Barbarian Quest

Chapter 204: Mandate of Heaven



Chapter 204: Mandate of Heaven

Georg, the slave of the scribe.

He betrayed his master and committed adultery with his wife.

‘I love you, Georg.’

‘You ungrateful trash!’

The voices of the two people haunted his mind. Georg slowly opened his eyes. It would be a lie to say he felt no guilt. Perhaps he wanted to go to their side. Maybe that was why Georg willingly took on a perilously risky mission he would normally avoid.

A dim light knocked on Georg's eyes.

He was engulfed in the stench of thick blood. He was not a man known for his prowess in battle—not at all. His main role was to motivate the soldiers with his tongue.

‘Am I still alive?’

Georg blinked. Memories flooded back.

‘Right, we fought them. Did we win?’

The mercenary group that Georg was a part of, along with a few barbarians, had fought against the imperial soldiers who were placed outside the village. The battle was as fierce outside the village as it was within.

‘All we could do was buy time.’

Georg pushed away the bodies surrounding him and got up.

"Huhhhh!"

He exhaled deeply and looked around. Warriors and mercenaries with big and small wounds all over their bodies were raising their heads.

"Here, Georg, grab my hand."

Urich called out to Georg as he reached his hand out.

"We won, huh."

Georg took Urich's hand and stood up, limping heavily due to a deep gash in his leg. Georg, too, was injured and in poor condition.

Crows circled in the sky, waiting only for the bodies to decay.

"Hah, can’t believe I survived that."

Georg sat down to drink water and catch his breath.

‘This is a great victory. We turned a massively overwhelming odds with nothing but valor and strategy.’

He had never seen or heard of a battle like this. Less than three thousand barbarian warriors had defeated the imperial army that numbered over double themselves.

‘And it wasn't just any imperial force; it was a legion-level force with every kind of soldier mixed in.’

Georg laughed hollowly. Even the joy of surviving felt unreal.

"Ooooooh!"

The barbarians roared repeatedly, celebrating their victory. The deep burns on their bodies were horrific to even look at.

‘We used every means possible.’

The methods they employed were those that civilized people would never use. From people to livestock, even the long-cultivated village and territory were burned down.

‘That's how we won.’

The warriors were ecstatic. They chanted Urich's name over and over.

"Did we capture the enemy commander? Given the size of the army we fought, it must have been one of the main pursuit forces. The empire probably sent someone very high-ranking to command it..."

"No, I lost him."

Urich sat on a partially burned log. Black smoke came out every time he breathed out.

"Ah, it stings."

Urich doused his burned skin with water. Even his tough muscles couldn't withstand the flames.

The warriors, who had fought covered in wet leather, were in this state. The imperial soldiers in iron armor must have suffered terribly.

‘No one could have imagined we'd attack by setting the village on fire. It was as if we were trying to kill ourselves as well.’

The strategy was Urich's idea. Georg called it madness as soon as he heard it, but the warriors silently nodded and followed Urich's orders. They set up pyres throughout the village and placed oil drums strategically.

Urich had ordered his warriors to murder and torture beyond necessity. Then, he released the terrified residents onto the imperial army to create obstacles to confuse them.

In a corner of the village, there were residents who were still shivering with fear. Among them was also the lord of Valdima. Even the imperial army that he had been counting on had been utterly defeated by the barbarians.

"Urich, what should we do with them? Should we kill them?"

A warrior approached Urich, waiting for orders.

"These people have suffered enough. Do not touch the women or children."

Urich said coldly, forbidding the usual violation. Normally, such a command would not be heeded, but right now, Urich was like a god of war to the warriors who survived this battle.

"Understood. I'll pass your order along."

Urich's command spread among the other warriors. The barbarian warriors completely ignored the village residents. Not even a single incident of rape occurred. They left the village of Valdima not long after the conclusion of the battle.

After entering the forest, Urich’s unit cleaned their wounds with fresh water and took several days of rest. This break was much needed for the weary and injured warriors.

Urich planned the next moves while surviving on the food looted from the village of Valdima.

"Regrouping with the other scattered units should be our priority. They should all be moving west."

"If we head to the Arten outpost, we’ll run into them somewhere along the way."

"If everyone’s thinking the same thing, they'll travel the Langkegart route. It’s already been scorched by us, so there won’t be any defensive forces left."

There was nothing grand about the plan. They needed to regroup and then plot their next move.

‘After we do that, we’ll have to put an end to this.’

Urich stared blankly at the map. The relationship between the empire and the west was now irreversibly hostile. The war would not stop until one side submitted.

‘Or we could cut off Yailrud... No, even if we cut off Yailrud, the empire will surely find a way to cross the Sky Mountains again. They will certainly create something similar to Yailrud.’

The westerners had significantly shaken the empire already. One of its vassal states, Langkegart, was practically a finished state. Despite deploying twenty-thousand troops, the empire had failed to root out the barbarians. The empire's prestige would have surely fallen.

Creak.

Urich leaned back in his chair. The burns wrapping his neck and shoulders stung. He mulled over each of the events that had occurred in the civilized world.

"I'm not going to the Arten outpost," Urich declared.

* * *

The imperial army had neither won nor lost. They were victorious in the bigger battle itself but had suffered tremendous losses in the ensuing pursuit, essentially making it a great defeat.

"General, we will arrive in Hamel soon."

The procession of the imperial army returning to Hamel was somber.

'To think that only one of the three pursuit units achieved any success...'

The losses suffered by the unit led by Carnius were especially horrendous. Of the seven thousand he led into battle, less than a thousand survived. On top of that, the primary losses were among the empire's heavy infantry and knights.

‘It’s practically a defeat.'

The empire's losses were immense. Following the annihilation of the Western Legion, about half of the imperial standing army was lost. Aall 𝒏𝒆west ch𝒂pt𝒆rs on n.o./v𝒆l𝒃i/n/(.)c𝒐m

The imperial standing army consisted of professional soldiers. Their quality was a large step above mere conscripts. Although it was not difficult to replenish the lost numbers with mercenaries or civilian fighters, these were nothing like the properly trained imperial soldiers.

The heavy infantry, which formed the backbone of the imperial standing army, could exert twice the combat power of a similarly sized kingdom army. They represented an elite force that had an immense amount of investment in their cultivation.

"I'm exhausted."

Carnius looked at Hamel with a vacant expression.

Carnius was summoned to an imperial hearing before he even had a moment to rest. Bureaucrats and pro-imperial nobles pressed him for responsibility.

"Why did you divide the forces into three units right after the battle ended?"

"It was because the enemies also fled in three directions. I wanted to ensure their complete annihilation."

"Are you sure it wasn’t a rash decision you made because you were swept up by the death of your son on the battlefield? If not, how could the pursuit have ended this disastrously!"

"Those are harsh words! General Carnius came here immediately upon his arrival without even getting a moment of rest to recover from the battle!!"

Carnius' adjutants, who were also his close comrades, shouted in his defense.

'Did I survive only to receive all this reprimanding?'

In the midst of the chaos, Carnius smiled bitterly. He had lost too much. He had parted with his son as well as his friends of many decades.

"General Carnius! You led seven thousand troops, three thousand of which were heavy infantry and knights, and you were defeated by a barbarian force less than half that size! How does that make any sense?"

The adjutants defended Carnius in his place.

"They were almost like demons. They burned the village and fought us as if they were fully prepared to die with us."

The portly nobles laughed at that defense.

"Then you all should have fought, prepared to die as well! Did you not swear to give your lives for the empire and His Imperial Majesty when you were living your luxurious lives on the generosity of the empire?"

The questioning was relentless.

Blood seeped through the bandage wrapped around Carnius' neck. His face reddened, and his wounds burst open.

"The barbarians will retreat for now. They have suffered just as much as we have,” Carnius managed to speak, although with difficulty.

"Hah, that's the problem! You led an army of twenty thousand and only managed to push them back!"

The empire wanted a complete victory. They wanted the outcome where the imperial army annihilated the barbarian forces, captured the survivors, and even conquered the west.

'The west is a land of mystery.'

The nobles had come to fear the west. It was the land that had swallowed an entire legion.

People of civilization did not know what lay in the west. If an even larger army were to emerge from there, it could bring a great calamity to the civilized world. It was difficult to commit more troops to the western conquest casually. The failure of reconnaissance and lack of information were painful.

'These people fear the barbarians of the west.'

The nobles' fear seeped into Carnius. He touched the outer surface of his bleeding bandage in self-mockery.

Carnius closed his eyes. The battle of Valdima was still vivid. A gigantic barbarian chief leaping out of a fiery pit.

'Is this a second coming of Mijorn the Brave of the north?'

Mijorn the Brave, who suddenly appeared thirty years ago and united the north.

During the fifty years since its founding, Mijorn was the only existence that had instilled fear into the empire. People feared the united north and fled from the barbarians moving south. Even the nobles trembled at the barbarians' momentum.

'The Sword Demon Ferzen led an army and decapitated that Mijorn.'

Carnius felt pitiful about his situation.

'It seems I will never surpass you, Ferzen.'

Strictly speaking, Carnius had achieved half his objective. However, the pro-imperial faction and the bureaucrats did not recognize such a half-victory. They only insulted Carnius for not securing a perfect one.

"His Imperial Majesty will summon you later. You may leave for the day, General."

Carnius wrapped his neck wound and shuffled out of the hall.

Outside, Carnius’ lieges greeted him. The face of his finely wrinkled wife appeared behind them.

"My lady..."

Carnius began to speak, but the lady, wiping away tears, turned away as if she had nothing to say to a husband who had lost their son.

Carnius watched his wife turn away and dropped his head. She had always opposed raising Leo as a fighter. Among the men close to women and books, there was talk that the era of using swords had passed. Carnius did not like that flow.

Like many old nobles and knights, Carnius ignored the currents of time and taught his son swordsmanship and military academics.

'And this is all that has come of it. I have nothing to say.'

Carnius, supported by his lieges, climbed into the carriage.

"General!"

A knight who had yet to have a chance to remove his armor hurriedly approached, stopping the carriage. He was one of the knights who had fought alongside Carnius in this battle.

"What is it?"

"I looked into something because the name Urich sounded so familiar. It seems that it is indeed that Urich."

"What do you mean ‘that Urich’?"

"The first barbarian to ever win the Hamel Jousting Tournament."

Carnius quietly recalled. His eyes widened.

"Could it just be someone with the same name?"

"From the descriptions of soldiers who saw him up close, it's almost certain."

"Collect all rumors and information about that man."

Carnius took out a pouch of gold coins and handed it to the knight. The knight nodded and pulled on the reins again.


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