Zero no Tsukaima:Volume6 Chapter4
Chapter Four: Commanding Officer Guiche and Officer Cadet Malicorne
Each student who applied for the royal army through the recruiting official who came to the magic academy received training for around two months and then was assigned into various forces.
Tristain’s army was split into three branches.
First, there was the “Royal Army” that was directly under the command of the current monarch. The noble generals and officers belonging to the monarchy commanded the mercenaries that were assembled through money. The student officers like Guiche were primarily assigned to this Royal Army or the later mentioned Sky Navy.
Next was the “National Army,” where the greater nobles in various places would recruit the people in their territory. This organization was also called the “Marquis Army.” The nobles that received land from the king would follow their pledge and organize an army. This was what the Cardinal requested Louise’s father, Duke of La Vallière, to organize.
Because the soldiers were originally farmers, the national army was considerably inferior to the mercenary-composed Royal Army. It wasn’t suitable for campaigns, but the royal army by itself was lacking in number, so they ended up being brought along. There were many nobles, like Louise’s father, Duke of La Vallière, who opposed the war and refused to contribute soldiers too.
Also, because this war was a campaign, half of the national army consisted of wagons… meaning that it ended up being used as a supply unit.
The last was the “Sky Navy.”
It was the branch that operated the ships that floated in the sky or the sea.
With the captain at the peak, this branch was most certainly a miniature version of the feudal system. Below the captain, who had absolute authority in the warships, were noble officers that directed the sailors. Though they were called sailors, everyone was some kind of specialist necessary to operate the ship. Unlike the army, which was a branch that was fine as long as the number of people were gathered, experience and habitual training were stressed above all else.
Guiche, being assigned as a reserve officer to the Royal Army, arrived at the Champs de Mars Training Facility in the capital city Tristania on the day after Louise and the others returned home.
Rosha Regiment, Lashene Regiment, Navarre Regiment… The regiment colors that waved in the gardens of the regimental commanders’ mansions were, today, assembling at the Champs de Mars Training Facility.
With a letter of introduction written by a drill officer in one hand, Guiche walked around the training facility, where the twelve regiments of the Royal Army, twenty thousand soldiers, had amassed. The group he had ended up being attached to was the De Vineuil Independent Battalion of the Royal Army. He had never heard of it before, but Guiche was excited about his first battle.
Just recently, he had met with his father, the Marshal of the Royal Army.
Because a Marshal is a job for the ones at the end of their life, his father, having retired from military services, was the Marshal. His senile father was very frustrated that he couldn’t participate in this war and encouraged Guiche.
“Don’t value life, but value name,” his natural-born soldier of a father had said, sending Guiche out. All three of his brothers were departing too. His first brother is in charge of de Gramont family’s army. The second brother was the captain of the air forces. His third brother was an officer of the royal army.
And he himself… was participating as an officer of the De Vineuil Independent Battalion. However, he couldn’t find that essential battalion. He couldn’t find the battalion flag drawn on the letter of invitation anywhere.
Reluctantly, he questioned a scary-looking bearded officer.
“Um, where is the De Vineuil Independent Battalion?”
That officer began to preach to Guiche about how he didn’t know the way home.
When Guiche said "This is my attachment from today," he looked at Guiche's head to the tip of his foot, and asked "A student officer?"
"Y-Yes! That's correct!" When he saluted with the military language he remembered, his head was hit.
"Listen, student. On the battlefield, even if you say that you don't know where your battalion is, no one will tell you."
Then the officer said, "There," and pointed to a corner of the training facility.
It was right beside the lodging house, and little sunshine hit that area.
The soldiers were leaning on the wall of the lodging house, staring at the sky dully. Guiche was shocked to see that there were people drinking sake too.
Looking carefully, he realized that most people there were old men and unmotivated people. The group seemed to be a washout already.
"D-Don't tell me, this is..." Flustered, he asked one soldier.
"What is it?"
An old mercenary carrying a heavy lance stood up.
"Is this the De Vineuil Independent Battalion?"
Guiche stood petrified to the spot, as if he had been hit by something on the head.
It was his glorious first campaign, yet the group he was assigned to were old men or delinquent soldiers that clearly looked unmotivated. In other words, it was just a scum battalion for fitting numbers.
It was "independent" and not attached to any regiment for probably that reason. In other words, no regimental commander wanted to take charge of them.
When he asked, "But, where is the battalion commander?", the old mercenary pointed to one section of the corner. A weak, white-haired old man was standing there, supporting himself with his staff. Beside him stood a young and fat noble wearing a staff officer badge on his shoulder. It seems that that was the "battalion headquarters".
That's the battalion commander... It was an old man who seemed like his heart would stop just from the voices during the time of assault, without having the need to get hit by a projectile. I really got the short end of the stick here. Guiche thought, getting depressed. Anyways, Guiche approached them to give his greetings.
"Reserve Officer Guiche de Gramont, here to take up my new post!"
"Haa? What?! What's going on?!"
Battalion Commander De Vineuil, asked back while shaking. It seemed he had bad hearing.
"I am Guiche de Gramont! I have been assigned to this battalion as a reserve officer. I want to receive approval," Guiche shouted near his ears.
"Oh, I see! It's time to eat! Can't fight on an empty stomach! You need to eat properly too!"
Giving up, Guiche nodded. There, the battalion staff officer whispered something to the battalion head.
"Wh-What! Assignment! Then you should have said so!"
I have been saying that Guiche thought discouragingly.
The weak battalion head raised his voice. Dully, the soldiers assembled in sluggish movements.
"In-In-Introducing the new company commander!"
Heh? Company commander?
While Guiche stood dumbfounded, the battalion commander continued.
"Assigned to our glorious De Vineuil Independent Musket Infantry Battalion... Name!"
"I am Guiche de Gramont!"
"I am leaving the second company to this Grandel-kun! Therefore, the second company will now be designated as 'Grandel Company'! Salute to the company commander!"
Sluggishly, the soldiers belonging to the company saluted. Hey, the name is wrong. More importantly, company commander? That's impossible!
"Wai-Wait, battalion head! I'm a student officer! To be the company commander all of a sudden!"
Becoming the company commander meant he would be in command of over a hundred soldiers. There was no way he could do that.
However, the battalion head, while shaking, placed his hand on Guiche's shoulder.
"The company commander deserted this morning. We were looking for a new one."
The company commander deserted? What kind of battalion is this?
"There are more senior officers, right?!"
"Ah, besides me, the staff officer, and the other company commanders, there are no nobles in this battalion."
"That's why the only other possible officer is you. Welcome, company commander."
He had heard the Royal Army was lacking officers, but for it to be so severe. Guiche face visibly paled.
The De Vineuil Independent Musket Infantry Battalion was a gun corps with about three-hundred and fifty people. It was split into three companies. Two were gun companies and one short spear company was a guard. One of the gun companies was entrusted to Guiche soon after he took up his new post. Even though it was a gun corps, the equipment consisted of only antique arquebuses. The newer models, muskets, were nowhere to be found.
More importantly, gun corps... Guiche grabbed his head. He had never learned how to use guns in his training. He couldn't really make any complaints over the two months of sudden training...
Either way, it would have been nice if they had told the branch of the group he was being assigned to in advance.
He had heard that the disorder in the Royal Army, which employed large amounts of mercenaries despite the lack of officers, was severe... but for it to be this bad...
While Guiche was worrying like that, a smart-looking middle-aged man came up to him, carrying an arquebus that had the gun barrel shortened and a dagger on his hips. Wearing a steel helmet, he wore thick fur and an iron breastplate.
"Greetings, company commander."
"Y-You too. You are?"
"Nicola, a sergeant for this company. I act as an aide and such."
"Act" was probably modesty. There was a cut on his forehead and suntanned face. He looked like a sergeant who had been doing military services for a long time. It was certain that he, a non-commissioned officer, was the one managing the company.
"Iyaa, what a disaster."
A mercenary sergeant, who might have even been older than Guiche's father, muttered to him.
"Forced to be the company commander so soon after you arrived. From appearance, you seem to be a student."
"Well, me and my comrades will look after the company. The Commanding Officer should settle down a bit." Being told by the experienced mercenary sergeant like that, Guiche felt a bit at ease.
A trumpet sounded far away. To align the soldiers, the company commanders started raising their voices. The instructions of Albion expeditionary force's commander-in-chief General Olivier de Poitier were about to begin. After receiving the general's report, the soldiers gathered in this training facility would depart for La Rochelle. There they would ride on boats and aim for the sky continent of Albion.
Now then, at the same time.
This is the harbor of La Rochelle, where the main fleet of the air forces were stationed.
On the fleet hanging on the harbor created using an enormous tree... the dry wood of the ancient Yggdrasil, the last riggings and boarding of officers and sailors were being conducted.
Standing at the root of Yggdrasil, Malicorne, who was scheduled to board a warship as a military cadet, was looking up in awe.
The sight of several tens of sailing warships, the main air force of the kingdom, hanging on the branches of the enormous Yggdrasil and waiting to depart was certainly an unexpected spectacle.
"Uwaah..." He stood gaping. While looking up at the sky, Malicorne was sent flying.
"Wh-What!" Yelling that, a tanned man was staring at him. Examining, the man wasn't wearing a mantle and just a commoner. Realizing he was sent flying by a commoner, Malicorne was enraged.
"H-How insolent! How dare you send a noble flying!"
Doing so, the sailor stared at Malicorne. Figuring out that Malicorne was just a military cadet, the man smiled profoundly.
"Hey, Bo-chan. This place is different from that corrupt world. I'll teach you the order in the air forces, so dig the holes in your ear and listen well."
It seemed that in the air forces, you couldn't just swagger around because you're a noble. He couldn't imagine a commoner that was greater than a noble.
"First is that captain! He is the greatest on the ship! Next is the executive officer! The earlier officers are appointed here. Voyage head, sail head, artillery head, deck head, kitchen head... In the air forces, even commoners can become officers if they achieve enough!"
That's how it is Malicorne's eyes widened. An army system that had the possibility of commoners becoming superior officers... That was the air forces.
"And next are the non-commissioned officers! And below that is finally military cadets like you guys! On a boat, you guys are just useless maggots! Remember this!"
Malicorne stood up and saluted.
"I'll give you guts! Clench your teeth!"
Still standing attention, Malicorne received a sharp slap to his face.
"Okay, go! Run! Fool! If a military cadet walks on a warship, they'll be shouted at!
Malicorne ran off perplexed.
The warship he finally found, Redoutable, was a splendid warship with forty-eight gates on the gunwale and seventy mails in length. It was a new warship that was perfected just one month before.
Climbing up the trap and trying to board the warship that was hanging on a branch, an officer at the entrance stopped him.
"Hey! You! Where do you think you're going?!"
Panicking, Malicorne saluted.
"Military cadet, Malicorne de Grandple! Taking up a new post today!"
"I'm Lieutenant Moranju, person in charge of shifts."
It was a noble officer wearing a mantle. He was checking the boarding soldiers at the entrance of the ship. Malicorne was relieved that the man was a noble. Guess that after all, there aren't many commoner officers.
After looking over Malicorne's fattened body from top to bottom, he asked.
"Is that your only luggage?"
Malicorne lifted up the bag hanging in his hand.
When Malicorne answered "Yes," the Lieutenant scowled. After thinking a bit, Malicorne realized he had made a mistake. An answer like "Yes" does not exist in the army, especially the air forces.
"Yes sir, Lieutenant!" And he saluted. Right away, Malicorne was made to fix his language and the way he saluted.
"There is no need to be so stiff in the air forces. Boy!"
A boy approached them and saluted.
"He takes care of you cadets. If there is something you don't understand, ask. Lead him to the apprentice officer room."
The last part was targeted at the boy.
"I will carry your bag, cadet. Ah, my name is Julian."
Malicorne handed him his bag. The boy was younger than him. A black haired boy still around fourteen or fifteen.
"Cadet, where did you come from?"
"The Academy of Magic." When he answered that, the boy's face lit up.
"My older sister is working there. Her name is Siesta... Do you know her?"
Malicorne shook his head. The number of servants working at the academy was large. He pretty much remembered the faces, but he hadn't remembered every single name.
"That's expected. There's no way a noble would remember every single servants' name."
After leading Malicorne to the apprentice officer room, Julian left running. It seemed that the boy had a mountain-load of jobs to do.
In the apprentice officer room there were three other military cadets like Malicorne. Moreover, one of them was a student from the Academy of Magic. He was an upperclassman, so Malicorne bowed his head. He was an attractive guy with wild features. He had thick eyebrows, and a smile was on his cordial face.
"I'm Stix. You are?"
"Malicorne." Saying so, he was asked if he was in the same class as Kirche. Thinking back to the boy just a while ago, he grumbled that there were quite a number of local subjects on this ship while nodding.
"In the past, a bit, you know, I got along well with her." Stix said embarrassedly. Looking closer, there were traces of burns on his forehead. In what way did they know each other? He thought, but Stix was an upperclassman, so he couldn't ask. If it was an embarrassing wound, he would be angered.
Stix was firmly sitting in his chair.
"Now then, everyone."
When Malicorne entered, it seemed there was a serious meeting going on in the apprentice officer room. The other three were bending over and bringing their faces near Stix. It seems they were whispering. The newcomer Malicorne was offered a chair and sat down.
Stix stared seriously into Malicorne's face.
"We have to explain everything to a newcomer, it seems. Malicorne-kun, this ship is carrying fearsome explosives."
Malicorne swallowed his breath and looked at the senior cadet.
"Is it a new type of gunpowder? Or is it a new weapon?"
Shaking, he asked. A powerful new gunpowder? Or perhaps a difficult new weapon? Either way, it doesn't seem like something that could just be ignored.
"It's not something like that."
"Then... what is it?"
Stix frowned and muttered.
"Yes. There is an enemy on board this ship."
"Which means there is a traitor here?"
Malicorne raised his voice without thinking.
"Shhh! That person hasn't betrayed us yet..., but the possibility isn't low. That's what I think. There are quite a number of senior officers that think this way too."
"Just what kind of person is this?"
"Now then, shall we show our new companion the rat?"
And so, Malicorne ended up going to inspect this "fearsome explosive".
Proceeding to the afterdeck, the captain was there. He was discussing something with a tall noble officer. Seeing the captain, Malicorne became nervous. Mustached, he was a middle-aged man with a strong presence. Being the captain of the warship, he must be quite an elite. Just like his outer appearance, he was also quite "skilled" on the inside. And, the "fearsome explosive" the military cadets were talking about seemed to be able to talk down to this captain.
"That would probably cause the ship to sink. To sail in the clouds is to always gamble with danger." The fearless-looking man, who was at the prime of his life, said in a strong Albion accent to the captain beside him. The captain hanged his head in shame.
Hearing that voice, Malicorne jumped as if tongs were thrust at his spinal column.
Albion accent? Isn't that an enemy?!
Secretly, Stix whispered into Malicorne's ear.
"Look. His name is Henry Bowood. Without a doubt, a man of Albion."
"What did you say? Why is someone from an enemy country on board?"
"Let me teach you what he did at the battle of Tarbes. He is, that large warship... Do you know about it? The 'Lexington'."
"The giant warship that was sunk by the miraculous light of our army, right?
The sinking of the Albion fleet had become known as the "miraculous light". Of course, there were not many people who knew about its true source.
"He was the captain of that 'Lexington'."
Malicorne almost bit his tongue.
"Our army has employed several Albion air force officers that were captured as prisoners of war to help pilot us around Albion's airspace. It is limited to people who hold dissatisfaction towards Albion's current political administration, but... how can they trust such people?"
"Exactly. How could they board on a ship with former enemies."
"However, it seems the air forces have decided to use them. In other words..., we can't do anything about it."
Stix spoke angrily. Hearing that, one military cadet said, "It's like they are saying we won't be of use," in self derision.
At that moment, the captain saw the military cadets and waved his hand for them to come.
"Boys, come and say your greetings. This is Mister Bowood. He is here as an instruction officer. Mister, these are the youngsters of my fleet."
Bowood smiled and held out his hand. Malicorne felt anger welling inside him.
He's an enemy.
It's too much to seek help from an enemy just because you don't have confidence in your own seamanship. And now we, military cadets, have to lower our heads to him?
The captain's expression changed.
"You boys... Mister Bowood worked for an enemy country, but he is employed in our army now. Not only that, but he is also from a noble pedigree. I won't let you go without your greeting."
Being ordered by the captain that way, the military cadets reluctantly saluted.
Bowood spread his hands and disappeared to the main deck.
"Instruction officer!" The captain rushed to chase after him. No matter how skilled he is, if the captain is like that, he'll be a bad example for the crew.
Stix whispered to Malicorne and the others in a small voice.
"I have a plan to make that man powerless."
"What kind of plan?"
"Well, the warship will be in chaos during battle."
"Probably so," Malicorne agreed.
"And, it isn't certain that bullets will fly from the front."
The whole group felt tense at Stix's words. He was suggesting that they shoot and kill him in combat.
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