Along the road illuminated by the morning sun runs a handcar at neck-breaking speed.
Two soldiers are silently pumping the car down the rail, drenched in sweat.
Since leaving Arosel they have gone non-stop towards Folkalore, and though are much exhausted they do not stop; their duty to their lord motivates them to return even a second sooner.
And upon reaching their destination, the hand car passed beyond the end of the rail, crashing and sending the soldiers into a mountain of straw, which was there to break their fall.
Even so, one of them fainted from the impact, while the other hurried out from the straw.
「Blegh… it’s rotten, isn’t it」
He said, spitting out straw from his mouth. Soldiers from the gate run up to him,
「Who goes there?!」
「Ah, I am a messenger from the scout division. I can no longer run, so pass my words to Lord Hifumi… Vichy troops have been spotted approaching Rhone. A host of about 13,000 men. 500 of them may be magic casters.」
「So they have come!」
「Alright, I’m heading off to the castle!」
More than tension the soldiers felt exhilaration, and this atmosphere spread through the army. They spoke with the scout for but a brief moment, but had already understood the crux of the report.
The passed out soldier was awoken with a bucket of water, and the soldiers who were otherwise unoccupied went around telling the others the news.
This day began with the lightest mood the soldiers have felt since Vichy began preparing their forces,
Origa knocked on the door to the lord’s office, and waited to be permitted to enter.
Upon entering, she saw Hifumi with his legs crossed on the table, pondering something. Kasha was nowhere to be seen.
「You have called for me, how can I be of service?」
「Origa? A messenger reported incoming Vichy force」
「So it’s finally time?」
「In the end, they completely ignored the matter with Beirevra」
Origa gently shook her head.
「I am grateful for the concern, but the fault lies with Vichy for stepping on the tiger’s tail. The matter of Beirevra can be solved when Vichy is no more」
「Is that so…」
Hifumi said whilst holding onto the paper in his hand.
「What has been on your mind, my lord?」
「Since a while back, I’ve been told to settle on a formal Family name for my domain. I hadn’t thought to do it until the next expedition, though」
He didn’t want to think about it, so he used to write “Tohno” on the documents. He wasn’t particularly attached to the name, but couldn’t think of anything else.
And since then, the region was known as Vagenti’s Domain no longer. It was now Tohno’s Domain.
「Alright. Just as we planned, have the garrison forces return. Have the prototypes prepared as well」
「Understood. I will pass the order along to Alyssa. I am honored to be allowed to assist you my lord on your path towards victory」
「I apologize. We shall show Hifumi-sama how we wonderfully crush the enemy」Currently the plan was to empty Rhone, set traps, and decrease the number of enemies that way. Hifumi, however, would move on his own.
Origa saw is inappropriate to allow Hifumi’s image to deteriorate because of a loss, and thus rejected this kind of tactic, but because Hifumi himself did not care much for victory, she didn’t object too strongly.
After all, he started the war to kill a lot of people; if he won, he would have to plan another battle, and devise schemes to win the next one. Victory itself mattered little to Hifumi.
｢I hear that Vichy has invaded!｣
The door opened with a bang, and Kasha ran in.
｢Why are you so relaxed! We have to prepare｣
｢Calm down. You have a task you must carry out. There’s no use shouting around in our Lord’s room. Prepare for Hifumi-sama’s departure.｣
｢Y-yes, but… Origa is also going to fight?｣
Kasha’s face was dyed in worry, while Origa carried a cool expression.
｢What are you saying now? You have your mission, I have mine｣
｢Hifumi-san, surely you can’t possibly let Origa out onto the front lines?!｣
Obstinately, Kasha directed the conversation at Hifumi, but his cool response crushed her hopes.
｢Not really. She should do as she will. She is not my slave, you see｣
｢I will fight together with Hifumi-sama｣
Seeing that no further words could convince either of them, Kasha’s shoulders dropped and,
｢… I will make preparations｣
She turned around and left.
｢Would that be fine?｣
｢She is a part of the larger play. She’s necessary to set the stage as I will it｣
Hifumi wore his katana on his hip, and left.
｢Kasha is just a fool, after all…｣
A whisper that no one could have heard.
By the rail and shuttle one could reach Arosel from Folkare by the following day, and thus in a day the forces were assembled there. This was a speed never before seen in this world.
Though it was cloudy, it was not cold.
Tying the obi of his hakama, Hifumi looked down the road in the direction of Rhone. On one side of the road lay the tracks. Behind Hifumi, in the city of Arosel, the hoi polloi were taking shelter while the soldiers were busily getting ready for war.
By their predictions, the vanguard of the Vichy forces was set to come into view by tomorrow.
｢We have finished preparations｣
Alyssa stated, having arrived with two soldiers.
The soldiers were on the handcart, choosing the direction it would move in.
｢’Tis finally time… Hifumi-san truly does not fear war?｣
｢It’s an opportunity to kill people in broad daylight. Missing it would be a shame｣
｢You never think that you will be the one to be killed?｣
Hifumi answered Alyssa’s question while as he got onto the handcart.
｢Of course I do. When you kill, it’s a privilege to not be killed｣
｢Alright, let’s go｣
The soldiers set the cart into motion upon his order.
The cart accelerated and soon it was out of sight.
｢So Hifumi-san also thinks about dying…｣
Remembering her own close brush with death, Alyssa tried imaging a mortally wounded Hifumi, but could conjure no such image in her mind.
Rhone, on the border, had no garrison and no traps to welcome the invaders.
The Vichy vanguard were able to relax only after a few hours, and came to use Rhone as a rest area. Probably to attempt to reward their soldiers as much as they could.
As Orsongrande forces never used the houses in Rhone, a thick layer of dust was present in every building, but it was still better than sleeping on grass and stones.
The most unfortunate of the Vichy forces were those who had to stand guard.
And observing these boisterous soldiers who were partaking in a meal, was none other than Hifumi.
Vichy soldiers were shabbily dressed, and outside of the captains and generals giving out orders, none looked like a part of the regular army.
The way they moved showed an attempt at discipline but a complete lack of thereof as well, a truly shabby scene.
Observing this horde and separating them into groups of hundreds and thousands, were the captains and the generals. These men came together and started bickering angrily. The eldest among them, a man with a dark mustache, was clearly in disagreement with the rest.
He was demanding that they immediately attack Orsongrande, while the others were demanding a break, leading to discontent and disagreement between them.
When their “meeting” concluded, each commander went into a different building.
(They are probably planning on rearranging the troops after they all have gathered in the city)
Gliding into the shadows created by buildings, Hifumi slept there until it was dark.
Upon hearing that Vichy troops were advancing, an individual took the fastest horse to Orsongrande Castle.
｢…Pajo, as expected｣
Upon learning of the news Imeraria called Pajo and ordered her dispatch reinforcements to Folkalore, as they have previously schemed.
When Pajo had left, Imeraria called in the Prime Minister. He, too, knew of her intentions.
｢Imeraria-sama… are you certain this is what you wish for?｣
｢I have made up my mind. Pajo, too, is satisfied… Yes, it is my fault that Hifumi-sama was brought into this world and subjected to unpleasant happenings｣
Imeraria’s gaze was towards Folkalore.
｢That, however, does not give him a right to trample on this world. I can’t say I am not motivated by a personal grudge, though… Had he fought the beast-men there may have been use of him, but fighting fellow humans is unforgivable｣
｢’Tis an underhanded trick, but should Hifumi-sama overcome the predicament before him, should he be such an aberrant of a man, then no one under the heavens could stop him. But I have been told Vichy forces number more than ten thousand. Victory with a handful of men is impossible.｣
And as her tears spilled out,
｢I am powerless. I can’t even strike down my father’s foe without resorting to cheap tricks. Should I fail I too will die. When that happens, please take care of my brother｣
The Prime Minister, without saying anything, bowed and left.
Night had fallen on the city of Rhone shrouding it in darkness and silence.
Some still stood around campfires, their sleepy faces illuminated by its light.
(I guess it’s time)
Hifumi slipped out from his hiding spot and traveled from shadow to shadow.
His targeted the buildings he demarcated as belonging to commanders.
He approached the first building and tried the lock on the wooden door—it was unlocked so he went in.
There were five people inside the house. One in each room, sleeping.
He entered a room and slit the throat of a sleeping enemy.
Then to the next, and the next, murdering as he went.
(Yup, yup, next, next)
Hifumi then moved to the next housing, dispatching of the men he remembered seeing that day and any who were in the house.
Some were embracing a woman, so he skewered both of them.
(Wasn’t there a movie with a similar plot?)
Hifumi was not a fan of horror, so he didn’t remember the movie all too well.
Picking methods that would dispose of his enemies quickly, Hifumi felt like he was being a kind person to them.
But he did indeed pick methods like cutting the carotid artery, decapitating, stabbing in the heart, stabbing the brain, cutting a body in half—methods were such that a sleeping person could not react.
Within two hours he had planned to dispose of every commander. Not a single had learned of Hifumi’s presence, nor put up any resistance, causing Hifumi to quickly grow bored. He desperately hoped that some would counterattack, but all disappointed.
He also saw food, but found it boring to kill starving enemies, so decided not to tamper with it.
At last he entered the building where the mustache-commander was.
The mustache-geezer was soundly snoring in his room.
After observing his sleeping face, Hifumi took out not his katana, but a quill and wrote.
Buer, the man feared as the strictest general, awoke with the phrase『Noisy Bastard』written on his forehead. Buer was known as the strongest, most violent general, and his anger was likewise famous.
Thus when he saw the phrase written on his forehead he exploded in anger.
Yet even that anger was incomparable to his rage when he heard that every other commander was killed.
｢Such cowardly tricks! And why leave me alive?!｣
His poor chamberlain could only remain silent through his anger.
｢Is he saying that I’m not a threat?! That my presence wouldn’t change anything?!｣
Hifumi was kind enough upon leaving Rhone to show himself to a patrolling soldier and then knock him out. This way he meant to convey that the slaughter was carried out by someone from the outside. Buer, of course, figured that Orsongrande must have done it.
In his anger, Buer forced the soldiers to immediately prepare for a forced march toward Folkalore.
A few soldiers were so afraid of the sudden demise of their commanders that they fled.
Buer berated these individuals, threatening them with the greatest of punishment, and failed to consider his troops when forcing the march.
｢Orsongrande bastards! I will reach your gates and end you! Just come before me!｣
The soldiers drowning in his constant litany of anger and hatred, were marching towards Folkalore even more exhausted than they were yesterday.