With a high-order warrior like Kurdak accompanying them, and since they were within Hocke-controlled territory, they weren’t in a rush to continue on to the fort. They instead spent some time resting in the camp.
They didn’t do it just because it wasn’t as risky. Both Leguna and Alissanda were wounded and needed to rest and heal. They were in friendly territory, so whether they stayed at the camp or moved closer to the fort before resting made little difference, and with Kurdak and Vera able to keep watch, little could threaten them.
The two injured were in much better condition the following day. The prince’s git, Endless Source, also started taking effect. Alissanda’s rate of recovering improved markedly as soon as the morning’s sunlight hit his skin. It took him just two more hours to fully recover. Leguna, on the other hand, grew weaker as the sun came up.
“Are you sure you’re really a gifted, Ley? You look like you’re about to pass out, but look at the prince, he’s already completely recovered,” Kurdak stuck in a long overdue jab.
“I used Host of Darkness’ fourth stage and took one of Saron’s fireballs. You should be impressed that I’m still awake,” Leguna said, rolling his eyes uncomfortably.
“Tch. I also took one head on and I’m just fine,” Kurdak jabbed again gleefully.
“Hah, you had little if anything to do with that. Your sword did all the work, you just held it up in the air,” Leguna instantly shot back.
“Lava Blade?” Alissanda suddenly asked, glancing at the sword.
“Yes,” Kurdak said as he drew it and played around lovingly, “Wasn’t Your Highness the one who found it.”
“Yes.” Alissanda nodded, “I took it off a Stokian general called Doen. He put up a good fight.”
“It must’ve been quite a battle,” Vera interjected.
“Battles are always dangerous, but that particular one was worse than most. I lost seventy brothers,” Alissanda said, a tinge of tenderness flashing across his eyes.
“Seventy?!” the three gasped in unison
They had heard that Alissanda has completely wiped out the enemy force, and it turned out he’d barely lost any himself.
Most knightly forces operated in units 100 strong, called squads. Three would form a company, and three companies a regiment, with support staff, squires, and servants of course. The larger knightly orders would form brigades from three regiments and additional support staff. When on the field of battle, a regiment would be three thousand strong, 2700 knights and 300 of the most essential support staff. When operating from a base, however, the number would be much greater since all the other people such as squires and servants would be present as well.
For Alissanda to lose just seventy men whilst the enemy was completely wiped out when both sides were knight brigades… What exactly happened?
“My brigade isn’t your normal knight brigade,” Alissanda explained, “Mine is much smaller. We have just 500 men.”
“Why so few?” Kurdak asked.
“We operate in 50-man squads. We have three squads to a company, and three companies to our brigade. We’re more like a small regiment than a brigade.”
“You must have only elites, right?”
“Yes, it’s why we’re called a brigade despite being so few. Our strength is about at the brigade level. Most knightly orders require only four or five strata for entry, but I demand at least eight strata. The brigade’s average is ten.”
Nevermind having strength ‘at around brigade level’, they were probably one of, if not, the strongest brigade in the entire empire! Then again, for the empire to leave such a unit to such a young second prince… Had they no worries he might lead it to ruin? Or were they his personal forces?
They were not his personal force, however. Gold-eagle Brigade was one of the oldest of knightly orders in the empire. And Alissanda had not become its leader because of his position, he had worked his way up the ranks like everyone else. He had earned his position as Gold-eagle Brigade’s captain just like all the captains before him.
The crimsonflame fiend was indeed terrifying, but the most eye-grabbing star was Alissanda. He had might, a mastery of strategy, competence, temperament, and don’t forget looks. He even had a nickname based on his long, blonde hair: Golden Eagle. It was also a homage to the eagle, which was the Empire of Hocke’s symbol.
“I was acting with a hunter unit. We raided an important supply depot. We encountered Saron on the way back and I was forced to face him off alone to cover the men’s retreat,” Alissanda explained.
“I see... I heard some reinforcements just arrived at Kesta. They must be Your Highness’s men.” Kurdak nodded.
If Alissanda was willing to risk his life for the sake of his subordinates, then he had to be a decent person. Geoffrey certainly wouldn’t, he’d have told his subordinates to die so he could escape.
A dust cloud slowly approached them as they chatted. The figures at the front slowly became visible as they closed in. Cavalry.
“An enemy attack?” Leguna asked as he stumbled upright.
“No,” Vera said, staring at the small figures, “Their insignia is Hockian.”
“Maybe they’re here to pick me up,” the prince offered.
The cavalry caught up with them a minute later. Each radiated terrifying power. Two were mid-order warriors, one a high-order warrior, and one a high-order magus. The warriors weren’t familiar to the group, but the magus was the one from Fort Kesta.
The two mid-order warriors quickly moved to Kurdak’s back, surrounding him.
“You will release His Highness immediately if you value your life!”
The high-order warrior yelled as he unsheathed his sword.
“Calm down, Jast. They’re the harvester squad. They saved me. If not for them Saron would have killed me,” Alissanda quickly explained.
Jast glanced at the prince. To his surprise, he wasn’t tied up with bandages only.
“Apologies...” he said after a moment of hesitation.
He sheathed his sword and dismounted, before kneeling in front of the prince.
“Your servant didn’t make it in time. Please punishment me accordingly.”
“That’s enough, Jast,” Alissanda said as he lifted the middle-aged man to his feet, “I chose to stay behind. You carry no blame. And I’ve told you many times before, in the brigade I am only the captain, not a prince.”
“I apologize,” Jast said, his head still lowered.
“Apologize to Mister Kurdak. It’s inappropriate to treat friends of the empire like this,” Alissanda whispered.
Jast’s eyes flashed with resistance, but he still obeyed.
“I acted inappropriately, I hope you will not hold it against me.”
“It’s fine, you were just doing your duty loyally,” Kurdak smiled.
“It’s good that you know,” Jast snapped under his breath.
“Huh? What?” Leguna and Vera frowned.
Jast ignored them, turning to his captain instead.
“I have prepared horses for you, captain. Let’s head back to the fort.”
“Alright,” Alissanda said with a nod, “Prepare some horses for my friends here as well.”
“Apologies, Your Highness. I only prepared the horses necessary to get you back to the fort.”
“It seems Your Highness’s men don’t like us.”
Leguna said, irritation beginning to itch on his cheeks.
“I apologize, Leguna. Jast has an unusual temperament. He has no ill intent.”
“Why does Your Highness apologize to them?!” Jast snapped.
“How about we get an apology from you?” Vera asked, equally irritated.
Jast had acted as if they didn’t exist since he arrived, he hadn’t even deigned to look at them. He was obviously looking down on them. If that was going to be his attitude, Vera had no qualms about returning it in equal measure.
“Why should I apologize to you?”
“Because you’re a stuck-up, bumbling idiot!” Vera yelled.
Her group weren’t Hockians, but they’d made their fair share of contributions. This superior attitude had no place in front of them.
“Then why don’t I show you who’s being arrogant with my sword?!” Jast yelled as his sword came out.
“Alright! You’re just a high-order warrior! You think I haven’t killed people like you before?! Go, Leguna!”
Leguna was also mad, but he didn’t like how Vera was ordering him around like he was some mutt.
“Enough!” Alissanda and Kurdak shouted at the same time.
“Jast, I order you to apologize to them immediately and give them each a horse! I consider them friends. If you won’t treat my friends properly you can buzz off back to Melindor!”
“Ley, Vera, don’t act rashly!”
As much as he disliked the old fart’s attitude, he was a ranking member of the military so they couldn’t afford to offend him, especially not since he and Leguna were of the mind to join the military eventually.
Jast’s expression darkened, but he obeyed his orders loyally and apologized to the group and gave them horses.
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