “It’s fine even if they’re wiped out; we can rebuild. Losing some viscounts is fine too; we can replace those reckless people. Moreover, we’re almost at the most critical phase, as such, my main force cannot move. They must hold fast to this defensive line. Do you understand what will happen if I slip up on my side?”
Deschamps lowered his eyes in silence.
Stuka carefully folded the page he was reading and placed the book back on the table. He then rose and strolled around the room several times before stopping in front of Deschamps. “You’re also a descendant of sacred blood and should know the source of this storm. We’re pressed between those two major characters, and the time to choose a faction is imminent. How can I have the mood to pay attention to what those human ants are doing?”
Stuka sighed and reached out to pat Descamps shoulder. “Can you give me some suggestions?”
Deschamps said calmly, “My advice is the same as before. The oldest is always the most powerful.”
Stuka uttered a “heh” but didn’t continue this topic. He said moments later, “I’ll give you a thousand warriors and the authority to mobilize the surrounding viscount’s forces. That is all I can give you. Go, Deschamp, do not disappoint me.”
“Yes, Sire Count.” Deschamps was just as respectful and calm. He wasn’t fl.u.s.tered or delighted by the sudden authority given to him.
Stuka spoke slowly with a sigh, “This is a tempest. We’ll arrive at a boundless open vista if we can get through this, and we will die if we cannot.”
Deschamps’ expression trembled momentarily as he slowly withdrew from the study. Just before leaving, he gazed habitually toward the window, hoping to see the moon. But he found not a single window after scanning the entire room.
The count had dressed himself up like a vampire from head to toe, but he was still an arachne at the fundamental level. This study was decorated luxuriously in an ancient style, but it was still buried deep under the ground.
At this moment, Black Ridge was well illuminated by brilliants lights. Qianye stood at the summit, watching as pillboxes were raised and trenches were dug one after another. The heavy cannons were being moved up to their designated positions atop the mountain by the combined strength of a dozen-odd fighters.
Their base was quickly taking shape, and this put Qianye’s mind at ease. Occupying Black Ridge meant that he had effectively separated Count Stuka from the three viscounts in the northeast, and it could be said that his western expedition had half-succeeded.
Zhao Yuying stood beside Qianye and said, “Brat, your luck is quite good. It seems the old spider is tied down by something or perhaps he’s already senile. He actually let you in. Since we’ve already entered, we definitely won’t go back so easily.”
Qianye shook his head. “We’ve only wiped out a single viscount, and Count Stuka’s main forces have yet to receive any damage. This battle has just begun.”
“What are your plans for now?”
In truth, Qianye had been pondering this problem all this time. “We have to draw out Stuaka’s main force first. The land we occupy won’t be safe unless we can deal him a serious injury.”
“But it seems the old spider is going to hole up to the end.”
Qianye immediately made up his mind and said, “He won’t be able to sit still if we make him believe that we’re here to plunder.”
“Oh? What’s our target?”
“Mines. The most important things in his territory are the mines.”
“Normal destruction won’t be effective!”
Qianye replied indifferently, “We’ll burn them.”
Zhao Yuying whistled and said frivolously, “How ruthless! Now that’s more like a man! Otherwise, you’re so beautiful and soft-spoken. I thought Little Four found himself a sister.”
Qianye’s felt a breath stuck in his chest and began to curse silently. Don’t tell me all ladies should be like you? But he knew, from their interactions in the recent days, that he could never gain any advantage in a verbal spar with Zhao Yuying. It was even less beneficial if they started fighting physically.
He immediately ignored her and proceeded to summon some Dark Flame officers to discuss military affairs.
Count Stuka’s territory was famous for its abundant black stone production. Black stone ore was different from the others in that it could burn a long time even without being processed and purified. If one could ignite the accompanying black crystals using a special ignition fuel, no amount of water or soil would be able to extinguish it.
That was why igniting black stone mines was an extremely destructive method. They would burn for several months, and the entire mine would’ve been destroyed by the time the flames died down. Even the nearby involved regions would become a wasteland for a long period of time.
Black stone ore was the lifeline of this region—only those with the intention to plunder and leave would do something like burning the mines. And Qianye was planning to use these mines as chips to flush out Count Stuka’s main force for a decisive battle.