The formation of three choppers raked the bandits outside with gunfire.
As the helicopters flew by, they dropped off grenades, like they were giving gifts. It showed the thoroughness of the JGSDF.
The attack came from several sides, in several waves.
From the east to the west, then doubling back and going over the ground they covered… again and again, from left to right, front to back, an endless hail of gunfire sprayed across the land and killed everything that moved.
The bandits scattered, like a swarm of fleeing spiders. However, whether on foot or mounted, none of them could escape.
The bandits, caught in the middle of their burning, killing and pillaging, had the tables turned on them, and they fell to the ground after being hit by bullets.
A brave man actually managed to nock and loose an arrow at them, but the arrow fired into the sky had little force. It fell swiftly, without any power.
Aboard the helicopters, a trooper placed the blade of his rifle’s front sight into the middle of the rear sight’s aperture, and centered the bandit’s head in his sight picture. He factored in the speed of the helicopter and the movement of the bandit as he took aim.
“Proper aim, proper posture, proper cheek weld, don’t snatch the trigger…” As he muttered this to himself, he adjusted the 2.7kg weight of the rifle in his arms.
He fired three times.
His right shoulder absorbed the recoil, and the lack of a need to recover the cartridges was oddly relaxing.
Usually, they would be under strict orders to keep an eye on where all their rounds (or parts thereof) went, but now the empty casings fell to the floor of the helicopter, and eventually out onto the bodies of the bandits.
The muzzle of the rifle did not shine, veiled as it was in heavy black smoke.
The warriors’ bodies became sacrifices for the flames of war, which blazed brightly.
Italica’s city gate was wreathed in crimson flame, and the sun that rose into the sky filled the world with heat and radiance.
The fully-armored soldiers were ripped to shreds.
The sound of Death’s wings were different from those of birds. It was a more ferocious, more foreboding sound than their's, which repeated on and on.
A hail of lead fell upon the stones of the city wall, leaving it pock-marked with small holes.
The mounted Piña, who was pressing her throat as she shouted orders, suddenly lost her voice and stared mutely at the tragedy unfolding before her.
She watched the iron Pegasi with their whirling wings of steel, soaring through the sky that they owned.
The first thing one would think of when one mentioned airborne troops were obviously the Dragon riders. But what Piña saw was not a living creature, but a far more terrible thing. Dragon riders should have attacked far more elegantly, using sword and lance in equal measure. However, these were different. They brought with them a storm of one-sided slaughter, of utter brutality.
When the flames of the iron Pegasi struck the ground, they destroyed everything they hit. Stones were reduced to pebbles, horses were blasted to pieces and men caught in the blasts lay down and died.
「Ho-jo to-ho! Ho-jo to-ho! Hei-a ha! Hei-a ha!」
It was a symphony of death. She had heard all sorts of music during her courtly life, but Piña had never before heard such a beautiful yet stately display. Horns, trumpets, bassoons and the voice of the singer thundered across the battlefield with incredible volume, playing an accompaniment to a massacre.
「Ho-jo to-ho! Ho-jo to-ho! Hei-a ha! Hei-a ha!」
Piña shuddered, as though she had been stabbed in the back by a sword of ice. In an instant, everything had been destroyed by an absolute brutality that nothing could resist. Her emotions, positive and negative, blended within her and shook both her body and soul.
「Ho-jo to-ho! Ho-jo to-ho! Hei-a ha! Hei-a ha!」
Piña’s mind and soul were battered by the carnage on all sides assaulting her every sense.
She eventually came to the conclusion that humanity was worthless, meaningless, and powerless.
「Hei-a ha!ーーーーHei-a ha!ーーーー」
Until now, all the foes she had met had been physically massive beings.
However, this was a mistake.
She could not look them in the eye, yet she could not tear her eyes away.
Piña was defeated by the lyrics known as the “Valkyries’ Mockery”. Her pride, her status, everything about her which had worth was denied in an instant.
She did not know what the words meant, but she understood their meaning.
Oh miniscule humanity!
Oh tragic and powerless humanity!
What of your power and authority? All those things you pass down through the generations, we shall destroy in the blink of an eye, like so!
Piña wept as she felt the Valkyries’ disdain. At the same time, she knew there were mighty beings which far exceeded herself.
What welled up in her heart was respect. Respect and fear.
And there was despair, that such awesome entities were so far removed from her.
“Crap! Rory, she — she’s charged into the middle of the enemy!”
As an otaku, Itami was in awe of Rory’s strength.
However, this magnificent little girl did not seem very strong at all.
As a result, he was worried. He had spent time with her, and he was concerned for her. He could not simply leave her alone like this.
Itami jumped off the truck and ordered, “Fix bayonets” while he applied his own bayonet.
Kuribayashi and Tomita fixed their bayonets as well, tapping them to make sure they were secure.
They looked at each other. Their firing selectors were switched from “SAFE” to “AUTO”. He told them, “Don’t split up”, and then they advanced.
However, surging ahead of the rest like a cannonball was Kuribayashi.
Itami and Tomita muttered, “Cheh, that stupid woman” and then sprinted as well, determined not to be left behind.
They locked onto their targets, advanced a few steps, and fired.
Another few steps, and then they were shooting from the hip.
They repeated the maneuvers they had learned in training.
Several bandits fell amidst sprays of blood.
Ahead of them was Rory, wielding her halberd in a dance of death. She swung, spun, cleaved her foe’s shield apart and then knocked him down. She did not seem worried at all, and her movements were relaxed. However, the bodies were piling up around her.
Her foes tried to press her with their shields, thrusting over the tops with their swords and attacking her knees under the bottoms. But Rory simply took a step back and swung her halberd from top to bottom.
She cut them apart, man and shield in one blow, like she was splitting firewood.
She did not even look behind at the enemies circling behind her — she simply thrust behind with the pointed base of her halberd.
Against a spear attack from all directions, she jumped up as the shafts crossed beneath her, and used them as footholds to vault into the air.
Rory’s skirt blossomed like a black rose, showing off her black lace garterbelts that connected to her black panties, and the smooth, flowing lines of her legs. She swung her halberd in a full circle.
As if caught in the blades of a food processor, the tops of the bandits’ heads came off, spurting blood like a crimson tide.
Her face was spattered in crimson pearls from the bloody rain, as she cleaved the wind, cleaved through flesh, cleaved through steel.
A greatsword filled with equal amounts of fear, hatred and bloodlust swung down on Rory’s head.
But Rory’s keen eyes noticed the attack, and her opponent’s desperate gamble failed.
With her left hand, Rory grabbed her skirt and ducked the blow like a bullfighter evading a bull’s charge.
At this moment, Kuribayashi arrived.
Shouting, “Bayonet thrust!” she stabbed the man trying to ambush Rory in the back.
She used the recoil of firing her weapon to help extract her bayonet, then slashed down at the foe in front of her. She stabbed and stabbed, then swung her buttstock like a club. Smash, smash, smash! Then she pointed the barrel of her rifle at the tip of the man’s nose, and fired.
She parried a sword swing with her rifle, which ruined the rifle. The buttstock was dented too, but Kuribayashi didn’t care, simply sweeping her opponent’s feet and then stomping his face in with the heel of her boot.
The wobbly bipod fell off with a clattering sound, and Kuribayashi went “Acha~” as she thought of what the armoury sergeant would say. Then again, this was why the Type 64 had been issued, and not the Type 89. Muttering, “Expendable item, expendable item”, Kuribayashi gripped her rifle tightly.
This was barbaric, hand to hand combat from an earlier age. But Kuribayashi had trained for it.
Her small frame was as nimble as a cat’s, and she overwhelmed her opponents in close combat and gunned them down as they tried to retreat. After her rounds were expended, she threw a grenade at her enemies’ heads.
She judged that her enemies’ bodies could serve as a shield for herself. The explosions behind the enemy filled them with fear. They lost the will to fight and cowered behind their raised shields.
Kuribayashi drew her sidearm and fired three shots. Since they were using wooden shields, the 9mm bullets could splinter a shield in one shot, shatter it in another, and strike the person holding them with a third.
Rory charged into the breach and Kuribayashi reloaded her rifle in the meantime.
Itami and Tomita did not want to fall behind, so they protected the girls. With their rifles, pistols and bayonets, they kept the enemies from flanking Rory and Kuribayashi.
If one could take a step back and calmly observe the ladies doing battle, it would be a beautiful sight. Especially Rory, whose might was indomitable. Was it because of her battle frenzy, or was that just the way she was? The two of them were smiling widely like they were in the throes of pleasure, even though this was the battlefield. Still, any man would want to see a face like that in bed with him.
The two of them eagerly displayed their tandem combat technique.
Bayonet swings, halberd thrusts, rifle shots, grenades, the whirling hilt of the halberd, flying kicks and straight punches defeated the enemy.
There wasn’t even any time to change magazines. Once Kuribayashi was out, she shouted, “El-tee, gun!”
Itami tossed his rifle to Kuribayashi, and Kuribayashi tossed her almost-wrecked rifle to Itami.
The Italica citizens and guards in the middle of the fights found that the enemy attack had suddenly weakened. After looking around, they saw Itami and company.
“The Apostle of Emroy is here! The Men in Green are here!” As they shouted these things, they regained their discipline, and began helping each other to fight. After that, they heard the sound of explosions and the blaring of the trumpets.
「Führet die Mähren fern von einander, bis unsrer Helden Hass sich gelegt!
Der Helden Grimm büsste schon die Graue!
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!」
And then, the attack helicopter appeared, breaking through the clouds of smoke that obscured the sky.
Their sheer majesty awed the people watching. They raised their heads to gaze upon the iron Pegasus that had descended from the sky.
The AH-1 Cobra’s 20mm M197 tri-barrelled gatling autocannon swiveled to aim at the bandits which Rory and the others had pressed into a mass.
Seeing this, Itami and Tomita nodded to each other.
Itami grabbed Rory while Tomita grabbed Kuribayashi from behind and ran, shouting “Get down!” as they did.
As though they had been waiting for Itami’s retreat, the 20mm rounds, fired at a rate of 680 to 750 rounds per minute, chewed the enemy into mincemeat.
The Cobra descended as it fired. This was the final blow.
The flames of war blazed, and the torrent of shells destroyed everything.
Before long, the gatling gun stopped. The sound of the trumpets had faded away, and in everyone’s ears was the sound of the helicopters’ propellor blades. All that remained were wisps of gunsmoke.
The UH-1J hovered in mid-air.
Ropes dangled down, and JSDF troopers descended them. With swift movements and organized effort, they searched for any survivors among the enemy.
At first, nobody dared to speak to the “Men in Green”. Whether in numbers or strength, it was clear that they were soldiers from somewhere. Someone reverently asked Tomita where they were from, and the answer they received was “We’re from the JSDF”.
Under the powerful downwash of the helicopter’s propellers, Rory noticed that her hair was not being tossed around. As she pressed down her skirt which was being blown up by the prop wash, she looked around. However, there were no more enemies around her.
Suddenly she realized it.
She realized she was being hugged by someone.
Someone’s left arm protruded from below her left armpit across her chest, and a gloved palm rested on her right breast. Rory Mercury noticed this, and then her cherry blossom-pink lips parted, revealing sharp canines.
Piña stood in front of Itami, Rory, Tuka and Lelei, but she had no idea what to say.
Just yesterday, when she had met the four of them, she had ordered them to help her, as though she was in charge.
She had been leaning on a table, elegantly sipping her tea, explaining important matters to them like they were her subordinates. This was how Piña and people like her lived in high society.
Well, maybe yesterday’s attitude was not so bad, but it was close enough.
But what about her status today? Was she not one of the tragically defeated?
Indeed, the bandits had been beaten back, and the townspeople were happy to have won and survived.
Of course, mourning and getting over the loss of life and lost family members would take a while. Rebuilding the ruined villages and town would be a problem too. However, this victory had been won by betting their lives, so it should be celebrated. Mourning alone would not mean anything to the deceased.
In that sense, Piña should have celebrated, as one of the victors. However, the desolate atmosphere around her was one of defeat.
She did not feel like she had won at all.
The winners were Rory, Itami and the “JSDF”.
These enemies who had taken control of Arnus, who rode iron Pegasi, who held magic in their hands which could scorch the earth into a roaring inferno, who had exterminated in an instant those bandits that had troubled Piña.
If they decided to turn their fangs on Piña and Italica, what could she do? The Empire’s Princess Piña and the young Countess Myui of House Formal would become prisoners, and the Empire’s breadbasket would be taken by the enemy.
What about the townspeople? Could they resist?
No, they would welcome the invaders with open arms. After all, it was the JSDF who had won the day. Talk of the “Men in Green” had already spread from the mouths of Coda’s villagers.
The common folk were simple and did not understand governance. They would be hooked by anything that benefited them, even if it was only temporary.
If they demanded this town in exchange… I might have to kneel in front of them and beg for their mercy, and for them to release myself and Countess Myui.
Me, begging an enemy for mercy? A proud Imperial Princess? Pulling on a man’s sleeve like some common whore in an alehouse?
Piña gritted her teeth.
If she went down on her knees and kissed their toes, they might actually do it. She would have to accede to any humiliating requests they had.
Piña fearfully awaited the demands of Itami and his people.
She had planned to wait. However, in the next few moments, her vision regained its color and the sound from around her called her back to her senses.
“We wish to take our pick of the prisoners.”
Lelei translated Hamilton’s words to Col. Kengun. From a linguistics standpoint, Itami alone could not translate successfully, so Lelei had to help.
Kengun nodded from a rigid posture.
“We understand that labor is the key to Italica’s recovery. Although that is your practice, I hope that you can treat them humanely. We only need three to five captives for questioning. We hope you can accommodate us on that point.”
“They don’t quite understand the term ‘humanely’...”
Lelei was working hard. The fact that sweat was dripping from her forehead onto her expressionless face only underscored that.
She tried to explain in her own words, and said, “Like you would treat a friend, relative or acquaintance.” However, Hamilton frowned at that.
“Would our friends and relatives attack peaceful towns and villages, to murder and plunder?”
Piña called out to keep Hamilton, who was shouting angrily, under control.
“All right, then don’t treat them too cruelly. You played a big part in this victory, so we can let you have that.”
Hamilton relaxed after Piña opened her mouth.
Lelei spoke to Kengun for a while, and then she translated something for her.
“We can understand that.”
Although she had butted in, where was this and what was she doing?
Piña desperately tried to mobilize her brainpower to understand the situation.
And who was this man, anyway?
The man standing in front of Piña was a stout-bodied warrior. He wore green as well, but his bearing was clearly different from a mere footsoldier.
His belly was fat, but from the wrinkles in his forehead, he was a grizzled veteran. The man’s forthright, open attitude suggested he was confident in himself. That self-confidence must have been born of long experience, and Piña would kill to have that experience and self-assurance.
He seemed to be a JSDF commander.
After realizing this, Piña sat down in Count Formal’s seat, since she was representing him. Beside her, Countess Myui sat between her butler and the head maid.
The speaker was Hamilton, but the one who would negotiate, make proposals and make the final decision was Piña herself.
Piña carefully considered her words to make sure of the circumstances. But in a situation like this, what kind of agreement could they come to?
She beckoned Hamilton with a finger, and Hamilton, with bandages on her forehead and the rest of her, came close.
“Ah, Your Highness, you’ve come to, I was worried.”
“Forgive me, I made you worry.”
After that, they decided to go through the details again to make sure.
“Hm. Then, I would like to clarify the conditions with you.”
Hamilton recited them like she was reading out an epic poem.
“First, the JSDF shall pick three to five captives from here and take them back. These captives and all rights pertaining to them shall belong to the JSDF. In addition, House Formal promises not to mistreat the captives.
Second, as thanks for the relief efforts of the JSDF, House Formal and Imperial Princess Piña Co Lada will house and guarantee the safety of envoys from Japan. In addition, the number of envoys, living expenses and so on will be agreed upon later, but House Formal and the Princess will pay the first 100 suwanis to the JSDF with no strings attached.
Third, the JSDF and the refugees staying at Arnus will not be made to pay tolls, income tax, currency exchange surcharges and various other taxes when trading in the domain of House Formal.
Fourth, once the treaty goes into effect, the JSDF as led by Col. Kengun may not touch the wealth, holdings or personnel of House Formal (with the exception of any captives from the first point) and the citizens and must leave the domain of House Formal immediately. However, small groups and the refugees living at Arnus will be guaranteed free passage in the domain of House Formal for the purposes of communicating with House Formal.
Fifth, the duration of this treaty is one year. If both parties do not object, it will automatically renew itself.
Countess Myui Formal
Imperial Princess Piña Co Lada
3rd day of Mist Month, 687 IR”
After reading the contents of the parchment, Hamilton handed it to Piña.
She read it a few times. They had not come off badly. Or rather, these were actually pretty good terms. And the JSDF had not asked to exercise their rights as the victors.
Taking care of envoys would be troublesome and paying out 100 suwanis would be a sorely felt loss. However, both were necessary expenses. Indeed, they had gotten off lightly by only paying that much.
Hamilton had worked hard too.
Piña had confidence in her ability to read people, but Hamilton Uno Ro’s negotiating skills were beyond her expectations. How had she managed to make warriors with such incredible fighting power give up their victors’ rights? Magic? Or had she used her feminine wiles during the negotiations?
No matter what, if the diplomats heard about this, they would try and headhunt her. Hamilton’s negotiation skills would be critical for the knight band.
Piña thought about these things, then signed the end of the parchment, and then put a blob of wax on it before stamping it with her signet ring.
Beside her, Countess Myui signed and stamped it with great formality.
Hamilton rolled out the parchment before Kengun.
After Lelei and Tuka read and confirmed the terms to him, he signed it in Kanji.
Rory turned away with an unhappy expression on her face, while Itami stood dumbly, with a black right eye.
Two copies of the treaty were made.
While they made the second copy, Piña held on to the first.
She wanted to look at Kengun’s signature. The words seemed very stylish to her.
The terms of the treaty took effect immediately, and so the 401st Squadron flew back to base.
The townspeople took some time out from the post-battle cleanup to watch them soar into the sky, waving their hats at them until they vanished from sight.
Lelei, Tuka and Rory went to the home of the trader Ryudo to discuss business.
Being exempted from taxes was a huge selling point for any trader, so the girls were welcome by all of them. Things were made even simpler since Master Kato had introduced them previously.
They completed the sale of 200 dragon scales for 4000 silver denarii and 200 gold sinks.
However, actually claiming those 4000 denarii in liquid currency was impossible. Ryudo had tried his best, but House Formal’s territory had just been ravaged by bandits and trade in Italica had ground to a halt. In addition, the Empire did not supply its outlying regions with a lot of currency, so obtaining even 1000 denarii would be a big challenge.
In the end, the remaining 2000 was paid in credit guarantees, while the remaining 1000 was written off as a discount. In exchange, however, Lelei asked Ryudo for information.
This information pertained to the markets in the region and beyond, and she requested him to carefully investigate the prices of certain items in various markets.
Ryudo laughed as he heard this request.
Unlike the buying and selling of regular citizens, the information on the prices of merchants was an important weapon in price negotiations. No trader would ask so bluntly about them, nor would anyone answer so readily.
However, since Lelei was an outsider, she knew nothing about what things cost. Because she knew nothing, she wanted this information, but broader in scope, with more details, in exchange for the debt owed.
“One thousand silvers, huh.”
Nobody had ever paid so much for information before, but since a price had been named, it was a sale. And the goods were of a pretty high quality too.
And so, Ryudo agreed to collect the relevant information from all around.
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