Due to the zoan scouts that infiltrated deeply inside Holmea despite being aware of the dangers, Souma learned that the punitive force being lead by General Darius had departed from the capital in less than a day.
This was outstanding, since the distance between Holmea’s capital to Bolnis took several days even if one were to ride fast horses and regularly change them.
The thing that enabled this speed was a new method of information transfer devised by Souma.
Having grown up in modern Japan, Souma understood the value of information and the importance of its transfer speed more than anyone else. It’s only naturally that he desired means of faster and more precise information transfer.
And what Souma zeroed in on for that were the zoan’s drums.
In this age a fast horse runs the distance of around 10 kuiri (approximately 30 ~ 40 km) in a half toki. In contrast to that, the sound of a drum naturally travels at 340 melt per second since it’s the speed of sound. If you calculate simply, the information through the drum sounds is 30 to 40 times faster than a fast horse.
While one would have to set up relay points for the drums within hearing range of each other, there was still value in this speed even if you considered the cost of labor. In addition, the zoan’s drums are astonishing in their quality, and could reach places that were one kuiri away in good, windless weather, according to the documents of that time.
If one were to think of even faster methods for information transfer, the answer would probably be smoke signals.
However, some of the weaknesses of smoke signals include how they’re influenced by weather such as wind and rain, and that they can’t be used in circumstances where confirmation by sight is impossible. Moreover, the information that can be given using smoke signals is fairly limited. It mainly relies on the smoke color and how the smoke rises, or lack thereof, to relay information.
What made the zoan’s drums superior in comparison is not only the possibility to pass on information during the nighttime and it being less influenced by the weather than smoke signals, but also the amount of information that can be passed on using the drums.
Furthermore, harboring the fear that the drums’ information relay will be interrupted for some kind of reason, Souma boosted the information accuracy by making the warriors deliver the information orally in the same way that a long distance relay works after they finish beating the drums.
Later on Souma would establish an information transfer method that also incorporated the special abilities of marmen and harpyians, but he had already created the prototype of it at this time.
At the time when this first, quick report arrived through the zoan’s drums, Souma and the others were being taught Holmean army’s strategies that Marchronis assumed to be their strong points.
“This cluster formation using the heavy spear infantry might be considered the Holmean army’s forte.”
Marchronis pointed to an organized unit of the city’s garrison that had transformed into a temporary heavy spear unit as he said this.
The soldiers’ armor is the same as the armor worn by the common soldiers of Holmea that Souma and the others had seen so far
The only difference is the long spear in their right hands.
The spears’ length is around four to five melt. Their way of waiting for orders while stabbing the spear into the ground is just like a pole vault athlete waiting for their start. The soldiers ranks were organized in a three-by-twelve fashion.
“We have only produced a formation of three people per line with a depth of twelve lines, but at the time when the army gained control of Solbiant Plains in the past, they constructed a dense formation of 128 soldiers per row with a depth of 64 lines.”
All the zoan present grimaced uniformly with the topic of that great war, where the zoan suffered a historically devastating defeat, being brought up.
“Although you call it a dense formation, isn’t this a bit too dense?”
It’s understandable for Souma to think so after gazing at the dense formation. It is because they are crowded to such a degree that the soldiers are touching shoulders with the ones next to them in the lines, and even the back row soldiers’ chests are touching the front row soldier’s backs.
I’m sure that it’ll be hard to move like this.
“The essential part of the cluster formation is how dense it is. In the past, General Darius, who is extolled as one of our greatest commanders, inspired his soldiers by saying “Those considering themselves to be heroes: move closer together by one more step.” — Well, you’ll understand once you actually witness it.”
Saying that, Marchronis turns around to the soldiers forming a cluster formation and gives them an order.
“Prepare your spears!”
At the same time of hearing Marchronis’ command, the soldiers in the first six rows noisily prepared their spears.
“Uwaah, this is…”
Souma, who looked at it from directly in front, properly comprehended the reason why the zoan lost against this formation.
Even if the one facing off against me is only a single soldier looking from right in front, the spearheads of five soldiers, who are waiting in the back, are sticking out this way with their length gradually changing as the spears pass at the sides of the first soldier. That means there are five spearheads waiting for me even if I dodged the spears of the first row’s soldiers.
This is just like fighting against Asura who held a weapon in each of his six arms. No matter how high the zoan’s physical ability might be, it’s nothing more than suicide to challenge this directly from the front.
“So it’s no good unless you destroy the formation with long-distance archery, huh…?”
Marchronis broadly grins at Souma’s monologue.
“At that time, you do this. — Prepare the shields!”
This time they prepared their shields all at once.
The front row soldiers lined up their shields in front of them, just like a wall. As these shields overlapped each other, there’s not a single gap. Moreover, the soldiers of the second row and beyond held their shields overhead and form a roof.
Marchronis picks up several pebbles at his feet and throws them at the cluster formation. All of the pebbles are repelled by the shields.
“Even a master archer will likely find it hard to nudge in an arrow into those gaps unless they shorten the distance by quite a bit. It’s said that in the past General Inkdias, who was referred to as one of the empire’s great commanders, defended against the torrential downpour of a hail of arrows from elven archers in a battle against the elves, and mowed them down in one go once his army closed in upon them.”
In this world elves are also known for their mastery in archery. Even those elven archers were defeated in front of that cluster formation.
“In particular it raises Holmea’s offensive ability towards the front. In contrast to the common spear length of two to three melt in other countries, Holmea uses spears with four to five melt. In order to allow them to hold those spears with one hand, they have come up with a leather strap that hangs from the shoulders to support the spears. I suppose you might say that Holmea’s cluster formation prides itself with its invincibility when clashing in the front due to this.”
The weapon’s length is a big advantage. Even considering it plainly, there’s a big difference in just being able to attack from a range which the opponent’s weapon doesn’t reach. Even in Japan there are famous stories of achieving great military gains by creating spear units that held long spears of 21 feet (20 shaku, roughly 6,4 meters) against the ordinary spear length of 9 feet (9 shaku, roughly 2,7 meters) at that time.
Noticing Marchronis’ unduly emphasis on the word front, Souma asked a question,
“What about the flanks and rear then?”
“They are frail”, Marchronis declared. “On top of being in a close formation, they are holding those long spears and big shields, so a change of course is difficult. If there are no signals such as drums or flutes alongside the commander’s orders, they are unable to normally change their direction. If they try to change their course unskillfully in a hurry, fellow soldiers will collide with each other and the whole formation will fall apart. As that’s common knowledge, it’s normal practise to defend the flanks by placing infantry or chariots to the left and right of the cluster formation.”
Even while bracing himself by thinking it won’t go that easily after all, Souma properly kept this information in mind.
At that time a single zoan warrior came rushing in with a staggering momentum.
“New information reached us through the drums! It looks like a human army deemed to be the punitive force has been confirmed marching towards some city called Luoma.”
Due to the words of the warrior, tension spreads through everyone like an electric shock.
“It finally came!”
The one who hit his left palm with his right fist with a slap was Zurgu.
Though it’s not only Zurgu who is excited over the long-awaited news about the punitive force.
He doesn’t speak up, but Garam grasps his fists tightly in secret. Dvalin plugs up the leather bag with ale in it, which he had thoroughly enjoyed until now, with a cork. Jahangil busily struck the ground with his tail.
“What’s the enemy’s scale?”
The zoan warrior answers Souma with,
“Yes! The enemy has more than 7,000! There’s no mistake in that as the second and the third drum relayed the same number!”
“More than 7,000!?”
Souma’s voice unintentionally became shrill and nervous due to number of soldiers that exceeded his expectations by a lot. However, if he, who designed the strategy, reveals his unease here, everyone will end up becoming anxious. Souma immediately covered up his discomposure by clearing his throat.
“It’s a lot more than expected, isn’t it?”
“Damn it. Aren’t they going to arrive later with a bigger number than what you said?”
Zurgu was saying this with a threatening voice towards Marchronis right after Souma’s comment.
That also held the meaning of restraining Marchronis, who had settled into a position similar to Souma’s military advisor, unaware by the others.
Marchronis, who guessed his intention, contemplates I guess I have butted in a bit too much recently.
Marchronis promoted his own opinions after seeing through the fact that Souma is originally an amateur who has no campaign experience, but once they exchanged words, he noticed that far from being an amateur, it would be better to call Souma stupid.
However, that’s not in the meaning of dim-wittedness. Souma greedily absorbed the things taught by Marchronis like water that was sprinkled on sandy soil in the desert. For a teacher there are no pupils more worthwhile to be taught than that. Because of that he unintentionally got engrossed in it while he forgot the looks of those around him.
“I feel ashamed. It looks like my perception has somehow failed me.”
Marchronis apologized honestly.
He can even understand the apprehensions of the zoan who restrained him. They were able to obtain the support of the dwarves and dinosaurians in addition to the zoan due to that speech, but it’s unknown how stable that backing is. There’s also the fear that the support they gained at great pains will sway if Souma appoints Marchronis, who is a human just like him, to a responsible post at this point, which would also cause the others to wonder if Souma gives preferential treatment to humans after all.
“Leave it at that, Zurgu.”
It was Garam who mediated at this point that had become slightly awkward.
“No matter what the enemy might do, it will be fine as long as we accomplish our roles.”
Even Zurgu understood the value of Marchronis’ advice. Given that he was able to achieve his goal of restraining Marchronis, he only snorted lightly and doesn’t object to Garam.
Garam delivers a backhand blow to Zurgu’s abundant chest. Going by the appearance of the blow, it was a light poke, but there’s an unexpectedly heavy sound and Zurgu groans slightly.
“The zoan demonstrate their power with deeds and not words, isn’t that right?”
“… For sure, right!?”
As if to pay back, Zurgu slapped Garam’s back with his palm. The slap has a strength that makes Garam’s body fly forward. Once Garam glares at him, Zurgu turns away with an expression of feigned ignorance. However, apparently hurting from hitting Garam’s back, Zurgu shook his right hand back and fro.
“I told you to demonstrate your power, but I never talked about showing off your stupidly great strength.”
“Ah! I intended to pat you lightly, but was it too strong for the frail, esteemed Grand Clan Chief?”
Due to them starting to quarrel all of a sudden, Souma worries whether it will be alright to leave the surprise attack to these two. Once he looks at Shyemul as if asking for her help, she sighed and said,
“It’s just two brats messing around. You lose if you worry about it.”
Souma couldn’t resist smiling wryly at Shyemul’s blunt remark.
Two days passed after Garam and Zurgu took along the elites they chose from among the zoan warriors in Bolnis, and went to launch a surprise attack against the punitive force.
The zoan ambush unit had already been laying in wait close to the bridge for quite a while, but with the march of the all-important punitive force being much slower than expected, no reports about the battle having started have arrived as of yet.
In exchange, the warriors who had been playing the drums after confirming the punitive force began to return, and even further details about the punitive force’s state was delivered to Souma.
According to that information, the majority of the punitive force seems to be composed of infantry with only a small fraction of the commissioned officers using chariots and being cavalry. As far as the zoan warriors could judge, it appears that the punitive force’s morale as well as the soldiers’ proficiency are high.
Due to that report, Souma grumbled,
“That’s not an overly pleasant story for us.”
“I think it’s better than being belittled. Battle is all about fighting with both sides staking all their honor and ability.”
Due to that remark befitting of Shyemul with her high pride, Souma secretly mumbles 「Though it would be easier if they did look down on us」. However, the sharp ears of a zoan apparently didn’t fail to hear that. Shyemul breathed a sigh as if to say 「You are faint-hearted, my lord」.
“Around when do you think will they arrive at the bridge at this pace?”
Being asked that by Souma, the warrior replied as he recalls the circumstances of the punitive force that he had seen with his own eyes.
“Let’s see. They are moving slowly, but I believe that they will arrive within less than a few hours.”
“I see. At last, huh?”
Souma prayed for Garam’s and Zurgu’s surprise attack to succeed splendidly. He can’t erase his worries no matter how hard he tries, but he has no other choice but to believe that it will be alright if it’s those two.
However, something suddenly bothered Souma.
“… Wait a moment!”
In a panic Souma reconsiders what it was that worried him in the exchange just now. Around the time when the warrior lost his calm due to worrying whether he hadn’t ended up saying something bad, Souma finally lifted his face.
“Just now you said slowly, didn’t you?”
“Huh? Umm… Yes, I did, but what about it?”
Souma asks yet another question on top of that,
“Is the human army’s movement slower than usual?”
It’s not like the warrior said slowly while harboring any particular intention. Certainly not considering that this aspect will be sharply pointed out, he replies while becoming flustered.
“Eh… no… that’s only what I felt somehow.”
Souma had some kind of bad premonition.
It’s a sensation as if he just now truly noticed the point of a knife being thrust in front of his eyes. It’s a chill as if a piece of ice had been thrust down his spine. The blood vessels in his entire body freeze and his heart pounds.
Something’s wrong – very wrong.
“What’s wrong, Soma?”
Souma calms down due to Shyemul, who noticed Souma’s abnormal state, raising a puzzled voice.
At any rate, let’s think it through after I calm down, he took a deep breath. After that he broods on why he felt bothered by this word. Pondering about it for a while, Souma reached a certain conclusion.
“…Is it possible that they are being cautious?”
However he immediately puts it down as impossible.
Just like Garam and the others said, until now the zoan have never left the plains to attack. As a matter of fact, even at the time when Souma proposed to take this city, the zoan showed their disapproval towards leaving the plains. Even just taking this city is an irregular event to such an extent. On top of that, who would even think of the zoan leaving the city to launch a surprise attack? Much less to say about this being a small force. By no means should they expect something like a surprise attack against an enemy that excels in numbers.
I’m overthinking it, he persuades himself, but Souma’s intuition continues to fervently ring the alarm bells.
Besides, Souma had a high assessment of the zoan’s perception in regards to battle, what with them being a hunting race. He can’t neglect something perceived by a zoan warrior.
Which reminds me, Souma recalls. The punitive force’s marching speed is slower than Marchronis anticipated at first. Marchronis said that his own perception was off, but is there some kind of meaning in that?
Isn’t it possible that the punitive force has deliberately slowed down its march for some kind of reason Marchronis couldn’t predict?
“But why are they acting as if they are trying to gain time?”
Holmea should desire the suppression of this revolt to take place as fast as possible. And yet it seems that they have come up with a strong reason to have purposefully slowed down.
“… Are they waiting for something?”
What Souma thought of as the very first is the possibility of reinforcements. If he believes in the words of Marchronis, there are no reserves of the national army left over that can be moved. However, there are still the feudal lords’ private armies in Holmea.
However, it’s more than 7,000 soldiers of the punitive force against us who are even less than 2,000. It’s difficult to imagine that they would expressly request reinforcements from the feudal lords while going as far as giving our side a surplus of time. To say nothing of it not being strange if revolts occurred at various places after being triggered by our revolt. He couldn’t believe that the feudal lords would send reinforcements even when they have to prepare for such unexpected situations as well.
Just what are they waiting for then?
Pondering about it like that, the worst possible prediction pops up in Souma’s mind.
“Don’t tell me, they are waiting for us to attack them?”
Souma quickly spread the map and stared at it with a look as if glaring at an enemy.
If I were the commander of the punitive force and expected a zoan surprise attack, what would I do? Souma asked himself. Once he did, the answer became apparent right away.
“… I would set up a trap.”
The reason why Souma picked the bridge as a place for the surprise attack is because there was no other spot to carry out a surprise attack other than there. To put it bluntly, if they are going to make a surprise attack, it’s only possible at this place.
However, the same can be probably be said for the enemy as well.
“If the zoan are going to make a surprise attack, it’s only possible at this place”, meaning that the punitive force will be able to turn the tables on the enemy, who launched a surprise attack, by laying a trap if they have realized about the surprise attack and the location for it. If Souma were to be the commander of the punitive force, that’s what he would definitely do.
Souma reflexively backs off from the map where he senses the shadow of the punitive force’s commander that he hasn’t seen yet.
Because the enemies until now didn’t know about my existence, I was easily able to entrap them with my plans. However, this time I cannot help feeling as if someone is trying to trap me in their plans after seeing through my intentions.
Souma’s body suddenly trembled due to that guess.
It causes Souma to waver on whether he should stop or carry out the surprise attack.
If there was really a trap laid out, the zoan, who would launch a surprise attack, would suffer a major blow.
However, there’s no evidence for the enemy to have set up a trap. It’s only a conjecture from what a single warrior vaguely felt. Besides, if we properly fought with this large of a difference in military power, we will definitely lose. That’s why Souma is troubled on whether it’s good to waste the surprise attack even though they depend on it.
“Should we have a go as originally planned even if it’s in vain…?”
However, he immediately denied that thinking. The ones selected for the surprise attack unit are the chosen elites among the zoan. If we lose them, it will result in a big crack in the main force.
What should I do? What would be the best option?
At the end of his worrying, Souma finally spit out his conclusion,
“Relay the order to retreat to Garam and Zurgu. We will stop the surprise attack!”
“What’s wrong? You have a weird look.”
Garam asked Zurgu while lying on the ground.
They are within a thicket which was slightly away from the bridge where they are planning to execute the surprise attack. The notification that the punitive force would soon arrive was delivered by the scouts. Within the drifting air of excitement as the battle would finally start soon, Zurgu has frequently been snorting and wrinkling up his nose for some reason since a while ago.
“Yeah. My nose somehow feels itchy.”
Due to Garam frowning as if telling him to at least properly watch his own physical condition, Zurgu answered with something odd,
“It would be great if it was a cold, but…”
Garam frowns due to the Zurgu’s way of speaking as if there’s even a far more worse reason.
Due to that Zurgu said with a grave tone while scratching the hair on his head,
“At times when my nose itches like this, it’s a harbinger that something bad will definitely happen.”
“A harbinger of something bad, you say?”
“Yeah. It was the same even on the evening before the village, where I lived during my childhood, was burned down by humans. It also happened at the time when my old man, whose injuries grew worse, died.”
Garam is at a loss for words due to the far more heavy content than expected.
Due to Garam’s reaction, Zurgu also notices that it wasn’t a good story to talk about just before launching a surprise attack, and smoothes it over in a hurry.
“Sorry. Don’t worry about it. I wonder, did even I of all people become sensitive before a great battle?”
He said jokingly, but Garam had no intention to laugh at all.
Garam tried to ask Zurgu whether there’s something that bothers him, but before he could speak out those words, he’s called out by a warrior whom he sent out as scout.
“Grand Clan Chief! The humans are in sight!”
Once he turned his look towards the river, he saw the long-awaited punitive force.
“You will follow as rear guard then.”
Zurgu was entrusted with the role of rear guard, who holds back the pursuing enemy soldiers at the time of retreat. Garam hesitated whether to call out to Zurgu who was about to return to his own station, but Garam gives up after deciding that he should focus on the enemy in front of his eyes for now.
During that time the vanguard of the punitive force began to cross the bridge.
While controlling his feelings of impatience, Garam fixedly observes the state of the punitive force. If the number of soldier crossing to this side is low, the damage they will be able to inflict on the punitive force will be low as well. Having said that, if he gets greedy and allows for a big number of soldiers to cross, it’s very likely that the surprise attack itself will fail.
Garam, who chose the best opportunity to launch the surprise attack, suddenly stood up.
“Chargeee! Hit the drums!”
The drums are hit intensely alongside Garam’s yell. The zoan warriors, who hid themselves in the thicket, get up all at once and start to run on the ground after dropping to all fours.
Zurgu, who was at the end of the line, noticed a voice calling out to him when he was just about to start running.
“Clan Chief! Clan Chief Zurgu!”
“What is it!?”
Once Zurgu turned around, a single warrior was running his way.
“Clan Chief Zurgu! Soma ordered to cease the surprise attack and to withdraw!”
“What!? At this point!?”
Zurgu was taken aback due to the words of the warrior, who is breathing roughly while his shoulders are heaving up and down. With the attack signal already having resounded, they had already started charging at the punitive force with Garam at the lead. By now it’s not a situation where they can fall back and retreat.
Besides, once he takes a look, the punitive force that just crossed the bridge is moving about in confusion after getting surprised by their ambush. If they cut into them like that, it’s pretty obvious that they will be able to cause a major blow against the punitive force. Zurgu hesitates as he wonders whether it’s good to let such a fine opportunity slip away right from under their nose.
However, at that moment a flash of light passed through the corner of Zurgu’s vision.
Once he turns that way, there’s only the thickly growing forest there. The eyes of Zurgu, who wondered whether he only imagined it, once again caught sight of something twinkling within the forest.
At that instant Zurgu felt the hair along his spine stand on end all at once.
“So that’s the reason!!”
While changing to four feet and breaking into a dash, Zurgu orders the warriors in a loud voice,
“Play the signal of retreat! Immediately!”
Once the addressed warrior rings the signal of retreat in a hurry, the ranks of the zoan, who were about to cut into the punitive force like a single pointed spear with Garam at the tip, become disordered. While having the enemy, who is in a panic due to their surprise attack, in front of their eyes, the warriors stumble around on the spot wavering on whether they should advance or retreat, due to the sudden signal of retreat.
Zurgu, who ran through the zoan like a red arrow, catches up with the leading group from the side, and swiftly discovers Garam who is trying to calm down the confusion of the surrounding warriors while probably not understanding why the signal of retreat was sounded.
Zurgu shouts loudly while suddenly braking by making his thick foot claws dig into the ground.
“It’s a trap! There are humans inside the forest on the right!”
When Garam turned around was exactly the moment when the human soldiers jumped out of the forest while raising shouts. What Garam confirmed is them being around one hundred to two hundred soldiers.
However, those few humans will likely gouge out the vital spots at the flank of the zoan who are attacking the subjugation unit like a small, sharp knife.
What’s the best option here?!
Garam hesitates for an instant. Because he understood that this attack is the sole chance to counterattack for them, he entertains the question whether to thrust into the enemy just like that with the resolve to suffer losses.
However, a voice cuts apart his hesitation.
“Garam, we have to escape!”
Zurgu raised a loud voice while kicking the butt of a warrior that was nearby.
“Don’t fight! Concentrate on escaping! Hey, run! Run away!”
Garam got over his indecision due to those words.
“Retreat! Immediately return to the city!”
At last the warriors in the surroundings start to move due to being ordered to retreat by both great warriors together.
However, it was slightly too late.
Alongside a sound of whistling, arrows pour down like rain from atop their heads.
Garam and Zurgu at once jumped back in a grand manner while trying to make their bodies small. Right after that, the place where those two were is loudly pierced by countless arrows.
“Zurgu! You alright!?”
Garam, who got up on one knee after rolling on the ground, calls out to Zurgu who is next to him.
But, without replying, Zurgu glared in the direction of the punitive force with a look of rage that even Garam sees for the first time.
“What the hell is wrong?” Following Zurgu’s line of sight, Garam becomes speechless as well.
A unit, which most likely fired the arrows just now, advanced to the front from within the punitive force that moved about in confusion until now. What the unit, which shows disciplined movements obvious from even this far away, within the chaotic punitive force holds up is a huge flag that depicted a lion face seen from the side made out of golden threads on a black background.
“This is Black Beast!?”
Neither Garam nor Zurgu know.
That in itself is the flag signifying General Darius Brutus who was extolled as a famous commander of Holmea.
However, even without knowing that, Garam had been told about this flag countless times by his father.
There’s no doubt that it’s the abominable flag that was hoisted up in line with Holmea’s flag in the centre of the human army that invaded the Solbiant Plains in the past.
A bloodflow of rage, similar to lava, bustles about in Garam’s whole body. It stirs his urge to let loose a great war cry and attack that unit, which is flying that flag.
However, he suppressed it by almost biting his lips.
In order to shake off the impulse that is even now smouldering within his chest, he faced Zurgu and shouted as if persuading himself as well,
“We have to run away now! Any more losses are bad!”
Zurgu finally takes off his eyes from the black beast flag due to Garam’s voice. After that, as if spitting out something bitter within his mouth in front of the ten-odd zoan warriors, who are lying down in front of him, Zurgu said,
“… I know. Right now we don’t have any other choice but to run away, do we?”
There might be still some who are breathing, but they can only abandon them.
Currently the two of them could only devote themselves to escaping while swallowing their anger and regret.
There’s no way for a normal human to chase after a zoan running on four feet without horses or kiryu. The ambush unit, which had no other choice but to watch the retreating figures of the escaping zoan while grinding their teeth even though they would have been able to annihilate the zoan in just a little bit more time, headed towards the main force of the punitive force to join up with them after the zoan weren’t visible anymore.
Once they do, it’s General Darius himself who expressly welcomed them.
“Thanks for your hard work, Bolgus.”
“Oh, Your Excellency. Thank you for going out of your way to welcome us, I guess.”
The one who led the ambush was Bolgus — a middle-aged man with short-cut dark hair streaked with gray.
He, who secretly went ahead of the punitive force after receiving Darius’ order, made two companies lurk in the forest since several days ago. While being in the terrible state of being covered with fallen leaves and mud due to concealing in the forest for several days, Bolgus bowed his head with an apologetic look.
“I’m sorry. It looks they ended up noticing us just before our ambush.”
However, far from being disgusted by his appearance, Darius taps Bolgus’ shoulder with a satisfied look instead.
“Even I didn’t expect for them to properly run away with all their power like that. It’s not your fault.”
Something like hiding in the forest while continuously bating their breath for many days with the zoan, who have sharp senses, as an opponent is something which the commissioned officers with noble origin that have only high pride are unable to do. No matter who might have done it, it would be the same result if Bolgus wasn’t up to the task.
“Just lose the dirt in the river. I will incorporate you as a unit under my direct control after that.”
“Okay. I will gladly take you up on that.”
Darius, who ordered to give Bolgus’ group a warm meal and booze after they had taken a bath in the river, looks in the direction where the zoan had disappeared.
“However, isn’t that a truly splendid way of escaping?”
A praise that had no exaggeration and much less ridicule resounded in his voice.
They saw that they were caught in a trap and thus executed a prompt escape without disgrace and honor. Not everyone can do this. As result of that, it ended with us being able to only bring down ten-odd zoan even though they fell into our trap mostly as expected.
“I expected them to pick a fight with us here if they understand the situation more or less, but it’s just as I thought, huh? Be that as it may, don’t they possess quite the good soldiers?”
Darius reveals a smile on his lips.
It was a smile reminding one of a cunning lion.
“However, their sole chance to launch an offensive was thwarted. I wonder what they will do next? Or, is this the end for you, leader of the insurgents or whatever you are?”
The flag depicting a golden lion on black background grandly fluttered in the north wind above Darius’ head.