Oukoku e Tsuzuku Michi

Ofuro Ashitsubo

Chapter 408

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Translator: Nat

–Aegir POV–

I pop my head out of a bush.

「So this is the port city Hadgely…… I don't see a fleet there.」

Yakov peeks out beside me.

「Yes. Although the port itself is fairly large, there are only fis.h.i.+ng boats docked. People are leisurely tending to their nets.」

We have arrived at our first scouting destination.

Obviously, we are not standing out in the open and are looking down at the city from a hill.

We're far enough that my eyesight can not clearly make out every detail, but I should still be able to easily confirm the presence of large combat s.h.i.+ps.

「There are also not many places we can't see from this――」「You're in the way!」 「Gueh.」

Yakov groans as he withdraws into the bush, freeing up s.p.a.ce for Celia's head to pop out.

「If the enemy fleet was docked here, the fis.h.i.+ng boats would not be in the best spots of the harbor, plus the fis.h.i.+ng nets would not be able to be laid out with all the supplies needed by the navy. I think this port isn't being used.」

「You're right.」

Out of the five candidates, the first of three priority targets has just been ruled out.

It would have been nice to find them on the first try, but I knew it wasn't going to be that easy.

「Regardless…… it's peaceful here. It doesn't feel like an area conquered by brute force.」

From our vantage point, we can't find any smoldering fires or soldiers squirming about.

Aside from a few South Yuguria flags flying here and there, the city of Hadgely is rather calm.

「I don't see any traces of battle either…… Hadgely probably didn't put up much resistance.」

「The outcome was likely decided the moment the enemy landed on the west coast.」

I'm sure the inferiority in military strength played a part, but more importantly, Goldonia didn't have any combat s.h.i.+ps, making it impossible to evacuate a large amount of soldiers.

Not being able to retreat is enough to crush the morale of the soldiers.

「There's also that……」

Celia ponders something.

She looked extremely cute when she did so with just her head sticking out of the bush.

「Magrado was a region who resisted heavily after being occupied.」

「Yeah. They really gave us a hard time.」

I don't have pleasant memories of this place.

「That's why the King separated them by area…… the General Governorate, the force which was given hospitable treatment, and the force which was given cold treatment.」

「I think Erich told me that before.」

I don't remember much, but since Celia is so cute, I'll listen some more.

「Splitting up the local powers into two and pitting them against each other might have been a fine method for the ruling party to control them…… but that would mean they have no sense of unity for when an enemy attacks.」

「Sounds right to me.」

Let us name the two opposing powers as 'A' and 'B' and the ruling General Governorate as 'C'.

The composition is such that A, as the proxy of the overwhelming power C, uses their backing to treat B cruelly.

Rather than the absolute power C, B forms a grudge against A, the one directly ruling over them, and resists.

A, annoyed that B is not obeying, also oppresses with more power.

Meanwhile, C stands on top, ruling over the feuding A and B…… that's what the current scenario is like.

What would happen if D, a greater power than C, comes along?

B would unconditionally surrender to D.

If C loses, B would definitely get their revenge on A.

Seeing the potential situation, A would also turn to the new ruler, D, and try to curry favor with them.

「It's a reasonable plan to rule, however, the presence of a foreign enemy would turn it into a house built on sand…… right?」

「Yes.」

Celia has become really clever.

The way she spoke just now resembled the way Leopolt speaks though.

I want her to stay cute.

「It seems those wearing the armor of the General Governorate are cooperating at least.」

Yakov pokes his head out of the bush on the other side.

「Because of Zilclearblue, the General Governorate was not monolithic.」

If he didn't fall from his position, he would have kept everything together for better or for worse.

「The more you think about it, the more you see how badly timed the invasion was. It was bad luck.」

After that, Celia retracts her head back into the bush.

「General, let's move to the next spot.」

「Yeah.」

There is no fleet here and it isn't functioning as a home port.

We should check the next location.

Nothing in particular happened on the way to the next city.

「Well, Aegir-sama was almost found……」

「Who knows what would have happened if the little miss didn't use her quick-wittedness.」

I let my guard down in a remote area and came across an enemy scout.

Although I tried to hide quickly in the gra.s.s, for some reason the scout stopped and walked straight in my direction.

Thinking I was in trouble, Celia partially stripped her clothes and covered me.

Within the gra.s.s, she kissed me and tangled her half-naked body around me, which when discovered, made the enemy scout leave with a sigh.

In any case, we reached the next city of Sooka.

「……this is.」

「How horrible.」

Sooka was partially destroyed.

Its walls were crumbling in various places and the feudal lord's residence, which was located in the center of town, was burning down.

Many other homes were on fire, falling apart, and it was uncertain whether even half of them were undamaged.

「It seems there were lords who resisted.」

「Were they extremely loyal or did they take things too far and forgot to withdraw?」

It's pointless to think about it now.

「So, is the fleet―― guess they aren't there.」

The harbor has burned down and turned into a pile of rubble.

It seems doubtful they would've docked here, much less resupplied or done repairs.

「This is the wrong place too.」

On to the next city.

「That was close!」

「General……」

「My bad.」

As we were making our way to the next city, we saw patrolling cavalry and hid ourselves in a wetland.

The enemy didn't notice us and we thought they would pa.s.s us by, but one of them separated from the group and wandered around me for some reason.

Celia quickly threw a knife at a flock of waterfowl nearby and scared them into flying away.

The enemy soldier was shocked for an instant, chuckled after realizing what happened, and turned away.

「I don't remember making any blunders, so why are they coming to me every time?」

「Well, the general has a certain presence……」

「Aegir-sama is not suited for hiding. Even in the mansion, I can tell where you are for the most part.」

It might have been a mistake to go on this scouting mission.

It's a little late now, so I can only do my best.

If I recall, the next port city is Jannane.

We position ourselves on a nearby hill, but……

「I can't see anything.」

A fight did not seem to have occurred in Jannane and a st.u.r.dy wall surrounds the city up to the harbor.

「This is problematic.」

「According to Leopolt-san's instructions……」

Celia confirms the directions written on the map.

「That's the only place where we can get a clear view.」

A simple fort flying a South Yuguria flag on top was located in the spot where Celia pointed to.

It's not a place where we can simply walk in.

「It's safe to say that the enemy camp is there, so we need to infiltrate…… well that's what is written anyway.」

It's going to be risky.

「We can't go looking the way we are. We need to disguise ourselves.」

「Agreed.」

Yakov and I ponder possible options.

「What kind of disguise should we use?」

「Should we look like the general population and pretend to be a peddler?」

I glance at the 105th division soldiers.

「Aah d.a.m.n, I wanna go to a brothel.」

「I'm feeling more like booze than women right now. I wanna drink till I throw up…… and maybe grab the a.s.s of the lady at the bar.」

「Man, I wanna gamble so bad. I brought all of my pay with me and can't use it.」

「「「Women…… booze…… gambling……」」」

I shake my head silently.

「n.o.body's going to believe such boorish peddlers. One look and we'll be discovered.」

「Then…… what about troubadours?」

I glance back at the soldiers.

「Do you guys know any poetry or songs?」

「If it's a bar song, then―― Oh, we are the strongest, 105! We fight! We kill! We f――gueh!」

I kick the soldier and shut him up.

Vulgar laughter erupts around the agonizing man.

「It was meaningless to think.」

「Yeah, you're right.」

Is there a group these guys can disguise as?

Yakov and I rack our brains for answers.

We come to a conclusion at the same time.

「Brigands. These guys can masquerade as brigrands without looking unnatural.」

「With that decided, begin disguising yourselves, you guys!」

「「Uoooooh!!」」

After letting out a modest cheer, the soldiers dress loosely, dirty their hair and carry unsheathed swords.

In under a couple minutes, they just created a new group of brigands.

「Perfect. They're clearly brigands no matter how you look at them.」

「Yes General, n.o.body will think we're from the Federation army or the Goldonian army. This will work!」

The disguise is complete.

Now let's walk boldly into town and scout.

Celia grabs my hand as I stand up in high spirits.

She also kicks Yakov with all her might.

「If bandits approach the city, they'll get attacked. Let me handle it, Aegir-sama, please go rest.」

In the end, Celia took a few people with decent looks and infiltrated the city in disguise.

I was worried and offered to tag along, but she rejected me in an indirect yet polite way.

Celia returned safely a few hours later.

「If I begin with the conclusion, we just missed them. Apparently, there was a fleet here several days ago.」

「So we were a bit too late……」

We all slump our shoulders in disappointment.

「I did ask around town about the fleet…… but we can't go based off such uncertain information.」

「Yeah. There's no point in crossing the river unless we see the actual fleet.」

「Let's go to the next city.」

Celia removes her disguise and then takes out a knife.

「What are you going to do with the knife?」

「I'm going to kill an idiot. While I was questioning people, this guy went off on his own to the brothel.」

「b.a.s.t.a.r.d! Relieving himself alone!?」

「Unforgivable! Little miss, get 'em!」

Eei, what a noisy bunch.

「Celia, do it after we get back.」

Three out of the five candidates are misses…… so much for smooth sailing.

We couldn't find the enemy fleet in the fourth city, Calbri, either.

The result of Celia similarly asking around was that we learned the enemy fleet was also here and departed a few days ago.

As Leopolt predicted, the enemy had split up their fleet into different harbors and are now gathering them all in one place.

Finally, we arrive at the last scouting destination, the city of Tebia.

「In the end, the mission required us to take the maximum amount of time.」

Celia slumps over.

「It can't be helped.」

This isn't the worst situation.

Aside from the time we landed, we have yet to encounter the enemy.

In terms of a covert operation, that's very much a success and Celia's efforts were huge this time.

「You're the reason we got this far. You've really gotten clever.」

「Hahu, hauu.」

I squeeze and pull her face and cheeks.

She lets out happy sighs when I ma.s.sage her like that.

Celia's blissful expression didn't last long as she notices chuckling from Yakov and the others and quickly springs into action.

「W-we need to scout!」

Celia kicks Yakov in the s.h.i.+n before rapidly zooming ahead to lead the charge.

「Honestly speaking, I doubt the entire enemy fleet would be docked in Tebia though.」

Celia's shoulders drop a little more.

「……fumu.」

I look at the map once more.

Leopolt's notes included all the information before the start of battle at the very least.

According to that, Tebia is a well-known port city, although the size of its harbor is too small for a grand fleet to anchor at.

All five of the candidates were chosen for the excellent geographical features of the inlet harbors and the proximity to major cities.

We are careful not to expose ourselves as we scout Tebia.

「Mmm.」

「As expected…… they aren't there.」

Several small combat s.h.i.+ps are docked, but that can't really be called a fleet.

「Unfortunately, I guess this is all――」

Before I could finish, Celia notices something.

「Aegir-sama! There, look there!」

I follow her white, elegant finger and see many carts stopped in the city.

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「Looking closer, there are an abundance of laborers too! Loaded on the carts are…… it appears to be lumber!」

My eyes get drawn upstream, where several small boats float down.

Everyone sighs collectively and look away.

「Uuu, uuu, uuuu.」

Celia's small hope was crushed and she resumes her aimless pacing.

I grab the agonizing Celia's head and stop her.

「Aegir-sama…… maybe I was mis――」

Celia pauses when she looks at my face.

「No, you're right.」

Behind the small boats, a tiny dot emerges on the horizon.

Gradually, the dot gets bigger and I can eventually tell it was the mast of a s.h.i.+p.

Similar dots appear on either side, revealing small and large masts, and eventually the hulls.

「Enemy fleet arrived! Numbering 30…… 50…… greater than that――!!」

The excited lookout puts a hand over his mouth and holds back the volume of his shout.

「T-they came! They finally came!!」

Celia is excited to the point of tears.

「Make sure you count properly. If you get it wrong, I'll strangle you to death.」

There is no hurry as the enemy fleet slowly makes their way toward Tebia.

「10 large combat s.h.i.+ps…… 50 medium s.h.i.+ps…… 100 small s.h.i.+ps!」

「3 more at the tail end…… they're not the size of ordinary combat vessels! Battles.h.i.+ps. Three of them!」

「With these numbers, it's confirmed! This is the entire enemy fleet!!」

Celia is so excited that she starts hopping.

「Our mission is complete. We're withdrawing.」

There isn't any meaning to stay now that our objective has been reached.

Everyone nods contently.

「Boss――!」

The lookout on the tree shouts again.

「What? Is there more of the enemy fleet?」

「That's not it! O-on the west of the road――!!」

When I look on the road opposite to the river, a rank of troops dyed in red jumps into view.

「It's the enemy army! Numbers are over 5000, close to 1000 are heavy cavalry!」

「……」

Yakov and Annette look to me.

「…… this isn't good.」

No other words can describe this situation.

We're incapable of dealing with such a force right now.

「We have not necessarily been found out. They might simply be pa.s.sing through……」

As Celia said that, the gates of Tebia opened and the army entered the city.

In addition, several patrol squads split off from the main army and disperse all across the city.

「……」

Celia goes silent and looks downward.

「We'll hold off on retreating and wait until after night falls.」

Operating at night in an unfamiliar place is dangerous, but the number of eyes just increased by that much.

Leaving while the sun is still out is not a good idea.

Right now, we'll have to stay low on the ground like insects with bated breaths and――

「Hiih!?」

I notice the small shriek and immediately hold up my Dual Crater in a throwing stance.

The one who stood up was a young girl aged 14 or 15.

「A…… aaaah……」

She's wearing thick clothes meant for a hike to the mountains and the basket in her hands contain wild herbs.

So she went to pick edible plants…… the hill we are on is certainly a popular spot with no overgrown trees, but why are we so unlucky.

「Tch!」

A soldier lifts up his crossbow.

「Hiiiih!!」

The girl turns around and runs down the hill, and if we don't take care of her, our presence will definitely be exposed.

At this moment, a crossbow or my sword can still hit her for sure.

She screams and runs away.

The hand opposite to the one carrying the basket is pulling along a young girl…… who doesn't look older than ten years old.

I can't hurt them.

「……s.h.i.+t!!」

I curse as I stick my Dual Crater into the ground and also get the soldier to put away his crossbow.

「General!!」

「Get ready to retreat!」

How many minutes will it take the girl to reach the city, and then how many minutes will it take for a soldier to send a search party after listening to her?

I don't know, however, we should leave this place as soon as possible.

「Go down already.」

Fortunately, the sun is starting to set.

How many hours do we have though?

「Everyone has finished a.s.sembling. We can go――」

Yakov was interrupted by the sound of an alarm ringing in Tebia.

That was quick. The speed was not that of a little girl.

「She has impressive legs to get that far after coming here to pick herbs.」

I look up to the sky and smile.

Yakov and Celia turn pale though.

「General, our location has been compromised, but we have not been directly spotted by them. If we move to the opposite side of the hill where there are more trees, we can hide until night……」

I was about to nod in approval of Yakov's suggestion, except I shake my head the instant I look at Tebia.

「No, that won't work. We're going to run down the hill and try to get away somehow.」

「We'll be in plain view of the enemy!!」

I grab the back of Celia's collar and kick Yakov's a.s.s.

「Just get going! We don't have a second to waste!!」

The soldiers also scream when they look in the direction of Tebia.

「c.r.a.p!」

「Run away!」

A red smoke signal rises from Tebia and the three s.h.i.+ps turn.

「Enemy battles.h.i.+p is opening fire――!!」

A few seconds after the thunderous boom which sent vibrations down to my stomach, the top part of the hill we were on earlier exploded.

Seeing that as a signal, Tebia's gates open and the soldiers that we saw enter rush back out.

「Run, run――!!」

I protect Celia from the impact of the cannonball that landed close while racing down the hill like a rolling rock.

Subordinates:

Celia (runaway resourceful general), Yakov (runaway vice chief), Annette (healing the 105)

Soldiers:

105th Division: 95

Current Location: West Coast, Near Tebia

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