Chapter 3 – Strife over the Capital

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The Muozinel army, which passed through Fort Severac, went north along the highway without even making an effort to maneuver the fort. Three days later they forced the city of Veecus situated along the highway to surrender; several days after, they besieged the Gelgovia Fort with 10,000 soldiers just as they did with Severac before.

The commander of the unit besieging the fort was Murat.

His hair was short and he wore a deep black beard under his nose. Since he was reserved and reticent by nature, he was teased as a bad gambling opponent by his peers. However, as commander he is superb, having earned him Kureys’ deep trust.

The Muozinel army, which had become 120,000 man strong, marched on.
Not only was the fort of Wilzon unmanned, it also wasn’t fit for use as it had turned into a complete ruin after having been set on fire from within, and thus the army simply went past it.

“Contrary to Severac and Gelgovia, the master of this fort apparently was a smart man”, Kureys commented while appraising the Wilzon Fort from atop his palanquin.

Two days after that, Kureys left 10,000 soldiers behind in the city of Laferte which had capitulated, and requisitioned food and material. As Laferte is a mere two days on foot from Nice, the main force of the Muozinel army could come rushing right away if contingency demanded. Once he confirmed to have enough food stored to maintain the troops for an extended period of time if the supply line were to be severed, Kureys ordered the departure.

At this time, one of his aides advised him that it was certainly important to protect the supply line, but deploying 40,000 men at four different places with 10,000 per location would very likely turn them into good targets for annihilation.

“Individual annihilation, eh? Isn’t that great?” (Kureys)

The aide looked dumbfounded due to Kureys’ assertion while smiling happily. The red-bearded younger brother of the crown prince detained the aid on the spot and summoned Damad. He then made the black-haired warrior listen to the aide’s advice.

“Try telling me what you think,” Kureys queried.

Damad thought that he might be tested here, but as it was Kureys’ order, he had to respond to it.

“If Brune possesses enough military forces, it might be possible for them to aim at crushing the units individually. However, if you exclude the militia from the enemy forces, they have at most 70,000 soldiers. By all rights, that’s a number where they have to struggle to just protect their capital.” (Damad)

Based on the information they had obtained from the scout reports and the cities that had surrendered, Kureys had mostly grasped the precise amount of troops left in the Moonlight Knight Army. Damad too had been informed about the numbers by Kureys.

“For the enemy to sever our supply lines, they have no other option but to recapture the port city Massilia or Laferte, where we are gathering our food and goods. But both Laferte and Massilia are cities with sturdy walls. They should be able to hold out against a siege for a few days.” (Damad)

The main force of the Muozinel army was close to Laferte, and Avshall’s unit was close to Massilia. Murat’s unit could maneuver either way. As long as they could resist for several days, reinforcements would definitely arrive.

“That’s how it is.” (Kureys)

Obviously bringing the matter to a close, Kureys laughed.

“If Brune aims at crushing the units individually, they can go for it. If the capital’s defense wanes because of that, it will be the best result we could ask for. To the bitter end it’s the capital we’re targeting.” (Kureys)

Damad thought, what a frightening man, while bowing his head at Kureys. This royal prince even uses the very long supply line as provocation towards the enemy.

Even if their supply line were to be cut off, the Muozinel army always had the option to pillage. Kureys hadn’t permitted the soldiers to pillage after leaving Massilia at all. That’s not only owed to him trying to keep up a reputation of being generous in the cities that surrendered.
Once the aide and Damad stepped back, Kureys looked out over the soldiers marching in front in satisfaction. The distance from Massilia to Nice amounts to 500 belsta (approximately 500 km). The generals had calculated that it would likely take 20 days in total to arrive at Nice, and that has proven to be correct.

──However, the soldiers’ fighting spirit has risen plentifully during the long march with not a single battle. I will have them throw this eagerness against the capital’s walls.

“Now then, Star ShooterSilvash, Princess Regin, how are you going to move?” (Kureys)

Red Beard revealed a daring smile while the feeling of exaltation before a battle overflowed his body.

 

The one who discovered their presence in the morning of that day was a soldier manning the capital’s southern wall.

No sooner than the morning mist which was about to fade beyond the horizon swayed unnaturally, black dots became visible as if black ink had been spilled within the fog.
The black dots gradually filled the highway while resolving into contorted shapes.
The soldier, who had thought that he had been seeing things until then, hailed his nearby comrade in panic. Mashas, Lim, and Mila, who received the report shortly thereafter, appeared on the southern wall. All three of them were fully armored.

They understood that these shapes, which had by now turned into an uninterrupted, muddy, black stream, were clearly heading their way.

“I heard about the enemy having 110,000 soldiers, but good gracious…”

Mashas’s face cramped up and he leaked a low groan. Lim and Mila barely managed to suppress a tremble. The soldiers and knights protecting the other sections of the wall also rushed over in succession. All of them stood stock still with blank faces.

“That’s the Muozinel army, huh?”

Fearful whispers were exchanged atop the wall which had become full of soldiers.
It was apparently a big shock even for soldiers who had served as lookouts for a long time. At the time when figures become visible in the distance, they can estimate the number of people and the distance to those people based on their prior experience. However, even they couldn’t say anything in the present situation besides it being an outrageous number.

“There’s no point in being anxious about it. The enemy surely has a big army, but it’s not like they can fly through the air,” Mashas grinned at the soldiers while deliberately using a jovial tone. “You guys appear to be surprised by that big army, but once they arrive here, they will likely be surprised by this wall. The moat is wide and deep, too. Let’s teach them that they cannot overcome this wall even with a hundred thousand soldiers.”

The moat, which had been drastically widened below the wall by the militia, has a width of 17 alsin and a depth of 40 chet (four meter) in the south and east. The western and northern moats weren’t as deep and wide, but when one left through the wall on the capital’s northern side, the terrain immediately turned into a slope, and a river is flowing in the vicinity of the western side. Neither side was really suited for the deployment of a large army.

Even just the attempt to bury those moats will likely earn them a considerable number of days.

The soldiers somewhat rally under Mashas’s encouragement. Even after witnessing the same sight as them, the elderly Earl’s composure of being able to smile calmly, and his short and stout stature hidden behind armor and helmet possessed an odd dignity.
Once someone raised a loud yell in order to rouse himself, the others also shouted from their diaphragms in response to that.
Lim and Mila looked and then nodded at each other. If one’s overpowered before a battle, they could not hope to triumph.

Lim returned to her usual, unsociable expression, and called out to Mashas.

“The enemy being visible from here means that they will likely arrive in around two hours. I think that we should check every place once more in advance.” (Lim)

“Very true. This is exactly the time when one must stick to the basics.” (Mashas)

There were plenty of places that ought to be checked such as the water and sewer systems connecting the capital to the river flowing in the west; whether there was room to move around below the wall; whether there were any problems with the weapons and goods stored on the wall, and whether they had forgotten to close the gates.

And then, when the sun climbed the zenith, Muozinel’s army arrived in front of the Capital Nice.

They stopped their march around 500 alsin away from the wall and set up their camp. The one who had been appointed to this duty was one of the generals, Ekrem.
Under his command, close to 15,000 white tents, shared by six or seven soldiers, were spread out. Once it came to such numbers disorder would manifest by tents clashing with each other or there being no gaps for the soldiers to pass through. But Ekrem made them finish the job in a short time by dealing with it skillfully.

The tents of the generals like Ekrem and Yargash were luxurious, lavish red and blue silk constructions with violet and silver embroideries and were more than double the size of the tents of the soldiers.

Kureys’ tents was close to ten times the size of the soldiers’ tents. It was a combination of several dozen tents, had a total of 20 rooms provided within, and was supported by ten pillars as thick as an adult’s torso. The tent’s color was snow white, but it was obvious to anyone that it had been set up like that to emphasize the golden embroidery. It featured a big motif of the God of War Vahram holding a golden sword and wearing a horned, golden helmet.
And at last the ground was completely covered by tents of Muozinel’s soldiers as far as the eyes could see.

For the soldiers standing on the wall it was (not such1) an oppressive view. Of course there were also some who somehow managed to avoid falling on their knees by propping themselves up with their spears after losing their cool.

It took two hours to finish the camp’s establishment. Evening was already approaching, but the strong summer sun was still flooding the land.
4,000 soldiers advanced out of the Muozinel’s army camp while basking in the intense sunlight. Kureys Shahim Balamir was at their front riding his palanquin.
Once they proceeded up to a position just out of range of arrows and stones, they dispersed to the left and right, forming up in horizontal lines.

“Ruler of Brune, Your Highness Princess Regin!”

The 4,000 soldiers repeated Kureys’s shout in a chorus. Their shouts drowned out all other sound and made the air rumble, reaching even the ears of Nice’s residents across the wall.

The children running across the streets, the housewives chattering near the street stalls, the militia men engaging in various tasks near the wall, and the elderly burdened by the summer sun, all of them stood still with startled expressions and looked up the wall. Kureys’ words were spoken in such fluent Brunish that even children comprehended their meaning.

“I shall allow you to surrender!” (Kureys)

There was no doubt that all soldiers atop the wall were dumbfounded by that appeal. Kureys and the Muozinel army continued.

“You may choose whether to leave Brune’s soil for eternity or become slaves of Muozinel. Your lives shall be guaranteed, unnecessary pillaging will be avoided, and you will be able to prevent the destruction of this beautiful capital. ──But!” (Kureys)

The Muozinel soldiers raise their voices all at once. “If you hear these words and still turn your blades against us, this capital will literally vanish from the surface. We will carry it away without leaving even a single piece of the wall behind, and all living beings will be taken away as slaves. The only thing remaining will be a desolated Luberon Mountain! If it’s now, you can still avoid such a tragic future!” Kureys concluded.

Kureys’ words were powerful and full of a confidence that overwhelmed those listening to them. One soldier after the other appeared who could vividly picture the tragic future depicted by him. Even once they tried to return words of objections, a huge camp and more than 100,000 soldiers filled their vision as soon as they looked down at Kureys.

“…What a preposterous lot.” (Lyudmila)

Mila spat out with a grim expression while looking down at the Muozinel army from atop the wall together with the soldiers of Brune and Zhcted. Her irritation wasn’t pointed only at Muozinel’s army, but also at the soldiers around her. The fear of a single person easily infects many. Especially in a situation like this. Since we’re talking about Kureys here, I’m sure he’s actually aiming for that too, but it’s going to be hard if they end up getting cold feet this easily, Mila thought.

Lim, who was standing next to Mila, asked carefully even while worrying about the soldiers’ state,

“Are they really going to follow up on what he said?” (Limalisha)

“The troublesome aspect of those guys is that you can’t laugh it off as mere threatening.” (Lyudmila)

Mila laughed and answered, but her expression is lacking its typical frankness and indifference.

If they are going to rule all of Brune, Nice turns into an important location. But, if it’s them, they wouldn’t hesitate to destroy Nice and build a Muozinel-styled city on top of the remains.
──If only Tigre was here, he could at least shoot arrows at those guys…
Even if they wouldn’t reach, they still would clearly declare their will to the opponents, and it would also be possible to restore the soldiers’ morale.
Possibly Mashas may be fine as well. His act today morning, which gave the soldiers a peace of mind, was something only he can do. At the moment he should be in the royal palace to put the entire army in order, though.

It happened when Mila was thinking about such things. A commotion welled up behind her. Mila and Lim, who turned around wondering what was going on, widened their eyes in surprise.

Regin had shown up with two guards on either side. She wore an armor atop her silken clothes, and had put on a mantle. The armor could be called lightweight as it didn’t cover her entire body, but she possessed such gallantry, nobility and beauty that it made those seeing her swallow their breath.
While her pale golden hair fluttered in the summer wind, Regin harbored an unbreakable, resolute attitude even towards Kureys’s terrifying threats.

The soldiers opened a path for her. Once Regin walked to the center of the wall, she stepped forward so that the Muozinel soldiers could see her properly. Her blue eyes coldly looked down upon Kureys on the ground.

A female guard held a sword, which she carried under her left arm, with both arms and presented it to Regin.

“Please, Your Majesty.” (Selena)

“Thanks, Selena” (Regin)

Regin took that sword and drew it out of its scabbard. Once she hoisted it up as far as she could, the hilt and guard made out of gold, and the steel-colored blade dazzlingly reflected the sunlight.

The soldiers raised voices full of astonishment. It was because the sword held by Regin had the same shape as the invincible sword extolled as the Kingdom’s treasured sword.
What’s different was its size. The original Durandal was a barely balanced great-sword wielded by the huge warrior Roland who was called Black Knight. There were records left that stated that the founder Charles, who wielded Durandal, had been a giant, as well.

However, the sword held by her was two sizes smaller.

Regin swung that sword straight down without saying anything. Mila and Lim could faintly hear how the air was slashed.

Regin sheathed the longsword and handed it back to Selena. Then she turned around and silently surveyed the soldiers with her eyes which had determination dwell within them. She put her hand on her chest, inhaled a bit, and spoke,

“──They are the enemies we must defeat.”

No trembling could be felt from Regin’s voice. It was tinged with a fighting spirit, inspiring everybody.

“We have prepared means for the sake of winning. However, to make those succeed, everyone’s power is necessary. Please lend me your strength for the sake of protecting what I want to protect.” (Regin)

Those words reached the soldiers’ ears riding upon a cool breeze.
One person yelled out loud. Several followed after him. And in the blink of an eye, all soldiers at the southern wall raised battle cries. Their enthusiasm carried over to the other sections of the wall, resulting in all soldiers manning the wall roaring at last.

──Holy cow, I’ve really got to hand it to you.
Mila sent forth her heartfelt admiration to Regin without voicing it out. I wonder how many people can adopt such a bold attitude while in front of a hundred thousand enemies?

The Regin in Mila’s memory was a girl with a far more unreliable impression. At the very least, the Regin back during the civil war in this country two years ago apparently couldn’t do much more than rely on Tigre after being rescued by him. Back then Mila had clearly regarded Regin as “hindrance.” However, she had splendidly grown up unbeknown to Mila to the extent of appearing trustworthy.

Regin noticed Mila and Lim, and walked over to them. She held out her hand with a smile.

“Lady Lyudmila. I cannot find enough words to express my gratitude for you honoring us with your participation as Zhcted’s War Princess. At the same time of being a guest of honor, I consider you to be a comrade-in-arms. We shall repay your brave fighting as much as it is possible for our country.” (Regin)

Being called a comrade-in-arms by the ruler of a country might be called the biggest compliment. Mila respectfully grasped Regin’s hand and bowed courteously. The princess’ blue eyes and the war maiden’s blue eyes meet for an instant.

 

 

 

 

“──Your Majesty, I’m greatly obliged for your generous, high evaluation. For the sake of Your Majesty, who kindly refers to someone like me as comrade-in-arms, I shall vow here and now that I will display a fighting style that doesn’t put shame to my name as War Princess. Besides, there exists a deep, fateful connection between me and Muozinel.” (Lyudmila)

For Mila as well as for Regin this was an important scene. Regin demonstrated to her soldiers the value of Zhcted’s troops as comrades-in-arms for Brune and the firmness of the bond between Brune and Zhcted. Mila responded to that while observing decorum.
──The atmosphere has clearly changed…
Mila sensitively perceived that the looks towards her are now different.
Until this morning there were still many soldiers of Brune that regarded her as an outsider, but that has stopped now. Of course it’s possible that it’s a temporary phenomenon, but she was still grateful.
Next Regin calls out to Lim who’s standing next to Mila.

“Limalisha-dono. Eleonora-dono has been relying on you, her representative. As I believe there are many hardships in staying on foreign soil, please frankly tell me if there’s anything worrying you. I consider you a comrade-in-arms as well, after all.” (Regin)

As one would expect, Lim tried to go down on her knees, but that was prevented by Regin. Lim took Regin’s hand while reluctantly standing, and lowered her head deeply.

“Those words are wasted on someone like me. Your Majesty, I shall devote my meager abilities to meet Your Majesty’s expectations and to not damage the name of my mistress.” (Limalisha)

Lim’s tone was one that didn’t feel as dispassionate as usual. It was actually tinged with a faint nervousness.
Regin responded to the soldiers by raising her hand slightly, and walked away with a slow stride after showing herself to those behind the wall ─ inside the castle town. Her departure was accompanied by a cheering filled with the soldiers’ zeal, ruling the area atop the walls.

“I cannot lose to this.” (Lyudmila)

Mila sighs in admiration while pressing her hands against her waist. Once she sees the exaltation of the soldiers, she ends up believing that this capital won’t fall, no matter how much the Muozinel army might attack it. It’s not just Brune’s soldiers whose morale had been boosted. Same can be said for Zhcted’s soldiers, too.

“I’m truly astonished. I certainly can’t believe that all of it had been premeditated, though.” (Limalisha)

Lim absentmindedly stares in the direction Regin had left. Same as Mila, the impression she harbored about Regin was based on the one from two years ago. It seems that she had to greatly revise her perception.
By the way, their conversation can only be heard by the two, seeing as any quiet sounds were drowned out by the soldiers’ frenzy. Mila shrugs her shoulders, and calmly answers,

“It probably amounts to half-half. There’s no doubt that we will need every single soldier. If I had been in her position, I would be dancing in joy if I had heard that two war princesses are going to participate in the war.” (Mila)

“Lyudmila-sama dancing in joy….?” (Limalisha)

Lim knitted her eyebrows, apparently unable to imagine such a scene. Mila smiles wryly and say, “It’s just a figurative speech.”

“Anyway, seeing that I have put up such a scene, I can’t act unsightly. I have to display great efforts befitting someone who’s called War Princess, don’t I?” (Lyudmila)

“I will also assist you. For the sake of Eleonora-sama and also Lord Tigrevurmud.” (Limalisha)

Mila looked at Lim with a puzzled expression upon her words. Just now Lim had lined up the names of Elen and Tigre in a very natural manner, but I wonder whether she knows about their relationship.

“Lyudmila-sama, is there something on my face…?” (Limalisha)

Lim looks bewildered when suddenly being intently stared at. Mila hesitated, but in the end asked with a teasing expression and tone,

“Limalisha. I wonder, what do you think of Tigre?” (Lyudmila)

Mila has promised Tigre and Elen that she won’t disclose to anyone that they were a couple. That’s why this question, but Lim’s reaction was easy to understand for Mila.

“Lord Tigrevurmud, you ask?” (Limalisha)

Lim fails at trying to create her usual unsocial expression. Her blue eyes are shifting left and right, as if looking for an answer, and she needed a span of around two breaths to give a passable response.

“He’s an important person in a meaning that’s different from Eleonora-sama.” (Limalisha)

“That means, you like him?” (Lyudmila)

Even she herself thought that she asked questions like a town girl, but since she isn’t used talking about such topics, Mila calms herself by persuading herself that it should be alright. After pondering about it for a little bit, Lim smiled tenderly and answered,

“You’re right. I’m aware that I’m holding good will towards him.” (Limalisha)

I guess, Lim’s cheeks appearing to have become red is owed to the crimson sunlight illuminating the western sky.

“It’s been two years since I met him for the first time, and during all this time that man’s situation changed many times. Yet, he’s always treating me with the same attitude. I’m sure he will continue doing so from now on as well.” (Limalisha)

That’s something Mila could relate to very well. Tigre is no one that can be called conceited. No matter whether the other party’s status is lower or higher than his own, he never changes his attitude towards them while keeping a politeness befitting the circumstances at that time.

“Not through his words but his behavior, he shows that sticking to one’s principles is definitely not arrogant. I want to help him as much as I can. I want to honor his intent. That’s what I believe.” (Limalisha)

──If you feel about him this strongly, you might as well just confess to him. After all your position is a lot more flexible than mine or Eleonora’s.
Despite those being her thoughts, Mila didn’t voice them out. It would likely be mean to instigate something like that while being aware of the relationship between Tigre and Elen.
──Besides, if that’s the situation, I don’t think that it’s necessary for me to say anything.
Lim regularly looks at Elen closely. If she possesses this much affection towards Tigre, she will likely notice the relationship between the two sooner or later. The reason why she hasn’t realized yet is because she often acts separately and misses them due to being busy.

“Tigre is really a lucky fellow. For having you think so highly of him.” (Lyudmila)

Mila shrugs her shoulders in an exaggerated manner while having ambitions dwell in her blue eyes.

“I guess I will do my best and protect this place to the end, so that Tigre has a place to come back to.” (Lyudmila)

Lim first slightly and then strongly nodded at the words of the Snow Princess of the Frozen Wave.

 

◇◆◇◆◇◆◇◆

 

The sun is about to finish its work for that day while dying the sky and ground crimson. The moon, clad in indigo blue like a gown, stood firm in the eastern sky while making its silhouette stand out.
On the ground, the preparations for the night have begun in the camp of Muozinel’s army.
Smoked lamb meat, dried root crops, chickpea soup, and wheat had been provided to the soldiers. This wheat can be kneaded into something like bread, and likewise it can be put into the soup to turn it into gruel. However, drinking alcohol has been prohibited.
In addition, various types of spices and medicinal herbs have been distributed. The spices for the sake of bringing the taste of the soup and smoked lamb close to one resembling their own country, and the medicinal plants to avoid their physical condition to deteriorate. As those herbs are bitter and excessively hard to chew, their reputation among the soldiers is fairly low, however.
Even an order to cook water until it boils was enforced. Given that this went as far as the leaders of each unit going on patrols in shifts, the soldiers had no choice but to obey.
These things had been also repeated during the march. Not one of these rules were something you could fail to observe, if it comes to a campaign in a distant, foreign country.
The supreme commander Kureys is in a good mood inside his tent. He didn’t intend to take Regin lightly, but not only did she show up atop the wall, she also declared her intentions with actions rather than words. That’s something he certainly hadn’t expected. Red Beard enjoyed a refreshed feeling as if having gotten something off his chest.

“It was an unexpectedly good response for a seventeen years old lass. It sure is a waste to kill her.” (Kureys)

Kureys says while eating with his close aides. By the way, their meal is almost no different from that of the soldiers. The only addition is a native wine from Muozinel.
There are also some seasonal goods provided by the cities that had capitulated lining up in front of Kureys, but right now it’s summer. He had to be careful about what he can eat.
One of the aides, who was chewing lamb, leaned forward.

“Then let’s revise our plan and give a strict order to seize Princess Regin alive.”

Kureys shook his head while drinking wine from a silver cup heavily decorated with gems.

“Unnecessary. Going by their state, it doesn’t seems as if they’re going to capitulate in around ten days. Let’s consider it anew after we’ve driven them into a corner and slowly tired them out by attacking viciously.” (Kureys)

“I wonder how long it’s going to take for Nice to surrender?”

Another aide asks while sipping wheat gruel. Kureys dons a deeply serious expression, and looks at his own face reflected by the wine inside the cup.

“Let’s see. If nothing happens, 40…no, 45 days, I’d say?” (Kureys)

Half the aides are surprised. Kureys looks at them and laughs.

“That’s only natural. That’s no mountain castle, but the capital of a country blessed with abundant land.” (Kureys)

After the meal, Kureys summoned Ekrem, and ordered him to take the vanguard in the battle starting on the next day.
Ekrem humbly accepted his official appointment.

 

 

Ekrem is a commoner by birth and will turn 26 years old this year. He has the smallest build among the generals following Kureys and he’s regarded as being far too young age-wise, which is a cause of annoyance for him.
He even let a beard grow out, but when he was seriously asked by his colleague Yargash whether it’s a false mustache after around three months had passed, he shaved it off since he thought that it doesn’t suit him anyway.
Before accompanying Kureys, he served as attendant of the royal palace’s guard commander.
But then again, he became an attendant after his predecessor recommended Ekrem, a distant relative of his, when he was about to retire due to old age. It’s not like he was picked for having some outstanding talent, rather, his abilities were evaluated to be average.
The moment when Kureys learned of his existence was when he visited the room of the guard commander. That room, which was always the very definition of chaos, had been completely tidied up and put in order to a surprising degree.

“Were you able to find a woman that likes cleanliness?” (Kureys)

The guard commander introduced Ekrem to Kureys who asked in admiration. Upon inquiring further, Kureyes learned that he’s a young man who likes miscellaneous, plain tasks.
Later Kureys borrowed Ekrem from the guard commander, and took him along to the battlefield. Once he ordered him to set up a tent, Ekrem showed that he could finish it then and there with no wasted movements and precisely as ordered.

“No matter what you do, there’s a predetermined sequence. I’m just following that.” (Ekrem)

Ekrem, who had been praised by Kureys, answered while averting his face in embarrassment. This was the moment when he decided to obey Red Beard.
Afterwards, Ekrem went on many battlefields, continuing to refine his abilities as commanding officer. His abilities as soldier were truly average, but that’s not what Kureys was expecting of him. Both, Red Beard and Ekrem, knew that a battlefield required people other than soldiers.

 

◇◆◇◆◇◆◇◆

 

Ekrem, who had been ordered to lead the attack on the capital, woke up when the eastern sky started to become bright.
He leaves the camp together with several subordinates, and rides once around the capital while spending close to one koku, surveying the moat.
The Brune and Zhcted soldiers atop the wall noticed their existence, but with Ekrem’s group being less than ten people and the sky still being dim, they didn’t attack even though they were vigilant. They judged that throwing stones would be mostly pointless in this situation.
Having returned to the camp, Ekrem hurried finished his breakfast, assembled his main commanding officers, and curtly announced,

“We will bury the southern and eastern moats.” (Ekrem)

They are going to attack the capital that had firmly closed its gates and was surrounded by a sturdy wall with wide moats. Even Kureys would have likely limited it to this one order for the day.
Ekrem had been given 10,000 infantry soldiers and 30,000 battle slaves by Kureys, but he left 4,000 infantry soldiers nearby, and assigned the work to the remaining 36,000 soldiers by splitting them in three groups.
One group carried the soil over from a distant place, and another group tossed that soil into the moat. Meanwhile the remaining group took a rest. Ekrem ordered them to alternate the tasks at fixed intervals to have them constantly bring in soil for burying the moats.
There was no way for the soldiers of the Moonlight to silently ignore them going at it. They vigorously threw stones at the Muozinel soldiers that got close to the moat.
However, there were always soldiers carrying big shields at the side of the soldiers tossing soil into the moat. As the shields’ size was just big enough to cover for two people, the thrown stones were mostly repelled.
Even so, the circumstance of stones continuously dropping down from above was terrifying for the Muozinel soldiers, and clearly made their movements dull. However, Ekrem didn’t hurry the work.

“If it’s an obstruction at this level, there’s no need to pay any attention to it. In Brune that looks down on archery, even stones are precious weapons, I’m sure. Have them waste those pointlessly as much as possible.” (Ekrem)

However, the soldiers of the Moonlight Knights apparently noticed that as well. At the time when around half a toki had passed, they ceased throwing further stones.
The first day of the battle over the capital greeted its end in the shape of the Muozinel soldiers steadily burying the moat, and the Moonlight Knights soldiers looking down on that in irritation.
After the Muozinel army had pulled back into its camp once the sun sank beyond the horizon, Mashas and Mila stared at the bottom of the moat while standing on the wall next to each other. Mashas had put on helmet and armor. Mila was wearing a silver breastplate while shouldering her dragonic tool. As he made his armor clatter, the elderly Earl asked,

“What do you think, Lyudmila-dono?” (Mashas)

“Well… Won’t they reach a point where the moat will be filled enough to allow walking atop of it in seven or eight days, if they keep filling the moat at today’s pace?” (Lyudmila)

“True, I guess it will take them around that much time.” (Mashas)

A sigh escapes Mashas’ mouth. There’s no need to bury the moat all over. It will be fine as long as they can secure a path for the soldiers to take hold of the wall.
He knows how precious those seven days will be, but he, as the one commanding all soldiers in the capital, wanted to delay the battle even further. Mila smiles at him in consolation.

“If you consider that we will be able to gain seven days in such a battle, it’s a good performance. Besides, even if we say that they will create a path, something like rushing with a large army still won’t be possible for several days. With a moat of this width, it probably won’t be possible to use siege ladders as substitutes for bridges either.” (Lyudmila)

“Yeah. I suppose that’s how one must consider this. Sorry, I showed you something shameful.” (Mashas)

Mashas forced a smile while stroking his gray beard roughly.

“I certainly knew about you excelling in defensive battles from before, but you’re truly admirable for your age. I just wonder how we shall compensate you for your cooperation.” (Mashas)

“Don’t worry about it. I will have Tigre pay it all back in one go.” (Lyudmila)

Mila says in a tone as if it’s of no concern and laughs. Due to the reply that was beyond expectation, Mashas stared at the war princess with a dumbfounded expression.

“Ti-…Tigre?” (Mashas)

“Yes. It was different before, but now Tigre is controlling Brune’s entire army. Even His Majesty the King of our country values him highly. I have been thinking that it might be fine to have him soon pay back all the current debts while adding a little extra. Is there anything wrong with that?” (Lyudmila)

Mila closes one eye while explaining with an expression full of charm. The white ribbon bound at the back of her head fluttered in the wind.

“T-That makes sense. You have helped out Tigre many times, after all.” (Mashas)

Once he recovers from his surprise after taking a short pause, Mashas nods seriously. In his mind he felt relieved. What the old Earl remembered is his exchange with Tigre more than ten days ago. The young man confessed that there’s another girl he loves besides Titta.
──Another one very likely means that it’s Eleonora-dono. That damn Badouin has said that Princess Regin likes Tigre, too. I certainly don’t think so, but if the numbers increase any further, he won’t be able to hold his own anymore.
Because he was distracted by Mila’s joke, Mashas didn’t notice the feelings harbored by the blue-eyed war princess. But then again, even if he had noticed them, he would have likely pretended not to. The problems of young people should be resolved by young people.

 

◇◆◇◆◇◆◇◆

 

The second day of the battle over the capital began and ended in the same way as the first day. It was a scene of the Muozinel army filling the moat, and the Moonlight Knights hindering that at the bare minimum.
Not just the soldiers, but even the commanding officers at each section began to believe that this situation might go on for several days. In reality, even if one considers it from the attacking side’s point of view, there would be no other conclusion but to first bury the moat. Just as Mashas had said several days ago, soldiers can’t fly through the air.

“I wonder whether we can’t open the gate just a bit and go outside after the sun has sunk. Then we could dig out the earth those guys have thrown into the moat.”

“Stop it. If you mistake the direction when leaving the moat, you will end up wandering towards the enemy.”

Even the soldiers had the composure to exchange such jokes. They hospitably received the militia men, who came bringing the meals, too.
Among them, only Mila was glaring at the Muozinel army’s camp with a sullen expression.

──There are no movements that could be called as such inside the camp. It looks like everyone besides the soldiers filling the moat and those transporting the soil is taking a rest. But…

Aren’t they going to start something? That suspicion didn’t disappear. It’s not like she had any basis for it. It’s rather something like intuition. Her hunch as warrior, which had been thoroughly tempered on many battlefields until now, was appealing to Mila to be cautious.
Mila made her way to Mashas together with Lim, and informed him of her thoughts. The elderly Earl, who listened to her, looks at the blond-haired knight standing next to Mila while looking curious.

“Limalisha-dono, you share her opinion?” (Mashas)

“My intuition isn’t as sharp as Lyudmila-sama’s.” (Limalisha)

Lim silently shook her head, but continued while staring directly into Mashas’s eyes.

“However, Lyudmila-sama has experienced far more such battle than I did. I think there’s value in lending her an ear.” (Limalisha)

“Even I have never been surrounded by 100,000 soldiers.” (Lyudmila)

Once Mila said so while adding a bitter smile, Mashas nodded with a serious expression after fixing his eyes on Lim.

“No, I’m also relying on Lyudmila-dono. Besides, a battlefield’s intuition is nothing to be taken lightly. I will have the group led by Lord Olivier standby at the western wall, and ask him to immediately come running if something happens.” (Mashas)

“That’s a big help. Thank you, Lord Mashas.” (Lyudmila)

Mila has heard from Lim and Mashas about the strength of the Navarre Knight Squadron. ‘Above all, they are controlling the western feudal armies and knight squadrons. It should be alright to look forward to their performance.

“What, after all it’s better to laugh about having worried needlessly than lamenting when something happened.” (Mashas)

Thus the two thousand knights led by Olivier, who had been protecting the northern side of the wall until then, were ordered to move to the wall’s west side.
The knights and soldiers, who defended the western side, were delighted about the addition of such reassuring allies, but once they caught sight of Olivier’s group, they couldn’t hide their surprise. The armors, which shone in silver, and the swords hanging at their waists were still fine. But what drew their attention in wonderment were the crossbows Olivier and the other knights were shouldering.

“Lord Olivier, those are…?”

Once of the commanding officers boldly asked. The Navarre Knight Squadron’s leader deputy, who had a handsome face, answered calmly why they were carrying such abominable projectile weapons such as crossbows,

“Of course we brought them along for use. We had the ones sold in the castle town, the ones we received from the Calvados Knight Squadron, and the ones we collected from the enemy in the battle against Sachstein repaired.”

It was a knight from Alsace called Auguste who paid attention to crossbows in the Calvados Knight Squadron. After he lost his life during Melisande’s rebellion, the crossbows prepared in the royal palace by Auguste were left as they are.
That doesn’t mean that Olivier was that close to Auguste. But, he remembered that Roland had evaluated him as honest, reliable man, and that Auguste had sent a letter, where he described in a very long text how much of a trustworthy person Tigre is, at the time when Roland gathered information about Tigre two years ago.
When he had been informed of Auguste’s death by Prime Minister Badouin, Olivier decided to get all the crossbows prepared by him.

“For the Navarre Knight Squadron to rely on such weapons…”

Feelings of disgust quickly spread on the commanding officer’s face who had thrown that question at him. But, without faltering, Olivier indifferently replied,

“The enemy’s numbers amount to more than 100,000. To say nothing of Brune’s very existence depending on the outcome of this battle, but as long as it invites danger by obsessing over foolish honor such as the choice of one’s weapons, the knights of Navarre will give their undivided attention to defeating as many enemies as possible, even while bearing any sort of stigma.” (Olivier)

Several soldiers including the commanding officer drew back in silence. It’s not just Olivier. They were overpowered by the sharp glints in the eyes of all the knights standing behind him.
Without concerning himself any further with those people, Olivier’s group took up position at a place close to the southern wall. One of the knights asked Olivier while tampering with the crossbow in his hands,

“Deputy, we haven’t had any training with crossbows. Is that going to be alright?”

Olivier’s reply to that question was clear-cut.

“The arrows of a crossbow are exclusive arrows called bolts. We don’t have the flexibility to waste them.” (Olivier)

“So you’re saying, learn it during actual combat, right? That’s quite unreasonable, isn’t it?”

“If you point it towards an enemy that might climb the wall, you won’t hit an ally, no matter how much you miss your shot.” (Olivier)

Olivier had also seen the battles at the southern and eastern wall on the first and second day. He understood that just stone throwing would be insufficient.

“Don’t worry. It’s just a stopgap measure until the battle of swords and spears starts.” (Olivier)

Those words – if pushed to say – were for the sake of giving the knights a peace of mind. Olivier had to first get the knights accustomed to crossbows on the mental level.

 

 

Third day. Just as Mila had worried, there was a bad development for the Moonlight Knights.
The Muozinel soldiers emerged from their camp while pushing several huge objects with several people.
Mila, who looked down on those things from the southern wall, had thought that Muozinel’s army might have prepared some kind of siege weapon.
Those things, which probably have a length and height of 40 chet (approximately 4 meters), were pitch black and had been smeared with mud all over. Two wheels each, on the left and right side, had been attached. Moreover, ten-odd, thick ropes had been tied to several places. The Muozinel soldiers tightly grasped the ends of those ropes.
All of these Muozinel soldiers were battle slaves. What they had been granted by the army were only big shields for the sake of blocking stones. Their equipment was all over the place, lacking any uniformity.
The soldiers of the Moonlight Knight Army were turning looks filled with bewilderment and vigilance at those objects. Even Lim, who was standing next to Mila, was puzzled about what orders she should give. Even if it’s a siege weapon, it’s one she has never seen before.
In total six of these things had emerged from the camp. While being pushed by Muozinel soldiers, who had been divided into three per object, they slowly advanced towards the southern moat.

“Lyudmila-sama, have you ever seen something like this?” (Limalisha)

Mila didn’t answer Lim’s question which was tinged with anxiety and wariness. While widening her eyes, she glared at the siege weapons and observed them closely.
When she had realized the true identity of these things, the Muozinel soldiers had already come close to the moat.

“No way…!” (Lyudmila)

Groaning with a shocked expression, Mila looked up to Lim with all blood drained from her face.

“Have those destroyed at once! Be it stones, fire or whatever, throw anything at those!” (Lyudmila)

“Please calm down, Lyudmila-sama” (Limalisha)

Although Lim was surprised by Mila’s unusually threatening attitude, she soothed her calmly.

“Just what the heck are those?” (Limalisha)

“You will know right away.” (Lyudmila)

Mila took her eyes off Lim and scowled at the siege weapons on the ground.
The Muozinel soldiers had pushed them ahead of the moat. It seemed as if they were about drop them inside the moat. Those with good eyes could probably see that the expressions of all Muozinel soldiers were colored with nervousness and desperation.
At the moment when they had pushed the objects around 30% across the moat’s edge, the objects inclined heavily. The Muozinel soldiers tightly grasped the bound, thick ropes without a moment’s delay. Even though they were dragged along by the tremendous weight, they eagerly withstood.
The things were carefully lowered to the bottom while scraping along the moat’s edge. At that time everyone atop the wall had realized the true identity of these things.

“Stairs…?”

Someone muttered while looking dumbfounded.
The objects, which the Muozinel soldiers had transported over from the camp and were now lowering towards the moat’s bottom, were wooden stairs with a height of 40 chet, a width of 25 chet, and 25 steps. Although they might be called stairs, they were a simple construct of evergreen oak boards having been affixed to a framework’s surface, but even so they had a weight that wasn’t inferior to any other common siege weapon.
The stairs sank into the moat. A terrifying rumble, which gave one the impression that a giant had stamped, shook the ground, made the atmosphere tremble, and caused goosebumps on the skins of those standing atop the wall. Fine dirt scattered even outside the moat while flashily engulfing the area in a cloud of dust.
The rumbling didn’t end at one time. Another two rumbles reverberated as if overlapping with each other.

“They sure turned up with something foolish…” (Lyudmila)

Sweat is running down on the forehead of Mila who spat that out.
‘It’s probably because I couldn’t sense that the enemy had such an intention after them having thrown soil into the moats yesterday and the day before yesterday. Having said that, I wonder whether there’s really anyone who could have predicted for the enemy to do something like this.

“I’m very sorry. I should have noticed much earlier.” (Limalisha)

After she ordered her soldiers to attack, Lim apologized to Mila with a pale face. But, Mila shook her head.

“It can’t be helped. Those are nothing you’d identify immediately.” (Lyudmila)

At the point when three of the six stairs had been placed at the moat’s bottom, even the soldiers finally grasped the situation. In addition to stones, they threw jute bags filled with plenty of oil and lit torches towards the Muozinel army on the ground in order to reduce the stairs to ashes.
The Zhcted soldiers under Lim’s command shot fire arrows in succession. This surprised the Muozinel soldier who had made light of them, thinking that they likely have no ranged weapons except for stones.
There were soldiers holding big shields around the ones who pushed the stairs. They tried to block the rain of stones, oil, and fire by holding up the big shields over their heads, but leaving the stones aside, they didn’t get away with the other two.
The big shields of the Muozinel army are made out of wood and have a layer of animal pelts on their surface. If sparks of torches or fire arrows hit places drenched in the oil of the jute bags, they will catch fire all to quickly.
The flames spread to the clothes and hair of the Muozinel soldiers. The soldiers, who had their bodies wrapped up in flames, screamed and thrashed around on the ground. There were some who died after falling into the moat, and others who increased the casualties by grabbing at their comrades with their bodies aflame, looking for help.
Oil puddles were created all over, and flames danced on top of those. The rising, black smoke was scattered by the wind, causing it to hover above the ground like a fog.
The Muozinel soldiers, who didn’t get burned by the fires, barely stopped at the last moment, only a few steps away from the moat. That’s not because of bravery or a sense of duty. It’s because they were told that those, who distanced themselves too far from the moat will be considered as having run away. If they ran away, they would be mercilessly shot by their allies’ arrows as battle slaves.
Due to the severe attacks of the Moonlight Knights, the soldiers, who had been pushing the three stairs in the back, stopped advancing. They informed Ekrem, who was giving commands in the rear, that the shields wouldn’t be of any use.
Having listened to the report, Ekrem coldly ordered,

“Smear mud and dirt on the shields’ surface. There’s as much water and soil as you need, right? Don’t you stupid battle slaves understand for what reason you have covered the stairs with mud?” (Ekrem)

This order displayed quite a bit of an effect. The big shields became less burnable even when basked in flames, and the number of Muozinel soldiers getting injured by burns visibly decreased as well.
It’s not like they lost their fear of fire, but for them it was probably welcome for the obstruction that impeded their work to be gone. For the sake of escaping this situation, where stones, arrows, fire, and oil incessantly poured down on them, they had no option but to finish their task as quickly as possible.
On the other hand, the Moonlight Knight’s soldiers, who received their orders from Lim and the commanding officers, seemed to overwhelm the enemy with their ceaseless attacks, but none of them could wipe the impatience and irritation out of their faces.
No matter how many Muozinel soldiers they defeated with stones and fire, new soldiers were deployed right away. Of course all of the replacements were likewise battle slaves.
Probably because they have smeared the crucial stairs with mud once more, it was at most only the stairs’ surface that got burned. The Muozinel soldiers poured soil on the stairs as soon as they caught even the slightest bit of fire.
The three rear stairs, which had been stopped, resumed their advance. They had covered the surfaces of the big shields with mud as well, causing the fire arrows, torches, and oil bags to not show as much of an effect as before.
The frantic attacks of the Moonlight Knights were limited to only slowing down their feet, but unable to stop them completely. Without even glancing at their comrades, who were laying at their feet after having their heads smashed by stones or having burned to death, the Muozinel soldiers continue to push the stairs.
Accompanied by new rumbles, the remaining three stairs were lowered to the bottom of the moat. These have been placed in the reverse direction of the other three which had been put down first.
The Muozinel soldiers ran down the stairs, descending to the bottom of the moat. They jumped at the stairs facing the opposite direction, and started to push them with all their might. There were also soldier who tightly grasped the ropes tied to the stairs and pulled them towards the other side of the moat.
The soil at the moat’s bottom was so soft that the wheels at the sides of the stairs sank into the ground. However, while being pushed and pulled by close to one hundred soldiers, the stairs gradually started to move.
The stairs traversed the short distance of 17 alsin at a snail’s pace. While increasing the count of corpses by one or two for each step, they finally reached the moat’s opposite side.

“How could this happen…?”

On top of the wall Mila leaks a groan, barely accounting as comment. The moat, which she had estimated to hold for seven or eight days, had been turned almost ineffective on the third day of the battle. By stairs that are merely big and can’t be called siege weapons, and thousands of battle slaves whose death hasn’t been taken into account.
The sun has almost reached the zenith.
The third day’s battles isn’t over yet.

 

◆◇◆

 

Having received the report about the completion of the stairs’ placement, Ekrem indifferently gave further orders without showing any particular delight over this achievement.

“We’re moving to the next step. ──Set the ladders up.”

Even while affirming that instruction, the subordinate was confused and asked the general who was younger than him, “Your Excellency, we brought the moat which would have likely taken many days to be buried into a state similar to that. Yet you don’t seem overly happy about it…”

Ekrem lifted his face slightly, looked at his subordinate, and asked with a dispassionate voice, “Would you consider a cleaning to be done as soon you swept the dust away on the top spots?”

The subordinate, who didn’t clean his own room often, had no words to reply with. Battle was equal to cleaning for Ekrem. It was something he could finish by taking the necessary steps.
Anyway, having received their orders, the second unit that had been on standby started to move. The 40,000 soldiers led by Ekrem were still divided into three units. It was the first unit that set up the stairs.

The second unit began by pushing wheeled scaffolds. These were built out of wood with their upper parts being at a height of 50 chet. They also possessed ladders, allowing the soldiers to climb them. Those were truly constructions that couldn’t be described as anything but scaffolds. And even the commander, Ekrem, himself called them just like that.
They lined up a great number of those scaffolds close to the moat, and Muozinel soldiers holding bows took up position on the platform at top.

“──Shoot!”

They all fired their arrows simultaneously towards the top of the wall. The sound of arrows cutting through the air could be heard as several hundreds of arrows drew a black rainbow in the sky between the scaffolds and the wall. The storm of arrows was so dense that it blocked the sunlight, and cast a shadow.

Although they had reduced the height by 50 chet, it was still difficult to shoot arrows up from a lower place to a higher place. Most of the arrows hit the wall, broke, and fell down.
Even those arrows that reached the wall’s top were altogether blocked by the shields of the Moonlight Knights soldiers. In the case of the Moonlight Knights Army, they had plenty of leeway to take countermeasures as the Muozinel army showed that they would be shooting arrows soon and took their time in doing so.

The Muozinel soldiers continued to fire their arrows without minding that. It was as if the shields lining up in a row on top of the wall were their targets. And, while the sounds of their bowstrings were filling the area, the rest of the second unit started to take action.

Ten-odd Muozinel soldiers carried a ladder with a length of close to ten alsin while holding it sideways. Soldiers with mud-plastered, big shields followed next to them. More than 20 such teams ran towards the wall as a single group. They passed in-between the scaffolds, and ran down the stairs set up in the moat one after the other.

The Moonlight Knights Army that noticed their existence were forced to shower them with stones, arrows, oil, and fire while blocking the rain of arrows with their shields.

The Muozinel army’s archers ceaselessly continued to shoot, and once they used up their arrows, they got off the scaffold, and others replaced them. Their role was to cover their allies who closed in on the wall while carrying ladders. But, even if those allies were hit by arrows, they shot their arrows without any care.

“──Is this the way the Muozinel army operates?” Lim asked Mila while holding up a shield atop the wall. Each time she heard the sounds of an arrow bouncing off the shield, she felt as though her back had been scratched by the nail called tension.

Next to her, Mila nodded with an annoyed look, and replied, “That’s how these guys are. The ones heading over to the wall while holding the ladders are likely battle slaves. They are treated as consumable goods rather than soldiers.”

Hearing that explanation, Lim’s expression twisted no less than Mila’s. She even felt rage towards the Muozinel army’s way of thinking, but she had no choice but to approve of its validity as one battle tactic.

As a matter of fact, their side’s attacks were losing in force because of the arrows pouring down on them. The stones, oil, and burning torches were unable to stop the Muozinel soldiers pushing their way through while transporting the ladders.

“We won’t be able to hold them back unless we increase our attacks,” said Lim after surveying the state of her own army’s soldiers.

In response she had a part of the soldier fall back to the rear to rest up. And by thoroughly adjusting the location of the soldiers that came forward as relief, she arranged the file of the troops so as to allow for a higher attack frequency through the gaps between the shields.

After finishing her instructions, she breathed out lightly and turned around. Wooden boxes full of stones and large jars filled with oil had been lined up in a corner of the wall. Many soldiers were hectically running around to carry boiling oil in pots or to replenish the weapons.

“I suppose this is a war of attrition between the attacking and the defending side.” Lim surmised while looking up to the sky.

The summer sun had passed its zenith, yet the sunlight was still hurting her eyes. The occasionally blowing wind carried up the stench of blood and smoke from the surface.

──Today it’ll be fine…

Lim believed. Her accumulated battlefield experience told her so. Besides, the battles until yesterday weren’t accompanied by a heavy degree of exhaustion. Even when looking at her soldiers, she could still feel some composure. They would likely be able to hold out tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, too.

──But, what about the time afterwards?

Lim possessed a stout-hearted character. It was rare for her to make complaints. Still, the enemy’s aggression was so fierce that someone like her ended up feeling anxious.

Once she turned her eyes towards the surface, she saw the ladder-carrying Muozinel soldiers sprinting through the moat, running up the stairway on the wall’s side, and arriving in front of the wall. The soldiers of the Moonlight Knight Army mercilessly poured down the boiling oil on them.

Some of the Muozinel soldiers died without having had the time to even realize what had happened. Others crouched down on the spot while bearing terrible burns. It was a sight that was hard to look at. Immediately the soldiers of the Moonlight Knights Army threw one burning torch after the other down. The Muozinel soldiers, who had been bathed in oil, went up in flames alongside the ladders they had carried.

However, after waiting for the fire to abate, the next set of teams ran through the moat. Shoving aside what had been their comrades as their corpses were a bother, they leaned their ladders against the wall.

And, there were still several dozen groups waiting for their turn between the Muozinel army’s camp and the moat.

──Not having the time to catch one’s breath. This must be what it means.

“It really makes me want to blow away all the ladders with my draconic skill.” Mila cursed so quietly that only Lim could hear her.
Lim shook her head while smiling wryly, confessing, “I’m at a point where I’d like to say it would be a big help, but…”

“Yeah, it’s just me venting my anger.” Fully grasping the meaning behind Lim’s wry smile, Mila revealed a smile as if mocking herself.

There existed several reasons why she didn’t use her draconic skills. Her damaging the wall no matter how much she adjusted the power and the enemy being able to take measures against it even if they were to falter temporarily were two of those reasons, but this being a drawn-out battle was the biggest one.

Mila was a warrior who very likely surpassed anyone present in this place, but it wasn’t as if she had an eternal supply of stamina like those legendary heroes. She had to plan her fights while keeping that fact in mind. Even more so against such a huge army as an opponent.

And then, once half a toki had passed, even Lim and Mila started to feel exhausted. While confronting the Muozinel army that had remained in this place since morning and defending against rains of arrows with their shields, they had been paying attention to the state of their allies and the movements of the enemy below the wall. It was impossible to not get tired from that.

Lim sent a message to Olivier, who was watching the western wall, asking him to take over for her. Olivier immediately sent a single knight to convey his positive answer.

“Throw all the stones, oil, and hot water that can be prepared right now at the enemy! Aim the stones at the enemies in front of the moat, and the oil and hot water at the enemies climbing the wall. You don’t have to think about making them hit!” Boosted by Lim’s sharp voice, Zhcted’s and Brune’s soldiers boldly went on the offensive. They tossed their shields on the ground and hurled a rain of stones at the Muozinel archers standing on the scaffolds.

Close to half the stones reached their targets, and archers falling off their scaffold and archers dropping their bows appeared one after the other. Even the soldiers that tried to pin their ladders against the wall retreated inside the moat, seemingly surprised by the sudden change.

A little number of blank spaces that didn’t even amount to ten in total opened up on the battlefield. Using that opportunity, Lim and the soldiers led by her withdrew. And in their stead the Navarre Knights under the command of Olivier made a stand on the southern wall. They moved smoothly on this wall as if it was that of their own fortress, lining up at fixed intervals.

“Aim for their bellies and shoot.” Olivier curtly ordered while also readying his own crossbow. He told the knights under him to target the archers on the scaffolds with their first volley.

Olivier actually wanted to target the enemy soldiers climbing the ladders in order for his knights to get accustomed with the crossbows, but it couldn’t be helped in this situation.
A sound completely different from the projectiles giving birth to the rain of arrows made the atmosphere tremble. The distance and power of the bolts that were released from the crossbows were naturally nowhere near equal to stones.

Almost half the bolts flew off into the air, missing their targets or hit the scaffolds, but the rest relentlessly killed the Muozinel soldiers standing on the platforms. Muozinel soldiers fell down in succession. There were also some that tumbled down to the ground, dragging their comrades into it.

The knights placed the crossbows on the ground. The soldiers behind them picked those up, and passed the knights new crossbows with drawn strings. It was a move Olivier had come up with in order to shorten the reuse time. The knights received those and loaded bolts into them.

“This time, below.” Olivier, who had received a new crossbow just like them, decided to target the Muozinel soldiers at the bottom of the wall. As the archers on the scaffolds were still in disorder, they had plenty of leeway to do so.

The bolts, which were released all at once, pierced the bodies of the Muozinel soldiers. The ones already climbing the ladders had no way to avoid the bolts, and fell down just like that. Even those, who were at the bottom of the ladders, had no place to hide and thus collapsed after having their heads and arms stabbed by bolts.

“As I expected, just pulling a trigger is quite different from wielding a sword or a spear,” one of his subordinates said to Olivier with a frown.

Without looking at him, Olivier glared at the enemy while responding, “But, they are not at a range where our spears or swords would reach. Above all, there are too many of them.”

“Certainly…I wouldn’t know how many swords would be necessary if we were to take them on with swords,” said the subordinate.

“After all, these are weapons that won’t be put to use by anyone. We don’t have the freedom to leave them unused.” Olivier stated matter of factly.

The third volley was fired at the new Muozinel soldiers on the scaffolds. Seemingly having already gotten used to the crossbows, it appeared that far more bolts than before had hit their targets.

The Navarre Knight Squadron shot Muozinel soldiers to death by continuously pulling the triggers of their crossbows with such verve that it seemed as if they wouldn’t mind using up the bolts before the day was over.

The Muozinel army attacked the wall many times over, but the Moonlight Knights Army forced them back entirely.

And at the time when the sun was going down, the Muozinel army finally stopped its offense. They pulled back the scaffolds and the soldiers returned to their camp while carrying the intact ladders. All that was left were the six stairs and a mountain of corpses.

The Moonlight Knights Army glared at the Muozinel army’s camp without loosening its wariness at once. They couldn’t breathe out in relief until the sun had completely sunken.

“They won’t come today anymore…?”

The traces of sweat on the faces of the soldiers made apparent how difficult it had been. There was almost no one who had had the time to wipe it away. Some whose eyes had become bloodshot because of the tension and excitement. Others who were breathing heavily.

The moment when they judged today’s battle to be over was when enough time to count to 1,000 had passed after the Muozinel soldiers had returned to their camp. The Moonlight Knights Army that had obtained a victory for the time being raised shouts of joy atop the wall. Everyone’s face had exhaustion carved into it, but their delight was strong enough to overcoat that.

Their cheers reaching the castle town gave the citizens of the capital, who had watched the wall with bated breath, a peace of mind. If there were people who offered prayers of gratitude to the gods, there were also some who left their homes and started to dance. The castle town, which had been in a state of tension since the threats of Kureys several days ago, was wrapped up by wild enthusiasm.

The report of the victory was immediately delivered to Regin in the royal palace. She nodded slightly while smiling, and said, “Please tell everybody that they did a fine job.”

The casualties in the strife of this day reached close to 2,000 on the Muozinel army’s side, and 22 on the Moonlight Knights Army’s side. Even in regards to the wounded, the Moonlight Knights Army had less than a hundred while the Muozinel army counted 3,000. And the number of wounded in the Muozinel army was increased by yet another hundred people.

After this day’s battle finished, Ekrem had hundred soldiers line up outside the camp, and sentenced them to whiplashing. Their crime was “they didn’t take a dump in the designated area.” (T/N: Omg I automatically wrote lol behind this line….rofl)

After the punishment of 50 lashes per person came to an end, Ekrem walked up to a soldier, whose back was bloodstained, and spit out with a murderous voice,” Try to do the same again and I will have you pieces of shit tossed into those moats together with the shit that came out of your ass.”

For the Muozinel people this was a soil in a distant, foreign country. It wasn’t rare for troops, which were famed as powerful, to completely die away without even a single battle after suffering from an endemic disease as result of a campaign.

Not to mention that it was a camp where 110,000 soldiers stayed together for many days. If an epidemic were to break out, it would likely infect the soldiers at a terrifying rate. “One must pay particular attention to excreta.” At the very least among the generals there wasn’t a single person who ridiculed those words of Ekrem.

Afterwards Ekrem visited Kureys’ tent, and reported the outcome of today’s battle. The red-bearded prince nodded in satisfaction. After all was said and done, disabling the moat was a big achievement.

“Ekrem, it looks like the enemy used bows and crossbows, but there were no reports about there being a mastery archer among them?” Kureys asked to confirm.

“You’re talking about Tigrevurmud Vorn?” Ekrem made sure, despite being convinced of being correct. Ekrem had never seen Tigre, but he heard that an enemy general, Kureys was very interested in, and an owner of abnormal archery skills. He immediately added, “At least today he didn’t show up, it seems.”

If there had been such an archer among the enemy, the 50 chet high scaffolds prepared by Ekrem should have become useless in no time. If they were to be sniped one by one, it would have been impossible to keep up the soldiers’ morale.

Kureys changed the topic, “By the way, do you plan to deploy those stairs at all four wall sections?”

“It would be probably difficult to even transport them to the northern or western wall,” Ekrem answered while shaking his head.

When he had surveyed the moat surrounding the capital, he also examined the surrounding terrain.

“Understood. Let’s stop deploying soldiers to the north, east, and west to focus our attacks on the south. Oh and──” Kureys beckoned Ekrem over, and once Ekrem had come right next to him, he whispered a certain idea into Ekrem’s ear. Then he waited for Ekrem to return to his former position, and asked with a smile, “Can you do that for me?”

“Please allow me to,” Ekrem answered after prostrating in front of Kureys.

 

 

Mila, Lim, Olivier, and Mashas had gathered in a council room of the royal palace. It was the room where they had previously held a war council, and the place they had agreed on to be used in times when they needed to talk with each other.
All the candles of the bronze chandelier hanging from the ceiling were lit on this day’s evening, illuminating the whole room. Silver cups filled with cold tea had been placed on the table.
First, Lim reported about the outcome of today’s battle. If one were to compare the casualties on this side and the enemy side, anyone would likely judge it as a huge achievement. However, the atmosphere enveloping the room was grave and gloomy.

Mashas looked at Mila and asked, “What are your thoughts on this, Lyudmila-dono?”

“It will be harsh.” The blue-eyed war princess replied with a frown on her face. “Let me first apologize for my judgment having been naive. I certainly didn’t expect for the moat to not last three days.”

“Even I hadn’t thought that they would bring out such things, although I saw it after the battle finished.” Mashas comforted Mila by saying so, and Olivier nodded to show his agreement.

Lim felt just like those two, but in order to avoid looking as though she was covering for her fellow countryman, she decided to proceed with the talks, saying, “Isn’t it possible to destroy those stairs? For example, if we wait until the dead of the night, open the front gate, get close with a few soldiers, and set them on fire or something along those lines…”

As long as the stairs were gone, the enemy would have to build new ones or bury the moat. Either way, it should take them time. However, Mila was against that plan.

“That’s dangerous. If I was Kureys, I would have soldiers hide next to the stairs. Then they could quickly slip inside the city at the moment when our side opened the gate. Later they would just need to open the gate from inside at a suitable time while acting in concert with the movements outside, and the city would fall right away.” Lyudmila explained her worry.

Hiding next to the stairs in this situation would be extremely dangerous, but there were battle slaves in the Muozinel army. It was possible for them to be entrusted with such a role on the condition of being freed from their status as slaves afterwards.

“You mean to say that’s the reason why the enemy left behind those ridiculously large stairs?” Mashas inquired.

In response Mila shrugged her shoulders, and replied, “I just think that it’s at the level of them having that option available as well. If I consider the situation at the time when they brought those in and placed them in the moat, I think dragging those out of the moat is beyond difficult.”

The four of them discussed things further, but they had no choice but to give up on dealing with the stairs for the moment.

After having a short break to drink tea, Lim looked at the other three, wondering, “I wonder what kind of battle awaits us tomorrow?”

“If we assume that it’s something like them having buried the moat, they will next try to take the wall. It will probably be no different from what was going on this afternoon,” answered Olivier.

While nodding, Mila didn’t forget to add, “As other moves I could think of, there would be the option of digging a tunnel. Drawing our attention by attacking the wall, they could meanwhile dig a long underground tunnel from their camp until right below the gate.”

“I heard that tunnels are mostly used as means to destroy walls, though.” Mashas said, obviously recalling some information.

Mila shook her head, “Of course, such a move exists as well. But, in case of walls like the one here in the capital, they are often built with their foundation reaching deep into the ground. There aren’t many earthquakes in Brune, but it would be a great disaster if a wall were to slant or break apart by some chance.”

“I see. So you’re saying the enemy has foreseen that and will dig so that they come out below the front gate?” Olivier groaned in admiration, and Lim also nodded while amazed.

“Understood. I think we should deploy soldiers close to the rampart and have them be on guard.” Mashas concluded, but Mila inclined her head to the side, wavering to make that judgment.

“Well, yes. There are several methods to find out whether the enemy is digging a tunnel deep underground. If it’s something simple, you just have to place a plate with water on the ground, and observe whether it sways or not. We just have to leave something like that to the militia, but…” Mila said.

“Is there any problems with entrusting it to the militia?” Considering it odd, Lim asked. As far as she had heard, it didn’t seem that dangerous to her. Doesn’t the militia exist exactly for doing such assorted tasks instead of the soldiers?

Mila frowned, something that was rare and atypical for her.

“The militia tires out easier than we think. Even if it’s simple tasks, they will overlook things if the war becomes drawn-out, I think.” Mila supplemented.

“I will pay attention to that part. But for the present we will rely on the militia.” Mashas said. It would be necessary to keep the soldiers’ stamina consumption as low as possible, if the war dragged on. Since Mila understood that aspect as well, she limited it to nodding her head.

As they had no particular topics besides those, the war council came to an end after checking the resupply of weapons. Mashas, Lim, and Mila took a rest in their own rooms within the royal castle. Olivier returned to the wall.

It was in the dead of the night, several hours after the council, that they were woken up by abnormal events taking place outside the wall.

Olivier had been sleeping on top of the wall after spreading out a blanket. As it was summer, the nights were warm, making it pleasant to sleep outside. Naturally he had taken off his armor, but he made sure to place his sword next to him so that he could react whenever something happened. What made the sleeping Olivier wake up were the sounds of drums. Opening his eyes, he quickly raised his body, and drew the sword to himself.

Countless stars were twinkling in the sky, but his eyes hadn’t gotten used to the darkness yet. He couldn’t see anything besides the torches flickering in intervals, and the soldiers and wall which had turned into pitch black shadows.

“A night attack…? No, it’s too quiet for that.” Olivier judged.

Even when straining his ears, he couldn’t hear anything besides the noise of the soldiers standing guard atop the wall and the sounds of drums. If it had been a night attack, tension should dominate the atmosphere in the surroundings in addition to hectic footsteps, angry voices and battle cries of the enemy.

──But, just the sound of the enemy’s drums is quite loud.

“What’s going on!?” Olivier loudly called out to the soldiers. One of the soldiers walked over while holding a burning torch aloft. However, that soldier donned a troubled expression.

“I shall report, sir. A large army of the enemy seems to be wandering around the wall,” informed the soldier.

“Wandering? These drum sounds are owed to this?” As if enticed by the other party, bewilderment spread on Olivier’s shapely face.

Olivier walked across the wall while being guided by the soldier. Exiting the southern wall, they arrived at the eastern wall. The drum sounds, which continued without break in the meanwhile, became louder.

“Ooh, just when I wondered who it might be, isn’t that you, Lord Olivier? It appears you played an active role today.” The one calling out to Olivier in a friendly manner from within the darkness was Scheie of the Lutece Knight Squadron. His age could be approximated to thirty years, and as a man with a grim face on top of his large physique, he had a deep voice. He had accepted the duty of protecting this eastern wall. Olivier saluted and asked about the situation.

“I think it was around half a toki ago. A group that appears to be a cavalry unit appeared from within the Muozinel army’s camp while holding up a large number of burning torches. ──That’s them.” Scheie pointed at the bottom of the wall while walking through the passage on the wall.

Within the night’s darkness that wrapped up all of the surface, only that place was bright like daytime. Thousands of fires were advancing slowly while swaying. The drum sounds, which had been ceaselessly echoing since a while ago, seemed to originate from there.

“That’s quite a lot… I guess three or four thousand are down there.” Olivier groaned lowly, unable to hide his surprise.

“There’s no reason for them to not show how big their numbers are at this point in time. I think it’s fine to consider the number of torches to be equal to the number of enemies.” Scheie also turned a grim look towards the crowd of torches. One was apt to perceive the number of lights to be bigger than the actual numbers within the darkness, but the two veterans didn’t make that mistake.

“Have those guys been advancing along the moat all the time? Then it doesn’t seem to be a night attack.”

“That’s a decoy. The real one is lurking in the darkness…I also considered that possibility, but so far there hadn’t been any reports about Muozinel soldiers appearing close to the wall. Honestly, it’s already upsetting by them forcing us to listen to those drum sounds.” Looking at Scheie who spat that out while snorting, Olivier smiled bitterly. Him not showing any faltering or fear in this incomprehensible situation is truly reliable.

“However, what’s the meaning of those drums? What do you think, Scheie-dono?” Olivier asked while looking down on the Muozinel army proceeding within the darkness.

“At any rate, the Muozinel people have a really nasty nature. I’d like to even say that it’s some ominous incantation, but…” Scheie continued his words after shaking his huge body, causing the armor to rattle, “…going by what I have heard, the supreme commander, the red-bearded Kureys seems to own a disposition of not liking such things.”

“You know Kureys, Scheie-dono?” Olivier asked.

“I fought against him two years ago. I got acquainted with Earl Vorn at that battle.” Scheie answered.

Olivier understood with that answer. The fact that Tigre repelled the Muozinel army that attacked two years ago was known by many people.

“Scheie-dono, what do you think of Earl Vorn?” Olivier inquired about something that suddenly interested him.

After laughing and saying, “That’s sudden,” Scheie replied with a joyful tone, “Honestly said, when I met him for the first time, he gave me the impression of a young, reckless noble. I wondered why a youngster, who was still 16 years old, would fight against that Duke Thernadier.”

Duke Thernadier possessed enough power to be called a major noble. He was someone known by anyone in Brune. There wasn’t a single person denying that it would be Duke Ganelon, who was likewise called a major noble, if it came to the ability of facing Duke Thernadier from the front.
Olivier nodded slightly. It’s because he also harbored the same impression as Scheie two years ago.

“But,” Scheie continued proudly with his deep voice, “Earl Vorn boldly defeated Duke Thernadier. The Earl borrowed the power of many people. Not only in Brune, but even in Zhcted. But, if we talk about borrowing the power of many people, it was even the same for Duke Thernadier. Not to mention that the Duke was accompanied by dragons.”

“So you’re saying you highly evaluate Earl Vorn as a general now?” Olivier probed further.

“Yeah.” Scheie nodded deeply, and said, “I also wielded my blade under the Earl in the battle against Sachstein’s army. At that time I once again thought that it would be great to even obey as long as it’s Earl Vorn.”

“A knight obeying to a noble somewhat lacks common sense, doesn’t it?”

In Brune knights ought to serve the royal family in addition to the kingdom. Thus, knights were equal to nobles in that sense. Neither of them had a relationship of obeying the other.
Olivier’s words were somewhat said in jest, but they were also somewhat serious. Scheie withstood bursting into laughter with his body trembling repeatedly.

“In that case it’s fine to limit it to the battlefield. Then it won’t be a problem, right?” Scheie said.

“I have no objection.” Olivier answered.

The two knights returned to the topic of the Muozinel army on the ground.

“Isn’t it the enemy’s objective to not let us sleep?” Scheie asked with an annoyed look. Olivier nodded slightly. It’s a move characteristic of the Muozinel army that overwhelmingly exceeds them in the amount of resources. They had the leeway to spare soldiers for something like this.

“It will become a harsh battle.” Once Olivier said so, Scheie relaxed his stern expression and laughed.

“That’s something I knew beforehand. We have no other option but to hold out. And, we can win if we do so.” Scheie declared.

Olivier was about to nod at those words, but at that moment the Muozinel army, which had advanced along the moat, suddenly stopped. After a little pause, a song of angry roars that resembled thunder pierced through the darkness.

Olivier and Scheie reflexively widened their eyes and stared at the ground.

The very loud Muozinel language crossed the capital’s wall, and reverberated even in the castle town. It woke and shook up the people, who fell asleep in relief after today’s victory, with force. Bit by bit small lights popped up inside the castle town which had been mostly wrapped up in darkness. The citizens likely came outside while holding lights of some sort.

While looking down on that situation from above the wall, Olivier suddenly recalled the war council after the sun went down. ‘If I remember correctly, Lyudmila Lourie said that the militia would tire out easily.

“If they keep doing this every night, the citizens might not hold out.” Scheie stated while sighing. He had probably realized what Olivier was thinking from his look.

Olivier nodded, but a fearless smile surfaced on his lips. His fighting spirit towards the Muozinel army had been stirred up instead.

──I will protect the capital no matter what it takes.

Olivier swore, not to the gods or even his close friend, the black knight, but to himself.

 

◆◇◆

 

The faces of the knights, who appeared in front of Olivier as he stood on top of the southern wall at dawn, were terrible. All of them eagerly held their temper, unable to hide their fatigue and drowsiness. Olivier wanted to tell them to not do the unreasonable, but not being able to say so was one of the tough parts of being a commander.

Looking at the Zhcted soldiers led by Lim, they were in a similar state. However, Lim greeted him without any tiredness, donning the unsociable expression he already got used to, “Good morning.”

“You could sleep well last night?” Olivier asked somewhat sarcastically. Hostility dwelt in Lim’s blue eyes. Not pointed at the knight in front of her, but at the Muozinel army.

“I heard from Earl Rodant about what happened last night. That noise didn’t cease even once.” Lim replied sullenly.

Entrusting the watch of the wall to Scheie last night, Olivier immediately went to the royal palace, and reported the circumstances to Mashas. “Did Earl Rodant come up with some kind of countermeasure?” He asked.

“At the moment nothing. But, Her Highness Princess Regin went around the wall and the castle town to encourage the people.” Olivier widened his eyes upon Lim’s words.

Genuine words of delight in the form of “That’s appreciated,” came out of his mouth. With Tigre currently not being in the capital, the only one capable of doing that was Regin.
Once he shifted his attention to the outside of the capital ─ the moat, the Muozinel army swiftly appeared from their camp.

On this day the Muozinel army deployed 10,000 soldiers to the north, east, and west, completely surrounding the capital. On top of isolating the capital from the outside world, it was an expression of Kureys’s intention to definitely take the city by storm.

 

 

 


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  1. Put in brackets because the other version makes a lot more sense, yet there’s clearly a negation used here

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