Back in Lumien Forest, in the unburnt area across the creek, the Arcadians are regrouping.
‘We must get out from this forest quickly! Enough waiting, let’s move out!’ says Adler von Bachmann, the aiding General from Borgia to Emperor Sage the Fifth. The latter still doesn’t remove his helmet from his head.
‘Lord Adler’s right, Your Majesty,’ Eidos adds, carefully positioning himself. ‘We only lost one tenth of our troops during that chaos. Moving on is a good idea. We’ll gather more troops along the way.’
The Emperor doesn’t answer. He just sits there in silence, thinking hard.
Impatience shows on Adler’s face. Just as he’s about to speak up his protest, Sage talks.
‘Our troops’ morale is totally shaken. It’ll be very dangerous to move out now, but it’s also dangerous to stay here, in case the Loreans want to burn this forest again. The minimum casualty on our side was because Robert played hypocrite by showing us mercy, yet shattering the troops morale completely.
Our spies have pinpointed the Loreans’ base on Vaudevale Hills, so we will go there, make camp, rally our troops and attack them head-on. This time I shall ride in front, not above. I shall stay with my troops until we punish that traitor and the Kingdom that supports him!’
Like adding oil in the fire, Adler says, ‘I’d like to see that traitor’s head on a stake, a fine souvenir indeed it’ll be.’
True to his words, Cristophe rides a horse in front of the troops. Acavela the griffin scouts from the air. Some more troops who were lost rejoin the march. Yet, seeing the Emperor in the front, they feel compelled to protect him and never desert the army. Only fifteen percent fell or deserted in Lumien.
No attack from Lore, not even a skirmish, even when the Arcadians move out safely from the forest. The troops feel relieved, but their morale is still low. This is too easy, they think. The crafty Rael’charon must have a tactic or two under his sleeves.
They make camp on the plains, eighteen miles away from Loreans’ camp on top of the hill. Knowing about the Loreans’ terrain advantage and the Griffin Riders’ absence, the Arcadians only hope from their archers and a few war machines that survived the fire.
Eighteen miles between the opposing camps is a distance well outside firing range of catapults and ballistae, so the two armies don’t attack right out. They choose to wait, studying the situation and condition thoroughly, thus act accordingly.
Four days later, the Arcadians try to prove that this is not a stalemate situation. With their superior numbers, they reject all challenges for personal duels. The invaders march in formations, and stop in a distance well outside firing range. The Loreans only sent a few thousand infantry outside the camp and no one can be seen on the parapet.
What the hell is he playing at? Chris’ mind rumbles. I know there must be archers behind that parapet. Humph. Tactic trap or not, I shall not take the bait! I must plan my moves carefully, and here’s what I’m going to do.
The Emperor of Arcadia’s voice echoes like thunder to the Lorean camp, ‘Robert Chandler and the Army of Lore! Surrender yourself into the mercy of our Grand Arcadian army! Our numbers are far superior than you; there’s no way you can win against us!’
Robert rides and places himself in front of his troops, holding his saber with a flaming blade. The Arcadian archers aim their bows at him, but Chris shouts, ‘HOLD YOUR FIRE!’ and moves in front of his own troops. Then, he shouts at Robert again.
‘Well, Robert. Are you ready to surrender now?’
Robert answers, ‘I shall not surrender to injustice. Instead, I ask you one more time to get back to your senses and stop this senseless bloodshed. I’ve told you time and time again that I’m not the Heir of Vordac. I’d rather kill myself than letting that Dark Spirit dwell in me. I have no ambition whatsoever to rule this word, being a King, Emperor or whatever.
But, you don’t believe that. You chose to believe in deception and even made that an excuse to expand your Empire in time of crisis. I’m telling you, Your Majesty! The Dark Forces only lost a small portion of his army and the one he generated through necromancy in Myrcalia! They’re still strong and numerous! Myriads of them! Just think, Emperor! Alexis’ assassination was just a plan to frame me and to create strife between Arcadia and Lore, making us war between each other. When both great nations are weak, they will strike!
Please, Your Majesty, look deeper inside your heart and see the greater truth, greater than eyes can see. Let’s end this war and fight the Dark Forces together.’
‘Are you finished talking, Robert?’ says Chris.
‘Yes, for now.’
‘Then I’ll say that you’ve delivered a good excuse, Heir of Vordac. Your sweet talk about the Dark Forces’ scenario nearly convinced me, but my grudge towards you is too deep, too strong to be bent by some fairy tale. No matter what you say, the fact remains. YOU killed my brother with YOUR sword. YOU charmed your King and Rael’charon into believing in your lies. It’s YOU who put Lore in the road to ruin, and I’m simply the savior, bearing the mission as Vadis’ Heir to cleanse Lore from the Dark Scourge before we can coexist. And since you’re Vordac’s Heir, eliminating you will make the Dark Forces lose their leader, their purpose to go to war. So you better be prepared, because we will storm you with full force!’
Robert shakes his head on this answer, and sighs.
‘Looks like reason and common sense won’t work on you. Your grudge has blinded you from the real truth, just as I was. My grudge towards the orcs has blinded me from the fact that not all orcs are evil. So, I’ll use Dar’gum’s way, with which he has corrected me to make you see the light – through the way of single combat. Fight me, and you’ll see the real me, whether I prevail or perish. If I win, you and your entire Army must withdraw from Lore, back to defending your own Empire. If I die, it’ll be a worthy sacrifice and I hope you will spare my troops and country. Will you accept this challenge?’
Chris pauses for a while, then answers,
‘Humph. I don’t agree with that term. I’d say whether I win or lose, we attack.’
‘Do you think we will agree to such term, Your Majesty?’ says Robert, a bit irritated. ‘I won’t put my life at stake for such a small wager, being a gambler myself. You better put up a better term, accept the challenge or we’ll skip the duel and proceed with the battle.’
‘All right, I accept the challenge – on note that we will attack only if you lose.’
‘Great. Are we going to do this on foot or on horseback?’
‘On foot. I’d like you to taste the new moves I’ve learned in Yvais.’
‘Very well. Do you need time to prepare yourself?’
‘No need. We’ll do it here and now. Troops! You are the witnesses of this duel! Do not interfere or the penalty is death!’
Showing his rare smile, Rob kisses his mother’s ring and amplifies his fire aura. The flame on the blade of his sword flickers more wildly. He shouts at Chris, ‘On guard!’
Chris also amplifies his holy aura and raises his sword and shield, but alas! The Sword of Justice shudders most violently instead. Chris pumps his aura to a higher level, trying to suppress the sword, but to no avail.
Obey me, Excalibur! I’m your master, and we’re here to vanquish Vordac’s Heir! What the hell is wrong with you? You never stop shuddering whenever I hold your handle. No... I remember what happened to Alexis. You’re not trying to shake me loose, but to destroy me! Why? Dammit! Why!?
‘You must control your anger with wisdom, your hatred with love, or it’ll consume you. Look, even your sword knows that I’m not Vordac’s Heir! It refuses to fight just to prevent you from making the worst mistake of your life! Let’s end this! We’ll defend Aurelia together!’
‘NO!’ The Emperor snaps, his face blushes with anger and humiliation. ‘I must FIGHT you! Excalibur must obey me! I say Robert is Vordac’s Heir so I must defeat you to show my subjects that I’m right all along! Your lies and slithering words won’t work on me, EX-teacher! Talk to my sword!’
Chris tightens his grip on the sword, but Excalibur explodes its holy aura deposit! Shocked and hurt, Chris releases the handle and the sword falls on the ground. He is weaponless now, but Rob doesn’t attack him. Chris snorts,
‘Humph! You still play high and merciful.’
He turns back and shouts to Adler, ‘Lord Adler! Lend me your sword!’
In normal situations, Adler will probably refuse and suggest another sword for Chris – perhaps the Wyrthal – but in this situation, he says, ‘With pleasure, Your Majesty.’
Adler hands Chris the Zweihänder Kraal’shazar and collects the Shield of Faith and Excalibur. Wielding the Deathblade, Chris’ negativity turns into dark aura and interacts well with the sword. Robert stays on his stance, and Chris attacks!
Robert unleashes his technique Green Dragon Assault Strike: the hidden hi-speed move, making it hard to predict and block. However, Chris blocks it anyway. The blow targeted the ankle.
‘You always said I had a weak ankle and my footwork was bad. But Avariel has improved it. I have no weak spot now. So, taste my skill! Way of Righteousness!’
Chris’ combo comes in hyper-speed from six different angles, and ends with a thrust. Robert is unfamiliar with that move, but he easily blocks all the blows. Rob pushes himself back, and pauses for a while to prepare another attack.
Suddenly, shards of light flicker on seven points of Rob’s body, and it hurts his insides! No wound is shown on his body – not even a scratch. He grimaces in pain and vomits a bit of blood.
‘Let’s make it a 14-hit combo,’ says Chris. ‘How do you like it?’
Robert replies, ‘Not bad. Not bad at all. Still, if you use that with your mind and heart in the right place, it’ll be twice as powerful.’
‘Humph. Stop provoking me, traitor. I’m in the right mind to kill you, here and now.’
‘So, enough talking. Just give me your best shot! Take this!’
Robert regains his strength and charges forward! Chris swings the Kraal’shazar to split him in two, but it slashes an empty space. Robert already leaps, and showers him with a multiple downward fire slashes - the reversed version of Red Dragon Hellriser. Chris is apparently quite ready and repels the rain of fire blades with the continuous, rotating sword-shield move: Whirlwind Slash. Nevertheless, seven of Robert’s slashes land on Chris’ armor.
That attack, no matter how powerful, doesn’t leave a single mark or scratch on that divine armor, yet Chris feels burning pain on seven spots on his body.
‘Looks like you’re also holding back,’ says Chris.
‘That’s because I never intend to kill you,’ Rob answers as he lands on a distance.
‘Keep at that and you’ll never defeat me. You must really mean it, Rob. This is not a training.’
‘Then let’s let our swords speak now! No holding back!’
And they clash! They exchange blows and parries in high speed. CLANG! CLANG! Sparks fly whenever their sword clash with sword, sword with shield, sword with armor and so on. The spectators may swear that they see fireworks going on. Impacts of fire against light send light shards everywhere like a sun, yet – without intentions of exaggerating it – the shards don’t hurt the spectators who are hit by it.
During that clash, the combatants also unleash some of their special moves. Rob strikes with his favorite move, Dances of Myriad Dragons, a combo of random slashes with a finishing Rising Dragon uppercut slash. Chris responds with an ultra-defensive combo, Blessings of Humility plus the counter-strike, Fruits of Diligence, sending series of rayblasts from his sword.
Both are hurt at the end, and again they go at each other! CLANG!! CLANG!!! The impacts become louder and louder, and they shout even louder, mustering more energy into their arms.
Robert delivers another blow on Chris’ Greaves of Diligence, inflicting damage to his ankle. However, it doesn’t slow Chris down. Chris bashes Rob’s face with his shield, making him groggy. Plus, Chris rotates and slashes! It’s an offensive variant of Sword-Shield Counterslash, and being the one who taught it to Chris, Rob parries it with his saber, pushing himself away to a safe distance.
So, Rob got a bruise on his face and Chris limps a bit.
‘Do you have anything else to show me?’ Chris taunts his opponent.
‘Just shut up and fight.’ Saying that, Rob powers up and leaps!
Chris’ heavy armor prevents him to leap, so he slashes upwards, sending bolts of crescent light towards the target: Guiding Lights of Faith. Robert knows at once that Chris has guessed his move correctly, but he continues anyway with the quick slashes of Green Dragon Assault Strike. One by one he deflects those lights, slashing rapidly here and there. Four bolts hit him. One grazes his left arm, one his right thigh and his armor absorbs the rest.