Men and horses are forming a line just like a streamlet in the depressions interrupting the mounds and hills. The space from wagon to wagon is vast. Compared to that, the escorting soldiers have been concentrated in columns at the front and the back of the trail. You could tell with a single glance that it is a march with many gaps to exploit.
The number of wagons is vast. According to the previously obtained intelligence, each of the wagons should transport a considerable amount of provisions and war funds. With the final destination being Earldom Sarmanto, they have also finished confirming that a large boat is already waiting at the base for crossing the Eastern Dragon River. If they get there, there’s no way for Kustaa to follow them. There are many troops stationed at the base. His group isn’t able to fight on the water and at the river bank.
He can’t stop anxiety welling up and fear spreading beneath his stiffened expression. However, he has to proceed. Kustaa is being pushed by the fact that the time came to make up his mind.
“Turn around because we will leave the centre alone. We will attack the guard units split at the front and rear.” (Kustaa)
Kicking the belly of his horse, Kustaa straight away travelled down the hill. Both his arms were freed up once he hooked the reins at the front bridge of the saddle. Drawing the spear through his hands first and then turning over the spearhead with a rotation, he thrusts it forward as leader of the 600 riders. He drills the sharp blade of the pointed end into the ground. The following riders divide into two groups seeking to enlarge that hole to break the morale and order of the enemy.
He forced his way to the enemies mowing down a single person close-by. And at just that moment, Kustaa had a gooseflesh on his whole body.
(This is… !) (Kustaa)
There’s fear in the faces of the enemies he passes by. There’s nervousness… it finished at only that. There’s no chaos, unrest and shock. The soldier’s purpose of fighting each other and the instinct as living creature is flashing in their cramped faces. Therefore, their movements are flexible. Without trying to stop the blow of Kustaa’s spearhead unreasonably, they are dodging and leaving it to others by going past.
It should have been a perfect surprise attack. Furthermore we attacked at the flank of their ranks, which is undoubtedly a vital point as it’s a place with only few guards. They are parrying that. Kustaa’s spear merely hit 1 or 2 people. That’s impossible.
The central breakthrough was excellent. It was beautiful to an excessive degree. Once they ran up their horses onto the opposite hill and turned around, the ranks of the transport unit troops’ have been split into two groups as planned. The intestines of living creatures had been scattered by the tragedy of being smashed and stepped upon by 2400 hooves.
However, far too few soldiers were defeated. Only by sight, there are dozens of soldiers remaining. The kicked-over and scattered cargo is weird as well. There are no provisions and wheat flour bags, much less to say about wooden boxes filled with money. It’s wood. Stuff like wooden boards and stakes. All kinds of strange things have been scattered about, assuming those are construction materials.
Each of the guard units in front and at the rear is mainly consisting of infantry and has around 200 soldiers. Those are numbers easy to crush if we strike against them as planned. However a spectacle happened causing them to hesitate doing just that. Kustaa doubted his own eyes.
It’s pikes. Equal to spears, those even reach three times the height of a human? And they are in the process of setting those up. It should just have been infantry at the time I took a look at them in the beginning. Long spears were something typically used in duels. That has changed in a blink of an eye.
It’s the cargo. The wagons close to the guard units were loaded with pikes. And they have deployed those right away. They are linking up to an organized formation facing towards Kustaa. Those troops have a stabbing air. It is completely different from what I felt in the territorial army so far.
I remember it. It’s the opponent we have been facing at various places within the territory for these past two years… it’s the civilian combat group called Hakkinen guard corps or such. An organisation that became famous for devoting itself to escorting merchants and also their fairly high degree of training, Kustaa has been assessing them. We only encountered them at the level of restraining each other, since they aren’t opponents that will become a problem if we don’t crush them totally either.
(No way, do they want to tell us to have a decisive battle?) (Kustaa)
It looked like an unknown number of cavalryman, holding torchlights, galloped away from the guard unit. Ascending the hill continuing towards the place Kustaa laid low, they are swinging their lights.
This is already plain obvious. It’s a trap. The visible column of men and horses aren’t from the transportation unit of the territorial army. I don’t even care anymore whether they are soldiers of the territorial army or the Hakkinen guard corps. This hill isn’t something Kustaa has secured, it’s just a danger wrapping up the 600 riders at accelerating speed.
Sharply clicking his tongue, Kustaa gave a short signal with his hand and the 600 riders dashed forward. We won’t split up. There’s no particular significance for us in winning here. We can’t avoid losses. Those losses aren’t something we are able to deal with no matter what either. A tall cloud of dust could be seen rising even in the darkness as it crossed over the hill on the opposite side.
(That’s their main force, huh… ? With cavalry they are no less than 1000.) (Kustaa)
If it’s like this, I have no doubt that these 1000 riders are the treasure of the territorial capital. It seems like the territorial army has finally started for real to subjugate us mounted bandits. By Kustaa’s estimation, the the number of reserve soldiers of the territorial capital of Earldom Helrevi is a bit more than 3000. As they spared a 1000 for the feint transports here in the last few days, it would result in the territorial capital having no more but the minimum amount of guards remaining, if they dispatched further 1000 cavalrymen here.
Moreover, it’s not only one cloud of dust approaching. With an equal military force being slightly further away, the cavalry from the river-crossing base likely has sortied this way, Kustaa surmised. Rather, the direction that way might be troublesome. There’s a danger of them affecting our path of retreat towards the village.
There’s also the pike unit, which has released its pretence, approaching from the rear. Their number is around 500, but even if I’m aware that they are a decoy, the line of pikes held at the ready is a threat. I have also noticed that their level of training is high. In case they had a decisive battle at this place, there would be a possibility of Kustaa’s life being reaped by a pike’s spearhead.
He realized that his “premonition” isn’t really helpful. Nobles can’t part with the ornaments decorating their bodies. They are people, who can’t fight, depending on the visible combat potential. This applies to Earl Matthias Helrevi as well, but there’s no way even I expected him to reach such drastic decision.
It looks like I lost the strategical game on the territory’s board… As he thinks that, Kustaa’s arms and legs lost their strength. It’s nothing but a nightmare for someone experienced in battlefields to fall for a trick of a noble, that has no experience with battlefields.
(… I guess it was an outrageous dream for someone like me to do something like holding up the “flame” of Salomon-sama, huh?) (Kustaa)
Kustaa closed his eyes for a brief moment. Good grief, it won’t come true for me to see the things I want to see in this world. Salomon has died. Jikul Rosa has vanished. The masses are in all respects beyond help. With my lack of wisdom I have even exposed my faithful cavalrymen, I at least brought up with my own hands, into the danger of encirclement.
Therefore, let’s give up. Until the time when the premonitions stop increasing.
“Let’s return taking a little detour. Everyone, you haven’t been negligent with your dust-proof equipment, right?” (Kustaa)
The answer is yes. Among these 600 riders there are also many, who were formerly affiliated with the Salomon army as volunteer soldiers. Since they are sensing the points of Kustaa’s plan, he was able to convey a lot of information with a low amount of words. They cannot afford for the village to be destroyed.
“… Alright, let’s go!” (Kustaa)
Leaving the pike unit behind, they charged in the direction of piercing into the gap between the 1000 man from the river-crossing base and the 1000 man from the territorial capital. Skilfully using the undulation of the hills, 10 groups a 10 riders each, a total amount of 100 riders, in order to not be discovered from the front and rear, have secretly separated from the main group. It’s for the sake of the extra job of contacting the other 200 riders. It’s something that puts strenuous exertion on those numbers, but it’s not like the only aim was to just raise the certainty of the message being delivered. It’s for the sake of someone reaching the village even in the worst case scenario. The situation is impending.
Kustaa’s 500 riders are a decoy. They act in order to let the detached forces get away.
They don’t consider something like winning if they directly clash with 2000 cavalrymen. Kustaa isn’t an amateur who dreams of defeating an enemy four times their size. Moreover, there’s no difference in the quality of horses in regards to their fellow northern cavalrymen. Even only escaping is probably not so easy. To say nothing it’s all the more the case while they have to falsify the path of retreat towards the village.
It will result in us retreating towards the east while making sacrifices… Kustaa thought that way. We will quickly enter a place where they will have to give up pursuing even if we can’t shake them off. Namely, the demonic domain “Lifeless Desert.” The only difference is getting killed by nature or getting killed by people, however they naturally won’t track the path towards the village. Also, the 200 riders of the detached force and the 100 riders set off to contact them will likely head there when push comes to shove… Kustaa didn’t harbour any suspicions.
The movements of the dust clouds were even slower than anticipated. If you judge it from the view that they probably came to chase us, they likely won’t foresee the direction we are heading towards. Kustaa smiled. He was occupied with drawing out their course for some time, but it was a large issue that he wasn’t able to do that immediately. Probably he won’t be able to make the necessary preparations for the detached force in secret anymore.
“Did we only win with tactics… ? At least I won’t go to that extent.” (Kustaa)
Heaving a sigh, Kustaa laughed at himself as his cheeks were grazed by the night air. The last battle I fought under the command of Salomon… I recall that battle of killing or being killed by the army of Eberia Empire. It hasn’t been hard for me. That situation was caused by the stupidity of the hero, but it triggered the accumulation of experience of my current self.
Salomon said it. This is the cleaning up for that idiot.
It’s not the case that Kustaa, who certainly didn’t exceed leading a part of the cavalry unit, saw the complete picture at those days. However, he also understood the situation. Salomon didn’t intend to lead such a type of battle. With that being something similar to a clever scheme of being a forced confusion, there was probably an element of a gamble. If there had been time, there would would have been methods for the sake of continuing to win in a more reliable way as well… Kustaa believes that Salmon kept thinking about those strategies day and night.
What would such Salmon think, if he saw the current me… ? Most likely he would laugh scornfully as usual. No matter how many lives I got, it won’t be enough. I have to hold onto the importance of being a desperate coward. And I have to create situations, where I have to fight with all my power.
Running. Just running. But before he noticed, there was someone running next to him.
The number heading this way is approximately the same, Kustaa saw. We are of equal status in in regards of being able to confirm each other by sight within the changes of ups and downs of the hills, huh? I don’t know to whom they belong since I can’t see the flag, but they are probably going ahead as a raid unit, he guesses. Their pace is good, the position they’ve taken is good as well. They are troublesome opponents.
If I consider the future, we can’t keep running like this. It won’t do if we don’t have a rest somewhere, but it won’t be possible to loose them, if they run parallel to us like this either. Although the other side will be able to launch a pincer attack alongside the main force in the rear by only straining themselves a little bit in getting over here.
(… If that’s the case, all that’s left is to resolve myself.) (Kustaa)
Throw them into chaos with a single attack and immediately withdraw to gain distance. Once he has finished deciding this, there’s nothing but discovering an opportunity in the back. Kustaa surveys the series of hills. Ideally I want to hit them by rushing in from their flank. However, it’s the same for the other side as well, if we don’t pick an advantageous terrain quickly. We cannot cut down on our speed either.
That one’s no good, this one’s insufficient, the one over there won’t work as it is advantageous for the enemy… Maintaining a reasonable distance, they repeatedly dash ahead in a tactical game between fellow commanders. Without fighting they are clashing with each other.
(Quite… capable…) (Kustaa)
The commander of the raid unit seems to be at a level of a big gun I haven’t encountered lately. He doesn’t approach forcefully, however, having said that, he isn’t retreating with a weak attitude either. Having no choice but shortening the distance stretching the string of tension thin, the tactical game between the commanders, equal in shrewdness mobilizing all the tricks each can muster, is continuing. His courage is also admirable, but he unintentionally groaned at the time they pretended to follow the lure this way and got their path of retreat cut off in reverse. Those are flexible yet clever tactics. Anyway, he’s a commander with fame, I guess, Kustaa believes.
They joy of experiencing such delight left his lips. Giving hand signs, he relays his intention to the riders in front. He sensed a swelling presence of fighting spirit in his back. It’s a promising enthusiasm.
“… Alright, go!” (Kustaa)
The instant they entered a terrain filled with downwards slopes, the 500 riders split right and left half in each direction. Kustaa leads the right side in order to get close to the enemy. The enemy forces began to evade, but likely grasping the number of people on our side, they will push towards the left side in response. However they won’t hit us. Kustaa has separated the left side to the left in order to respond to their opponents.
It was just right, it was a route describing an arc along a gentle hill. The enemy forces are in pursuit of Kustaa. They likely have perceived Kustaa increasing the speed slightly, but the merit of that conjecture will backfire.
The 250 riders, who split to the left, are just now arriving at this hill. Kustaa decelerates and disappears into a cloud of sand at the time they got close to the right side, matching his distance with them. Moreover, the flank of the enemy forces is in a slanted shape. Confirming that over his shoulders, Kustaa’s smile deepened.
With violent roars the 250 riders began their attack. The enemy forces seem to have bled heavily. With their ranks in disorder, it results in their speed falling apart. It’s a good chance. We will probably settle it, if we we deliver a blow by going around and cutting at their right side. The plan is to aim at defeating the commander. It won’t be any good, if we don’t recover the distance we lost to the enemy’s main force.
(Though he appears to be someone with splendid tactical understanding, it’s regrettable. You have matched me too well. The level of skill at leading cavalry… I guess that’s the only difference that caused your defeat.) (Kustaa)
I have a rough idea of the location of their commander. Trying to aim there, Kustaa involuntarily screamed. It felt as if his back was pierced by something like an ice spear. If it was a genuine spear, he would have fallen. Turning around towards his rear as far as the reins allowed, Kustaa felt dumbfounded, having his eyes wide open.
“Wh… it’s a lie…” (Kustaa)
There were people coming charging with dreadful force at the back of Kustaa’s 250 riders. Their number is around 100? A giant at the vanguard is sending my companions flying like a storm. They are getting close.
However, that’s not the problem. Kustaa won’t be afraid of something like that.
His whole body quivered with a numbness he knew very well. It told Kustaa of the return of an intense “premonition.” He looks at me. Rather, he doesn’t see me. Even forgetting about his command, he gazes at the approaching group. Lurking within the group of men and horses, he was there.
His blue eyes are pinning down on him.
Completely as if it’s someone else’s problem, Kustaa recognised that.
Being delayed, currently one arrow was lodged into the top of his left shoulder. Next, in the top of his right shoulder as well.
“What… did you see me after all, too?” (Kustaa)
Falling to the ground from this height, he had troubles breathing from the impact. His shoulders were soaked accompanied by the heat of the bleeding. Having pathetically twisted his feet, even that pain reverberated in his brain. No defence or anything was left.
There was a sound of the divination board in his knapsack cracking.
It was a dry sound, but it was a sound comfortable to his ears.