“Stooop! Maintain the dense formation! I’m telling you to stop!!”
Judius frantically shouts at the top of his lungs, but the collapse of the dense formation that had already started doesn’t come to a halt. The dense formation, which should be a firm construct, is so brittle that it makes those watching its collapse dumbfounded.
And among the escaping soldiers, many of the noble commissioned officers, who had their first campaign this time, were seen to escape scrambling to be first. As such there’s no way for the common soldiers to obey Judius’ order.
At this point the collapse of the punitive force couldn’t be stopped by anyone, no matter how much they gave out orders.
The battle had already been decided, but Souma doesn’t let his guard down.
Although they are running away now, the number of soldier in the punitive force still exceeds ours by a lot. If they regained their senses from the chaos of defeat, once again organized themselves into proper files and ranks and closed in on Souma and the others, they would have no chance to win this after having devoted all their strength into that plan. Even if it might be called heartless, we should now thoroughly mop up the remnants of the defeated army and rob them of their spirit and ability to rally again.
Souma swung his arms in big motions atop Jahangil’s back and shouted,
“We are going to sweep up the defeated soldiers!”
Hearing Souma’s order, a nearby zoan soldier fiercely plays the drums.
In response to that, everyone raised war cries and started to pursue the escaping punitive force.
Of course the ones in the lead are the zoan who are dashing on four feet. They catch up with the escaping soldiers in the twinkling of an eye and knock them on the ground by leaping on them from behind, cutting their throats with their machetes.
“Those idiots! Do they believe that they will be able to run away with their backs turned against zoan as opponents!?”
As Marius furiously shouted that while watching that spectacle, Darius firmly grasped the armrests of his chair in silence once more.
The time when the most casualties appear in a war is not when the fighting parties face each other with spears, but when the defeated side turns its back on the enemy and escapes while being chased.
Much less to say if their opponents are zoan who can run at the speed of a horse. No matter how frantically foot soldiers try to get away, they won’t be able to escape. At this rate it was impossible to imagine just how many casualties would crop up.
In order to hold back this zoan pursuit, it was indispensable for any of the units to serve as rear guard, but the only ones under any proper command at this point in time were the soldiers directly commanded by Darius. However, no matter how much Darius’ unit boasts being composed of elites, they likely won’t be able to hold back the current zoan’s pursuit, which has gained its full momentum, with a mere 500 soldiers.
If there was at least a narrow valley or a deep forest, they would be able to use those as defensive positions, allowing them to depend on that for their fighting, but unfortunately there’s nothing but plains in the direction of the retreat. Even the encampment that was built yesterday is no more than a gathering of tents. It was impossible to expect it to serve as defensive encampment.
Given the situation, it’s cruel, but there’s already no other choice but to abandon the soldiers who were late in escaping and are being decimated by the chasing zoan unit. While the zoan are delayed by mopping up the resisting soldiers and disarming the soldiers who surrendered, we will withdraw to the rear. There we will gather the soldiers, who managed to escape, by hoisting a flag and reorganize the units. We have no choice but to retreat to the city of Luoma while restraining the chasing zoan.
Of course even Darius feels deep sadness over being forced to let his soldiers die.
He can’t stop feelings of regret over why it had turned into such a crushing defeat welling up.
Up until before the battle started, Darius considered the rebels to be a mish-mash group.
The zoan, dwarves and dinosaurians are all races that possess tough bodies and are far more valorous than humans, if regarded individually. There’s probably no chance for a human to win against them in an one-on-one battle.
However, a battle isn’t something carried out by individuals. No matter how excelling their individual military prowess might be, they will be nothing more than a disorderly mob if they can’t function as a single military unit. If it was simply a group of freed slaves moving about aimlessly that only huddled together while being scared of the punitive force, they would probably escape as soon as the situation turned slightly disadvantageous while selfishly leaving the other races behind, and the whole would disintegrate.
He didn’t intend to underestimate them, but with the opponents being the zoan, who had caused a rebellion, and the slaves, who had been only released by them, thinking like that was valid.
However, once we actually tried crossing swords with them, it’s become absurd to consider them as disorderly crowd.
Because it’s an encampment where they have barricaded themselves in, something like having the majority of the zoan, who are the main force, circle around towards the flanks of the dense formation can’t be described as clever scheme but should be rather labelled as a gamble. And yet, the ones remaining in the encampment held out without escaping, and the zoan, also answering their comrades’ determination, splendidly cut into the flanks of the dense formation.
If this was a merely jumbled-together group of individuals, the ones left behind in the encampment would have followed the zoan’s example and escaped. The zoan likely wouldn’t have charged into the dense formation either.
That’s not all. Even at the time when it turned into a severe fight while encircling the dense formation, they fought without a single one of them retreating while taking on enemy forces having several fold their numbers.
Once I remember our army’s soldiers, who collapsed weakly once their arrogance of having the superior numbers was threatened, I even feel regret that it was rather our side which was a mish-mash assembly of troops.
Just what happened for them to unify into one unit?
The eyes of Darius, who thought about that question, discovered a single human among the rebels, as if being drawn to him.
It’s a human child carried by a dinosaurian.
Even though Darius was at a distance where the child looked as small as the tip of a pinky finger, his eyes perceived the child with a surprising clarity for some reason.
Because he had heard from the residents, who escaped the city, that it’s a human boy leading the rebels, he isn’t surprised by it. What astonished Darius was the fact of the human boy riding the back of a dinosaurian— moreover, that of Tyranno.
Within the dinosaurian social system, the Tyrannos belong to a privileged class that’s called warriors. Put into human terms, it’s comparable with nobles and samurai. Moreover, the Tyrannos are at the top of the nobles below the ones called Royal species.
A Tyranno, who fights to protect royalty by standing in front of them, will only turn their back towards royalty. Something like a Tyranno entrusting their back to someone besides royalty was unimaginable. All the more if it’s a human, who are despised as “meagre apes” by the dinosaurians.
That guy is the rebel leader, isn’t he!? That’s him, right!?
Darius felt terrified.
If he can even get a Tyranno of the dinosaurians, who despise humans as trash because of their valor, to entrust their back to him, he should also be capable of subduing the proud zoan. He should be able to have the elves and dwarves to abandon the antagonism between both their races to cooperate with each other. He should be also able to make the whimsy harpyians put their lives on the line.
The rebels haven’t rallied together out of fear towards the punitive force.
That boy isn’t a mere flag bearer who was lifted up into a high position either.
Precisely because it’s that boy, the other races are obeying.
That boy is the definitely the corner stone of the rebels!
At that moment Darius recalls a dearly missed voice.
『Hey, Darius. What do you think is the strongest military force?』
That was during his time as commissioned officer, when he was still young and full of wishes towards the future.
The immature Darius sallied forth to bars with his friends every night and they chatted among each other about various matters such as the country’s future, their own future and on top of that which prostitute was a good catch while drinking booze.
And at a particular time they talked about the strongest military force they could come up with.
Next to Darius, who was wracking his brain about what would be the best answer, a cocky prodigy, who was referred to as future commander-in-chief among them, said,
『Heavy infantry brave like the dinosaurians, sailors who know the waters as well as marmen, skilled combat engineers like the dwarves, excellent archers like the elves, nimble cavalry like the zoan, swift messengers like the harpyians, and a cunning human general. That’s for sure the strongest military force.』
Due to his answer, his friends with Darius in the lead roared with laughter saying, “That would certainly be the strongest” while applauding enthusiastically.
That’s because it was a joke.
There’s a joke that resembles this: 『The strongest military force consists of an American general, German commissioned officers, Japanese non-commissioned officers and Russian soldiers』.
A heroic American as general who decides the overall strategy, the methodical Germans controlling the operation, the diligent Japanese as non-commissioned officers implementing the operation and the valorous Russians as fighting soldiers; this is something like a joke making use of the befitting national characteristics of all nations mentioned.
However, in the end it’s no more than a joke. There’s no way for something like that to happen in reality. That’s why it’s a joke.
However, that strongest military force, which was impossible to exist as anything but a joke, was right now in front of Darius’ eyes.
Moreover, it’s not something with the vague expression of “like” as mentioned by Darius’ friend in the past.
The brave dinosaurian heavy infantry, the skilled dwarven combat engineers, the excelling elven archers, the nimble zoan lightweight infantry, the swift harpyian messengers, and a human commander who brings all of them together into one.
As of yet you couldn’t call it complete, but the model of the strongest military force was already about to take form.
Darius recalls the contents of Tutu’s letter.
Wasn’t it written in there as well?
That the enemy might be the strongest army.
“That’s what it was about!?”
The reason why the human troops were able to dominate the other races until now is because their soldiers are highly general purpose. Due to swiftly shifting into a military branch which is the opposing race’s weakness, they were always able to proceed through a battle far more predominantly than the race in question.
However in front of this strongest military force that capitalizes on the special traits of all the various races, something like human troops are degraded into an army that’s a Jack of all trades and master of none.
Darius becomes shocked due to his own imaginations.
They lasted only for a period of time allowing one to slowly count to three. However, to Marius, who always followed Darius, it felt abnormally long.
With him being forgiven for his insolence, Marius urged Darius to give his next orders.
“Your Excellency, this is how far it goes! Please give the order to retreat as soon as possible!”
Darius refused Marius’ advice at once.
Not having expected to be refused at all, Marius stares in surprise. Towards such Marius, Darius refuses even more strongly,
“No! We must not, Marius!”
“Why!? The outcome has been already decided! Someday there will definitely come a time where we will clear away this humiliation, as long as we retreat now while abiding our shame!”
“It will be too late then, Marius!”
The rebels, who won this battle, will likely gain full control over the city of Bolnis. However, even if they rule over Bolnis, that’s no more than a single provincial city. Although we failed this time’s rebel subjugation, there’s still room to recover from it.
Besides, we only lost once. We can still build a large army similar to this time and wipe the enemy from the earth in one stroke, and although we were unable to display the authority of Holmea’s king to the country, it will allow us next time to adjust the army’s size properly. It will be fine with an appropriate military force. It will be alright to exhaust the rebels by incessantly and repeatedly attacking them over and over again like the waves hitting the coastline.
Of course that will likely exhaust our side as well, but the strength of a country is completely different to that of a single provincial city. The rebels’ strength will run out long before that of Holmea. It will be okay to carefully capture Bolnis after that.
If you consider it normally, that much is plenty enough.
It should be at least.
Is that really enough?
Worries cross Darius’ mind.
I might as well have a look and think it over. Weren’t the zoan on the brink of ruin merely several months ago? Those zoan reduced 800 soldiers to ashes, captured an impregnable fortress and even made the city of Bolnis, which was unlikely to be attacked, surrender. And at last they defeated the punitive force of more than 7,000 soldiers with a mere 1,000 troops.
Just who would have expected them to be able of pulling off such feat? Even if I just limit it to this battle, didn’t the person leading the rebels completely overturn our side’s common knowledge?
What will happen if those guys get their hands on the vast Solbiant Plains?
What will happen if they are given time?
“We must not grant even a little period of time to these guys! — No!”
It’s not them.
“It’s the guy leading those rebels!”
Darius thrust his finger pointing at Souma who’s in the middle of the approaching enemy.
“Whatever we do, we have to kill that guy in this place! He’s someone we must kill now and here! If we don’t, he will bring calamity to Holmea! There’s no doubt that a big catastrophe will visit our Holmea! Only him we have to kill no matter what it takes!!”
It was Darius’ intuition that convinced him of it.
If we miss this chance, he will turn into an existence we won’t be able to handle by ourselves.
If we don’t defeat him here, he will become a terrifying enemy for Holmea.
Darius’ intuition, he had forged on the battlefields for a long time, told him so.
“B-But, teach us, how are we going to accomplish that!?”
In order for a blade to be able to reach the rebel leader, it’s indispensable to first break through the zoan who are advancing while riding the momentum. Even if they managed to do that, for argument’s sake, dinosaurians, known for their bravery, are around the rebel leader. Even though they would likely lose many soldiers just to break through the zoan ranks, the would still have to defeat the dinosaurians to kill the rebel leader. That’s very unreasonable.
However, Darius made a shocking statement.
“We will dispatch my chariot onto the battlefield and assault that guy!”
“What did you say!?”
“Got it!? Don’t look at the other enemies at all! Only aim for the enemy’s leader who’s carried on the back of that dinosaurian!”
Marius was lost for words.
With that it’s a suicide attack with the resolve of dying a honorable death.
But, Darius himself knew that all too well.
“Kill that guy by laying down your lives! As long as we kill him, it will be Holmea’s victory, even if we die! For our Holmea!”
Sensing Darius’ determination being very firm, Marius didn’t object any longer.
“At your will, Your Excellency!”
Darius stopped Marius who was about turn around his horse’s neck to convey that to the rear of the unit.
“What might it be, Your Excellency?”
Darius said to Marius, who had turned around, as if spitting blood,
“Sorry, Marius. I believe that you have definitely the caliber to become the next commander-in-chief, and I trained you for it. But, you have to blame my incompetence for being forced to lose that chance in such a place.”
Marius was slightly surprised, but immediately a smile blooms across his entire face.
“What are you saying, Your Excellency? I feel prouder about being able to fight together with you like this than becoming commander-in-chief.”
“… Forgive me, Marius.”
Besides Marius, the unit directly under Darius is a gathering of elites among elites who continued to fight together with Darius for the whole time until now. Once they learned of Darius’ resolution, they naturally strengthened their resolves as well.
Feeling the determination from his subordinates, Darius is convinced, If it’s like this, I’m sure that a sword will reach that rebel leader.
“Listen! The aim is just the human on the back of that dinosaurian! No matter how many might get defeated, don’t stop moving! Just aim for that guy’s neck!”
The soldiers knock their swords and spears together in silence, displaying their fighting spirit.
“I will open a path! Step over my corpse and kill that guy! I will go to the entrance gate of Hades one step ahead of you. I look forward to the victory song by you guys!”
“”For the sake of His Excellency!””
The soldiers said in a chorus.
Darius assembled the unit into an arrowhead formation. And, normally the commander stays at the end of the formation, but Darius deliberately stands at the head of his chariot and at the same time as he’s going to make use of the chariot’s charging strength, he will open a path with his own life as he had announced before.
With this, those who accompanied Darius for a long time would have no other choice but to get cheered up.
All the soldiers would turn into death soldiers not caring about their own lives.
The 500 troops that had assumed an arrowhead formation would truly transform into a single arrow. A fatal arrow that will very likely steal the life of their enemy if released.
And, right at the moment when the fatal arrow was about to be fired towards Souma by Darius’ right arm, which was widely held aloft, swinging down, a voice spoke up saying,
“It’s no use anymore! We have to run away. Let’s escape!”