Chapter 102 – Holding the Line
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“Four to the left!”

“Watch that spear!”

Medrauta and Riku shouted to one another in unison as enemies approached the carriage from almost every conceivable angle. Ducking low, Medrauta dug her knees into the sides of her mount, urging the horse forward as she allowed a spear to fly over her head.

The spear hissed as it split the air, the sound of its passage alerting Medrauta to its departure, allowing her to recover just in time to parry an incoming blow from a mounted rider that she quickly cut down.

A quick glance to her side told her that Riku had dealt with the four soldiers that had dared mount an attack on his flank, their riderless horses standing aimlessly still as if a testament to the speed of his bladework.

Just a few moments ago, Medrauta and Riku had both determined that it would be a far better idea for them to commandeer the horses instead of staying on the box seat and hoping for the best. Though neither of the knights specialized in mounted combat, their combined skill at arms more than made up for that.

While their escape was progressing in a largely successful manner so far, it was clear they had only been able to get so far due to the fact that their initial pursuers were mere footsoldiers. Now that the cavalry was catching up, things would start getting a lot more dicey, especially if they decided to start attacking the carriage itself.

“At least they don’t have archers...” Medrauta muttered as she eyed an approaching unit of cavalry. There were around five or so men in the oncoming group, but their poise betrayed them as mere soldiers, allowing Medrauta to relax slightly.

“The spears aren’t doing us any favors though,” Riku remarked just as three were thrown his way. One of them flew wide, but the remaining two were eerily accurate, forcing him to lean to the side in order to dodge them.

“Their horses just finished a patrol, so we shouldn’t have to hold on for much longer.” Medrauta said as she readied herself to deal with the first of the soldiers who bravely urged their steed toward her. “We’ll just need to—”

Medrauta stopped in surprise as a black-feathered arrow buried itself in a gap of the soldier’s armor, causing the man to slide off his saddle even as he cried out in pain. Within a heartbeat, four more arrows shot through the air and pierced their marks.

“V-Viviane! What are you doing!?” Medrauta exclaimed as she whirled around, her expression fraught with worry. “Get back in the carriage!”

“I can fight!” Viviane protested. “There’s way too many of them and I’m not letting you do this alone, Medrauta!”

The carriage door was halfway open, the noblewoman leaning through it as she nocked another arrow to her bow and fired at one of the approaching riders yet again, felling them from their saddle with ease. Her accuracy was uncanny despite the awkward position that she was being forced to shoot from.

Medrauta clicked her tongue in annoyance. She was worried a stray spear might find its mark in her lady’s now-exposed upper body, but Viviane was right. An archer would give them an overwhelming advantage in their escape attempt, especially one as freakishly accurate as Viviane.

“Alright...” Medrauta begrudgingly agreed. “But I won’t be able to jump in front of you this time so... Please prioritize your own safety, Viviane.”

Viviane nodded, responding to her knight even as she loosed three more arrows within the span of a second, each of them finding their targets with ease. “Got it! Don’t worry about me, Medrauta!”

Despite the impressive number of saddles that Viviane was emptying with her arrows, the cavalry forces pursuing the carriage still seemed to pour toward them incessantly as they sought to overtake and surround the vehicle before it could gain any more distance.

Though Medrauta wanted to keep her eyes on Viviane and ensure that her lady was safe, the reality of the situation wouldn’t allow her to do something so foolish. Gritting her teeth, she whipped her gaze back to the front, taking note of the riders that were pulling ahead of them.

There were around ten in total, all of them seemingly a cut above the rest. Regardless, they were all simple soldiers. No matter how skilled they were, they would fall before Medrauta’s blade with ease. That is, if all of them truly were soldiers and nothing more.

Medrauta’s eyes narrowed now as she focused on one particular rider in the group. Their form was balanced and easy on the saddle, their back poised and their sword held lightly in their grasp as they tugged on the reins of their steed, causing it to pivot in place.

There’s no doubt about it. Medrauta exhaled slowly, allowing the tension in her body to drain out as she prepared for the difficult encounter that lay ahead. That’s a—

“Knight!” Riku exclaimed as the sound of clashing steel thundered beside Medrauta. “They have knights!”

Medrauta whirled around, catching sight of Riku just as he recovered from an exceptionally powerful blow that nearly unseated him in a single strike. Things certainly weren’t looking good for them now that a knight had engaged them in direct combat. She snuck a quick look behind her, relieved at the sight of Viviane slipping back into the relative safety of the carriage’s shelter as Riku crossed blades with the knight.

Medrauta tightened her grip around the reins of her steed as her attention returned to the scene before her. She couldn’t afford to relax just yet. Not when there was another knight waiting for them in the very near distance.

She cast her glance to the side, watching Riku duel his opponent on horseback. Luckily, the two knights looked evenly matched. Perhaps it would’ve been different had they been fighting on foot, but it didn’t look like either of them was gaining any significant advantage for the moment.

While the two combatants beside her were moving vigorously, the knight who awaited them further down the road stood still in stark contrast. There was no need for them to move and needlessly expend energy when the carriage was already heading toward their direction, after all. 

Based on the way they carried themselves and the pressure that they exuded even from this distance, Medrauta could easily tell that the knight who awaited them was far more dangerous than whoever Riku was fighting.

There was no way around it. Medrauta searched her mind for other solutions, but found none. She would have to make a choice. ...I don’t want to leave Viviane alone, but if I don’t... We might lose.

Constrained by the leather ropes that hung from the horse’s harness and attached to the carriage, Medrauta would have difficulty maneuvering her mount through the battlefield, especially when she had to ensure that her movements didn’t impact the carriage’s route. While this wasn’t an issue for Riku due to his opponent’s middling skill on horseback, Medrauta could sense that it would be a vastly different story if she attempted to engage the awaiting knight as she was now.

In the end, there was only one choice she could make.

“Riku! I’m going to cut loose from the carriage and engage that knight before they make this all go to shit!” Medrauta shouted.

“Got it! We’ll be fine here!” Riku replied as he expertly parried his opponent’s greatsword before issuing a riposte that sent the point of his blade sinking into the hostile knight’s shoulder. 

Seeing Riku’s exchange gave Medrauta a surge of confidence. In one quick motion, she cut her horse free and urged it forward, its hooves thundering toward the stalwart challenger ahead. While the enemy was clad in heavy armor and armed with a large greatsword like the knight who was fighting Riku, Medrauta wasn’t too worried.

She was never great on horseback, but she knew that she wouldn’t lose now that she was able to maneuver her steed freely. Not when Viviane’s survival depended on her victory.

With her horse now freed from the carriage, Medrauta freely urged it to accelerate, allowing her to close the distance between herself and her quarry within mere seconds. The opposing knight’s greatsword swung down at her in a deadly arc the moment she came into range.

Medrauta pressed her knee into the horse’s flank, causing it to step to the side, narrowly avoiding the slash. The silver-haired knight thrust her sword simultaneously, using the momentum of the horse’s movement to augment her own. Though her blow was no doubt powerful, her opponent deflected it using their shield with nothing more than a grunt.

With their preliminary exchange of blows finished, Medrauta’s opponent leveled the point of their sword to her chest before speaking. “Sir Michael of Helfried fief, proud knight of Lady Galfrey, challenges you to a duel for the sake of protecting our duke’s honor! You who dares to harbor foreigners that struck at our duchy’s light shall fall by my blade!”

Likewise, Medrauta aimed the tip of her blade toward her opponent’s chest. The rhythm of her breathing came naturally and easily now as she dismissed the unnecessary thoughts in her mind. This may have been a battlefield mere seconds ago, but Michael had done the foolish thing of challenging Medrauta to a duel.

A smile grew on Medrauta’s face. There was virtually no chance of losing now despite her opponent being a senior knight. She had been worried about engaging the experienced knight along with his companions, but Michael’s overconfidence upon laying eyes on Medrauta’s youth would spell his defeat.

For duels were where Medrauta reigned unchallenged.

“Dame Medrauta of Castellia fief, proud knight of Lady Viviane, accepts your duel. What are your terms, challenger?”