Oukoku e Tsuzuku Michi

Ofuro Ashitsubo

Chapter 448

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Chapter 448: 448

Trisnia – Former Royal Palace .

「――based on the results of the reconnaissance, there is no mistake that South Yuguria is starting to withdraw on all fronts . 」

「Reports indicate they are extremely sluggish, most likely due to their casualties in war and fatigue――」

「Abandoned siege weapons were discovered in a southern Trisnian village . 」

The commander and staff officers of the scouting team continue giving updates on the situation as the war council to reorganize the squad progresses .

「Fumu……」

Erich listens to everybody and consults with the adjutant beside him .

I also looked beside me where Leopolt happened to turn his head toward me at the exact time .

His cold eyes stared back as if to ask “what do you want?” deterring me from asking anything .

On my opposite side, Myla is sitting with her back straightened .

When our eyes meet, she starts to glance around nervously, conscious of how she’s being looked at .

Not paying attention to me, each captain of their squad opened their mouths .

「Considering the information, the enemy is only focused on retreating . We should pursue them immediately . 」

「But we’ll also be fighting another battle consecutively with less than optimal leaders.h.i.+p and our own losses to deal with . Shouldn’t we take this time to regroup and resupply?」

「The problem is how much damage the enemy took…… They might be pretending to be in total disarray while setting a trap . 」

「Haven’t you seen the number of enemy corpses piled up outside? There’s no way it’s a trap!」

I fold my arms and close my eyes, tuning out the argument gradually heating up .

It was so I could gather my thoughts, not because I’m feeling sleepy .

It’s drizzling outside again .

A fuzzy feeling wraps my entire body as the weak pounding of the rain slowly drowns out my thoughts――

「Hardlett!」

「Huh? I wasn’t sleeping!」

I jump out of my chair, knocking it over as I stand up .

When I stood up straight and opened my eyes fully, I found that only confused guards were looking at me .

Erich moved from his chair and toward the wall where a map was spread out .

「……you don’t have any objections either, right?」

「None . 」

I slowly turned my body to face him as I declared clearly .

If I replied vaguely, he’ll know I fell asleep .

「Alright, everyone can go prepare . We repelled the enemy’s attack . Conversely, that means that the enemy has the advantage here . Don’t get complacent!」

「「「Yessir!!」」」

I ensured the final reply was louder than anyone else .

I think I successfully fooled him .

「So, what sort of preparation should I do?」

I asked Leopolt .

He answers without a single change in his expression .

「Reorganization and resupplying are partially complete, yet a full-scale invasion into enemy territory in the south has been decided . I have opinions regarding each issue, but this is ultimately the king’s will . 」

Fumu, I think it’s fine . We can’t win if we don’t attack .

「The good news is that the enemy is moving slowly from the effects of their army being greatly damaged, and it looks like we can engage them in a field battle before they can return to Tortoent . 」

That’s desirable .

Since we still don’t know the truth of the durability of their walls, it’s better if we avoid a siege battle .

「The bad news is that the position of the enemy cavalry unit is unknown, and in addition, there are reports that the mysterious group of wagons flying the Meldora flag has joined up with the enemy army . 」

「Meldora? Oh, the city state with the fleet . Aren’t they just frightened n.o.bles and royalty who ran away?」

They’ll be crushed eventually, so we should ignore them and focus on South Yuguria right now .

「No, they have already completed their role, so I don’t think it makes sense for South Yuguria to accept them . However, we have to a.s.sume that there South Yuguria is allowing them to follow along for some reason . I cannot make an accurate a.s.sessment with the amount of information available, so we should act with more caution . 」

「Fumu . 」

I glance over at Tristan .

He’s sitting down with his head lowered, arms folded and totally unresponsive .

「Hey . 」

「Wah . 」

When I called out to him, he stumbled to his feet, knocking over his chair behind him .

It’s a sight I’ve seen somewhere before .

「Actually, I wasn’t sleeping like the Margrave was . Well, I admit it looks suspicious . Considering the information we have, there is absolutely something going on, except we can’t really make a move unless we have concrete proof . It’s quite cliche, but we can only try to be as alert and prudent as possible . 」

「In other words, it looks fishy, but nothing can be said for certain . Then we’ll have to adapt after whatever they’re planning happens . 」

An apt comparison would be taking a stroll at night with wolves waiting in the darkness . We don’t know where they’re hiding, however, if we stop moving, we won’t get anywhere .

All we can do is to walk with torches and kick their a.s.ses when they jump out .

「「「Understood . 」」」

Leopolt and Tristan, as well as Myla, acknowledged the imperative .

「Then, off we go . 」

I give the command while tying the loosened string of my armor .

At the same time, Myla and Leopolt shout out their own orders to mobilize the entire army .

Meanwhile, Erich also rallies his troops, and Trisnia is quickly wrapped up in hustle and bustle .

「I’m a.s.signing guards to watch over you! If you do anything strange, you’ll be beheaded on the spot!」

The ones Celia threatened violence at were Baroness Rukino Escaote, who escaped execution due to the trick I pulled, her son Seika, and the female follower of Maestus who was previously captured―― I think she said her name was Filis .

Leaving those individuals at the back where we can’t see them is worrisome, thus we’re taking them along .

By the way, I’m bringing Rukino and her son because I promised Erich I would take responsibility and look after them, not because I feel like f.u.c.king the mother again .

「Get moving! If you interfere with Aegir-sama, you’ll get it bad!」

Hating the idea of having enemies in our ranks, Celia slaps Filis’s a.s.s and shoves Rukino’s back .

Oops, Seika tripped because he was protesting .

That might be better treatment in front of the other soldiers though .

I verify that the escort unit has a.s.sembled before hopping on Schwartz and leaving the city .

Gido isn’t here yet . I wonder what’s keeping him .

Right after exiting the city walls, Gido rushes out from the barn of a nearby farmhouse .

「It’s time to sortie . Sorry, there’s no time for questions and answers, so I’m off!」

He hops onto his own horse, which was stopped next to the building, dons his armor on horseback, tightens his belt and gradually converges with me .

A young lady runs out of the shed after him hastily from behind a few seconds later .

Her clothes are disheveled, almost like she put them on in a hurry, her breathing is heavy, and her legs are wobbly .

「B-but I gave you my virginity and you won’t even tell me your name…… what will happen to me if I get pregnant…… uuuu . 」

She was likely a girl of a farming family, who after staring resentfully at Gido, slumped her shoulders and went back into her house .

「Sorry for keeping you waiting! Platoon captain of the escort unit, Gido, at your service!」

Myla and Celia stare daggers into the saluting Gido from close range .

What a hopeless guy, I don’t know who he takes after .

「Hey, Gido . 」

「Yes . What is it?」

I close my eyes and open them before turning to him with a serious expression .

「I know you’re feeling good right now . But, I’m getting a bad premonition . You should be more careful than usual this time around . Got it?」

「Understood, sir!」

Does he actually?

–Third Person POV–

Tortoent Outskirts . South Yuguria Army Temporary Headquarters .

「12th Independent Unit has reunited with the main army . Their losses…… roughly 60% . 」

「3rd Vanguard Unit and 5th Independent Unit has suffered too many casualties to continue functioning . They plan to join up and reorganize . 」

「We have not heard back from several units . Based on the situation, it’s safe to say the squads have dissolved . 」

South Yuguria headquarters is much more hectic compared to the Goldonian side in Trisnia .

That was obviously due to the tactical retreat South Yuguria was forced to execute, which happened locally before, but was a first on a strategic level .

Amidst the chaos, Wilhelmina sits quietly on her chair and casually places her hand on the armrest .

At first glance, she might seem calm, contrasting those around her, but her usual gentle smile was nonexistent .

Stepping in front of her is a young staff officer in charge of reporting .

「Our forces on all fronts have retreated and suffered great losses . Unfortunately, we can no longer hold the lines, let alone mount an offensive . The units with remaining soldiers are in no shape to fight and we’re at a point where we have more messed up squads than capable ones . 」

All south Yugurian armies aside from the core squads are basically routed……in other words, they’re running for their lives without following protocol and even headquarters is unable to determine the details of their current positions or their exact losses .

「Is that so?」

Wilhelmina didn’t seem fazed by the next-to-worst case scenario .

That slightly rea.s.sured the staff officer who worried she would lose her composure .

However, the worst was yet to come .

「――according to reports of soldiers and scouts, it was just confirmed that Commander of the western army, Acevedo, has died in battle . Out of the three initially formed armies, the only one left is Maestus’s army . 」

If Acevedo didn’t do anything to slow down the enemy, not only would headquarters be thoroughly pursued, the entire army would have possibly been annihilated .

「Is that so?」

Still, Wilhelmina didn’t seem bothered by the news, conversely causing the staff officer to be speechless .

「Where is the Supreme Commander?」

Wilhelmina asks a question this time .

「His Excellency Zaphnes is personally leading his army to the northern front to support the allies fleeing――the allies changing position . His Excellency Maestus is also accompanying him…… should I call him back?」

「No, it’s fine . 」

Wilhelmina rises to her feet and addresses one of the close aides waiting behind her .

「Did they make it in time?」

「Yes ma’am . The camouflage unit is in position . 」

The staff officer’s head tilts slightly to the side .

This ‘camouflage’ unit didn’t ring any bells .

Wilhelmina eyes another close aide .

「What about ‘that’ from Meldora?」

「It was close, but it came on time . It came with something unnecessary though . 」

The staff officer heard about Meldora before .

「Is this about the matter with the runaways from Meldora who met up midway?」

For the first time today, Wilhelmina showed her usual gentle smile .

「They are not runaways . They are important reinforcements willing to abandon their motherland to help us . 」

「R-reinforcements? Since losing their fleet, Meldora’s practically useless though . We should fabricate a reason to cut them off on the way―― my apologies . I overstepped my bounds . 」

Wilhelmina seals the staff officer’s lips with a smile .

She then looks off into the distance and talks to herself .

「That’s what I had intended, but something unexpected was picked up . Now, let’s see how Zaphnes will play it . 」

–Aegir POV–

Goldonian Army . Beginning of War, Near the Border .

「There is a destroyed signpost! The Libatis-Goldonia border is here! We finally crossed the border!」

Celia happily brings a fragment of the broken stone monument over to me .

This was expected since the enemy is retreating to the south, but I guess it has a pretty large meaning symbolically .

I lift up the fragment high in the air and shout .

「Hear that, everyone? We’ve crossed the border . We’ve been on the defensive this whole time, but now it’s time to turn the tables . Now, it’s our turn to kick their a.s.ses!」

The soldiers all cheered “Oooh!” response .

This is how it should be .

Rukino tries to fit in by also mouthing the “ooh”, but quickly gets stared at and shrinks .

「How dare a traitor act so shamelessly…… want me to punch you!?」

「Hey, stop it! Think about the reason she’s here on the battlefield . She’s cozying up to Lord Hardlett . 」

「Right, right, if you punch her, the captain’s gonna smash your face in . Acquittal by opening her legs? Keh!」

「Man, how envious . I want Lord Hardlett to love me night after night too . 」

As the soldiers gossip, Rukino gets smaller, while Seika tries to protect his mother .

They’ll have to endure this small trial . If the soldiers actually dealt physical damage, their faces would be gone like they said .

Other squads lined up also cheered similarly .

As I thought, the first crossing of the border is an easily distinguishable superiority .

It’s good that the soldiers’ morale has gone up .

「With that said, we’re entering enemy territory from this point onward . We don’t know where they could be hiding . Have scouts do a detailed search . 」

「Yes . We have deployed two scouting teams and sent a patrol team to do rounds on the perimeter of the main army! No enemy was found in the area, so I suspect they are regrouping to the north of Tortoent――」

It happened right when Myla began to explain .

「Enemy attack――!!」

Several dozens of arrows soared through the sky at the same time as the light cavalry yelled on the outer circle .

「Here already?」

I couldn’t help smiling at this perfect timing .

Leopolt and Celia glance over at Myla .

Sending out the scouts was her job apparently .

Some soldiers were late reacting to the surprise attack and fell, but judging from the number of arrows, the attack force is not a big one .

I strained my eyes in the direction of where the arrows were fired, and sure enough, I found a small group of 20 enemies hiding in the wheat field .

「b.a.s.t.a.r.ds! I’ll go!」

Myla, sensing that she lost face, spurs her horse and charges at the enemy .

The enemy was going to a.s.sault another group of nearby allies, but Myla led her troops to intercept and dispatch them before they could do so .

「What did they think would happen?」

There are tens of thousands of soldiers around me even if I just count the infantry alone .

A mere ten or a hundred soldiers are not going to be enough to take us down .

「They disguised as farmers . Perhaps they were sent as scouts and made a mistake . 」

Celia also doesn’t think much of the ambush .

「It certainly appears to be a pointless attack on its own . 」

Leopolt seems to have the same sentiment .

「Hmm, I have a bad feeling . Maybe this is…… something more . 」

Day After Crossing the Border .

「Ally squad resting in Temuro Village has been ambushed and is engaging the enemy of a few dozen strong!」

「Lord Moni’s scouting unit has been attacked on the hill! His younger brother Lord Muni has died in battle!」

「The Transport Corps has been sandwiched on the bridge! They have warded off the enemies on their own, but have suffered heavy losses!」

「The Aless soldiers were attacked while they were taking a nap! No casualties to report . 」

Messengers come running in rapid succession with new information . There is literally no time to even breathe .

「I expected to get attacked after stepping into enemy territory, but this is……」

「It’s ridiculous! What are the scouts doing!?」

Celia flares at Myla, who counters immediately .

「I sent a double-layered scouting party! However, the enemy didn’t hide in cover, they removed their military uniforms and pretended to be farmers . The scouts couldn’t see through that! When they approached the enemy to confirm, it was the scouting unit that suffered losses!」

Hearing that, Irijina also yells out angrily .

「Blending with the citizens is dirty! It’s not allowed!!」

Irijina is absolutely correct .

Hiding in fields or holes is one form of military tactic and not shameful at all, whereas wearing plain clothes and disguising as a regular citizen is taboo .

「They’re getting desperate . 」

South Yuguria had been using a straightforward frontal strategy until now, so something must have changed if they’re switching to a more tactical method .

This might be what they call a see-saw battle .

As we’re considering the possible scenarios, two farmers nearby suddenly take out crossbows from within their clothes and point them at me .

「All hail the South Yuguria Empire!! Die, Hardlett!!」

「Woah . 」

I lean my body backward and dodge the bolt fired at me .

I had a feeling something like this would happen and was prepared, so it was easy for me to react, plus their crossbows are of the smaller variety, and have a slower shooting speed .

Celia rushes out on her horse before I regain my balance .

She throws a knife at one of them, hitting him in the chest, and then following up with a swift slash to the neck .

As the other one turns to run, Irijina impales him in the back, knocking him down to the ground, and then gives a finis.h.i.+ng stab .

It’s rare for Irijina to attack so relentlessly . I guess she’s a little upset .

Honestly, I don’t know much about the knight’s code, so what they did is fair play by my books .

「What do you think?」

I ask Leopolt .

「The enemy has stationed their camouflaged soldiers all around the border area and appears to be mainly targeting our smaller units . 」

We already know they aren’t attacking the farmers themselves .

「What is their aim?」

These repeated attacks are just annoying and do little to diminish our main military strength .

「Forcing us to constantly stay alert and deteriorate our morale…… but I believe their primary objective is the transport corps . With all the attacks on the border, the transport corps is left vulnerable . If we a.s.sign guards, that would reduce our might on the front lines, delay the speed of our march and allow the enemy time to either retreat south of Tortoent or expand their defenses . 」

I see, they want to crush our supplies and buy time .

「If I may interject . 」

Tristan pops his head into our conversation .

He has a face that is more serious than I have ever seen .

「Leopolt is fundamentally correct in saying they are trying to slow us down by targeting our transport corps and smaller units…… however, I believe there might be an additional objective . A way more sinister one at that . 」

Tristan gives Celia a nervous glance .

「How do you think we should deal with this strategy? The scouts can’t tell the difference between the enemy and the citizens and if they try to get closer, they only get injured . 」

「Distribute crossbows to the scouting party and have them attack before getting ambushed . 」

Tristan nods .

「Then what if our transport corps gets attacked or they can’t move easily unless we escort them? Our front lines are running out of horse fodder, water and rations . What would you do?」

「It’s wartime so we’ll have to commandeer some from a nearby village . Fortunately, we have plenty of bountiful villages in the area . 」

Tristan thanks Celia for the model answers, which p.i.s.ses her off .

「It is as you heard . Now try to put yourself in the shoes of the peasants in the region . Not only do we attack them all of a sudden, we take supplies from them, just like an evil army . 」

Celia grumbles softly .

「Because we can’t distinguish between the disguised enemies and regular peasants, we have no choice but to indiscriminately attack all of them . If we do that, those regular peasants will ultimately turn on us and our situation will worsen . 」

That goes without saying . The camouflaged enemy is already giving us enough trouble, but if we also attack the normal citizens, we won’t be able to gather any supplies .

「Furthermore, if you think about it, this is former Libatis……in other words, this is where South Yuguria forcefully annexed and the people don’t have any sense of loyalty towards them . In reality, it’s not strange for entire villages to change sides in a disadvantageous situation . 」

Jim is still mad at South Yuguria after all .

「But if we attack indiscriminately, those feelings would be blown away . South Yuguria can gain the loyalty of the people in an area where we have to worry about rebellion . It’s clever and crafty . This is not a genuine military method…… it’s political and in a sense, close to being a kind of plot――」

Interrupting Tristan’s lengthy speech is a rather cheerful report from a messenger .

「Count Tedama’s cavalry unit attacked the village of Marocca! The hidden enemy soldiers were wiped out by the surprise attack!」

Unfortunately, we played right into the enemy’s hand .

Tristan sighs .

「To be frank, this is totally different than before . Ambushes were used to start the war for sure, but South Yuguria, at the very least, fought fairly on the battlefield . This particular method is too much of a contrast . I would have to guess that the person leading the army has changed . 」

As predicted by Tristan, the situation became more complicated .

Our supply units will be focused by the enemy and suffer big losses or will be rendered immovable while waiting for escorts .

Gradually, our pool of resources dries up and effects start to show in the speed of our march .

Ally squads, annoyed by the frequent guerilla tactics, resort to burning down villages suspected of housing disguised enemy soldiers .

By the time I reported Tristan’s thoughts to Erich, he had deduced the enemy’s intentions, but it was already too late .

With each pa.s.sing day, the attack force increases .

It’s hard to think of a large sum of new troops being deployed by the enemy, so the ordinary citizens must be voluntarily partic.i.p.ating .

And finally, Erich made a decision .

“Unfortunately, considering the frequent attacks and lack of supplies, it is impossible to reach Tortoent before the enemy army at our current pace . Thus, we will temporarily retreat close to the border, regroup and resume the march with more careful preparations――”

After the command circulated to everyone, I threw the piece of paper into the fire .

A soldier from my army lets out a sigh .

No complaints were expressed until now, but the decrease in morale was a natural result .

When a soldier of the 105th army grumbled, Yakov kicked his a.s.s to settle him down .

The Aless soldiers roared loudly as they did sit-ups out of anger .

「I guess that’s how it is . We’ll be withdrawing . 」

I stare north―― at the return path .

「What would you do if you were the enemy commander?」

I posed the question to Leopolt .

「This is a prime chance . I would take the available squads and set up on the escape route . 」

I thought he would say that .

Not to mention we don’t have a grasp on the enemy cavalry .

「Tristan, what about you?」

「I’d attack . This is their backyard, plus we are in retreat mode and our morale is low . If they don’t attack now, when will they?」

He thinks this as well .

Look, a single light cavalry is running toward us in the distance .

「E-enemy cavalry sighted, numbers in the tens of thousands!! To the rear, 4th division army has suffered major damage! The commander has died――!!」

Another messenger rides his horse over .

「A large army of enemy troops thought to have regrouped in the south have started advancing! They total approximately 70 000!」

「The enemy army is marching forward while gathering recruits from the villages!」

We’re pincered in the blink of an eye .

The delighted voices of the Aless soldiers are annoying .

「The rearguard fell apart pretty easily, huh?」

How unfortunate it is for the enemy attack to coincide with the collapse of an allied army .

It might have been due to the death of the commander .

「In any case, we have to get through this . We have to pick the front or the back . 」

We don’t have to panic here .

Although we are sandwiched, we’re still an army of 130 000 strong .

The enemy cavalry is around 20-30 thousand and the enemy in front of us is 70 000, so they’re not going to overpower us .

「If we look at it the other way, the enemy’s trick will lose meaning if we can defeat their main force here . 」

Myla pumps herself up .

She’s right .

The enemy might see a potential opening, but they’re still exhausted and recovering from the routing in Trisnia . This is not a battle where we’d normally lose .

「Front or back?」

「It would have to be the main army in front . The enemy cavalry’s aim is to disrupt us from behind . Rather than chasing them fruitlessly, it would be faster to fight the main force . 」

Then let us proceed with that―― no wait, we’re retreating, so I guess this would be us standing our ground .

Then, the enemy’s main force appeared .

「Fumu, looks normal . 」

They aren’t in a particularly odd formation .

It is a pretty standard march with the army somewhat spread out .

「They seem a little messy to me . I think they recruited some of the villagers into their army along the way . 」

Certainly, I can’t say their formation is very neat .

It’s a basic line formation with disorganized spots here and there……that’s probably the most appropriate description .

They were also likely in the middle of rea.s.sembling their army as well, as the varying colors of helmets among soldiers in the same unit is quite outstanding .

I’m impressed they could mount any kind of offensive in such a state . Aren’t they being too reckless?

We respond with a relatively cleaner horizontal line formation .

The squad I’m commanding is facing the enemy’s left wing, while the Royal army is facing the right wing .

There’s roughly 80 000 enemy forces―― the difference most likely coming from the recruited citizens .

My squad totals around 50 000 and similarly the Royal army also totals 50 000 for a sum that is slightly more than the opponent .

The remaining 30 000 will engage with the cavalry unit to the rear .

「The distance is closing . 」

Both sides slowly move toward each other .

「Cannons, fire . 」

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20 field artillery shoots from behind the vanguard .

「Tell Erich that we’re retreating . Well, I’m sure he’ll also send word anyways!」

Having said that, I see someone in the corner of my eye .

「That idiot……」

I couldn’t hold my voice back .

It was Gido .

Luckily, it doesn’t look like he was. .h.i.t by the big thing, but he’s slumped over on the ground, dumbfounded, likely from being flung off his horse .

And then a loud chorus of war cries was let out by the enemy .

I guess they chose to charge at us collectively .

「Prepare to defend while we retreat . Don’t show them any openings and don’t stop moving!」

I mount Schwartz and step out in front .

Seeing how far Gido is in the enemy lines, I don’t see how he’s going to make it out in time, especially when he’s like that .

「Ah…… ah……」

Gido blankly points his sword at the dozens of cavalry charging at him .

「Go forth! Defeat the enemy!!」

「Eeei, out of the way, youngster!!」

Gido manages to block the first spear, but gets cut in the shoulder by the next one, staggers and gets knocked aside by the running horses . After he fell, another spear pierced his back, causing him to lay flat and thus get trampled by the countless hooves .

If you ask me, it was like he wanted to die .

However, I’ll at least――

「Recover your corpse . 」

I charge straight at the enemy cavalry .

「Here comes another single rider! There are many idiots in Goldonia!!」

「No wait――that’s-……!?」

「Dispose of it properly . 」

Before the enemy soldier could finish his sentence, my sword plunges into his shoulder .

Slas.h.i.+ng his shoulder is somewhat too kind, so I take away his entire shoulder along with everything above his neck as well .

「Dem――」

My sword sticks into the next man’s mouth without letting him complete his words and slices off the part of his face above his upper jaw .

「You are the sworn enemy of the Empire!」

「Move . 」

I swing my Dual Crater with all my might to meet the next enemy’s sword .

When our weapons clash, his sword bends like wire until the blade snaps into his body through his armor .

「Kyuhu!」

The death cry was so weird that I turned to look in the instant I pa.s.sed by him and saw blood spout from the faces of the enemy soldiers――it was like a fountain of blood shooting up from inside their bodies――meaning instant death .

In the span of a few seconds, I already killed three soldiers, which gave me enough of an opening to run through and pull the fallen Gido by the hand up onto my horse .

「This is brutal . Is he still alive?」

I don’t get a response .

His entire body is bruised from all the pounding he suffered and both his legs seem to be fractured .

His stomach was also stepped on as blood and foam is dripping from his mouth, which is a sign of possible trauma to his internal organs .

But, his heart is still beating and he is still breathing .

「Alright, I’ll bring you back . You better be grateful . 」

Hanging on to his left arm, I carry Gido and run back to camp .

「Start it up――!! The enemy isn’t in range? The demon is over there! If we can kill him, that’s as good as a win! Bombard him with everything!!」

I feel a bizarre presence behind me .

When I turn backwards, I see red lights in the air heading my way .

Don’t tell me they fired that thing of theirs just for me .

「Dammit it all!!」

With my left hand occupied, I have to wield my Dual Crater with only my right hand .

I know from seeing it previously that these red lights split apart in midair .

With a soft boom, the red lights do just that .

「A bunch of fireb.a.l.l.s are going to fly at me, right!!?」

There are at least a hundred……from a rough estimate .

It’s useless trying to predict where they’ll go . I just have to knock down whatever comes at me .

I stop thinking and simply swing my Dual Crater .

However, the fireball will explode .

I have to prepare myself to be covered in flames and be careful not to let Schwartz go down .

「If I come out of this alive, this guy better let me taste his wife . 」

I distract myself with pointless thoughts as I strike down the first light .

「Hm?」

The orb makes a noise like gla.s.s shattering when I cut through and vanishes without a trace .

That’s different than the explosion I expected

「It disappeared because of the Dual Crater? Is it some kind of magic then?」

I have doubts about the true ident.i.ty of these lights, but I don’t have time to think deeply .

My priority is to slice the closest fireb.a.l.l.s .

I cut down the fifth, then the sixth, and then a burst of hot air blew at my face from the side .

It was from the explosion of a fireball that landed out of my reach .

「I get it, they’re more troublesome if they land close to you than directly on you!」

Despite my frustration, my hand doesn’t stop swinging .

If I mess up once, it’s all over .

Fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen . And then, I hear a voice speak to me .

(Magic of a high purity . It’s really getting me riled up . Ooooh . )

The Dual Crater glows red and then a deeper crimson color .

It was when I intercepted the next fireball that something incredible happened .

「Guoh!?」

A brilliant light not any less inferior to the one from the enemy’s weapon emanates from the Dual Crater .

At the same time, I feel something shoot out of the sword with a tremendous force .

A giant boom sends vibrations through my chest, and when I look up, all the fireb.a.l.l.s in the sky explode .

Not long later, the blue sky is dyed red momentarily, eventually returning to its original state without leaving behind any burning cinders .

「The sky……is on fire . Is this……a sight from this world?」

「What are we looking at?」

Soldiers on both sides stare at the sky in amazement .

In the meantime, I jump into ally lines .

Of course, Celia gets upset at me for acting rashly, but Gido’s life comes first right now .

To be prioritizing Gido over Celia, I don’t know if this will be the last time .

「Continue the retreat . Also, call a doctor to check on him, even though it might not matter . 」

「Right away…… this is…… brutal . 」

Gido is taken away .

He had already lost consciousness a while ago .

I finally have time to take a look at the bigger picture .

My own unit did not suffer many casualties .

The enemy’s unknown weapon is strong, but not enough to obliterate an entire squad with one shot .

On the other hand, the Royal army had a fair amount of losses and more importantly had their fighting spirit broken .

Meanwhile, the enemy’s pursuit has slowed .

It seems the enemy soldiers are hesitating, so we can easily escape safely .

I think the last party trick I did was effective, although I don’t have a clue about the secret behind it .

Schwartz suddenly shakes his head like he’s irritated by something .

I check on him and see something black tangled in his mane .

When I laid it in my hand to take a look, I found that it had a string-like appearance and a charcoal texture .

Is it a fragment from the fireb.a.l.l.s? I thought those things disappeared like gla.s.s .

I guess this is a nice clue .

「Tristan . 」

「Yes, yes?」

I toss the mysterious item at Tristan .

「I’m dismissing you from the position of staff officer starting now . 」

「Haa, that’s quite sudden . Well, it’s not like I wanted my position in the first place . 」

I point my Dual Crater, whose red color is gradually fading away, at the enemy’s unknown weapon .

「You will focus on figuring out what that thing is . I will allow whatever you need . 」

「Uwah! Another bothersome task……or so I want to say, but I’m actually personally interested in finding out about what it is too . I’ll give it a try . 」

We can’t do anything until we determine its ident.i.ty .

This might also possibly reveal the secret behind the excessively durable walls .

「――Gido . 」

Luna mutters bitterly .

It would be nice if he’s alright too .

――The Next Day .

When I exited the carriage where Gido was being treated, Luna, Myla and Celia snuck up beside me .

「……how is Gido doing?」

I slowly shake my head in response to Luna .

Luna droops her head with tears welling in her eyes, Myla grits her teeth, and Celia silently closes her eyes .

「Gido―― is dead . Well, technically he’s alive . But…… he’s no longer a man . 」

Protagonist: Aegir Hardlett . 25 years old . Summer .

Army – Border Area

Under Protagonist: Approximately 30 000

Escort Unit: 55

Infantry: 4100

Cavalry: 610

Archers: 610

Cannoneers: 380

Bow Cavalry: 6600

Independent Celia Squad: 400

Conscripts + Security Unit: 16 000

Cannons: 40, Large Cannons: 23, Dwarven Cannons: 16, Field Artillery: 20, Chariots: 45

Reinforcements / Allied Forces

Aless Soldiers: 13900

105 Army Corps: 3300

Fleet

Battles.h.i.+p Suvorov, Battles.h.i.+p Aless of Aless, and others: All grounded .

Transport s.h.i.+ps: 20

Ally Forces: Frontal Warfront – Royal Army: 40 000

Conscripts: 25 000

Enemy Force

Frontal Warfront – Regular Soldiers: 2・50 000

Conscripts: 50 000

Cavalry Army: 25 000 ???

Unknown Weapons: Large: 5, Small: 10

Magrado Local Army: disorganized .

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