Chapter 1 – Story 18: Trap

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The organization of Holmea State’s army is almost the same as that of other nations.
Namely, one squad has six soldiers. Four squads make up one platoon, with one platoon leader added in to total 25 soldiers. Furthermore, four platoons form one company. One battalion ranges from four to eight companies. Two battalions are one regiment. Anything beyond two regiments is referred to as army corps.
What was dispatched this time is one battalion led by Battalion Leader Lugniaz.
Its composition consists of 500 infantrymen split into five companies, 200 archers split into two companies and 100 supply soldiers in one company, totalling up to 800 soldiers.
An infantryman’s equipment consists of several parts. There is a helmet made up of a metallic faceguard, an armour to protect the torso that was made out of a thick cloth with metallic scales sewed in, and sandals with a leather strap twining up to the shin to serve as footwear. The weapons consisted of a one-handed spear at a length of approximately 2.5 meters with a metallic spearhead, as well as a double edged sword that was hung at the waist. To round it off, a large, round buckler that had its surface reinforced with metal and its inside filled with leather hung off the back.
For these times it’s probably considered to be the standard equipment of infantry.
The equipment of an archer doesn’t differ much from that of an infantryman, but the helmet is bowl-shaped in order to allow a wide sight, and they possess a bow in place of the spear and carry a quiver on their back instead of a buckler.
The last portion of this battalion are located at the end of the line and don’t possess spears. They are the soldiers of the military supply unit, and carry baskets filled with water and necessary provisions. The creatures pulling the wagons filled with mountains of provisions are huge lizards known as niryu. They are a subspecies of the lizards known as the kiryu that are used as mounts, being about one size bigger than them. In contrast with the kiryu who stand on two legs, the niryu stand on four legs which are as thick as logs. Due to their power being immense in exchange for their sluggish speed, they are animals used for physical labour such as the pulling of supply-laden wagons. (T/N: While Kiryuu meant mounted dragon, Niryuu means pack dragon. Just like Kiryu, shortened to Niryu)
Finally, standing at the front of the battalion are Battalion Leader Lugniaz and an elite unit made up of subordinates under his direct control. The armour they wear is more expensive than that of common soldiers. It’s an armour that has a metal plate nailed with rivets on top of some leather, which had a hardening processing applied to it. On their feet, they are wearing something close to leather boots that were affixed with tacks.
Among them, the only one on a horse is Lugniaz, who has a blue tuft attached to his helmet. Apart from him the three people, who have a red tuft attached to their helmets and are riding kiryu slightly behind him, are company commanders.

“Good grief, those goddamned beasts. They are just making this more difficult for us by secluding themselves in the mountains.” (Lugniaz)

He frowns due to the chilling northwind blowing down from the mountains.
The mission given to him by the king of Holmea State was to mop up the Fang Clan remnants. The Fang Clan is the only clan among the zoans in the Solbiant Plains that is even now unyieldingly opposing the humans. To guarantee the safety of the pioneering citizens before the planting of seeds in the spring, they need to be wiped out.
The company commanders follow up on the grumbling of Lugniaz.

“It’s just as it has been said by the Battalion Leader.”

“I want to clean up the beasts quickly and return to the royal capital.”

“Right, right. Thanks to that priest called Mildas or whatever his name is, we ended up pointlessly wasting time.”

According to their schedule, they should have departed the fortress and headed into the mountains much earlier.
However, they were delayed because of the sacred teaching’s priest known as Mildas, who was in the fortress. Mildas made a fuss about searching for a human child that escaped inside of the confusion caused by the zoan’s prison break, which led to their departure being delayed by three days. In the end, they were unable to find the human child and deceived the priest into believing he had died somewhere on the road, but they were also still sent on a complete fool’s errand that wasted their time.

“If that’s how you think, make the soldiers hurry up. We will enter the encampment before noon.” (Lugniaz)

Isn’t he in a quite bad mood? The company commanders exchanged glances due to the battalion leader returning a follow up in ill humour. The most honeymouthed among the company commanders curries favour without a moment’s delay.

“Please allow me to do so, Battalion Leader Lugniaz. At any rate, what we are riding are these kiryu.”

While saying so, he hits the neck of the kiryu he’s riding with a slap.

“In this cold the movement of the kiryu is lethargic. Compared to that, Battalion Leader Lugniaz is riding on a splendid horse. Good grief, it’s very enviable.”

Just as the company commander said, simply making the kiryu move in this cold this morning was only troublesome. Warming the kiryu with an impromptu heater pack created by wrapping stones that were heated up by a bonfire in a cloth and making them drink strong alcohol, they finally reached the point of being able to move.
On that point, horses are more resilient against cold than kiryu. But it’s not only that, even if one compares horse-power and stamina, horses are one step above kiryu. If one considers the price and the labour necessary to look after them, kiryu are convenient, but the wish to possess their own horse one day is the dream of officers and men in this era.
Additionally, the horse ridden by Lugniaz was just recently obtained by paying a large amount of money. The company commanders knew that it’s the first battle where he was mounting a horse.
The mood of Lugniaz, whose horse was praised, improved easily.

“Well, it can’t be helped, I guess. What, as long as you guys perform outstandingly on the battlefield, you will get one before long, too.” (Lugniaz)

He pretended to be calm, but due to his high-pitched voice that couldn’t conceal his delight, the company commanders showed wry smiles.
A little while after that the encampment that was surrounded by a wooden fence became visible ahead of the mountain road.

“Someone! Forewarn them of the battalion leader’s arrival!”

Receiving that order, a single infantryman heads towards the encampment a short distance ahead. A short time after that soldier entered the encampment, a small soldier came out and opened the gate in a large motion.
Although he had heard that a unit of skilled soldiers had been dispatched as advance unit, a single company commander held a doubt whether there was a child soldier mixed in among them.
However, as it’s nothing significant, he immediately dispels it out of his consciousness.

“What? There’s no reception either?” (Lugniaz)

Due to the fact that not a single soldier came out from the encampment to greet them even though the advance guard of the battalion was visible from the encampment’s gate, Lugniaz felt offended. While resenting the soldiers, who still haven’t shown up, with a 「They have done something annoying」, the company commanders still soothe the battalion leader.

“Battalion Leader, there’s no need to scold country bumpkins over such a minor matter.”

However, as one would expect, they began to feel something was abnormal when not a single soldier showed up even though the battalion’s advance guard had arrived right in the middle of the encampment.

“This is…what’s wrong? Why is no one here?”

“If I remember correctly, according to our information, there should be around one company stationed here…”

“The soldier we sent to give a preliminary announcement as well as the soldier who opened the gate are nowhere to be found.”

While listening to the things the company commanders are saying behind his back, Lugniaz surveyed the encampment and noticed something odd. All over the encampment firewood and dried grass has been piled up into bundles.

“Those are, what…?” (Lugniaz)

“I dare say that those are preparations for passing the winter? As the cold will increase from now on, it might be necessary to light bonfires as well.”

“Then, why aren’t those gathered in one place?” (Lugniaz)

Due to what Lugniaz pointed out, the company commanders surveyed the surroundings in a hurry.
Not only were bundles of firewood and dried grass next to the buildings, they were also piled up to mountains on top of the buildings’ roofs and moreover at the gate exiting to the mountain-side blocking it up.

“Wait, isn’t there some strange smell in the air?”

“Now that you mention it…”

“This smell is…?”

When everyone’s noses twitched due to the awful stench wafting in the vicinity, the scream of a sole soldier reverberated inside of the encampment suddenly.
Swiftly, one of the company commanders brings his kiryu next to the soldier who screamed.

“What is it!?”

“T-The person who was sent earlier for the preliminary announcement, o-over there!”

Once he looked in the direction where the soldier pointed at, he found the corpse of the soldier stretched out while shedding red blood from below his throat hidden by the piled-up firewood and dried grass.

“B-Battalion Leader! The soldier we sent ahead earlier has been killed!”

At the time when he heard the shout of his commanding officer, a spark lit in the head of Lugniaz.

“This smell. No way! Oil!?” (Lugniaz)

Lugniaz yelled while turning his horse around.

“Retreat! This is a trap! Withdraw promptly!” (Lugniaz)

However, it was already too late.

“It’s zoans! There are zoans above us!”

Looking up the cliff located in the back of the encampment due to the yells of the soldiers, Lugniaz raised a scream in despair.
The ones who showed up atop the cliff were ten-odd zoans including elderly and children.
And, in the hands of the several zoans standing in front of them, torches raising a bright red flame are grasped.
A black-haired zoan, who’s clad in an unusual air even visible from a distance, takes one step in front along the zoans and largely arching back their throat, they raised a howl that made the atmosphere tremble like an electric shock.
The soldier, who were simply ordered to retreat as it was still impossible to give precise instructions, move about in confusion as they don’t know what they should do. Even if they are told to retreat, the mountain road is still filled with the soldiers of the other companies.

“Move aside! If you don’t get out of the way, you will be crushed underfoot!”

Lugniaz throws insults at the soldiers who are standing in his way like that and struggles to get out of the encampment, even if it’s just him.
On top of the cliff, a zoan steps forward next to the howling, black-haired zoan and draws a bow making it give off creaking sounds.
What was nocked onto it is an arrow, burning red with fire.
And, alongside the end of the black-haired zoan’s howling, the fire arrow is released and the torches are dropped down the cliff.
In the next instant, together with a roaring, heavy sound, the encampment was wrapped in a crimson inferno.

 


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