Chapter 78 — Combat Expertise
The lizardmen had been completely defeated. Only the females, children, and elderly remained within the walls. The remaining lizardmen shrieked in fear. Some went into a frenzy and ran at the Whiterun soldiers, but they were shot dead immediately. This overwhelming success could be attributed to the soldiers’ tactics. Despite not having high levels and being unable to match adventurers in one-on-one situations, regular soldiers' combat strength would rise exponentially when fighting in a battle formation.
The soldiers, who probably all had over 100 Block, proficiently blocked attacks with their shields and counter-attacked with shorstwords. Those acting as light infantry spread out slightly, mercilessly slaying any remaining lizardmen, regardless of their age and sex. The soldiers repaid the lizardmen for raiding the village. Children and the elderly might be spared in wars between the same species, but inter-species wars would only end when one side was annihilated. There was no need to hold back when they treated one another as monsters. If the soldiers left the lizardman children alive, they would only be filled with hatred and wage war against humans when they grew up. If the female lizardmen were spared, they would give birth to more and more lizardmen in no time. In short, there was no reason to spare any of them.
In this world, humans were not as dominant as they were on Earth. Clashing with other species often meant fighting for territory, and the humans of this world had just one policy, as they lacked overwhelming dominance—kill as many of the enemies as possible while securing as much territory as they could manage. The aim was to kill the monsters to the point that they would not dare to approach human settlements. By annihilating the monsters that raided human villages, other monsters would probably believe that they would suffer the same fate if they did the same. In fact, that was how the outer villages of Whiterun had managed to last so long. If the army did not slaughter the monsters that dared to trespass human territory, the monsters would have raided the villages long ago. After all, humans were the best farmers among all species and produced a lot of food.
Presently, Soran and Yarse circled around to the back of the village. Surprisingly, they failed to find the lizardmen’s leader. Soran suddenly recalled that he had killed a lizardman blighter when he fought to defend the village; it might have been the leader of the tribe. It was actually highly possible, considering spellcasters had high social status.
If the blighter Soran had killed was the tribe leader, then it was very likely that they had yet to appoint a new leader. Without a powerful spellcaster holding them back, the lizardmen would fight among themselves for the position. The winner, which would most likely be the smartest and strongest among the lot, would take over the place as tribe leader.
It seemed that Yarse's Search skill was pretty high.
Soran slowly snuck into the house, slicing the throat of an unaware lizardman on the way. Inside, they found a chest filled with a bunch of coins of different values, as well as other valuables like gems and pieces of jade. Those were probably loot the lizardmen obtained by raiding villages belonging to other monsters. They normally had no way of selling these items, but they would still keep the loot nonetheless. From time to time, extremely daring merchants willing to bear the risk of getting killed might try to strike deals with lizardmen for their jewels.
Yarse glanced at the contents, then quickly signaled Soran and said in a low voice, "Fifty-fifty."
Soran nodded in response, and the two began quickly splitting the loot and stuffing the items into their multi-dimensional bags. As the Whiterun soldiers did most of the work, the valuables were technically their loot. To avoid getting on the city's bad side, the duo only took the most expensive-looking items and stuffed some random stuff from the room into the chest to make it seem unlooted. Each of them took some jewels and Gold Derahls, leaving behind the bunch of Silver Derahls and some random items in the chest. When the Whiterun soldiers searched the place for loot after the battle, they would at most think the lizardman tribe was simply poor. There were probably valuables in other houses anyway, so it was not like the city lost a lot by them stealing a bit.
Although there were no Rare-grade items, each of them still profited by around 300 Gold Derahls. Perhaps because the two had just struck their first deal, they felt closer to one another, albeit just a little.
After looting the chest, the half-elves went back to the flanks of the village and started killing some lizardmen to cover up their previous actions. They did not jump right into the heat of things though and simply cleaned up the as-yet untouched monsters on the sides.
Soran observed the Whiterun soldiers fighting while he killed more lizardmen for Slaughter EXP. Around half of the soldiers had the skill Combat Expertise, a counter-attacking ability used mostly by warriors with defensive fighting styles. It allowed the user to proficiently defend with a shield while counter-attacking with medium-sized weapons such a shortswords. By having Improved Combat Expertise, like Captain Hanks, users would be able to counter-attack using long and large-sized weapons as well.
Soran shot the dispersed lizardmen one by one. Adult non-combatants only gave 100 Slaughter EXP, while the elderly and the children were worth only 30 to 50 EXP each. Even so, he showed no sympathy to those monsters. He had been there when they slaughtered the villagers, giving him one more reason to mercilessly destroy them, though it wasn’t like he needed such a reason to kill monsters in the first place. In just a short while, over a dozen lizardmen had died at Soran's hands. The main battle was over, and some lizardman warriors surrendered out of despair. However, they were only rewarded with a shortsword through their hearts; the city had no plans of taking captives.
In some coastal cities, they would take monsters as captives and make them fight in arenas, but Whiterun had no such practices. When dealing with monsters that surrendered, the soldiers would simply kill them. It was a tradition among the city’s guards passed down from olden times. As a city that strived to survive even when surrounded by various monsters, there were some important traditions which could not be forgotten, and this was one of them.
Defeating the lizardmen's main force took only half an hour, but sweeping the battlefield and searching for loot took a lot longer. Although most lizardman warriors had been killed, around one third of them still managed to escape. After learning such a painful lesson, they would not be back for at least three to five years. Even if they were, it would only be for small-scale raids.
"Captain!" A soldier kicked opened a door and shouted, "There's a warehouse over here!"
Hanks pulled out his blood-stained sword as he walked over. He looked around the place and said, "They probably got the stuff from the village. These villagers... living in the wilderness to avoid taxes just to end up losing their lives. How stupid!"
Apparently Hanks thought that the original villagers had all been slain and eaten by the lizardmen. There were plenty of food and crops inside the warehouse. If the villagers had moved in advance, they would never have left behind so much food. From the look of things, the villagers had either moved away hurriedly, leaving them with no time to transport their stock of food, or they simply got slaughtered by the lizardmen. Soran felt that it was the former, because anyone with a clear mind would not stay behind after getting raided and nearly annihilated. Perhaps the lizardmen raided the village again after he had left, making the villagers evacuate with haste, even leaving behind their precious food. After all, the lizardmen had just been scared away by Soran's magic that night. They still retained a large portion of their combat force after the night raid; that was pretty apparent when looking at the massive amount of dead bodies now filling the village.
There was still sparse fighting occurring in the village. The soldiers split into groups of three to search the houses for loot, with two looking for items while the remaining one stayed on guard. Back at the rear, the wizard had already stowed away his golem. These golems produced through alchemy ate through energy at terrifying rates, which was why they were only used as main combat forces in wizard towers. If mobilizing an army burnt through coins, then sending out golems burnt through gems. Due to the loss of golem technology through the passage of time, the price of using alchemical golems was rather high, and they remained stored away and idle most of the time. They adhered to Alchemy's First Law of Equivalent Exchange; to mobilize golems that had large mass and size, plenty of resources were required.
The soldiers gathered all sorts of loot from within the village. According to the unwritten rule among the army, they could keep half of everything they found, and they would have to hand the rest to the higher-ups. Hanks looked through the items, then removed some to form three portions: one each for Soran, Yarse, and the gray-robed wizard. The three naturally received their portions and stowed the items away. Hanks kept another fraction of the remaining items to hand over to the city, then distributed the rest back to the soldiers. It was sort of like a bonus on top of their standard salary.
"The battle is over. You have improved your skills in battle and learned skills from observing others fight!"
"Parry +5, Block +1."
"You have gained a slight understanding of the ability Combat Expertise."
A Combat Ability alert?!
Soran startled upon observing the notification. Despite being a relatively basic defensive ability, it should not have been so easy to get its ability alert.
Was it because I have Able Learner?
Soran tried recalling the battle, and found that he really could remember some of the counter-attacking techniques the soldiers had used.
Combat Expertise was an ability which could be obtained through normal training. Its effect was to allow the user to defend and counter-attack more proficiently. Through blocking and parrying, the user could divert an enemy’s attack and create an opening, then retaliate by making use of the force from the previously received attack. This ability had a prerequisite of having 100 points in both Block and Parry, because simply knowing the techniques did not mean one could effectively use them in battle. There was a similar ability, namely Two-Weapon Defense, which had a higher requirement of 150 in both Block and Parry due to it being more advanced.
There's no time to train Block. It'll have to wait, I suppose.
Soran looked at the soldiers, then nodded at Yarse who was standing not too far away. The two turned to leave.
Judging from their current pace, they would be near the ogres' territory tomorrow. The battle at the plains was the key to the whole situation; the roads would only be re-opened after expelling the ogres. It would be a battle where two forces went head-to-head, and even adventurers had to cover the army in such a large-scale battle.
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