Editor: Deus Ex-Machina, Skythewood
In truth, Zorzal had learned that the legitimate Imperial army was amassing an army for an offensive quite some time back.
If his foe had sent written denunciations and other correspondence everywhere, that much would have been expected. However, even without that, Zorzal had a firm grasp of the timing and the scale of their operations from the way his enemy was gathering their forces and preparing for battle.
Naturally, this was because of the spies led by Bouro
However, this information was not something they had been aiming to obtain from the start. Rather, they had stumbled upon it by accident.
This was because their original aim had been to infiltrate Chateau Formal, but they had been discovered and apprehended instead. The spyhunters had worked backward from there and found their hiding places inside and outside the city, and as a result their painstakingly established spy network had been destroyed in the blink of an eye. After receiving the reports on that matter from Bouro, Tyuule agonized over the loss of their talented people and the need to replace them.
Common opinion held that money was all that was needed to hire people to do shady work like this, but that was not the case.
It was precisely because the work was shady that it attracted a lot of sloppy, crude and deviant people who could not hold down normal work otherwise.
Even a simple informant could betray them by leaking valuable information. In other words, sifting through gathered information was like panning for gold in river silt.
No, there was practically no gold to find in the first place. After all, they were the people who talked up simple rumors and unresearched conjectures as though they had stolen all sorts of treasure from the storehouses of the enemy.
Thus, the paymasters in charge of a spy ring had to be very strict.
They were given to dispensing appropriate rewards and punishments; lies and betrayal would be met with stern, cruel and frightening measures which were cold-blooded in the extreme and directed at their targets’ weaknesses.
This inclination grew stronger the more these people realised the value of information. Most people would say, “It’s done, pay up” after reporting news gained from listening around in an unguarded bar. It took a special kind of paymaster to gain leverage on people — be it through intimidation or some other cruel means — and tell them “You, go into the tiger’s den and scout it out.”
Punishing carelessness and betrayal aside, those people who found it hard to bear this guilt instead exaggerated their organization’s strictness, ruthlessness and inhumanity in order to justify their actions. Such exaggerations were taken as the truth about spy rings by the general public, and thus espionage agents were often treated coldly by the world at large.
In order to understand why the members of a spy ring — organizations known for their insidious and inhuman nature — would paint their organization in such a manner, one would need to start by understanding the personalities of the people involved with such a business.
Reliable agents were like diamonds in the rough. Capable and reliable people were even more precious.
The word “reliable” referred to those who understood the significance of intelligence work, and who delivered their information without holding anything back. People like this often had a strong sense of belonging and loyalty to their society or people. They would not mess up or quit because it was painful or tiring, but strive hard for the sake of the greater good, their friends, and their families.
Capable people were those who could infiltrate the enemy and spy out their hidden abilities and resources.
Bouro was currently drawing his talent pool from the race called the Haryo.
Incidentally, there was no actual demihuman tribe known as the Haryo. This was not a fact known to the common man, but the word Haryo referred to the mongrel offspring that came from a world populated by numerous demihuman races.
Societies in this world were largely homogenous. Elves lived with elves, humans lived in communities of humans, and so on. However, all sorts of mixed-blooded beings were born, possibly due to interbreeding. Most of these offspring were raised by either their parents, but quite a few of them stood apart from these tribes, becoming the “Lost”.
There were many reasons for that, but the most common reasons were difficulties in living with others due to looking different and differences in lifespan. Thus, these “Lost” people banded together and forged a group identity, and soon they called themselves the Haryo.
Their line of thinking was: “Elves, humans, Dwarves or Warrior Bunnies, none of them were originally residents of this world. They were outsiders from other worlds. However, we’re different. We are the unique residents born to this world. We are truly native to this world. In other words, this world belongs to us.”
Nobody knew who started that line of thinking, but the Lost — who suffered and struggled in daily life — gradually united under the motto of “We are the master race”. That thought singlehandedly validated the disgust and hatred they felt towards everything around them.
People who were driven by such negative emotions had two paths to choose from; embrace reality and live openly in sin like the residents of Akusho, or cling to a delusion of false pride.
The Haryo were those who relied on a twisted form of democracy to reinforce their egos, and thus their vain glory.
However that, false pride was, as the name implied, ultimately false. This was because they had to claim that up was down and black was white.
The root of all this was the notion that “it was always someone else’s fault”. It was the idea that they could not be happy and prosperous because of other people. It put forward that because of society and the world, all the things which should have been rightfully theirs had been unjustly taken; no, had been stolen from them. However, that line of thinking only bred hatred. When one lurked in the dark and looked at those who lived proudly in the light with hateful eyes, it only intensified their feelings of guilt. Their anger and resentment intensified, and the Haryo looked for a way to vent their ever-swelling emotions.
It was Bouro who gave them a concrete means of ameliorating the guilt they felt.
“First, we will infiltrate the Empire from the shadows. Then, we will increase our station, and soon we will devour the Empire from the inside.”
One might call this a foolhardy aim, but the Haryo were hooked on the insidious idea of claiming the Empire from within. They gathered under Bouro’s banner and formed a secret society, gathered funds, trained the young, and began espionage activities.
Bouro succeeded in becoming Zorzal’s agent in the shadows. It might not have been official, but soon they were transformed into the Crown Prince’s intelligence apparatus.
However, they had lost many talented people as a result. This was not just a depletion of the Haryo’s strength, but it threatened to shake the very core of their sense of unity.
To break out of that, they plotted to use the Japanese kidnappees as bait for a trap.
But that failed too.
The trap they had set had instead been chewed through, and even the painstakingly-acquired bait had been taken.
They had not sneered at their foe. They thought of them as being on the level of griffins or sabertooth tigers, and devoted maniacal amounts of effort to laying a trap for them. But the enemy that did come for them was like unto an Ancient Dragon, which far outstripped their imaginations.
Even Bouro could do nothing but kowtow before Tyuule. And Tyuule, in turn, could only prostrate herself before Zorzal.
“...You should have thought of your opponents as entities of that level of power.”
In the past, Zorzal had thought of the Emperor and the pro-peace faction’s attitude towards Japan as being those of defeatists. However, he realized that he could no longer fault them for that anymore.
He had lost so badly that he could not even resent it. Or rather, he had grown so used to losing that he had abandoned all hope.
“No. I am not used to defeat or whatnot. Let this defeat be a lesson on what to do to fight the enemy, what to do in order to win. That defeat was not a defeat.”
After cheering himself up, Zorzal ordered the Haryo (through Tyuule) to continue their intelligence operations.
However, there was no way to operate covertly and continue infiltrating the tiger’s den due to most of their people having been wiped out. Therefore, they decided to have their reliable but not very capable people masquerade as traders. From there, they would buy and sell and also observe the changes in prices, thus spying on them from the outside.
This was not a very effective course of action, but it was better than doing nothing. They needed to buy themselves time to recruit and properly train reliable recruits.
However, their luck turned.
Perhaps the JSDF and House Formal had expended too much effort on hunting down those spies who took a direct approach, but posing as a merchant removed suspicion of being a spy, and they could come and go from Italica.
They watched with interest as the soldiers practiced at sliding down ropes. Apparently, one of them even asked, “What are they doing?”
The answer they got was, “Oh, this is practice for a new way of taking cities”, without even an attempt at hiding it.
Then, they collated information on the delivery dates and quantities of arms, armor and rations from their daily banter with other merchants. From those, they could determine the operational plans of the legitimate Imperial Army.
The loyalist forces had not prepared much food. This implied that the enemy did not expect to fight for long, and from there they could surmise that the enemy was aiming for a series of quick battles.
In addition, the amount of horse fodder was an important clue as to how many horses they were committing to operations.
After Tyuule gave her report, Zorzal grew furious and interrupted her:
“Those damn traitors! They bring in foreign armies to fight me?! Looks like they’re not even trying to hide their true nature!”
The senators seated in the audience chamber shouted as well.
Said Count Woody: “Your Highness! We can finally add inviting foreign aggression to their tally of crimes!”
Baron Clayton added: “Since these people crave death, we shall give it to them!”
Then, Attorney-General Upson produced a copy of the letters sent from Italica and showed it to the senators.
“Everyone, please read this! The traitors have whored themselves out to the savages and recruited troops from them. All I can conclude from this is that the traitors have discarded their pride, not only as senators, but as Imperial nobles and even human beings!”
The senators studied the contents of the denunciation closely, and then they laughed.
“Are they such a degenerate lot? Then why fight us in the first place?”
“They are shameless indeed!”
“Well, that’s all you can expect of them. They’ve sold their country and their pride, all for the sake of filling their bellies and enriching themselves.”
“It pisses me off just to think that they used to be lords like me!”
After a round of hurling abuse, the senators looked back to Zorzal.
“Your Highness. War is inevitable at this point, but what exactly do you intend?”
“Umu. I intend to meet the enemy with all our might, and I hope I can count on you to lead your men as well.”
As though anticipating those words, the militarily experienced senators nodded in excitement.
“There’s no need to speak of what tactics to use. I’ve had many discussions in preparation for this day. The Empire’s future rests on the upcoming battle. If you think a course of action will be effective, pursue it with all your might.”
On Zorzal’s command, courtiers unfurled a gigantic map which seemed to cover the entire floor. Generals Helm, Mutra and Karasta stood beside him, and Helm advanced, holding a swagger stick.
“The enemy intends a pincer attack on us from Arnus and Italica. Unfortunately, we can only surrender the fortresses Mare, Fyue, Rekki and so on to them.”
“So we’re abandoning them? Still, it can’t be helped if it’s for victory’s sake.”
After hearing the senators’ questions, Helm pointed the tip of his swagger stick at the fortresses and nodded. Then, he swung it over to the Imperial Capital.
“Of course, our troops are fighting fiercely to weaken the enemy’s fighting power. We have reinforced Mare with infantry and Fyue with Wyvern cavalry to meet the attack. However, we are the main force. Once the enemy grows overconfident and advances too deeply into our territory, it will be our turn to fight.”
With that, Zorzal rose and said, “Listen well, everyone. I have a sure fire method of victory. I shall immediately take command of a unit to carry it out.”
“Ohhh, the troops’ morale will surely soar if your Highness personally takes the field.”
“However, executing that stratagem will need some time. I urge you to think only of delaying the enemy at your posts, even for just a little.”
Helm pointed at the forested areas outlined in brown and green. Those represented dangerous terrain, dark forests and treacherous ground.
“This is the absolute defensive line, where we will halt the enemy advance. It is anchored on Marais and its surroundings.”
The pro-war senators practically ran from the Crown Prince’s audience chamber in their excited rush to prepare for battle.
Furuta moved against the flow of people and looked around the chamber. Zorzal and his lackeys were already heading toward his office, while the courtiers were rolling up the map from the ground and tidying up.
Under the guise of pretending to see if the fruits in the corner of the audience chamber had gone bad, he silently studied the map. The essential elements of information (EEIs) which Furuta sought were what Zorzal was planning on doing. Would he stay here in Telta? Would he deploy? And if he did deploy, where would he be heading?
If Zorzal was not defeated, the war would not end. Therefore, he had to pinpoint Zorzal’s location.
However, he was a moment too late. The map was already rolled up and the courtiers were bringing it out of the room. Furuta was left alone on the room, and as he collected the overripe fruits — which looked like they would burst if they were so much as touched — he muttered:
“Why not assassinate Zorzal and be done with it?”
Of course, stabbing him or poisoning his food would be difficult, but if all he had to do was install a bomb onto his chair in the audience chamber, that would settle things quite neatly. He felt that it was far better than wasting lives in battle.
“That won’t work.”
However, Furuta’s thoughts were interrupted by the feminine voice which came from behind him.
“Assassination won’t solve anything. Even if you eliminate your political rivals through assassination, it won’t make the ruling afterwards any easier. Rather, it will destabilize the situation. Somebody will take his Highness’ place. Also, I will be the one to kill that man. I will not allow anyone else to do it.”
He looked back, and saw Tyuule standing there.
“Mm. His Highness is heading toward Marais. He said something about a sure fire method of victory.”
“Is that really all right?”
Is it really alright to tell something like this to a man who claims to be an enemy spy? Furuta almost asked.
“It’s fine. You already knew I intend to betray his Highness, right?”
As Tyuule said this, she tossed a small button-like object to Furuta. It was the microphone he had planted on Tyuule’s body.
“I don’t know how this device works, but it seems it can tell what the enemy is thinking, no? You put this on me, and you knew the battle of Tanska was a trap. Yet you went anyway.”
It was not quite correct, but the observation was almost on the mark. Furuta shrugged.
“You probably don’t know, but I wash everything I wear. Nobody will wash a demihuman’s clothes in the Crown Prince’s palace, especially not the clothes of a pleasure slave. So it wouldn’t have helped even if you had paid off the washerwomen.”
Furuta raised his hands in surrender. Then, he looked around to make sure there was nobody there before asking:
“Where’s that Bouro fellow?”
Tyuule stared at him, as though to say, “You even knew about him?”
“I had him run an errand for me, so for now it’s just the two of us. Also, let me get this out of the way first, Bouro isn’t human.”
“Ahh. A demihuman, then?”
Perhaps she was bothered by having to explain so much, but Tyuule did not bother elaborating.
“Still, why did you tell me that?”
“I want to make that man taste defeat. I want everything he tries to end in failure. Sure fire victory or whatnot, if nothing ends up going his way, he will be tormented by his powerlessness. I want him to feel how impotent he is and drown in despair. I will mock him for it, and then finish him off once and for all.”
Uwah… How much does Tyuule hate him?
A wave of cold swept through Furuta and he nearly groaned. He knew that she was capable of great hatred, but to think it was to that extent… That said, Furuta had heard of how she had come to be this way, so he felt that it was only to be expected. After all, she must have an extraordinary amount of hatred for the murderer of her siblings and close friends.
“I understand. I’ll leave that task to you then, Tyuule-san.”
“Mm, thanks. Although, you’re a pretty good spy yourself.”
Furuta did not feel that he had excelled in any way, and he scratched his head to hide his embarrassment.
“Yes. I found it really hard to believe you were a spy. Up till now, Bouro still insists that you’re not one. Your acting was really convincing.”
“By acting, you mean…?”
“Oh, no need to play dumb. You’ve said so much, but you’re quite the thespian, Furuta.”
There seemed to be something like resentment in Tyuule’s words, but it felt like she was taking a shot at Furuta.
Furuta had no idea why she would do that, so he asked: “An actor?! Me?”
“Indeed. Because if you weren’t that way, then those lies… Maybe you’re the sort of person who can say that sort of thing without any compunction at all. If that’s the case, maybe you were born to be a spy.”
“Hang on a moment. For some reason, it feels like you’re scolding me.”
“I’m sorry if you feel that way. However, I’m the real idiot here.”
For just a moment, I’d thought that it would be okay if it were you. But I guess I was mistaken.
She could not say that, of course.
She could not bring herself to say “When I thought of your dream, I was reminded of mine, Furuta.” So instead, she replied, “Forget it. I was just being foolish.”
“So, why did you say that?”
“Because all that stuff about your little restaurant was a lie too, right? You had me completely fooled.”
Furuta’s despondent reply interrupted hers.
“How dare you. How dare you!”
Furuta had declared himself to be a chef all his life. He had only become a spy by chance, because Zorzal had taken a shine to him.
“This might be a bit disrespectful to people who do this sort of thing for a living, but I have to say it anyway. I didn’t say I wanted to open my own place to deceive anyone!”
Tyuule realized that she had struck a nerve with Furuta, and she waggled her hands in panic.
“What do you mean, you’re sorry?! You call people liars, call people idiots, treat them like villains and jump to conclusions all on your own?! You’d better watch your tongue! I haven’t told a single lie ever since I came here! It’s just that nobody ever asked me if I was an enemy or a spy!”
Furuta’s anger overflowed, and he shouted at Tyuule.
Tyuule was fiercely proud despite being a slave, and she would not tolerate being shouted at by a mere chef. However, Tyuule was not angry, but ashamed. When she heard Furuta’s reply, it all came together.
This man had never once come off as shifty or come under suspicion of being a spy because he had never told a lie. It was because he had only told the truth that Zorzal trusted him and Bouro — a man with keen senses — was adamant that he was not a spy.
Are you a spy? Are you an enemy agent? Perhaps if she had asked those questions, things might have been different. But actually asking those questions to his face would have been foolish.
“Then, then… you weren’t lying about your shop? You really meant it?”
“That’s right. Thanks to this mission, I’ve got the seed capital for it, and I can open up my own place right away. At first, I was planning to invite you to help, even if I had to kidnap you to do it, Tyuule-san. But you disappointed me.”
“Tyuule-san, if you’re going to suspect people, then go suspect yourself!”
After those harsh words, Furuta pushed brusquely past Tyuule, as though she were nothing more than a hindrance, before leaving.
Tyuule stood there, frozen in place.
Soon, Bouro’s voice came from the shadows.
“Tyuule-sama, I’ve returned… Is something wrong?”
Tyuule’s looked like she was drunk as she replied:
“Quiet. Let me enjoy the lingering sound of his voice.”
“Lingering… what do you mean? Did something happen?”
“Something wonderful,” Tyuule muttered.
“Get ready to go before those damn traitors move out! Hurry!”
Helm, who had been appointed the highest commanding officer in the Imperial Army, rushed his men through their preparations.
The weapons and rations had come from Mutra, while their funds had been commandeered by Karasta from the nearby provinces and merchants. They had sent all the fighting strength they could gather from across the land to Marais, without holding anything back.
In addition, they were skirmishing around the outskirts of Italica and Arnus. These attacks were targeted at the units of the coalition, merchants and the resource prospectors.
“Then, we ought to be moving out soon.”
After that, Zorzal and Helm selected 10’000 elite troops and set out from Telta.
“You even prepared a carriage?”
Tyuule, who was accompanying Zorzal, gasped in awe at the decorated interior.
“Umu. Those bastards who infiltrated the Empire seem to have used disguised cargo wagons. While the guards were completely taken in, it was still a good idea, so I had them prepare some.”
On the surface, it appeared to be a wagon carrying firewood and hay, but in truth, it was a carriage fit for a nobleman.
“You, take this one. I may join you in it from time to time. Oi, take a seat and see how it feels.”
Zorzal shoved Tyuule aboard as he said so.
“Do you mean want me to see how it feels to sit aboard this carriage? Or how it feels to have me sit on you?”
In truth, visibility was poor from the disguised carriage, but it felt quite comfortable to ride in. Granted, their field of view was poor, but if one turned that around and said that they would not need to worry about being spied upon, then even that flaw vanished.
If there were any problems, it would be the soundproofing. Everyone outside could hear Tyuule’s lewd moans.
One could see soldiers disguised as farmers and merchants through the cracked-open door. However, it would seem her moans were giving them a hard time, judging by how often they peeked over at them. It was just too bad for them, considering that they would soon be fighting in bloody battle soon.
The Centaurs who made up the vanguard tilted their ears to listen, making no secret of doing so.
The soldiers broke up into smaller groups after the sun went down.
In the darkness of the night, the soldiers accepted the lead of the monsters — who had superior night vision — while travelling the forest paths and mountain trails which only the locals would know.
After satisfying himself of the comfort of the carriage, Zorzal left, leaving Tyuule to mutter to herself while rearranging her clothing.
“Bouro… You’re following us, right?”
Since he could not speak from under the bed, Bouro’s voice instead came from the driver’s seat. Somehow, he had changed places with the driver.
“The Empire’s been divided in half and they’re about to start murdering each other. Our hard work up till now has finally borne fruit.”
“Father, brother and sister, all killing each other. Whoever wins, the Empire loses. It will be very difficult for them to return to their previous prosperity.”
“Let’s push them a little to lengthen the chaos and increase the number of deaths. I’m quite interested in Zorzal’s little secret. Can you help me find it out?”
“What will you do once I learn of it?”
“Furuta the chef? What do you plan to do?”
“Make sure it gets to the enemy. That man is an enemy spy. Didn’t he flat-out say so?”
“Tyuule-sama, I don’t know how many times I’ve said this, but Furuta isn’t an enemy spy. He is simply saying that to deceive you.”
“Kukukukuku. What do you mean by deceiving me?”
“That Furuta fellow is in love with you, Tyuule-sama. So he is inventing a tall tale to keep your interest in him.”
“You really think so?! That man loves me… But even so… Still, yes. So what? There’s no need to mind, right?”
“Still, you have lowered your guard against him, Tyuule-sama. That man speaks nothing but nonsense. Granted, his cooking really is good, but nothing he says make sense. He goes on and on about opening a restaurant and larders that chill food without ice and signboards which shine as bright as day and other such nonsense.”
“He’s not lying!”
“He’s an honest man. Someone like you wouldn’t understand.”
“Please pull yourself together, Tyuule-sama. How could there be such an honest spy? In all honesty, you sounded like you’ve been taken in by him.”
“I know. I’ll be careful. But Bouro, you must go and learn his Highness’ secret. Understood?”
“It shall be done. However, once I leave your side, coming back will be somewhat difficult. Are you alright with that?”
The fact is that even the troops following them did not know where Zorzal was heading.
He had even gone so far as to personally hand over heavily-encoded orders to each unit. Not even their commanders would know where they were going until those soldiers who had been briefed with the decoding keys appeared at their doorstep.
In addition, they had practiced a cruel version of operational security by massacring every single person they had come across, be they travellers or residents. Thus, even his allies did not know the location of the main force which Zorzal led.
“No matter which way we go, our final destination ought to be Marais. Meet up with me there.”
“That means that until then, you’ll be alone, Tyuule-sama.”
“It’s fine. If you can reveal Zorzal’s secret, we’ll be able to see him in absolute despair.”
“...His Highness will be in despair?”
“Correct. I want to see his disappointed face. Is that wrong?”
“Of course not. But Tyuule-sama, have you considered the consequences of that?”
“Why should I care?”
“...Indeed, there is no need for you to consider that. I hear and obey. I shall now do as you wish.”
With that, Bouro’s presence vanished.
Zorzal’s main force had started moving just as Italica’s allies had started mobilizing their own manpower.
In addition, the JSDF had been forced to deploy most of their reconnaissance elements to track down the areas with guerilla activity. Thus, the cameras on their recon planes had not spotted Zorzal’s forces moving in the rear echelons.
Marais was a land of precipitous peaks and foreboding forests.
The First Combat Group led by Colonel Kuze was progressing well, but they had encountered stiff resistance from the enemy in the forest.
Amidst the sounds of distant gunfire and earth-shaking artillery, Kuze emerged from his Type 82 command vehicle, looking through his binoculars at the source of the noise.
“So, they blocked it off, huh.”
“Yes. While we were trying to clear the obstacles, five ‘Scopedogs’ came at us,” the frontline commander said over the wireless.
“Scopedog” was the nickname for armored Ogres among the JSDF. They resembled humanoid combat vehicles from a certain anime, and the name for them stuck.
(TL Note: Armored Trooper VOTOMS.)
“So, how’s it going?”
“Just as we were about to sweep them with the heavy machine guns, the enemy fled back into the forest.”
“You should know, right? Don’t let your men pursue them.”
The feigned retreat to lure enemies into a waiting ambush was an age-old tactic. Then again, one could say that Zorzal’s men had no other tactics to use. In addition, during this contact with the enemy, the main force was advancing to bypass Beza. The objective of this battle was to destroy Zorzal. Fighting and annihilating the enemy was only a step in achieving that aim.
Still, they could not leave hidden enemies in the forest unattended. In order to remove their ability to mount any organized resistance, they had to reveal and destroy the ambushers.
“The enemy’s coming. Wake up your bloody ideas!”
Until now, the First Combat Group’s columns had been led by tanks, which destroyed the enemy’s scattered resistance as they advanced. However, it was hard for them to continue doing so in the poor visibility and unstable terrain of mountainous and forested regions. If they decided to employ human wave tactics in terrain like this which hampered movement, even the JGSDF would have a hard time.
In addition, the Scopedogs were heavily armored.
Nothing short of .50 cal (fired by 12.7mm machine guns) rounds could bring them down. They were quite dangerous to the average infantryman, who only carried a Type 64 rifle. Then, what could they do? The best option was to tear apart their cover and reveal them. To achieve that aim, they conducted reconnaissance in force.
The sounds of mortars firing and mortar bombs exploding echoed from everywhere. The impact points changed constantly, guided by the telemetry from an OH-1 reconnaissance helicopter
“Colonel. All units have been contacted by the enemy. We’re in a combat situation.”
“Umu. Make sure you keep the lines of communications clear.”
Men could only see what was ahead of them. The most dangerous situation for them would be if they were engaged by the enemy in front and behind. Thus, they could not let the enemy through. Even so, it was hard to deal with guerillas, regardless of how advanced one’s technology and weapons were.
They would fight off the enemy’s attacks, run them down as they fled and root them out of their hiding places, then rain down artillery fire and destroy their ability to function as a coordinated group before mopping up the survivors. This was broadly comparable to “de-lousing”, and it was the only way to be assured of victory against guerillas and special forces.
(TL Note: the word used is 虱溃, i.e. the systematic and thorough removal of lice)
The infantrymen advanced slowly through the forest, rifles at the ready.
“The Scopedogs have come out to play. Ready grenades!”
With a whoosh, an arrow flew out at a trooper who was distracted by pulling out a grenade in response to his squad commander’s orders.
The man went down, and his friends proceeded to return fire. After that, an Imperial trooper leapt down from a tree.
As if on cue, the Imperial troopers who were lying prone on the ground while covered with leaves leapt up as one, savage, murderous looks on their faces.
This was close combat, fought at ranges measured in yards.
The JSDF troopers stood firm, firing away into the enemy which charged them without regard to their losses.
When the machine gun swept across the enemy line, the effect was like a chainsaw ripping away at a tree’s bark and sending the chunks flying away.
The Giant Ogres revealed themselves, sheathed from head to toe in heavy steel armor. Several huge humanoids wielding equally huge clubs approached the troopers
“The Scopedogs aren’t fast! Don’t panic, fall back slowly and fire grenades!”
The troopers fell back as one. On the command of “Fire!” they launched their grenades.
Not all of them hit. However, the armored Ogres were still drowned in a wave of explosions and went down.
Of course, not every engagement went that smoothly.
There were soldiers who entered the enemy’s kill zone, and ended up being flanked and destroyed by Ogre clubs. However, the overall encirclement was solid and slowly shrinking, and the Empire’s organized counterattacks began faltering.
Kuze turned to ask his executive officer, who was studying a map, “Have we verified the enemy’s position?”
“Yes. The enemy isn’t scattering, but advancing to a single location, somewhere between the closest and next closest peaks on the forward left front. They seem to be planning to lure us in there.”
After drawing the axes of the enemy’s retreat on the map, they formed an intersection in the valley between what was designated Peak One and Peak Two. After considering their movement speed...
“Hit them with arty in five to six minutes’ time,” Kuze said as he tapped at the map.
“It’ll be more effective if we can narrow the bombardment radius. We’ll have a Ninja confirm.”
(TL Note: The OH-1 is nicknamed “Shinobi”; the text uses OH-1 but the furigana is “Shinobi”)
The OH-1 orbited overhead. The artillery gunners recomputed their impact points based on the information it supplied.
The Type 75 155mm Self-Propelled Howitzers opened fire, and every round they sent downrange was packed with the equivalent of 7 kilos of TNT. Said rounds rained down on the valley. The bombardment set the forest ablaze, and the shockwaves threw up chunks of earth and stone like someone was stirring up the very land. Most of the Imperial soldiers caught in this lost their lives, while the ones who had miraculously survived began an actual retreat. This was not an organized movement to draw the enemies into a trap, but a flight for their lives.
“Count Woody, the enemy has come,” Baron Clayton panted as he and his scouts surmounted a hill near Beza.
“Ahh, the iron dragonflies are flying too.”
They looked up, and saw that the recon helicopter was looking down upon them from a height that bows and catapults could never reach.
Only the count and some of his men were on the top of the hill.
Count Woody thought, How does this place look from the air? Can they see me? If they can see me, then how do I look in their eyes?
“Many of the enemy are riding in metal boxes.”
The land here was nothing but boulders and the weeds which grew between them. A path had been cut through the terrain, as though to split open the wilderness, and the enemy was travelling along it.
“Umu. I see them now.”
Indeed, Count Woody had a direct view of the enemy as they drew close.
After verifying the reports from his scouts, Woody ordered, “Just as expected. Commence the operation!”
Beza was south of Marais, roughly a day’s travel by horse.
It was an important travel passage If the enemy wanted to bypass the strongpoint of Marais.
Woody gave orders to the soldier beside him.
“Listen up. Haste makes waste. Repeat and emphasize to the soldiers that they must wait for orders.”
The clattering of armor trailed the man as he ran down the slope. Each step threw up pebbles and dust as he broke into a sprint. Then, he suddenly fell flat to the ground and shouted, “Don’t be hasty! Wait for orders!”
Then, he stood up, and ran somewhere else.
At a closer look, the earth was cracked there. And if one looked into that dark space, they would find several pairs of eyes shining back.
“Wait for orders!”
This was not like Marais where there was a forest for them to hide. However, there were huge boulders everywhere and the terrain was uneven. Woody planned to use them as weapons.
With the aid of Goblins and Trolls, they had excavated large trenches in the ground and piled vast quantities of dirt and mud on top of them to deceive the eyes in the sky. He had then ordered his men to hide within. Once the enemy was fully engaged, they would ambush them.
Naturally, this was not limited to just one or two locations. Trenches like these covered Beza, and roughly 10’000 men and monsters were hidden in them.
Their plan was to lure the enemy into overextending themselves deep into their formation before falling on them at once and turning it into a chaotic melee.
However, something took place that Woody had not expected.
What the Imperial soldiers called “metal boxes” left the road and charged straight at the trenches.
One of them broke through the trench’s camouflage and fell in.
They had lured the enemy into a pitfall. They could have proudly declared the success of their tactic if this had been their aim from the start. However, it was precisely because they had not expected the enemy to fall into the trench that the hidden Imperial troops were briefly paralyzed by indecision and did not react. In addition, since they had been repeatedly warned not to take independent action and wait for a signal, both sides ended up blinking at each other.
The JGSDF servicemen thought they had fallen into a trap and shouted, “What?! What happened?!” Then, as they dismounted from their Type 87 reconnaissance and patrol vehicle (RCV), they found that the “trap” was full of enemy soldiers and they were shocked.
Something like this had happened in World War 2. The Americans allowed what they thought to be friendlies to get close, but they were actually German troops. Both sides parted ways without combat, because they had assumed each other to be friendlies. Thus, when they got a close look at each other and realised they were enemies, they were at a loss for what to do. In the end, they brushed past each other continued on to their respective destinations.
Now, the Imperial soldiers in the trench and the JSDF troopers were experiencing something similar.
One of the JSDF troopers raised a hand and went, “Ah, hi.”
Following which, an Imperial soldier raised a hand and confusedly responded with an, “Ah, yes.”
Clearly, both sides were baffled.
However, a light armored vehicle drove by and the commander within shouted, “What the fuck are you doing?!”
That broke the stupefied mood in the air.
“Idiots! They’re the enemy! Fire! Fire!”
The orders snapped the JSDF troopers back to their senses and they pulled their triggers. The sounds of their gunshots brought the nearby Imperial troops out of hiding, and thus the skirmish began.
Count Woody gnashed his teeth from his perch atop the hill.
“What should we do, Count?”
“What else can we do?! Fight! Fight hard!”
In accordance with Count Woody’s orders, the ambushing Imperial troops rushed out at once. They had failed to completely encircle the enemy, but the plan of forcing them into hand-to-hand combat had not yet failed.
As the bullets began raining down, the battering rams disguised as rocks were rolled out.
Wagons piled high with kindling were lit and then rolled down the slopes in unison. Monsters that looked like war elephants and rhinos emerged from the trenches, pounding the ground underfoot with mighty thumps, and they exuded a fearsome presence as they pushed forward.
Fire wagons, battering rams, and then hordes and hordes of monsters surged forward.
Goblins and Trolls swarmed onto the Type 74 MBTs like ants, climbing onto their main guns. Then, they hacked with their swords at the sturdy armor plating that was designed to repel anti-tank rounds, making a shrill, screeching noise. They destroyed everything they could, like searchlights and so on.
“R-Requesting support! We can’t fight back!”
Wails of panic came over the wireless from the tanks, who were defenseless once their enemies got close. Some of them were driving around wildly, in an attempt to shake off their attackers.
While some of the enemies clinging on to them were shaken off, it brought them out of formation, and they were swallowed up by the enemy troops.
The JSDF troopers were shocked at the massive amount of enemies who had appeared before their eyes all of a sudden, and all they could do was fire wildly at the foes before them.
“Don’t panic. Stay calm. Don’t try to shake them off. Let your allies kill them!”
After hearing their commander’s calm voice, the troopers swiftly regained their composure.
However, the densely-packed waves of battering rams, war elephants and rhinos did not let up. They crashed into the flanks of the armored vehicles with bone-crunching force, making the vehicles shudder. Armor plates were deeply dented and the troopers within were tossed out. The men hastily reorganized into fighting squares to gun down the enemies which rushed in to take advantage.
Type 60 Self-Propelled Recoilless Guns fired, and the rhinos hit by them collapsed like they had been winded and breathed their last.
The Type 74 main guns roared, and the hordes of Goblins clinging to them were blasted several meters away.
Even so, the Imperial Army continued to leverage on their superior numbers and enveloped the JSDF forces.
“Good! Forward, forward, march the men forward! We must hold the line until Zorzal-denka arrives!”
Zorzal said he had a sure fire way of victory. All Woody could do was believe in that, and lock the enemy down here, no matter what.
Countless Wyverns waited within the caves dug into the narrow passes.
All of them were fitted with saddles and barding, their riders lying flat on top of them, holding their breath as they awaited their commanders’ order.
Commander Podawan mopped at the sweat which kept beading on his bald head, and kept an eye in the direction of the horizon from his place near the cave entrance.
The enemy's’ scouts had very sharp eyes. He did not know how they did it, but if they revealed themselves, even if just a little, they would be found and attacked. Thus, Podawan had ordered his men and his Wyverns to be covered in mud. The Wyvern riders naturally resented this, given that they were a proud lot and they were literally painting their faces with mud. However, they had to bear with it for the sake of victory.
(TL Note: The JP saying is 顔に泥を塗る, “painting one’s face with mud” or disgracing oneself)
An aerial reconnaissance Wyvern orbited high in the sky.
After being spotted by the enemy’s scouts, it gyrated wildly in the air and frantically flew up and down.
“Looks like it’s been spotted.”
The Wyvern fell. However, in the fleeting moment before it hit the ground, it managed to flash a message using reflected sunlight. This was a signalling method they had developed from their experience in defending the Imperial Capital’s airspace.
“Count Podawan. Four flashes, and then four flashes again.”
“Umu. Enemy approaching, then. I salute his ability to complete his mission even on the verge of death. Listen up, everyone. This may be the site of our last battle. If they break through here, we’re done. May that stiffen your resolve! Move out now!”
The Wyverns spread their wings as one.
“Your Majesty, we’ll be able to see Fortress Fyue soon,” the co-pilot told King Duran.
The helicopters of the Fourth Combat Group transited from the plains into the highlands that were ringed by mountainous forests. It flew between the steep peaks. The fortress would be located somewhere ahead, in order to block the pass.
The troopers stuck their bodies out, looking at the receding green of the forests.
“Amazing,” they breathed, marvelling at their speed. Now that they were used to the view from above, they could be properly impressed by the awesome spectacle that was flight.
Even Duran found it hard to control the swelling in his chest as he beheld that magnificent sight.
“All right, we’ll show those Imperials our might!”
He could not help but clutch the hilt of his sword tightly.
“Mm? What’s wrong?”
However, swarms of Wyverns boiled out of the narrow peaks to either side of them.
Waves of nets made of chain links fell from the sky. Although most of them missed their mark, some of them managed to tangle up the propellers of several helicopters. These helicopters lost their lift and stability, spinning wildly around as they descended rapidly.
It was all the troopers could do to hang on to something within the wildly shaking cabin in order not to be thrown out. One of them glimpsed the enemy and shouted: “It’s Zorzal’s Wyvern riders!”
Shots came from all around them, and the helicopters swerved back and forth to avoid being hit.
“Your, your Majesty! Is, is, is this really all right?!” shouted a soldier as he clung to his seat to avoid being thrown off.
“The hell should I know?! Don’t talk, you’ll bite your tongue!”
That was all Duran could say. After all, this was not just a matter of turbulence.
“All right, the ambush worked! Bring them all down at once!”
As Podawan gave his order, the Wyvern riders pounced on the helicopter squadron.
After Zorzal’s ten thousand men formed up, they donned their armor, distributed weapons, formed up in ranks, and resumed the look of a proper army before marching out.
Initially, their marching order had resembled a serpent, but after reaching the plains, they had spread like floodwaters spilling over a dyke. The soldiers left the path and opened up their formation.
“All ranks! Right turn!”
The sub-commanders echoed the command with shouts of “Carry on!”, and the infantry turned like an intricate machine, changing their formation from that of a snake into squares. They took dressing from their flagbearers and formed ranked spear lines with their shields perfectly aligned, marching in unison like a single organism.
Upon hearing Mutra’s order, these fighting squares lined up, like the black and white grid of a chessboard.
Helm and Mutra were in Zorzal’s command unit. Karasta and his men followed them, trailing the flagbearers who carried the Imperial flag, the Imperial Army’s flag, the Crown Prince’s flag, and various other colorful banners. In addition, the signallers and battle musicians were with them.
The disguise on Tyuule’s wagon had been discarded, and a noble’s carriage now travelled beside Zorzal.
“Zorzal-sama. Is this really Marais?” Tyuule asked in puzzlement.
They should have been heading toward a region of steep cliffs and grim forests, but the land here was flat and green as far as the eye could see. Her surprise was only to be expected.
However, Zorzal replied: “Who said we were going to Marais?”
“I merely said we had a sure fire way to win, but I never said we were going to Marais.”
The pro-war generals and soldiers were currently fighting for their lives at Marais because they believed Zorzal would save them. But why was that? Tyuule could not hide her confusion and worriedly asked:
“...Then, where is this?”
“Italica, of House Formal’s domain. Look.”
Zorzal’s troops had marched across the mountains in formation.
And then, the land opened up before them, and on the other side of the gentle slope they could see the town of Italica.
“This is the weakness of the enemy. If we bring down the enemy’s stronghold and seize the Emperor, then we have won. That is my sure fire means of victory.”
“We have caught the enemy unawares. Lions and dragons have keen eyes and noses, but they can only see forward when they’re stalking their prey. This allows us an opening which we can exploit,” one of Zorzal’s commanders said.
Helm responded on Zorzal’s behalf.
“As you can see, Italica is undefended. That makes our task an easy one. Ideally, we would have launched an attack before they built up a defense,” he said. “It would be even better if we could have rushed in before the city gates were closed, but that would be too much to ask for, so we couldn’t count on that. After all, the enemy aren’t mindless marionettes.”
Thus, the best strategy was an assault. If they could swiftly scale the walls while the enemy was confused, they would be able to take the keep and moat, despite some losses.
“I don’t want to waste too much time on this.”
“Yes, sir. If this drags on too long, the enemy’s main body will return.”
That was the main reason why they could not drag their feet. Helm’s challenge was to take the keep within a short period of time.
Of course, Zorzal had not planned to bet everything on Helm. His intention was to match his scheme with a frontal attack, to boost the chances of success.
“Bouro… I’ll leave capturing the Emperor to you.”
The driver of Tyuule’s carriage turned towards him.
“Ha, kuhihihihi. This battle is the decisive one for us. I shall throw the full might of the Haryo people into this.”
“Bo-Bouro! Why are you here?”
Bouro should not have been here.
“Answer me, Bouro. Why are you here?”
Bouro shrunk away as Tyuule spoke, while Zorzal and Helm chuckled coldly.
“Tyuule. Tell me, what is so inconvenient about having Bouro around?”
She shuddered at Zorzal’s question.
“You were nothing more than a point of contact with Bouro. I’ve been saying that from the beginning. Now, I am assuming direct control and relaying my orders in person. What is wrong with that?”
Tyuule violently shook her head.
“Did you feel Bouro could not be here because you wanted him to overhear something?”
“No, no. No-nothing of that sort.”
“Don’t lie to me. When I heard you were betraying me, I was shocked too. I found it hard to sleep, and I was so angry that I even took it out on my slaves. I killed a few, if I’m not wrong.”
Zorzal’s words grew angrier as he continued speaking.
“What a tragedy, don’t you think? How sad. Those poor, sad slaves. I even killed the women. That was how angry I was.”
Tyuule held her breath.
Zorzal dismounted from his horse, and slowly walked towards Tyuule’s carriage.
Petrified with fear, Tyuule could not move. Zorzal reached out and pulled her out.
“Your, your Highness, it’s not like that.”
“Enough of that. Be quiet. Shut up. Shut up!”
“Ahh, your Highness, please believe me—”
“Didn’t I tell you to shut up!”
Zorzal’s furious shout set Tyuule trembling, and she shut up. Then, Zorzal smiled smugly.
“Come to think of it, I did betray you too. After all, when I heard your wish to save your tribe, not only did I not fulfil it, I destroyed it. I was the one who captured your friends, your people, and sold them all as slaves. And I never once mentioned it. When would you find out? What kind of face would you make when you found out? Would you sigh in despair? Would you demand answers of me in anger? The thought of seeing you like that set my heart racing. Would you murder me in my sleep? Would you approach me with a hidden knife? I was looking forward to something like that all this time.”
“That, that sort of thing—”
“But no matter how long I waited, you didn’t react. You looked like you didn’t care, so I put the documents detailing the fate of your race in places where you could see. Things like how many bunnies I sold, and so on. You read them, right? You should have read them, didn’t you?”
“Even then, you didn’t change your attitude. So I was deceived. I thought you were in love with me. I thought you had decided to forget your pain and anger. I thought you were a cold, cruel woman. In truth, I was terribly disappointed. But then, I realised that I had a very useful slave in my hands, so I let you off. You cheered me up when I was hurt and helped me regain my confidence. You did anything to make me happy. And it did make me happy. I took those to be your true feelings. I trusted you. I gave you a lot of responsibility. And you betrayed me. How should I punish you for that?”
“You never trusted me. You were simply looking down on me. I have no reason to repay your trust.”
Tyuule pulled at Zorzal’s arm with desperate speed, but it was thick and brawny, so she was the one pulled back instead.
“That’s right. That’s how it should be. You have the right to hate me. You have the right to point your blade of vengeance at me. Your anger is righteous. However, the way you showed it was wrong. You betrayed me. You betrayed my expectations, and then you betrayed my trust. And now, you were about to betray me as well. How did you end up in such a pathetic state, Tyuule? Someone like you shouldn’t beg for their life when their treachery is revealed, but show a more dignified side of themselves, no? You beg for your life, and when that doesn’t work you shout at me? What a shameful display.”
“And why do I have to meet your expectations?”
“Ah? Say that again?!”
“Like I said, why do I have to meet your expectations?” Tyuule shouted. It felt like she was trying to slap him with her voice. Even Zorzal frowned,
“...I see, I see. So you mean that you were planning to take revenge on me by betraying my expectations, then.”
“Correct. I will never move as you expect of me!”
“Kuku, then let’s see how far you can keep betraying my expectations. I want to see how long that stubbornness of yours holds out!”
After that, Bouro got down from the carriage and bowed.
“Kuhihihihihihihihi, your Highness. I beg you to give this bunnygirl to me.”
“Of course. I don’t wish to have my troops tired out before the battle. People like you will do just fine.”
Not everyone on the battlefield was a soldier. People like Zorzal had runners and servants trailing them. Bouro had taken all these slaves under his wing.
“Oi, what the hell are you doing?”
“I want to see you cry and beg for mercy. I want to see you scream ‘Hurry up and kill me already’.”
Upon that signal, seven to eight men, led by Bouro, approached her.
Upon seeing their lascivious gazes, Tyuule swallowed as she realised what would happen to her, and boldly shouted. “Hmph! As if that many would be enough. If you want to make me beg, bring ten times the amount, Zorzal. And if they’re all the same size as your crude little prick, then you’ll need a hundred times as much!”
“What, what did you say?”
Even Zorzal was stunned by her words.
“I’m not that…”
Crude, he wanted to say. But Tyuule shouted to drown him out:
“If I’m wrong, then drop your pants right now and show it to me! I’ll compare them all to yours! After all, you’ shrivel up after squeezing it once or twice, right? If you want to make me cry for mercy, you’d better bring more! Even if you say, ‘please stop, I can’t do it any more’, I won’t let you off! So you’d better prepare yourselves! I’ll drain you all so dry you won’t even be able to get hard when you see a woman anymore!”
Perhaps they were repulsed by this woman, but the men backed off as one, clutching their groins as Tyuule’s presence crushed them.
Someone muttered, “Shit, she’s scary. She might really suck us dry.”
Even Zorzal backed off as he realized that.
“Your Highness. Now is not the time for this sort of thing,” General Karasta said.
This was a rare opportunity. A defenceless city stood before them, and the troops were awaiting Zorzal’s order.
If they wasted time here, Italica would be able to mount a proper defense.
And as expected, the city gates opened and troops streamed forth. At a closer look, they had their backs to the city. It would seem they were preparing to mount a line formation.
“Cheh,” Helm and his officers scoffed.
“The traitors intend to take the field against us?”
Helm looked over to Zorzal and shouted, “Your Highness! We can still make it. Please order an attack immediately! If we manage to execute a surprise attack before they fully form up, the enemy will be unable to fight back. Thrown into disarray, they will retreat into the city. It’s not what we hoped for, but it’s still favorable to us.”
However, Zorzal shook his head.
“No, wait. If they want to fight an open-field battle, then we shall oblige. It’ll be faster than a siege, after all.”
The fact was that sieges were not only time-consuming, but would result in many casualties. Even if they committed to one, there was no guarantee that they would win. In contrast, an open-field battle favored the side with greater numbers.
Numbers were the fundamental element of determining fighting strength. Upon those you had force multipliers like weapon quality, combat tactics, terrain, troop morale, the quality of the chain of command, and so on.
The most important of these force multipliers was the fortifications offered by a castle.
With that as a linchpin of a well-thought out defense, even a large army would have a hard time winning a siege. They should be thanking the heavens that they had decided to abandon that advantage for open battle.
Zorzal’s forces and Italica’s forces were roughly even when it came to weapon quality and their chain of command. Thus, the key factors would be tactics, troop morale, and troop quantity. Since they far exceeded the enemy in numbers, Zorzal concluded that a field battle would be quite reasonable.
Attorney-General-to-be and Head Oprichniki Upson said, “General Helm, as you can see, the enemy numbers 6’000 while our forces number 10’000. Even a head-on clash should prove to be in our favor.”
Karasta and Mutra agreed with that assessment. They summoned the buglers and had them give the order to prepare for a field battle.
The horns of the buglers echoed all around. The soldiers cast aside their siege equipment and reorganized their formation.
They shifted from a siege formation to one better suited for open field combat. The archers and the shield-bearing infantry exchanged positions.
The men drew their swords, braced their lances, drew their bows, and steeled themselves for a field battle.
“Tyuule, after this battle is over, I’ll give you ten times the number of men, as you hoped for. You can look forward to it! Bouro, I’ll deal with Tyuule later. First, lock her up somewhere. The Emperor’s more important than that. This should be easier than trying to take their keep. Failure will not be tolerated!”
“Yes, I understand.”
Bouro had his men tie up Tyuule and bowed to Zorzal.
“Then, let the battle begin.”
Zorzal raised his finger as a signal. Helm saw this and gave an order.
Horns rang all round.”
“Forward — march!”
The soldiers marched forward with wordless coordination, and the sound of pounding caligae rang forth. They slowly advanced, their shields in one hand and their swords or spears in the other.
(TL Note: カリガ = caliga = Roman combat boots that look like sandals)
In contrast, the legitimate Imperial army remained motionless in front of Italica.
Perhaps they had elected a defensive stance due to their fewer numbers.
“But if they’re on the defensive, then why did they come out?”
Helm muttered to himself, as though cursing the stupidity of their commander.
“First rank, jog!”
At this command, the buglers’ horns echoed throughout the formation.
The foremost line of soldiers immediately quickened their pace.
The distance between the two frontlines shrank in an instant. A startling number of arrows spewed forth from the backlines of both armies, almost blotting out the sun for an instant, and then they fell like rain on their opposite numbers.
The soldiers raised their shields above their heads to protect themselves.
Arrows thudded into the oblong shields, and the arrowheads which penetrated wounded the arms on the soldiers.
Shouts and groans of pain came from all around, and the men who had taken arrows to the body and the knee through the gaps of their shields went down, one after the other.
“Break formation! Advance!”
Zorzal’s forces advanced again.
As the distance between the two armies shrank, they could now see each others’ faces. It was only then that Zorzal’s men realised that the people before them were not human, but composed of troops from various species.
The soldiers readied their swords, braced their spears, and a vicious melee began.
Steel clashed against steel, and sparks flew off blades.
The hafts of thrusting spears bent and snapped, and shields were shattered by battle axes.
Heads were crushed with the helmets upon them, and the blood of soldiers flowed across the land and splattered everywhere. Roars of anger blended with cries of pain, and naked violence became a storm that swept across the battlefield.
The centurions sounded their horns, and the men at the head of the formation swapped places with the soldiers waiting behind them. As though in response, the enemy brought their frontline to the rear as well.
Was it their blood, or that of the enemies? Whatever it was, it covered the bodies of the soldiers who fell back through the gaps in their fellows’ ranks. They were replaced by fresh troops, who began the slaughter once more. They hammered, threw, hacked and deflected. The sounds of destruction rang forth.
“Fuck! Why are we fighting Dwarves?!” Zorzal’s men wailed.
This was a collision of strength against strength, an exchange of blows, a mutual murder. Throughout this melee, the short yet stout Dwarves swung their axes with enough force to split the ground open. They threw their entire weight into their strikes, so even though they were clumsy, in an intense melee, they hit hard enough to smash away several people at once. Dwarves were thus excellent combatants in this sort of face-to-face slugging match.
Zorzal’s offensive finally ground to a halt in the face of the outnumbered yet overpowering Dwarves.
“Pina-denka’s flag had been sighted in the enemy camp!”
Zorzal arched his right eyebrow as he heard the scout’s report. Given Pina’s personality, he had expected her to lead from the front, so he was quite surprised.
“What? Their commander is Pina?”
“Helm. Can you still fight?”
Helm was one of the founding members of Pina’s knight band. The fact that he had risen to this level could be attributed to the foundation he had gained in the knight band.
“There’s no better foe for me than Pina-denka. If I don’t fight well, Pina-denka will reprimand me.”
Zorzal chuckled as he heard this.
“Really now. Then, show Pina your strength in full.”
Helm nodded and said to the signallers: “Continue rotating in fresh troops! Cavalry! Centaurs! Forward!”
The trumpets sounded again.
“Retreat 100 steps!”
As they heard this, the frontline troops ran off in an instant.
The Dwarves left their formation to pursue, lost in the thrill of battle.
However, they were ponderous and clumsy, and could not catch up with the Imperial forces.
No matter how hard they ran, the distance between them only grew further. They were panting, tired and their formation was in ruins. Thunder rumbled under the Centaurs and cavalry, and they charged them from the flanks, lances ready.
The Dwarves were immediately knocked over by the lances and sent flying by their hooves.
Volume 8 end