Before dawn Hifumi, who came back with the soldiers using the rail car from Rhone to Arosel, told Origa, who had been waiting for him, to advance at once as planned and fell asleep.
In the time the feudal lord was sleeping, Alyssa, commanding the Toono territorial army, was busy preparing with the goal of executing the next military operation.
A part of the soldiers helped the common city residents to load their belongings on numerous carriages and to migrate to farm villages to the side of the highway leading to Fokalore.
As the move was something Hifumi had ordered, Origa was deeply moved emotionally, Kasha was full of doubts, and Alyssa agreed without having heard the reason.
“They will be a hindrance if they loiter around. If a number of them is swallowed up by the battle, the tax yields will decrease.” (Hifumi)
With Hifumi stating this as reason, Origa was impressed, Kasha was able to consent, and Alyssa grasped it by saying “I guess if that’s what Hifumi says, then it has to be correct.”
Although it was partly a forced migration, with even the soldiers having an easygoing mood and having explained to the residents that it was inevitable due to the war, the move steadily made progress.
Facing the residents, Alyssa said 「You will be able to come back the day after tomorrow.」 While they were only half-convinced by such words, the residents came to grips with it thinking Such a child has enough composure to try calming us down, huh?
The portion of soldiers, who stayed up all night to prepare for the battle, were still within their dreams.
The soldiers, continuing by taking shifts, lined up several vehicles on each of the two rail tracks and installed spear throwers on the rear wagon of the rail cars.
The wagons before those were used to transport the reserve spears while at the same time acting as driving force.
“Do you understand the strategy?” (Origa)
“Etto, once the enemy approaches a visible location, escape with the rail cars while attacking with the spears throwers. As much as possible ambush and snipe at the troublesome magic soldiers. Once we arrive at Fokalore, we close the gate and once again attack with the spear throwers.” (Alyssa)
“Did I get it right?” as Alyssa looked up to the face of the only slightly taller Origa, she was gently smiling.
“Yes, there seems to be no problem. Well then, after I go to join up with Hifumi-sama, please take care of the remaining preparations.” (Origa)
Kasha smiled bitterly following Alyssa, who ran off at a fast pace, with her sight until she was out of view while murmuring,
“Somehow there isn’t the mood as if it was before a war.” (Kasha)
“Although one might say that we are inferior to them, it is just a ‘handicap.’ There should be a considerable number of reinforcements from the capital arriving at the time we return to Fokalore. At last, the course of events will lead to nothing but the Vichy army withdrawing after having their numbers diminished.” (Origa)
“I will put my trust into them.” (Kasha)
She didn’t say into whom though.
“That’s only natural.” (Origa)
As Origa started to walk with a displeased snort, Kasha continued to display an expression full of mixed feelings.
(Handicap, huh? If nothing is done, my time to talk with Origa will disappear, but …) (Kasha)
Up until this day, today, the chances for Kasha to speak with Origa had increased little by little.
Although Origa still displayed the same cold attitude towards her, it wasn’t like she completely ignored her.
At the current rate they might return to their original relationship slowly. She also held onto the fleeting hope of them both possibly going back to their free adventuring days once again someday.
Around the time all preparations were in order, the ground shook with the sounds of feet from people and hooves from horses coming from the direction of Rhone.
“They are coming!”
The soldiers of the territorial army standing watch at the exit towards Rhone warned their allies of the nearing enemy by waving a flag.
As they confirmed the sign of comprehension by their colleagues on top of the gate towards Fokalore, the soldiers on watch withdrew at full speed.
They were told to escort the evacuees on their move to the farm villages.
As a matter of fact there was absolutely no motivation for them to risk their lives in the war.
Because crossing swords with the enemy was the Lord’s duty and enjoyment, they wouldn’t be forgiven if they stole that opportunity.
Around the time when the soldiers on watch left the city with such an excuse, Hifumi waited for the enemy in a daunting pose between two rail cars with installed spear throwers.
In his hand he held the kusarigama. (T/N: sickle and chain weapon)
The hem of the hakama was tied by using a simple string. The katana hung at his waist.
While he was bored and thus swung the counterweights on both sides around, the soldiers, who had boarded the rail cars, set up the spear throwers and waited impatiently and nervously.
The Vichy army plunging forward had to drop the speed within the uninhabited city. As they discovered Hifumi’s figure, the order to halt was given.
At this point of time, the Vichy army had decreased to an amount of around 9000 due to the people, who ran away from the damage in Rhone, and those who went to round up the evacuating masses affiliated with the city in one place.
This matter had become yet another fuel to fan the flames of Buer’s anger.
Being the vanguard, Buer, wearing an armored helmet, straddled his splendid horse and glared at Hifumi.
“What is it youngster? Don’t be a nuisance. Get away from there!” (Buer)
After merely saying two words, during the third word, Buer’s fury erupted.
The last words were shouted in anger.
Hifumi, who was grinning broadly and laughing, straightened his back and performed a beautiful bow.
“I am honoured to meet you for the first time. I am a viscount of Orsongrande governing the territory of Toono, my name is Hifumi.” (Hifumi)
“You said Hifumi? It’s you bastard, huh?!” (Buer)
“Oya, for some reason it seems my name has become famous even over there in Vichy.” (Hifumi)
Looking over his shoulders, Origa returned a 「That’s only natural!」 on top of the rail car.
The members of the territorial armed forces laughed.
“What’s so funny!” (Buer)
Even as Buer shouted in a thundering voice, Hifumi’s smile didn’t falter.
“Before the war I instructed all of them ‘I’ve put an easily recognizable mark on the forehead of the enemy’s supreme commander.'” (Hifumi)
Due to Hifumi’s words, the chamberlains on both sides of Buer made a face displaying 「Oh no!」
The next moment Buer raised a roar.
“I-It was youu~!” (Buer)
Within a second Buer let the anger guide him and dashed forward with his horse. Hifumi lightly hit the tip of the horse’s nose by throwing the counterweight.
While holding down the horse, which acted violently due to the surprise, the rail cars started to move. Hifumi leisurely jumped on top of it and the speed increased.
“After them! Don’t let them escape!” (Buer)
Upon Buer’s instruction the group of horse-riders in the vanguard, including the chamberlains, spurred their horses into gallop. But they were pierced by spears, regardless whether it was soldier or horse, one by one, within a moment.
“Raise the speed after properly hitting them. We will have them run for a while.” (Hifumi)
Origa and Alyssa conveyed the instructions of Hifumi, who was sitting on top the rail cars, to the soldiers sequentially.
Urged on by the voice of Buer telling those, who were stumbling, falling over or such, to avoid the fallen soldiers or even tread on them, but no matter what to chase them, Vichy’s soldiers frantically advanced forward.
There was a lot of cavalry in the vanguard troops. Even with Buer running wildly without concerning himself with those trailing behind, the distance spread steadily.
Lured by the group that was eagerly pursuing at the front, the entire army of Vichy started to advance by running fast. At the time the end of the line left the city of Arosel, they were assaulted by a large quantity of spears hurled at them from both sides of the highway.
There was no one left to put the soldiers in order as the rear group fell into chaos due to the unforeseen surprise attack. One by one they abandoned their pierced comrades and scattered in all directions trying to to escape.
At the time the spear attacks, which concentrated their aim on the magic soldiers gathered in the last division, ceased, the magic soldiers were almost completely annihilated. In the end, of the Vichy army, around 2000 cavalary went ahead, around 5000 infantry alongside the archers chased after them while being separated and the survivors of the rear scurried home.
The territorial soldiers lurking close to the highway in order to ambush the enemy, after letting the troops from Vichy, who were chasing after Hifumi’s group, pass, they cleared away the corpses and dealt with the surviving enemy soldiers. From thereon the last remaining task was for them to meet up with the citizens taking refuge in the farm villages.
“Who was the clumsy fellow, who hurled the spear until the opposite side of here?”
“100 people were done in.”
“I skewered 3 people or something like that all at once!”
In the faces of the soldiers, who were clearing away the corpses by using their hands while severally talking, there wasn’t any fear of losing nor any tragic feeling about the war.
“Now that it’s done, let’s go to the village. I think we can let the Lord deal with the rest.”
Everyone agreed on the spot and began to walk without even forming a line.
“Even though it would be nice if the rails were even laid out in the direction of the village.”
For them it was a feeling of the war having already ended.
“We will soon pass the aforementioned place.” (Origa)
Hifumi only nodded to Origa’s report.
The mass of Vichy soldiers pursuing in the back were completely separated from the cavalry group following.
On top of the rail car which was shaking and rattling, Hifumi was sitting cross-legged having turned his back to the direction of movement staring at them with a fleeting glance.
“Wait! Fight me fair and square! I will kill you!” (Buer)
Besides Buer, who was chasing after them while shouting energetically on top of the horseback, the other Vichy forces didn’t appear to have notice what was awaiting them.
Although the number of Vichy’s cavalry had decreased fast due to the intermittent firing of spears, they deliberately didn’t aim at Buer.
Ascertaining the deployment of the enemy, Hifumi gave directions on the attacks. Then he noticed them passing through the scheduled location.
“Full speed ahead.” (Hifumi)
Origa didn’t miss Hifumi’s brief instruction.
“All members, go forward with full power!” (Origa)
With Origa’s command, the soldiers, holding the handle of the rail car, raised their voices and poured all their strength into it.
“Despite me being the military affairs director …” (Alyssa)
“This is because you didn’t listen to Hifumi-sama’s words.” (Origa)
At the time the Vichy cavalry focused their eyes on the sped-up rail cars, it was one of the chamberlains galloping next to Buer, who fell for the first trap.
The horse’s forefeet tread though the ground of the highway.
It was a small and shallow pitfall, but the horse, missing its footing, quickly fell over.
In succession Vichy soldiers following tumbled and were stepped on.
Even though Buer eased up the speed of the rushing horse and ordered the following soldiers to get off the highway, pitfalls, almost indistinguishable from the grass, were prepared there as well.
For a while Buer continued the pursuit, but at last he fell off the horse as it collapsed.
Since Hifumi also saw him trying to get up, Buer was apparently safe one way or the other.
“I will wait for you in Fokalore!” (Hifumi)
Although his enemy tried to retort something to Hifumi’s call, the rail car was already in a far distance at that time moving away from that location.
“You may lower the speed. We will wait for the enemy at Fokalore afterwards.” (Hifumi)
There still remained many archers and infantry within the Vichy army at this time, but the horses were pretty much wasted.
Buer decided to take a temporary rest waiting for those following, but losing his temper due to the lessened number of soldiers gathered, he found fault with everybody in the vicinity.
Frankly speaking, their large military force was kicked around by a few Orsongrande soldiers. He had expected to grandly march towards Fokalore about now.
After crossing the national border, Orsongrande had arbitrarily established at Rhone, and advancing into this direction, just about everything was rubbing Buer’s nerves the wrong way.
“Without fighting directly, it is just surprise attacks, traps and escaping … To what extent do you plan to make fun of me! Only that youngster, I will definitely kill myself!” (Buer)
While Buer was getting worked up, even at that time, those, sensing the impeding crisis after the magic soldiers disappeared and the horses were lost, broke away one by one and deserted.
Buer got even more enraged about this matter.
As it was now, he would have to return to his country without earning any accomplishments. Generals, who escaped without being able to gather their allies and to decently fight without accidents, never reappeared on the public stage a second time.
It wasn’t unlikely for them to get stuck with spending the rest of their life in a defense unit in a remote farm village.
As far as Buer was concerned, he held a pride of having build up his status by successive victories and his military power, although he never had the chance to participate in a large battle. It was unthinkable for him to do something like retreating without doing anything as long as he was able to fight.
Taking a hurried meal and resting for about an hour, they now advanced orderly.
“We will conquer Fokalore before the enemy’s reinforcements arrive! Start marching!” (Buer)
While the soldiers were sometimes irritated by having their feet sink into the small pitfalls, Buer borrowed a horse from another person. His face was red while burning with the desire for revenge.
Pajou’s Third Knight Unit led the reinforcements. Quickly finishing the formation of the troops, it was almost as if they were laying in wait. In the early morning 3000 soldiers departed from the royal castle.
The soldiers, heading out for the sake of rescuing the hero from his crisis, were passionately cheered on by the populace.
Although the soldiers, who didn’t find it strange, were joyfully listening to the shouts of joy while advancing forward by walking, all of the Third Knight Unit, leading the troops while riding on horses, erased their facial expressions.
They were given a contradictory mission called ‘if it goes as planned, you will have to fight that man.’ Thus they couldn’t even show something like a smiling face.
As a result of her close relationship to Hifumi, Pajou was elected as leader of the current reinforcements.
Leading the advance, Pajou’s expression was stiff, too.
“Let’s hurry up a bit.” (Pajou)
“If we rush too much, we will leave the soldiers behind. In the first place, it is unthinkable for Fokalore, which has a firm defense being close to the border, to fall easily. Don’t get too impatient.” (Midas)
Towards the voice of Midas, who was moving right behind her, Pajou sighed with a forced smile on her face. She didn’t want to be seen as pathetic in Midas’ eyes.
“Rather than having to show such a face, it would have been fine to not propose such a plan, I think.” (Midas)
“Saying this now? This is also for the sake of Imeraria’s revenge. It is a strategy to stop having this country being dragged into the quagmire of war.” (Pajou)
“Since you understand, get a bit more relaxed. You will end up being worn out before we arrive at Fokalore.” (Midas)
“… Oh well” (Pajou)
Easing up just slightly on the speed, Pajou faced towards the front again and was silent.
While watching that back wearing an armor, Midas felt that he couldn’t foresee where this battle was headed to.
In fact Sabnak had refused the invitation to join the reinforcements.
Even though he had promised to keep the secret, he couldn’t agree to the reason for the hostility against Hifumi no matter what.
I guess, since he is still young, he only sees that dazzling heroic appearance of Hifumi rather than him being someone holding a protruding strength. But even with such an excuse, he still isn’t quite able to comprehend the real intention himself either.
Being young, he is manipulated by a perilous sense of justice due to looking at that radiant appearance. Though I wonder if it isn’t only Sabnak but also Pajou and Princess Imeraria being affected by this?
Although Hifumi certainly killed the king, it doesn’t mean that it wasn’t the king’s fault either.
He caused this country to go to war, but as a result he brought gains.
To be honest, rather than anyone, it is certainly Sabnak, who made a calm and accurate judgement, I guess?
Aren’t we walking ahead into the direction of danger without being able to avert our eyes from such strong words called ‘War’ and ‘King Slayer’?
(I should have tried to talk a bit more with Sabnak …) (Midas)
Personally I don’t hate Hifumi.
But I also believe to understand his danger.
In a state of murky hesitation, Midas headed towards the battlefield alongside the other knights.
Hifumi was waiting at Fokalore.
Staring at the view of the drawn katana, his heart was leaping in anticipation.