Oukoku e Tsuzuku Michi

Ofuro Ashitsubo

Chapter 407

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Translator: Nat

–Aegir POV–

On the North Teries River.

The creaking sound of rowing oars can be heard going at a steady pace.

Inside the narrow boat, I lay on my back with my hands behind my head.

There's nothing for me to do at the moment other than to relax.

Meanwhile, Celia seemed to get annoyed beside me every time the creaking sound was made.

「……can't you row any quieter?」

She speaks out and glares at Yakov when she could no longer take it.

「Anymore is impossible. This is already quite subdued as it is…… and look how far we have drifted from where we planned.」

Yakov turns to me with a troubled expression.

「This is fine. If we go too far downstream, we would have to walk a longer distance and that's more dangerous.」

After I said that, relief washes over Yakov's face and he nods to the oarsman.

Celia stands up feeling dissatisfied and starts rocking the one-person wide boat back and forth.

「You don't have to worry about the little things. You're nervous, so that's why it sounds louder than it is.」

I grab Celia and close her mouth, as well as shut my own mouth.

The sound of the oars certainly resound clearly, but the sound of water is also loud.

Since we're surrounded by the endless sound of flowing water, the oars could not really be heard unless you were right next to the boat.

「It shouldn't be that simple to find――」

Several of the rowers raised their heads just when the sentence began.

「Look. The general is hugging that girl.」

「He's gonna start pumping soon!」

「That'd be nice! If I hear the moan of a girl as beautiful as her, my morale and 'that place' would rise!」

I hide Celia as she bares her canines.

「……only if there are no unnecessary comments!」

I kick one of the rowers.

After the soldier lets out a stifled groan, he silently resumes rowing hard.

「You’ve failed to educate them. They’re too vulgar.」

Celia slaps Yakov again and again.

Yakov smiles wryly while the soldiers hold back laughter.

We are currently crossing the North Teries river.

Although that doesn’t mean we will be doing a reverse landing.

For our operation this time, we need to first learn everything about the Meldora fleet.

This was the view agreed upon by Leopolt, Tristan and Ivanna.

However, the enemy fleet was on the opposite coast and we couldn’t send scouts that easily.

There was no place on our side where we could confirm their presence and we don’t know their exact location.

That’s why a small squadron needed to be sent across the river in extreme secrecy to the port city where the enemy fleet was thought to be.

According to Leopolt, the optimal number of soldiers was 100, where any less would result in a low possibility of returning home alive if discovered by the enemy’s patrol and any more would dull movements, making us susceptible to being intercepted.

And so, we decided on that precise amount.

After dividing into ten small boats, we set out on the North Teries, heading toward the west coast in the dead of night.

「Even if you needed 100, you didn’t have to select 100 from the 105th division though.」

Celia complains as she hits Yakov in the stomach.

「Well, the thing is……」

Honestly, I didn’t think the rowdy 105th were appropriate for the job either.

Unfortunately, there was no other choice.

Aless soldiers were ruled out from the beginning.

They are ten times louder than the 105th and won’t know how to execute an infiltration operation.

A group of orcs would be better than them.

「……and I could see a future where ‘that guy’ would shout “silence men!!” and reveal our position to the enemy.」

Bringing those guys with such noticeable presences prevents us from doing a successful reconnaissance.

The mountain nation turned into bow cavalry were not good either.

Leaving aside the fact that they could not take their horses, most of them have never seen a river before.

They would likely sink if thrown into the water or get severely seasick.

It’s a shame I couldn’t utilize their small frames and bowmans.h.i.+p, but their poor compatibility with water is too much of a hinderance.

I really struggled to decide on whether or not I should take the navy soldiers of Ivanna’s fleet.

Their expertise in boat operation is indispensable and losing them would render our new fleet useless, so I ultimately chose not to.

Right now, one navy soldier is riding each boat and handling it for us.

The precious vampire unit finds running water to be problematic.

Brynhildr can manage, but the other vampires consider it on the same level as sunlight, which means they couldn’t come.

In the end, I had to choose between my army or the 105th.

If I add in the requirements of being able to move in small numbers and having the skill to operate boats, I went with the 105th.

「What I am most confused about is why Aegir-sama is here though.」

「If we are restricted to a small group, isn’t it better to have stronger individuals?」

Besides, this operation isn’t a completely covert one.

It’s probably better if we aren’t found out, but there is a possibility of small skirmishes after we land in the port city.

「Man, I was really surprised. The general was on board right when we were about to depart!」

「Don’t speak so loud! ……it was the right move to follow Aegir-sama’s presence after all.」

Fufufu, Ivanna or Leopolt would never expect me to partic.i.p.ate.

「I think that’s a bad thing, but there’s nothing they can do at this point. I will protect you even if it costs my life!」

As Celia puffs her chest out, I seal her mouth.

You shouldn’t shout either.

「That person is here as well.」

I look at the other end of the boat.

There, Annette is sitting at the stern.

「We finally reunited so you can't leave me right away. Take me with you wherever you go.」

Being a former pirate, the rocking boat has no effect on her.

More importantly――

「It's red, huh?」

「Yeah, it's digging in quite a lot too.」

「……」

Annette's legs are open, revealing her underwear for everybody to see.

Of course, the other soldiers have been staring at her crotch this entire time.

「Aah, I can't take it…… I want to suck on her through her underwear!」

「Right, right. Stop with the idle chatter and focus on rowing. Don't let go of the oars.」

Annette isn't fazed despite the vulgar jeering.

「What a lewd crotch…… let me do you once after the fight.」

「I'm his woman. If you get permission from him, I'll let you do it as much as you want.」

I'll throw you overboard if you try to ask me.

「So indecent……」

Celia couldn't hold it anymore from that exchange and pounds Yakov in the back with her fists.

The soldier standing at the bow bangs on the side of the boat.

That's the signal to indicate we're getting closer to the coast.

「Everyone, get ready to land.」

I look away from Annette's underwear and strain my eyes in a half-sitting position.

Since we picked a place without torches to land, we can't tell what's going on there.

For the navy soldier to be able to see us approaching the sh.o.r.e in the dark is very impressive.

At this time, even the members of the 105th knew not to say a word.

And then――

There was a thump sound like the bottom of the boat hit something.

「Alright, get off. Everyone, get off!」

「Don't dawdle! Get off within 30 seconds!」

I jump off the boat too.

There was a splash when I landed, although the water only reaches up to my s.h.i.+ns.

When all of us were out of the small boats, the sailors turned around the bows in the opposite direction.

「……they're going to go back and drink, huh? How nice.」

One of the soldiers from the 105th mumbles.

We can't leave the boats where they are, otherwise our operation and numbers would be found out.

「General, disembarkation is complete. Everyone is accounted for.」

「Alright, we're leaving the sh.o.r.e.」

Although the enemy shouldn't be keeping watch over the entire beach, there's no reason for us to linger in a place with such an un.o.bstructed view.

Our footsteps crunch on the sand and rampantly growing seaweed.

Celia walks with large strides so as to not fall behind, but then stops suddenly, grabbing my sleeve to get my attention.

「Aegir-sama……」

I let out a soft "shh" as soon as Celia whispers to me.

All the members of the 105 instantly stop moving and crouch down.

Everyone either puts their hands on the handle of their swords, tightens the grip on their spears or readies their crossbows.

「……」

n.o.body uttered a word.

No sound could be heard around us.

Ten seconds went by, then twenty seconds, and we still remained motionless like statues.

「Did you mishear?」

Yakov asks in a barely audible voice.

「No, something is there.」

I've been with Celia long enough to distinguish when she is being paranoid and when she actually senses something.

There is something there without a doubt.

However, I don't hear any sounds of armor sc.r.a.ping or rustling of gra.s.s, no matter how much I strain my ears.

The silence seemed to last forever.

Then, the sound of seaweed being pushed apart could be heard.

「!!」

I send a sharp stare at Yakov to stop him from drawing his sword.

「That's not it.」

The sound of quick footsteps and rustling gra.s.s was moving towards us.

I shake my head when Yakov looks at me again.

That was when a leaping sound could be heard――

「「「Gishyaaa!!」」」

Along with a jarring shriek, a bunch of goblins jumped out of the gra.s.s.

The monsters, who held crude spears derived from sharpening wood and make-s.h.i.+ft hammers created from tying stones onto branches, pounced on us like they took us by surprise……

「Fireee!!」

A few goblins were killed instantly in midair by bolts.

「Got 'em!」

「Start cleaning them up! Light your torches!」

Yelling can be heard around us, erasing the silence like it never happened, and flames start appearing one after the other.

Of course, it wasn't us.

「Confirm your kills! Wipe out any survivors and chase those trying to escape!」

South Yuguria soldiers wielding crossbows and spears come running in.

I'd say there were around 100 of them, wearing the military uniform and armor I'm all too familiar with.

They were a mere 10 m away, close enough that we could see the expressions on the soldiers' faces.

If Celia didn't notice it and we went ten seconds further, I wonder what would have happened.

I silently tap Yakov's shoulder.

He nods and signals the other soldiers.

「Captain, about the enemies we killed……」

「Goblins…… only a few measly goblins!?」

The crossbowmen take aim at the illuminated enemies, moving as slow as snails.

「I-I was certain that I saw a light at the midpoint of the river. n.o.body aside from the enemy would be sailing in a small boat during nighttime……」

The spearmen get into a stance with their weapons at waist level and take a deep breath.

「I heard the noisemaker clatter! It can't just be goblins――wait.」

I inhale and draw my Dual Crater.

Its red glow seems more p.r.o.nounced when reflecting the light of the torches.

「Captain, there's a light……」

I shouted before the captain could respond.

「Attack――!」

「「「Uooooooh!!」」」

Crossbows were fired immediately when the order was given.

「E-enemy att―― ugyaa!」

「Stop looking around! Enemies are―― guwah!」

We had plenty of time to aim at the brightly-lit enemies and we were 10 m away.

n.o.body missed their mark under those conditions.

The same number of enemies fell as the number of bolts fired.

「Spear unit, go!」

A row of spearmen charged at the enemy without delay.

With how scattered and occupied the enemy soldiers were with looking for their defeated prey, there was no way they could react to the ambush from close range.

Even those who tried to run away could not escape the wall of spears and impaled or sent flying.

「Here we go!」

「Oh!」

「Yes!」

Yakov and Celia follow me and jump into the enemy's midst with our swords drawn.

「b.a.s.t.a.r.ds――!」

I'll take this guy out first.

My sword enters from the bottom through his side and slices upward to his chest.

「To think Goldonia would land――!」

The next enemy is saying something too.

I don't pay any attention and turn the blade of my raised sword around, bringing it down almost vertically through his shoulder all the way to his crotch.

I front kick the soldier's body before it splits apart to avoid the blood splatter.

「I'm not going to let you finish me off that easily!」

I grab the head of the spear thrust at me from the front.

「Hiih……」

I return the thrust with the b.u.t.t end of the enemy's spear, breaking his fighting spirit.

「Eei, get it together. There aren't very many of them! I will take out the enemy leader!」

The commander runs at me shouting.

With how big he was talking, his downward slash was fairly sharp.

「Maybe upper-middle?」

I use the stolen spear to block the sword.

He has some power and crushes the spear, not that I mind.

「Average strength, I guess.」

I toss the spear and disarm him without using the blade of the Dual Crater.

After spinning in the air, the enemy's sword lands at his feet.

「I haven't lost――」

He reaches his hand toward the fallen sword.

「That's the lowest of the low.」

The moment he grabs the hilt, my Dual Crater stabs him in the chest.

「Gah.」

「If you grabbed the one on your hip instead, we could have clashed one or two more times.」

The man falls over, blood gus.h.i.+ng out of his chest like a fountain.

Why did he even bother carrying two swords?

Now then, let's see how Celia and Annette are doing.

「Woah there.」

Annette moves left and right, evading the enemy's sword.

She lures the enemy to a place with bad footing and the enemy soldier is clearly uncomfortable.

「This woman, darting all over the place…… uwah!」

Stubbornly forcing his way forward, the enemy catches his foot in a puddle.

「Right, that's the end for you.」

Annette leaps into the chest of the stumbling enemy and stabs a dagger into the gap of his armor almost as if giving him a hug.

Rather than a powerful lunge, she targeted a vital organ with precision.

There is no hope for him to be saved.

「Yah!」

I hear Celia's high-pitched voice.

When I look over, I see her bend her body back and throw a short sword at the enemy.

Her opponent is a knight with high defenses and practically no gaps in his armor.

The sword Celia threw bounces off the knight's helmet.

Noticing Celia, the knight turns to face her.

「Hah, my steel armor won't be penetrated by a girl like―― gugh.」

A sword she threw with a slight delay accurately stabbed the enemy's right eye, defeating him after a low groan.

「d.a.m.n girl―― how dare you!!」

A different enemy approached her from the front, though she didn't panic, and simply switched to her one-handed sword.

「Yah!」

She takes on the enemy's sword head-on.

Sparks fly and light up Celia's cute face.

「Tch, pretty good!」

They clash a second and then a third time.

A rhythmic clanging resounded every time their swords collided.

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Although Celia is properly blocking the enemy's attacks, she is stepping back one step at a time, likely due to a lack of strength.

Celia and Yakov exchange looks.

「Well, I'm sure we'll figure something out.」

With that said, the impromptu strategy meeting ends.

We can't prepare for every possible risk before a mission.

We can only deal with it when it happens.

「Boss――!!」

「Don't call me boss.」

I lightly flick the forehead of the soldier who came running.

「So, what's wrong?」

「Enemy cavalry are headed this way on the road. They have roughly 200!」

The news quickly spread and stirred the soldiers.

「Will we fight? Or will we let them pa.s.s by?」

Yakov says.

Honestly, we don't have the option to fight.

A force of two hundred cavalry is formidable and it's impossible to completely annihilate them.

Even if we wipe them out, a thousand would come next.

The enemy cavalry are travelling along the road.

I don't think they'll find us if we hide in the obsolete temple, though there are the defeated enemy soldiers nearby to worry about.

If they patrol the area, we won't be able to move.

「I have a good idea!」

Celia shuffles down quickly after climbing up onto the roof of the temple to observe the enemy and promptly raises her hand.

「Leave it to me!」

Yakov and I look at each other.

Alright, why don't we let Celia handle it?

「Halt――!!」

Two soldiers of the 105th division cross their spears and block the path of the advancing enemy cavalry.

「――who the h.e.l.l are you……the South Yuguria army?」

「No s.h.i.+……Naturally. We're monitoring this road.」

The cavalry looked at each other and came to a stop.

They don't show any signs of attacking.

The armor was peeled off the enemy we defeated last night.

With that said, we didn't steal enough for all of us, instead we only took enough for the two soldiers in front and Celia.

「What's going on!? Why did you stop!?」

A man resembling a knight approaches from the rear.

He is probably the commander of this unit.

The strange thing is that their armor is different from the South Yuguria army I've seen.

It can't be because they're the western army, right?

「Lord Torrome! It's the South Yuguria army monitoring this road!」

「I said to call me Captain Torrome.」

As the soldier reports, the man named Torrome looks inquisitively at Celia.

I'm ready to jump out and save Celia if necessary.

「There's just the three of you?」

It's an appropriate question.

However, Celia remains calm and points at the temple where all of us are hidden.

「Of course not.」

Yakov and the others extend their arms out, only revealing their weapons.

Like this, the difference in military uniforms won't be discovered.

「There are about a hundred of us. If we station everyone out in the open like idiots, bandits will just go around.」

Celia answers like she's done this many times.

I can tell she's nervous, but she's putting on quite the act.

Nevertheless, Torrome is still cautious.

「We weren't informed of this when we departed though.」

How will she react this time?

If need be, I'll sacrifice Yakov and the 105th so I can pull Celia out of there.

「We received an urgent mission. A group of bandits attacked the coast guards. We were dispatched to handle them. Unfortunately, it appears they have already withdrawn.」

Celia points to the place where we fought earlier.

「It was there. It seems to be a rather large group of bandits.」

Torrome and his subordinates whisper softly about something.

「……so that was it after all. A riderless horse arrived in our garrison late at night. We were also planning to confirm the status of the camp.」

That was close.

I didn't think they would react so quickly. If we let them pa.s.s, we would have been in trouble.

「Since you arrived before us, may I ask if you've found any clues?」

Celia makes a face like she's thinking.

「There's no doubt that the attackers fled north. As you can see, we are merely infantry and determined that we could not pursue, thus decided to ensure the safety of the road by stationing here. With the speed of horses, I'm sure it's possible to catch up to them, so I ask that you please do so.」

After talking to his subordinates, Torrome gives the order.

「Alright men, spread out along the road and head north! Don't miss a single clue left by the attackers!」

「Ooh, Celia did well to deceive the enemy.」

「Very well done.」

I exchange a look of joy with Yakov.

Although there was no way he could hear our voice, Torrome stops as if he noticed something strange.

「……by the way――」

「It's Company Commander Celian.」

「We came straight here when the horse arrived at our camp and we realized the emergency situation. Where were you and your squad that allowed you to respond faster than us?」

Celia freezes.

「Not good. We might have to get everyone to charge……」

「General, please wait!」

Celia flinches, but instantly recovers, raising her eyes and furiously stomping on the ground once.

「If you did it thoroughly in the beginning, we wouldn't have to do these unnecessary things……」

When Celia steps forward, Torrome and his horse reel back.

「Are you, mere surrendered troops, suspecting us of the Empire's main army!?」

All of the enemy cavalry become stiff at the sudden loud voice.

「Are we supposed to notify you of our every location, when you were supposed to be ma.s.sacred, only to be granted mercy by Her Majesty Wilhelmina, which allowed you to be a part of the great Empire!?」

Celia's angry voice resounded.

Although she is a beautiful girl with a beautiful voice, her enraged tone gives off a certain impactful force.

It seems adorable to me though.

「N-no, that's not what I meant……」

「Then leave at once! Don't come back until you clean up the enemy…… got it!?」

The enemy cavalry hastily gallops off.

They'll be stuck searching for a nonexistent enemy now.

「Fuiiii……」

I embrace the fatigued Celia as she collapses.

「Good work, Celia. I'm proud of you.」

I squeeze her cheeks and rub her a.s.s as I praise her.

「How could you tell they were the surrendered troops?」

Celia answers as she melts in my arms.

「I remember seeing their uniform before. They belonged to the Magrado General Governorate.」

「You turned it around on him just from that?」

Celia replies in between the kisses I rain down all over her face.

「The deciding factor was how he referred to himself as Captain Torrome. He made sure to reject the t.i.tle of Lord as he was no longer allowed to be addressed as such and it would be trouble if that was heard in public……I believe. They would want to avoid a dispute from breaking out between the surrendered troops and the main army of South Yuguria, that's what I thought.」

I'm impressed how she could think clearly in that situation.

She deserves a good hair-ruffling after that.

「Uwaa! What are you doing, if you do it so much it's going to get all frizzy!」

Anyways, it's all due to Celia's efforts that we got through the predicament.

「Everything's fine now.」

I can say that with confidence.

「Yes, there's nothing more to fear.」

Celia also smiles.

「It's like we've already succeeded.」

Yakov adds.

Our reconnaissance operation will be smooth sailing from here.

Subordinates:

Celia (acting as a resourceful general), Yakov (vice chief)

Soldiers:

105th Division: 95

Current Location: North Teries West Coast

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