“… Birds, huh?”
It was several birds that took off from the forest located east of the enemy camp.
Birds that can be seen often around this area, nothing unusual.
But, for some reason it strangely weighed on Darius’ mind.
“Your Excellency? Did something happen?”
One of the soldiers, who noticed Darius staring at the flying birds, calls out to him.
“No… I guess those are birds.”
He states the bare truth while wondering why this worries him so much. Thereupon, the soldiers turns his eyes in the same direction as Darius.
“… Ah, some birds have flown away from the forest, right?”
Even while he said so, another batch of birds took off.
“Perhaps they have been surprised by the regiments’ spirit.”
Due to the words of the soldiers, which felt like a joke, Darius feels an impact as if having been hit by a blunt weapon on his head.
“Wh-… What did you say?”
Darius bends himself forward from the chariot and intently stares at the enemy camp that was already right behind him.
“What’s the state of the enemy camp!? How are things going!?”
The soldiers confirms the question ambiguously, “It’s not very visible from here due to the smoke.”
Mostly ignoring what the soldier was saying, Darius shifts his attention towards the zoan ambush unit approaching from the plains.
Straining his eyes, Darius fixedly stared at the cloud of dust, but he suddenly opened his eyes widely.
“… We have been had!”
As if matching with Darius’ shock, the chariot’s wheels ran aground causing it to sway. Due to that the dumbfounded Darius staggered on his feet and was about to fall, but he managed to steady himself on his chair with both of his hands.
“Have the unit return in a hurry! Messenger! Inform the heavy spear infantry regiments and the right-wing infantry battalion to prepare for an enemy ambush! Drums! Hit the drums!”
“What happened, Your Excellency!?”
Once asked by the soldier who became surprised to Darius panicking all of a sudden, Darius points at the cloud of dust raised by the zoan ambush unit.
“Look properly! Even though the dust is rising up, the zoan have not been visible at all since a while ago!”
Now that he mentions it, the dust is blowing around with quite the force, but so far the zoan are not visible. It’d be strange if the zoan weren’t able to shorten such a distance with their leg strength.
Spitting out the bitter taste of regret spreading within his mouth, Darius said,
“Those are dummy soldiers! They are pretending to be many with a few soldiers!”
Darius’ assumption was correct.
The ones blowing up the dust are merely a ten-odd zoan led by Banuka. They are dragging bundles of brushwood with ropes they had coiled around their waists. They cause a large cloud of dust to rise up by running side to side, making others believe that there are several hundreds of military forces present at that moment.
“Dummy soldiers, you say!? But, for what reason!?”
Darius turns around and thrusts his finger into the direction of the enemy camp due to the soldier’s surprised outcry.
“It’s the forest! Birds have flown up from the forest one after the other!”
Because the birds have taken off, it means that there’s something that has frightened them.
However, that’s not because of the heavy spear infantry regiments having closed in, as the soldier said. Seeing that the rebels, who are a lot closer to the forest, had raised battle cries many times, the birds would have probably flown off a long time ago if they were to be surprised by something like the heavy spear infantry regiments. Also, Darius wondered whether it was because of the white smoke caused by the rebels, but looking at the wind direction, that was impossible.
Considering all that, the existence, which frightened the birds inside the forest at this time, could be only one thing right now.
“The real ambush unit was at the enemy camp! The white smoke is a smoke screen, but it’s not for the sake of hiding traps located near the enemy camp! It’s for the sake of hiding a part of their soldiers who have moved inside the forest behind their encampment!”
The commissioned officers and soldiers nearby were lost for words.
“If it goes on like this, the right-wing infantry battalion will suffer an attack from their right rear by the enemy’s ambush unit! Hurry! Inform the right-wing infantry battalion! The enemy isn’t coming from within the forest, but is going to approach from the rear after circumventing the forest!”
As if waiting for those words of Darius, an ambush group dashed out from the other side of the forest while raising war cries.
“N-No way! No matter how you look at it, it’s too early!”
Even Darius is no fool.
There’s no way that he wouldn’t watch out for a forest if it’s close to the enemy camp.
However, that place is a deep forest where the trees are growing densely. Such a forest that doesn’t allow soldiers to move easily through it won’t serve as anything but a wall that protects the encampment’s eastern flank. If that wasn’t the case, Darius’ side would have likely formed a unit to attack the enemy camp from the forest.
And yet, seemingly using some kind of sleight of hand, the rebels had a unit move from the encampment, even though barely any time has passed since the smoke screen was thrown up.
And, the ones appearing from the other side of the forest are roughly 800 zoan warriors.
That number is equal to almost all zoan that were present in the enemy camp.
The commissioned officers raise angry voices due to that.
“Unbelievable! Not an ambush unit, but the main force that was inside the encampment!?”
“Don’t screw around! Splitting their already small force while in front of a huge number of enemies, they have them go around to our flank!? Are these guys crazy!? Isn’t that nothing more than suicide!?”
It was a tactic that completely deviated from the common sense of battle.
But, no matter how much they cursed at it, it was impossible for them to stop the movements of the zoan.
While being watched by the enraged commissioned officers with bloodshot eyes, the zoan first assaulted the right rear of the right-wing infantry battalion that protected the flank of the heavy spear infantry regiments’ dense formation.
Originally the right-wing infantry battalion should have held back an enemy trying to attack the flank of the dense formation.
However, what actually assaulted them wasn’t a small ambush unit, but a number of zoan who exceeded their predictions by far. Moreover, because the attack didn’t originate from the forest but from their right rear, the right-wing infantry battalion, which got completely outwitted, was completely routed without any means to resist.
And, the zoan, who gathered even further momentum due to that, finally drove into the flank of the dense formation.
“Are you asleep!? Hurry and turn around the unit! Reorganize the formation!!”
Darius shouted in a thunderous voice at the commissioned officers who are moving about in confusion due to the unexpected situation. The commissioned officers and messengers, who finally snapped back to reality due to that, transmit the orders to the forces.
However, no matter how much they yelled, a unit that started to move once won’t stop that easily. Even as the commissioned officers and messengers frantically passed on the orders, Darius had no option but to grind his teeth in vexation due to the unit that wouldn’t move as he expected.
At this point we revert the story to a time a little bit before this.
“Garam, fall back! Dvalin, Jahangil!”
Once white smoke rose from the bundles of firewood which were ignited by Dvalin, the zoan led by Garam and Zurgu retreated from the fence as instructed by Souma, and yielded their place to the dwarves and dinosaurians.
“Now then! Time for some fighting spirit! Get into it!”
They line up at the fence in order to hide the zoan, and hit the ground with the butt ends of their long-handled spears and shout excitedly alongside Dvalin’s encouragement. They gather their attention on the approaching heavy spear infantry regiments.
Under the cover of those very loud yells, Garam and Zurgu took their brethren along and moved to the rear of the encampment.
They headed to the entrance towards the byroad leading through the forest.
It was a path opened up by having all the dwarves, except for a little bit more than one hundred for constructing the encampment, putting their efforts in this direction.
Even though it’s called a path, there’s not much difference to an animal trail. As a matter of fact, they made use of an already existing animal trail for the majority of the distance. The path’s width is narrow to the point that it only allowed at the very most two grown men standing next to each other, and even then, it would be a tight squeeze. The path had been flattened and solidified by the dwarves dropping rocks on the ground many times over, but as they didn’t have the time to remove thick tree roots and rocks, there are also places with extreme undulations.
Chariots wouldn’t be capable of passing through it like this.
No matter how much they might level the ground, trying to pass this kind of road with a chariot will likely lead to them toppling over. But then again, as the path’s width is narrow, they wouldn’t even be able to enter.
And cavalry won’t be able to use it either.
If you were to try running through it while mounted, the rider’s body would get knocked down from the mount’s back due to being hit by foliage, or their neck would be caught by ivies.
However, assuming a passage, it would only be infantry and they won’t be in time.
Even if there’s a path, you have to leave the forest with the footsoldiers in one piece and furthermore go around to the rear of the enemy by circumventing the forest from there. If they do something so conspicuous, the short-handed encampment would end up being overrun by the enemy.
Chariots and cavalry can’t pass through. On the other hand, infantry won’t be in time.
However, it’s a different talk if it’s zoan.
At first Souma considered to use the zoan, who can run as quickly as horses, similar to infantry. For that reason he only thought of fighting in the plains for the sake of making the most use out of their mobility.
But, the agility allowing them to run through the complicated back alleys of the city as shown by Shyemul, is impossible for cavalry. Rather, that’s the lightly equipped infantry’s area of expertise.
In other words, the zoan are a race that combines the quickness of infantry and the agility of lightly equipped infantry.
If it’s those zoan, they will be able to pass through the forest. Because it’s those zoan, they will be in time.
This was a path cut open by Souma as if capitalizing on the characteristic trait of the zoan.
Garam, who ran through the bypath like a gale, stops once after leaving the forest to wait for the following warriors. Before long all warriors gathered and Garam said in front of them with a voice that wasn’t loud by all means but carried well,
“The enemy is several times larger than us. There won’t be a shortage in opponents to fight. And, the outcome of this battle was completely entrusted to us. If it cheers you up, the enemy are no zoan warriors. — Is there anyone present who is not a warrior?”
Everyone replied with a daring smile towards Garam’s question.
After nodding once in satisfaction due to that, Garam pushes out a fist towards the nearby Zurgu.
“I leave that side to you, Zurgu.”
“Yeah, I got it.”
Zurgu bumps his fist with Garam’s.
After that Garam declared to the warriors he’s going to lead by himself,
“Let’s go! Follow me!”
Only a little bit more is left until the enemy camp.
All that’s left is to order the heavy spear infantry to charge.
Regimental Commander Kadomos felt disappointed due to there being no traps albeit being wary of those, but as might be expected, once it has reached the phase of ordering an assault to end this battle, he can’t stop his excitement from welling up.
Kadomos was just about to give the order, when he heard a tumult from the right rear. Once he strained his ears, screams and angry yells appear to be raised from the direction of the right-wing infantry battalion.
Wondering what the hell might have happened, Kadomos turns his horse to the right flank.
“What on earth is going on!?”
Seemingly preoccupied with something, the infantry battalion’s soldiers didn’t even try to answer the question barked by Kadomos while keeping their backs turned his way.
“That Brafuss, what is he doing…”
Kadomos cursed at his colleague who was supposed to command the right-wing infantry battalion.
At that time the infantry battalion broke apart and zoan sprung out through the gaps.
In front of Kadomos, who feels dumbfounded by the all too sudden event, the soldiers of the infantry battalion were defeated one after the other. At last the formation collapses and the soldiers start escaping towards Kadomos while turning their backs on the zoan, but there’s no way for human legs to escape from zoan that are hot on their heels. They were slaughtered without a single person remaining.
“Why!? Why are the zoan in our back!?”
A single black-furred zoan with a splendid body build rushed out from within the group of zoan that routed the infantry battalion and headed towards Kadomos, who was confused and unable to grasp the situation. Holding a machete in each hand, the zoan introduces himself to Kadomos.
“I’m Garam, son of Garguss and member of the Fang Clan, one of the twelve zoan clans! Here I come!”
Kadomos pushed out his sword at once. Garam, who swooped down on the mounted Kadomos while dodging the sword’s point at the same time, swings his two machetes as if trying to knock the two blades together from left and right. The body of Kadomos, who had had his neck severed partly due to that, drops off the horse while rising a fountain of blood.
Kadomos, who fell to the ground, formed his lips as if calling Darius’ name, but at this point no sound escaped them anymore.
Having killed Kadomos, Garam dashes towards the heavy spear infantry which had been thrown into panic due to the sudden appearance of the zoan.
“Those who wish to die, step up in front of me!”
The zoan warriors with Garam in the lead plunged into the dense formation and fierce bellows as well as blood sprays were scattered into the surroundings.
Battalion Leader Burgis experienced an intense feeling of irritation.
The decree of General Darius, which was handed to him and his battalion, was to intimidate the rebels’ encampment from the western side and to cover for the heavy spear infantry regiments closing in from the south.
However that isn’t showing as much effect as expected.
The reason for that are the elven archers who are even now shooting their arrows in their direction.
As soon as we try entering their archery range, arrows come flying with a surprising degree of accuracy. Thanks to that we have no other choice but to slowly approach while using rocks as cover.
Originally it’s the established tactic to close in on elven archers while lining up large shields. However, because they thought that the enemy only consists of zoan, they made the blunder of not preparing anything but small, sturdy, round shields in preparation for stone throwing. Burgis regrets that they should have prepared large shields if it was going to be like this, but now it was too late for that.
As a nervous atmosphere has already started to linger among the soldiers, Burgis clicked his tongue once.
“Your bastards! Look at the enemy camp!”
Burgis was yet another excellent commander, as might be expected of the one entrusted by Darius to cover the heavy spear infantry regiments. He was very familiar about the ways to encourage his soldiers.
“The ones over there are elven women! Listen, it’s elven women, elven women, I tell you! Elven women you won’t get your hands on unless you are royalty or nobility are standing over there! If you invade the enemy camp, you can do as you like with those women! You won’t encounter such an occasion a second time!”
For the soldiers, who were affected by the madness of the battlefield, there was no better stimulant than this. A glaring light of lust dwelled within the eyes of the soldiers.
For a brief moment Burgis felt relieved that he was able to restore their morale with this.
Without even waiting for his order at all, the soldiers in the rear started to climb the hill towards the enemy camp while shouting. It’s only natural, but the soldiers, who jumped out in such reckless manner, were shot to death by the elves successively.
Burgi regretted that this was a far too strong medicine for them, but he immediately notices the abnormality within an instant.
The soldiers’ outcries were screams rather than war cries. All of them paid attention to the rear and not to the enemy camp in front.
And, above all else, there were sounds of intense bellowing and metal hitting against metal coming from the rear of the battalion.
What Burgis saw after turning around was a group of zoan that bit into the rear of his own unit.
Those are the zoan warriors led by Zurgu who detoured the rear of the heavy spear infantry regiments’ rear. For Burgis’ battalion that completely focused on the elves in the enemy camp it was equal to abruptly being hit in the back of the head.
“Why are there zoan coming from behind!?”
Burgis, who jumped out of the rock that he used as cover, tries to distance himself from the approaching zoan, even if only a bit, and retreats while wielding the sword in his hands to threaten them.
However, a sharp pain assails his back alongside a dull impact.
Once he looks over his shoulder wondering what was going on, a single arrow was stuck in his own back.
Burgis tried to curse at his own stupidity for exposing his back to the elven archers due to being too preoccupied with the zoan, but he died after having an arrow, which drove through his opened mouth, pierce his larynx.
Having lost its commander, the battalion has become brittle. Even the remaining soldiers were attacked by the elves and zoan from two sides and ended up getting routed all too easily.
Zurgu, who routed Burgis’ infantry battalion, thrusts his blood-drenched machete at the infantry battalion protecting the left flank of the heavy spear infantry regiments.
“Next up are those guys! Come on, it’s time to plunge into the deadly fray! Devour the enemies!!”
The zoan warriors attacked with Zurgu in the lead while raising battle cries.