Madan no Ou to Vanadis:Volume 02 Chapter 3 - MTL
|This text is a machine translation (MTL).
Be warned that the degree of translation error may be higher than usual.
This page was created before the updated (July 19, 2015) MTL guidelines and has not been reviewed.
Chapter 3 - Territoire
The ZirnitraBlack Dragon Flag waved in the cool breeze at the end of autumn.
Beside the Black Dragon Flag were two other banners. One was the Vorn family crest with a white crescent-moon and meteor on a blue background, and Ellen's flag which had a silver sword on a black background.
Beneath the refreshing, blue, cloudless sky, one hundred cavalry from Zhcted advanced down the road in an orderly fashion toward Territoire.
A man and woman – Tigre and Lim – stood at the head.
“Please accurately state the name of His Majesty in our country.”
“Um, Victa... no, it's different. Victor Arthur.”
Tigre found himself at a loss for words, and he could speak no further properly. Lim, walking alongside him on her horse, let out a sigh and lightly hit Tigre's head with a thin branch.
“Victor Arthur Volk Estes Tur Zhcted. Victor is His Majesty's name, Arthur is a name passed down from his grandfather, Volk is a name granted to him by his father who hoped he would grow up to be strong like a wolf, Estes is his family name, and Tur is granted to royalty. This is the third time, now. Please remember it.”
Tigre looked like a scolded child who had just been struck.
They had left Celesta a few days ago, and they had continued at this rate.
Dozens of sheets of paper were bundled together like a textbook in Lim's hand as she rode on horseback in her armor. Without a single gap in the words, the history of Zhcted, its mythology, and many of its traditional events were written.
“... Do I really need to remember this?”
“Lord Tigrevurmud. Do you understand your position?”
Tigre inadvertently grumbled. Lim started gazing at him coldly, nearly freezing his backbone.
“You are Eleanora-sama's captive. In the future, you will have frequent opportunities to travel throughout the country, so you must understand the situation in our land.”
It was an unpleasant future, though he could not say that in front of her.
“You must learn basic knowledge so you do not embarrass Eleanora-sama. Please learn this as quickly as possible.”
--- I know what you want to say... But I haven't even had a break since we left Celesta. We've been doing this even on the march.
“I'll do my best, Teacher.”
There was no energy in Tigre's voice. Lim folded up the papers and put it away. At the very least, their session had come to an end.
“By the way, what festival has been held since ancient times to celebrate the coming of spring and the end of winter?”
It was an unexpected question; Tigre stared at Lim involuntarily. Fortunately, his head managed to move somehow, and, after a moment, the answer came to him.
“I believe... It was the MaslenitsaSolar Festival.”
Lim's stern expression melted like ice and gave way to a soft smile.
“Since our winter is longer than Brune's, you may be able to see it.”
Lim changed the mood with her invitation as she turned around.
“Take a break. I will check on the soldiers.”
Watching Lim's back as she departed, Tigre dropped his shoulders and let out a sigh.
“Cheers for the hard work, Lord Tigrevurmud.”
Lim was replaced by a Knight. He was a young man in his 20s and had refined features. His carefully shaved head without a single hair left a strong impression.
The Knight's name was Rurick, and he was the most skilled archer amongst Ellen's soldiers. He was also on best terms with Tigre.
“You should have come up earlier. I could have used your help.”
“If I had done such a thing, Miss Limlisha would have glared at me. Besides, it was quite pleasing watching a teacher and her student from a distance.”
“It was like torture for the party concerned, though.”
Tigre shook his head to remove his feelings of fatigue and changed the subject.
“How are Teita and Batran?”
Moving behind the Zhcted Army were the soldiers of Celesta. The two who served Tigre, Teita and Batran, were amongst them.
Though Tigre opposed Teita's decision to follow him, her willful demand was unexpectedly supported by Lim.
“It is best to have an attendant close by your side.”
“... Am I really that bad?”
“Do you remember the evaluation Eleanora-sama and I gave you when we left LeitMeritz?”
Lim spoke coldly, completely silencing Tigre.
In Tigre's heart, he was also reluctant to leave Teita alone in his mansion for two reasons.
After he pushed the Thenardier Army back, Tigre scolded Teita.
“I'm glad for your feelings of wanting to wait for me, Teita, but it's useless if you don't escape at those times.”
Teita apologized with tears in her hazel eyes. It had made Tigre anxious.
His thoughts of not wanting Teita to feel lonely again eventually led to accepting Teita accompanying them.
“There are no particular problems. Teita is quite popular amongst the soldiers. Even Miss Limlisha looks at her gently.”
Rurick's words were unexpected.
“Perhaps it is because they are both female. Miss Limlisha gets along well with Teita.”
Tigre was relieved to hear she was liked amongst the soldiers; if that were the case, she should be fine.
“Batran is a good talker, and he is rather strong when playing chess or card games.”
When they made camp to rest, Batran joined in with the soldiers as they played games to entertain themselves.
“Batran was the one who taught me card games. Ah, it was always like he saw through me.”
“Yes, I can understand your feelings.”
Rurick shrugged his shoulders. Tigre held back his laughter as he imagined the scene.
“It sounds fun. Maybe I should join.”
“--- Who should join what?”
Rurick quickly shut his mouth as Lim's cold voice came from behind.
After watching Rurick stumble over his words, Tigre responded with a weak tone.
“I thought it might be fun to join everyone, something like that...”
Lim nodded frankly.
“However, only if you can answer the ten questions I will say now. If you wish to join the troops, you must give your responses today.”
Tigre let out a sigh of despair and leaned unceremoniously against his horse. The horse neighed and shook in dissatisfaction.
In the end, Tigre was not freed from Lim's grasp until they reached Territoire.
The town of Belfort was in the center of Territoire.
When they could see the town, Tigre sent Batran as a messenger to obtain approval for the Zhcted Army to enter the town.
“Batran, have you been to this town before?”
“Yes. Urz-sama... when your father was a youth, I came here several times with him as an attendant.”
Batran continued to speak as he looked at the gently undulating meadows beyond the town.
“Territoire is unlike our land; it has long fields that extend all the way to the mountains---”
He pointed to the Vosyes Mountains far to the south.
“The people by the Vosyes Mountains plant grape fields, and the cattle in these areas graze in the pastures. Many here also keep pigeons as pets.”
Before long, they received consent to enter the town. Tigre entered with Lim and Batran – Tigre had asked Batran to attend as someone who was knowledgeable with the area.
Lim was covered in her armor as well as a helmet. When Tigre asked why, her response was curt.
“Because a female Knight is conspicuous.”
Belfort was far larger than Celesta, and the roads were paved with stone.
However, the houses themselves were not so different. They were made with wood, stone, and brick, and the walls were plastered. There were some buildings with thatched roofs and noticeable stones sticking out.
Though a familiar sight to Batran and Tigre, it was unusual for Lim. She looked about restlessly in curiosity.
“Lord Tigrevurmud, what are those round stones on the roof for?”
The stone was about the size of an adult head, and there were almost always three or four on a building.
At that time, something moved in Tigre's heart. It was the mischievous nature of a poor student who was always scolded and wanted to tease his stern teacher.
“The roof will fall off from the wind without those holding it down.”
“Is that so?”
Lim nodded in admiration without showing any sign of doubt. While Tigre felt guilty from her obedient reaction, Batran laughed heartily.
“It was simply a joke; please ignore the Young Lord. During the daytime, it is heated by the sun, and it can be used in a variety of ways at night.”
“... Is that so?”
Lim glanced coldly toward Tigre. Her quiet voice full of anger sharply pierced him.
“Though I thought I may have been a little harsh, it seems you still have room to relax. Perhaps I shall increase your workload starting tomorrow.”
“... Um, can I even give an excuse?”
“Please sit upright. You are the General of an army. Your voice must remain dignified; you cannot be so timid as to admit your crimes so carelessly.”
Tigre's entreaty was coldly rejected as Lim criticized him without mercy. Though Batran somehow understood the situation, he could only smile wryly as he watched.
They had reached the residence of Viscount Augre. It was also built with wood, stones, and brick, but it was nearly double the size of Tigre's mansion. There was a dovecote found in the entrance of the household.
Lim looked doubtful as Tigre gave an honest explanation.
“It is where pigeons are kept and fed. Given its size, it likely houses around one hundred. Do they not have these in Zhcted?”
“Though there are hen houses, I have never heard of a dovecote. We do not eat pigeons...”
After leaving public notice and entering the mansion, Lim took off her helmet and held it beneath her arm.
Since Batran visited as a messenger beforehand, they were quickly taken to the Viscount's room after leaving their arms aside.
It was a simple room, unexpected from the Lord's private chamber.
The furniture was simple, and a crystal vase near the window drew a mysterious pattern of light on the floor.
The old, no-nonsense man smiled as he stood up. He was the the man who governed Territoire, Hugues Augre.
“Oh, you came, Tigre. Excuse me, that was impolite, Earl Vorn.”
“It has been a long time, Viscount Augre.”
Tigre bowed as he looked at the elder man with care.
“Are you unwell? If so, we can come another day---”
Tigre thought his condition may have been poor and he was sleeping, but the old Viscount simply smiled and shook his head.
“What, I'm just a bit injured; there's no need to exaggerate it. I'm sure seeing you after you've come so far will do my body some good.”
He was not putting on a show of strength, which gave Tigre a sense of relief.
“It's so nostalgic. You came to my house when you were still a small child. Do you remember?”
A cold sweat flowed down Tigre's back. He wondered if he had been careless in some manner; he had no memory of it at all. If he visited, it would have been when Tigre was still 8 or 9.
The old man smiled in amusement seeing Tigre's inability to respond. His thin body shook, little by little.
“I believe you found the talk of old men boring and went to explore the house. The maids found you snoring and drooling in bed.”
It was not just Lim, who stood next to him, but Batran as well, who turned around and looked at Tigre in amazement. Tigre bowed deeply in silence.
“To think you would ignore an important guest of your father, and now you have grown up and allied yourself with the Zhcted Army. So this is the Vanadis of Zhcted.”
“I apologize for the delayed introduction. She is Limlisha, the trusted aide of the Vanadis, Eleanora Viltaria.”
Lim silently bowed toward the old Viscount. For his own impoliteness, Augre also returned a greeting.
He looked serious as he returned his gaze to Tigre. It was a complete change from a moment ago.
“Now then... I roughly understand your circumstances from Massas' letter, but I would appreciate it if you could tell me the entire story.”
After Augre heard the entire story from Tigre, his face held a difficult expression.
“To abandon my stance of neutrality and fight with Duke Thenardier...”
“Please, I ask for your help.”
“I must ask to be sure, but you are not hiding anything?”
He stared at Tigre with an overwhelming strength. Though Tigre was almost overwhelmed, he focused his body and responded calmly.
“If I have done anything wrong, I would not be able to move the soldiers in a fight against Duke Thenardier.”
Augre looked down deep in thought. Tigre silently waited for his answer.
Before long, Augre called Tigre's name in a low voice.
“I will tell you honestly that I must refuse your request. Even if you are acting justly, you are powerless before Duke Thenardier. Though it is honorable to fight for a just cause, I cannot possibly bring my soldiers, my people, to war without a chance of victory.”
Batran frowned upon hearing his words, but Tigre raised his hand to restrain him. The old Viscount had more to say.
“However, it is not just Earl Massas but the Zhcted Army that has become your ally. It seems you have the means to fight Duke Ganelon and Duke Thenardier.”
“Then you will lend us your strength?”
“I would like to say yes... but there is little strength in these old bones. I will help in your fight if you give me your aid.”
“What do you mean?”
Lim narrowed her eyes slightly as she sat next to Tigre, though neither Tigre nor Augre noticed due to how minimal the change was.
Augre turned his gaze to the window and looked at the flowing meadows and Vosyes Mountains in the distance.
“There is a band of thieves in the Vosyes Mountains. Those bastards attack the nearby village, burn the land, kill the people, kidnap the women, and steal their money and livestock. I cannot simply leave it. I want you to lead your army to Vosyes... I want you to get rid of them.”
He spoke bitterly and clenched his hand, unable to suppress his anger.
“Could it be due to your injury?”
“I said it a while ago. It is not a serious injury.”
Augre looked back and smiled after seeing Tigre's anxious face.
“It should heal in a few days, but I cannot return to battle. Though he's making more trouble of it than he should, it is true I cannot leave my bed.”
Augre turned his entire body to Tigre.
“Earl Vorn. I ask this of you. Will you hold off this band of thieves in my place?”
He spoke solemnly and bowed as much as he could.
“I have asked various aristocrats in the vicinity to lend their aid to my son, but it is still unsatisfactory. Even if I find more people, there is no telling what will happen when the villages are attacked. I wish to force them back to suppress the damage they cause, no matter what.”
“Do you know how many there are?”
Lim asked from the side with an expression and voice which lacked any intonation.
“Approximately two hundred.”
Tigre was stunned for a moment; it was twice the size of the Zhcted Army he was currently leading.
“Originally, they were a small group from Zhcted with fewer than forty, but pirates from Asvarre and a mercenary named Donalbein joined them, so they quickly gained power. Though we had three hundred men, we were defeated.”
Tigre was impressed by the strength of the unknown leader of thieves. He had two hundred men and the ability to lead them.
Though the Zhcted soldiers with him were amongst the elite, it would be difficult for them to fight an adversary with double their number.
--- This can't be left alone, especially if they are making the Vosyes Mountains their stronghold.
Vosyes Mountains expanded to the north and south and acted as a border between Alsace and LeitMeritz.
If the bandits headed north, they would reach the area between the two territories, jeopardizing the peace there.
Furthermore, they would likely interfere with Tigre's movements along the mountains.
Tigre began to open his mouth, but did not speak before glancing at Lim. With a short confirmation, he turned back to Augre.
“I understand. Leave this to us.”
By the time Tigre and the others left Viscount Augre's household, the sun had sunk quite a bit.
The sky to the west was dyed crimson. It looked as if the sun were desperately pushing back the darkness as the curtain of night spread.
In contrast, the eastern sky was dark, and the moon was faintly visible.
When they left the town, the Zhcted Army had completed preparing its camp. They made a simple double fence in the surroundings, which gave it an inconsistent feeling.
“You won't be staying in the town?”
Rurick looked at him curiously. He had thought Tigre would borrow a room in the Viscount's household.
“There are a few reasons, but I thought I'd stay here with everyone.”
At that time, Teita ran up with short steps. She wore her maid uniform with the apron removed. It seems she moved about the Zhcted camp dressed in this manner.
“Tigre-sama, welcome back. Did everything turn out well?”
“We only talked. Aren't you tired, Teita?”
Tigre smiled gently and patted Teita's head.
“You do not need to worry. I was helping prepare the meals until a moment ago.”
“Meals during a march are important, right? Soup can be made quite delicious with just a slight change in the salt...”
Teita stretched her chest out proudly as she heard Rurick's words.
Tigre was happy for Teita. He was uneasy about bringing her, but she held out in her own way. Teita had firmly built her place amongst them.
“Just make sure not to overwork yourself. Batran, please help Teita.”
Teita and Batran left while Tigre entered a tent with Rurick and Lim. After hanging the lantern, the three sat in a circle.
After Rurick heard what happened at the mansion, Tigre placed a piece of paper on the ground. He began to summarize the information on the bandits given to him by Viscount Augre.
“Augre led three hundred soldiers to defeat the thieves and was defeated.”
The Viscount was involved in an unexpectedly difficult battle.
Even though they were superior in number, they were simply field workers who were given armor and weaponry. Their morale was high since they saw the cruel attacks and burned villages, but it was not enough to compensate for their lack of training.
Furthermore, the geographical advantage belonged to the bandits. While attackers would have to invade up the mountains, they could descend with stones and bow and arrow. They had many advantages.
The Viscount blockaded the mountain path in an attempt to confine them in the mountain.
However, there was a miscalculation. When the Viscount's army appeared on foot, the bandits pounced on them in the mountains.
They discarded their geographical advantage and attacked the army in the fields.
The band of thieves and Augre's Army clashed at the base of the mountain.
They used hatchets, swords, axes, and leather armor reinforced with iron and fur to fight.
Augre's Army began to push them back, and, eventually, the bandits abandoned the field and retreated. The Augre Army used their momentum to chase after those who were fleeing.
They left the field and rushed to the mountain path.
By the time they entered the mountain road, the sky had darkened.
Stones were thrown, arrows were shot, and earth and sand were poured over the soldiers like a hailstorm. Logs were dropped as well, crushing many men.
They realized they had fallen into a trap, but it was too late. Their corpses quickly piled up on the mountain path.
Viscount Augre pulled his soldiers away to retreat to the fields.
By the time the army pulled out of the mountains, dozens of people had been sacrificed. The Augre Army lost many men in the mountains.
By the time they reached Belfort, their army of three hundred had decreased to two hundred. The Viscount was also injured, so his son, Gerard, was forced to run about in his stead.
“This group of two hundred... seems quite a difficult enemy.”
Rurick had a serious countenance upon hearing the entire story. He hit his bald head with his beefy hands which did not suit the man's naturally gentle mannerisms.
“Lord Tigrevurmud, do you have any plans?”
“How about this. Lord Tigrevurmud, you enter the mountain with fifty arrows. When they descend, you kill fifty men and retreat... You can repeat this four times.”
“An interesting proposal. Do you really think I can find and kill that many people?”
Tigre half-glared at Rurick for saying outrageous things.
“That will be our last resort.”
The two turned in surprise hearing Lim's curt response. Lim looked at the paper; it was not a fight that needed too much planning. She did not want to spend a lot of time on it.
“We should finish this quickly. I would rather not take too much time.”
The next morning, Teita and Batran were left in the town, and Tigre and Lim left Belfort followed by one hundred from the Zhcted Army.
It would take just under a day on horseback to reach the Vosyes Mountains from Belfort.
“By the way, there is something I would like you to see, Lord Tigrevurmud.”
Lim advanced her horse next to his and took out a few sheets of paper which were carefully folded from her saddle.
Tigre took them and frowned after opening one of them.
“... What is this?”
“After we left Alsace, I have calculated the war expenditures until today. This is your burden.”
Tigre peeled his eyes away. His entire body froze in shock as he tried to look to the sky, resulting in him falling back. Lim used her shield to support Tigre.
The paper had the expenses for tool repair, costs incurred during the march, such as fuel, food, firewood, horse feed, and medicine, and the salary for one hundred men.
The hand holding the paper trembled as Tigre thought about the amount of money. He felt like his body was bound with invisible chains. It was suffocating even thinking about it.
“... Even when I commanded one hundred soldiers, it was never this expensive. Why so much?”
“The cost of cavalry is quite significant compared to the cost of infantry.”
Lim continued speaking as if it were natural.
“The people you typically lead are villagers who cultivate the fields. You are now leading soldiers who are trained to fight. Their capability is high, and they are fighting in the harvesting season, so it is natural their salary reflects that.”
Tigre grasped his dull red hair and held the paper strong enough that it might tear. Though it would be possible to pay with his savings in Alsace, he wanted to avoid it.
“I would recommend you not pay with Alsace's savings.”
He was seen through.
Tigre looked at Lim curiously, hearing her not recommend him to take that course of action.
“I saw all the data. Lord Tigrevurmud, was there something you were trying to do? Perhaps pasturing.”
“... It was a big success.”
Tigre sighed deeply. He had learned many things from her in LeitMeritz. Lim was quite adept in such aspects.
“It was my father's idea. He had saved little by little before I succeeded Alsace. Using those savings, he wanted to purchase horses.”
The horse had many uses. Using them, Alsace could become more prosperous.
“It is a good idea. I believe you should continue to work toward that goal.”
Tigre was glad to hear Lim's frank approval, but he had a difficult face as well.
“But I have no other ways of paying.”
Tigre looked over his shoulder toward the Zhcted soldiers following them.
“Yes, which is why we shall consider that from now on.”
Though Lim's face lacked any affability, Tigre felt she was enjoying it in some manner; however, that may have been nothing but an illusion.
Lim took the paper from Tigre and carefully removed the wrinkles from it.
“By the way – this much is necessary, even with one hundred cavalry. The two hundred who continue to steal and plunder take far more than that.”
Tigre finally understood why Lim brought up the war expenditures.
“The bandits will attack a nearby village soon.”
“The time it takes for them to attack and pillage will take a few days.”
“Any more and it will be impossible to afford the costs of recovery.”
With an impatient, but focused, heart, Tigre strongly grasped his bridle.
Early the next morning, with only a half koku march to reach the Vosyes Mountains, Lim stopped the soldiers. Lim split the one hundred cavalry into two, making eighty dismount from their horses.
Twenty soldiers were left to defend the horses while the remaining eighty continued the march. There were only a dozen people riding horses, including Tigre and Lim.
“--- Lord Tigrevurmud.”
Lim moved next to Tigre and called his name.
“This time, you are in charge of the battle. Please focus on how our troops move, how the enemy moves, and the flow of battle. I wish for you to gain the capability to command them as quickly as possible.”
Tigre brooded over her words. It was true he had little experience in war.
Due to their long association with himself and his father Urz, Batran and his men had a strong trust in him.
However, that was not true for the Zhcted soldiers. They were here at Ellen and Lim's behest, and it would not be good if he took command over troops who did not particularly have faith in him.
He should learn, even if only a little.
“I understand. I will try.”
When the sun had risen more, at approximately mid-morning, the eighty Zhcted soldiers reached the foot of the Vosyes Mountains.
As if waiting for them, there were shadows stealing from the fields near the mountain path. They had likely been watching since they saw the Zhcted Army. This was most likely since they responded so quickly.
They stood shoulder to shoulder. Some wore leather armor, others were shirtless and held large battle axes. Some had helmets without any other armor. There was no particular order or set weaponry.
The thieves attacked them and gave whoops of joy as they hunted their prey. The Zhcted Army also let loose a roar, despite the ambush.
Tigre remained outside the field of battle so as to keep a wide range of vision.
Though he clutched the heirloom black bow and had an arrow grasped, ready to nock, Tigre simply stared at the battlefield.
The Zhcted soldiers prevented the bandits' onslaught with their shields while others fought back with their shields upright, and pierced through the gap between them with their spears. Soldiers in the rear shot their arrows all at once. Dozens of arrows rained down mercilessly on the thieves.
--- The battlefield is a flat grassland, and the enemy... does not have two hundred people. It looks to be about half that.
As Tigre silently watched the soldiers and thieves collide on the field, something caught his eye.
--- They shouldn't have the money to have that kind of weaponry.
There were ten people who were dressed in solid iron armor and wore helmets and swords.
--- It seems like there are units of ten, so they could be the Commanders, but...
Tigre tilted his head. His thoughts broke off there.
In a certain area, the formation began to crumble. The shields were split by battle axes, and the soldiers were thrown off balance.
Tigre's actions were fast. As he quickly nocked his arrow, he advanced through the wave of soldiers on his horse. With fewer than one hundred Zhcted soldiers and thieves clashing, Tigre was able to aim immediately.
The bowstring trembled as he fired the arrow. It pierced through the throat of the enemy, as if the man had inhaled it, and he collapsed to the ground in the confusion of the fight.
Tigre continuously shot arrows, felling three more bandits. The momentum the bandits had built was lost in an instant.
In contrast, the Zhcted soldiers became more vigorous. The formation that collapsed was reorganized, and the thieves were pushed back.
Next to Tigre, who stroked his chest in relief, Lim gave commands indifferently.
The Zhcted soldiers huddled together with their shields up and placed their swords and spears in the gap. While restraining the bandits' movements, they slowly pulled away. The resulting space created in their retreat was taken up by the thieves as they brandished their weaponry.
The bandits were energetic from having defeated Viscount Augre's army the other day; however, fighting the Zhcted Army which valued defense, they were forced to attack.
Lim ordered the men to retreat even further. The Zhcted Army pulled back one belsta (about one kilometer) before rejoining their formations.
In the confusion, the thieves had spread out thinly.
That is when the change occurred.
Suddenly, cavalry appeared from the south of the meadow, wrapping behind the bandits. They were surprised by the attack and retreated in a panic when they noticed they had pulled too far away from the mountains.
Lim did not miss the change in flow and ordered a counterattack in her typical indifferent tone. The Zhcted soldiers discarded their shields and wielded their spears, fiercely attacking the bandits.
Many retreated, staggering backwards and pushing others aside. Others stood their ground and fought back, only to be cut down from all sides.
Furthermore, the cavalry which had appeared a moment ago had cut their line of retreat to the mountains.
With their path of retreat cut off, the thieves who could not escape or surrender were killed.
The number of bandits killed in the field were approximately sixty. Twenty had surrendered, and the rest fled to the mountains.
On the other hand, two men from the Zhcted Army had been killed. Ten others were injured.
After burying the dead, those who surrendered were handed over to Viscount Augre. The Zhcted Army issued ten horsemen to keep guard as they made their way to Belfort. The soldiers with severe injuries were also sent back.
Those remaining fortified their position.
They built a wide and deep trench and made a sturdy fence made of thick branches following the same fundamental structure of the camp they created near Belfort.
Once their camp was complete, the sun had set, and the soldiers took to their meals.
A large pot was filled with water. Potatoes were chopped, and the water was salted. Turnips and onions were added for sweetness, and the entire pot was stirred.
“It smells good. What is it?”
Rurick asked Tigre, who was busy stirring the pot.
“We call it fish soup. It's eaten everywhere in our country and keeps our body warm.”
“That's right. Because Tigre-san is a person from Brune, he should take care. There might be a big fight over the food.”
A soldier next to Rurick warmed his hands by the fire as he looked up at Tigre.
Rurick quickly responded as Tigre cocked his head.
“The seasonings are different for every home. In some places, garlic is added. In others, alcohol is used.”
“This could cause a dispute, so you might want to add some garlic in it for everyone.”
The soldiers laughed alongside Tigre.
Aside from the fish soup, supper included bread and honey. Despite the deaths of their comrades, the soldiers' morale was high, and many sung merrily.
Tigre separated from Rurick and headed to his tent. Tigre returned to his tent and sat around a pan of soup with Lim. He was anxious at first.
“Before we left for the foot of the mountain, did you have the men get off the horses so the cavalry could make a detour?”
With the horses doubling the number of humans, the cavalry would have a sharp increase in mobility. It made surprise attacks possible, depending on the distance, and with their small number, it would be difficult to see from the mountain.
“There was another aim.”
“... You decreased the number of troops to invite the enemy?”
Hearing Tigre's words, Lim blinked a few times and smiled.
“I knew if we retreated, they would return to the mountains. Still, they still had high morale from their victory the other day.”
Lim had set a trap. By reducing the number of attackers, the enemy would be more likely to fall for it.
She had carefully watched their movements and used their path of retreat against them. Lim explained it as if it were nothing; Tigre leaked a breath of admiration.
--- It's no wonder Ellen trusts her so deeply.
“I will say this only once.”
While Tigre was completely impressed with her abilities, Lim was amazed by something else.
“This victory is thanks to you, Lord Tigrevurmud. You used your arrows to immediately destroy the enemy's morale when our troops collapsed. If you had been slower, we may have lost the battle.”
Though it was a small battle, Tigre's skill with the bow and accurate judgment surprised Lim again.
“I'm happy you would say that.”
Though Tigre was obediently pleased, his reaction was somewhat dissatisfying for Lim.
--- He should take pride and boast of his skills a little more.
However, Lim hesitated to say that. Instead, she spoke of something else.
“What do you think the enemy will do in the future?”
Tigre tilted his head hearing her question.
“... That's right. They will withdraw from the mountain for a time and keep watch on us. They may use footpaths to attack nearby villages in the meantime.”
“There are other mountain paths?”
“It might seem a little sudden, but there will be many animal trails which are rarely used. I have lived in the mountains for a long time and can think of several ways to climb them. If they have two hundred men, they are very likely to have discovered many such roads.”
Because he had experience walking through the forests and mountains of his hometown, Tigre's words were persuasive.
“Right. They still have more than one hundred men remaining. They cannot survive only on mountain herbs and wild game. They will attack us first, since we will hinder their ability to plunder the villages.”
Because the soup had finally finished cooking, Tigre placed its contents onto a platter and passed it to Lim before preparing his own.
Lim thanked Tigre and began to eat with a mystified expression.
“That reminds me, Teita said she managed to procure some pigeon meat.”
As he casually replied, something flashed through Tigre's mind. Tigre looked vacantly at the light leaking from the lamp in the tent, deep in thought.
“Are you waiting for it to cool?”
Being called out by Lim, Tigre returned with a start. He panicked and pointed about with his spoon as he told his idea to Lim.
Lim stopped eating and looked at him quizzically as she listened to him speak.
“That is quite a dangerous hand. Besides, who could possibly...”
“I will do it.”
Tigre answered frankly without any sign of eagerness. Lim simply glared at him with a hint of anger in her eyes.
“... I believe I just said it would be dangerous.”
“Which is why I will do it.”
Tigre's dark eyes looked straight into Lim's blue irises.
“This is my fight. If I can't even risk my own life, how could I possibly ask you to help me?”
“Please do not mistake courage and recklessness. You have shown your courage many times, already. Now is not the time for you to risk your life.”
Lim was unwilling to withdraw. She leaned forward, as if to overwhelm Tigre with her entire body.
“Eleanora-sama has gone to the King's Capital for you. If something were to happen to you, all would be for nothing!”
“I'll make sure nothing happens.”
Tigre made a declaration.
“At the very least, until I am assured of Alsace's peace, I will never fall.”
He added his words with a smile.
“You said you wanted to end this battle quickly. I do as well.”
Lim was unable to respond.
This was an unanticipated fight. Lim had not yet thought of a solution that could end the theft and destruction of the fields, especially with fewer than one hundred cavalry. The battle would be long if they continued as they were, and it was necessary to maintain the strength of the army.
Finally, Lim gave up. She consented, so long as Tigre gave priority to his safety and ran away at any sign of danger.
After the Zhcted Army and the bandits made their moves, three days had finally passed.
The Vosyes Mountains to the north lay between Alsace and LeitMeritz. Amongst the steep mountains was a single mountain path. There was not much difference to the south.
There was only a single road which could be called a mountain pass, and it wound around the surrounding hills in a snakelike manner, so few used it.
At the top of the path was a small, dilapidated castle fort.
Though it was something built by either Brune or Zhcted, neither claimed rights to it, so it became inhabited by the bandits who attacked the fields.
Because it was impossible to house two hundred people in it, there were many crude houses made of stone in the surroundings. The leader, Donalbein, and the girls they had kidnapped monopolized the fort, along with a few people who were accepted.
Donalbein had become 33 this year. Beneath his short, black hair was a thick face and rugged eyes. Before arriving here, he had passed through numerous battlefields as a mercenary. He was a soldier who had slayed many Generals.
Such a man was now cornered.
He had lost many men when one hundred soldiers came to avenge their previous loss. Three days had since passed.
The army which fought beneath the ZirnitraBlack Dragon Flag had settled in a base at the foot of the mountain.
--- Like I thought, the food situation here is poor.
There was not much game to hunt in the area. Without the Zhcted Army moving away, Donalbein and his men would starve.
Donalbein had sent scouts out many times and repeatedly provoked them.
However, the enemy did not follow it and remained on standby.
--- If possible, I wanted to wait a few more days.
If possible, he wanted to drag them into the mountains so he could fight in an advantageous situation. As a mercenary, he always fought when he could secure a more certain position.
--- However, we will starve if we don't fight. Right now, we're like rats that have jumped into a cat's mouth. My subordinates are screaming for revenge, too.
He decided to move his men, whose morale was at its peak.
When he received a report that the soldiers in Belfort returned, Tigre stroked his chest in relief on reflex.
--- We made it in time somehow.
Until now, they had not fought with the band of thieves; however, the enemy was slowly reaching its limit. They would attack tonight or tomorrow.
“Did you bring what I asked for?”
“This should be the required amount.”
“I see. Thanks for the hard work.”
Tigre showed his appreciation to the soldier who answered him. The soldier had a smile thick with fatigue. After promising him a reward, he told the man to rest.
He had moved back and forth to Belfort over two days. The soldiers had completely met his expectations.
After checking on the situation, Tigre entered the General's tent to take a nap. After establishing their position, he had worked in shifts with Lim, trying to get as much rest as possible.
As he began to lie down, he kicked something lightly with his toes.
It was a small bag with something light inside. Tigre bent to his knees and picked it up.
It was a bear doll that fit in the palm of his hand. It was something he knew on sight.
“I believe this was something in our dining room back home... But that was something Teita made...”
“Lord Tigrevurmud, are you still awake---”
At that time, Lim entered the tent while speaking. She had removed her armor. Her sword was at her waist, and she wore a blue, short-sleeved shirt and long boots and gloves.
Tigre looked back immediately. Lim, confused by his actions, noticed what was in Tigre's hand immediately.
For the first time, Tigre saw Lim's face full of emotion.
Her eyes were wide open, and her face was flushed red. She ran up and reached for his hand at a speed Tigre was unable to react to.
Tigre tried to avoid her out of surprise, but he fell to the ground from Lim's momentum and hit the back of his head.
While he let out a groan as the pain assaulted his head, Tigre tried to push the weight that had fallen onto his body. Something soft touched the palm of his hands.
He momentarily forgot his pain. The weight on top of him was the weight of a human.
A sweet fragrance mixed faintly with the smell of sweat tickled Tigre's nose. His body then told him he was in close contact with a human body, and he became aware of her waist and thighs on top of him. Though her body was lean, tight, and devoid of excess flesh, it was still mysteriously soft.
Something was pulled away from his grasp and Lim parted from his body with a speed reminiscent of a beast.
Tigre let out all the air collected in his lungs. He felt relief and self-loathing as he recalled his embarrassment for reacting to her body.
“... You saw it.”
Tightly grasping the doll in her right hand, Lim stared at Tigre and breathed roughly. Her face, which rarely showed emotion, was filled with anger and embarrassment.
Tigre understood she was referring to the bear doll in her hands. He took two deep breaths. It seems she did not realize he had touched her breast.
He turned his body around and gazed at Lim.
The two silently watched each other for a while; Tigre eventually recovered from the previous impact and opened his mouth.
“Um... It's fine, isn't it? It's fine that you like bears. I think it's adorable.”
It was not a lie. He simply said what came to his mind first.
Lim said nothing and coldly stared at Tigre with her blue eyes. While wary of the fierce animal before him, Tigre continued to speak.
“Did Teita make that for you?”
“... Yes. Before we left Celesta.”
Their conversation was interrupted at that time.
While looking at the lamp, Tigre was lost in thought. Due to the impact to his head, his drowsiness had been blown away.
Tigre fixed his posture and bowed to Lim.
“I apologize. Though I did not intend to, it did not change the fact that I looked into your belongings."
Lim, unusually, sat in place with a poor expression.
“I cannot simply blame you in such a one sided manner. I should have tightened the string more firmly. You have seen something embarrassing; I am sorry.”
She spoke faster than usual. Though there was a stiffness in her tone and attitude, the atmosphere around her had softened. Tigre smiled in relief.
He did not want her to dislike him, and he wanted to avoid anything awkward before an important battle.
Lim hesitantly looked upward at him.
“About this, please do not tell anyone.”
He did not think it was anything to be embarrassed about. At that time, Tigre thought of something as he saw his bow in the edge of his view.
--- Everyone has something like that.
When he was taken by his father to the King's Capital, he was laughed at for only being able to use the bow. Though it was an amusing story now, he was worried at the time and considered throwing away his bow.
He understood the pain and fear of having what he loved laughed at.
“I understand. I promise not to tell anyone, but---”
His words ended at once as Tigre thought about better words to say. Eventually he continued to speak.
“Regarding what you like, I think you should find someone to talk to about it. You're free to talk to me about it, but I think you can talk to Teita about it, as well. Of course, I don't mind if you talk to anyone else, either.”
Lim's face showed her confusion as she gazed steadily at Tigre. Her calm, blue eyes showed signs of fear.
“Lord Tigrevurmud... Um, do you think it's strange?”
“I think it's surprising.”
Tigre shrugged his shoulders.
“But plenty of people have some unexpected hobbies. For example, Lord Massas was absorbed in divination long ago.”
“It seems he liked telling fortunes with flowers, horoscopes, cards, and burning bread and other such things. My father told me this many times, since he found it funny.”
A faint smile floated to Lim's mouth as she heard him speak. She could not imagine such a thing from the man she met and spoke to in Alsace.
“It seems he told only my father of his hobby. Since Father's death, Lord Massas has spoken of it only once. Though there are memories I'm sure he would like to forget, he would not be the same without them, so it's not such a bad thing.”
Lim looked down and earnestly listened as she gave thought to Tigre's words. When he finished speaking, she quietly stood up.
“Thank you very much.”
With her typical expressionless face regained, she bowed and turned away. After walking a few steps, she turned around.
“A person to talk to... For instance, it would be fine to speak to you, Lord Tigrevurmud?”
Tigre replied to the sudden question with some embarrassment.
“That's fine... but it's not like I know much about stuffed animals, right?”
“But if I talk to you, no one else will know that I like them, right?”
Lim smiled softly as she spoke, which surprised Tigre. As if reading the tension in his mind, Lim continued to speak without changing her expression or tone.
“Also, I will not ask any questions about your touching my body this time.”
She left the tent without saying any more while Tigre stood speechless. After she disappeared, he let out a sigh and looked at his right hand.
--- It was big...
His body began reacting again. Tigre hit his head with his right hand several times to admonish himself. Afterward, he finally went to sleep.
When the sun had set, Donalbein burned many bonfires near the castle fort. In the region wrapped in the darkness of the night, the flames could be seen from a distance.
--- They look naïve. I should make it look like a do-or-die situation.
The enemy at the foot of the mountain might not be deceived. Even so, Donalbein would use every trick of the trade to raise every possibility of survival. He had survived until now by doing this.
When midnight arrived, Donalbein ordered his subordinates to leave the base without touching the fires. He was not sure if it would lead to a fire in the forests.
Under the moonless night sky, the band of thieves left the mountain path and walked for a half koku until they reached a river. It was a narrow river, and the water flowed rapidly. It was a winding river which went to the base of the mountains.
They quickly assembled long, slender rafts from logs they prepared beforehand and crossed the river. They moved around behind the Zhcted Army for a night attack.
--- There were signs of them getting reinforcements and more food in these past three days.
Donalbein went down on foot to check the number of people and their weaponry. He found no problems.
There were many bonfires wavering about the Zhcted Army's camp. Donalbein divided his men into two. Sixty people, including himself, were equipped with armor and swords. He left a subordinate to command the rest.
“I'll attack from behind. You take the flank.”
They got into position and let out a cry as they attacked the Zhcted Army, all at once. They demolished the fence and got past the trenches before moving on.
However, their onslaught ended immediately.
Not a single soldier remained in the Zhcted Army encampment. There were only sacks filled with soil with branches bound to them, giving the appearance of soldiers holding spears.
His suspicion became anxiety. Donalbein stared at the bonfire, wondering where the tough soldiers had gone to. He found the answer immediately.
A cry was heard from the depths of the darkness. At the same time, dozens of arrows rained down on them.
--- They have our position!
Donalbein quaked in anger as he moved between the shadows. They had understood his movements perfectly and took him by surprise.
The Zhcted Army foresaw a nighttime attack and lurked a small distance away.
After the storm of arrows, dazzling swords approached them.
The battlefield was wrapped in chaos. Donalbein shouted and pulled out his sword; those close to him recovered from their panic.
The Zhcted soldiers appeared from the darkness and cut his men down in a single blow. Donalbein kicked the nearby torch; it had alerted the enemy of his position.
--- All we can do is escape to the mountain.
Donalbein noticed the enemy was not near the Vosyes Mountains before his men were completely enclosed.
“The mountain path! Look at the lights along the mountain! Retreat to the lights!”
It was a simple instruction in this chaos.
Donalbein crossed swords with several more Zhcted soldiers as he and his men escaped in the confusion.
He could still fight if he could reorganize.
The narrow mountain path would reduce the advantage of numbers, and he could meet the enemy from a higher vantage point. The Zhcted soldiers would be sure to follow.
The fires spread as the tents began to burn, and a smoke began to float above them. Donalbein pushed on, roaring and scolding his men.
They managed to escape; they could see the mountain path.
In that moment, a frightful cry was heard, and wings flapped about them.
In the shadow of the mountain, against the darkness of the night sky, innumerable birds covered the view of Donalbein and his men.
They could not understand what happened with either their eyes or their ears. Many stood petrified, others cowered and let loose queer sounds. Even Donalbein looked on with wide eyes.
However, the people behind him did not stop. The two groups collided, and screams were heard in the air. The confusion only accelerated.
Even with the mountain path before their eyes, their movements were completely sealed.
“Let's use the pigeons.”
Three days ago, Tigre made the proposal to Lim.
They had procured two to three hundred pigeons from Belfort and tied their necks together so they could not fly away. Ten soldiers then lurked along the mountain path.
When the thieves approached, they would release the strings, freeing the pigeons. Though they would fly away in fright immediately due to the sounds of the battlefield, they cried out for good measure.
With only ten soldiers, they were able to force the enemy to stop.
While hundreds of pigeons flying up all at once would quickly spread out, it was a narrow path on a moonless night. Though only for a moment, the pigeons flew away like a storm.
Tigre saw the effect before him.
While the thieves were petrified, the Zhcted soldiers charged forward with sword and spear, stricking them easily, as if they were simply mud dolls. One bandit after another was either killed or ran away.
The screams were lost in the darkness of the night. Bodies were piled upon each other, and the cold ground was covered in blood. It was too one-sided to be called combat.
Amongst them, there was one shadow which pushed the Zhcted soldiers away. It was Donalbein.
Donalbein protected his face with both hands while running to the left and right. The soldiers followed after him, shooting arrow after arrow. The bandit leader did not flinch in the slightest and continued moving his legs.
Tigre quietly nocked an arrow and drew his bow. The bowstring trembled shortly after.
The arrow pierced through the gap in his fingers, between his eyes, and penetrated through the back of his head.
The soldiers raised a voice of admiration seeing this feat in the darkness.
Those who knew of Donalbein's death gave up immediately. They threw away their arms and surrendered on bended knees.
The bandits were completely swept away.
The Zhcted Army returned to Belfort two days after annihilating the bandits. It had taken time to return the kidnapped women and money to the villages.
The thieves who had surrendered followed behind them in neat rows.
They were defeated and scattered, and their leader had been lost. They no longer possessed the energy or violence they had during the night raid. They were but empty husks, obediently following directions.
Behind them, there were many carts piled with treasure they had stolen and the armor they had used.
The residents of the town watched with bated breath as they saw the Zhcted Army march through the towns.
The streets soon became crowded.
The presence of the bandits hiding in the Vosyes Mountains was a source of anxiety. The defeat of Viscount Augre's army further strengthened their unease.
The Zhcted Army, under the ZirnitraBlack Dragon Flag returned in triumph. The residents welcomed them with roaring applause.
Of the two at the front, Tigre smiled with a mixture of tension as he waved to the citizens. Lim hid her face within her helmet and advanced in silence.
“You won't wave, Lim? You did take care of the bandits...”
When Tigre asked while responding to the cheers, Lim sighed within her helmet.
“I would rather not have my face seen here, and there are many who deserve recognition. Also---”
Lim continued with a softer tone.
“You have performed a distinguished service. If not for your plan, the fight would only have become prolonged. You should be more proud of yourself.”
When they reached the mansion, Tigre delivered the bandits to Augre. They were put in a prison with the punishment of labor and were promised release after enough service.
Rather than the Viscount's room, they were in a large hall.
There was a table in the center of the room which seated ten and a large fireplace in the wall. The Viscount wore dark silk clothing and greeted Tigre.
When Tigre and the others sat down, a maid entered and poured cold wine in cups of silver.
Before the toast, Augre bowed deeply toward two people.
“Earl Vorn. Limlisha. As governor of Territoire, I wish to sincerely express my gratitude. They grew to power due to my negligence. I apologize for the trouble I have caused you.”
“Above all else, the peace of your people has been protected.”
Tigre bowed his head in assent with a smile as his elder bowed again in gratitude.
“As expected of the Zhcted Army. You managed to overcome the bandits who had double the number as well as the geographical advantage. Really, Earl Vorn, you must have good fortune to obtain such reliable allies.”
“... The victory is Lord Tigrevurmud's alone. He bravely led the troops. That is all there was to it.”
Lim's words contained small thorns. Tigre looked away involuntarily. Augre, taking notice of her mood, smiled bitterly and waved his hands.
“I see. It seems Earl Vorn is trusted by Zhcted.”
Lim realized her subconscious irritation hearing the old Viscount's words.
“I apologize for speaking out of hand.”
While immediately apologizing, Lim was puzzled in the back of her mind.
Augre's words were in no way strange. Though a bit exaggerated, the problem of the bandits was not one he could solve, no matter how he thought about it. Lim's confusion ended in a moment as she recalled why she was angry.
--- It is because he seemed to be ignoring Lord Tigrevurmud.
Tigre had never fully relied on the Zhcted Army, and he was willing to put his life at risk if need be. Lim was fully aware of that.
--- I see... If I think of how things will be for Eleanora-sama in the future, it would be no good if Lord Tigrevurmud is simply seen as a decoration.
That is why she said her words. Lim convinced herself.
Augre looked at Lim, as if he had seen something interesting, as she thought to herself with her typical deadpan expression. He then turned around to Tigre.
“Earl Vorn. If you are satisfied with my old bones, then I will gladly lend you my strength. The soldiers of Territoire will fight with you, and I will do what I can to persuade the surrounding aristocrats to ally themselves with you. Though there are not many people, I should be able to acquire one thousand men for you.”
Tigre's face brightened and he bowed deeply in silence. Though he could say no words in his joy, his gratitude was firmly felt by Augre. The old Viscount shook with laughter.
“There is no need for that. This much is natural for taking care of the bandits. Besides, I have sworn fealty to the King. I cannot stand by as people suffer under Thenardier and Ganelon's rule. As soon as I have completed my preparations, my son and I will rally beneath your flag.”
Tigre bowed once again toward Augre whose smile was full of the will to fight. He had finally obtained an ally other than Massas' troops and the Zhcted Army.
After politely showing his gratitude, Tigre and the others resigned from the Viscount's room.
Under the ZirnitraBlack Dragon Flag, the Zhcted Army marched along the road back to Alsace. Tigre rode at the front while cheerfully humming.
Lim advanced next to him and abruptly handed a paper to him.
“Though it is fine to be happy, please do not forget this.”
“I understand. This is about the war expenditures, right?”
Having his good mood disturbed, Tigre felt a little annoyed. He skimmed through the papers and stopped after seeing a certain notation.
“... Three hundred pigeons?”
“They were returned to the wild. It is necessary we make amends.”
“I suppose there is no discount for its effectiveness?”
“When you fight with thousands or tens of thousands of troops, such things are simply a trap. If I were to give you a discount, it would be a failure on my part as the person in charge of war expenditures.”
Lim spoke indifferently. Tigre drooped his shoulders and returned the papers. Lim received them and took a pen from the saddle.
“However... You slayed the leader, Donalbein. I will not be able to do this in the future, so just this once, our army will bear this cost. I will tell Eleanora-sama.”
While saying this, Lim placed a line through the notation with her pen. Tigre looked at her in surprise.
“Is that really okay?”
“It will only be this time. I think it is good enough that you understand the importance of the price of war and how quickly it builds up.”
“You've saved me.”
He spoke sincerely.
“--- Now then, it is time for your lectures.”
Lecture. Tigre had a small headache hearing the word. They were now teacher and pupil.
“... I'm going to teach you about the bears I have in Zhcted.”
Her voice contained an out-of-character shyness.
Tigre blinked and then looked intently at Lim.
Her face had turned red. He smiled wryly and matched Lim's gaze before nodding.
“Please do so, Teacher.”
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