Madan no Ou to Vanadis:Volume 07 Chapter 1
Chapter 1 - Burning the villages
“---Has Lord Tigrevurmud ever burned a village?”
Struck by the unexpected question asked in a casual tone, the youth was taken aback. He stared steadily at the blond haired woman -- Limlisha, who sat opposite to him across the table.
Lim, as she was called by those close to her, was twenty years old, three years older than the youth. Although there were traces of guilt in her blue eyes, she continued speaking.
“I apologize about it being an unpleasant question, but, if possible, I wish to talk about..."
“Ah, no, I wasn't particularly offended. I was just a little surprised.”
The youth waved his hands as though to say that she didn’t have to worry about it. He didn’t dislike that earnest part of Lim.
The youth’s name was Tigrevurmud Vorn. Those close to him called him by his nickname “Tigre."
Tigre was now under her instruction.
Being the adjutant as well as being the best friend of the silver haired Vanadis Elleonora Viltaria, Lim possessed a wide range of knowledge in political affairs, strategy and the like. Recently, she had been secretly looking forward to teaching her pupil, Tigre, the various things she knew.
Tigre was going to answer her question with his usual tone and expression, but he averted his gaze from her, and even his voice was tinged with bitterness.
“I have already had to burn nearly half of a village. It was when the plague was spreading...”
That happened several years ago, when the youth’s father was still alive. Neither cure nor medicine had yet to be discovered for the plague. The only measures that people could take were to isolate those suffering from the disease and burn down the buildings.
“... I‘m sorry.”
Lim bowed down in apology for reminding him of a painful past. Her dull blond hair, tied on the left side of her head, shook.
“It’s an old story. Still, why such a question?”
Tigre directed his gaze towards the table. There were many sheets of maps and twenty pieces, which were small enough to be held with a finger, scattered there.
Today's lecture was about war maneuvers. It was something along those lines, where Lim displayed the pieces on the map and explained the circumstances, and Tigre would answer in the best way possible within a limited time.
Although she was a strict teacher, whenever Tigre desperately racked his brain and deduced the best answer, she would loosen her surly expression a bit and praise him. After having constantly changed the location of the pieces on the map, Lim, who took a short rest, suddenly raised the question.
“Of course, I know that Lord Tigrevurmud is someone who would not do such a thing, but it's precisely for this reason that I would like you to think about it while you can afford to."
As Lim put a map on the table, she grabbed a few pieces and set them on top.
“You are taking a rest in a certain small village with one hundred soldiers. Well... let’s say there are fifty villagers in the village.”
Although he thought that it was not that big of a village, the youth nodded. In the territory of Alsace, which Tigre once governed, there were many mountains and forests; towns and villages could be counted over one hand. In this case, it was easy to guess so. Lim proceeded with the talk.
“There are five hundred enemy troops stationed one day's distance from this village. However, our earliest reinforcements will take at least two days to arrive."
With a look, Lim asked Tigre what he would do. The youth stirred his dark red hair, staring at the pieces and the map with a sullen face.
The enemy was five times their number, and reinforcements would not make it in time.
---Don’t get the wrong idea. What Lim is expecting from me is not a way to defeat the enemy, but to find the best strategy to adopt.
At first, Tigre had made a lot of mistakes like this, and had been scolded by her for it. Therefore, he couldn't afford to repeat the error again.
“While letting the villagers evacuate, we will also retreat. That is the only way.”
“It’s all good to evacuate, but what would you do about the village?”
Tigre frowned, and finally noticed the meaning behind her words.
“... By that, do you mean whether or not I will burn it?”
To the youth who confirmed the question with a sour look, Lim coldly nodded.
“The enemy is only a day's distance away. The time you can use to escape is less than half a day. The time required to pack things is also limited. Of course, what's left behind will be taken by the enemy. But by burning them, it can be counted as a form of attacking the enemy.”
There were many things that they could exploit in the village. They could spend the night in the empty houses. Compared to resting in a house, sleeping on the floor was clearly more exhausting. They could also replenish their food and water supply, and also raise their morale by obtaining the spoils of war. Of course, they would also be wary of traps though.
“Burn the houses down. If there are wells, poison them. Depending on the situation, in the worst case scenario, it would be necessary to make a decision to that extent.”
Tigre looked angrily at the map and pieces. He was thinking that burning the village was a bandit’s behavior. Aside from the plague, he had never thought that he might someday be forced to do such a thing. Though he was desperately trying to think of other ways, he did not come up with a convenient answer.
“You strongly advise me to do so at such a time, huh...”
To the annoyed Tigre, who gave up, Lim denied him, saying, “No.”
“You do not need to do it yourself. If I am there at that time, please order me to do so instead.”
Tigre gasped, and stared in wonder at Lim. Even when making such a statement, her expression did not change in the slightest. She straightened her back, and confronted Tigre’s gaze. It was not because she thought it to be a hypothetical talk, but because she was prepared to do so.
“Although it is a necessary measure, it’s also certain to lose the villagers’ trust. As a general of an army, you will have to consider the aftermath. So--”
“I can’t do that.”
As Tigre refuted Lim’s words in a strong tone, he stared at her.
“When the time comes, I will do it with my own hands. I have no intention of casting the role of the villain onto someone else.”
“The morale of the whole army will be affected.”
Although Lim rose from the chair and immediately argued back, Tigre did not retreat.
“Even so, I will do it. Certainly, there might be times when I will have to order something unpleasant to someone, but this is a different issue.”
“It’s also the duty of a general to avoid incurring the resentment and hatred of the people.”
“Even if my honor is stained, I should restore it by other means. What you say is correct, but I can’t simply avoid the people’s resentment. Although paying attention to avoid failure is a major factor, if I worry about it, I won’t be able to do anything.”
Perhaps it was because he had been Lord of Alsace for only two and a half years, but during that time there had been no major issues. However, there were several times when Tigre had seen his father Urz troubled.
His father’s best friend, Massas, who also took care of Tigre, once said this: "There is no such rule where people have no complaints."
Tigre and Lim stared at each other for a while, but it was Lim who gave in. With a small sigh, she sat back to the chair, and ruefully said that she understood.
“... But please keep in mind that there is also the way I mentioned.”
“Then I also have something to ask. Assuming that I’m caught in such a situation and I have to burn the village, let’s think about what we can do to regain the people's trust afterward together."
As Tigre spoke with a smile, Lim, though it was faint, also spread a smile on her lips.
Just before summer came in LeitMeritz, several months had passed since Tigre began to live as a guest in the Imperial Palace.
While staring with a serious face at the several sheets of maps that were spread on the table, Tigre recalled Lim’s teachings, which he received a few months ago.
This was not the Imperial Palace of LeitMeritz. In the first place, it was not even in the Kingdom of Zchted. This was the western part of the Kingdom of Asvarre’s mainland, in the conference room of Fort Lux.
Tigre, who suddenly looked up at the murky ceiling, could not help but to think about what he was doing in a place like this.
Tigrevurmud Vorn was not a person from Zchted. He was a small aristocrat who governed Alsace on the border of the Kingdom of Brune. He held the title of Earl. Though his skill with the bow was to the extent of what could be said to be a merit, the vocation was not held in high regard in Brune, which despised the bow.
What significantly altered the youth’s fate was the war which occurred between Brune and Zchted last year.
Tigre became a prisoner of war of one of the seven Vanadis of Zchted, Ellen, and afterwards, due to a twist of fate, cast himself in the midst of the civil war which broke out in Brune.
Eventually, Tigre rescued Princess Regin, whose whereabouts had been unknown, and succeeded in bringing the civil war to a close. But in the negotiations between Brune and Zchted after the end of the civil war, it was decided that Tigre would live in LeitMeritz as Ellen’s guest.
When welcoming the spring and seeing off the summer end in LeitMeritz, Tigre was requested by King Victor of Zchted. He was to secretly travel to the Kingdom of Asvarre and establish a covenant, offering cooperation to Prince Germaine.
In Asvarre, after the King died, two princes fought over the throne. Being asked a request from the king of a country, Tigre could not refuse and headed to Asvarre.
Although he was able to meet Prince Germaine, he was about to be killed. As he was trying to escape from the ambush, the prince was murdered by one of his subordinates, who triggered a rebellion. That subordinate, Tallard Graham, said this to Tigre:
“I aim to be king. --Please, lend me your aid.”
There were several reasons that pushed Tigre to cooperate with Tallard. Whereas Tallard intended to conclude a pact of friendship with Zchted, the enemy, Prince Elliot, had joined hands with the Kingdom of Muozinel. The Vanadis Sophia Obertas, who was sent by Zchted as a messenger, was captured by Prince Elliot. Moreover, there was also the fact that Tigre was attracted by Tallard’s cheerful personality.
Tigre borrowed three thousand soldiers from him and captured Fort Lux. It was something which was done from last night to this morning.
And now Fort Lux, which became the stronghold of Tigre and the others, was wrapped in a heavy atmosphere.
Outside the Fort, the shining golden sun in the western sky was setting. The west side of the fort bathing in the light of dusk was tinged red, while the east side, in contrast, was covered with a black shadow.
The faces of the soldiers patrolling on top of the walls and the soldiers taking a rest in the courtyard were colored by an indescribable anxiety. This was not the expression of those who won the fort after a fierce battle.
The reason why they were scared was because of a report that had been brought earlier by a certain soldier.
“Prince Elliot leading thirty thousand pirates has landed! They seem to be at a distance of about two days from the fort.”
The shock of the news was unfathomable to the soldiers. Of course, Tigre was not an exception. An enemy ten times their number was only two days away.
“For the time being, we should do what we have to do.”
Although he said so to calm down his companions, Tigre, who asked to be provided a map and re-confirmed the situation, could not help but groan at the seriousness of the situation.
“Is there anything I can do?”
A beautiful girl with light pink-colored hair turned her big eyes reminiscent of black pearls to Tigre. She was about 13 or 14 years old. Though expressionless and lacking the qualities of the children her age and possessing a grown-up tone, her appearance let one feel wonder and charm.
She was Olga Tamm, a Vanadis of Zchted like Ellen. Although she had been traveling alone for some reason, she met Tigre and they began to work together. While she had a delicate body that gave off the impression that she would likely break if touched, she had the power to easily fling an adult man away.
Along with Tigre and Olga, there was one other person in the conference room. He was a big man in his mid-thirties who had a visibly suntanned skin. His name was Matvey. The thick former sailor had the trust of the Vanadis Alexandra Alshavin, also known as Sasha, of Legnica, and he had been of great help to Tigre during his trip.
“Please don’t hesitate to tell me. If it’s your order, I will generally comply.”
Matvey crossed his big arms and revealed a creepy smile. Because of his frightening appearance, it might be this man’s shortcoming that even a well-intentioned smile makes people terrified.
If it were not for those two, Tigre might not have made it through the many predicaments he had faced in this foreign land. They were without a doubt reliable companions.
The youth, without speaking of the idea which came up in his mind just now, smiled wryly so as to dodge the issue. Tigre himself was unable to make decisions now, because the other members were not gathered yet.
From outside, the sound of footsteps overlapping with the clattering of armor approached. The only door in the room opened, and two men walked in.
One, while being of a medium build and handsome, was a man able to make people remember his gentle smile. Though he was without armor and was lightly dressed, with only a sword hanging from his waist, his movements left no opening, showing that he was a veteran soldier.
The man’s name was Vaild Ludra. He served Tallard, and was the General Commander of the three thousand soldiers who were here. Tallard originally intended to set Tigre as the General Commander, but Tigre had refused it and had placed himself in the position of Ludra’s adjutant.
The other one, in contrast, was clad in a rowdy atmosphere. Though he was exactly 30 years old, he was the owner of a baby face. If not for the large scar on his left cheek, his face would probably have allowed him to pass as a teenager.
This man, Simon, was the captain of nearly three hundred mercenaries. Following the merit system and realism of mercenaries, he was a warrior who had both popularity and skill.
“How are the soldiers’ condition?” Tigre asked as he waited for the two people to sit on a chair. While arrogantly leaning back his chair, the mercenary captain made a sullen reply.
“It’s a mess. Every single one of them looks damn glum.”
“We have temporarily avoided chaos, but it is necessary to issue new instructions as soon as possible.”
Ludra also expressed his concern in a modest tone. The two men had to appease the soldiers, who panicked at the sudden landing of Elliot’s army; they settled them down by scolding them.
---It can’t be helped. It's like this because they don't think we can win...
Matvey put copper cups with water on the table for all of them.
“It’s not sake?”
Simon laughed while looking into the content of the copper cup. It was not because of dissatisfaction that he said that; he was only joking. He understood perfectly that this was not a situation where they could talk while drinking sake.
Tigre put a map on the table, on which the whole area surrounding Fort Lux was drawn.
“Let's confirm the situation. First of all, where is currently Prince Elliot’s army?”
“In this area.”
Ludra leaned forward, indicating one point on the map with his finger. The other people stood up and also looked at the map. The mainland coast was at a distance of two days from the fort northward. There, Luarca was written in blurred letters.
“There are two or three fishing villages in this area, but among them Luarca is a particularly big village. I thought that the enemy's pattern would be to use it in order to capture Maliayo, but...”
Ludra took a heavy breath. He had been completely outwitted.
“Which soldier told you that? I thought the scout did not reach that place.”
At Tigre’s question, Ludra moved his finger to the lower left. Seen from the village of Luarca, it was the southwest; seen from Fort Lux, it was the northwest.
“There is a small town called Salime here. The villagers who were attacked fled here and conveyed the situation. The soldiers of the town, after hearing the news, flew over with horses.”
Ludra then explained in detail the sudden attack of the pirates.
“I heard that the village was attacked before dawn. It was at about the same time that we attacked the fort. A simple harbor is located in the fishing village of this area. The pirates took a large quantity of boats from the ship and rowed up to there...”
Under the sky which still had a lingering trace of darkness, what occurred was a tragedy which made one want to avert their eyes. The pirates mercilessly swung their swords and axes down on the villagers, who were surprised by the sudden attack. They broke into rooms, took what they saw and destroyed them, violated the women, and set fire to the houses.
Those who were able to escape safely were fewer than ten.
Tigre’s face was tinged with anger and bitterness. His hometown, where he had been born and raised, had also been attacked by Duke Thenardier’s army last year. Recalling how the villagers' livelihoods had been stolen unreasonably made his heart ache with melancholy.
Olga and Matvey, though not as much as Tigre, also felt resentment towards the pirates. Simon remained cool. He was practical when it came to war matters, but he made a point by sarcastically saying, "Very well done."
As Tigre took a deep breath and pulled himself together, he looked at his companions.
“How do you think Prince Elliot will act from now on?”
“He will move straight to Valverde, through the highway," Ludra asserted. “As you can see, the highway passing near the village of Luarca extends to the east and the southwest. By advancing to the southwest, it reaches the town of Salime, and by moving to the north, it is divided into two routes, each leading to Maliayo and Valverde. Neither route leads directly to Fort Lux.”
Valverde was Tallard’s stronghold city. From Elliot’s perspective, capturing Valverde first would become the first step toward victory.
“Prince Elliot shouldn’t know that we have captured this fort yet. Even if he intends to join General Lester, he will have to pass through either route of the highway. In that case, it is not pointless for him to head toward Valverde.”
When Lester's name was mentioned, Olga, who had been silently looking at the map until now, turned to look at Tigre. He shook his head at her.
Though Lester was the general who was protecting this fort, he was not human but rather a grotesque, dreadful monster named Torbalan. The only ones who knew about his true identity were Tigre and Olga, who had actually fought him. Since explaining it to the others would make things complicated, Tigre intended to keep silent about the matter. ---I wonder if Prince Elliot knew that General Lester was a monster?
Tigre brushed the doubt which grazed his head to the corner of his mind. There were other things he had to think about.
“But it’s not as if Prince Elliot won’t know that this fort fell into our hands forever. Once he learns that we've taken the fort, won’t he change his plans?”
Olga tilted her head at Ludra’s words. The red-haired knight calmly answered back.
“That’s right. Considering the possibility, he could slow down the whole march speed and send a reconnaissance unit of about five thousand soldiers and advance along the highway..."
“Otherwise, he could organize a detached unit and send it here.”
When Tigre said this, Ludra nodded nervously.
Elliot could not ignore Fort Lux. If he ignored the fort and headed toward Valverde, he would run the risk of being attacked from the rear or side by the enemy who might be in the fort.
That was probably why he had invited Lester to change sides before landing. If Tigre and the others had delayed in besieging the fort, there was no doubt that they would have been sandwiched between Prince Elliot and Lester’s troops, forcing them to retreat.
“In the event he sends a detached unit, it will be troublesome if they decide to get off the highway and come up here."
Ludra dropped his gaze onto the map and groaned. Olga retaining her question in her obsidian pupils, looked up at the knight of Asvarre, and then asked Tigre.
“If they proceed off the highway, I think that their feet will become dull and their march will be significantly delayed, right?”
From Luarca, where Elliot landed, if they tried to head south straight to the fort, they would have to go through the meadows, across a region where a number of large and small hills stood in a row, and break through the vast woods.
Leaving aside the meadows and the hills, they would have great trouble trying to progress through the woods.
“Yeah. If you intend to stave off the enemy's march, you would usually fortify the highway with soldiers.”
As Tigre put his finger on the map, he circled the whole area spreading out between the fishing villages and the fort.
“We cannot avoid the soldiers where they deviate from the highway. Being cautious and not neglecting the scouts is all we can do. There is a high chance that the enemy will go there.”
Matvey, who was silent until then, spoke.
“Ludra-dono, isn’t there anything you know about Prince Elliot’s personality? Something that can serve as reference about how he will move from hereon.”
Tigre stared in wonder at the former sailor. Even though there was impatience due to the anger felt towards the enemy or the status quo, he had not thought of this point.
Ludra twisted his neck with a troubled face.
“I have never met Prince Elliot, but there is something that I heard from His Excellency Tallard. According to him, Prince Elliot is an extremely arrogant and incredulous person.”
---It’s the same as the story I heard from Ellen.
Tigre recalled what the Vanadis of silvery white hair taught him in the Imperial Palace of LeitMeritz. Arrogant as Prince Germaine, his suspicion was strong. Ellen had said so.
“However, His Excellency also said this: that he is both bold and cautious, and that he is someone who never lets his guard down.”
“Bold and cautious?”
Matvey asked back, frowning. Ludra nodded.
“It was at the time when Prince Germaine had called all his siblings to the Imperial Court and killed them over suspicion of rebellion. Prince Elliot, sensing the danger, went to the Court after making arrangements in advance so that he could escape when needed.”
Elliot wonderfully succeeded in getting away from Germaine’s clutches. Meanwhile, Princess Geneviere, using the confusion which arose thereby, also successfully escaped.
“Regarding his boldness, I don’t even have to explain, right? It’s not normal for the prince of a country to negotiate with pirates and make them his subordinates.”
“Besides, there is also the landing at the fishing villages, which outsmarted us. He seems to be a prince who likes to make a display of his originality.”
Simon revealed a sarcastic smile, and asked Ludra while playing with the copper cup in his hand:
“Anyway, if it’s only us, we are no match. How many days will it take for Tallard to get here?”
By now, Tallard should be running about in the country of Asvarre gathering up soldiers. It was planned that when their numbers reached ten thousand, he would join Tigre and the others and go north to fight Elliot. Counting from the day when Tigre and the others left Valverde, nearly ten days had passed.
Ludra cast his eyes downward with a bitter face. It meant that he did not know either.
In the strategy that Tallard had laid out for Tigre, Elliot was supposed to spend a lot of time capturing the port town of Maliayo. It could be said that Elliot's dynamism had exceeded Tallard's expectations.
“The messenger will arrive at Valverde tomorrow afternoon at the earliest. However, it’s not certain that His Excellency will be there, since it’s possible that he left Valverde in order to gather soldiers...”
“Then it’s futile.”
Spinning the empty copper cup in his hand, Simon shrugged his shoulders and spoke in a facetious tone. When this man laughed, the scar on his left cheek would distort. Though Olga looked displeased by his frivolous behavior, Tigre and Matvey gave wry smiles. It was not as though they did not understand his feelings.
After all, fewer than three thousand soldiers would have to fight against thirty thousand enemies.
However, Tigre did not feel like blaming Tallard. He had also experienced the hardships of gathering soldiers in the civil war of Brune.
---Well, what to do now?
"We have to settle down and do what we should do," was what he said to them. But what should be done now? To think up a brilliant strategy that would allow them to defeat an enemy of thirty thousand soldiers?
That wasn't it. Extending his hand on the desk, Tigre brought out another map on the tabletop.
The position of the surrounding villages around Fort Lux had also been drawn. Including the smaller villages with dozens of people living in them, there were about ten villages in all. They might not have heard of the tragedy of Luarca. Prince Elliot's troops were the opposite of tolerance and mercy. There was no doubt that they would turn these villages into the objects of ruthless plunder.
“What we should do now is to ensure the safety of the villagers. For that purpose, we will adopt two measures: one is to take two thousand horsemen and set a night attack on the enemy army.”
“Taking into account the enemy’s number, I don’t think it will be very effective with only two thousand...”
“I don’t expect great results in the battle. If we can slow the enemy pace even a little, then it’s enough," Tigre answered to the confused Ludra. He was about to cut directly to the second measure, but he suddenly avoided meeting Ludra's gaze. However, he soon shook off his confusion and continued in a businesslike tone, “Concerning the second, we will evacuate the villagers. Taking into account the location of the village and the enemy army, after evacuating the villagers we will prepare for the night ambush. Though I hope that they rush to Valverde, at worst we will get away from the fort to the south.”
Tigre raised his eyes from the map and looked at Ludra. A deep shadow of seriousness and sadness flashed on the youth’s face.
“Will they follow us obediently?”
“The villagers have become accustomed to war. If we tell them ‘The pirates are approaching, run away!’ then they will listen to us. We will wait for dawn before moving the soldiers...”
Reproving the mutter of Ludra, who was putting his thoughts in order, Olga asked with a puzzled face:
“Isn't it for tonight? We are racing against time, right?”
“The sun has already set. If we left the fort now, the soldiers would arrive at the village at midnight. The villagers would probably have turned off the lights and fallen asleep. Even if we gather them and talked to them, in such a situation it will just cause confusion. It would be better to wait for daybreak, and then move after.” The darkness of night easily contributed to the confusion. Not only would the evacuation not progress, it was guaranteed that those who strayed off the path or those who were left behind would appear one after another.
“Since we also have to let the villagers who were hired for the assault of the fort go back...”
Ludra grieved over awkwardness with a sigh.
“Well, it’s all good to have them evacuate, but that's not all, right?”
It was the veteran mercenary captain who said so.
“The village will be burned down once its deserted, and we'll throw poison into the water wells. That's fine, right?”
Matvey, Olga, and Ludra frowned at Simon, who asked for confirmation as though it was a matter of fact. Only Tigre did not show such a reaction. Instead, he heaved a sigh filled with resignation and violently stirred his hair. Ever since he had spotted the villages on the map, he had been anticipating this.
---Lim really is a good teacher……
The face of the unsociable girl with blond hair tied up on the left side of her head came to Tigre's mind. He recalled the debate with Lim. It was, without a doubt, consistent with the current situation. After they evacuated the villagers, if they left the villages and the water wells as they were, they would be exploited by the pirates. But if they could prevent the pirates from using the wells, the enemy would be forced to procure water from somewhere else. It was the basic of basics to force fatigue and trouble on an enemy during war.
However, perhaps it was because Simon said it without any hesitation, though Tigre agreed with his words, he could not bring himself to consent.
---If we poison the wells, it won’t be possible to use them even after the end of the war.
It was an act that was equivalent to the destruction of the village. Even if the houses which were burned could be rebuilt, the people could not survive without water.
“... Aside from burning the villages, is it possible not to use the poison? For example, we could throw stones into the wells so that the enemy cannot draw water," Tigre asked kindly. He did not want to destroy the village, if at all possible. But Simon shook his head mercilessly.
“It’s useless to do so. If we take into account the enemy's number, the stones would be removed immediately."
Silence fell. No one was able to propose an alternative solution.
Tigre returned his gaze to the map. He scowled at it as though it was an object of vengeance.
---At that time, I told Lim that I would do it with my own hands.
Her scenario had now become a reality. Of course, he could also choose to not burn the villages and poison the wells, but if they did not deal even a slight blow to the enemy, the soldiers who would fight would be in danger, not just the villagers.
If Elliot’s army was quick, they would arrive at the fort in two or three days. Regardless of how they dealt with it, time was needed for both preparation and execution. Yet, even the time to think about that was not being given to Tigre now.
“Lord Tigrevurmud, the General Commander of this army is not you, but me," Ludra said in a particularly rebuking tone, but with sympathetic eyes. “It is I who will decide and give the orders. You do not have to be concerned about it.”
“Yes,” Tigre nodded. Rather than agreeing with him, Tigre pretended to understand out of consideration for Ludra, who was anxious on his behalf.
What Ludra said was not wrong. But Tigre, rather than just following orders as a mere soldier, was in a position in which he could state his opinion to Ludra. Given that Tallard initially intended to appoint Tigre as the General Commander, one could say that they were equal in status. Moreover, the youth was unable to lie to himself nor to Lim, who was in Zchted.
“Ludra, I leave the compensation of the villagers to you.”
“I swear on my name, even at the cost of my life. Without fail.”
The earnest and prompt reply of the red-haired knight was at least providence.
The moon inclined towards the west sky, and the night sky allowed its darkness to gradually fade. The darkness being minutely divided with its gradual shading foretold that the night's end was drawing near.
Of the nearly three thousand soldiers, about one thousand remained in the fort with Ludra, while Tigre led two thousand cavalrymen out of the fort before dawn. Although there was a still a margin of more than one Koku, they started to move a little early because passing through the forest with cavalry would take time. Once they passed through the forest, the sky was crystal-clear blue, and the sun was shining white, despite its low position. As scheduled, Tigre divided the two thousand soldiers into ten squads and sent them each towards a village. Tigre himself led about three hundred cavalrymen to one of the villages. To the youth’s left and right was Olga and Matvey.
The soldiers were wearing leather armor. Most of them were armed with bows and spears. Tigre and Ludra had speculated on the enemy's equipment from the talk of when the village of Luarca had been attacked, and decided it thus.
When Tigre and his squad reached the village, they were able to confirm the figures of the villagers, who were starting on their farm work. There were roughly seventy inhabitants of this village. Their days were spent working the harvest from the oat fields surrounding the village and the forest's bounty one belsta (approximately one kilometer) away. Their houses had plaster applied to their wooden walls had simple thatched roofs.
Tigre called for the potentates of the village, including the village chief, and they gathered in the chief’s house. Then he frankly stated their business.
"The pirates are getting closer. Pack your loads by noon and escape from here."
The chief and the others looked at each other, openly perplexed.
“By noon, you say?”
“No matter how you put it, isn’t that too sudden? To begin with, even if you ask us to escape, where should we go?”
Tigre deliberately spoke in a businesslike tone. Since he was not familiar with the Asvarre language that he only recently learned from Matvey, he probably sounded more blunt from the perspective of the listener.
Tigre had resolved himself for this before departing the fortress, putting coat after coat of ice around his heart, yet nevertheless his own words made him want to vomit.
He was conscious of how to proceed precisely because the village was of a foreign country. He had not even known its name until yesterday. It allowed the youth’s heart to creak soundlessly. If it was some village from Alsace, might he have made such a decision?
“It will take two days or more from here to there,” said one of the potentates, raising his voice. He was a man 25 years of age, and had a particularly conspicuous short white mustache. Seeing him suddenly reminded Tigre of Massas, who was back in Brune. He had not seen him for more than half a year. He wondered if he was doing well.
“First of all, I want you to go toward the south from Fort Lux. It doesn’t matter if you can escape into a village or a town in its neighborhood. If that seems impossible, you can change your course to the east and go to Valverde.”
When it came to such long lines, Tigre spoke in Zchted language first, and Matvey translated it into the Asvarre language after. Tigre’s cold attitude coupled with Matvey’s ferocious appearance and burly body was already intimidation from the perspective of bystanders.
“There are women, children and also the elderly... even sick people," another man muttered in what sounded like a complaint.
To his words which carried a blaming tone, Tigre answered while maintaining his cold demeanor.
“We will provide you with two carts. The children and the elderly can ride on them. There are probably also some more that you can use in this village.”
“---And what about the wild oats?” another potentate asked.
“All of the threshing is over. We will have kept them in the warehouse. We should carry them to Valverde a few days later...”
Tigre’s expression stiffened slightly. He recalled the state of the wheat field, which he saw on his way from Maliayo to Valverde.
After harvesting the ripe wheat, the next step was the threshing -- pulling the wheat ears back and forth between the sticks split from the middle would remove the wheat. It was a work which required patience. Once that was finished, they would be packed in hempen bags and transported to the warehouse. At a later date, a portion of these would be loaded onto the carts as tax, and carried to the nearest city. The villagers would use what remained as provisions until the next harvest. It was a scenery that did not change, regardless of country.
“You can request compensation.”
While it turned out that it was not such a thing (although they are not meant to understand), the youth could only say so.
Of course there was also tax issues. But at the demand that they should throw away the things they had obtained after months of hard work of sowing, plowing, worrying about drought and heavy rains, and racking their brains to find a solution to the harm caused by birds and insects, the villagers would naturally be sad and indignant.
“Can’t you do something before the pirates arrive?”
One of the potentates turned reproachful eyes towards Tigre. Whether it was because the man's emotions were highly strung or not, he vehemently cut off Tigre before he could reply.
“I will stay here. In the first place, it’s unlikely that pirates would come to a place like this. I have lived in this village for more than 40 years, and even though I have seen thieves and bandits, I have never seen pirates.”
Fed up with his words, Tigre put on a wistful face and declared overbearingly:
“Then go to the town of Salime and hear their story. Those who barely escaped from the pirates are there right now. If you hear it from their mouths personally, I think that you will resolve yourself. But by then it might already be too late.”
Silence fell. The place was wrapped in a cold atmosphere that did not allow anyone to speak casually. Although the village chief and the others felt uneasy and looked at each other, no one said a word. Tigre took off his eyes from the man and turned toward the village chief.
“---Chief. If there are people reluctant to leave the village, tie them up and carry them on a cart along with their loads. As I have said many times, we are running out of time. We will hold the enemy here.”
Tigre stood up as though to say that the talk was over. It looked like the words he threw at them made them surrender.
However, that was not the case. A man of such age that he would be the senior among the villagers moved his wrinkled face and returned these words in a faltering voice:
“We... we have been living quietly. Even when the soldiers under Germaine-dono rampaged, even when they trampled down our fields and broke our fences and barrels and hit young men without reason, we endured it without resistance.”
The old man looked up at Tigre with reproachful eyes.
“This time you want us to abandon our village?”
The sun was high in the sky when the villagers packed their load and left the village. Tigre did not even try to hide his displeasure as he looked up at the sky and heaved a sigh full of frustration. Although it took a half koku longer than expected, they had somehow managed to evacuate the entire village.
Clothes, pans, iron pots, farming tools and the like were scattered on the streets, thrown away during the evacuation. After another half koku, the fire would be set, and all these would be burned along with the houses and fields.
Just in case, the soldiers checked to see if there was anyone who had failed to get out in time. Tigre, along with Olga and Matvey, remained at the village's central square, waiting for the report.
“I will take this thankless role.”
Ahead of Matvey's line of sight, who muttered so, there were soldiers who were entering empty homes. Their action was slow; they were either openly unfavorable, or they were looking at the trio with eyes in which all kind of feelings were enclosed. Most of the soldiers were basically commoners. They had spent their days in their respective towns and villages without war. Although they were given detailed instructions beforehand by Ludra, the act of burning a village was still unbearable for them, and they could not help but to turn reproachful eyes at Tigre, who was the commander of the site.
“No, it is better that such a thing is done by me, a stranger. Besides – I also agree.”
In the black pupils of Tigre, who responded so, a masochistic and dismal light was blinking. If he was also in their position, he would have also felt resentment towards the person who gave such orders.
But, as a Commander, he must coldly give such orders. Even if he felt like vomiting blood, if he did not do this, Tigre and the others would be force to stand in harsher conditions. Taking a rest in an empty house, he also secured water so as to fight against the enemy in perfect condition.
“Sorry for that, Matvey. If only I could speak the Asvarre language……”
“You said what should be said. Don’t worry too much about it.”
To the former sailor, who open heartedly laughed, Tigre showed his gratitude by nodding his head. He also inwardly expressed his gratitude once again towards Sasha of Legnica, for introducing this man.
The skeptical looks of the soldiers were also turned toward Olga and Matvey. This was because both of them were seen as Tigre’s companions. However, Matvey scornfully laughed, and Olga, without changing one bit her deadpan, remained calm.
Olga suddenly brought her horse near Tigre. Though the Vanadis with light pink-colored haired did not say a single word, her quiet drive to protect Tigre was felt from her dignified attitude.
“Thank you. But, I’m all right.”
Tigre said so and lightly patted the girl’s head, and when the report that no one was left behind finally arrived, the youth gave the order to set fire.
Tigre himself poisoned the two wells of the village. So that his hands, which were trembling, were not seen by the soldiers, he left only Olga and Matvey at his side.
Not an ounce of emotion surfaced on Tigre’s face as he witnessed flame engulfed homes.
He was just clutching his fist strong enough to let his fingernails dig into the palm of his hand and shed blood.
The meadows, which were at one Belsta (about one Kilometer) to the north of the village Tigre and the others left, was the place of the rendezvous.
When they arrived, nearly one thousand cavalrymen had already gathered. The Captains of each squad saw Tigre standing in the vanguard and went towards him at a quick pace.
Though some people reported the results with a bitter face, Tigre maintained his cold attitude and listened to them in turn. Their feelings aside, it seemed that they evacuated the villagers as ordered.
Tigre did not give any words of apology or appreciation at all. It was because he understood that it would instead only incite them the wrong way. By just carefully listening to their reports, he would show in his attitude, of act of accepting both their anger and bitterness.
As he finished listening to all the reports, Tigre gathered the Captains.
“Send scouts. Prepare eighty cavalrymen with little fatigue. Set eight squads of ten horsemen and send four squads respectively to the north and the east.”
Looking to the North, gently-sloping hills were visible in the distance. Shifting the gaze to the East, meadows mixed with sparsely color of dry grass were spreading. If the enemy passed through the meadows, they would probably come out in the highway.
Even though either way commanded a fine view, they were quite wide. So as not to overlook the enemy, Tigre made all the eight squads depart by different routes.
When it was over, he ordered them to set up camp. He planned to let them have a good rest for the time being in preparation for the night attack.
Although it was a camp, an encampment could brook no encumbrance. The surroundings were enclosed with a wooden fence, guards were set at key points and were taking rests by turn; they had meals, when it came time to sleep, they piled up overcoats on the ground.
In a place a little distant from the soldiers, Tigre was talking with both Olga and Matvey. Since there was no command tent, he had no choice but to settle at a distance so as not to let the soldiers hear unnecessary things. Since Olga hardly spoke, the two men became the center of the conversation.
“Do you think that Prince Elliot already knows about the fall of Fort Lux?”
“It’s better to assume that he already knows.”
Many possibilities for the enemy to obtain the information could be considered, such as villages who were too far from the coastal area for Tigre and the others to call for evacuation, or unlucky travelers and peddlers who had run into the pirates, or small aristocrats who feared Elliot and dispatched an emissary and so on.
“I don’t like pessimistic thoughts, but let’s assume the worst case scenario. Let’s consider that the enemy knows about the fall of the Fort. The number of soldiers in the advanced troops is seven thousand. They've passed through the meadows and are in the mid-hill areas.”
“I feel that seven thousand is a bit exaggerated, but under the present circumstances, it is better to estimate that much.”
However, the reality was greatly beyond what the two men expected.
As the scout, who came back by the time the daybreak, ran up to Tigre without stopping to wipe his sweat and catching his breath, reported.
“We discovered one party thought to be the enemy. They are at about two koku on foot from here. There is no doubt it’s a large party of twenty thousand soldiers!”
Not only Tigre, but also Olga and Matvey stared wide-eyed in surprise.
---Twenty thousand!? And at two koku on foot?
The distance of marching on foot at the moment was ten Belsta (about ten kilometers). Elliot’s army was advancing with a speed far beyond Tigre and the others’ expectation.
“I see. Regarding the enemy’s composition, can you tell me in detail?” Tigre immediately erased the surprise from his facial expression, and asked with a tone as relaxed as he could muster. Probably because an overwhelmingly large army was in sight, the soldiers were agitated. He must avoid shaking them further.
“The enemy raised the banner of the Red Dragon and its ranks are in disorder……”
Everyone in Elliot’s army, without any mind to military formation, ran up the gently-sloping hilly areas at full speed. The visible weapons are sticks and hatchets and even though they are formally dressed, it was leather armor at best. There was no cavalry. “Is the number twenty thousand certain? If the enemy’s ranks are so much in chaos, I think it will be difficult to count them.”
Olga, who returned to her usual deadpan, asked indifferently. When the enemy numbered thousands or ten thousand, it was not an easy task to precisely grasp their number. However, the messenger clearly answered.
“I have worked as a messenger for a long time; if there are 1000 infantry, no matter how clumped they are, I will know. As I mentioned earlier, there is no cavalry among the enemy and since the ranks were extended greatly in a line, it’s possible to count them by the thousand.”
“I see. Sorry for having doubted your words.”
Olga honestly apologized. Beside her, Tigre started to think over what the messenger reported and the moment he realized the enemy’s intent, he almost unintentionally shouted. However, without showing this, he gave words of appreciation to the soldier with a gentle smile.
“Good work. You can rest now. I cannot allow wine, but you can take a light meal.”
As the soldier walked away from Tigre, Olga and Matvey turned dubious eyes to the youth. Tigre’s face was clearly tinged with tension and anxiety. He took out a map from his breast pocket with impatient fingers.
“Have you understood something?”
“The enemy has advanced straight to the south with the whole army. And with a fairly forced march.”
Tigre recalled that someone said that Elliot possessed a bold personality.
The second Prince of Asvarre, without organizing a detached unit, changed the course of action of the entire army and gave top priority to the capture of Fort Lux.
“……Then, the enemy had ten thousand in their forced march turned deserter?”
Matvey said with a dumbfounded face. Since Elliot’s army should be thirty thousand, it meant that it had pretty much decreased by 1/3.
“The enemy has probably considered this point. That, even if there are ten thousand stragglers, twenty thousand remain.”
It was the right way of thinking under this situation. For example, supposing that stragglers continued to occur and Elliot’s army was reduced to half, that’s still fifteen thousand. It would be five times Tigre's forces. Even if Tallard’s reinforcement of ten thousand were to arrive in time, Elliot's army would still be superior in number. Moreover, the stragglers would catch up given time.
“But, if they are pushing themselves that much, they will be exhausted and fighting will become impossible.”
To Olga, who frowned, Matvey softly shook his head,
“There’s no way that soldiers would be deployed in a place like this. Or even if they were deployed, only a small number of people would be able to effortlessly break through. Honestly, even I don’t want to clash with an enemy ten times superior in number. Even if it’s possible to win because the enemy is tired from the forced march.”
If they misread the level of enemy exhaustion, they would be easily repelled. If they did not act carefully, they could be surrounded in a flash and destroyed. It was far too dangerous to bet on it.
As Elliot judged and anticipated that there would be no more than ten thousand enemies ahead of their route, there was no doubt that they were advancing at a surprisingly tremendous speed. Tigre could not help shivering. Though not to the extent of using swords, the smoke of war had already begun.
Tigre quickly took a pen and paper and wrote a letter. Then he called a messenger.
“Return quickly to Fort Lux and give this to Ludra-dono.”
The messenger, who had received the letter, carefully put it in his breast pocket, bowed and left.
Olga and Matvey, who were waiting behind Tigre, looked at each other. Since he did not verbally pass the message, it meant that the contents were not addressed to the soldiers. Thinking whether or not it might have anything to do with the night attack scheduled to begin after this, Olga asked hesitantly.
“What about the night attack?”
“We will do it.”
Tigre briefly asserted to show his determination.
“We must slow down the enemy pace here at all costs. We must at least gain half a day.”
Of course there was the fear of clashing with an enemy ten times superior in number. But, Tigre understood that the villagers would not be able to escape if things were going on like this.
The villagers had begun to evacuate from this morning until noon. There were leading children and old people holding their loads. It was a situation where even they did not know whether or not they would be able to reach the Fort.
It would be good if the pirates, after seeing the fire ruins of the village, became more careful and enhanced their vigilance; if they marched at the same speed, they would surely catch up by tomorrow. Tigre could not absolutely let such a thing happen. Otherwise, for what purpose did he burn the village, and poisoned the wells?
“I think what Matvey said is correct. However, if we revise our viewpoint, the enemy won’t be wary of us. There are no signs that they sent a scout. – It’s a good opportunity.”
“It’s a gamble, you know? And a big gamble at that.”
Matvey broadly laughed while shrugging his shoulders. This was the laughter of a sailor who had braved the sea storms. Though Olga was silently staring at Tigre, she did not disagree.
As the units sent for reconnaissance all returned, Tigre learnt that the enemy had stopped their march. Soon having left from the hilly area, they were at about one koku on foot away from the place where Tigre and the others were. He also confirmed at the same time that they did not send scouts.
Just to be on a safe end, Tigre moved out their campground, and retreated the troops to the south. Even though it was a campground, only setting up a fence was required, so it did not take a lot of time.
As the forest came into view, Tigre stopped their retreat. With the forest’s appearance at their back, they again built a campground.
The construction of the campground ended when the sun was setting. The clouds, which lurked in the sky, bathing in the light of the setting sun were dyed vermillion. The forest also dyed black a part of the ground in its huge shadow, which greatly spread branches and leaves, and the shadows of soldiers and horses had sunk in it. Matvey in admiration said so.
“With this, as long as we don’t use fire, it will be hard to be discovered from a distance.”
“I will prohibit the use of the fire after a little bit. From now, I want you to accustom your eyes to the dark.”
As Tigre gathered the Captain of each unit after that, he issued a few instructions.
“Let the soldiers make catapult slings. Pick up stones in the forest. And then……”
The catapults sling was a tool used to catapult stones at a far distance by using the centrifugal force. Since the string could be easily made with just scraps of cloth, Tigre had also used it once or twice when hunting. Though it was more difficult to hit the target, it could also catapult stones at a distance of one hundred Alsins (about 100 meters).
Among the two thousand soldiers present here, only about half of the soldiers, that’s one thousand, were able to prepare bow and arrow. It (catapult) was a means to make up for that shortage.
As he finished issuing instructions, Tigre slightly sighed. His shoulders felt heavy. Though there was not that much physical fatigue, the mental exhaustion was extreme.
“—I will take a rest for a half koku.”
Like that, Tigre put on a slightly dirty overcoat and turned his back to Matvey and Olga.
“I suppose you're off to take care of some business?”
To the former sailor who asked in a joking tone, Tigre only replied without looking back.
“I will only take a rest in a place a little away. I will return at once if something happens.”
After Matvey looked up at the sky, he saw off the youth while answering “Understood”.
Since the lurking clouds had hidden the moon and the stars, the night sky of autumn was darker than usual. With this, even if Tigre parted from the army alone to rest, he would probably not be conspicuous.
After they dared tackle their reluctance, they would be challenging an enemy ten times in numerical superiority. Moreover, Tigre would be leading foreign soldiers in a foreign land. Matvey wanted for Tigre to rest when he still could afford it.
Tigre, who was away from the soldiers, leaned against one of the trees that formed the forest and sat on the ground. Even though a little away, He probably couldn't hear normal voices, but a shout should be able to reach him at this distance. As expected he could not take more distance than that.
Though he closed his eyes, Tigre was so highly strung that he could not immediately sleep.
---How should we fight?
Last year, Tigre had struggled to repel the twenty thousand soldiers of the Muozinel army, who invaded Brune, with only two thousand soldiers. At that time, the soldiers’ morale was high, and he had reliable subordinates such as Rurick and the like.
There was the geographical advantage, too. Since the Muozinel army had advanced in a thin ravine (canyon) and got caught in the cliff, not only they were not able to use their military force of twenty thousand, but their March speed was also slow because of the slaves they had taken. There was room to come up with a plan. There was also the expectation that Massas and Augres would bring reinforcements.
How could the current situation be turned over? Though he could rely on Olga and Matvey, not only those two had no experience of commanding soldiers, but they also had no authority. He was also anxious whether the soldiers would follow his orders. Apart from the fact that he was not well versed in the geographical advantage, above all there was no time in every sense of the word.
“……I will somehow manage.”
Tigre brushed aside the heavy pressure, which applied a huge burden throughout his body, with murmurs, which could not be voiced. Suddenly, he tiresomely lifted his head when he felt something approaching.
Standing there was Olga. Though it was so dark that one could not even properly see several steps ahead, her light pink-colored hair, her small build, and above all the gray bladed axe which was in her hand, could not be mistaken.
As he was wondering why she came, the Vanadis of light pink-colored hair bent her delicate body, and smoothly entered in Tigre’s body.
“I need to rest, too.”
Tigre frowned, and rebuked “hey!” in a low voice. Olga indifferently replied.
“Matvey said not to use fire. This way you can rest without becoming cold.”
Tigre hesitated to speak. In reality, he wanted to be alone for a little while. As he was thinking about a suitable reason, Olga spoke first.
It was a small and unusually strong tone. To the surprised Tigre, Olga calmly continued.
“Tigre, I don’t know how you feel. But, there's something that I know. It’s that I can not let you be alone now.”
The latter half of her speech did not seem like her, and though it was a very childlike way of speaking, her words strangely enough entered Tigre’s heart.
“I will stay by your side.”
Olga was not clear about what Tigre did intend to do. However, she did not encourage or comfort him, and also did not accept or deny him; she just told him what she wanted to do. Though her words made people feel an adamant will, strangely they did not feel hard-pressed to others.
Tigre, without knowing what he should say for a moment, fixedly stared at the girl. Though his feelings of wanting to be left alone did not completely disappear, it was certain they considerably faded. He only said “Thank you” in a lowered voice.
The youth, at that time for the first time, felt the warmth transmitted from the girl's body through her slightly dirty clothes. In that warmth, there was something which made his heart feel at ease. As drowsiness rapidly assailed him, Tigre entrusted his weight to her smaller back.
Olga did not show an unpleasant figure; rather her body was glued to his. While tickling his nasal cavity with the sweet smell of her light pink-colored hair, Tigre fell asleep.
As she heard the sleeper’s breathing of Tigre, Olga heaved a sigh of relief.
Regarding Tigre’s decision and the action to burn the village, it was not as if there was no room to think.
But, more than that, she didn't know what to say to Tigre, who would not show his expression of bitterness to the villagers and soldiers. Although she thought of some words of comfort, she felt like she was short on words to fully express her feelings.
Therefore, Olga decided to support the youth by at least being at his side, and becoming his strength.
When late at night, Tigre and the others began to move. They whittled wood to make slabs for the horses to put in their mouths, and wrapped clothes around their hooves to reduce noise.
“I see. You thought this out well.”
It was Matvey who said so in admiration. For this man, who had spent most of his life on the sea, it seemed to be something unusual. Tigre responded in a somewhat embarrassed tone.
“It's not my idea. A good acquaintance taught me about surprise attacks and night attacks by cavalry.”
That person should be waiting for Tigre’s return in LeitMeritz of the Kingdom of Zchted at this time. He also decided to help Sophie – Sophia Obertas for her sake, and to return safely.
Matvey grinned, guessing that the youth’s mood seemed to have changed for the better from his tone of voice.
“It seemed that you were able to take a good rest.”
“Thanks to you.”
The facial expression of Olga, who was pulling her horse near to Tigre’s, was mixed with joy and pride.
The moon and most of the stars were hidden by the clouds in the sky, which did not fade away. It was the perfect situation for a night attack.
All the two thousand soldiers went down from the horses, and advanced through the meadows wrapped in darkness while pulling their horses. Since the sky was very dark, their pace was slow and cautious.
Though they grew accustomed to seeing in the dark, it was only to the extent of grasping the difference in the depth of the darkness. Even if the sensation of stepping on the grass was transmitted to their feet through the shoes, their steps were shrouded in darkness and they could see nothing. Since the sense of distance also went amiss, the fatigue built up quickly.
So as not to let the soldiers get too tired, Tigre took a break several times.
“There’s enough time. Don’t speak, or make a sound. And be careful not to fall.”
As they were marching since about a half koku, they saw some lights in the distance. It was the campfire lit by the pirates.
“Are they camping without even spreading tents?”
Matvey, who was standing beside Tigre, laughed in a low voice. Within this darkness, though his figure was only a black shadow, the only countenance the youth's imagination could conjure was a smile as wicked as can be.
---It appears that the enemy did not build a campground, and they also don’t seem to rest together, huh. It is as the scouts reported.
As they got closer until a rough estimate distance of about 300 Alsins from the campfire, Tigre gave instructions to the captains of each squad. He had already told them what kind of offensive to adopt, when leaving their campground. One could only say that it was all according to plan.
--- I will shoot a fire arrow towards the sky. It will be the signal to attack with arrows and catapults, and confuse the enemy, and then you will charge. When we defeat the enemy’s vanguard, we will leave and withdraw from the battlefield.
It was because he judged that attacking the vanguard and breaking imprudently in the darkness was dangerous. If they were to be surrounded by the pirates who reorganized their posture, they would not escape from complete annihilation.
The two thousand soldiers that should be called ‘Tigre squad’ suppressed their voice and quietly spread left and right. Looking at it from above their movement was like that of a bird spreading its wings.
The soldiers were gradually approaching the pirates. Sweat blurred on Tigre’s forehead. His and the soldiers’ breathing, the sound of the horses’ footsteps and the shoes scraping on the grass were very loud. Their heart was violently pounded in the anxiety of whether or not they were discovered by the enemy's good intuition.
---So that the arrows and the catapults reach, a distance of 100 Alsins is necessary……
They did not have to necessarily hit the target. But, they had to reach. If it was Tigre, he could even shoot from this distance, but the soldiers of course did not have such skill.
He considered the weakest soldier's standards as reference. It was what Lim and Massas taught him.
They finally approached to a distance deemed to be 100 Alsins. Tigre looked back at Matvey. The former sailor with his big body took out two sticks. One side of the stick was burnt black at the tip.
The soldiers who were nearby formed a wall around him, and Matvey vigorously rubbed the stick. Fire lighted at the tip, and then Tigre took out an arrow that he had prepared. He also coated the arrowhead with oil.
He brought the arrow close to the fire that Matvey was holding. The sickle burnt making a ‘pot’ small sound.
Tigre quickly nocked the arrow to his black bow and shot it high in the sky. The blazing arrow flew straight towards the night sky, and the pirates who saw it uttered loud sounds.
But, their voices were drowned out by another sound.
Nearly one thousand of bowstrings let their sound reverberate in the void (thin air), and the catapults and the arrows cut through the wind. In the night sky illuminated by the campfire, countless numbers of black shadows appeared. Shrieks and screams overlapped, and cries informing of an enemy attack were audible at where Tigre and the others were.
Tigre nocked another arrow to his black bow, but he did not shoot it. He first wanted to grasp the soldiers’ situation. So far, there was no disorder on their side.
The soldiers, who finished throwing the second stone, stripped the horses of the bits forced into their mouths in preparation for the attack, and removed the cloths from their hooves. They kept the catapult string, or threw it away and tightly grasped a spear.
Arrows were shot a second time. Several hundred arrows like a rain of black needles, depicted a dark parabola, and poured on the pirates. The voices of confusion of pirates became louder.
Tigre took off the arrow he once nocked on the bow. He rode his horse. There was the figure of Olga sitting astride her horse silently next to him. The soldiers also put their bows on their saddles, and took out a spear on horseback.
A battle cry broke out. Tigre squad let horses' hooves resound all over, and wrapping into a round shape, they advanced on the pirates. The campfire gradually grew big (large), and on the other side, many figures running about in utter confusion let their silhouette become clear.
The pirates put their weapon at hand, and though they were still wearing leather armor, they had not yet recovered from the shock of being taken by surprise. They were stunned by the appearance of the Tigre squad from within the darkness; they threw away their weapons and ran about trying to escape. Though, among them, there were some who tried to fight, weapons in hand, they were knocked out by the cavalry.
Flames painted the air and fresh blood dyed the ground red.
The cavalry had no mercy at all towards the pirates. There were few people who were practical about driving away the villagers, burning the village and poisoning the wells. They slammed their anger against the pirates. They kicked them about with horse's hooves, hit them very hard with spears, brushed them and pierced them.
Tigre also nocked the arrows to his black bow and defeated two people. Partly because Olga did not leave Tigre’s side, she had not yet wielded her ax.
The pirates either fled into the darkness, or they silently died and fell to the ground; as the battle around him gradually became sporadic, Tigre looked up.
Shifting his attention to the darkness, he could not help but gasp.
In the darkness, the campfire, which was burning moving from place to place, had been extended into the distance.
They were all enemies. More than ten thousand enemies were on the other side in the darkness. A dry smile emerged. If they rushed while holding their weapons, Tigre and the others would be swallowed in a blink of an eye, and would join the blood-stained corpses lying on their feet.
The blow was certainly given. Should they go back?
---No, we can still hold…………!
Tigre judged so. Since the enemy was too concerned about the speed of progress, ignoring other things. Even resting was a mess. There was no way not to take advantage of that mistake.
“Please gather the soldiers who are nearby. And charge once more.”
They were cavalry on Tigre’s side. Even if they retreat from here after launching another blow, they could easily shake off the enemy infantry. As Matvey also understood this point, he called the soldiers nearby in the dark and ordered them.
The faces of the soldiers, who showed up from the darkness and were illuminated by the campfire, were all colored with tension and excitement of a battlefield. Their morale was high.
Tigre brandished his black bow, and pointed at the flickering campfire in the distance.
“It's over there. Spread after defeating the pirates; we will go back to the forest with our friends. We will use the height of the campfire as a signal to go back.”
In the confusion of the darkness and the battlefield, it was difficult to gather. Tigre and the others could not also convene all the soldiers. He understood that it could not be helped. What was important now was their speed. Before the enemy bounced back, it was necessary to end everything.
He shouted again. The roar of the horses’ hooves shook the ground, and the war cry echoed in the night sky. Even with just this sound and voice coming from within the darkness, the pirates might be scared.
Tigre squad similarly defeated the pirates, who were also there; Tigre broke through the midst of the enemy along with Olga, Matvey and the less than ten cavalrymen, and jumped into the darkness.
There was no way to know the direction in the darkness. But in this case, as long as the forward returned to the North of the bonfire, it will be certainly right.
“It went well.”
Matvey said so in a joyful tone. He also seemed to have been struggling, and at the tip of the spear, which he had in hand, blood was dripping.
Tigre and the others barely managed to reach the forest before long. If they entered the forest, the enemy would lose sight of them, and moreover they would probably be cautious about traps and ambushes in the forest and refrain from pursuing them. Considering the enemy’s confusion in the first place, there was probably no way that they would chase them, and let their guard down. Here was a battlefield.
“Reform the ranks. Take care of the injured. Don’t relax yet.”
As he was checking, the number of cavalrymen gathered in front of the forest now was less than a thousand. Therein, the soldiers injured to the extent that continuing fighting would be difficult, were approximately fifty. Tigre provided them about twenty companions and told them to go ahead back to the Fort.
“Still, I didn’t think that half of us would be defeated……”
Would they be roaming in the darkness, isolated? Then they would need to be aided. In the midst of thought, the sound of severely uncoordinated horse hooves drew near from inside the darkness.
“It’s the people of Cliff squad……”
The primary concern behind the sound of the horse hooves was a certain officer who had made a name for himself. With his breaths like gasps, his voice had no strength to it.
Less than ten cavalrymen appeared from within the darkness. Everyone was injured, and the smell of blood was circulating in the night air and had drifted until here. The soldier on the vanguard was leaning against the horse’s neck and something long and slender was on his back.
---Is it…… an arrow? Considering that, it’s long.
When looking closely in the darkness, it was without a doubt an arrow. But, it was more than a fist longer than what Tigre and the soldiers carried.
“Our squad and Jeremy squad suffered from the enemy’s counterattack……”
Both Cliff and Jeremy were the captains who were in charge of the so to speak left-wing of Tigre squad. Tigre, who understood the situation, looked back at Matvey, and gave him another task. While ordering their treatment, he asked a soldier of the Cliff squad.
“How many people were defeated (killed)?”
Matvey translated the soldier’s answer. To the word “longbow”, Tigre muttered “It was that after all”. He had seen it only once, a long time ago. Around the time his father was still alive, Massas had gotten his hands on one and brought it. He said that it was a rare bow of a foreign country.
The bow stem was longer than Tigre’s height at that time. It might have been 20 Chet (about 2 meters). As it was long, it required considerable physical strength to draw the bowstring; Tigre of course, and even his father or Massas were not able to draw it sufficiently.
『Though considerable strength is needed to draw it, the arrow will fly with only. 300 Alsin seems to be light. 』
Tigre remembered well what Massas had said.
---So their fast recovery was due to this squad of longbows, huh!
Tigre was terrified. Judging from the injury and the way of talking of the soldiers, it meant that there was probably not only one or two longbow users. There must be a squad from dozens to several hundred people. They would probably have to dive in there.
“Are there still allies remaining?”
To Tigre’s question using Matvey as intermediary, the soldier feebly nodded.
“Good work. We will help your companions. Choose three people with shallow wounds as guides, and retreat into the forest.”
Making the soldier of the Cliff squad lead the way, Tigre squad, reduced to nine hundred, advanced in the darkness. In the place where cries of the battlefield gradually increased, the youth nocked an arrow to his black bow.
“Matvey. I leave you in command.”
At that time he roughly grasped the position of allies and foes. Near the campfire was the enemy, who had formed an orderly rank. In the dark where the campfire’s light did not reach, the allies were squirming.
The wind noise, mixed and overlapping with dozens or several hundred of roars of their horses’ hooves, tickled the eardrum. It was the sound of arrows, which were shot from longbows and tore the night air to hit the allies far away.
Tigre chewed his molar. The enemy, who noticed them, was trying to change the direction to where they (Tigre) were. Though there was still a distance of about three hundred Alsins between them, it was better to think that it was not a problem for the enemy.
Tigre put power to his foot stepping on a stirrup, stretched straight out his left hand holding the black bow forward and drew the bowstring to the limit. And as he further shortened the distance to one hundred Alsins, he shot the arrow.
The arrow drew the orbit of a mountain, and flew as it were sucked towards the enemy squad who were set up with longbows. It went and pierced the forehead of one soldier. When that soldier fell down, confusion began to spread among the other soldiers.
Tigre, without particularly showing joy, like a craftsman, who kept working silently, nocked a new arrow to the bow. It was not as if he was aiming at random. His aim was set.
The second shot. Because they drew closer earlier, hitting the target that was aimed at was not difficult. The movement of the enemies that were setting up their longbows became dull once again. It was fatal in this situation. Although the arrows were shot from the longbows, their numbers did not even reach half of the enemy.
Although the soldiers of the Tigre squad, who were hit by arrows, fell from the horses one after another, still the momentum of the assault did not become dull, and several hundreds of cavalry sprang toward the squad of longbow users.
Though the archers each possessed a burly body, one could only say as expected of archers. They were not good at close range combat, so they threw away their longbows and fled. While nocking an arrow to his black bow, Tigre shouted.
“Don’t chase the enemy! Help the allies!”
Matvey repeated what Tigre had said in Asvarre language. They had little time. If there was another squad of longbows, the attack on Tigre’s side, in which they simultaneously shoot arrows from a distance would certainly not reach them.
Having spoken loudly he had attracted the enemy's attention. The pirates, who finally regained their composure, brandished clubs and axes and attacked Tigre.
But, Olga advanced her horse as to break between both parties. At that time, the ax, which was in the hand of the girl with light pink-colored hair, had already changed its shape to that of a long haft.
Her ViraltDragonic Tool, the Roaring Demon had the ability to change its shape according to its master’s intention (will). Using the confusion and the darkness of the battlefield, Olga had transformed the ax.
With her thin arms, Olga totally easily swung the double-edged ax, which would not be even possible to lift, around like a stick. It smashed the heads of the enemies swarming, and blew off their arms along their weapons. It was as if a storm was born in the darkness.
Mixed with fresh blood were torn flesh and crushed bone fragments, which were scattered. The grey matter and entrails were thrown out (dumped). It was hardly thinkable that it was the physical strength of a young girl. When one thought that it was caught, the gray blade had blown away anything and everything.
Even though she continued wielding an ax without rest, no change was seen in Olga’s expression. The will of not wanting to let even one soldier approach Tigre was overflowing in her black eyes, the BardicheMoon Princess of the Roaring Demon continued killing and amassing a mountain of enemy corpses. . In her figure, there was something which made even the pirates wince.
About a quarter koku had passed, and Tigre left the battlefield with the soldiers. They rushed into the forest. As he confirmed the situation, Cliff was alive, but Jeremy was already no longer of this world.
"……I am sorry."
A color of fatigue was deep in the face of Cliff who powerlessly lowered his head, and his body was full of bruises.
As he returned into the forest, Tigre ordered the soldiers to take a rest. And, he told them not to make more fires than necessary.
“They may come to inquire on the situation. Don’t forget that there are still a great number of enemies here.”
The voice of Tigre giving instructions was cold (indifferent), and was similar to that of a composed Commander, but it was meant to conceal the impatience of his heart.
---One of my moves was sealed……
That was referring to the move he use when he repulsed the Muozinel army, which has invaded Brune. Tigre had forced the assault, approached Kashim who was the advance troops' Commander until a distance of 300 Alsins and killed him with his bow and an arrow.
It looked like he was not able to use that plan this time. As long as the squad of soldiers who used longbows was around Elliot, they would pour a rain of arrows taking the opportunity when Tigre would aim at the Commander. If it’s like this (if so), sniping would indeed be impossible.
---Anyway, we have no choice, but to gain time…………
When dawn drew near, Tigre and the others returned to the Fort.
With near to two thousand casualties and reports of them increasing, Elliot, the second prince of the Asvarre kingdom, refrained from shouting at the pirates despite having revealed a moment of surprise and anger.
Here was the camp of the Elliot army. Although called a camp, they were not surrounded by a fence and ditch, and even for just the soldiers there were too few tents.
The pirates properly gathered together and made a fire, and were directly lying on the ground. There were those using blankets and overcoats that they took from the villages, but those were the minority. That appearance, rather than calling it an army, was more accurately called a herd of bandits.
At the center of such a camp, two tents were spread. One of them was used by Elliot, who was the General Commander of this army. Within the tent, a desk and a chair, while being of poor structure, were placed, and there was a bottle of wine and a silver cup on the desk.
As he made the pirate who finished the report withdraw, Elliot clicked his tongue and kicked the ground. His well-featured handsome face was distorted and steeped with violent emotions.
“When I think that I have taken the Fort, what followed is a night attack, huh. A commoner born in a fishing village going and doing something like that.”
The commoner born in a fishing village was referring to Tallard. Although he was originally a Prince using a rough way of speaking, one could not imagine it was a royalty influenced by pirates.
Everything was going as planned, until noon today. Beginning with the village of Luarca, they had burned down several fishing villages, and after loading the captured villagers onto a ship, who were likely to be sold as slaves, Elliot led the pirates, advanced on the highway in high spirits.
Though of course they also attacked the villages along the highway, and when he asked the villages potentates captured at that time about Tallard Graham and the movement of the army he led, a surprising answer came back.
Fort Lux fell to Tallard’s attack, and though General Lester was defeated, it was said that he safely escaped somewhere.
Elliot immediately left the highway, and decided to rush to Fort Lux. If this story was true, then there was no doubt they would be struck by a surprise attack before reaching Valverde if they continued advancing on the highway. He only hastened the march willing to drop out (lose) up to half of the whole army. Then, there was this night attack. He was amazed by the speed of response of the other party.
“There should be dozens of small villages ahead……”
When he decided to move toward Fort Lux, Elliot intended to attack those villages, to resupply necessary goods, food being the priority. At the time of landing (the boats), the food, which the Prince prepared, was only sufficient for four days. In order to act promptly, he gave it to the pirates without preparing the load for the troops. Even if they came ashore surprising the enemy, it had no meaning if they did not quickly proceed with their next move.
In addition, the act of looting was the quick (and easy) way in order to maintain the pirates' morale.
However, if their enemy came this far, then it was another story.
---That bastard Tallard has been relying on the people’s support. Rather than abandoning the people of villages, he makes them escape. And there is no doubt that he would either retrieve the food, which was in the villages, or burn it.
“Until we take back Fort Lux, we will be unable to supply food and water. It would be better to think so.”
Though he requested to transport the food and goods to his alliance’s partner Muozinel in preparation for the time there was something, Elliot's army was constantly moving. It was likely to happen in several days.
He poured the very lukewarm wine in a silver cup, and gulped it with violent hand movements. At that time, the pirate who was keeping watch outside reported that a visitor was there. Without even hiding his bad mood, Elliot ordered to let him in.
Entering after an interval of about ten counts was a young man in his mid-twenties. With a high stature, he was the owner of a body which well-matched the description of being rough rather than sturdy. His arms were especially thick.
Wearing leather armor, which applied ornament, he held a bow as long as his height in his hand. Elliot stood from the chair revealing a smile, and extended his hands so as to welcome him.
“I give you my thanks, Hamish. We were able to repel the enemy thanks to you.”
The man named Hamish, without changing his stern expression, bowed.
“For that matter, there is one thing I came to ask his Highness.”
“……Is there something that bothered you?”
At the time, when the late King Zacharias was still alive, Elliot, with the comfort of second Prince also assisted him; he gathered aristocrats of low class about the same age, and led a loose life. Hamish was one of his libertine companions. Now he was one of the very few subordinates that Elliot could trust.
At the time when Germaine and Elliot had divided the country in two and begun to fight, though Hamish had officially declared neutrality and adopted a watchful stance, he had actually secretly kept in touch with Elliot, and sent various information. It was also this man who appealed to Lester.
With his befitting peerage of Viscount as a small aristocrat, his territory was small, and he could only move a few soldiers.
However, the approximately four hundred soldiers under Hamish’s command were somewhat special (unique).
They were skilled in the use of longbow.
The arrows shot from a longbow were powerful. At short distances, it could even pierce chain mail or iron armor.
The flying distance was also great. It could shoot at an enemy at 300 Alsins or beyond. It was a distance that could be never be reached by an average archer with an ordinary bow. It was not impossible with a crossbow, but the firing rate was far inferior.
Though power to draw the bowstring to the limit was absolutely necessary to handle it, thanks to repeated training the longbow users were a redoubtable group.
Hamish, who was the Imperial Prince Commander of those longbow users, said while making a sullen face,
“Among the enemy, there is someone who possesses archery skills out of the ordinary.”
Hamish raised his voice. To be exact, because he was reminded of the appearance of an opponent he did not even know, his feelings were highly strung, and his voice naturally became clamorous.
“That person could shoot (aim) an arrow at a distance of more than 300 Alsins, moreover on horseback, and aim accurately.”
Elliot folded his arms, and looked up at Hamish’s large build. Frowning as he understood the meaning of his subordinate’s words, he put on an amazed face.
“I do not think it possible to shoot an arrow at a distance of 300 Alsins with an ordinary bow. Didn’t you perhaps mistake it with a crossbow or a longbow?”
“Two commanders of my hundred bows squad were killed; both with ordinary arrows.”
Hundred bows commander literally referred to a person who commanded a hundred soldiers who used longbows. Though there were four commanders of a hundred bows under Hamish, they had decreased to half in one night. It was a severe loss.
“As the report already said, when we were fighting the enemy's cavalrymen force, we were struck by an attack from another squad of the enemy. The bow user, who was among them, shot the arrows from a distance of 300 Alsins and killed the commanders of a hundred bow users one after another.”
In Hamish’s voice there were not only anger and sadness, but some admiration was also included.
Because the commanders of a hundred bows users were defeated, the soldiers were confused, and they suffered a few sacrifices since the counter-attack was not in time.
His anger and sadness were for those victims. On the other hand, Hamish was able to have respect for the owner of outstanding skill, even as an enemy.
“Your Highness, it’s not that I want to make a big fuss about it. But there is a redoubtable enemy. Shooting an arrow on top of a running horse and in the confusion of the battlefield of midnight, and hitting the target aimed at, he is a monster in the usage of bows.”
Emphasizing the latter half of his speech, Hamish feverishly (enthusiastically) explained. While being a little surprised at his attitude, Elliot waved his hand as to order him to settle down. The user of the longbow regained his composure, bowed his head and apologized for the impoliteness.
“I understood the story. So you want to ask me about that bow user, huh. However, unfortunately, I have also not heard of such a guy__”
Stopping in mid-sentence, Elliot suddenly stiffened his expression.
“Speaking of which, I heard that that bastard Tallard excels in the use of the bow……”
The voice of the second Prince of Asvarre was rapid. It was tinged with a small carelessness. The feelings he harbored towards Tallard were that of hatred and disdain, but also fear.
From about half a year since the beginning of the strife with Germaine, Elliot had never won against Tallard. On the contrary, he was even forced to surrender in local battles.
Elliot, who was born Prince, served by all and raised as a Prince, naturally looked down on Tallard, who was born and raised in a fishing village, but the fact that he could not win with only that, no matter how he fought, was disgraceful, and terrifying at the same time.
“No, Your Highness. It was not Lord Tallard.”
To Hamish who stated so in a moderate tone, Elliot threw a dangerous gaze.
“Did you see the appearance?”
“Only for a moment. There was no composure until he shot the arrow.”
That “there was no composure” was because the soldiers were confused because the commanders of a hundred bows users had been defeated in succession. But, without mentioning that, Hamish only described the enemy's features.
“It was a youth who has probably not yet reached 20 years old. His hair color was darkish. With the appearance of plain bow and ordinary leather armor, he was deemed not to be an aristocrat. Among the soldiers, there are also those who have seen that bow user, I can confirm there is no mistake.”
“It was not Tallard, huh……”
Though Elliot inwardly took a break of relief, he also understood at the same time that it was a worrying situation. It meant that other than Tallard, there was another bow user with excellent skills, who was on the enemy side.
“If there is such a talented person, I thought that his name would be known.”
“It cannot be helped if its someone we don’t know. Can you win against that bow user?”
“……If we are separated from 400 Alsins.”
The longbow of Hamish could shoot (aim) at a target at 400 Alsins or more, if the bowstring was drawn to the maximum. Though he naturally had skill, it was a distance which could be reached because of the longbow.
“Alright. Your squad will be placed in the stronghold as bodyguards to protect me. We have a few hundred here. If there is only one enemy, then there is no need to worry.”
“Yes. However, Your Highness must take care. Until we approach a distance where arrows can reach, we have to subjugate the enemy’s General, by all means, and win. Since the enemy is able to fight like that.”
As Elliot nodded to Hamish’s words, he conveyed the plans of hereafter - recapturing Fort Lux and heading toward Valverde afterwards.
“Will the food be enough?”
It was what Hamish first asked. Elliot answered in disappointment.
“We cannot afford it. Therefore, we cannot recklessly act.”
“How about threatening the nearby towns such as Salime so that they deliver food?”
“If we stop on the way, it will probably give time to Tallard.”
It was an assault to beat Tallard in one go without giving him room to set up a countermeasure. Though it could not be helped for Fort Lux, they could not afford to stop on the way more than this until they captured Valverde.
“Oh yeah, Hamish. I will show you something nice.”
Changing the topic, Elliot stood up with a smile. He came out of the tent followed by Hamish. They went in the tent directly spread nearby. To the guard standing in front of the tent, they confirmed whether there was anyone who approached. The guard answered in a faltering tone.
“There were some people, but none have gone in.”
As Elliot satisfactorily (contently) nodded, he entered the tent.
“How do you feel, Sophia-dono?”
Therein was a young woman. Her white skin got dirty with the forced long trip, and although her golden hair which extended to her waist had lost its gloss and become dull, her beautiful face which possessed both intellect and loveliness was not ruined (damaged) in the slightest. Though the color of fatigue was deep in her face, her strong will was felt in her eyes of beryl.
Though her delicate shoulders were naked, her rich bosom, her slender waist and her legs which smoothly extended were wrapped in a pale green color dress. The edge of her dress also became loose, and dirt was conspicuous (showed dirt).
And above all, making those who saw her feel miserable was probably the boorish iron chain that restrained her thin arms. A heavy iron ball was rolling at the tip of the chain, and put her in the situation where it was difficult to even stand up.
She was Sophia Obertas. A Vanadis of Zchted. Far from being frightened by Elliot, who was undressing her whole body with his eyes, she even revealed a stout-hearted smile and responded.
“Thanks to you, I am feeling at ease, Your Highness.”
Without replying to her words, Elliot looked back at Hamish.
“Hey, Hamish. Here is a Vanadis of Zchted, Sophia Obertas-dono. Don’t you think she is really too much of a beautiful woman to hand over to Muozinel?”
Hamish did not immediately answer. He was captivated by Sophie’s beauty, and was just standing on the spot in blank amazement. It took time of about three counts until the longbow user noticed Elliot’s gaze and came to his senses.
To Hamish with his face dyed red, who apologized for his impoliteness, Elliot generously nodded. However, he did not also forget to give him a warning in a lower voice.
“Hey Hamish. I have executed nearly ten pirates for this woman’s safety. She is that valuable. Even if it is you, I cannot make an exception.”
“I am aware of it.”
After answering, Hamish turned his line of sight to both arms of Sophie.
“However, Your Highness. Isn’t it going a little too far by tying a weak woman with a chain?”
These words seemed to have come out from pure sympathy. But, Elliot scornfully laughed.
“I hear a Vanadis of Zchted would put any man to shame, and she is equal to a thousand soldiers. Moreover, my army does not have that. Would you not agree this degree of measure is essential?”
To Elliot’s banter, Hamish also nodded. Although he placed guards at the key points, he could not expect anything for the discipline. In fact, there were two thousand casualties during the ensuing night attack.
“Sophia-dono. I will have you bear it for a while again, since Muozinel should come to take you in a few days. Just to tell you, I do not mind if you want to run away. But, if you do so, the guys who are in the Capital will die.”
The guys who were in the Capital were the people who had served as Sophie’s escort when she came to Asvarre as a messenger. After using Sophie who he caught as a hostage and making them surrender, Elliot imprisoned them in the Capital.
In fact, Elliot did not think he was safe at all even if he had hostages. He even considered the possibility that Sophie would forsake the hostages, since he would naturally do so if he were in her position.
“Oh yeah, Hamish. About the bow user of 300 Alsins. If you bring him down, I might have to take some things into consideration. So that Muozinel would not learn of it.”
As he spoke in a tone untelling to exactly how serious he was, Elliot turned his back to Sophie and left the tent along with Hamish. He had had somewhat of a change of spirit. Although the discomfort continued, there was Muozinel as an ally here.
---That’s right, no matter how much the likes of Tallard struggles, it won’t change anything.
As he parted with Hamish, Elliot revealed a smile and returned to his tent.
Confirming signs of Elliot and Hamish leaving, Sophie tightly grasped the hem of her dress so strong that her hands whitened. She was irritated at her present situation.
---Nothing is done yet. I must bear it for now.
She eagerly persuaded herself. If possible, she wanted to cut off this annoying chain and escape. Although her ViraltDragonic Tool, Light Flower was not in her hands now, if she as the owner strongly wished it, she could also make it to appear in her hands right away.
She knew well how awful Elliot's army marching and camping were. After being taken down from the ship, Sophie was put on a shabby door (panel) with both arms being tied with a chain, and was transported up to here (so far).
It would not be difficult for her to escape, if she felt like it, but there were two reasons why she did not do so. One was, like Elliot had also said, the existence of hostages, who were held in the Capital of Asvarre.
If she escaped on her own, that pirate Prince would kill them without hesitation. Even if it became a problem in the future, there were pawns called pirates, who would force all the responsibility onto him.
The other reason was that Sophie was not familiar with the geography of this area. Although she investigated in detail about Asvarre Main Island before her departure (from Zchted), partly because they were running out of time, she did not investigate the continental territory much.
By walking along the highway, the chance to be found would be high. On the other hand, by walking on the mountains or in the forest, there would be the danger of an accident. For a woman walking alone (by herself), what was the most frightening was not only beasts or bandits. Besides, she had also accumulated fatigue in her prisoner life. There was no confidence to escape to a safe place.
“It saves me to think that there’s still hope ……”
From the conversation exchanged between the pirates on the way when she was transported, and from the fragments of idle talk she heard in the tent, Sophie had roughly grasped the current situation. There was the fact that Elliot's army and Tallard's army would clash in a few days.
Elliot's defeat would be desirable, but even if he won, there would probably be some kind of change. Moreover, even when the messenger of Muozinel would come to take her, she might find an opportunity to defuse this situation.
As Sophie was lying down, she rounded her back as to protect herself. By taking a rest, her fatigue could be relieved even if a little and she had to recover her physical strength.
---Speaking of which.
Sophie suddenly remembered the words of Elliot, when he left this tent. A bow user of three hundred Alsins. She was wondering the meaning of a bow user, who could shoot an arrow at 300 Alsins. If it was right, she was familiar with someone capable of such a feat.
The face of a youth with darkish red hair born in Brune flashed into her head.
---It can’t be, right……? It’s Asvarre here. There’s no reason for that child to be here.
As the day sank, Sophie quietly fell asleep.
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