Chronicle Legion:Volume 3 Chapter 6
Chapter 6 - Two-Headed Dog
"Morrigan, inform the defensive forces at each tutelary fort on my behalf."
After the merged divinity of the Four Gods vanished, Edward immediately issued orders.
"Tell them to keep defending their respective tutelary forts for two hours. Once this designated duration is over, each army will act at their own discretion depending on the changing circumstances."
The loyal spirit Morrigan nodded in response to Edward using the doll she was possessing.
They were on the roof of the nation-protecting keep at the first tutelary fort, Seiryuu Gate. Edward quickly walked over to a waiting wyvern.
"Very well.. It is time to get back to square one. I will take my personal guard, the Knights of the Garter, and leave this first tutelary fort. Morrigan, you come with me too."
"Affirmative. Are you going to converge with the main force, Prince?"
"Indeed, you know me well."
Seeing the subtle expression on Morrigan's face, Edward smirked.
...Despite losing his impregnable fortress, the superior officer seemed to be in excellent spirits. Edward was thankful for the leveled playing field, allowing him to have a showdown against Tachibana Masatsugu on equal terms.
Morrigan was appalled by the Black Prince's love of battle, but felt curious about how he would command his army.
"Let us set off, Morrigan. I have brought four hundred Legions to Seiryuu Gate, with eight hundred remaining at the central command center. A total of a thousand and two hundred Legions should be plenty enough forces. The Japanese enemies must know that the black knights of the British Empire will be the ones to dominate the Hakone battlefield."
Apart from the Garter Knights, there were another hundred and fifty-odd Crusades at Seiryuu Gate.
The Black Prince ordered them to defend the tutelary fort while he took his personal guard to converge with the "central main force." He was going to launch a vicious counterattack next, to destroy the enemy armies in the four cardinal directions respectively—
This was Edward's plan. However...
"Of course, you are going to hinder me, right? Tachibana-dono..."
Leading the four hundred Legions under his direct command, the Black Prince moved towards Oowakudani—
There was another ambush force there. Eight hundred Knights of the Garter were already detected. Leading a total of a thousand and two hundred Legions, Prince Edward was setting up his position in the sky over Mount Souun—
Retainer beasts such as aquilas and yatagarasus had returned with the above reports.
Needless to say, Tachibana Masatsugu was kept informed of such intel at all times.
However, there was one matter that needed to be discussed and settled prior to entering the battlefield. It would not be wrong to call it a negotiation. In other words, a meeting with the renowned general of Japan's "ally," the Eastern Roman Empire.
The key point was how to defeat the enemy's leader, Edward the Black Prince—
Riding blue wyverns, Masatsugu and Rikka headed to the rendezvous point in the sky over Oowakudani.
After the battle at Suzaku Gate, six hundred of Masatsugu's Kanesadas remained while Rikka's hundred and fifty Kamuys were virtually unscathed.
Meanwhile, riding a silver wyvern, General Wei Qing brought roughly four hundred and fifty Centuriae.
In order to hold the Black Prince's attention at Seiryuu Gate, Wei Qing had confronted the English longbow formation head on, losing over half of his army of a thousand as a result.
The rest of the Roman and Tōkaidō forces had stayed at the four tutelary forts in the north, east, south, and west.
Those forces were currently fighting the armies left behind by Prince Edward.
Currently, the seven hundred and fifty Tōkaidō Legions combined with the four hundred and fifty of Rome's to give a total of a thousand and two hundred.
Given the proportions, it would not be wrong for Tōkaidō to be in command. However, if the Roman army, which had sacrificed the most so far, refused to cooperate, this battle would be extremely hard to fight—That was how the proportions worked.
While thinking over these matters, Masatsugu reached the rendezvous point in the sky over Oowakudani.
Leading his Centuriae in a spherical formation, General Wei Qing arrived from the direction of Hakone Yumoto.
"Yeah, I'm going to talk to him for a bit."
Masatsugu gave Rikka a look and left the Tōkaidō army of seven hundred and fifty Legions. Riding his wyvern alone, he approached the Roman army of four hundred and fifty. Who knew what would come out of his discussion with General Wei Qing?
The two of them met in the sky over Oowakudani.
Wei Qing said very candidly, "I am willing to cooperate with your plan, Masatsugu-dono."
"...Now that's really helpful of you to be so accommodating."
That being said, Masatsugu could not help but grumble this time.
"Since I haven't even told you the plan, aren't you agreeing too quickly?"
"Please rest assured, this is the power of my Feat of Arms."
The ability to renact migty feats from the battlefields of one's past life—
Such was the special power of Feat of Arms. However, what kind of ability had Wei Qing invoked during this conversation? Masatsugu was greatly puzzled.
Wei Qing pointed at his own temple and explained. Normally low key, Wei Qing was speaking in a mischievous tone of voice for once.
"I have no idea whether my daily conduct resulted in karmic backlash, or I am simply afflicted with poor luck, but as a result, I am always surrounded by troubles outside of battle. Examples include unreasonable treatment from the upper class, or being forced to lead armies that are clearly weaker than the enemy..."
His words sounded like complaining, but Wei Qing's tone was filled with levity as though he were not talking about himself.
In fact, there was a gentle smile maintained on Wei Qing's face.
"Perhaps due to this, my intuition is especially sharp when it comes to matters of advance or retreat."
"Yes. My expertise lies in knowing when to advance or retreat, knowing where to move for better fortune and which positions are disadvantageous... All this is clear to me in a kind of premonition."
"You can really see that stuff?"
"This time, my intuition tells me what you hinted at is the most effective path to survival... This is precisely the effect of my Feat of Arms—Kanglong Youhui."
Wei Qing easily revealed his completely unassuming ability.
Masatsugu was very intrigued. Did this really count as a Feat of Arms?
Wei Qing smiled again and said, "There have been many eccentric people around me in the past. This includes an emperor who was a good judge of character, but had poor understanding of human hearts, the emperor's willful older sisters, obstinate generals, etc... Perhaps after being pushed around by those people for long years, I developed this kind of ability as a result."
Masatsugu understood, but he was only half-convinced.
General Wei Qing having such an ability was probably true. Otherwise, he would not have obediently committed to Masatsugu's battle plan without knowing anything in advance.
However, a Feat of Arms purely for "improving intuition"—That was quite difficult to believe.
Masatsugu speculated that Wei Qing had exercised "temperance" in only telling part of the truth. The true effects of the Feat of Arms should be more powerful with intuition as merely the tip of the iceberg.
"General Wei Qing, if a chance arises, I'd really like to get to the 'bottom' of you some day."
"My true nature is not interesting at all. On the other hand, Tachibana-dono, your identity is far more intriguing."
"Me, you say?"
"The way you have fought your battles so far are only possible with a deep belief that your troops are the elite of the elite. Such are the types of tactics you employ, which take an excessively heavy toll on the soldiers."
"It is most likely that you hail from a strong nation, or perhaps you were a general leading heroes of the most elite sort?"
"Speaking of which, you said the troops you led were old and weak, General?"
Faced with Masatsugu's question, the handsome general smiled wryly and admitted, "Yes, the emperor assigned cavalry to me by to subjugate the equestrian Xiongnu tribes... Unfortunately, the riders and horses were all raised within Han borders. Compared to warriors who spent their entire lives riding across the steppes—The difference was as great as between heaven and earth."
In any case, the matter of command was settled with unexpected ease.
Dozens of minutes later, the two of them finally faced off against Edward the Black Prince.
"Morrigan, it is time to begin."
"As you command."
Edward had divided the Knights of the Garter into two divisions.
First of all, nine hundred of them formed a wide wall formation as the "front rank." A couple hundred meters behind, the remaining three hundred were the "back ranks."
With the black knights in the back ranks all equipped with longbows, "mode anglais" was fully prepared.
Edward himself and Morrigan were among the back ranks. The genie had switched to a doll-size simulacrum and was sitting on the Black Prince's shoulder.
Looking out at the enemy position, Edward was quite surprised.
"Drawing a diagonal line across the battlefield... An oblique formation, huh? How old-fashioned to employ the tactic of Lord Epaminondas. Hohohoho, famed generals of past and present, oriental and occidental, all use the same methods, is that it!?"
Speaking of medieval knights, the majority of them were actually uncultured brutes.
The point of promoting chivalry was to impart a system of basic morals on these unruly men who frequented battlefields. So-called knights were nowhere as elegant as imagined by modern people.
However, there was a rare exception right here.
Having received an elite education since childhood as part of the English royal family, he was instructed in courtly elegance and etiquette.
Apart from mastery in martial training and the arts of war, he was also well-versed in Latin with deep knowledge in classical Greek and Roman texts—This was what Black Prince Edward was like as a person.
Now, he noticed that Tachibana Masatsugu had recreated a famous tactic from ancient Greece.
"We are about to have a real showdown against the prince. All units, assemble into a line to create a wall."
Now consider the coalition force between the Tōkaidō Fiefdom and the Eastern Roman Empire.
They had also entered a wide wall formation like the enemy. Both sides were in the sky over Mount Souun at Hakone, forming their own respective "wall" with over a thousand Legions.
However, the coalition force's wall was very different from the British side's.
Starting from the left and moving across, there were six hundred red-purple Kanesadas, then four hundred silver Centuriae, and finally a hundred and fifty blue Kamuys.
Along the entire line, only the Kanesadas on the left were intentionally arranged in a column.
Thus, the formation became an "L" with a protrusion on the left instead of a perfect horizontal line.
█ █ █ █ █
The column on the left consisted of the six hundred Kanesadas.
Instead of uniform ranks, this arrangement concentrated not only manpower but also the toughest troops on the far edge in extremely deep ranks. This tactic was known as the oblique order, a type of unbalanced formation.
Back to the second tutelary fort, Suzaku Gate.
The great phoenix of the Four Gods guarding this fortress was already gone.
However, the hundred-odd Crusades stationed here by the Black Prince were still around, currently fighting the coalition force of Centuriae and Kurou Hougans.
They had probably received orders to stay in the tutelary fort and continue to draw the enemy's attention.
At this rate, things should be fine.
Relieved, Shiori decided to change the subject.
"...The oblique order is an ancient Greek tactic."
The Tōkaidō side had set up a simple tent as a temporary camp on the lawn inside the tutelary fort.
Shiori was sitting on a foldable chair in the tent with a blanket over her lap. Activating the master-servant enchanted ritual had depleted her stamina greatly.
Fortunately, she remained conscious and was still able to use noetic control.
Currently, she had sent reconnaissance yatagarasu to observe the showdown between Masatsugu and the Black Prince.
The battle situation was projected into the air for a live broadcast. On the screen, Tachibana Masatsugu had ordered the Legions to enter an oblique formation.
"Back then, the mainstream tactic was to deploy troops in phalanxes with wide ranks of equal depth. However, Epaminondas, the commander of the city state Thebes, deliberately used a much deeper phalanx on the far left and succeeded in defeating a Spartan army of twice their number."
"Winning when outnumbered two to one!? That's amazing!" Hatsune's eyes glimmered brightly, very impressed. "But what I don't get is why it's a 'formation in a diagonal line'!"
"By concentrating elite troops on the left, the left side inevitably advances ahead. If the center and the right fail to keep up, the scattered forces would be subjected to either a frontal breakthrough or defeat in detail."
Consequently, the soldiers in the center and the right, which are advancing slightly slower, must follow the elite troops in the left—Shiori drew a diagonal slash in the air to explain.
"From overhead, it looks as though a diagonal line has been drawn on the battlefield from the top left to the bottom right."
"Princess, if Onii-sama knows this kind of sure-win tactic, that means he might be from ancient Greece!"
"This is undoubtedly impossible."
"Y-You don't have to reject my idea so decisively!"
"The essence of oblique order is not about 'drawing a diagonal line' but 'concentration of force on one side to be employed skillfully.' When deploying troops with this principle in mind, one would naturally choose similar formations."
After explaining the tactic in detail, Shiori added, "This has nothing to do with a commander's identity, geographic origins, or era."
"Oh I see now."
"On this occasion, it just happens to resemble oblique order, that is all."
"I get what you mean now, Princess. But from the tone in your explanations... Why do I get the feeling you already know Onii-sama's origins?"
"Is that so? I had no intention of insinuating that."
Hatsune pointed out the heart of the matter straight away, startling Shiori.
Acting as though nothing had happened, she hid her true feelings very naturally. After observing Masatsugu's behavior for a while now, Shiori had come to her own conclusion.
However, she had no evidence. It was not yet time to announce her findings at the current stage.
It was imperative to focus on the battle at hand to reach a swift conclusion, so that they could hurry to Tachibana Masatsugu's aid as early as possible—
"By the way, Hatsune, Masatsugu-sama also mentioned that your power is absolutely essential to this battle. You must prepare yourself, alright?"
"I shall muster my greatest spiritual powers... to foil Prince Edward's calculations."
Shiori knew roughly what the Black Prince was thinking.
He intended to defeat the two Resurrectees of Tachibana Masatsugu and Wei Qing at the center of Hakone before moving on, successively visiting the four tutelary forts in the four cardinal directions, to defeat the Roman-Tōkaidō coalition forces.
Hence, he had ordered the Legions stationed at the various tutelary forts to stick to defense.
Conversely, Shiori's side had to do the opposite.
They must swiftly defeat the defense forces at the four tutelary forts then head over to aid the Tachibana-Wei coalition force in the center, to encircle the Black Prince—
Fujinomiya Shiori was the key to this battle plan.
Taking a deep breath, she focused her noesis again.
Back to the sky over Mount Souun...
Masatsugu's Tōkaidō-Roman coalition force versus Edward's British army.
Facing each other, separated by several kilometers, the two armies finally moved forward. If they were to continue advancing like this, they would enter melee range.
Naturally, the two armies started by exchanging gunfire.
Capable of firing at a rate of ten shots per second, the bayonet rifles kept shooting, again and again.
Each side consisted of a great army, a thousand and two hundred strong. This implied a total of two thousand and four hundred rifles discharging scorching beams, producing a curtain of gunfire.
White protective barriers neutralized the endless beams.
The glow coming from both armies was precisely their means of survival. Unfortunately, many beams remained potent, striking the winged giant soldiers in their armor or body, puncturing them directly.
In this rifle showdown, the coalition force was holding a slight upper hand.
In other words, the united army of Kanesadas, Centuriae, and Kamuys were winning slightly.
The reason was simple. The three hundred Legions in the British back ranks had not participated in this contest of volley fire.
The black carcasses of the British Knights of the Garter kept crashing down one after another.
Naturally, the three hundred black knights did not remain still. They drew their bows and nocked their arrows of light, launching an archery offensive from the back.
"All archers, I am counting on you again."
Responding to Edward's command, the Garter Knights began to fire repeatedly at high speed.
Draw, nock, loose. Arrows flew with the sound of tearing wind.
Such was the nature of bows and arrows as a weapon, unlike rifles that shot with a pull of the trigger. The contraptions of modern convenience could fire at ten shots per second, while the English longbow could only reach a maximum rate of one or two arrows every ten seconds.
However, these arrows of light were capable of piercing protective barriers.
Even with their radiant glow for defense, the Legions of the coalition army could not stop the black knights' arrows.
Furthermore, the Garter Knights in the front rank had formed a "wall" to protect the three hundred black longbowmen, completely preventing the coalition army from retaliating against the back ranks.
Enabling the longbowmen to focus on firing was the essence of "mode anglais."
The marksmen in the back ranks raised their longbows at an angle to release their arrows. Tracing out parabolic trajectories, the arrows hurtled towards the coalition army's position.
One after another, many Legions, red-purple, silver-white, or blue in color, were shot down by the arrows.
They were clearly dying much faster than the British black knights. The British Empire's side was still superior in a shooting match...
However, the coalition army was not to be outdone.
Using an echelon formation, the Tōkaidō-Roman coalition's left column stood out especially.
The Kanesadas assigned to the left side were flying slightly faster than the Centuriae in the center and the Kamuys on the right.
With the left wing ahead, the entire army formed a diagonal "\" shape.
In contrast, the Garter Knights on the enemy side were in the shape of a horizontal "-" line.
In a minute or two, the front rank of the black knights were going to clash with the leading Kanesadas head on.
"Kanesadas—the two hundred of you in the front—Draw your swords and charge."
"I knew it would come to this. Focus the rain of arrows on the advance party. Do not let them succeed, or else the samurai swords will disrupt our formation."
The army of Kanesadas at the top left of the diagonal were many ranks deep.
The two hundred at the forefront accelerated and charged, causing the unit to protrude even further, closing in on the Garter Knights in one go.
The bayonet rifles in their hands all turned into the famed sword, Izumi-no-Kami Kanesada.
The Kanesada unit with drawn swords must serve as the vanguard to approach and cut down the British Legions, thereby disrupting the enemy's packed formation by creating numerous dead bodies.
Once a packed formation began to break, all that was needed was to focus attacks at the breach and the formation's collapse would be inevitable.
However, arrows continue to rain down.
The longbowmen of the Garter Knights focused their fire, trying to annihilate the Kanesada vanguard that had their swords drawn. The red-purple Legions swung their Japanese swords, deflecting the rain of arrows.
Blades and arrows clashed.
Almost a month ago, the Kanesadas led by Masatsugu had used the same method to defend against English longbows many times.
However, the situation today was different from last time.
"Sure enough, the enemy is fatigued."
Masatsugu clicked his tongue whereas Edward grinned.
The Kanesadas' swordsmanship was clearly disorderly, lacking their original acuity.
Normally, Shinsengumi swordsmanship was capable of blocking the vast majority of arrows, but today, one out of every two arrows met their mark...
Dozens of Kanesadas crashed down from the sky, heavily damaged.
"Transporting the Tintagel was an excessive drain, huh?" Edward chuckled.
Odawara's shore was roughly sixteen or seventeen kilometers from Lake Ashi. Masatsugu had ordered his Kanesadas to fly while carrying a 183m-long large destroyer. Of course, this consumed substantial ectoplasmic fluid.
For Legions, this depletion of ectoplasmic fluid was equivalent to fatigue in humans.
No longer sharp in swordsmanship, the Kanesadas kept making mistakes they would not normally make.
"My archers, no need to pity them. Shoot with all your might."
Edward told his troops that this was the chance for victory.
The merciless rain of arrows kept slaughtering the red-purple swordsmen, inflicting substantial damage to the fatigued Kanesadas.
In the end, over half of the vanguard died before they could engage the enemy.
Even so, the echelon formation's sword-wielding vanguard finally approached the horizontal line of Garter Knights—
"All units, draw your swords. Show the enemy Hijikata Toshizō's swordsmanship."
In the ensuing battle, the famed blade and Hijikata Toshizō's swordsmanship were of paramount importance.
The remaining four hundred and seventy or so Kanesadas entered the flat seigan stance and rushed at the British black knights, the Black Prince's personal guard.
"Shame be to him who thinks ill of it—The hundred of you engaging the red-purple Legions in the front, make use of shields."
The Black Prince recited holy words to invoke a Feat of Arms of the shield.
The Garter Knights and the katana-wielding Kanesadas clashed head on. The short inscription of "Honi soit qui mal y pense," resembling Latin, appeared on each shield wielded by the Garter Knights.
"My knights, you are protected by the insignia of the garter. Now raise your shields of justice to triump over evil!" "
The Garter Knights resisting the Kanesadas head on were one hundred out of the entire army.
Their armaments transformed from the standard bayonet rifle to rectangular shields—not English longbows. The shields were almost the size of a Legion's body.
This was another of the Black Prince's trump cards and it had successfully defended against Tennen Rishin Style swordsmanship before.
However, the Kanesadas had no choice but to soldier on. Masatsugu ordered them calmly, "Forget about defense—Go."
A hundred British Legions had given up their rifles for offense to raise up giant shields.
In that case, there was no need to strike a balance between offense and defense. Just attack with the strongest slash at full strength. The Kanesadas swung their swords to chop at the "black knights with raised shields"—They used the stance of hassou.
The so-called hassou was a type of upper stance with the sword. Gripping the hilt, one would raise both hands to mouth level.
The vertical sword's tip would point at the sky and the clouds, thus in Tennen Rishin Style, its nickname was "the cloud-oriented sword"...
"Cut them down with all your might."
The Kanesadas kept chopping at the hundred shield-wielding Garter Knights.
They focused all their strength on their one sword strike without thinking about defense or follow up attacks.
However, the Japanese swords were almost always blocked by the shields of the holy knights. Some of the Japanese swords managed to cut into the shield's steel, but they were rare exceptions.
"Hohohoho, are samurai swords only capable of this much?"
"Try harder. You are the troops led by the man known as 'The Merciless.' If this is all you've got, watch out for the mockery you'll face in hell."
The commander of the holy knights smiled whereas the Merciless Vice-Commander calmly ordered the attack.
Responding to Masatsugu's orders, the Kanesadas lived up to their names as "demoniac children of the gods." Using hassou slashes, they attacked from behind their failed comrades or went over the heads of the troops in front of them—Fresh red-purple swordsman rushed out nonstop.
As for the Garter Knights, they raised their giant shields to cover their entire body.
The Kanesadas used their own bodies to smash into the shields or kicked to throw the British Legions off balance. Then seizing the opportunity, swordsmen from behind would rush forward, using their deadly swords to leave mortal wounds on the British Legion's body.
This method of fighting lacked the exquisite skill sought by the spirit of Japanese swordsmanship.
Instead, it more resembled "well-coordinated thugs used to street fighting in large groups."
This method of slaughtering enemies was unique to the Feat of Arms of Izumi-no-Kami Kanesada inherited from the Shinsengumi Vice-Commander Hijikata Toshizō. During a chaotic battle, one could not rely exclusively on skillful swordsmanship.
At the same time, this offensive was also planned by Masatsugu.
"Impressive as always, Tachibana-dono. Does the oblique formation take credit for this fierce offensive?" Edward muttered from the back of the British army.
While the soldiers in the front were locked in combat, troops in the back would rush forward to deliver a second strike, and a third, etc, fighting relentlessly to break the enemy formation—
Putting elite troops in a column with deep ranks had this effect.
And currently in a column, the katana-wielding Kanesadas had turned into a sword's tip to stab into the line of Garter Knights.
At this rate, the black knights' formation would not last for long.
However, the Black Prince had expected this as soon as he saw the enemy's oblique formation.
He said, "I knew long ago... You are a famed general capable of thrusting your samurai sword at my throat. Naturally, as a knight, I have prepared retaliatory measures as well."
Edward was flying on a wyvern mount.
He looked down at the melee battle taking place between the two armies. The Tōkaidō-Roman coalition in echelon formation was currently fighting the line of Garter Knights.
The protruding left side of the echelon formation was clashing violently with the right side of the line in a chaotic battle.
However, the other soldiers were separated by dozens to a hundred or so meters, and were exchanging gunfire without entering the chaotic battle at all.
Edward calmly observed the battle situation.
He was watching the melee contest between samurai and black knights.
Breaking through at that point would instantly overturn the battle situation—
"Upon a knight's honor... Pierce them."
The Plantagenet prince issued the order for death.
The three hundred Garter Knights in the back had been focused on firing their bows so far. Their armaments spontaneously turned back into the normal bayonet rifles.
Rising by a height of four hundred meters, they occupied the sky over the echelon formation.
The Black Prince commanded sonorously, "Knights of the Garter, charge at full speed with all your might!"
Edward had ordered a cavalry charge.
The cavalry charge was the favorite tactic of Richard the Lionheart.
Using the bayonets as "cavalry lances," the Legions flew towards the enemy at maximum speed to pierce Legion armor with the sharp blades. The impact and momentum of the charge was able to scatter the enemy. A so-called cavalry charge was to use hundreds or thousands of troops to conduct such an attack offensive—
This time, three hundred Garter Knights were used to launch a cavalry charge.
Unconcerned with harming friendly forces, Edward went as far as to issue a cruel order that attacked them as well.
The black meteors crashed towards the left wing of the echelon formation from four hundred meters above!
At the same time, Masatsugu issued a new order.
He could not help but smile when he saw that the enemy general was just as insane as he was. In a certain way, this also meant that they were truly good rivals.
"So we both came up with similar tactics..."
The Kanesadas and the Garter Knights that had started a melee battle, as well as the black knights charging at them, friend and foe alike—All of them were caught in an attack from the side.
This wave of attacks came from rifle fire of the hundreds of Centuriae and Kamuys on the Tōkaidō side.
Concentrating troops in one location would raise their offensive power there.
Ultimately, this was the key principle of the oblique order. What would elite troops with superb offensive power do after killing the enemies before them? Simple, move on to the next.
For example, they could move to other enemies and ambush them from the back or the flank.
Then what about the other part of the army with "low offensive power"?
There was no need for ordinary troops to be excessively aggressive. They should delay participating in battle as much as possible while keeping up just enough to avoid getting left behind. The underlying condition was that they must stay within a certain distance of the rest of the army to prevent the enemy from isolating them.
Once they clashed with the enemy in melee, there was no need to worry about defeating the enemy either.
Maintaining stalemate was the key point. Ensuring their own safety and survival was the top priority. While this was happening, the "elite unit with superior offensive power" would defeat the initial enemies in front of them before turning to the rest of the enemies stalled by their "less powerful allies."
Then afterwards, the ordinary troops would attack aggressively, to surround and destroy the enemy army in concert with the elite unit...
This was the most ideal and offensive use of the "oblique order."
However, there were different applications depending on the battlefield and the commander. On this occasion, Tachibana Masatsugu had used his "elite unit of six hundred Kanesadas" cleverly as bait.
The enemy consisted of Prince Edward and the Knights of the Garter.
What if even the oblique order's concentration of force failed to break through the ranks of the black knights?
Tachibana Masatsugu had considered this pessimistic outcome and it was not paranoia.
After using the trump cards of katana-drawing and Tennen Rishin Style swordsmanship, the Kanesadas under his command still could not overcome the longbows and the shields of the Garter Knights so easily.
While they were locked in a struggle, the enemy even launched a cavalry charge—
"Centuriae, switch the targets of your rifles for the time being."
"Do not worry about harming the Kanesadas... Rather, shoot them along with the enemy. It is imperative that you eliminate the Knights of the Garter that are fighting the Kanesadas!"
Wei Qing and Akigase Rikka issued their respective orders.
Earlier, they had received a messenger pipe fox sent by the top commander, Tachibana Masatsugu, asking them to proceed according to the original plan.
Their current forces were respectively four hundred Centuriae and a hundred and twenty Kamuys.
Just now, they had followed the forefront unit of Kanesadas to advance slowly towards the enemy while firing along the way.
Not too long ago, their rate of fire had dropped slightly.
The coalition army had suddenly changed course and accelerated during the minute or two when the enemy commander's attention was focused on the "Kanesadas of which every last one had drawn their katana," thus allowing them to move unimpeded—
The mixed force of Centuriae and Kamuys rushed ahead to the left, accelerating all at once.
While the Garter Knights and the Kanesadas were locked in a fierce struggle, this force successfully took the position on their right flank, resulting in a formation in the shape of a diagonal slash.
Once in position, the coalition force opened fire continually.
Their target was the zone containing the shield-bearing black knights, the knights that had charge from above, and the Kanesadas that were chopping away, a very chaotic situation.
The Garter Knights in that zone were no longer in an orderly formation.
Without a packed formation, their protective barriers failed to provide much of an effect. The coalition force's attack from an unexpected angle dealt a severe and unprecedented blow to the black knights. Many Garter Knights crashed into the peaks of Hakone's mountains.
The Kanesadas were also shot down in the process.
With a drastic decrease in numbers on both sides, the two armies continued in a truly fierce melee battle—
"Let the status quo continue for now..."
Wei Qing murmured to himself. Riding a silver wyvern, he was soaring the sky over the battlefield. Silver-white Roman Legions could be seen fighting bravely everywhere.
The Eastern Roman Empire's mainstay Legion was called the Centuria.
Like the Japanese Kamuy, the Centuria was a Legion type of smaller build.
In contrast, the Garter Knight, based on the Crusade, was a size larger than the silver-white Roman troops. However, unlike the blue samurai, the Centuriae did not rely on agility to compensate for their size disadvantage.
Each Centuria was equipped with a huge square shield.
They defended against the black knights' shots and blades using their raised shields and would counterattack whenever the enemy tired—
Rather than charge and attack aggressively, they would often defeat enemies by waiting for them to make the first move.
Despite their smaller build, Centuriae were extremely tough and resilient in mind, body, and shield. The fangs of their counterattacks were also extremely sharp. Such were the characteristics of the Centuria Legion.
The Centuriae specialized in defensive battles in secure and orderly formations without pushing forward too aggressively.
Relying on these traits, Wei Qing continued the protracted battle.
He said, "Tachibana-dono's destiny does not end here—Then there will be a chance for a reversal without requiring me to give fortune a spin..."
Surrounded only by Legions locked in fierce combat, there was not a soul around him.
Hence, no one heard his murmurs.
"At this rate... The battle favors us, the British. That is what I think."
A girl's adorable voice spoke next to Edward's ear.
The genie Morrigan was sitting on his shoulder. The capable adjutant looked like she was about to offer advice—But no, despite using a small doll dozens of centimeters tall, she somehow managed to shrug.
"Prince, you see things differently, yes?"
"So you see it too? Impressive. A mere spirit knows how to read my face, huh?"
"Your mental state is easily written in your facial musculature. Guessing is not difficult."
Even in the midst of a fierce battle, she still did not keep her harsh tongue in check.
Edward smiled wryly and focused his mind on sensing the battlefield. He was carefully counting how many Legions were fighting in the sky over Mount Souun in the heart of Hakone.
First of all, there were roughly eight hundred Garter Knights on the British side.
Of the Tōkaidō-Roman coalition, a hundred and sixty of the red-purple Kamuy variant, three hundred and forty of the Centuriae, and a hundred of the standard blue Kamuys remained—A total of six hundred or so.
The "red-purples" were not the only ones tired.
It was the same for the Centuriae because they had spent a long time at Seiryuu Gate to keep Edward occupied.
This numerical gap of two hundred would only increase over time. However, Edward was still fired up for battle. Ambition and competitiveness made him cheerful.
He was deeply convinced that the opponent who had won his approval still had more tricks to play!
Back to Tachibana Masatsugu—
Currently, he was a slight distance from the battlefield where Legions of three nations were fighting intensely.
He rode his wyvern near the ground, flying along the ridge of Mount Souun. The remains of Legions killed in aerial combat were strewn all over the place.
This included Kanesadas, Centuriae, Kamuys, and Garter Knights.
In terms of proportion, the colors of red-purple and black dominated. This meant that the fighting between the red-purples and the Garter Knights was the most intense. Of all casualties, the Kanesadas were the most numerous.
As one would expect, Masatsugu's troops were mostly afflicted with arrow wounds.
The arrows of light shot by the Garter Knights did not disappear.
The arrows of light were still embedded in the Kanesadas. Some of the Kanesadas were shot in the head, chest, or neck, killing them. There were others who had arrows in their thigh, foot, or waist, immobilizing them. There were also many cases of flesh wounds in shoulders, arms, or surface damage to armor.
The majority of the Kanesadas were lying on the ground, unable to fight anymore.
Some were sitting collapsed on the ground limply, unable to even lift their head.
Having consumed vast amounts of ectoplasmic fluid, they were depleted in strength. Just as Masatsugu was satisfied with the current situation, he sensed bloodlust so he pulled the wyvern's reins lightly.
Wyverns were intelligent retainer beasts. His flying mount noticed Masatsugu's intent and changed course to the right.
Several seconds later, something descended through Masatsugu and his wyvern's former position.
A beam and the noise of gunfire.
A Garter Knight approached, its bayonet rifle pointed at Masatsugu.
This black knight was not heavily injured. It was flying at low altitude only because the shock of a collision during battle had sent it down. The two eyes beneath the mask had evidently captured Masatsugu's figure.
The enemy realized that the noesis emanating from Masatsugu was commanding a great army.
Discerning that this human was the commander, the Garter Knight was planning to take out the army's head!
"Fine, I guess I'll have to deal with it."
Masatsugu was about to raise his personal sword to take care of the attacking enemy.
Just as he gripped the hilt of Izumi-no-Kami Kanesada, he heard an ally's voice.
"My Appellation of Onikiri Yasutsuna... O trenchant blade of universal renown!"
Spurring her wyvern to fly at full speed, Akigase Rikka charged at the British Legion.
She drew the treasured blade of Genji pedigree at her waist and recited the mantra of the Feat of Arms. Rikka also intended to slay the enemy soldier with her own hand.
A slightly wavy temper-line was visible on the two-feet-seven-inch blade.
In terms of dignified appearance, Onikiri Yasutsuna was superior to the Izumi-no-Kami Kanesada held by Masatsugu.
"Demonstrate to the world the martial feat of oni slaying once more!"
The peerless treasured blade, Onikiri Yasutsuna, was precisely the Appellation inherited by Rikka.
The targeted Garter Knight was swinging its bayonet rifle at Masatsugu and Rikka as though trying to swat two flying bugs.
...The British Legion's attack worked. The gigantic blade sliced through a blue wyvern's body.
The wyvern was bifurcated in one stroke, but the rider was no longer in the saddle. Exhibiting amazing jumping power, Rikka flew into the air, swinging her treasured sword of Genji pedigree.
Rikka rushed at the Garter Knight's black mask and the treasured blade easily sliced through the enemy's face.
This strike combined a spectacular jump with excellent swordsmanship and physical prowess.
Mortally injured, the black knight's gigantic body began to fall, crashing violently into Mout Souun's surface. The Feat of Arms held by "the famous blade that had slain Shuten-dōji, the oni of Ooe-yama," was mystical swordsmanship allowing a human being to slay Legions personally.
However, having jumped into the air, Rikka would inevitably fall.
"Counting on you, Masatsugu-dono!"
The two of them did not engage in redundant conversation. Masatsugu kicked the side of his wyvern.
The wyvern accelerated towards where Rikka was going to fall. Seeing that, the famous swordswoman and Governor General slowly sheathed her sword.
Smiling, she was calm and confident.
Two seconds later, Masatsugu released the reins in his hands and caught Rikka with both arms.
In other words, a "princess carry." Still smiling, Rikka wrapped her arms around the back of Masatsugu's neck.
Overcoming their crisis magnificently, the two of them felt compelled to praise themselves.
"It appears that... I must thank you properly, Masatsugu-dono."
"No, that won't be necessary. I'm the one who should thank you."
Exchanging pleasantries, they gazed into each other's eyes.
Masatsugu seated Rikka in front of him, instantly turning their physical contact into a hug. The noble daughter of the ruling house sat sideways on the saddle, leaning against Masatsugu's chest.
Rikka was pressed intimately against Masatsugu's body.
Through the military uniform, Masatsugu could feel her softness and warmth.
It was early winter and the midslope region of Mount Souun in Hakone was at a fairly high altitude. Also, it was not sunny today and the two of them were flying in the air, riding a wyvern.
Naturally, the air and the wind were quite chilly.
Masatsugu's hypothermic body became even colder.
On the other hand, Rikka's body was quite warm. Simply hugging her felt very comfortable.
The physical bodies of Chevaliers were all like this. Strengthened by ectoplasmic fluid on a daily basis, their bodies were extremely healthy. There was no worry of hypothermia even under adverse conditions of this sort. Rikka herself was wearing just her usual military uniform without any winter clothing.
When resupplying ectoplasmic fluid through an embrace, the other party was obliged to undress.
However, even through the military uniform, Masatsugu was able to obtain substantial warmth today.
Rikka came to her senses and hastily unfastened her top buttons.
"What's the matter, Rikka-dono?"
"Pray forgive my negligence. In this situation, etiquette would dictate that I do this, wouldn't it?"
Rikka was probably trying to expose more of her skin.
She undid approximately half of the buttons of her uniform jacket and blouse. Of course, this was meaningless unless the parts in direct contact were fully disrobed.
Nevertheless, Masatsugu smiled. He was able to admire the exposed cleavage.
"I-Is this insufficient?"
"No, for me, this is truly wonderful."
"I am so glad..!"
Rikka smiled from the heart and hugged Masatsugu's neck tightly.
Her gorgeous black hair was giving off a fragrant scent. Sitting on the saddle together, whispering in each other's ear, this was a pleasure of a different sort.
Through their mutual embrace, Masatsugu was filled with ectoplasmic fluid inside.
This was all thanks to Rikka sharing her warmth with him.
"Let's go, my men."
Soon after, Masatsugu issued a command.
He was ordering the Kanesadas fighting desperately in the sky over Mount Souun, dragging their fatigued bodies to face off against the Knights of the Garter.
In addition, this included the Kanesadas that had pretended to crash and fled into the mountains—
They had been struck by English arrows, but not to the point of critical injury. Some of these wounds did not affect combat. There were over two hundred Kanesadas in this category. Sitting or lying down, they had been resting on Mount Souun.
—One purpose of doing this was to return to the battlefield once Masatsugu resupplied in ectoplasmic fluid.
—The second purpose was to make the British misjudge "their upper hand" as being better than the true situation, luring them into advancing recklessly, so as to strike back at them at an opportune moment.
Masatsugu and Rikka's wyvern was flying in the midslope section of Mount Souuun.
Everywhere they went, red-purple Legions were using their swords as crutches to get up. The eyes behind their masks were burning with fighting spirit and bloodlust. Of the ones that had crashed into the mountain, more than half were simply "playing dead."
This method was a bit underhanded, more or less, but fair play was a luxury during wartime. Masatsugu smiled quietly.
After all, his army had spent a lot of energy moving the Tintagel before the battle.
"My men, the first ten minutes of the counterattack are the most crucial. There is no need to fight with reckless abandon. Instead, I want each of you to kill more than one black knight."
Masatsugu sounded more like a criminal leader inciting rioters than a general lecturing his troops. These calmly delivered words set the Kanesadas ablaze with fighting spirit.
"Fight for ten minutes with the surefire intent to kill—The battle will definitely turn in our favor. Go."
Back to the sky over Mount Souun.
Until a couple minutes ago, the red-purple Legions were all exhausted.
In a state of depleted strength, the Kanesadas were barely keeping up with the Garter Knights in a chaotic battle. However, they were now gradually gaining strength.
Swinging their Japanese swords, their movements across the battlefield had recovered their original acuity.
Moreover—Their numbers were clearly bolstered.
Less than a hundred and fifty red-purple Kamuys remained just a while ago. Now, the Black Prince and Morrigan counted again using noetic waves.
"Prince, the enemy had reinforcements. Currently, the red-purples number three hundred and one."
"Rather than reinforcements, they were simply playing dead earlier. Their goal was to lure us into advancing recklessly, so as to deliver a vicious counterattack for a more potent comeback," Edward explained to Morrigan.
The red-purple Legion reinforcements were flying from Mount Souun to join the aerial battle as though nothing had happened.
These reinforcements were not an ambush force placed in advance.
Rather, they were Legions that had been too tired to fight, crashed into the mountains, before "resurrecting" once more.
Otherwise, Edward's discerning eye would have seen through their deliberate act of "playing dead."
"Sure enough... Tachibana-dono has used some kind of method to replenish his Legions' ectoplasmic fluid during battle. I believe this must be an effect of his Feat of Arms."
"No need to return, to a water shrine?"
"I guessed this was a possibility when I watched his battle against my uncle. Now there seems to be no doubt. He dares to push his troops to the limit only because he possesses such a Feat of Arms. Even to the point of using exhausted soldiers as bait, so as to naturally lure the enemy into carelessness or misjudgment..."
Sitting on Edward's shoulder, the Morrigan doll was speechless in surprise.
However, she was the finest spirit of the British Empire, after all. Morrigan immediately brought her mind under control and asked Edward, "So, Prince... What countermeasures, shall we take?"
"No need for special countermeasures. All we need to do is keep fighting."
Edward asserted quietly.
"Do not forget that the Knights of the Garter are the elite of the elite. It would not be an exaggeration to call them Britain's strongest army. Have faith in them."
Edward clenched his fist as though trying to stop himself from getting agitated.
"Indeed, the tides have turned during these ten minutes. The enemy currently holds the upper hand. We must exercise self-restraint for now, then counterattack at an opportune moment—Victory is destined to be ours."
The thirty-centimeter-tall Morrigan was very surprised.
Edward said to her, "Truthfully... I actually have a trump card too, capable of firing up exhausted troops."
"Indeed, it is almost time to invoke it—Listen to me, black lions of England's pride, I hereby order you to contravene knightly ideals."
Reciting an ominous mantra, the Black Prince unleashed the power of a taboo Feat of Arms.
His tone was solemn, like that of a devout man of the cloth.
"The road to the kingdom of God only opens to those who cast aside their human identity and return to being beasts. Knights of the Garter, I hereby authorize you all to unleash your hidden faces."
Edward the Black Prince was elegant as a person and extremely chivalrous.
Few would dispute such a statement.
Putting aside shortcomings of slight flippancy, he always adhered to strict discipline, striving for the "knightly ideal," making no exceptions in the way he treated his closest subordinates.
Hence, the renown of the Black Knight and the Order of the Garter was impeccable in Britain.
Edward's life was filled with the glory of victory. In addition to his ability as a commander, his qualities and principles as a knight were even more fascinating. Dying with regrets merely due to disease, he had never met defeat at anyone's hands.
He was virtually an invincible general of great renown. One could also call him a genius and a hero whose charisma transcended time.
Were these characteristics alone enough to ensure his undefeated reputation?
So-called war was a cruel world filled with blood, violence, murderous impulse, malevolence, and hatred.
Waging war required massive military funds. Soldiers of old needed to be paid, unlike modern Legions. During the medieval age, there was no Charter of Chivalry to establish "universal rules to facilitate war's smooth operation." Under those conditions, terror and violence were essential for subjugating enemy territories. Money and supplies also had to be requisitioned from battlefields...
Capable as Edward was, he still could not escape these realities of war.
Confronted such situations, he was a man who dared to face reality. Well aware that such behavior ran contrary to his ideals, he was not afraid of getting his hands dirty.
Edward the Black Prince was undoubtedly England's hero.
However, to the people of France, he was the commander-in-chief of the invaders, the one ordering slaughter and plunder, and the "chevalier de noir" who engaged in massacre from time to time.
Edward often reflected upon his moniker.
"At least it is far better than being called the White Prince."
He would often mutter that to himself as a kind of self-mockery and reminder, tinged with a certain regret. He did not believe himself to be an untainted person, while on the conscience level, it was debatable.
In any case, he unleashed the mysterious reason for the "black" in the name of the Black Prince.
Now, his army went berserk on the battlefield of Hakone, giving off an aura of red noesis reminiscent of the color of blood.
"Impressive as always, my personal guard."
In front of the Black Prince, the Garter Knights began to engage in cruel carnage.
One of the Garter Knights fired two shots consecutively at close range then grabbed the head of a Centuriae that could no longer fight, crushing the enemy's skull in its left hand.
Another knight circled around to assault a Kamuy from behind, then kicked away the corpse that was about to crash.
There was one black knight that blinded a Kamuy by slashing its eyes, then proceeded to stab the enemy in the gut ten-odd times.
A Kanesada with two arms lost and unable to fight, struggling to stay afloat in the air, was fired upon by two Garter Knights, turning into swiss cheese...
The slaughter was innumerable.
On the battlefield, cruel carnage took place everywhere.
However, the violence currently employed by the Garter Knights was going too far overall, with a flavor of insanity. It would be no exaggeration to call them intoxicated by partaking in a bloodbath.
This was most likely a far cry from their usual behavior.
The Knights of the Garter were always impeccably elegant, similar to their commander.
Even on the battlefield, they would raise their bayonet rifles gracefully to fire in perfect unison to exhibit spectacular marksmanship.
Currently, these qualities were nowhere to be seen—
"I have heard of this Feat of Arms—Chevalier de Noir, by name only."
The doll possessed by the spirit Morrigan was sitting Edward's shoulder.
Her attitude remained calm, but the sight of the Garter Knights' vicious fighting was too shocking, completely impossible to avert one's eyes away.
"In the shared database in the military, there are records about you, Prince. Oddly enough, this Feat of Arms is listed by name only without detailed description... I always found it unbelievable."
"I deleted it, because it is not worth recording," said Edward indifferently. "Of all my Feat of Arms, this is the simplest and most boring. Consequently, the effect is intense on occasion—or rather, too intense."
"By effect, you mean..."
"Just as you suspect, it means ordering knights to fight as berserkers, reveling in slaughter. This raises their combat power by roughly 20%, but the drawback is that they are limited to crude actions. Unless I retract the order, they will fight with all their strength until depleted of ectoplasmic fluid..."
Despite holding an overwhelming advantage, Edward did not seem excited at all.
As a commander of troops, using this Feat of Arms necessitated extra care. Obliged to adhere dutifully to a knight's true path, he cautioned himself that this was a taboo power.
When a battle gradually reached stalemate, or the situation was about to go sour...
This could be considered a potent drug for producing an extremely intense effect if timed correctly.
"Now then, Tachibana-dono."
Edward's formidable foe was on this battlefield of splattering ectoplasmic fluid.
Calling out to his unseen enemy, he muttered, "Whether tactics for seizing victory or Feats of Arms... I believe I have used everything flawlessly. All I can do from this point onwards is to believe in my own order of knights. Do you have the ability to overturn the current situation?"
"I have borrowed all kinds of weapons to fight the Black Prince..."
Riding a flying wyvern, Masatsugu spoke quietly.
He touched the hilt of Izumi-no-Kami Kanesada at his waist.
"To think that at this juncture, the enemy pulled out an even more troublesome weapon. Furthermore, all of his weapons are his own."
Archers of Crécy, the holy shields of the Order of the Garter, a death-bringing Feat of Arms of slaughter.
Every Feat of Arms belonging to Edward the Black Prince was astounding in power. They also symbolized the many great military accomplishments to his name in the past. Great military accomplishments paired with an outstandingly talented general—
Edward had virtually no blind spots. In terms of ability as a general, the Lionheart was far inferior to the Black Prince.
"That prince really is quite a remarkable man," Masatsugu praised his opponent generously.
Together with Rikka, he was riding a wyvern, roughly a hundred meters from the battlefield of violent slaughter. Flying in the sky, they watched the chaotic battle from outside.
The Tōkaidō-Roman coalition were up against the berserk order of black knights.
Every four or five seconds, a Kanesada, Centuria, or Kamuy would be wounded, splattering blue ectoplasmic fluid in the process. Many of these were mortal blows, causing them to crash from the sky directly. The unfavorable tide of battle was clear to see.
"What comes next is an arduous struggle to see which side's troops are stronger."
Masatsugu analyzed the situation. He did not think his own army had reached its limit...
However, it was true that the battle was a difficult predicament. Tricky to deal with in the first place, the Garter Knights had obtained even greater power to go on a murderous rampage.
Unless he came up with a solution to counter this threat, defeat would be sealed.
"Rikka-dono, I will need to trouble you to accompany me a bit longer. I can't be certain how far my abilities can go... Regardless, all I can do right now is struggle to the bitter end."
"Is that so?" Leaning against Masatsugu's bosom, Rikka asked in puzzlement.
Sitting sideways on the saddle, she looked back. With her body and face oriented towards Masatsugu, she showed a mischievous look.
"The Tachibana Masatsugu I know is someone who would never lose to the Black Prince. For the past two months, I have been watching your battles with my very own eyes..."
Rikka gazed into Masatsugu's eyes and said, "I dare assert that you do not lose to that Englishman in any regard."
"Well, the enemy is outstanding, Masatsugu-dono, but you are also his equal, aren't you? But additionally, he has the embarrassing title of prince, so you definitely hold the upper hand here."
"I could very well be a prince in my past life, you know?"
"Simply judging from your character, Masatsugu-dono, I would surmise roots as a commoner, I suppose?"
"Now that you say that, I do feel the same."
"Using the name and title of my revered Hijikata Toshizō, you inherit Lord Hijikata's good fortune in battle, which raises your odds of victory substantially. Besides, so what if it is a borrowed weapon? Nothing wrong with that. Borrowing during a necessary moment is more logical than preparing your own, right?"
"Yes, this is also easier and more handy."
Masatsugu smiled with delight. Rikka smiled back.
To be allies meant more than fighting alongside each other. During times of adversity, they also had to cooperate and offer mutual encouragement to lessen each other's burden. Most importantly, Masatsugu was struck by a sincere thought.
"It might be disrespectful for me to say this, but Rikka-dono, you are surely quite a fine woman."
"H-Hearing that from you... Incredibly, it does not feel bad at all."
The brave and fierce maiden blushed slightly.
Tachibana Masatsugu was certain that he was the first man to ever witness such an expression on Rikka's face. Feeling deeply satisfied, he proceeded to say suddenly, "A few days ago, I recalled a bit of my past. I used to have an ally back then. I'm not clear on the details, but... As both a soldier and as a man, he was a hero no less great than Prince Edward."
"Were you and he brothers-in-arms, Masatsugu-dono...?"
"Yes, we rode to the ends of the earth together, fighting hard for our liege. And now, it is plenty enough for me to have you by my side, Rikka-dono."
So what if it is a borrowed weapon—
Masatsugu smiled again. He really liked these words.
He smiled with a twitch of his cheek again. With such reliable allies by his side, ready to extend a helping hand at necessary moments, there was no need for him to prepare anything at all. Currently by the side of Masatsugu, whose identity was unknown, there was one such reliable girl by the side...
Masatsugu gazed at Rikka with affection and she reciprocated demurely.
Instantly, Masatsugu had a strange feeling. Normally, he would only reach a certain body temperature after resupplying ectoplasmic fluid—But unbelievably, he now felt his blood boiling.
This was no metaphor. He really felt hot and uncomfortable, as though the blood in his arteries and veins had reached boiling point.
"Masatsugu-dono, what is this..."
Rikka was surprised too. Close to him, she noticed the change as well.
She could not help but stroke Masatsugu's arm and face to confirm the temperature. Then she widened her eyes and looked straight at Masatsugu.
Masatsugu took her in his arms and said, "Rikka-dono, would you kindly listen to my request?"
Certain words surfaced in Masatsugu's mind. Borrowed weapons. Necessary moment. Ally.
The heat of blood. Fragments of memories. The best friend he missed sorely, ╳╳╳. At that moment, every blood vessel in Masatsugu's body was filled with powerful spiritual energy. His blood was also restless.
Masatsugu knew that these were signs of an awakening.
The situation was identical to when his power as a Chevalier awakened. Determination fixed upon the future, working in conjunction to a mystical environment with suitable conditions, had ushered in a revolutionary change—
"Please become my ally, sworn by blood."
"Riding with me to the ends of the earth, sharing the same prey to partake in its flesh. Sharing glory and downfall together regardless of victory or defeat. A relationship that makes us siblings and friends at the same time."
Masatsugu rolled up the sleeve of his right arm.
He bit his wrist lightly. Blood seeped out from where the skin broke.
The raw wound was raised up in front of Rikka's eyes.
"If you are willing to accept... You and I can still move forward. Assuredly."
Rikka slowly drew near him.
She drew near the bleeding wound on Masatsugu's wrist.
In fact, the answer had been decided long ago. Akigase Rikka would never refuse, hence the two of them were fit to become true allies.
Rikka's trembling lips touched the wound then she sucked the blood a little.
However, this was still not enough. Rikka understood that. She sucked harder, tasting the flavor of fresh blood. Masatsugu's blood was in her mouth and it spread from the tip of her tongue.
Next, she extended her tongue to lick blood from his wrist repeatedly.
The slow and gentle movements of her tongue was like using one's tongue to caress or treat a wound. Masatsugu noticed that his blood and mystical bond of fate was residing inside her.
"H-How is this...?"
"More than enough. Thank you, Rikka-dono."
The noble daughter was looking at Masatsugu with lips that were moist and red.
Of course, that was precisely Masatsugu's blood. Very grateful to Rikka for her devotion, Masatsugu accidentally did something impertinent.
He inadvertently drew near Rikka and kissed her red lips.
There was a rusty taste on her lips, the taste of Masatsugu's blood.
Passionately, she licked and savored that taste. With feelings of gratitude and affection, Masatsugu sealed Rikka's lips, using his own tongue to lick away the blood.
Masatsugu's impertinent behavior did not stop there.
He even inserted his tongue into Rikka's mouth, probing around in search of Rikka's tongue to play with.
The taste of blood was on the tip of her tongue too. Soon after, he release Rikka and she murmured shyly, "B-By doing this, you make me very troubled..."
"My apologies. I will swear to heaven and promise never to do it again."
"Th-That would trouble me too. The dilemma stems from my position as the Governor General, but on a personal level, I..."
Rikka's tone was coy. It was Masatsugu's first time to hear her speaking in such a voice.
Masatsugu drew near and kissed her again. The Chevalier princess, whose swordsmanship could match any man's, accepted him gladly.
The berserk Knights of the Garter had been overpowering the other three types of Legions for more than ten minutes.
The various Legions were drastically reduced in number.
Britain's black knights remained the biggest faction, numbering around seven hundred in total.
On the other hand, the Kanesadas, with katanas drawn, were down to two hundred and forty. Sticking to defense, the Centuriae only had a hundred and seventy of them remaining. The standard Kamuys led by Rikka numbered sixty—
In total, the Tōkaidō-Roman coalition was roughly four hundred and seventy strong.
Locked in a chaotic battle, the numerical gap had surpassed two hundred. Furthermore, empowered by the Feat of Arms of slaughter, the seven hundred Garter Knights had clearly risen to a new level of strength.
At this rate, the British Empire would win for sure. The tide of the battle had settled mostly.
Unexpectedly, signal fires for a counterattack were lit in the coalition army too.
The fire originated at Akigase Rikka and the Legions under her command.
The remaining sixty Kamuys all glowed with blue light. Powerful noesis was turning into visible radiance.
Riding Masatsugu's wyvern, Chevalier Rikka issued orders from afar.
"Draw your bows."
Glowing blue, the Kamuys obeyed Rikka's command and got ready to attack.
They were no longer holding bayonet rifles. Instead, each of them was equipped with a small yellowish brown bow, which looked like it was made of extremely hard timber.
The English longbows were very large and comparable to the black knights in height.
The bows equipped by the Kamuys were at most half as big. Nocking arrows of blue light onto the string of their small bows, they drew their bows hard to the limit, ready to release...
The sixty Kamuys led by Rikka were scattered across the battlefield.
The female Governor General commanded sternly and her entire army shot in unison.
All arrows met their mark, striking enemy troops, and in their vitals too. The arrows of blue light pierced the Garter Knights' weakspots in their helmets, masks, necks, armor gaps, chest, spine, etc.
Naturally, sixty black British Legions were shot down.
The blue Japanese archers nocked and drew again, pulling their short yellowish brown bows to the limit.
Rapidly, another sixty black knights were rendered corpses.
One after another, the shot Garter Knights crashed into Mount Souun's ridge line. Although bows could not shoot as quickly as volley fire, these were still magic projectiles of superb power.
Unerring accuracy combined with the effect of one shot, one kill. They did not lose to the English longbow at all.
"What accurate bows and arrows..." Rikka whispered in amazement.
Currently, the sixty Kamuys were shooting arrows from within a chaotic battle.
Unless at close range where it was impossible to miss, the other Legions did not shoot for fear of friendly fire. However, Rikka's Kamuys boldly fired their arrows, always meeting their mark regardless of distance.
"So this is your second Feat of Arms, Masatsugu-dono..."
"It is a Feat of Arms belonging both to me and my best friend from my past life. Borrowing the troops of my ally in this life, I have replicated that man's power."
"So your best friend was an amazing archer, huh..."
Indeed, Masatsugu had a faint recollection.
Both his past ally ╳╳╳ and himself, nicknamed _____, were generals of equal strength, as well as famous archers honored as "Bow Gods."
"He and I were dogs serving the same lord. We used to ride across battlefields together."
"I see. So that is the 'Two-Headed Dog.' This title used to belong to you and he, and now—It belongs to you and I, Akigase Rikka!"
"Sure enough, Tachibana-dono's luck has not run out," Wei Qing smiled and murmured to himself.
Just now, the Kamuys, Legions of Imperial Japan, had equipped themselves with bows.
Until now, the Kamuys had been operating their bayonet rifles with experienced skill. After switching to short yellowish brown bows, their combat power became almost godly.
With one hundred percent accuracy, they released incomparably powerful arrows.
Witnessing the arrows' astounding power, the berserk Garter Knights started to swing their rifles to block. Some of the black knights even went as far to dodge with reckless abandon.
As a result, killing speed was much lowered.
However, the Kamuys' accurate shooting was still a huge threat.
Struck in their limbs and vulnerabilities one after another, the British Legions were dealt a serious blow.
Some of the Garter Knights charged to attack, trying to stop the Kamuys from shooting their arrows. They tried to fire at close range or use melee to kill the Kamuys.
Fortunately, the red-purple Kanesadas rushed to their aid.
Blocking the rampaging black knights, they employed katanas and Japanese swordsmanship to chop through the pitch-black armor of the killers.
Amidst the chaotic battle, the Kamuys did not forget to demonstrate their godly marksmanship.
Even when a Kanesada's famed blade and a Garter Knights' bayonet rifle was locked in a contest of strength, the blue Japanese archers did not fear hurting their allies by accident.
In such a situation, the red-purple Legion's helmet was almost touching the helmet of the black knight.
However, the Kamuy's arrow struck the Garter Knight in the temple with unerring accuracy. Had the arrow deviated a few meters, it could have shot and killed a friendly soldier.
The Kanesadas and the Kamuys joined forces with fantastic tacit coordination.
Even the seasoned veteran Wei Qing was thoroughly impressed. Smiling, he ordered his Centuriae to attack all-out.
He had judged that it was the perfect opportunity to break the British army's spirit.
Finally, the tide of the battle began to turn.
The blood-red aura of the Garter Knights disappeared.
The terrifying Feat of Arms was interrupted, because the Black Prince made the call that fighting calmly would be more advantageous.
In fact, the British army pulled away some distance from the Tōkaidō-Roman coalition force.
After backing away, the Garter Knights formed a square wall formation, glowing with the white particles of the protective barrier. The Kamuys fired arrows to attack the British army's secure defense.
Definitely doing its job, the protective barrier neutralized the arrows.
"Unlike the English longbow, arrows shot by the Kamuys' bows cannot penetrate barriers, huh?"
It was after Wei Qing comprehended the difference between the two.
A new army arrived in the sky over Mount Souun. Forty-odd Legions of the Tōkaidō provincial army had rushed over from the south as reinforcements.
Maintaining a spherical formation, they were the "Kurou Hougan" variant of Kamuy with elongated heads.
"Onii-sama, Rikka-sama! Thanks for hanging in there! I finally got here!"
Their commander, Tachibana Hatsune, accompanied them, riding a blue wyvern.
This girl was also the "little sister" of Tachibana Masatsugu the Resurrectee.
"I recall... The army that was invading Suzaku Gate, right?"
Prince Edward frowned with doubt.
He had just heard Morrigan report that an army of Kamuys with elongated heads had arrived at the battlefield.
This revelation surprised Edward a lot. Just earlier, when the Tōkaidō army's Legions launched a fierce attack with bows, the Black Prince had merely said "I see" calmly.
It was expected that Tachibana Masatsugu would take certain measures to resist.
Perhaps Edward was secretly celebrating inside too.
After that, the Black Prince calmly observed the enemy's "Feat of Arms of the bow." Disengaging the Garter Knights' "Chevaliers de Noir" state, he prepared to regroup.
Currently, he had been thinking for a few seconds with a perturbed look on his face—
"Morrigan, any news from Suzaku Gate... The defense force at the second tutelary fort?"
"Just one. Essentially that defenses cannot hold and they are about to start retreating..."
"That explains why that army could come over to converge with Tachibana-dono. This is far ahead of schedule, not even less than an hour."
Prior to the battle, Prince Edward had issued an order.
Each army would maintain defense at their respective tutelary fort for two hours.
Holding for two hours should not be a problem.
That was what Edward believed. He intended to defeat Tachibana Masatsugu within two hours then rush over to the four tutelary forts in turn to help out with defense. Little did he expect his calculations to fail.
To think that the Black Prince Edward, whose uncanny predictions seemed like prescience, would miscalculate!
"There can only be one... possible reason. That princess' outstanding talent has far surpassed Eleanor's expectations. So that is what happened."
Morrigan's doll was sitting on the Black Prince's shoulder. Despite its small size, the doll was equipped with a full set of noetic functions. Noticing the latest message, she immediately reported to the Black Prince.
"Message from the third tutelary fort... Lieutenant Colonel Grayson of Byakko Gate. Learning of Suzaku Gate's fall, the lieutenant colonel has made a suggestion."
"Please move your army to the third tutelary fort to recuperate for the time being... Once the resupply of ectoplasmic fluid is complete, face off with the enemy once more."
"...Byakko Gate is definitely not the place even if we are going to retreat."
Morrigant was taken aback.
Edward said sadly, "It appears that this battle is over. Inform all our forces that we are abandoning the defense of Hakone to take up a new position. Let me see, let us head to Atsumi."
"Prince, you are retreating!?"
"Yes. At this rate, we will be surrounded and eliminated at Mount Souun. An irrevocable outcome will arise unless we make haste to escape while we have energy to spare."
The English aristocrat spoke with displeasure.
"It was my mistake. Too focused on Tachibana-dono, I failed to take precautions against his lady liege. Let this defeat be the punishment for my miscalculation..."
Saturday November 22nd, 16:13.
The location was near the south shore of Hakone's Lake Ashi. Today, the sky had not been very clear, but the heavy cloud cover finally dissipated to let through glimpses of sunlight.
However, the sun was about to set.
On the roof of a nation-protecting keep, Fujinomiya Shiori looked out at the sky of dusk.
This nation-protecting keep was situated at the second tutelary fort, Suzaku Gate. The genie dressed in a kimono, Rindou-sensei, was waiting by Shiori's side. Over their heads—
"Well done, Princess. How praiseworthy."
"Only now do I dare confess. In actual fact, I was very worried... that I might fail to tame this."
A great phoenix with a wingspan of seventy meters had manifested in the sky.
Shining with golden brilliance the phoenix was one out of the merged divinity of the Four Gods. After breaking free from Morgan le Fay's control, the phoenix no longer had three eyes—
This giant bird's master had switched to Fujinomiya Shiori, princess of Imperial Japan.
|Back to Chapter 5||Return to Main Page||Forward to Epilogue|