Chapter 104 – Escape
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The sea of soldiers parted before Medrauta’s blade.

There was no other possible outcome before the gleaming silver that danced in her hands, glittering in the light of the setting sun. Though a few vengeful men rushed forward to bar her way, a single swing of her blade was enough to send them flying.

Like a silver specter flitting across the battlefield, Medrauta leapt atop her steed the moment she freed herself from the sea of soldiers, urging the horse toward the direction that the carriage had been heading. Though the horizon had long swallowed the fleeing vehicle, she was sure that she’d catch up to them soon.

Digging her heels into her horse’s flanks, Medrauta caused her mount to accelerate rapidly. She cast a quick glance behind her as she sped off into the distance, relieved to see that few of the soldiers had chased after her. Thankfully, the majority of the men who had been watching her match with Michael remained behind to transport their wounded and unconscious commander back to Helfried.

Though Medrauta was no expert rider, she was a consummate one and her skills far exceeded those of common duchy soldiers. However, the same could not be said for her horse. Trained merely for pulling carriages and light riding, Medrauta’s steed was by no means a warhorse unlike the stallion that Michael had ridden upon or even the thoroughbreds that the soldiers rode.

One of the braver and more foolish soldiers that pursued Medrauta following her victory now drew parallel with her. He aimed his sword at her neck, the curved cavalry sword describing an arc that would have decapitated Medrauta had she not parried it with ease.

With a flick of her wrist, Medrauta dispatched the man. Though a few more soldiers continued their pursuit, Medrauta finished them off with the same casual impunity, deflecting their attacks with ease before slamming the flat of her blade into their helmets and unseating them. While the blow was by no means lethal, it would no doubt leave the men suitably concussed and unfit to fight.

The soldiers belonged to a duchy of the empire and there was no need to kill them when they were merely following orders. Normally, she wouldn’t have placed that much concern for men who were clearly endangering both herself and her lady, but Medrauta had noticed how much care Viviane had taken earlier despite being forced to shoot from an uncomfortable position.

Though all of Viviane’s shots had unseated their marks, each arrow had been carefully placed to ensure a non-lethal yet still-serious injury that would take the target out of the fight. Medrauta simply thought it would be a shame to let her lady’s goodwill and effort go to waste.

Without soldiers harrying her pursuit of the carriage, Medrauta’s advance progressed rapidly. Her horse’s neck was slick with sweat as it was pushed beyond its usual demands, but the silver-haired knight had at last laid eyes on a sight that soothed her heart tremendously.

Though she hadn’t yet caught up with the still-fleeing carriage, she could see its rear in the distance. She neared the stragglers of the remaining cavalry units that still continued to pursue the vehicle, taking note of the more distant riders that slowly closed in on the carriage.

With only one horse pulling the vehicle, it moved at a frighteningly slow crawl, and the fact that it was still managing to elude the soldiers that were relentlessly chasing it only served as a testament to Riku and Viviane’s skill. A part of Medrauta felt disappointed at the fact that Viviane no longer constantly needed her protection, but that feeling was almost immediately replaced by a sense of pride.

Mere months ago, Viviane had been a nervous wreck who could barely stop stuttering, yet now she was an archer with such skill that it put even knights to shame, and that included Medrauta herself. While all knights were expected to possess some degree of skill in all types of weaponry, Medrauta didn’t exactly excel at archery.

That wasn’t to say she was a terrible archer who couldn’t hit a target to save her life. Rather, she could be considered quite the skilled archer, but Viviane’s mastery was simply on a different level. Medrauta let out a low whistle of appreciation as her keen vision reminded her of that fact now.

In the distance, Viviane popped out of the carriage to loose five arrows in quick succession, each one of them hitting their mark and thinning the enemy’s numbers. A grin spread across Medrauta’s face, encouraging her to push her steed even harder as she forced the poor horse to accelerate once more. 

With her sword at the ready, Medrauta charged forward, her clarion cry surprising the horsemen who brought up the rear of the cavalry unit and sending them into confused disarray even as Medrauta’s blade flashed and took out several soldiers within the span of a second.

Thanks to Medrauta’s duel drawing away a large portion of the soldiers and Viviane’s expert shots during the carriage’s escape, the remaining cavalry unit had been thinned out, leaving them with no more than twenty people. With her latest maneuver, Medrauta had reduced that number to fifteen.

“Viviane!” Medrauta shouted, her voice carrying easily to the carriage. “Is everything alright!?”

“Everyone’s safe!” Viviane called back. Despite the presence of soldiers still in pursuit, she didn’t look worried at all now that her knight had returned. “There’s a hole in the side of the carriage thanks to a spear, but it’s not anything we can’t fix!”

“Let’s clean up the rest of these idiots! I’ll start from the left!” Medrauta nudged her horse in the appropriate direction, herding the remaining soldiers closer to the carriage with her approach. Normally, she would’ve attempted to direct them away from the vehicle, but Riku’s presence allowed her to sandwich the hostile units between herself and the larger carriage like a hammer and anvil.

Just as expected of the Revelo duchy’s elite soldiers, they refused to rout or surrender even when defeat was inevitable. Instead, the horsemen persevered to the end even as Medrauta, Riku, and Viviane thinned their ranks until only one remained.

“For Duke Revelo and the glory of the empire!” The soldier cried as he drove his horse straight toward Medrauta in an all-or-nothing attack with his sword held aloft. “Die, traitors and those who dare harbor them!”

Medrauta met the soldier’s gaze calmly, her cool blue eyes almost emotionless and bored as she leaned to the side and avoided the horseman’s blow easily. “That statement ain’t gonna age well.”

The silver-haired knight’s sword rang with an air of finality as its flat slammed into the side of her opponent’s helmet, knocking him unconscious before he could even finish falling from his saddle. Out of habit, Medrauta raised her sword high in the air, pointing it skyward as she nudged her horse into a small pirouette before joining up with the carriage once more.

“What the hell was that?” Riku shot Medrauta a withering gaze after having been forced to slow his horse’s pace to accommodate for what looked like a weird flourish after Medrauta finished off the last of their pursuers.

“What the hell was what? And why’re you getting on my case?” Medrauta frowned. Riku’s frustration was rather uncharacteristic of him, especially when they’d just finished a battle. Medrauta surmised that the pressure of the chase might’ve put the foreign knight on edge more than little.

“The little spin you did there. That cost us around five seconds. We’re not at the festival right now, Medrauta. There’s a group of angry horsemen chasing us and—”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” Medrauta held up a hand to stem the tide of words that were no doubt about to pour from Riku’s mouth. “Relax! That was the last of them! For now, at least.”

“Bullshit. There was a whole horde of them just minutes ago!”

Medrauta shook her head calmly as she rode alongside the carriage. “Yeah, there was. The knight I ended up dueling turned out to be the commander of this unit. He’s heavily injured and unconscious, so most of them have chosen to escort him back to Helfried instead of continuing to chase us.”

Riku was silent for a few seconds, nodding as he digested Medrauta’s words. “...Damn. Looks like we lucked out then. I apologize for snapping at you, Medrauta.”

Medrauta grinned. “No need. Why don’t you slow down and thank me instead so I can attach this horse’s harness to the carriage again?”

“Thank you, Medrauta.” Riku dipped his head slightly as he slowed his horse’s pace to a gentle trot. “I mean it. If not for you, Lady Sakura would still be suffering...”

“She still is, isn’t she? We’ll need to get to a safe place and brew that antidote as soon as possible.”

“...Yes. You’re right. We could stop nearby. You mentioned you had equipment prepared?”

Medrauta shook her head as she finished connecting the horse’s harness to the carriage, allowing it to pull the vehicle at a more appropriate speed. “I said we could jury-rig something in an emergency, but seeing as Viviane hasn’t started freaking out yet, it seems we’ve still got a bit of time and I’d like to make sure that the antidote’s brewed successfully the first time around.”

“Which means we should use proper equipment instead,” Riku replied with a sigh, turning his gaze upward to the sky. Though there were a large number of ravens flitting about, he paid the birds no mind. 

He truly wanted to cure his lady’s ailment as soon as possible, for the pain that Sakura must’ve silently suffered during the entire chase must’ve been unfathomable. Despite that, he understood Medrauta’s concerns quite well. After all, he hadn’t collected enough ingredients for more than two attempts at most.

“That’s right.”

“So... Where’s the nearest city that hopefully won’t have its gates closed?”

“Dietrich.” Viviane said as she opened the carriage door slightly. “We’re already en-route to Dietrich anyway, and if I recall correctly, that’s where Krista was heading as well, right? With any luck, she’ll have arrived before us.”

“Dietrich it is, then...” Medrauta replied. “Based on what she said, they didn’t sound like they were very happy with Bastiche’s decisions at all.”

“I would hope not.” Viviane agreed. “Shall we be off?”

Medrauta nodded. “To Dietrich!”