This week’s chapter~! I hope you enjoy! XD
Does anyone else feel like the MC we are reading about right now, is different than the one we started with XD?
Chapter 2, Episode 19: Night Assault
Strong, cold winds roar like howling beasts as they shake up a tent. Hiro could feel the temperature dropping on his skin. Thinking the cold air might feel nice, he grabbed 「Camellia’s」 collar and lifted it up over his head.
Then, a man was brought over to him. His armor resembled that of the Fourth Imperial Army, but it was something completely different. It was an elaborate imitation. If it was daytime, you would be able to notice some odd parts, but you couldn’t make any distinctions with the sun having set.
「You’re a spy of the Lichtein Dukedom, aren’t you?」
The man didn’t answer Hiro’s question, but the soldier beside him nodded.
He puts his elbows on his chair and rests his chin on his hands.
Hiro carefully observed the man. Based on his attitude, he could tell the man had the resolve to face death— There was a profound look in his expression.
「From what I can see, you’ve pledged an oath of allegiance to the Lichtein Dukedom, haven’t you?」
There was a pile of bags sitting on a table. He took one of them and showed it to the man.
「There are Grantz gold coins in this bag. You wouldn’t have to work for three years.」
「I don’t want you to misunderstand so I’ll say this. This isn’t a bribe. I just wanted to reward you for your loyalty.」
Hiro threw the bag and it hit the man’s chest. The coins make a loud noise and scatter onto the ground.
「Take that and go back to make your report. And I want you to give my regards to the general there.」
Hiro stood from his chair as his smile broadened. He approached the spy and put his hand on his shoulder.
「But having said that… I doubt you’ll just say yes and go off on your way, so I’ll give you some information, too. There’s no need for you to go out of your way to investigate the Fourth Imperial Army’s encampment. I’ll tell you what you want to know.」
「… What are you plotting?」
「It’s up to you whether you believe me or not. Do whatever you want.」
Hiro sits down on the spot. Then he opened his mouth.
「We’re going to make a night assault now. That’s what the 1,500 camel cavalrymen outside are for. Also, the Fourth Imperial Army is more fatigued than I thought. If we were attacked during the night, I don’t think we’d be able to fight. That’s why our security is tight… That’s actually just for show. The men are resting. And we’ve allowed them a bit of alcohol to raise morale.」
Hiro picked up each Grantz gold coin and put them back into the bag in front of the befuddled spy. Then, he stood up and looked down on him.
「When you make your report, make sure you don’t mention that you heard this from me.」
Hiro stuffed the bag into the spy’s breast pocket and sat back in his chair.
「Please release him.」
After he gave the order, the soldier spoke up with a surprised look on his face.
「A-Are you sure? If we kill him here…」
「It’s fine. I won’t allow you to lay a hand on him even if I’m not looking. Please escort him outside our encampment.」
The soldier bowed, told the spy to follow him, then took him outside.
Hiro sinks into his chair and waits for the next spy to come.
「What might you be plotting?」
The man who appeared without so much as a sound was the staff officer who was shunned by General Kielo— Second grade enlisted officer, Doryx.
Hiro glanced at him from the side with his eye steeped in suspicion. It’s a bit difficult to comprehend why a staff officer would have this ability to erase their presence and lurk in the corners of a tent.
More so than anything, he’s too loyal. He acts on Hiro’s words without a shred of doubt. Even if you say this was because Hiro was a descendant of the Second Emperor, it’s still enough to be considered abnormal.
But Hiro answered him without revealing the suspicion he held inside.
「It would be difficult to bribe that spy. But it would also be a waste to kill him.」
「I don’t think it would necessarily be a problem if we killed him… We still have three others captured.」
「That would mean less spies. For that General Ranquil to believe their reports, it’s better to have more of them.」
「Hmm… But what will happen once he believes them? He may see this as a fine opportunity to attack.」
「We’ve made preparations for that, so we need him to attack. This is why I have to tell the remaining spies the same thing. Ahh, but— one of them will become a sacrifice… But well, ultimately they’ll all meet the same end, so it makes no difference.」
After a bit of thinking, it seemed Doryx became sure of himself.
「In other words… are you planning to plant the seeds of mistrust in General Ranquil?」
「When cautious people come across a discrepancy in information, they get a sense of discomfort and try to verify things.」
Hiro stroked his eyepatch and turned to Doryx.
「What do you think would happen if three of them said the same thing, and only one said something different?」
「… He would likely be suspected of betrayal.」
「That’s where this comes into play.」
He points to the three bags on the table.
「What would you do if a bag of coins fell out of our spy’s breast pocket?」
「I would probably take his head. But that’s if he actually had it. I’m sure there are cases where they hide it. Most importantly, what will you do if they completely wash their hands clean? Isn’t there a possibility of them throwing it away before returning to their camp?」
「That’s why I got them attached to “life”. When those who are prepared to face death are allowed to live, they get a sense of relief. That causes an attachment to this world to form… almost to a point of being unable to resist it. If you hand them coins, it’s even more effective. The amount of money is too valuable for them to hide it or throw it away, so I’m sure they’ll keep it close at hand.」
「Will the results be the same even if they don’t…?」
「Yes. Either way, the results will be the same. Besides, the Lichtein Dukedom is in a precarious state. Even if they were able to defeat us, there’s nothing but uncertainty in their future. Putting that into consideration, I’m sure they won’t throw away the coins.」
Although he asks questions, he doesn’t refute anything. Hiro tells him various information and he drills it into his head. It seemed like he was passionate about his work, but there had to be more to it than that.
Doryx was looking down while deep in thought.
In contrast, Hiro was completely expressionless as he muttered.
「Second grade enlisted officer Doryx.」
「— Can I have you bring the next one?」
Even if he questions him now, there isn’t enough time, and he wouldn’t be able to obtain any proof. His only option is likely to have him move freely until the right time comes.
「Also, can I have you ask someone to bring the 「shiryu」?」
「As you wish.」
Doryx saluted and went outside.
(I have an idea of who’s behind the scenes. It probably won’t be a problem to leave him be for now.)
Hiro let out a deep sigh and leaned against the back of his chair.
The battle during the day dropped the opponent’s morale to rock bottom. There are likely deserters at this point. Now all they have to do is give the nervous soldiers a push on the back to lower the enemy’s numbers and eliminate General Kielo and his followers in tomorrow’s battle. Once that’s done, this war will come to an end.
「Right, I have to send a messenger to the rear, too.」
They should have arrived by now.
Hiro set a plan in motion before coming here. The time to look into the eyes of the sun has finally come.
「The end is near.」
Hiro stroked his eyepatch and stared at the entrance of the tent.
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
The Lichtein Dukedom’s encampment— There’s a gloomy atmosphere hanging in headquarters. The faces of General Ranquil and his staff officers looked dark and sunken, and perhaps it was because of the cold, but a number of them were pale in the face and even had blue lips.
It’s not that there is no source of warmth. There are a number of heaters inside the tent. But their formation for the last battle was disadvantageous, and they see no positive signs for the future. This made the cold that much harsher. Among them, a shaking staff officer looked at Ranquil.
「Your Excellency Ranquil. Regarding the slaves, it seems most of them have escaped. At this rate, it may even affect the regular soldiers.」
「… I’m sure we put out notices of severe punishment.」
It’s clear that this is the effect of the man in black. The only thing they can do about it is alleviate the fear, but they have limited options on a battlefield like this. Their only option is pretty much to offer the men alcohol, but they can’t even do that in this situation where they don’t know when the enemy might attack during the night.
「The enemy has the same thoughts as you.」
More so than anything else, night assaults are an established war tactic. It’s the ideal strategy for a small army to defeat a large one. The opposite is also true. There’s no way an intelligent person who displayed such strategies as the ones from the other day would be unaware of this. Which is why although the soldiers are being allowed to rest, they are not allowed to take off their armor. This is because they don’t know when the enemy might attack in the deep of night.
Even he himself is aware that he has become too cautious. But if he makes one false move, it would mean ruin for the country. He can’t simply take bold actions. The same goes for deserters. Even if they sentence them to severe punishment, killing them to set an example would cause discord in the army. Even if they capture them, they would only be a hindrance, so they have no choice but to let them go. But currently, this is fanning unrest among the soldiers even more.
「… Either way, we have no choice but to wait for the spies to return.」
He will decide whether or not they make a night assault depending on the spies’ reports. They were able to determine the location of the enemy encampment based on the scout reports. But surprisingly, the enemy’s security is on high alert, and they probably wouldn’t be able to achieve much making a night assault at that location. Not only that, there’s the danger of them suffering casualties.
「It’s frustrating, but we have no choice but to wait.」
He sent out a number of spies a few hours ago and instructed them to investigate on the state of the enemy camp. They’re likely to only get a limited amount of information in this short amount of time, but it’s possible they might find a light at the end of the tunnel.
「Will we be able to manage a preemptive strike?」
There are 2,000 camel cavalrymen positioned outside their camp, and they are awaiting orders. Now, they simply have to wait for the return of the spies and determine the right timing.
After suddenly recalling something, Ranquil stopped his thoughts and spoke out to the staff officers.
「What is Lord Karl doing?」
「He is more fatigued than expected, so we are having him rest.」
He is the second son of the duke house who rose in position as a result of the other successors dying off. He has a weak constitution and he hardly has the chance to venture outside. It seems he has reached his limit from the sudden deployment.
「Increase his security in case of an emergency. If something were to happen to Lord Karl, that would be the end of our country.」
He wanted Karl to raise the morale of the soldiers, but he can’t afford to push him too hard.
If they lost him as well, their country would be swallowed up by a foreign state.
「But why is it that the minds of humans are rendered useless when they’re cornered…?」
There’s a greater sense of danger than when the neighboring country of Schteizen once invaded. Back then, even if he had died, the great nobles were still be around, even if they were incompetent. He didn’t feel any anxiety about the future back then. Though they may have been inept, after losing them, he realized for the first time how important they were.
「Can’t have this now. If the commander loses his nerves, the soldiers will want to become deserters.」
After laughing at himself, he decided to bring that to an end and change the subject.
「Have we found the location of the Fourth Imperial Army’s supply trains?」
「No. We believe they are likely here, but… we have yet to discover them.」
The location to which the staff officer looked down and pointed was the area around the fort which the Fourth Imperial Army fell. If they can at least crush the supply trains, they can avoid a drawn out war. They’ll even be able to lower their morale and likely bring the tides of war to their side. But there is the concern the opposite will happen. There’s the chance it may actually solidify the enemy’s unity.
「… This is a difficult position, but if it will give us even the slightest bit of an advantage, we should crush the supply trains.」
Right now, he’s willing to grasp at straws. They also need this to raise morale.
「Umm, also, do you not mind if they add the rebel army to their ranks?」
「I doubt that will happen. They can’t manage any coordination with a group of slaves that don’t have any training. They’ll actually be a hindrance. If it were me, I’d probably just kill them off.」
「But the Fourth Imperial Army hasn’t done so. I’m wondering if we should consider the possibility that there may be a reason for that.」
「I’ve thought that a number of times as well. A way to use the rebel army to gain an advantage in battle… But considering the enemy’s standpoint, they outnumber us, so they have no need to take them into their ranks. Even if they were to use them as a wall, if the slaves ran off midway, it would send their formation into a disarray.」
Ranquil crossed his arms and grunted.
「A reason for them to take in a such a group that would be nothing but a hindrance… I can’t think of any possibilities.」
「They might not actually be thinking anything.」
Maybe he was trying to ease the tension, but the staff officer made an attempt at a joke.
Normally, he would be prompted to leave, but he was trying to alleviate the gloomy atmosphere. He has to be thanked for that spirit of his. Which is why Ranquil smiled and allowed this before answering the question seriously.
「That’s not likely. If their aim is to confuse us, the battle during the day was enough to do that. There’s no need for them to go out of their way to take in a dangerous group like the rebel army.」
Said Ranquil as he shrugged his shoulders.
「There’s no point in worrying about it. The more we think about it, the more we fall for the enemy’s trick. We’ll end this conversation here. For now, we wait for the spies to return to determine whether or not we make a night assault.」
There’s no need for them to take upon a problem on their own.
After a while, he received word that the spies had returned.
Ranquil told them to let them through. A man appeared at the entrance and knelt.
He thanked him for his work and asked him for his report.
「Then, I shall state my report.」
The spy bowed and spoke carefully and fluently.
「Once I infiltrated the enemy encampment, I saw that the soldiers there were given alcohol to raise morale, and they were resting with their armor removed as though they were not worried of an attack in the night. The enemy army is more fatigued than expected, and they don’t seem to be in a condition to fight. Meanwhile, there are 1,500 camel cavalrymen on standby outside their encampment preparing for a night assault.」
「So they’re also preparing after all… Did it seem like we wouldn’t encounter any problems if we initiated a night assault?」
「Although their security is on high alert, I believe a night assault will surely be successful.」
「Hmm… All right. I’ll have food and water prepared for you. You may leave now.」
「Yes! Excuse me!」
As the spy left, the staff officer approached Ranquil with an expression of delight.
「It seems the enemy is also making preparations, so I wonder if it would be better for us to act first to make the preemptive strike.」
「There’s no need to rush so. We should wait to hear from the others before making a decision.」
They can’t begin anything until they first hear from the others. If they overlook anything, it would immediately lead to a losing battle. His reasoning told him they should proceed cautiously.
「Bring in the next one.」
The staff officer didn’t look convinced, but he obediently nodded. His impatience is understandable. Considering how they were toyed with by one man in the afternoon, the fact that they are outnumbered, and the constant deserters, the spy’s report was extremely appealing. But if it happens to be a trap, it would cost them dearly. The country’s fate is on the line.
「… We still have time. It shouldn’t be too late to make a decision after hearing all the reports.」
He realized a sense of hesitation growing inside himself, but he shook his head to dispel it.
「I have brought him.」
「Good. Let’s hear your report.」
The second man knelt and gave his report.
「Once I infiltrated the enemy encampment, I saw that the soldiers had spears and bows in hand in preparation for a night assault. They did seem somewhat fatigued, but their morale was high, and their commanding officer, the Sixth Imperial Princess, was encouraging them. It looks like it would be difficult to launch an attack.」
The faces of the staff officers turned pale. Some of them are even quietly muttering that the reports are different.
Ranquil placed his hand on his forehead and let out a small sigh.
「Were there camel cavalrymen outside?」
「There were, but there weren’t any riders. I believe they may be in the process of choosing elite soldiers.」
「All right. You may leave.」
After making sure the spy left, Ranquil looked drained as he dropped into his chair. A staff officer brings him some water.
「But this is quite a problem now. We could have let things go if there were only slight differences, but with such significant inconsistencies in the reports, we can not make a decision so easily.」
「Mm… you’re right. Let us hear from the others as well. Then, we will all discuss it.」
After that, they ushered in the third and fourth spies, but the only report which differed was the second one.
Ranquil calls for the second spy once more and cross examines him.
「Do you know why you were called for?」
「N-No, I don’t.」
「Your report greatly differed from the others.」
There was a look of shock pasted onto the spy’s face. Not only the staff officers, but Ranquil as well, cursed the spy for his impressive acting.
「Search this man’s body. I’m sure he’s been bribed.」
The soldiers at the entrance held his arms, and all the staff officers began to search his body.
「H-Here! There’s a small bag with a large amount of Schteizen silver coins!」
「It’s settled then.」
The now pale spy screamed. Ranquil questioned him with cold eyes.
「What do you mean, no?」
「I haven’t been bribed! The enemy’s security really is on high alert!」
「Then what is this? Why is this small bag— all these Schteizen silver coins in your breast pocket?」
The spy hesitated to speak. Ranquil signaled to the soldiers.
「Off with his head.」
「P-Please, wait! That’s really not the case! Please, have mercy, General Ranquil!」
An executioner’s blade fell down on the neck of the spy who was forced to the ground. In the blink of an eye, a spray of blood paints the tent red. Ranquil steps on a cooling puddle of blood and spits out annoyed…
「To be deceived by such a thing during your country’s time of need!」
He throws the contents of the small bag at the corpse, and the coins scatter all about. Ranquil breathes heavily and his shoulders rise and fall as he gives out his order.
「We will launch a night assault. The enemy is resting!」
「But it seems the enemy is also prepared for a night assault…」
「I don’t care. That’s why the soldiers were instructed to keep their armor on. Send word to each unit to prepare for the night assault without neglecting security.」
Ranquil looks down at the map and speculates on the enemy’s path of advance.
「If they were to launch a night assault from our rear, they would have to make a large detour. And they have 1,500 men. It would be pointless if we noticed their presence from the sound of them coming. So I don’t believe they would come from the rear, but just in case, we’ll place a large number of campfires there as a screen. Set up fences to the left and right in three layers. We’ll invite them straight to the front. Have the men prepare their bows and spears.」
The staff officers hurry off and rush out the tent. This is a critical moment. Then, Ranquil suddenly remembered the existence of the man in black.
Ranquil calls out to one of the staff officers and stops him.
「Assign the unit prepared for the man in black to Lord Karl’s security.」
For one with as much military prowess as he, he could easily rush in first to their center. If they crush the 1,500 camel cavalrymen while protecting Karl, there’s no doubt the morale of the soldiers will go up. If they succeed with the night assault, he’ll be all alone with no help, and they’ll be able to deal with him in any number of ways.
「I’ll put an end to you here.」
This is how the Lichtein Dukedom came to prepare for an all out assault.