Madan no Ou to Vanadis:Volume 03 Chapter 2 - 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 2 - Ganelon's Plan
Tigre left the camp with Ellen and Viscount Augre.
Though he hesitated to bring Ellen along with him, Tigre knew it was necessary to demonstrate his military ties with the Zhcted Army to remove any doubt that he may be militarily inferior.
“Relax. Remain silent and say only what is necessary.”
Just in case, Lim ordered the soldiers to remain on standby. With Marquis Greast's purposes unknown, no preparation was excessive.
A young man with a horse greeted them at the meeting place. He removed its saddle and bridle, giving it a chance to rest.
“No doubt about it. That's Marquis Greast.”
Augre whispered those words to Tigre. There were no signs of people lurking in the surrounding meadows or the shadows.
Tigre advanced and greeted the man courteously.
“It is a pleasure to meet you, Marquis Greast. I am the current head of House Vorn, Tigrevurmud.”
“It is nice to meet you, Earl. I am Charon Anquetil Greast.”
Marquis Greast was a man in his late twenties. Though he had a childish face, his hair was carefully trimmed and had a hint of gray. He wore complex gold embroidered silk clothing which suited his body.
A kind smile floated to his mouth, letting off an atmosphere as if he truly did bear the desire of friendship.
Greast glanced at the two people to the left and right of Tigre. Toward Augre, he flashed an ill-natured smile.
“Is that not Viscount Augre? I thought you retired; it seems you are still well.”
“Unfortunately. The world is not so peaceful that I can relax in hiding.”
“It must be troublesome to be so healthy at such an old age. Perhaps it would be clever not to have that happen.”
Greast laughed at Augre with sarcasm before facing Ellen.
“Vanadis of Zhcted, Eleanora Viltaria.”
Ellen bowed after concisely stating her name. Greast raised a voice of admiration.
“The Vanadis said to be a match for a thousand who made the troops flee from Dinant. To think a warrior of that caliber would be such a lovely woman. Both your blue dress and your sword suit you.”
As though the Vanadis was his opponent, Greast stepped forward toward Ellen instead of receiving Tigre.
However, Ellen felt something unpleasant from the Marquis' gaze. His eyes were feverishly crawling all across her body.
Greast presented his right hand. As a matter of courtesy, Ellen took the hand of the gray haired Marquis.
“No, I was quite surprised. The rumors truly are unreliable.”
“In the King's Capital, Nice, stories of your deeds are floating about. The Vanadis of legend who wields a blade which can slay even a dragon. Certainly such rumors would be overwhelmed by your beauty.”
That certainly would be true; however, Ellen simply returned an ambiguous smile and silence. She wished only to remove her hands from his, but Greast showed no pretense in letting go.
On the contrary, while they were shaking hands, his left hand had wrapped about hers, rubbing her fingers as if to enjoy the smoothness of her skin.
It was a subtle gesture, rather than a candid one, and would likely fall within the bounds of courtesy. Ellen strongly suppressed the feeling of goosebumps welling throughout her body.
“By the way, how did such a situation come to be... How is it you are cooperating with Earl Vorn?”
“I was employed. In order to realize his justice, I moved across the border with my troops.”
Using money to buy justice was simply an excuse. Ellen had no desire to reveal her intentions to this man.
“So Lord Eleanora finds justice in Earl Vorn's convictions.”
“Of course. After all, he is a far more honest man than Duke Thenardier.”
Hearing Ellen's response, Greast looked at Tigre who stood next to her and nodded his head in assent.
“Certainly. Your relationship hardly seems like that of a man and woman. Certainly, you would need a man of rank such as myself, at the very least.”
“... Such kind words, Marquis Greast.”
While holding down the temptation to crush Greast's hand, Ellen smiled violently.
“It is true Earl Vorn and I are not in such a relationship, but I have yet to find anything worth scrutiny. Still, I shall keep your words in mind.”
“... If you two would kindly continue on to business.”
Augre spoke in a calm voice to interrupt the intense atmosphere. Tigre thanked the old Viscount in his mind.
If he were not in such a situation, Tigre, too, would have shouted at the man. This man, after all, had grasped Ellen's hand and had not let go.
Greast ignored Augre and Tigre and apologized only to Ellen.
“I apologize, Lord Eleanora. There are such rumors in the capital as well, a story of a man and woman of pubescent age from warring countries. Isn't it just like a story out of imagination?”
“... Marquis Greast, you took a horse all this way. Let us end this small talk and get down to business.”
Ellen forcibly ended the conversation and pulled her hand away in such a way that it would not be viewed as violent.
--- What's with this guy's eyes? He's not just another pervert...
It was difficult to express. Greast gave off a strange feeling, as if he were still hiding his true character. Tigre offered Greast a seat, demonstrating the utmost limits of human prudence and self control.
“Please, have a seat, Marquis.”
Tigre waited for Greast to take a seat before he and his companions took theirs. Tigre took a few minutes to prepare wine, pouring it into a silver chalice. He drank a small amount first to prove there were no signs of poison. After confirming this, Greast also took up the silver cup.
“Now then, the main subject... I will get straight to the point. Earl Vorn, Duke Ganelon has expressed his support.”
--- So it really is like that...
Tigre felt as if his heart had been squeezed.
“I have heard it was you who slayed Lord Zaien, son of Duke Thenardier. You should use every possible option you can to restore your public relation with Duke Thenardier; if that is so, our interests correspond. Duke Ganelon will welcome you with pleasure.”
Greast's voice was like cold water which entered through small gaps. His words, though very typical, were filled with an eeriness which chilled the hearts of those who heard them.
“Assuming I associate with Duke Ganelon...”
Tigre's throat was parched. Though he wished to drink, he could not possibly remove his eyes from Greast as he continued his words.
“In return, what will I receive? It is necessary for me to repay the Zhcted Army which has cooperated with my will.”
“You can relax.”
Greast showed neither surprise nor hesitation. He smiled even more radiantly before giving a prompt response.
“Duke Ganelon will more than sufficiently reward you, Earl Vorn. He is generous to his followers. “
“A reward, is it.”
He had completely miscalculated Greast's intentions. Tigre had thought he would act crudely and act unsparingly.
“Do you know of the city of Rance?”
“It is the capital.”
It was the capital city of the territory ruled by Duke Thenardier. Greast simply nodded to his response.
“We will fight with Duke Thenardier sooner or later. Once we capture Rance, we will allow you, and the Zhcted Army who fight with you, one day to plunder the city. That is what Ganelon has said.”
“Plunder... is it?”
Tigre's voice was hoarse, and sweat ran down his back in surprise and shock. It was not just Tigre, Ellen and Augre watched Greast in blank surprise. He calmly smiled as he received the gaze from the three.
“There is no need to be surprised. From ages past, the fall of a city has always been accompanied by destruction and pillaging. The people are played with and sold off as slaves. All who resist are cut down, those who took shelter in the temple are surrounded and threatened. All is deprived, all is destroyed, all is violated. Houses are demolished, and you return triumphant with money in hand.”
“... I see, then we must appear odd.”
“Are you any different? I see, you must be wary of arson. Don't worry, you may leave your soldiers to take whatever they please. Rance is a large city after all. Even if you should lead ten thousand troops, you would not be able to go through even half the city.”
Tigre was at a loss for words. He could not speak immediately.
Of course, he knew such things happened when a city fell in battle, nor were Greast's words a lie or an exaggeration.
However, the image which floated to Tigre's mind after hearing the story was the spectacle of Alsace under attack by Zaien.
Innocent people were brutally killed, and houses were lit on fire. The temple which housed people was surrounded by soldiers, and Teita nearly lost her life.
If he had reached the city any later, Tigre would have lost many more things.
“What will you do, Earl Vorn?”
“--- I wish to hear something.”
Ellen, who had remained silent until now, finally spoke. Though her tone was normal, no emotion appeared in her bright red eyes.
“What if Rance decides to surrender? It will be possible to take the city without bloodshed.”
“No, let us not bother of speaking of such a thing.”
Greast turned a friendly gaze to Ellen as he answered.
“Duke Thenardier would never think of relinquishing Rance, no matter how many people or soldiers he might lose. Furthermore, we will never allow him to.”
Tigre thought that would be the case. He had heard Duke Thenardier was not a man who would hesitate to hurt the people. His son, Zaien was no different.
“Furthermore, it is not just Rance, there are other cities Lord Ganelon has decided to raze. There would be no way to maintain troop morale otherwise.”
An unpleasant story.
Greast returned his gaze to Tigre and continued to speak even more harshly.
“As for your obligations, your army will serve under Duke Ganelon. Should he wish it, you are to deliver food and fuel from the towns and villages in your domain. If you resist him, he will eliminate you by force.”
Tigre desperately suppressed his urge to shout that they were no different from thieves. He strongly clenched his fist beneath the table.
“There is one more thing I must say regarding the attack on Rance I spoke of a moment ago. You will fight at the vanguard. Furthermore, you will be obligated to fight following the honor of warfare. Do you understand your duties?”
This was no joke by any stretch of the imagination.
Tigre wished to refuse at once. It was clear he was Duke Ganelon's enemy.
“... I understand. I will speak to my subordinates and respond tomorrow.”
“No. I wish for an answer immediately.”
Greast shook his head and looked seriously after hearing Tigre's words.
“Earl Vorn, you must not misunderstand. This is not a request for your cooperation but your submission. Will you follow Lord Ganelon? Or will you not... I want your answer. His Excellency will not permit neutrality.”
Tigre felt Augre and Ellen gaze at him from the left and right. Alsace, the soldiers, and their answer would be the same.
“I will not submit.”
As they watched Greast gradually disappear in the distance, Ellen spoke to Tigre.
“Is it fine leaving it like that?”
“Did you think it necessary to kill him?”
Ellen agreed to Tigre's words, more in confirmation than as a question. Ellen nodded and looked at her hand with eyes full of disgust.
“That man likely would have tried to invite me as well.”
He truly was likely to have asked to employ the Zhcted Army.
Greast had ignored Tigre's presence and spoke in a dignified manner, even before the three people. Whether he was foolish or sturdy, his nerves were hardly normal.
“I should have just killed him. It would have been perfect to simply bury his head. Then we would crush his men. He did not come here alone.”
Tigre smiled wryly as he shook his head.
“I heard from Lord Massas that Marquis Greast is a careful person. He came with his guards with some plan in mind.”
“That might be so.”
Augre agreed with Tigre's words.
“If I may speak, Lord Vanadis. With his insistence in coming this far, it is possible he came to discern the movement of the army on Ganelon's behalf.”
Though Ellen seemed dissatisfied, she did not object.
When Tigre returned to camp, it was wrapped in a strange atmosphere. Dishes were cleaned in a hurry and many soldiers were inspecting their armor.
It was likely there were circumstances, but before Tigre could grasp any information, Lim came running to him. She held a small helmet in her arm and showed a clear readiness to fight at once. Teita stood behind her.
“Eleanora-sama. We have received report from a scout a short time ago. To the north, approximately one day's march, there are six thousand troops stationed.”
Augre asked in a sharp voice.
“Green with a Golden Unicorn.”
Hearing Lim's answer, he knit his eyebrows, hearing unwelcome words.
“We must make haste if it is the Golden Unicorn.”
Lim followed up immediately. The Unicorn was not from Zhcted but from Brune. Augre, who understood, turned pale.
“I see, so it is Duke Ganelon's banner. So that's how it is...”
Tigre also understood the situation. Greast would command his troops shortly after.
“And yet he came to talk alone. He's far more bold than his appearance suggests.”
Ellen muttered in admiration.
“Sorry. If I had known it would come down to this, I would have killed him...”
Though Tigre obediently apologized, Ellen simply shook her head.
“There has not been much time since our talks have ended. Someone must have been watching from a long distance, though it's not impossible they were waiting for this regardless.”
“The soldiers have been ordered to vacate the camp for the time being. What will you do?”
Lim directed her blue eyes to Tigre.
“First, let's return to the tent.”
Tigre showed no sign of haste, even in the intense atmosphere. He responded in a completely composed manner. Teita looked over Lim's shoulders in anxiety.
“Batran and anyone else you might need, take them and stay in back.”
Teita looked up again, her hazel eyes bright and determined once again.
“Tigre-sama. I will be fine. Please return home safe---”
Her face was red and her voice was strained. She was straining herself too much and was caught on her words.
Tigre smiled bitterly and touched her head to comfort her.
“You're a brave girl.”
Ellen had a face as though she was hiding her laughter. She also placed her hand on Teita's head and began stroking it roughly.
“Don't worry. I'll be with Tigre. At most, we have to worry about six thousand troops.”
For anyone else, it would seem a boast, but the Vanadis' words had a persuasive power, even her atmosphere did as well.
Teita looked up at Ellen, like a lost child, before speaking.
“I, I pray... the fortunes of war be with you.”
Ellen showed a moment of surprise before returning a gentle smile. She pat Teita's head again, though gently this time.
Teita left with Batran. Four people now remained.
“To the north of the river are the Orange Plains while a small forest is to the south. There are few hills or mountains in the surroundings.”
While pointing toward a map with her finger, Lim continued her explanation.
The river flowed almost straight from east to west. Given what the scout had reported, it would take approximately one day to cross the river.
“The scout reported six thousand troops. There are approximately five thousand infantry and one thousand cavalry.”
“Discovering this was a good thing; it would be terrible if the scout found it any later.”
Ellen nodded to Tigre's words. They had earned a significant amount of time for preparation; furthermore, they could expect to have time to receive more information.
“We are in the center of these plains. To be more accurate, we have a slight advantage in elevation, and we number six thousand. We need approximately four hundred men to handle food and six hundred to deal with equipment, so we will fight with five thousand. They do not have a significant numerical advantage.”
Ellen seemed happy as she looked at the land.
“If we head north, it's likely we will meet their companions across the river. Since Greast came alone, he may have wanted to scout out our number. Tigre, it was good that you didn't invite him inside the camp.”
“Viscount Augre, are there any towns or villages in the area?”
Tigre was worried. Greast would not hesitate to attack the towns or villages.
“There are no towns, but there are a few villages in the area.”
Augre borrowed a brush from Lim and placed dots where the villages were located on the map.
“You don't need to be so anxious. We don't need to go to them immediately. Set up camp. Those from Territoire that see our flag will eventually take shelter here.”
Tigre was relieved upon hearing those words. It was enough to conduct himself.
--- Still, we need to go north across the river.
It was necessary to keep the enemy's eyes on them instead of the villages.
When Tigre said that, Lim nodded expressionlessly. Augre continued to look at the map.
“Viscount Augre. How wide is this river?”
“The river is approximately thirty alsin. The water recedes in winter. Water will be at waist level for a normal adult.”
“Even if the river is shallow, it is not so simple to cross it.”
Ellen spoke up after Augre gave an answer. The water would dull movements and place them at a lower elevation, and the cold would gradually lower their temperature.
“Lord Tigrevurmud. How do you expect the enemy to move?”
Lim looked up from the map and asked Tigre.
--- This could be a good opportunity.
Tigre tried not to show his thoughts on his face. However, recently, she seemed to understand any slight changes in Tigre's attitude. A faint complimentary tone could be heard in her voice.
“We will have our cavalry cross to the opposite bank to secure the land and have our infantry follow afterward.”
“While the infantry cross the river, our cavalry will remain on defense. With their mobility, it should be possible, though the story is different if they have more troops.”
Lim spoke with a calm tone as if teaching a pupil. Ellen, with her arms folded before her, looked at Lim in dissatisfaction.
“You, your attitude is different from when you spoke to me.”
“Eleanora-sama, it is simply because you said you would take care of one thousand cavalry by yourself.”
“I don't remember saying anything I couldn't do.”
Ellen pushed her chest out proudly. Tigre and Lim exchanged a bitter smile.
“The enemy will think we have divided our troops. We will post our infantry here and have our cavalry head upstream and downstream at a distance they will not notice... Then we can force them into a pincer attack while we begin moving our infantry.”
“If we go by this plan... We could divide them here.”
Augre shook his head with a frown while Ellen nodded.
“Our entire army is here. I would rather not have any extra sacrifices.”
For Greast – that is, Duke Ganelon – annihilation here would not remove his ability to fight.
“In that case...”
Tigre pointed to the map and proposed an idea to hear Ellen, Lim, and Augre's respective views before making any corrections to it.
“Let's go with this.”
“Let's try it.”
The four confirmed the plan and nodded strongly.
Marquis Greast who led Duke Ganelon's army finally crossed the river the next day. He had proceeded much more slowly than expected.
He had taken one thousand cavalry and five thousand infantry, both with brilliant armor which reflected the fighting spirit in their faces.
Above all, Greast was motivated.
He rode in a carriage at the rear of a caravan. Of course, it did not mean he could not ride on horseback.
A soldier came to report to Greast, who lay buried in the cushions next to his elaborately decorated sword, that they had taken their side of the river.
“... And the water?”
Moving a cushion aside and straightening his body, Greast looked at the soldier like a hawk as he heard there were only a few puddles of water at the bottom of the riverbed.
--- They'll cross a bit upstream, then.
“They have been by the river for a while now. Check five belsta (approximately five kilometers) upstream and see if there are any signs of crossing.”
Greast ordered for the [General], who had an appearance like an older brother, to be present.
Soon, one man with a defeated face entered the wagon.
The General commanded five thousand troops. Though a distant relative of Duke Ganelon, it was incorrect to call him an Earl.
“You called, your Excellency?”
Though he spoke arrogantly, he was still lower in rank than Greast and Ganelon in public. Still, he firmly believed in his superiority as a distant relative of Ganelon.
Greast ignored the man's attitude and explained the soldier's report with a calm tone.
“What do you think of the enemy movements?”
He omitted the man's name because he was not called by name.
“I personally believe it is an invitation. While we cross the river, they will un-dam the river and divide us into two.”
Using an arrogant tone which ignored their rank, a smile floated to Greast's face while he awaited a response.
“So what would you do?”
“I would divide our troops in three and attack here. They will think they have crushed us when they emerge victorious.”
“Then you wish to make sure of the forests to the south.”
The General responded in a somewhat tepid manner. He was uninterested in forming a precise plan, it was a matter of his mood.
“I will leave this all to you.”
“... Excuse me, Your Excellency.”
The General ignored Greast's advice and began laying out his plans to the troops.
“We will fell the forest so none may approach, we will remove any chance of ambush or escape.”
Greast remained silent as he smiled wryly.
“We will take advantage of them and capture their Commander, the Vanadis of Zhcted.”
He ordered Ganelon's troops to be divided in three and had them begin their advance.
“We will crush the enemy, we will plunder their villages! Every person, every house, we shall search them all and take all they have!”
The General shouted to his soldiers.
Seeing their movements, Tigre showed no reaction; rather, he retreated even further.
Eventually, all five thousand infantry made their way across the river.
The sun had moved considerably, though the blue sky was scattered by white clouds. This much would change in only one koku.
“It is dangerous to stop here.”
When they reached the river, Ganelon's troops would have limited maneuverability. The plan could not be done halfway.
--- We came here to fight.
While he had selfishly ordered the army to advance against Tigre, a soldier approached the General.
“I have a message for you from Marquis Greast. [I leave command to you. I shall head down to the riverside. All victory and glory are yours].”
--- Getting scared right before the battle?
The General interpreted the message in that manner. Still, it could not be helped. He could not allow the enemy to retreat; they would fall here.
Marquis Greast had one hundred troops as a guard and left the General to attack Tigre's army. It seemed no one in the Ganelon Army knew the strength of the Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army].
He had thrown away the General and his troops, using them as pawns to escape and prevent anyone from following after him.
The intense glow of the setting sun made the General act in haste. He wanted victory before the sun set, no matter what.
Greast was aware the man's temper had stolen the idea of retreat from his head.
The Ganelon Army had moved south across the Orange Plains a considerable distance. They had finally reached the forest and were preparing to attack Tigre.
Immediately afterward, dozens of arrows cut the wind and hit the Ganelon Army.
The rain of arrows was small and lacked intensity, but it surprised the Ganelon Army, causing them to mildly collapse.
The infantry of Brune traditionally wielded sword or spear with their right hand and shield in their left, so they were more open on that side.
“In the forest!? A foolish ambush...”
The General was shocked. In the winter, the forests had no leaves, it was completely open.
Although the sun had descended in the west, the sun was still out. He did not believe an ambush could take place here.
However, the arrows still rained on the army.
Inside the forest, approximately one-hundred-fifty archers from Zhcted and Brune stood in the shadows. Tigre had chosen excellent archers from amongst the soldiers, particularly Rurick. The men of the highest skill could, with certain accuracy, hit their target at a distance of one hundred alsin (about one hundred meters).
With bark, leaves, and soil on their clothes, hiding behind the trees in the deep shadows of the setting sun, they were completely hidden.
The troops in the Ganelon Army had become wary of an incoming attack and ignored the possibility of ambush from the forest in their impatience.
“I want five hundred men to go around to the other end of the forest! We won't retreat from something like this!”
Instead of retreating, he gave out an order; however, as he spoke, an arrow came flying from the forest and hit his helmet.
The arrow pierced the helmet and deeply injured his head, but it was not enough to take his life, but still, he shivered. The pit of his stomach was tight, and he could only think of the danger in staying in the area.
“... Take them from the rear.”
As the troops began to retreat, a rush of silver led an attack, even though Tigre's army had shown no signs of movement beforehand.
With a battle cry, the two armies clashed. The Silver Meteor Army rushed forward, leading the soldiers of Brune against their countrymen.
The cold air was blown away by heat, the clashing of swords was drowned out by screams. Blood splattered across the earth and was trampled underfoot.
No matter how thick the shield or how long the sword or spear, it was pointless once a person's stance was broken. Regardless of friend or foe, soldiers fell. Some were kicked over, many did not bother standing again, and others prayed to God that they might survive.
The battle for dominance was immediately stolen by the Silver Meteor Army. The Zhcted cavalry attacked the space to the right of the Ganelon Army.
The cavalry demonstrated their ability to rush forward. Their troops were divided in two, attacking Ganelon's army from the front and right flank. Standing no chance of resisting an attack from two fronts, the core of the Ganelon Army quickly collapsed.
Though the General issued commands one after another, he could not keep up with the sudden turn of events. The bulk of his army collapsed in the confusion, which spread rapidly to the right and left wing. Finally, the Ganelon Army began to retreat.
“Impossible. How could it turn out this way...”
With a cramp in his face, the General abandoned the fight; he had no other choice. With the incoming blade of the Silver Meteor Army, he pulled out while scolding his troops.
The blue and white of the winter sky rapidly disappeared, falling to the darkness of nightfall.
Five hundred of Ganelon's troops entered the forest to take revenge on the archers, but they were struck down, one after another, without being able to close in on the enemy.
With a sword in their right hand and a shield in their left, just by stooping down a little bit, the Ganelon soldiers could protect themselves from any number of arrows.
However, the enemy had devised a number of tactics.
First, Brune soldiers in leather armor threw stones.
Stones the size of a fist were frightening weapons. If they hit the face or the hand, it would cause a severe injury, and, though it was possible to block them with a shield, they could not give chase.
They had also strung rope between the trees and dug pitfalls at the roots. Though the pits were only as deep as the shin, it still disrupted their balance.
Arrows were fired from high in the trees at long distances. While the troops were stuck, unable to move, the enemy changed positions and began attacking with stones and arrows from the side.
After one hundred men had been killed, the remainder discarded their weapons and ran from the forest.
While watching the enemies flee, an archer spoke to Tigre.
“No. Everyone did amazingly well in such a dangerous situation.”
Tigre gently shook his head and showed his appreciation for the soldiers' work. Tigre was the one who took command in the forest.
Realizing the battle had ended, the soldiers lurking in the trees gradually gathered around Tigre.
“We managed to fend off the enemy by deceiving them. They'll be more wary of traps now, since they were completely cornered by our arrows.”
He spoke with sympathy at the end of his words in consideration for the Brune soldiers. Tigre silently shrugged his shoulders and pulled out an arrow from his quiver after having his soldiers prepare oil and a light.
He wrapped it in an oil soaked cloth and lit it on fire.
He aimed it toward the sky with his bow and drew the bowstring to its limit before firing it.
The flaming arrow burned brightly as it flew to the sky and scattered sparks. Tigre lit and fired another one. The soldiers applauded the spectacle, some even clapped.
“As expected of you. No one can fire to that height.”
One of the soldiers spoke up. All others present nodded in agreement.
“It's faster than sending a messenger by horse.”
The flaming arrows were a message to Viscount Augre, who was accompanied by two hundred soldiers at the riverside a long distance away. Two flaming arrows were shot from the forest, signaling for the destruction of the sandbags at the river upstream.
To be on the safe side, Viscount Augre waited for a group of ten cavalry messengers who were halfway between Augre and Tigre. They would certainly tell him directly.
When Tigre left the forest, he was greeted by Lim riding on horseback.
Getting down from the horse, she tapped Tigre on the shoulder.
“Where is Ellen?”
“Eleanora-sama will return shortly. We have just received a message.”
Ellen separated from the main force with one thousand men to match the enemy. In a battle of even numbers, the silver-white haired Vanadis would win. As expected, she returned victorious.
“Still, that was surprising. I thought something else might happen.”
Lim muttered to herself as she looked to the north, shrouded in darkness. Tigre felt it as well. They had prepared a plan to win here assuming they would fight with the same number of troops.
It was a plan Tigre, Ellen, and the others devised. First, they would dam the flow of the river. Once the river was dry, they would withdraw to the forest.
“We should not have been able to finish the battle without fighting the troops across the river. We can't relax just because we managed to push them back with this. Since our numbers were the same, it should not have been so easy to divide their forces.”
If they had fought in a wide meadow, the first to fall back would lose. Tigre's shot at the General's head from the depths of the forest ended the battle; it was a shot that decided victory or defeat.
“Though it is a bit late, should we give chase?”
Tigre shook his head to Lim's question.
“I wish to reduce our sacrifices, even if it is only a little.”
His fight with Ganelon was not something necessary. In preparation for his war with Duke Thenardier, Tigre did not wish to lose any soldiers if he could help it, since there was no way for him to replenish his forces.
Ellen returned after leading her troops for over a quarter koku.
With her chest held forward in a dignified manner suiting a warrior on horseback, Ellen spoke her short words. Lim looked at her expressionlessly.
“No one died?”
“Thirty were wounded, no one died.”
Leading one thousand cavalry and having that few wounded made it a complete victory on her part.
“How many of the enemies were taken out?”
“From our attack, we managed maybe three hundred.”
Ellen spoke while looking to the air, thinking of her experience.
“The enemy ran to the north. Judging by your face, it went well.”
Tigre nodded as Ellen asked about the results of battle.
“Yes. We could send a few people across the river and chase after them as well. Whether they decide to cross the water or not, we can spend the night near the river.”
Crossing the water depended on the soldiers' resolution. Without proper management, their path of retreat would be cut off. It was a suicidal action.
Having the resolution to cross immediately after losing the battle was not easy.
“I hope it ends with this.”
Handling Thenardier alone was a difficult task. Tigre did not think he would be able to fend off others as well.
“For the time being, let us prepare camp. It is fine to use the one from yesterday.”
Tigre and Ellen nodded to Lim's proposal. Though it was an unexpected fight, the morale from victory was an appreciated bonus.
At that time, Tigre noticed a young man walking toward them.
--- If I recall, he's Gerard.
He was the son of Viscount Augre, a man in his mid twenties with brown hair and the same bronze pupils as his father. He was lean, but, due to his clothing, he appeared heavy.
“So you were here.”
Flush with excitement, Gerard spoke up with a heated voice.
“Really, I had heard of the strength and bravery of the Zhcted Army, but I'm impressed the rumors were true. Even in a foreign land, you have such good morale, stunning tactics that do not miss even the slightest chance, and the prowess to strike the enemy. Earl Vorn, you have such a reliable ally. I am envious of your luck.”
Gerard spoke words of praise. Tigre nodded while Lim knit her eyebrows.
However, before they could make words of rebuttal, Ellen settled the two down.
After confirming Lim had settled down, Ellen called out to Gerard who had turned bright red.
“Lord Gerard. I thank you for your kind praise, but such words can be harmful. You should make sure to watch what you say in the future.”
Although her tone was gentle, the atmosphere released by Ellen, despite her kind appearance, pressed down heavily.
“I suppose so. It must have been difficult to create such an opportunity for us to take advantage of.”
Gerard, at a loss for words, returned a flat response.
“Lord Gerard, it is as you say.”
During a pause in their conversation, Tigre spoke some words of appreciation to Gerard before ordering the troops to make preparations for the night. He looked up at Ellen on her horse and sighed.
“Please don't speak or behave in a way that will anger others. The troops have finally settled down.”
“Given his words, didn't it seem like he thought nothing of you?”
Ellen returned a dissatisfied expression. Lim also agreed.
“Isn't it frustrating to claim all your decisions and actions were simply due to fortune?”
“Well, that's just how things are.”
Tigre's face resembled someone who had simply given up caring.
“I am troubled by your attitude.”
This army, after all, had gathered to oppose the threat of Thenardier and Ganelon. The largest problem as of now was the oddity of the General, Tigre.
Even though he was their leader, he was not particularly famous, and his skill with the bow, while acknowledged by those of the Zhcted Army, was still despised by many of the soldiers of Brune.
The people of Brune did not know what Tigre could do.
That was why Lim wanted to build the foundation of the army upon Tigre's ability to bring the troops victory. So long as Tigre did not do anything drastic, his standing would not improve.
“It seems you met with severe casualties”
Marquis Greast spoke indifferently to the man who returned in defeat. The General simply bowed his head without responding.
When they reached the riverside, the Ganelon Army had been reduced to four thousand, having lost nearly 30% of their troops. It was his luck to leave only with defeat.
The troops remaining, either scattered about after having run away or reorganizing in the ranks, numbered forty-five hundred at most.
“... Fifteen hundred have died.”
Because Greast muttered in a small voice, the General did not hear. He simply looked at Greast who smiled sarcastically.
“There must be some punishment for this failure. For example, the [Dancing Mask].”
All color drained from the General's face in an instant.
The [Dancing Mask] was a cruel method of execution Greast designed several years before.
An iron collar was affixed to the neck of the man to be executed. After that, they wore a mask which covered the entire head. The only opening was a single hole above the ear.
Water was poured in through the hole and it was plugged. The punished individual could not breathe and struggled about, looking as if he were dancing on the ground.
Duke Ganelon had used this method of execution numerous times as a warning to those who might act against him.
Seeing the General's expression, ready to weep at any moment, Greast laughed as if it were a joke. His gaze wandered through the air.
“General. Wait until morning and cross the river. Withdraw after that.”
“The enemy... You want us to launch a night time attack, then.”
“If you go that far, you will not be able to return before the flow of water has been restored. It's enough to simply show yourself for the time being.”
Greast realized the enemy's intent was to drive them away.
They did not have the energy to fight the Ganelon Army. Greast was not the kind of person to miss this.
It would take a lot of energy to cross the river in their situation, but should they spend the night there, the enemy would become fatigued out of fear of a night time attack.
--- I wonder how this will affect Duke Ganelon's image.
The reason Greast forcibly attacked Tigre was because he was asked to by Duke Ganelon when they shared a meal two moons ago.
“This is an embarrassment. There are many aristocrats watching both Thenardier and me to decide who they will side with.”
“... Rather than having him join, would it not be more convenient to simply crush him?”
“Whether it be territory, money, or goods, it is always best to have more, and the fewer people we need to distribute them to, the better... Still, a few more [Companions] would be good, Marquis.”
At that time, Greast saw Ganelon's expression. There was both fear and pressure, as if he were listening to the voice of an evil spirit. His entire body was assaulted.
“And what if Vorn decides to submit?”
“We need only deprive all villages and towns under his charge of their goods and capital. Should he become our [Friend], he will lead the attack on Rance.”
--- This man is terrible. I never wish to antagonize him.
Though Greast was a man with nerves who would not bother batting an eyebrow from severe torture or cruel execution, he was no match for Ganelon.
And so, Greast borrowed soldiers from Ganelon, who had fought and lost in battle.
If his victory against Ganelon's army was spread, support for Tigre's cause may increase. There was the possibility that those who joined Ganelon may betray him and rush into action using this as an opportunity.
“First of all, I must settle this matter with the Vanadis Eleanora. I wonder what wonderful things I can do.”
A thin smile appeared on Greast's face as he continued plotting.
The Silver Meteor Army drank a toast once the Ganelon Army withdrew. They had bought the liquor from a nearby town, and the soldiers were dancing about. The villagers who fled from the Ganelon Army also joined in the celebration.
Tigre allowed this for the purpose of maintaining morale as well as to allow the people of Zhcted and Brune to communicate with each other openly.
Though the meals were no different from usual, several bonfires were lit to brush off the cold, giving the entire area a bright and warm atmosphere.
As expected, feelings of victory and large amounts of alcohol blew their anger away. The fights between citizens of Brune and of Zhcted had changed to peaceful songs and contests of strength.
When the party was peaking, Tigre quietly left.
He walked to a distance where the clamor was faint and lay on the ground to look at the stars. Because he had been given drink repeatedly, he was considerably intoxicated.
The night sky was cloudy; the stars were not visible.
Letting out a deep breath, he was surprised to smell the alcohol in his body.
--- I can't simply celebrate with this victory.
Duke Thenardier was not the only one. Duke Ganelon was an enemy as well, and his allies were few in number.
--- I rarely leave Alsace, and yet the two greatest aristocrats are after my life.
Many thoughts emerged and disappeared in his head. His mind would not settle at all. As he thought to leave so he could go to sleep, someone sat next to him.
“Were you waiting for someone to wake you up?”
It was Ellen wearing her normal clothes; Arifal was in her right hand rather than her waist. It seems she also had much to drink, since her face was considerably flushed.
“No, I didn't fall asleep.”
Tigre sat up as he answered. The thoughts that danced in his mind a moment before suddenly disappeared.
“Thank you, Ellen.”
“What, that's rather abrupt.”
Not caring that Ellen was looking at him curiously, Tigre continued to look at the sky and spoke.
“It feels like my mind has never once left Alsace, at least until a while ago. Whether it was for war or visiting the King's Capital, it was simply my duty as an aristocrat of Brune. Though Alsace is such a small land when looking at a map of Brune Kingdom... it was too large for me. It was more than enough.”
Tigre wondered why he felt like talking about such things with her in the corner of his mind, but that thought disappeared at once.
He was grateful to Ellen who listened in silence. Tigre continued speaking.
“However, the world is not just Alsace. It isn't just Brune, either. Zhcted as well.”
It would be impossible to fight otherwise.
To defend his people, he needed more allies. However, if he wished for more allies, he must be able to defend them. He must secure food, clothing, housing, and security.
“I knew nothing of this until now. Even though I still don't understand it... I wish to express my gratitude to you, Ellen, for giving me this opportunity.”
They had met on the battlefield. There was no chance they would meet otherwise.
Tigre, who had never looked at Brune as a whole, found interest in Zhcted.
The little arguments between the Zhcted and Brune soldiers which happened every day also forced him to think.
An aristocrat's private army was, in effect, the people within his domain. His people had houses and families, they lived their every day lives. Though each had his own sense of justice, there was no need for them to fight for it.
Because they were commanded, because they received pay, because they could eat, because they could become distinguished.
That is why they fought. Those who fought through their loyalty and trust in their Commander were very few.
He wished to know more about his people in Alsace. He desired to confirm it once again.
“... To think you would say this so suddenly.”
Ellen smiled bitterly and reached out to Tigre, entwining her finger in his dull red hair as she pat and stroked his head.
“There's no need to thank me. Even in these circumstances, I doubt there's been anyone else to have thought this way. You're fine the way you are.”
A wind from the Silver Flash in Ellen's right hand blew, showing its consent. Perhaps it was the alcohol, but the wind carried the sweet fragrance of the Vanadis, surprising Tigre.
He became anxious, finally realizing her fingers were running through his hair. Ellen continued patting his head as she smiled. Tigre could not easily tell her to stop, but if he remained as he is, he was certain she would hear his heart beating violently.
“What's wrong? You suddenly went silent.”
“N, no... Should we return soon? I think we've talked the alcohol off.”
Ellen's face seemed to inflate in an ill-humored manner upon hearing his moderate proposal.
“Let's stay a bit longer. Lim will be annoying if we go back now.”
“She won't leave me alone, she'll force me to drink my alcohol in moderation since I'm the leader, and if she drinks any, she'll spit it out all over someone's face.”
Tigre desperately held back a laugh when he imagined Lim spewing alcohol.
“But if you stay any longer, won't Lim just be more angry?”
Before he finished speaking, Ellen's finger stopped moving.
“... You really need to understand where you stand.”
While thinking about her words, his reaction was too slow. Ellen quickly moved behind Tigre and held his red head in a tight embrace.
Ellen was neither angry nor sad; however, Tigre was confused by the soft twin bulges pushing strongly against the back of his head. Though he tried to escape in his panic, Ellen simply pressed against him with her entire body.
The two mounds with rich curves were deformed every time Ellen moved due to their mysterious elasticity. The faint smell of sweat and the feeling transmitted through the back of his head strongly stimulated Tigre's imagination, making the blood rush to his face.
“I got it. I give, I give.”
Tigre acknowledged his defeat quickly. Really, to think this person who can defeat one thousand cavalry on her own and can boast of many military exploits can be so possessive. Still, she was never this way before her soldiers.
Even after hearing his words of surrender, Ellen did not part from Tigre. Her thin arms wrapped around his neck as she entrusted her body to him.
“Your back, it's surprisingly large...”
Ellen gently grasped Tigre's hand.
“You don't like this?”
He shook his head. Ellen did not bother to say what she was thinking as she poked, stroked, and played with Tigre's hand.
“That's right. Your face looked miserable when that bastard was holding my hand.”
Suddenly, Marquis Greast popped into his head.
“I thought I was pretty calm then.”
Tigre tilted his head. He was certain he had suppressed his anxiety during the negotiations.
“No, it felt like you would strangle him at any moment. Were you jealous?”
A sweet sound tickled his ear as she teased him.
Rather than envy, it was more akin to pure anger. Since he could not precisely distinguish his emotions at the time, Tigre spoke frankly.
“If it were not such a situation, I would have given him a sound beating.”
A faint laughter rode the wind.
“You really are cute.”
Ellen's face expressed her happiness; however, it was out of Tigre's view.
“... Can I stay like this for a while?”
Is she still drunk? Having been teased with a gentle voice, Tigre could say nothing. Though she pleaded with him like a child, her body was hardly suitable to match her tone – specifically, her large breasts.
The two fell silent, though for how long is uncertain. Suddenly, Ellen placed her head on Tigre's shoulder. Tigre's ears could hear her gentle breathing.
--- That's right, her face was completely red when she came here.
Just by turning his head a little, he could see Ellen's beautiful face. Her face showed no sign of unease or fear. The shape of her face, her fair skin, her silver-white hair was visible; though it was regrettable, her long eyelashes covered her lovely eyes.
If he moved even more, he could softly place his lips on her. Not on her lips, perhaps, but possibly over her eyes. Ellen would hardly notice.
“... Let's head back.”
Approaching his limit, Tigre managed to force down his desires. It would be unfair to do such a thing to someone who was asleep.
Slowly inhaling the cold night air, he exhaled deeply, removing the heat circulating throughout his body.
Even when sleeping, Ellen did not release Arifal. Using his remaining hand, he supported her body and stood up, carrying her on his back.
The bonfires still burned brightly, and the soldiers voices had become more faint. He did not wish to be seen by the men, and it was important that he get rid of the excess energy in his body.
“... I'll take a detour.”
Even so, he wanted to stay with her a bit longer. While thinking about the comfortable warmth against his back, Tigre started walking slowly so as to not wake Ellen.
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