“So, everyone from the sub-forces is accounted for?” Brom asked as the members of the Bronze Legion and the Bronze Legion’s subordinate B and C rank forces started setting up camp in the forest clearing, the combatants all helping out the small amount of crafters and logistical staff under his orders.
“Everyone but the 12th commander and the four soldiers she should be bringing.” Darra Jur, Brom’s assistant, used light magic to display his status window in mid air, which showed that Brom, his twelve commanders, and all 1,728 soldiers were accounted for in the minor mental world that would be their practice area before the start of the War of the Chosen. It didn’t show anyone’s names, only their roles, but it was obvious everyone had accepted the System’s request for their souls to be projected into the System’s mental world. “All five are online. They just haven’t yet arrived at our gathering location.”
There was some noise to the south—south in this case judged based on the movement of the fake sun in the sky of the mental world—and Brom and Darra turned to look.
There they could see three humanoid females walking into the camp, but how they actually looked was hard to tell as they had masks which covered their entire faces, including their eyes. And the rest of their bodies were covered as well, with hooded jackets, gloves, pants, and even shoes, all seemingly made from grass and processed tree fibers.
Yet everything they were wearing seemed to be an early or middle grade E rank artifact, and that was shocking.
For the War of the Chosen, every cultivator would be brought in without any artifacts at the start, just drab gray clothing like Brom and all the other coran men of the Bronze Legion’s second army were wearing, yet every single artifact these women were clothed in appeared to have defensive runes built in, with the masks obviously allowing them to see through from the inside as well.
And it had only been about fifteen minutes since everyone had entered into the mental space.
Before any of his soldiers or commanders could ask any questions, Brom flash stepped in front of the three. “Welcome. My name is Brom Karendesh and I am the general of this army. May I ask who you are?”
“You can call me Summoner.” The woman in front of the other two, who was short for a human yet tall for a dwarf, bowed lightly in his direction. “And these two are my servants, Wind and Fist.” She pointed to the two women behind her, Wind about average height for a human female with the aura of a wind mage and Fist slightly taller with an aura that contained the power of the four elements of wind, earth, fire, and water. Both seemed relatively strong, though they might have been holding their auras back. The one in front, however, Summoner, was much harder to read, Brom getting pretty much nothing from her aura.
“I’m sorry to say but Shadow will be unable to join us as you originally asked,” Summoner then continued. “My other two servants, however, will arrive shortly. They are currently scanning the area for usable resources to turn into artifacts.”
“Summoner?” Brom could easily tell the name was an alias, just like Shadow from the Trial Tower, but it was an alias he’d already heard. “The first rank from the latest Trial Tower?”
“Yes.” Summoner nodded at him, a gesture that for most humans in the universe meant assent and, given Shadow’s race in the trial tower, he was guessing the three in front of him were human as well.
Getting first place in the Trial Tower was beyond difficult, a feat no one from the Bronze Legion had ever accomplished, so there was a good chance the woman in front of him, despite having been in E rank for a shorter time, was quite a bit more powerful than he was. And this made Brom somewhat nervous.
“May we speak in private for a few minutes.” The woman stepped off the ground, launching herself into the forest without the use of a skill, her movement showing her Agility stat was likely somewhere between 5,000 and 6,000, and Brom quickly followed.
For most E ranks, their highest stat would only ever reach a little over 10,000 and, for summoners, which he presumed she actually was, all physical stats would generally be at most half the summoner’s Magic. This meant this extremely young E rank, who could only have been at her current rank for a couple years at most, likely already had the strength of a soldier from some of the War of the Chosen’s best armies, putting her on a slightly higher tier of power than himself.
After about a minute of running through the forest, they stopped and she turned to him, bowing slightly again. “First, I would like to thank you for sharing a War of the Chosen commander token. As you might have guessed from our obviously fake names, my sister apprentice and I are part of a hidden force, so we normally wouldn’t get to participate in something like the War of the Chosen as doing so with our allies would expose our existence and make us easy to identify.
“With you giving up a token through a System quest, however, it is enabling me to have the chance to compete against some of the best E ranks in the universe without exposing my identity. And for that you have my thanks.” The woman then rose from her bow.
“That said, I am going to have to change the nature of our relationship.” The woman released her aura and Brom realized he’d been greatly, greatly underestimating her. It wasn’t that her Aura was powerful, even though it was, her effective Aura stat likely around 12,000. And it wasn’t the nature of her aura, though it somehow emanated a level of regality he hadn’t even felt from the B rank emperor he’d once met with his father. It was just that her releasing her Aura showed how powerful she truly was.
Six Law Pupae of early grade or higher, a Magic stat greater than 24,000, and a Soul stat seemingly even higher than that, her control over her energy was so flawless he hadn’t been able to notice at all before she showed herself. And then she began to summon her spirits, all eight of them.
The most terrifying two were a twin-headed serpent spirit made of yin energy and a yang energy spirit in the shape of a winged mammalian creature. They were of a higher tier than the other six, likely inhabiting two larger sized mana wells, but Brom was pretty sure any of the weaker six could easily kill him as well.
There was a songbird made of flame, a small nine-tailed carnivorous mammal formed of light, and a mammalian creature with large horns made of pure life energy, but these were the yang aligned creatures. More terrifying were the yin aligned tentacled monster made of water, the wolf formed of darkness, and the large two-tailed carnivorous mammal of pure death energy.
The woman in front of him had Laws beyond most C ranks and her main stats were well into the D rank level. If she wanted to kill him, she easily could.
“I would like to continue to work with you, Mr. Karendesh. And I have no desire to take over the operation of your army. But, as you have probably noticed, I have a Fabled grade race and two Heroic grade classes. I require resources of very high grade if I want to continue to advance as I have been doing, the type of resources only available to generals of War of the Chosen armies who go very far in the competition.
“To that end, I would like to swap our positions, you taking my commander role and me becoming general. I believe this will also result in you gaining more resources for the Bronze Legion than you were originally aiming for. And, if it is experience you are after, you’ll most likely gain more on that front as well.”
Brom thought about it for a few seconds. If the woman wanted to, given the rules of the War of the Chosen, she could have just challenged him to a duel for leadership. But she hadn’t done so. She was instead asking for him to give up his position willingly. And she was doing so quite politely.
Sure, she’d shown her power to intimidate him, but that was completely normal. He wouldn’t even be considering her proposal otherwise.
“What level are you currently?” Brom asked, leaning toward accepting the woman’s proposal but needing to clarify some things first.
The woman’s spirits all disappeared, her aura retracting. “37.”
It was as he expected. The woman was already so powerful, yet she was only at the very beginning of E rank, while the War of the Chosen would last for years.
“And you don’t want it known that you are the actual general? You just want the benefits of the role?”
“Yes.” The woman nodded.
“Alright. Final question then. The artifacts you are wearing, they were made by one of your subordinates?”
“Yes.” The woman pointed toward the east and Brom saw two men walking towards them, both wearing the same style of artifacts as Summoner and her other two servants, masks completely hiding their faces.
One was absolutely massive for a human, large even by coran standards, and he was holding a metallic spear artifact. His aura was even more powerful than Brom’s, showing he’d advanced four Law Larvae to high grade. And, from the way the man moved and the control he had over his resources, Brom got the sense the man was either at his own level or possibly slightly stronger.
But the other man, shorter but still tall and slimmer of build, felt almost like a G rank, which was impossible in the War of the Chosen, and that was terrifying.
“These are Knight and Crafter.” Summoner pointed toward the two men in turn. “Crafter is the one who made our artifacts. And he’s also the key to how we’ll do well in the War of the Chosen. With him around, you’ll also be able to replace all the crafting personnel in your army with combatants.”
Brom looked over the two men carefully, the shorter of the two, Crafter, still inscrutable to his senses. Then he turned back to Summoner and willed the System to have the two of them switch roles in the army. She was giving him face by not openly challenging him, but he was positive she would do so if he refused and then he would lose anyway, so there was nothing to gain by antagonizing her.
“If you are after resources, will you be wanting to have your subordinates take on commander roles?” Given the nature of the War of the Chosen, where if anyone died inside they wouldn’t be able to enter again until the next instance 36 years later, and where surrendered opponents could be brought in to one’s army, the commanders of an army at the start of the war would be unlikely to maintain their positions to the end, especially if they were relatively weak like most of his commanders. So, for the stability of his army, he would actually prefer if at least the spearman powerhouse Knight would take on a commander role.
“Yes.” The woman nodded again. “With your permission, general, they will proceed with their own challenges against the four commanders whose loss of role will least effect the army as a whole.”
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