I am alive ;-; And on time!
I just had the longest 3 hours test of my life… I can’t even remember what happened there because how bad it was >_<
Anyway, here is the chapter!
Chapter 2, Episode 21: Pride
—The next morning.
The Fourth Imperial Army picked up camp and was heading north in a horizontal formation.
The vanguard unit of a 1,000 soldiers departed at dawn and was in formation at a site 9 sels (3 km) away. Behind them, was a slave liberation army formation composed of 3,000 slaves and mercenaries.
「So the battle’s about to intensify.」
The moment Hiro mutters that, beyond even the vanguard unit— there was a black smoke beginning to rise from a destroyed fort high up into the sky.
It’s probably their supply trains that are burning. The sound of the enemy’s war cries and drums reach all the way to Hiro. But the Fourth Imperial Army was not shaken. In fact, they find it strange that that place is burning and they don’t understand why.
This was because the Fourth Imperial Army’s actual supply trains were at a different location. Hiro simply had food provisions and weapons carried to the burning fort to lure the enemy.
「It’s almost amusing how easily they fall into these traps.」
「It’s because they were cornered. If you dangle bait in front of them, they’ll jump at it.」
Hiro shrugs his shoulders at Doryx and sits down in a simple chair prepared for him there.
Next to him, laid the 「shiryu」. He looked back at Doryx and saw that he was looking out ahead with glee in his eyes. The vanguard unit and the Lichtein Dukedom’s army has clashed.
「Your Highness Hiro, the enemy believes they have burned our food provisions and their morale has gone up significantly. I doubt the vanguard unit alone will be able to win. More so than anything, there’s too big of gap in their numbers. If the vanguard unit gets annihilated, and the slave liberation army behind them is defeated as well, their morale will increase even further. Then they may use that momentum to charge here. If that were to happen, I believe it may be slightly inconvenient—」
Hiro raised his left hand to cut Doryx off.
「That won’t happen.」
「How are you so sure?」
「There will probably be casualties in the slave liberation army, but the enemy’s morale will fall before that, and they will be annihilated.」
「Ohh… Have you prepared another clever scheme?」
「Even if it is a battle you can win, you’ll get blindsided if you let your guard down. You have to adapt to situations and change them to your favor— Well, that’s only if the enemy’s strength lasts that long.」
Indeed, the Lichtein Dukedom’s army’s fatigue has accumulated. But that was all part of the plan.
They worked hard to constantly put them on alert without allowing them any rest.
「Indeed, it seems they worked hard during the night— I’m looking forward to this.」
Doryx rubbed his chin and grinned broadly.
After looking at him suspiciously, Hiro waved his left hand.
The standard bearer raises his flag. A crest of red soil and lilies— The Sixth Imperial Princess’s insignia.
After receiving the signal, the cavalry units of each flank slowly begin their advance. Without a single man falling out of line, the Fourth Imperial Army begins to change their formation.
After confirming this, the commanding officer turns her horse and rides over to Hiro.
「Are we starting?」
A beautiful young girl. Her flame-like crimson hair suits her well. None of her beauty is lost on the dirty battlefield, and she even exudes a sense of elegance. She is the Sixth Imperial Princess of the Grantz Grand Empire, and those close to her call her Liz. Hiro smiled at her and nodded.
「It’s about the right time.」
「You stay here. Got it?」
She doesn’t have to finish her sentence. She probably wants to head out to the frontline.
But if the commanding officer acts carelessly, there will be disorder in the chain of command.
There may possibly be situations where she’ll have to go out to the frontline— but not now.
Liz sulks and puffs her cheeks.
Hiro smiles wryly and points his hand at the maid sitting in front of her— to Mileu in disguise.
「Are you planning to take her to the frontline, too?」
「I can’t. It seems like she hates me.」
She started ignoring him after she found out it was Hiro who sent the slave liberation army to the frontline.
It’s probably not to the point of hating, but it’s certain that she’s grown cautious towards him.
Even if she didn’t hate him, there’s no way Hiro could look after a little girl.
He wouldn’t know what to talk about with her, and even if he tried to draw out information about Gahda and the others, she’s a sharp girl. She’d probably hold her tongue. He doesn’t want to worry about anything unnecessary on the battlefield. He also wants to avoid any awkwardness.
「Really? I think she’s just nervous after hearing you’re a descendant of the Second Emperor.」
Said Liz to follow up, but Hiro pretended he didn’t hear her and stretched his arm forward.
His finger points to large clouds of dust rising up— It’s where the vanguard unit and the Lichtein Dukedom’s army has engaged in battle.
「Once the slave liberation army gives the signal, have the right and left flanks move out at full speed and strike their sides.」
「What about headquarters?」
「They’ll advance slowly.」
「What about the Lichtein Dukedom’s rear? Even if we attack them from three sides, they’ll probably escape in that direction.」
「I’ve prepared for that, too. They have nowhere to run. What’s more, it was checkmate to begin with.」
Even before this war had begun— the moment they attacked the Grantz Grand Empire, it was over.
Land, military power, resources, population, the Grantz Grand Empire surpasses them in all aspects.
Without any allies or hopes of reinforcements, their attack was synonymous to the fall of their country.
There’s no telling whether or not they thought they had any chance of winning. This is because all the people who made the decision to attack died in battle. One can sympathize with General Ranquil having been chosen only after all other options were no longer available.
(What would I have done if I were in his shoes…?)
There’s no need to think about it. He probably would have chosen to resist, just like General Ranquil.
That’s actually the path he chose a 1,000 years ago. To put it more accurately, you could say he didn’t even have a choice. But even if they withdrew in the current situation, the only thing awaiting them would be destruction. If they’re going to be destroyed either way, instead of sitting and waiting, they might as well forward and fight for survival.
(It seems things turned out completely differently for them, though.)
The foolish duke was defeated by the slave liberation army, and all the great nobles have also fallen, leaving only the parasitic, useless nobles. But regardless, the fact that Ranquil stood against them without throwing in the towel speaks well for him.
And above all else, he lured the Fourth Imperial Army deep into their territory and planned to attack them after pitting them against the slave liberation army and exhausting them— He ended up failing, but it was a magnificent plan.
If he had managed to succeed, he probably would have made a triumphant return to the capital right about now and praised as a hero once more. No doubt his name would have been known to the whole world as the one who defeated the Grantz Grand Empire.
Which is why it’s a waste to kill him. It’s difficult to accept the loss of a mind such as his.
(I can use him. But he has to be alive for that— In which case, I won’t fixate on it.)
Capturing him alive on the battlefield would be difficult, and if he were adamant about it, it would result in casualties. If he ends up dying in this battle, that just shows he’s human. If it comes to that, there’s no choice but to give up. This is why he didn’t tell Liz or anyone else his desire to capture him.
(Will the heavens decide to keep him alive or have him killed… Or—)
Hiro stood up and waved his right arm to the side.
A single flag rises up and shows itself on the battlefield, then flaps in large swaying motions as if to clear the clouds of dust away.
It is the flag of a ruler, with black soil and a dragon holding a silver sword.
The soldiers cheer. It’s only natural. During a long period of a 1,000 years, this coat of arms was not used even once. Until now, it was buried in history and could only be revered in books.
Seeing this actually appear before their very eyes, it made the hearts of the fervent believers dance with excitement. Hiro lets out a smile, grips 「Excalibur’s」 handle, which he had at his waist, and draws it out vigorously.
Seeing the silver sword pointing towards the heavens, the shouting stops. The tip of the sword bathes in the light of the sun and takes on the seven colors of the rainbow.
「All troops, advance.」
Without any flowery speech, he simply states the objective.
He’s succinct, and his voice is barely audible— hardly enough to ring out to the entire area. But his voice had surely reached everyone. This was evident because the soldiers of the first battalion, second battalion, and headquarters all banged their spears on their shields and began to shout.
Once in the past, First Emperor Altius spoke of the young boy thusly.
He said— He is a heavensent child during our strife.
He said— His stratagems are transcendent.
Therefore— without even speaking, the very existence of Mars is able to shake the hearts of people—
Hiro stuck a finger into his collar and tugged on it, releasing him from his feeling of suffocation. He was breathing a bit hard, too. It seems he was feeling tense from giving out a command after such a long time.
Even though there was nothing wrong with the way he did it, he felt like there was as he looked at Liz. She had a big grin on her face as she had 「Laevateinn」 raised while she gave out instructions to the soldiers.
(I wonder if this is best.)
Hiro strokes his chest. It seems he’s satisfied as long as he can see her.
As he thinks this, a horn is blown. Like a rippling wave, each unit spreads out and the massive war cries of the soldiers become a melody. And like that, a roar like that of a dragon shakes the space around them, and the entire army begins their advance without a single soldier falling out of place.
Normally, this was something Liz, the commanding officer, should have done, but…
「Since this is your first battle, I’ll leave it to you, Hiro. People are watching you, so at least fix your bedhead— Come on, get over here.」
He was scolded, like a child by his mother. This was their war council before the rising sun.
「Hiro, will we continue like this and attack the enemy’s camp?」
He pauses his thoughts after Liz questioned him.
「No, we’ll wait after we close some distance. After that…」
He starts to speak, but changes his mind. This is because he noticed the large clouds of dust on the frontline rising.
「It looks like they’ve begun.」
「Yeah. The end is drawing near.」
As Hiro strokes his eyepatch, his smile broadens, implying that he’s enjoying himself.
「We’ve given them hope— Next, they’ll know despair.」
Hiro thrust his arms out and closed his fists tightly, as if enwrapping the battlefront in his hands.
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
At the location which would be considered the frontline, the Fourth Imperial Army— the vanguard unit was in a state of confusion.
They were surprised at the Lichtein Dukedom’s army’s vigor, but more so than that, the dust clouds were cutting of their field of view and they were unable to get a grasp of the situation around them.
「Damn it, what’s going on?」
As General Kielo swung his sword down, blood sprayed high into the sky from an enemy soldier’s chest.
After the enemy spits blood out from his mouth and collapses on the ground, General Kielo raises his sword and says in a loud voice.
「Take care not to strike your allies! Our field of view should clear shortly!」
With the enemy having penetrated so far into their lines, they should fall back for the moment to regroup, but General Kielo turned around and grit his teeth. The slave liberation army had joined the battle, so they’re unable to fall back even if they wanted to.
「If they had stayed put, this wouldn’t have happened!」
Because his failures will not be forgiven, he has to gain results in this battle in order to be called to the capital. This lot obstructs his way to no end.
General Kielo brandishes his sword to vent his rage. A scream rises and a spray of blood goes flying. His sword penetrates through an opening in his enemy’s armor. One after another, enemy soldiers are hit in vital points and buried.
「Don’t underestimate me!」
Despite his current situation, he still has his ego from having risen to the rank of general. He’s also survived many battles and scenes of carnage. He’s even wandered between the border of life and death. There’s nothing he lacks as a warrior.
「Your Excellency! The enemy has increased their numbers! I believe we should withdraw for the moment.」
「… Grr, but if we do…」
General Kielo hesitated at the staff officer’s words.
「This will all be for naught if you die here!」
「There’s no need to tell me that. But we can’t because the slaves are in the way.」
「They are lowly slaves. No one will complain if we kill them. Can we not simply cut down those in our way and create a path?」
「But… even if I escaped after abandoning my subordinates and killing the slaves, his Highness isn’t likely to forgive me.」
「It’s impossible to discern between friend and foe in this dust. All the more so with the slaves… I believe we can tell his Highness as such.」
「Hmm, is that the only option?」
「It’s unfortunate, but I can’t even give out instructions in this sandstorm… There’s no other choice. The main unit will withdraw now.」
Said General Kielo, hardly looking disappointed.
「Understood. Then— ?!」
The body of the staff officer who was about to take action went flying. Blood dripped from an arrowhead which was pierced through the staff officer’s collapsed body as the sand absorbed it.
General Kielo was dumbfounded, but a sharp pain forced him back to reality.
「Agh… What’s this? An arrow?」
He looks at the arrow pierced through his arm and his eyes open wide in surprise. In an instant— a flurry of arrows pierced through the dust clouds and came raining down. General Kielo’s face tenses as he immediately picks up a shield and crouches down, but the soldiers and staff officers around him are unable to react and they drop like flies.
He thought it was an attack from the enemy, but oddly enough, they’re flying in from the rear. It’s difficult to imagine the enemy had gone around to their rear because the slave liberation army was there waiting. In which case, it’s obvious who these arrows came from. They belong to the slave liberation army.
「Do slaves not even know how to fire arrows?!」
After waiting for the rain of arrows to let up, General Kielo got on his feet, threw his shield down, and pulled out the arrow which was pierced into his arm.
「Ugh— I-Is anyone here?!」
General Kielo took a step forward to start walking, but then he stopped.
This was because a large body had appeared before him. It was a large man with light purple skin which he remembers seeing before. He holds a sword smeared in blood in his right hand. In his left, he was gripping a spear of the Lichtein Dukedom.
「Why are you here?」
Silently, the large man— the zorosta approaches.
「Say something. To begin with, you should be in the rear, so why—」
He wasn’t able to finish asking why his sword was smeared in blood.
This was because there was a shock running through his chest. Something hot rose up from the base of his throat. He held it back in his mouth, and as he drew his chin in to look down— there was a spear pierced through his body.
Fresh blood sprays out from between his fingers.
The strength escaped from his legs, and General Kielo placed his hands on the ground as he fell to his knees.
A large shadow falls down from above his head. General Kielo looked up. His eyes were mostly filled with confusion, but there was also agitation seeping out from them.
「Looks like you’re in a lot of pain. Are you unable to breath?」
He couldn’t read anything from the zorosta’s expression. Without signs of any emotion, he simply looked down on General Kielo with cold eyes.
「You reap what you sow. You should have been a bit more humble.」
The zorosta presses his blade against General Kielo’s nape and speaks.
「I’ll pass on a message from the 「one-eyed dragon」.」
「With your greed for gaining merits, you thoughtlessly took slaves incapable of coordination into your ranks, inviting confusion to the army. The responsibility for that weighs heavily on you. And if we added all your violations of military regulations, there would be no end. Consequently, you are demoted— is what he said.」
With all the stains of this war having been pushed onto General Kielo…
He opens and closes his mouth, but he’s unable to voice his bitterness through words, and there is only blood and foam spilling out.
「This is farewell. General— no, Second grade enlisted officer Kielo.」
Unable to even beg for his life or curse anyone, a fresh trail of blood flew from General Kielo’s neck, high into the sky.
After throwing down his sword, the zorosta— Gahda turns his back to the corpse and rejoins a group of mercenaries who are on standby a distance away. He grabs the reins of a camel which was prepared for him, jumped on its back, and spoke.
「We’re escaping. Our role is done.」
「Are you okay just running away?」
「Yes. But we have to put on a show as we run away though.」
「Leave it to me!」
「All right… I will. If that’s settled, beat the drums.」
「Oh yeah—! All right boys, we’re running for it! Follow the boss!」
「What an unpleasant command.」
Gahda’s camel ran off at full speed. The mercenary group follows after him so as not to fall behind. Noticing the sound of the drums, the slave infantrymen also start scrambling to save themselves.
「Don’t shake your asses too much at the Lichtein Dukedom’s army! They don’t make any distinctions between men and women!」
With his vulgar laughs lacking even a shred of nerves, the mercenary rides beside Gahda.
「How’s that? Not too shabby, right?」
「… It’s befitting a mercenary group.」
Gahda lets out a troubled sigh. Then, he looked towards the headquarters of the Fourth Imperial Army. He did everything he was supposed to do. All that’s left is to wait for the final part.
Lichtein Dukedom’s hero, Ranquil, may have realized by now, too.
「They call him the 「one-eyed dragon」, but… hmm, 「hero eater」 might work, too.」
If the neighboring countries knew the whole story of this war, no doubt they would shake in their boots.
「At any rate, I suppose we focus on escape now.」
They have to escape by the time the dust clears, or else their lives will be in danger.
These dust clouds were created by Gahda, but…
「If I had my demon emperor sword… I wouldn’t have had to worry about exhausting my magic.」
Now that he’s been abandoned by his weapon, it was difficult for him to keep this up.
Exhausting his magic wouldn’t mean death, but he would end up losing consciousness.
If he ended up falling asleep in the dead center of this battlefield, it would lead directly to his death.
「Well, I saw my assignment through. I suppose I’ll take it easy now.」
He recalled the young boy’s face and snorted.
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
When the clouds of dust lifted, Ranquil noticed something was off.
The morale of the soldiers is greatly improved. Even the vanguard unit of the Fourth Imperial Army can’t stop their momentum. And yet, what is this uneasy feeling lurking inside him? He can tell his many years of experience is sounding an alarm.
「So, it’s quite likely this is a trap as well…」
「What’s the matter, general?」
It was Karl who responded to Ranquil’s words.
Ranquil smiled in reply to put him at ease and called for a staff officer.
「Assign about a 100 camel cavalrymen to Lord Karl and have them retreat.」
「What are you saying? There’s no need to run away, is there? We’re the ones pushing them back.」
Karl voiced his protest, but Ranquil placed a hand on his shoulder.
「The situation hasn’t settled yet. Even if we were to annihilate the Fourth Imperial Army’s vanguard unit, there are still over 8,000 enemy troops left.」
「But won’t we be able to win with our current momentum?」
「Perhaps, but our chances of losing may be higher.」
「If it comes down to it, please escape to the capital with the 100 camel cavalrymen. I should be able to buy you a little bit of time.」
「I will hold the enemy down here. Lord Karl, you—」
「Enemy sighting from our rear! There are about 3,000 to 5,000 men! They seem to be mainly comprised of cavalry units!.」
The messenger’s report sent a shock running through the main unit. Everyone held their breath and turned back.
A large cloud of dust is heading their way. It was true. They could see a large number of flags here and there.
「Ambush soldiers from the Fourth Imperial Army?」
Ranquil asks the messenger.
「There is a group of flags with the crest of the eastern nobles of the Grantz Grand Empire.」
「The eastern nobles, you say…?」
「There are also flags of the Kelheit house. I’m certain it’s reinforcements from the eastern nobles.」
「I’m sure they were without a head of the house. Did she take in a new husband…?」
The Kelheit house keeps the eastern nobles united. When he heard its head had died, he remembers hoping for an internal rift resulting from the conflict regarding the new headship, but to his dismay, that did not happen.
「Also, I’m not sure how to put this…」
「What is it? Out with it.」
「We’ve also confirmed sighting of a crest of black soil and a dragon holding a silver sword… the crest of the Second Emperor.」
Any resident of this world knows this.
Currently, he is one of the Twelve Great Gods of Grantz— He is worshipped as 「Mars」, and he is the man who long ago laid the foundation for the Grantz Grand Empire. It is his sazul*.
TL note: Kanji is god and flag.
「… If that’s true, we’re in trouble.」
The blood flowing in his veins goes cold. The sensation in his fingers disappears and his mind starts to go blank.
He feels as if he’s being assailed by some mysterious chill. Ranquil asks again with a shaky voice.
「You’ve made sure of this, right?」
「If the history books are true…」
「… Are you telling me the blood of the Second Emperor didn’t die out?」
The man praised as the 「Twin Black Hero King」 left this world without taking a wife or leaving any children. Thereafter, the Second Emperor’s coat of arms was never used, not once. Its use is forbidden, even if done thoughtlessly. If anyone tried to use it without permission, they would be executed without question, regardless of social status. No one knows why this is so thoroughly enforced. Maybe people fear touching on the spirit king’s wrath, or they respect the hero king who became a god. Either way, it’s a fact that the crest has taken center stage, and there’s a high chance they’ve found a blood relative of the hero king.
「I suppose it’s best to avoid escaping to the rear.」
It’s better to face the somewhat fatigued Fourth Imperial Army rather than the reinforcements who’s full of energy. More importantly, it’s much safer to avoid this mysterious character who suddenly appeared. They have to take the initiative before the two flanks surround them.
「There’s nothing we can do staying put here. We will charge with our entire army!」
Currently, with their high morale and their momentum, even if they’re unable to break through the center, they should at least be able to allow Karl to escape. It was checkmate the moment the enemy appeared to their rear. No matter how high their morale may be, if they’re attacked from all sides, the only end awaiting them is total annihilation.
「This is a result of my lack of tact. This responsibility falls entirely on me.」
In which case, in order to wash himself of disgrace, he will fall brilliantly. Regardless of his current position, he is still but a soldier of the army. There was even a time during his first battle when he wandered around a battlefield with a single sword.. It doesn’t sound bad going back to the beginning.
「Lord Karl, we will carve open a path for you! Please take it using your guards as shields and escape!」
He doesn’t need an answer. More importantly, there’s no need to hear it.
「Lord Karl, please listen well! I will explain the final plan!」
He’ll leave the rest to Karl.
「Now that we’ve burned the enemy’s food provisions, they can not have a drawn out battle. After this, if the Fourth Imperial Army should resort to plundering, launch a surprise attack from behind. If they should scatter, crush them all individually. If we are to hold our castle, continue to provoke the enemy and exhaust them! If you do, I’m certain they will choose a path of self destructions on their own!」
「What is this all of a sudden?! Wh-What are you saying?!」
「I leave the rest to you!」
He draws the sword from his waist and motivates the soldiers.
「Fear not! Raise your voices! Let the enemy taste defeat!」
Ranquil shouted and broke through the dust clouds.
And then— he was made to feel despair.
「… It can’t be.」
Every single one of the soldiers who passed through the dust clouds ahead of him were buried in the sand. There are innumerable arrows pierced into their bodies, and there wasn’t a single person in Ranquil’s field of view who was breathing.
His hot body quickly goes cold. He stops his camel after seeing this abnormal situation, which also meant a halt for the army.
Karl, who was riding beside him, turned pale white. The corners of his eyes wrinkled up and he held his tongue.
「… Black soil and a dragon holding a silver sword, is it.」
Fourth Imperial Army headquarters— The flag floats in the air from a gentle breeze. Turning your eyes away from it, you can see cavalry units to the left and right charging with massive force. Even the clouds of dust, which were such a nuisance, were now gone. And to the rear were enemy reinforcements approaching like a giant mouth ready to swallow its prey.
「The net is complete. So we’re not even able to allow Lord Karl to escape.」
In the front are orderly ranks of the Fourth Imperial Army’s archers, and units of heavy and light infantrymen.
Although they are the enemy, it’s an admirable show of leadership. Ranquil thinks about how much of a pleasure it must be to lead such well trained soldiers into battle. In contrast, his soldiers are completely exhausted, no different from withered old dogs.
「Thinking about it… there were a number of strange things from the beginning.」
When he thought he came up with a clever scheme, it was something the enemy had already predicted, and when he thought he had found an opening, it turned out he was simply acting as the enemy had anticipated. In the end, all he did was dance in the palm of their hand.
「…Then, I know what it is I have to do now.」
They can not lose Karl here.
「My apologies, Lord Karl. It seems this is the end.」
He’s fine taking all the responsibility for this loss alone.
「…Let us throw down our weapons. Wave the white flag.」
The sword which slipped out from the hand of the man called the 「Wild Eagle of Change」 fell to ground, spreading dust and sinking into the sand.
The soldiers feebly crumble and fall where they stand.
As if to emphasize the fact that they had lost, the light shining down on the various weapons thrown on the ground reflect a dull light.
「But I don’t understand what the purpose of all this was. What was his aim, cornering me to this extent?」
As Ranquil stroked the wound on his face, he calmly gazed at the 「sazul」 of 「Mars」 fluttering in the headquarters of the Fourth Imperial Army.