The army was indeed impressive. Just like last time, there was meat in the front ranks. Orcs, goblins, imps, and other little things, some of them carrying ladders on their shoulders. But that was where the similarity ended. Right behind the meat was a core of Vult's mercenaries. Disciplined and well-equipped cutthroats, armed mostly with heavy spears and large wooden shields, further reinforced with strips of metal. Holding up a steady wall of shields, they advanced in measured stride behind a loosely organized crowd of monsters.
Right behind them, a few dozen large monsters marched in a separate group. Ogres, minotaurs, and especially large orcs. Armed as well as, if not better than, their human comrades. They were clad entirely in heavy metal armor. Covering those who carried a huge trunk of wood, which clearly served as a battering ram.
On their right and left flanks also walked large monsters carrying in front of them huge, larger than a human height wooden shields. Behind their backs followed crossbowmen, who could target the defenders of the fortress in relative safety.
The remaining shooters, mostly armed with bows, gathered in the rear. Among them were both human and nonhuman.
The first thing I looked for was a man who might resemble the leader of this rabble. But he had evidently seen what firearms could do and was prudent not to show his face in the crowd. So the option of killing their leader to decapitate the enemy army, unfortunately, is not feasible.
I had only a few good commanders left in my command. Maya and Alicia were understandably incapacitated. The remaining Claire, Vivian, and Celestina's chief of security, whose name I never learned, would do just fine without me. They were already handing out orders to the defenders, who were hurriedly preparing for battle.
There was no need to supervise the whole process, which allowed me to concentrate fully on my actions. I checked my equipment and counted eleven magazines with cartridges for my riffle, three for my pistol, and five grenades. I left the rest in the castle for when I had to fight inside the walls. I gave the shotgun to Chloe, who, in case of the most unfortunate outcome, can use it to protect herself and Olga for a while. It wouldn't come to that, though, unless our plan went fucked up. It was not for nothing that Olga had spent three weeks preparing for the final performance. It was kindly left to wait until all the actors were on stage.
Looking around, I watched as the city's defenders clutched their weapons nervously, showing their tension. After all, they are ordinary people who have a fear of death. The previous raids were nothing compared to this, adding a kind of doom to the situation. Unlike us, the warriors were not privy to Olga's plan and saw no way to overpower such a superior army.
I was not going to tell the men anything beyond what their commanders had told them, until a very young lad caught my eye. He was clearly a rookie, not even eighteen years old by the standards of my past world. He stared expectantly into the procession, occasionally shifting from foot to foot to draw my attention. I jumped off the cog and approached the boy and touched him by the shoulder, which made the boy flinch and turn his frantic gaze to me.
"It's okay to be scared." - I smiled slightly at the boy. - "Once you start killing the first of them, before you know it, you won't care about anything. The killings, the deaths... Just you and the corpses of your opponents." - He finished and noticed at once that his attempt to calm the young man down had failed, if not completely killed his mood. - "Calm down, will you?" - He shook the boy, getting his feelings under control, and turned his back on him. - "Just stay close, and you won't die today".
The sound of the bugle brought my attention back to the upcoming battle. The enemies had taken key positions, and the enemy forces began their attack. A vanguard of small monsters immediately broke into a run, making it easier for the main enemy forces to reach the wall. Archers on the walls waited their turn, letting the enemy within firing range.
"Archers ready!" - One of the commanders' voices boomed. Soldiers drew arrows and almost simultaneously put them on the bowstring.
"Aim!" - the next command came in a low voice. The warriors drew their bows into the air.
"And... Shoot!" - A swarm of arrows shot upward, whistling through the air to land on the head of the fleeing crowd.
On command, the archers sent the deadly projectiles flying again and again, killing the monsters coming up against the wall. Like the last time, they continued to charge forward, stepping over the bodies of their now-dead counterparts.
I bided my time and watched as the subhumans, covering the enemy crossbowmen, came within striking distance of my machine gun. After a few minutes, it finally happened. The rifle on my back moved smoothly into my hands.
[Making target acquisition.] - Martha's voice rang out.
[Priority shieldbearers.] - I gave the command to my skincraft. The interface showed me the trajectory of the shot, making further work easier, and I opened fire immediately, deciding to deal with the right flank first.
The bullets hit their target, easily penetrating the steel armor, hitting the enemy one by one. Leaving the enemy crossbowmen unprotected, allowing our archers to kill them unhindered. When I finished with one flank I immediately switched to the other.
"They were already at the walls." - I heard the voice of a warrior nearby.
I had to hastily change my priorities and shoot the non-humans carrying the assault ladders. This time there was no need to save ammunition, because the enemy would not run out on mere meat.
The enemy archers in the rearguard finally came within firing range, and the first of their arrows began to reach our position. When I looked at one of them, it hit just above the knee of the boy I'd been talking to the other day. He cried out, dropping his spear and shield because of the sharp pain, and fell back on one leg. Frantically trying to reach for the tip. I had to hastily interrupt the boy's action, lest he do something stupid.
"Don't touch it." - I grabbed the boy's arm, preventing him from hurting himself even more. - "If you try to pull the arrow back out, it will be even worse. Bite..." - I broke off the feathering and shoved it in his mouth so he wouldn't break his teeth in pain. - "And bear it."
With light pressure I push the tip deep into his leg, immediately hearing a groan of pain from the wounded man. I had to distract him with all the inappropriate jokes that ran through my head.
"Be glad, if it had hit your knee, your road of adventure would have ended there." - I continued to press until the tip appeared on the opposite side, though the boy had already passed out from the painful shock. I was about to tear my pant leg to bandage it, when I was stopped by a shout.
"Wait a minute, sir! - Shouted the orderly running toward me. - "I will take care of him."
Nodding to him, I picked up my assault rifle and concentrated again on the battle.
While I was distracted by the boy's treatment, a battle was already raging on one section of the wall. The enemy had managed to secure several ladders and use them to climb up, tying up the defenders with close combat. I wasted no time in getting there, using the tried-and-true method of transportation - jumping over the cogs. On the way, I put the automatic rifle in its holder and took out my pistol from its holster. On the way, I kicked over a couple of ladders that the monsters below were trying to mount and shot a few of the monsters in front of me. Upon reaching the place I immediately cut into the crowd, and begin, where a powerful blow, and where the exact shot ruthlessly destroy the enemies. At the same time I periodically dodge arrows flying from the sky. The attackers clearly did not care about the fate of the cannon fodder, if they did not hesitate to continue firing on the piece of wall where the melee was underway.
I caught a glimpse of an orc to my left, strangling a guy on the floor who didn't have the strength to free himself. I'm a little too close to the green-skinned bastard and break his neck with a swift kick. I grabbed the dead body by the scruff of the neck and threw it over the wall at the heads of my kindred. The other one, who tried to jump at me from the cairn, waving his crooked axe, I kicked back and followed the previous one with a U-turn.
With very strong support from me, the defenders of Feo were able to push the monsters I hadn't managed to kill away from the ladders and began to toppling them down, blocking the way for the enemies to get to the top. The last one was mine. Once near it, I took the automatic rifle with my left hand from behind, slipped it between the prongs, pointed the barrel down, pressed the trigger, and turned everyone who crawled from there into a sieve with a long burst. Then he retracted the rifle into its mount, took a step back, and extended his hand palm forward against the top rung that clung to the edge of the wall.
[Burn, Martha!] - I turn to the seeker, and then the rune on my glove goes off, triggering a blast of magic that easily demolishes a piece of the wooden structure along with some of the masonry.
"Oops... overdid it." - Ashamed, I whispered to myself and looked around.
Deprived of reinforcements, the remaining enemies hardly any danger, our soldiers just finish them. So it's time for me to go, because I can see from here that there's trouble elsewhere, too, and they might not be able to deal with it without me.
After dealing with the breach, I moved on to the new one, occasionally wasting ammunition on any scum that came my way, and glimpsing the general situation. It was only a matter of time before the wall fell, and my job was to delay that moment as long as possible. The more we kill now, the easier it will be during the urban battle. The main Vult's forces haven't even entered the battle yet, and our soldiers are already taking casualties and getting tired.
[Carreir, I suggest we focus our attention on a higher priority target.] - Martha caught my attention.
- [The ram. Destroying it will give us extra time.]
The suggestion actually made sense. You can clean the wall of enemies all you want, but it won't make sense if the gate is breached.
I change direction and run toward the gate. From above, I can see the mercenary formation coming closer and closer to the wall, along with the squad covering the battering ram. Because of the high height compared to humans, the monsters comprising it were visible as in the palm of my hand. This allowed me not to look for a position to shoot. I stopped right where I stood, taking my riffle from behind and pointing it at the head of a minotaur in steel armor, holding a voluminous shield in front of him. I pulled the trigger and fired a short burst at him, but the bullets, instead of puking holes in him, just bounced off the translucent barrier that flashed in the air for a second.
Magic... of course.
I'd have to do things a little differently. A grenade appeared in my hand, and I swung it right into the center of the enemy formation. But it didn't work either.
"Fucking wizards..." - I hissed with some annoyance as I watched the grenade bounce off the shield and explode in midair.
Well, at least the mercenaries next to me got shrapnel. Wasted no expense.
But I still had to kill them somehow. Waiting until they come up close and start pounding on the gate is not an option. We should ask for advice.
"Olga, I need help." - I'm talking to the only one who can help. - "There's a whole squad of assholes covered with a magical shield, and my guns can not take it, what do you advise?"
"A squad?" - Came the answer after a few seconds. - "You can't build a shield that big on your own... so it must be a team effort of several mages."
Looking more closely, I did notice a few men in hooded robes hiding among the battering ram's cover. I couldn't see them at first because of the broad backs of their much larger comrades.
"Yes, I see them." - I confirm her hunch. - "So what am I supposed to do with this?"
"Either overload the shield, or get under it and destroy the mages." - She replied.
- "Got it."
Goggles, I remember, withstood several shots from a shotgun almost at point-blank range. These guys just survived a grenade blast. Trying my luck and trying to break through the barrier further with firearms might be a waste of ammunition, which I don't have much of. Which means...
"Kay, you're not going to do anything stupid and get in the middle of it, are you?" - As if reading my thoughts, with hope in her voice, my Queen asked.
"All right, Kay, let's do this." - I'm taking a few steps back for a bigger run. I'm sorry, honey, but I gotta do this.
- "You don't, do you?"
"Geronimo!" - I jump off the wall.
"Stop!" - The volume of the pixie's panicked voice crackled in my earpiece. - "Stupid! Idiot! If you catch my eye, I'll turn you into a rotting log!"
In flight, under the scolding of frightened and promising me a cruel punishment for all the grave sins of Olga, I manage to shoot a couple of goblins and land another directly on the head, with a nasty crunch crumpling his bones into mush.
"Please be careful..." - Calmly, the sorceress wishes me one last good luck and breaks the connection.
Finding myself below in the midst of the non-humans scurrying back and forth, I immediately begin to act. Two more grenades leave the pouch and fly forward, one closer and one farther away. The two explosions that followed scattered scraps of enemy bodies in all directions, clearing the way for me to reach my target. Most of the monsters around me immediately reacted to my appearance and tried to attack, but I, ignoring them, ran forward, knocking down a couple of particularly zealous monsters that blocked my way.
The empty patch of land created by the explosion immediately began to be filled by enemies, trying to surround me on all sides and kill me in the process. But I was moving too fast for them. In a few seconds, after crossing a couple of dozen meters, separating me from the line of mercenaries. Being right in front of them, I released in front of me the rest of the magazine and at full speed flew into the resulting gap, sweeping away the people standing in the front rows. Then I literally began to cut my way through the mercenaries, who were stunned and unable to offer me any intelligible resistance. Pretty quickly they stopped trying to attack me, trying instead to get out of the way as quickly as possible. Not because they were cowards. Cowards couldn't have fought an army of monsters quite successfully for long. They weren't afraid of the big minotaurs, or the orcs, or even Olga, who was known to be a terrible and cruel sorceress. But here and now all their experience and skills were utterly useless against one single person.
This was what really frightened them, forcing them to keep a respectful distance. Every now and then I saw the look of disbelief or superstitious terror in the eyes of another mercenary I killed. But I wasn't going to pity them. So I continued mercilessly slaughtering the bastards, making my way to the big men dragging the log with which they were about to break the gate. Keeping track of the direction was easy. Each of them towered three or four heads above the men, serving as an excellent reference point for me.
Finally, after a few minutes of carnage, I broke through the mercenary formation and flew out into a small open space, where a wall of tower shields, held in place by the strong arms of the big monsters, closed in front of me.
[Do you think I'm sure I won't suddenly become a mime by crashing into an invisible wall?] - I ask Martha, rushing straight at the battle-ready monsters.
[Unlikely. According to my records, this kind of protection doesn't block objects moving slower than a certain speed threshold.] - she replied.
[Okay.] - Threatened her, before flying into the enemy formation. - [But if I embarrass myself now, I'll make you sing 'oni chan baka hentai' to some fun music. On the record.]
At the last meter I crouch, dodging a swinging mace strike from the ogre in front of me, and then I straighten my legs sharply, crashing my shoulder into his shield. The blow was so hard that it split the shield and broke the monster's arm, pushing his carcass against his fellows.
This time I don't have to break through their orders. They're only standing in three rows, closing the battering ram, and all I have to do is throw a couple of grenades at them.
I draw my pistol with my left hand and finish off the downed ogre with two shots to the head, emptying the remaining magazine into the others, shooting the creatures to my right and left first, to give myself some space.
As soon as the last bullet left the barrel, I holster my weapon and throw the last two grenades one by one under the feet of the porters. And judging by the fact that they're not going to scatter away, they don't know anything about grenades.
So much the worse for them.
I pushed my feet off the ground and jumped back a few meters, just before the double explosion destroyed both the mages and the non-humans, who were carrying a log that slammed to the ground, crushing several bodies to mush with its weight. The shield-bearers took their toll as well: the shards severely cut their backs, though not killing them, but inflicting rather unpleasant wounds.
I turned and ran at full gallop back toward the city, right into the spears of a flimsy barrage of mercenaries, somehow lined up under the desperate shouts of the commanders. They didn't look very resolute, though, and I doubt they believed they could stop me. That proved to be true as soon as I approached them. They just scattered away, giving me way.
I made my way back quickly and unobstructed, except for a few daredevils who tried their luck and paid for it with their lives. In two jumps I climbed the wall and met the reaction of some of the defenders of the city, who parted at the sight of me, staring at my blood-covered figure with stunned eyes.
I couldn't see which one of them had been the first to let out the shriek of war, which was instantly picked up by everyone else and rolled up the wall, instilling confidence in the souls of the soldiers.
"Stupid piece of shit!" - With a powerful punch to the jaw, Kin flew to the opposite end of the tent, knocking the weapon rack with his body at the end of the path, which rattled across the floor. - "Because of your fucking curiosity, everything goes fucked up!"
The witch doctor looked bad enough as it was, with the ugly scars from the Tower event, but now he was sporting a fresh bruise that had spread across half his face after the collision with his commander's fist.
- "Hicks is dead! Our men are fleeing in terror! All because you bastard thought you'd see what happens when some dick that didn't know how he got under our feet woke up!"
Vult was pissed. And that's an understatement. He'd regretted letting Kin get a new toy a hundred times over instead of stabbing the unconscious youngling in the Tower. His gimmicks could have been studied without a living owner. But the commander of the Black Dog was in a good mood after the victory at the time and simply waved his hand, satisfying his subordinate's wish. And now he was paying the price, taking out his anger on whoever happened to be at hand.
He reached over and grabbed the crawling wizard by the scruff of his neck, mumbling something incomprehensible, and lifted him up into the air to his own face. Because of Vult's tall stature, Keane's legs dangled in the air, and he could only grasp the mercenary's broad arms to keep his balance. Without the right, much less the will, to fight back.
"You swore you'd catch them, and you shit your pants, Kin!" - Spat in the face of Keene, who looked like a teenager next to the giant in the background. - "Then you said that even if they escaped, they weren't dangerous, but you fucked me over again!"
As he approached the massive wooden table, Vult slammed his back into the sorcerer with a swing that cracked the furniture, giving it a full-length crack right down the middle. A few swipes from his gauntleted hand turned Keane's face into a mess, blood splattering and teeth battered in all directions.
- "They're here, Kin! And they're very fucking dangerous!"
The two warriors on guard outside the tent shuddered and crumpled their shoulders every time their boss's ponderous fist came down on the blackguard's head. He was very frightening in his anger, and the boys froze in fear whenever they thought for a second that one of them would be in the beating man's shoes.
"I was beginning to think I'd been wrong to pick up a brat in the slums of Eldan". - After finally letting the poor man lie on the table, gurgling blood, the man turned and staggered toward the exit. - "Use your mind, which I haven't noticed lately. Figure out how to fix the shit you've done, or I'll be totally disappointed in you. In the meantime, I'll go and take matters into my own hands before it's too late..."
Passing the shaky, timid guards, he threw open the curtain of the tent door and stepped out into the camp. It was chaos all around: men and monsters were running around, shouting things at each other, even a couple of fights broke out. The troops that had been sent into battle were about to falter and run back. If he let that happen, his whole plan would collapse like a house of cards, and he'd have to start all over again from a much lower position.
Vult couldn't let that happen.
"SHUT THE FUCK UP!!!" - Puffing up his lungs, Vult yelled at the top of his tinned throat. Experience in commanding large masses had taught him that if you were quiet no one would hear you, no one would obey. As if on cue, everyone around them suddenly froze, ending the mess and turning their attention to their leader.
"Did you shit your pants?" - The man asked in a loud and clear voice. - Are you scared, are you shaking?!
"B-b-but... boss, there's this mofo..." one of the fighters started to babble something, but immediately got a hook to the jaw. There was a crunch of broken b
"You're fucking Black Dogs, not tavern whores to run away with your skirts tucked up! You fought and survived in shit where anyone else would have died in the first minute, and now you're running away?!" - He was answered with a silence. People and monsters alike averted their eyes ashamedly, glaring at him. - "YOU'RE OUT OF YOUR FUCKING MIND!!!"
The last words naturally stunned those around him, vividly demonstrating the anger and indignation of the commander. Even the non-humans, who had joined them recently, perked up. They all knew well what the man in front of them was capable of, and his anger frightened them far more than even the terrible man who had killed so many of their comrades. After all, he's out there in the city, relatively far away. And the boss is here. And the boss is very unhappy with his men.
"The Black Dogs fear neither gods, nor demons, nor some fidgety clown with a witch's weapon!" - The voice of the leader of the strongest mercenary army in the world took on a menacing tone. Well, even more menacing than before. - "They go and get what they want! And if you motherfuckers have forgotten that, I'll remind you myself! So get your balls together and follow me before I kill you myself!"
Finishing his speech, Vult turned around and walked briskly toward the battlefield. The frozen campers stared after him for a few seconds, then trotted after him, one at a time at first, then more and more briskly with each passing second. Soon the whole base was in earshot, preparing for the second round of the battle for the city. Commanders shouted at the soldiers, gathering them in fighting lines, monsters gathered in large groups, and mages in a separate group, began to prepare a powerful spell to knock out the damn gate in one attack.
The losses of the first wave, though noticeable, were far from critical to the entire army. And now the full force of the combined army was about to descend on Feo again. And Vult, personally, would lead them in the attack. As he walked ahead of his men, giving them confidence and raising their morale, he thought to himself that, in principle, the situation was still not so bad. There were even more pluses than minuses. If that bastard with the thunder weapon is here, so is Discordia and her tame whore. Which means that by taking over the city, he's going to get a lot more than he's supposed to.
And as for the alien... he's strong, no doubt about it. Even killed Hicks without getting hurt, which Vult is sure to skin him for. Still, Hicks was a good friend and fighter. His loss hurt the mercenary commander.
But the truth was that Hicks was weaker than him, both before the meeting with the "partners" and, even more so, after it. Therefore, the man had not the slightest self-doubt. On the contrary, he believed that a battle with Discordia's new friend would be a good way for him to test his increased strength. And then...
At the thought of gutting this upstart and then mercilessly beating the proud queen of the dark elves right next to his corpse... A wry, bloodthirsty grin crept onto Volt's face.
One, and the man fell to the ground like a fallen man, rattling his armor.
" When I talk, everybody stands there with their fuckin' mouths shut!" - Vult went on with his rant, radically calming the alarmist. - "Have you forgotten who you are?!"
Pausing for a moment to get some more oxygen, Vult spoke again.
After the man who had come with the dark elves destroyed the battering ram and visibly thinned the enemy lines, the Black Dog mercenaries and the monsters who had joined them began a hasty retreat. Arrows and spears from Feo's soldiers flew into their backs, and when the distance increased to a point where it was impossible to shoot, they were replaced by whistles and insults. In this way, the soldiers were releasing the tension after a hard battle and expressing their joy at another victory.
They could not cheer for long, however. A new batch of enemies, as numerous as the first, emerged from the camp to meet the retreating troops. Joined together, the two halves joined into one monolithic fist, and once again fell upon the long-suffering wall and its no less long-suffering defenders.
The battle boiled over with redoubled intensity, and this time the attackers were more coordinated, more confident. And much more fearless. The unknown cloaked warrior slaughtered them by the dozens with his thunderous weapons, but none of them thought of retreating. At the cost of huge losses, they managed to gain a foothold on the wall again, and it was much harder to drive them off. For instead of armed rabble this time there were experienced and vicious mercenaries, who were much more difficult to resist in direct combat.
At one point an enormous fireball flew from somewhere in the enemy's line into the gate, turning it into a pile of burning splinters that scattered all around in a second.
As the debris settled, the largest and strongest of the foes charged through the breach, sweeping away the first few lines of defenses that stood in their way like children. At this point it was clear the wall could not be held, and commanders gave the order to sound the retreat to positions well prepared in the depths of the city streets.
The stranger distinguished himself this time as well, almost single-handedly holding back the breach at the gate, while the rest of the fighters retreated from the walls and took prearranged routes, free of all sorts of traps and other trouble, in the huge mass they had prepared for those who would follow.
A long and bloody phase of city fighting ensued.