Grimgal Of Ashes And Illusion / Grimgal of Ashes and Illusion Vol 3 Chapter 12
LEVEL 3: Even the Best Laid Plans go Awry, but Such is This World
Chapter 12: Afterwards
PART 1 of 2
Something was clearly wrong at the southern wall, near the main gate. What was happening? Haruhiro had a really bad feeling about it. Actually, he had only bad feelings about it. Surely it meant trouble…
The Green Storm Regiment’s assault on the eastern wall continued nevertheless. The orcs were fighting conservatively, concentrating only on defense. If they didn’t clear the wall soon, the arrows raining down on them from above would never stop.
“We’re going to take control of the parapets first!” Bri raised his sword, pointing to the top of the wall. He was not carrying a shield.
They had somehow managed to get all four ladders in place and no one on Haruhiro’s team or Choco’s party had been hurt. Haruhiro stuck close to the wall itself, shield raised above his head to fend off stray arrows. He couldn’t see anything happening above him so he had no idea what was going on up there, but he assumed that Renji had been the first to make the climb and was raising all sorts of hell already. Thanks to that, the volume of arrows being shot at them visibly decreased.
Just as Haruhiro let out a deep breath of relief at the reprieve, someone grabbed him roughly by the scruff of the neck, making him yelp.
“Oy! Quit zoning out, Parupiro! We’re going too!”
Ranta. It always had to be stupid Ranta. His grip hurt, so Haruhiro slapped Ranta’s hand away, making him let go.
“That’s not my name,” Haruhiro snapped. “And go where?”
“Up the wall, where else?” Ranta shouted.
“Wait, bait, straight my ass!” Ranta shot back. “LET’S GO!”
This time, Ranta grabbed Haruhiro’s ear in an attempt to drag him to the nearest ladder. Haruhiro wished that kid would quit his antics and felt himself getting genuinely pissed off. He swept Ranta’s legs out from under him.
“What the—!?” Ranta sprang back up to his feet even as he hit the ground. “Bastard!”
“Whoa!” exclaimed Haruhiro as Ranta curled his hand into a fist and raised it. “You’re really going to start a fist fight at a time like this!?”
“Time’s got nothing to do with it!” Ranta yelled.
“Of course it does! What the hell are you thinking!?”
“I’m not a man restricted to the laws of common sense! In fact, I’m gonna revolutionize logical thinking!”
“And while you’re doing your revolutionizing nonsense, everyone else is already over the wall!” Haruhiro pointed out.
“WHAT!?” Ranta cried. “Seriously!?”
Even Choco’s team was lined up underneath a ladder, ready to begin the climb up. Haruhiro took that as a sign that they should probably get their behinds moving as well.
“L-let’s go too!” Mogzo said, his words finally spurring Haruhiro into action.
“Okay! Me and Mogzo will go first!” Haruhiro ordered. “Everyone else after us!”
“Quit being retarded!” Ranta spat, cutting in front of Haruhiro and starting his scramble up the ladder. “Me first!”
“Fine, whatever!” Haruhiro shouted after him.
He slung his shield over his back again and followed Ranta up, Yume close behind him. Mogzo and Mary were using a different ladder while Shihoru brought up the rear. The orc arrows had ceased some time ago. At the top of the wall, orcs and humans were scattered and mixed in a chaotic mess but it looked like Green Storm had the clear upper hand. There were no orcs remaining on the parapet anywhere near them.
Haruhiro could see a set of stairs leading downwards on the other side of the wall, near the northeast corner. The orcs were gathered near it, fighting to the death to prevent the humans from reaching it while the humans, rallied around Renji and his team, assaulted relentlessly.
“Go, Renji!!” Ranta shouted.
It wasn’t like Ranta’s shout of encouragement made any difference at all, but the next moment, Renji swiftly stuck down an orc with a single stroke and viciously kicked another, sending it flying off the ramparts. With that, the orcs’ defensive line broke down entirely, inviting a thunderous cheer from all the reservists.
“Now! Charge the stairway!” commanded Bri.
Renji and Ron were the first to reach it. The orcs were massed in a tight shoulder-to-shoulder formation around it, desperately trying to prevent the humans from going down. How the heck were those two going to deal with that? Haruhiro wondered. By body slamming them, apparently.
“C’mon! Push!” Ron shouted.
No way… is the guy completely insane? The rest of Team Renji and all the other reservists in the area obeyed immediately, throwing their own weight against Renji and Ron. Everyone was shoving with all their might. What the hell… They were going to get crushed to death. And between the orcs and the reservists, Renji and Ron were going to get turned into pancakes, because the orcs were shoving back as hard as they could too.
Renji and the other reservists were pushing downwards from above, while the orcs were pushing upwards from below. The advantage was obviously on the human side, especially since Renji had taken the initiative to charge in the first place. The orcs were falling like dominos. But what about Renji and Ron?
There! They were still standing, stomping and kicking orc after orc back down the stairs even as they began their own descent.
“God damn!” Ranta said. “Renji’s awesome!”
Haruhiro admitted that he had to share the sentiment. Renji was incredible. Haruhiro could hardly believe that they had all arrived here at the same time. Haruhiro and his own team couldn’t even compare, and if they tried, it would only make them feel even lousier.
It kind of gave Haruhiro a certain amount of pride, when he thought about their shared arrival. Anyone would be proud to admit that they came in the same group as Renji. Or maybe not. It was also pathetic in a way. But that Renji… he was amazing. He was so cool. Haruhiro already knew exactly how amazing Renji was, but that didn’t stop him from thinking it again now. Renji was cut from a different cloth. The gap between him and everyone else was so wide, laughing at it was the only thing Haruhiro could do.
“Don’t go too far ahead!” Bri warned from the top of the parapets. “The main army hasn’t broken through yet!”
Suddenly a volley of arrows flew at Bri from one of the watchtowers of the main keep. Bri deflected the ones flying at him almost lazily with his sword, without even turning to glance in the direction they were coming from. But while Bri was unharmed, some of the other reservists weren’t so fortunate. Several went to their knees as they got hit.
“We can’t stay here!” Haruhiro said, loud enough for the wide-eyed, slack-jawed members of Choco’s party to hear. “It’s probably safer down the stairwell! Let’s go!”
“No need to tell me, idiot!”
Ranta. Always stupid Ranta. He always had to be mouthing back unnecessary shit. In fact, his entire existence was unnecessary. No, no… calm down, let it go… Endurance training, that was what Ranta provided. Horrible, hellish, heinous endurance training.
The watchtowers were made for defense. There were narrow, slit-like windows cut into them that the orc archers were shooting from. The reservists couldn’t see the orcs, so it was hard to even determine how to time their shots. Just as Haruhiro and the others headed for the stairway, more arrows came at them. The orcs were purposely aiming for anyone who was trying to approach the stairs.
“Shields!” Haruhiro quickly unstrapped his shield form his back and brought it to bear in front of him. However, no one else followed suit. “Guys, where are your shields!?”
“Um…” Yume hesitated. “Yume thought that we wouldn’t need them anymore, so Yume left it below the wall. It was heavy!”
“Me too,” Shihoru admitted.
“Y-yeah, I did too,” Mogzo said.
“Same,” said Ranta.
“Same here,” Mary said as well.
“Even you, Mary?” Haruhiro sighed in exasperation.
Looking around now, Haruhiro noticed that he was in the minority. Everyone in Choco’s party and almost all the other reservists were no longer carrying shields. Maybe it was because Haruhiro was a hoarder that he had instinctively held onto his. But one shield wasn’t going to help at all… Suddenly an idea came to him.
“Use the ones the orcs dropped!” Haruhiro said.
The Green Storm Regiment hadn’t made that big of a dent in the orc garrison numbers, but there were a good number of orc bodies scattered around them. Lying with the corpses was their equipment; armor, swords, and shields. The furred shields were of Zesshu Clan make.
“Gotta take what we can get!” Ranta declared as he picked up an orc shield.
The reservists around them followed suit. Everyone held their shields between their bodies and the watchtower as they ran for the stairwell. Arrows smacked into Haruhiro’s shield one after another, but none hit his person; the shield was doing its job.
PART 2 of 2
They made it part of the way down the stairs before they were forced to come to a halt, unable to advance further. In order to get inside the keep, they had to ascend a different set of stairs, the outer stairway, leading to the rooftop. The outer stairway was located in the upper half of the southeast corner of the fortress, meaning that those who came through the main entrance would be forced to circle around the entire fortress before they could reach it. But it also placed the members of the Green Storm Regiment assaulting the eastern wall closest to it.
Renji and his team were already heading there, but orcs kept pouring out of other places within the fortress. Their sheer numbers almost completely stopped even Team Renji’s advance.
“So far so good!” Bri said as he deflected arrow after arrow with his blade. “Keep it up and the others will eventually arrive!”
Is that really true? Haruhiro wondered.
“Uh-oh! Here comes trouble!” Bri shouted.
Haruhiro blinked in surprise. A large group of orcs was charging at them from the rear gate in the North. The main army was hitting the southern side while the Wild Eagle Regiment assaulted the western wall, but that left the orcs manning the northern wall completely untouched. Word that the humans had breached the eastern wall must have reached them, and now they had come to reinforce their peers.
“Shit! Renji’s gonna be caught between!” someone shouted.
“Whoever’s available, attack the reinforcements!” Bri’s order came swiftly and Crimson Moon parties responded instantly, rushing to meet the orcs from the northern wall.
Or at least they attempted to. But moving in the midst of battle wasn’t so easy. Even if they wanted to meet the orc reinforcements coming from the north, the majority of the regiment was sandwiched in the area between the stairway to the wall and the outer stairway to the roof of the keep and couldn’t reposition themselves even if they wanted to.
“We’re going too!” the leader of Choco’s party said, rushing down the last of the stairs from the wall.
The other members followed, clearly confused, each of them wearing bewildered expressions.
“No, wait—!” Haruhiro shouted.
He didn’t know whether Choco’s group was too caught up in the excitement or what, but this was way too reckless. There were more than twenty orcs in the group coming from the northern gate. A rookie group like them would never be able to take them. Haruhiro wished that they would use their brains and consider the odds against them. It was too late though, they were already gone.
“We’re just gonna stand here!?” Ranta demanded, tone taunting.
Haruhiro hesitated for several seconds. Damn it! He couldn’t just let Choco rush to her death.
“Let’s go!” Haruhiro decided.
Haruhiro leapt to the ground, and didn’t even have time to recover his balance before he was attacked by the orcs. The orcs’ ferocity was unbelievable. Within seconds, several of the reservists around him had fallen—been cut down. Probably dead. The next moment, the orcs had broken through their front lines.
Two, make that three orcs were headed straight for Choco’s party. The leader and the two Warriors took one orc each, but it was clear they were completely out of their league. The oafish Warrior was on the defense almost immediately while the other Warrior was knocked flat on his behind before he could do much of anything. The leader, too, was being overwhelmed by his opponent and it was only a matter of time before he was finished.
Their Priest then rushed forward and attempted to strike one of the orcs with his short staff. Haruhiro already knew the attack would be ineffectual. The difference in strength was just too great. Choco and the other girl, the Mage, held tightly onto each other, trying to make themselves appear invisible. What the hell were they thinking!? They might as well be shouting at the orcs to please finish them off first.
And of course, the orcs didn’t miss the opening. One of them moved to oblige the obvious death wish.
Haruhiro wanted to help them, but he was too far away.
“Oom rel eckt pram das!”
Shihoru. She had intervened when Haruhiro couldn’t. A black, seaweed-like shadow elemental shot from the tip of her staff in a spiraling motion. It hit the orc, who was about to turn Choco and her friend into two bloody stains on the ground, right in the face. The elemental then seemed to shrink and started to seep into the orc’s mouth and nose. The effect it had was immediate, as the orc’s expression suddenly turned blank.
Some spells, such as [PHANTOM SLEEP], were easy to resist if the intended target was alert and wary but [SHADOW COMPLEX] was a little stronger. The orc was also caught completely off guard by Shihoru’s spell, so it was even more effective. [SHADOW COMPLEX] first caused its victim to fall into a state of stupor, then its entire body would begin trembling, and finally, it would lose the ability to think rationally.
“[ANGER THRUST]!” Ranta leapt in, attacking it before it reached the third stage, the point of his sword aimed at the base of the orc’s throat.
Haruhiro wanted to be the one to deliver the finishing blow, but Ranta beat him to it. It annoyed him, but he brushed off the irritation. Instead, he maneuvered himself behind the orc who was forcing the oafish Warrior up against the wall, where the Warrior couldn’t retreat any further. He had unburdened himself of the shield earlier. Of course, the line failed to appear for him this time, too.
These orcs were different from the ones manning the camps outside the fortress. They were equipped with red painted plate mail armor that left no gaps on their backsides and was too thick for his dagger to penetrate. Rather than [BACKSTAB], he moved to put the orc in a full nelson hold, and rather than locking his hands behind the orc’s neck, he thrust his blade into the gap between its helm and breastplate.
As soon as his dagger had punched completely through the orc’s windpipe and arteries Haruhiro jumped off of it. The oafish Warrior then brought his longsword down hard onto the already staggering orc. The guy was fairly tall and had time to raise his sword high over his head, so his cut had a lot of force behind it. The orc fell, but the Warrior didn’t stop hitting it until he had completely stopped moving.
“T-Thanks…” he said to Haruhiro, completely winded and gasping for breath.
Rather than reply, Haruhiro assessed the situation around him. Another orc was going for Choco again.
“Choco! Behind you!” he shouted.
Choco leapt to the side and the orc’s swing missed her by mere inches. It roared in rage or frustration, turned its sights on Haruhiro, and charged. Haruhiro knew that he couldn’t take any orc head on. It simply wasn’t possible. So he gathered his wits and shored up his defense, concentrating solely on the orc’s movements. It was armed with a single-edged sword; Haruhiro remembered the weapon being called a Gharii.
Down its blade came, from the upper left side. He deflected it with [SWAT], using his wrist to redirect the blow. The next attack was from the upper right; [SWAT]. [SWAT], [SWAT], [SWAT]. The orc’s attacks were powerful, swift. If he messed up even slightly, the fight would be over. If the orc chose to bide its time, to test Haruhiro’s defenses with uncommitted attacks, then it could force Haruhiro into erring eventually.
But it was too impatient for that. Good. It raised its sword high, intending to crush through Haruhiro’s defense with its next blow. [SWAT] wouldn’t work this time. The orc was putting too much force behind its attack. Instead of defending against it, Haruhiro purposely stepped into the orc’s attack, twisting his body sideways. Rather than deflecting, he let the orc’s Gharii slide down and off the blunt back of his dagger. It was more of a soft parry than a hard deflection.
In the same movement, he grabbed hold of the orc’s arm—the [SWAT] into [ARREST] combo. Master Barbara had put this particular move on him for two straight days and he had practiced the move against her in what was practically true combat for two days. The orc’s arm, however, wouldn’t bend to let him complete the technique. It was too sinewy, too thick. So in a split-second decision, Haruhiro locked its elbow into place, and then swept out its feet from under it.
The orc reacted instantly. Rather than let Haruhiro take it down, it threw itself into the fall, used the extra momentum to turn it into a roll, then sprang smoothly back onto its feet. In was in that very instant—
Mogzo leapt towards it, his fatal [RAGE CLEAVE] descending from above, aimed for the top of the orc’s head. There was no recovery. The blow split the orc’s helm, and the head under it, clean in half down the center. Holy shit, Mogzo…
“T-Thank you…” Choco whispered, staring wide-eyed, hands clasped at her chest. She stared at him in half stupefied state.
Haruhiro didn’t get a chance to finish his reply. He quickly grabbed Choco’s arm, dragging her towards him. Another orc was coming. Mogzo stepped in again, intercepting the orc, smooth as butter. Disaster was averted for now, but quite unintentionally, Haruhiro now had Choco completely in his embrace. He quickly let her go, stepping away.
“S-sorry…” he said.
“Hiro, don’t apologize,” Choco replied. “You just saved me.”
“Yeah but…” Haruhiro started. “Er, maybe afterwards!”
Maybe what afterwards? Haruhiro thought to himself. What was he going to do afterwards? He had no idea but he was too busy to think more about it right now.
“HAHA!” Ranta snickered loudly. “Mogzo’s bagged himself two orcs already! That’s my business partner for you!”
Ranta was using [PROPEL LEAP] unreservedly to keep the attention of one of the orcs on himself. Mogzo was furiously and relentlessly raining blows down on another. Shihoru concentrated on orcs further away, keeping them from approaching with her magic. Mary remained close to Shihoru, guarding her in case any orc went for her. Shihoru was in good hands with Mary.
Haruhiro cast his gaze on Yume. All they had to do was fight like normal; support Mogzo and Ranta, and attempt to finish enemies off as fast as possible.
“HARUHIIIIIIRO!” Ranta jump backwards using [PROPEL LEAP]. “What’s up with you and that girl!?”
“You really have time to ask me that!?” Haruhiro shot back.
“I got all the time in the—WHOA!” Ranta yelped as he was attacked again.
“Yeah, sure!” Haruhiro scoffed.
“Shut up, stupid Haruhiro!” Ranta let out a guttural shout at the orc he was engaged with. “[EXPEL FRENZY]!”
The moment he locked swords with the orc, he attempted to push off and leap away, but he didn’t manage to put much distance between him and his opponent. Meanwhile, Mogzo was suddenly fighting against two orcs at once. When Haruhiro had checked only moments ago, there was only one orc. Yume was attempting to draw the attention of one of the orcs away from him, but that in and of itself was highly problematic. Haruhiro at least had the [SWAT] skill; he was better suited than Yume to take on an orc alone. Glancing in Shihoru’s direction, he saw Mary swing her staff at an approaching orc, trying to get it to back off. The two of them were in trouble, too.
They were going to be overwhelmed. Don’t panic, don’t panic, don’t panic! He told himself. They weren’t fighting alone. Other Crimson Moon members were here too. They didn’t need to kill the orcs, only hold them off. But with orcs, it wasn’t as simple as it sounded. Haruhiro had his hands full just trying to keep himself calm. Damn, he was terrified.
Mary and Shihoru. He had to take care of them first. They were the priority. No wait, scratch that. First he had to—a high-pitched battle cry sliced through the air. What the heck? Whose voice was that!? It didn’t belong to any orc, that was for sure. It was human. A woman’s.
“They’re here!” Bri jumped into the air from his position atop the parapets.
The movements of the orcs from the northern wall slowed visibly. No, not just slowed, they were downright confused. Something was coming from behind them, a chorus of frenzied shouts.
“Reinforcements are here!” Bri blew a kiss in the direction of the new arrivals. “The Wild Eagle Regiment! KAJIKO, I LOVE YOU!!!”