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Imperial Calendar ― Year 430, Beginning of May.
Chrono’s eyes followed the wheel tracks extending beneath his feet. Some parts of the tracks were hidden by grass, but they clearly continued into the forest.
If you called a place allowing for people, horses, and wagons to pass through a road, this one here would be a magnificent example of one. However, it wasn’t one of the main roads under the lord’s control. Or in other words, it was what you’d commonly call a side road or a shortcut.
The roads managed by the lord were relatively safe, but you had to pay a toll when using them. Of course, the more you passed through the territory, the more you had to pay.
This was a heavy burden on peddlers and ordinary folk. Accordingly, they used side roads to shirk the toll.
“Though I can’t believe that the money saved justifies the risks…”
Well they probably won’t stop since some guys always gossip how it worked out for them, Chrono sighed.
At that moment something moved within the forest. His hand reflexively reached for the hilt of his sword as he strained his eyes, but he couldn’t spot any sign of the enemy.
I guess that’s only natural. The enemy isn’t stupid. The least they’d do when noticing us would be to stay under cover.
Am I going to be alright? He asked himself while keeping his hand on the hilt.
As he had just recently graduated from the military academy, Chrono had no live combat experience.
He might have been able to cheer himself up if he had at least graduated with good marks. Unfortunately Chrono had been such a bad student that it remained unclear for a long time whether he’d be able to graduate in the first place.
Of course he had worked hard, but he failed to acquire most of the skills necessary for combat.
Will I be able to swing my sword properly? No, before asking that, it’s questionable whether I’ll be able to kill another person.
As Chrono was scowling into the forest with his hand firmly grasping his sword’s hilt, a deep voice poured down on him.
“Somethin’ wrong, Captain?”
When Chrono looked back, he found a big man with a pole ax towering behind him. No, it was slightly doubtful whether he should be evaluated as a big man. After all, the man sported a mass of steel-like muscles with a height well beyond two meters.
Of a hundred people, the majority would doubtlessly evaluate him as a big man. But if you asked why anyone would be doubtful about that evaluation, the answer would lie in the cow head attached to his neck.
He was no human. He was a beastman with a cow head and a human body ― a race called Minotaur. He called himself Mino, and with his soldier career of more than a decade, he was working as Chrono’s adjutant.
“Somethin’ wrong, Captain?” Mino repeated the same question, probably because Chrono hadn’t answered yet.
“Something moved in the forest.”
“I ain’t seein’ anythin’. Didn’t yer eyes play a trick on ye?”
“You think so?”
“Captain, take a look ’round yerself.” Mino replied somewhat fed up.
Chrono scanned his vicinity while still touching his sword’s hilt. Around him his subordinates were felling trees and processing the lumber.
“How many ye see?”
“If there hasn’t been a change since the last time I checked, it should be around 700 people.”
“Most of ’em are beastmen with keen senses. Not noticin’ the enemy with this many beastman folk is next to impossible.”
“In other words, I’ve been wrong.”
Chrono removed his hand from the hilt, and wiped the sweat off on his uniform.
“Well, anyone’s nervous on their first campaign.”
“First campaign, huh?”
Chrono held his abdomen as a sharp pain assailed his stomach.
“Sorry, it looks like a big one’s on the way.”
“Seein’ ye like that, I’m surprised ye decided to become a soldier.”
“Dad told me that noble children have to go to the military academy. Besides, back then I didn’t think that we’d go to war with another country.”
“Skirmishes with Holy Kingdom Argo have been goin’ on at the eastern border for a while now.”
“I’m aware of that, but…”
Holy Kingdom Argo was a religious state located north of Empire Cepheus. It maintained a hostile stance towards the empire, and both countries had military conflicts on many occasions.
However, the stage for these conflicts was the eastern border ― Nozi, a territory under the direct control of the emperor.
“Normally you wouldn’t think of advancing your army through a primeval forest, would you?”
“True that.” Mino folded the logs that were his arms, nodding several times.
A primeval forest separated Empire Cepheus from Holy Kingdom Argo as a border. Thanks to this forest, the locations where battle could take place and the scale thereof were limited.
“Besides, wouldn’t it be weird for them to go out of their way to invade the distant territory of Marquis Erakis? Moreover, attacking us with a huge army of 10,000 soldiers even though our forces don’t even reach a thousand? I mean, there’s a limit to being all gung-ho, isn’t there?”
Chrono rattled on, slumping his shoulders in disappointment.
“If they’d at least sent some reinforcements…”
“Captain, think it’s ’bout high time for ye to give up on that hope.”
“I guess you’re right.” Chrono sighed.
Marquis Erakis, his superior, had left two days ago to call for reinforcements.
“Rick and the others haven’t come back either. Is it because I didn’t lend them any money after all? Ugh, if I only had forked over the money back then, something like this…”
“Think that guy would have scooted after borrowin’ the cash. Captain, it ain’t my place to tell ye, but wouldn’t it be smarter for ye to give up and get outta here?”
“Why are you saying that?”
“I mean stayin’ here ain’t of any benefit to ye, Captain.”
“No, no, if I ran away, it’d definitely turn into a loss for me. With staying and fighting, I’ve still got a chance at least.”
If he’d come from a distinguished family, he might have had the option of fleeing, but Chrono’s home ― the Baron Chroford family ― was upstart nobility. Something like avoiding responsibility by wielding political power was impossible for them.
“Besides, there’s no way that I could leave my subordinates behind to save my own skin.”
“Backin’ demi-humans ain’t gonna earn you any plus points.” Mino answered, stressing the demi-human part.
Demi-humans was the general term for elves, dwarves, beastmen, and so on, but it was more of an insult than a simple categorization. Demi-humans often became target of discrimination and persecution, and some countries even employed a national policy promoting the eradication of demi-humans.
“It’s not like I’m actually backing them.”
“Why’re ye stayin’ here then?”
“I already told you moments ago, but running away would put me at a disadvantage.”
“I’ve understood yer idea of fightin’ still givin’ ye a chance, Captain, but…” Mino looked at the forest. Ahead of his line of sight stood a fence, seeming to surround the side road. “…ye think a hastily made fence like that will be able to hold ’em back?”
“Since the braces have been rammed deep into the ground, it won’t break so easily.”
“We still got some time to switch to guerrilla warfare. Wouldn’t that be the better choice?”
“On an emotional level, I’d like to decrease the number of enemies as much as possible first, though.”
“That’d set back the operation,” Mino muttered.
Fortress City Harschel was located less than half a day away from the primeval forest by horse. In its center stood the mansion of the Marquis. Currently Tilia was listening to Marquis Erakis’s report in his office. When he finished speaking――
“What was that!? You bastard came running back here because of that!?” Tilia thundered.
In response, Marquis Erakis squealed in terror, and fell prostrate in front of her. His body was shuddering as if he was scared of her, but a rebellious fire burned in his eyes, seemingly screaming at her, “You don’t understand a thing, stupid lass!”
Tilia felt pissed off by his defiant attitude, but she couldn’t help but to admit the part about her being a lass who didn’t understand anything. Even her being able to yell at Marquis Erakis, who was old enough for them to be father and daughter, was completely owed to her rank as first heir to the throne and the power of her father ― Emperor Ramal the 5th, ruler over Empire Cepheus.
“B-But, with this we should be able to buy some time. I-Isn’t it a cheap price to pay, if we manage to hold back an enemy army of 10,000 with a thousand demi-humans?”
“That out of the mouth of their commander?”
Tilia actually felt dizzy from Marquis Erakis’s statement.
Thirty years ago ― Empire Cepheus was embroiled in a maelstrom of disturbances. The confrontations surrounding the imperial throne had developed into a civil war, inviting city-states to announce their independence and savage tribes to ravage imperial soil. The nobles were unable to deal with this abnormal situation, resulting in the empire heading for its demise in the truest sense.
Tilia was sure that the empire would have perished if her father hadn’t decided to borrow the power of mercenary bands.
Back then the empire ought to have learned a valuable lesson, but it seemed as if that past knowledge had dispersed with the passage of time.
“You’re certainly not saying that Chrono is included in that cheap price, are you?”
“Y-Your Highness knows of Sir Chrono?” Marquis Erakis lifted his face, asking nervously.
“Chrono and I have attended the military academy together as classmates. Why aren’t you aware of that as his superior?” Tilia answered.
“I-I’m terribly sorry!!” Marquis Erakis prostrated himself once more.
Tilia felt irritated by his behavior and appearance, but she tightly endured as she knew that time was too precious right now to waste it on venting her anger at him.
“How many days?”
“I’m asking you how many days it is going to take for reinforcements to arrive from the surrounding fiefs! Or are you telling me that you didn’t even go to ask for reinforcements!?”
“I-I shall confirm at once!”
Erakis jumped to his feet in panic, and rushed out of the room.
“…Chrono, you idiot, doesn’t that make it look like you stayed behind for the sake of dying?” Tilia spat out under her breath.
She shook her head, and nostalgically thought back on the incident that led to her becoming aware of Chrono.
Half a year ago she had participated in a battle over flags as part of the academy’s training curriculum. The defending team led by Tilia held the advantage in armament and location, and thus the battle progressed beneficially for her side.
Just when they were certain of their victory, the offensive team launched an attack, as if making a last, desperate effort. The one standing at the head of the offensive team and encouraging them back then was Chrono.
Judging this to be their final resistance, Tilia ordered all her forces to attack, just to have her flag easily stolen by an ambush.
The desperate, final struggle had been no more than a feint.
“Some hope still remains.”
Considering it normally, it’s impossible to overturn a tenfold difference in military force, but if it’s Chrono―― Such was the expectation she was embracing.
Chrono went around the newly-built field encampment with Mino. Probably because his subordinates had hurried the construction, they were now sitting on the ground, looking somewhat exhausted. Having said that, the dwarves were still checking the fences, and a part of the beastmen had taken up position.
“It’s now looking like a proper encampment, more or less.”
“Literally built for dear life…ah, sorry.”
“You don’t really need to pay that much attention to it, but true, it does sound like a bad omen.” Chrono smiled bitterly.
Naturally it was a bad idea to use words associated with death, considering they’d go into battle soon. Although it might be mere consolidation, some of the soldiers would certainly feel like clinging on to the faint hope entailed by the encampment.
“…How are things going?” Chrono called out to a nearby lion beastman.
He was sharpening his spearhead, his back curled up, but even then, Chrono could sense an air of intimidation emanating from the beastman.
His name was Leo ― one of Chrono’s centurions, who commanded a company of 100 infantrymen each.
“Leo! Who do ye think yer talkin’―― ”
“Don’t mind it, Mino.” Chrono held Mino back with a hand. “It’s no issue as long as he understands his position.”
“That’s not the way someone who understands it would talk.”
“As long as he fights while following orders, I won’t be naggy about decorum. Leo, you understand, don’t you?”
“…I do.” Leo’s body shivered once before answering Chrono.
Chrono looked back, wondering whether Mino had done something, but the minotaur was merely standing tall, holding his head high.
“I can count on you, yes?”
“I’ll fight in a way that meets your expectations.”
“That’s great to hear.” Chrono lightly tapped Leo’s shoulder, and then headed off towards the fence.
“Mino, did you do something earlier?”
“I haven’t done anythin’. That was just him bein’ scared of ye, Captain.”
“Of me?” Chrono asked reflexively.
Leo was the most experienced veteran after Mino. It didn’t make much sense to Chrono for Leo to be scared of him, even if Mino said so.
“Every once in a while, yer eyes turn very cold, Captain.”
“Should I fix that?”
“I think it gives ye a fittin’ touch.”
“But, a commander clearly showing his emotions is a bit bad, isn’t it?”
Chrono was convinced that a commander ought to remain cool at all times.
“Clever words from someone who became the commanding officer two days ago.”
“If you put it like that, you haven’t been an adjutant before that either, Mino.”
Up until two days ago, Chrono had been in charge of odd jobs under the pretext of him being an officer cadet, and Mino had been tasked to help him.
“Well, my title might have changed, but the part about babysittin’ ye remained the same.”
“You’re way too frank, friend.”
Despite saying that, Chrono’s inability to do anything was plain truth. Even him being able to act like an all-important commander merely stemmed from his status as noble.
“Huh?” Chrono noticed a minotaur crouching near the fence. “That’s Horus, isn’t it?”
Chrono felt relieved that he hadn’t guessed wrong. Horus was another of his centurions, but he had a fairly meek personality. If you were to describe Mino as a fighting bull, Horus would register as a milk cow who grazed peacefully on pastures.
“I wonder what’s wrong?”
“Isn’t he just the same as ye, Captain?”
“Let’s hear what he has to say for the time being.”
When Chrono walked up to him, Horus lifted his face.
“You don’t look overly good. Is it diarrhea?”
“I-I, s-scared.” Horus answered while shivering.
His whole appearance somehow looked like a joke.
“I’m scared, too.”
“Lord Chrono, y-you don’t seem frightened at all.”
“No, I’m not joking. I’m truly scared,” Chrono replied, and added, “It’s my intention to do the best I can, though,” with a wry smile.
Horus stared at Chrono closely, and then sighed.
“Got it. I’ll do my best as well.”
“That’s the spirit.”
Chrono tapped Horus’s shoulder, and shifted his eyes to a dwarf who was inspecting the fence.
“Goldi, good work. How are things looking?”
“Perfect.” The dwarven centurion Goldi turned around, answering Chrono.
“And yet you’re still checking the fence?”
“It’s kinda a bad habit of mine.”
“Yep. For a long time now, I haven’t been able to calm down if I don’t have something to do.”
“Hmm, I see. Don’t overdo it, okay?”
Chrono tapped Goldi’s shoulder, and passed through an opening in the fence. On the other side stood a lizardman ― a demi-human with a huge frame when compared to a minotaur. Going by his appearance, he gave one the impression of being a lizard on two feet. He was one of Chrono’s centurions, Lizad.
“You alright, Lizad?”
Lizad remained silent, only looking down at Chrono while slithering his snakey tongue in and out.
‘Wait, he’s not regarding me as food, is he――?
“Lizad, how might you be doing? You are not hungry or anything similar, correct?” Chrono asked Lizad while adding gestures.
“Captain, why the polite speech all of a sudden?”
“Ah, I just felt like it.”
“…Enemy.” Lizad muttered, causing Chrono to direct his eyes into the forest.
Five cavalrymen appeared from within. Chrono suspected them to be scouts, seeing their leather armor.
“I don’t want them to bring back any information. I’ll do it.”
“Yer legs are tremblin’.”
“Obviously with excitement, yep.”
Chrono started to slowly walk towards the cavalry. His heart was hammering in his chest, and his stomach, which had given him peace for some time, began to churn once more.
Immediately after exiting the fence, he stopped and glared at the riders, “…M-Mine name is,” his voice was trembling so much that even he thought of it as pathetic, but now that he had come this far, he had no choice but to brace himself, “My name is Chrono! The firstborn of Baron Chrohd Chroford! I assume from your appearances that you are named knights! It would be an unparalleled disgrace for you to fall at the hands of ordinary soldiers, thus I request a duel!” 1
As soon as Chrono drew his sword, one of the riders steered his horse forward.
“Mine name is Auxishia! I shall accept your request!”
With those words, the enemy cavalrymen ― Auxishia spurred on his horse, charging at Chrono. The instant his horse reached its highest speed, Auxishia was struck to the ground, the back of his head first.
Very likely he himself didn’t understand what had happened there.
He got caught in a trap ― a rope spanning at the height of his neck.
“Y-You damn coward!”
“Launching a sneak attack after suggesting a duel is unworthy of a noble!”
“You shall pay for this sin with your life!”
“We’ll tear you apart with our own hands!”
The other four yelled in a jumble, and charged at Chrono. Passing underneath the rope which had now lost its danger――
In response to Chrono’s yell, many stakes thrust out of the ground. The four riders and their horses were impaled by the stakes as they had no means to avoid. Their death was most likely instantaneous.
“Good job, White, Gray.” Chrono said with a sigh as two beastmen peeked their heads out of the thicket.
One of them was white, whereas the other was gray. Obviously it’d be pointless to point out how to assign their names. Both of them appeared to be wolf beastmen, but―
“Lord Chrono, we, did our best.”
“We, first barrier.”
―their way of looking at Chrono with sparkling eyes made them seem like puppies, no matter what.
I’d really love them to act a bit more like centurions, but I’ll overlook it since they closely follow all my orders.
“Good work, you two. I’m going to count on you soon again.”
“We, do our best.”
They answered and hid themselves in the bushes again.
“Ye somehow got through this one.” Mino addressed Chrono when he saw him sighing.
“All thanks to White and Gray.”
“I thought ye’d really go for a duel.”
“I’m not that much of an idiot.”
“Ye gave that impression by introducin’ yerself as if ye’re goin’ to bet yer pride as noble, though.”
“Even I dream of fighting battles in an awesome way, but if I had done that here, I’d have died.”
If you can win with nothing but noble pride, I’ll gladly do so, but it’ll be less trouble as long as you can win through willpower.
“What are we goin’ to do with the corpses?”
“I’d like to scare the enemy away, if possible, so let’s leave them like that.”
“Won’t it reveal our hand?”
“That’d be convenient. After all, it’d restrict what they can do, once they realize that the entire area is spiked with traps.”
“Ye think it’ll work out so smoothly?”
“If not, we’re going to adapt as necessary. We have to somehow hold our ground, don’t we?” Chrono replied while gazing into the forest.
Standing at the rear of the field encampment, Chrono observed his subordinates. Lizad and Horus were between the fences, commanding the bigger demi-humans, Goldi had taken up position behind the fences with his men. Even further behind Goldi stood Leon with his beastmen. By the way, White and Gray were out of sight since they were hidden in the thickets on the road sides.
“Captain, they’ve come.”
Looking at the forest, Chrono spotted a huge number of humans heading their way. Not normal humans, but the enemy. A swarm of murderers clad in armor and armed to the teeth. That flood of bodies reached deep into the forest.
Chrono got almost overwhelmed by their oppressiveness, but he somehow managed to hold his ground.
The enemy infantry split in two, allowing a mounted man to come forward.
“Captain, this is bad.”
“Ye don’t know General Igniz despite bein’ a soldier?” Mino widened his eyes in surprise upon Chrono’s question.
“Is he famous?”
“General Igniz Fomalhaut. He’s a Divine Arts Master of the War God ruling over Deep Crimson Destruction. My previous battalion suffered devastatin’ losses at his hands.”
“Somehow it sure sounds like an intense name.”
“Intense ain’t the problem here. If ye get targeted by General Igniz, even yer bones’ll be turned into ash.”
“Bones turned into ash, huh?”
“Captain, don’t tell me――”
“No need to worry, I know about Divine Arts.” Chrono interrupted Mino.
Divine Arts borrowed the powers of the six cardinal gods ruling over fire, water, earth, wind, light, and darkness. Their general-purpose usability was so high that some thought you might do everything with them, be it attacking, defending, or healing. On the other hand, similar arts ― even if it was healing art for example ― had clear differences in their effectiveness depending on the worshiped god, and they also came with the demerit that they’d destroy the caster’s personality through overuse.
“What we goin’ to do?”
“Well, we won’t retreat. That much is certain.”
“Captain, didn’t ye listen to what I told ye just now?”
“I got the drift that General Igniz is as dangerous as they come, but turning our back on them at this point is just as dangerous. Fortunately we’re surrounded by forest, so he shouldn’t launch any attack that would endanger his own soldiers.” Chrono stared at Igniz, praying that he was right.
If Igniz doesn’t care about what happens to his men, the outcome of this battle will be decided in an instant.
Chrono wondered how long he had been staring at Igniz. It should have been less than five minutes, but for Chrono it felt like it lasted a lot longer.
When the enemy soldiers began to move, Chrono felt like shouting out loud in happiness. The same should apply to Mino as well.
“Archers, ready your bows!”
However, as might be expected of a veteran soldier, Mino started to swiftly hurl orders.
The dwarves ran over to Chrono and Mino, and then fired their arrows at the enemy. They didn’t measure up to real archers, but with both armies being so close to each other, skill didn’t play much of a role.
Receiving the shower of arrows, the enemy movements dulled, but only for a short while. Obviously making up their minds to bear the danger, the enemy soldiers marched towards the encampment.
“Switch to spears!” Goldi yelled, causing the dwarves to change to spears. “Thrust!”
The dwarves thrust their spears to the front all at once, piercing the enemy soldiers trying to scale the fence. The enemy soldiers fell off in quick succession, screaming on their way down.
Apparently having assessed that it’d be too much trouble to climb the fence, the enemy rushed towards the opening in the fence.
When Horus and Lizad brandished their clubs, the enemies were blown away with short shrieks. Their men also kept slaughtering the enemy, but――
“They’re getting through!” Horus yelled, panic dyeing his voice somewhat.
Enemy soldiers had passed through the opening in the fence, and were now heading straight for Chrono. He suspected that they had identified him as the commanding officer because of his attire and position.
“Leave them to me!”
Leo threw a spear. It plunged onwards in a bee line, going through the heads of enemy soldiers. The soldiers fell over as if having their strings cut, becoming unmoving corpses in an instant.
Chrono felt no mercy towards the enemy. Rather, he felt strongly relieved about their strategy proceeding smoothly. Just when he started to pray that this would continue unchanged, Igniz thundered, “Go around the fence, and pincer them from both sides!”
Igniz’s soldiers couldn’t carry out his new order right away. In order to circumvent the fence, they had to push their way through the thickets. As they didn’t know what was lurking there, their fear made them hesitate.
“Bah! Screw it!”
“God, grant your humble servant your divine protection!”
“I’ll show you how it’s done!”
As soon as one jumped into the thickets, one enemy soldier after the other followed his lead, forcing their way through the dense bushes.
“It’s alright. Here’s noth――gh!” The enemy soldier couldn’t finish his words as he got crushed by a log that had come crashing down on him.
None of the other soldiers were willing to run up to their comrade who could still be alive. The fear that the same fate could await them had gripped their hearts, immobilizing their legs. On top of that the thickets rustled as if to fan their dread, immediately rooting them on their spot.
The atmosphere was tense――causing one enemy soldier to breathe out quietly. In the next instant, both his arms were pulled down into the bushes.
A shriek that would cause anyone’s hair to stand on end echoed throughout the forest.
The bushes rustled violently, and dull beating could be heard. Moreover, those sounds were blended with wet squishes.
“S-Something is in there!”
The ones hiding in the thickets were the beastmen led by White and Gray. If the enemy soldiers had considered it calmly, they should have realized it right away, but it was a tall order to expect composure from panicking people.
The enemy soldiers began to flee, each scrambling to be the first out of the forest, but some of them got caught in traps, others were pulled into the bushes.
And then silence enveloped the forest like a thick curtain.
Just to be immediately interrupted by the bushes furiously rustling, before hands, legs, and heads rained down on the enemy soldiers waiting on the road.
The tide of enemy soldiers, which had resolutely tried to break through the fence, actually reverted its current. No, they started to flow backwards.
“War God ruling over Deep Crimson Destruction, heed my call!” As soon as Igniz raised his voice, flames flickered above the enemy soldiers’ heads.
The conflagration vanished in an instant, but it was more than enough to alleviate their panic.
“Calm yourself. We’re overwhelming them with military power. You don’t need to be afraid of them.” Igniz preached to his men with a composed voice. “Trample them down!”
His men burst into loud war cries.
“Eat this!” A dwarf stabbed his spear at an enemy soldier climbing the fence.
The enemy soldiers stopped moving for an instant, but then extended a hand, trying to continue his climb.
“Fall, will you!?”
Once Goldi stabbed his spear from below, the enemy soldier fell off the fence while screaming for a moment.
“Change the spear if the blade of yours has dulled!” Goldi ordered with a hoarse voice, but all that came back as a reply couldn’t be described as anything other than a groan.
This was the current level of exhaustion the dwarves had reached.
“Kyaaa!” A shrill scream reverberated – the one of a female dwarf soldier.
She had her thigh stabbed by a spear an enemy soldier had thrust through the fence.
“Fuck! How dare you!” The dwarf next to her stabbed her assailant’s throat with his spear. “Hehe, got whatcha deserv――ug!”
“Take this for my comrade, you filthy demi-human trash!”
The dwarf had his throat pierced in the same way as the enemy soldier he had killed moments ago, and immediately crumbled with his knees folding.
“Don’t come, here!!” Horus screamed, blowing away an enemy soldier with his club.
The soldier immediately got back up on his feet, and dashed towards Horus. Unarmed. He had dropped his weapon when he got blown away.
“I told you to not come here!”
Horus wildly waved his club, but the enemy slipped past Horus’s attacks, ramming him. Apparently he had turned desperate after having lost his weapon. No, that was wrong.
“Higyaaaaa!!” Horus screamed as if this world was about to end.
The enemy soldier had thrust a knife into his thigh.
“Let go――gyaaaaaaa!” Horus screamed again.
The soldier had widened the wound by twisting the knife.
“B-Bumuuuuuuuuh!” Horus lowed like a cow.
He tore the soldier off through sheer strength, and slammed him on the ground. Moreover, he trampled down on him. Thick sounds accompanied the stomps with the enemy soldier’s body continuing to lose its shape with each kick.
While Horus was fighting half-crazed, Lizad had been silently slaughtering enemy soldiers. Blood clung to his body, though it was unclear whether it was his own or that of his foes.
“You shitty lizaaaaaaaard!” An enemy soldier charged at Lizad with his spear thrust out.
Lizad grabbed the spear, and swung his club down. A dull whup echoed, but what the club had shattered wasn’t the head, but a shoulder.
With his shoulder crushed, the enemy soldier was forced to let go of his spear, and instead clung to Lizad. Lizad tried to shake him off like an annoying fly, but he couldn’t get rid of him.
“For our comradeeeeeees!”
An enemy soldier raised his sword overhead, charging at Lizad. In response, Lizad stepped up halfway, catching the soldier’s wrist.
“We did it! Both his arms are bound!”
“Someone! Someone, quickly com――!”
When Lizad released his hand, the sword-wielding soldier fell down on the spot. Spurts of blood pushed their way out of his nape while Lizad held a piece of neck flesh between his fangs. Then he chewed on it, just to spit out the piece of flesh a moment later.
As soon as Lizad swung his arm, the enemy soldier clinging to it was finally flung off. That soldier tried to get back up, but a club came down at him from above before he could.
“O-One got through!”
“L-Leave it to me!”
An enemy soldier had passed the fence unscathed and was now approaching Chrono. Leo frantically chased after him, but probably because of his accumulated fatigue, he couldn’t quite close the distance.
Kicking off the ground, Leo leaped and clung himself to the soldier, dragging him to the ground――
“I shall put an end to him!” 2
A tiger beastman swung his sword down.
“Well done, Tiger.”
“I only performed my duty.”
Leo returned to his former post while lending the shoulder of Tiger.
“Just as expected, it’s turned into a tough battle, huh?”
“We’ve been hangin’ on well.” Mino answered Chrono’s mutter with a tone that was tinged with bitterness.
Their subordinates were performing well, but the war situation was steadily deteriorating for their side. They hadn’t been overrun yet because they came up with some tricks here and there, but it was quite possible for their front to collapse at any moment.
“Should we call back White and Gray? No, if the enemy notices that, it’ll have the opposite effect.”
Since the enemy knew about the existence of the ambush troops, they tried to break through the fence.
“What should I do?”
Just when Chrono asked himself, an enemy soldier ran past the side of a lizardman. The lizardman followed the soldier with his eyes, but that was a bad decision. Not missing that slight inattention, the enemy thrust out their spears all at once.
The lizardman’s body got skewered and he collapsed on the spot.
“Cover for him!” Chrono shouted, but he had no men left who could follow his order.
The enemy soldiers surged through the opening in their defense line.
“I know! Hurry!”
Mino sprinted off in order to fill the opening.
In reality commanding officers joining the frontline can only be described as a poor move, but maintaining the defense line ought to take priority right now.
Mino plunged forward while mowing down enemy soldiers with his poleax, finally closing the hole in the line.
No sooner than Chrono felt relieved, a scream reached his ears. He had a bad premonition, no, it’d be better to call it conviction.
What happened to the enemy soldiers who got past the fence? Did Mino kill all the enemy soldiers? The enemy soldiers, who got past, should have been dealt with by my subordinates, but――
Once Chrono looked in the direction of the scream, a beastman had collapsed with a sword stabbed in his neck. The beastman’s head was thrown backwards, but it obviously didn’t happen voluntarily. He was dead, and obviously no living being could survive having its neck stabbed by a sword. So it happened because the enemy soldier, who had killed him, tried to pull out his sword.
Who was it? It might have been an enemy, Chrono, or one of his subordinates. It was a question bearing no meaning. And far from being meaningless, it was actually harmful.
Because he wasted several valuable seconds, he didn’t manage to draw his sword. An enemy soldier swung his sword down――
“G-Gyaaaaaaaa!” Chrono screamed, immediately falling on his backside.
His right eye was on fire. That heat spread from his eye. When he lifted his face while holding down his right eye, the enemy soldier had raised his sword. His expression looked like it was laughing or filled with anger.
“You piece o’ shit!”
Chrono kicked him between his legs, causing the enemy soldier to drop his sword due to the unbearable pain.
“H-Heavenly Pivotal Dance!” 3
As soon as Chrono yelled that, incomprehensible words streamed down across his visual field like a waterfall. A dull pain assailed his temples. The magic formula imprinted in the unconsciousness’s layer of his brain was extracted.
Once he held out his blood-smeared right hand, a jet-black sphere formed. The basketball-sized globe hovered several centimeters away from Chrono’s hand.
This black sphere was the sole magic art Chrono could actually use. Magic was a power a living being possessed by birth ― a technique that converted magic power into physical phenomena. It was necessary to train to employ magic effectively, but it was unnecessary to understand magic formulas. As long as they agreed with one’s attribute one could learn magic by just memorizing the magic formulas.
Then again, it was necessary to use drugs for that sake.
“Go!” Chrono shouted at his palm, resulting in the black sphere flying off towards the enemy soldier.
The soldier picked up his sword and swung it, but the blade merely slipped through the sphere. The sphere covered the soldier’s head, and Chrono clasped his right hand.
In the next instant, the black sphere vanished alongside the soldier’s head. No, it was probably more accurate to say that it got transferred away. Heavenly Pivotal Dance was a transfer spell, after all.
Despite having lost its head, the corpse didn’t collapse.
It almost looks as if the body still hasn’t grasped that its head is gone.
Just around the time Chrono thought that, a loud detonation pulled him back to reality. He lost his balance which he had miraculously maintained so far, whereas the corpse toppled over.
Once Chrono looked in the direction of the sound, a huge pillar of fire burst into the sky from deeper down the forest. Other pillars intermittently rose up, causing the enemy soldiers to stop moving. Igniz was no exception to that.
Meanwhile Chrono identified it as a golden opportunity.
“Heavenly Pivotal Dance!” Getting up, Chrono unleashed his magic.
The jet-black orb weaved its way through the lines of enemy soldiers, heading straight for Igniz.
“War God ruling over Deep Crimson Destruction, heed my call!” Igniz roared while drawing his sword.
In response, the blade released a deep crimson light. Celebratory Holy Blade ― a divine art strengthening the offensive ability.
Igniz scythed the sword sideways, but the black orb easily slipped through the blade. Igniz’s eyes widened, probably out of surprise.
The orb was something similar to light, and naturally even a divine art couldn’t cut through light.
“This is the end!” Chrono clenched his fist.
The orb vanished, and at the same time Igniz’s right arm fell to the ground. But, it was only the right arm. Igniz had twisted his body right before Heavenly Pivotal Dance exhibited its might.
He’s got a danger detection ability that deserves admiration, no, shock.
Blood gushed out from the cut section where the right arm had been before. It was a nightmarish sight, but Igniz stared at the blazing columns shooting up inside the forest.
“…Oh, my God, lend me strength.” Igniz muttered under his breath, and in the next moment, deep crimson light covered his wound.
The bleeding slowed down noticeably, but it didn’t stop altogether. The War God ruling over Deep Crimson Destruction was, as his name suggested, a god of destruction. His power to heal wounds was the weakest among the six cardinal gods.
“God, heed my call!”
White smoke rose from the wound, and the bleeding stopped. It had been detained by burning the wound.
Chrono felt horror when watching Igniz’s actions.
Where would you find a human who would burn their own wound right after their arm got torn off? Humans are no lizards. As long as there’s a chance to reattach the arm, it’d be human nature to pin on that hope.
Apparently still willing to continue the battle, Igniz shifted his look towards Chrono. Chrono clenched his teeth, and somehow managed to hold his ground. He knew that it was a stupid idea, but somehow he sensed that Igniz would swoop down on him as soon as he averted his eyes. Thus the glaring contest continued――
The beastmen led by White and Gray jumped out of the thickets.
“Damn it! Ambush! It’s an ambush!”
“What’s with that dumb question!? We knew that the enemy was lurkin’ in there, didn’t we!?”
Blood sprayed, angry roars jumbled together into a cacophony of noise. The beastmen overwhelmed the enemy soldiers. No, it looked like they did, but in reality, this was no more than a deception the enemy would have easily seen through if only they assessed the situation calmly.
“――Retreat! We have to babysit His Highness!” Igniz yelled, obviously squeezing it out against his will, and made the head of his horse turn around.
The enemy soldiers backed off, one step, then another…
“Giddyup!” Igniz spurred his horse, and in response, the enemy soldiers began to flee all at once.
“…The pursuit…” Chrono looked around him. His men were barely staying on their feet. Not a few of them flopped down on the spot. “…is impossible, I guess.”
Chrono gave up on the idea of a pursuit, and sat down on the spot.
“For the time being, the strategy succeeded.”
The strategy thought up by Chrono planned to have a detached force ― elven archers ― launch a surprise attack on the enemy headquarters and kill or inflict serious injuries on the enemy general while he would draw the enemy’s attention with his 700 men. This plan succeeded, but it was hard for him to feel great about it.
He couldn’t see with his right eye, and many of his men were dead.
“…So this was my first battle, eh?”
No matter what, he couldn’t suppress a feeling of depression welling up within him.
“Captain, ye alright?”
“Except for my right eye having become useless, yeah.”
Chrono had sat down on a log, and was roughly scratching his head. When he gazed at the battleground through his narrowed field of vision, he saw corpses strewn wherever he looked. The corpses of enemies were overwhelmingly dominant in count, but this didn’t serve as any kind of consolation.
“We have more than a hundred casualties and countless wounded.”
Almost annihilated then.
White and Gray were nursing the wounded together with their men, but they could only apply first-aid.
Fighting without running away, they drove the enemy away. Even though he should have performed well considering the odds, Chrono felt like shit. He hung his head while holding his right eye, but he could hear the voices. The voices of his wounded men. Voices enduring pain, screaming as obviously unable to bear the pain, and voices teeming with sadness and rage over lost comrades filled the air as if to torture Chrono.
He barely managed to swallow down, make them shut up. His subordinates got wounded while following his orders.
They have all the right to hate me.
And yet, Chrono still wanted to run away. He couldn’t help but want to push the blame on someone else despite having brought this situation about himself.
…did it turn out like that? Chrono tore at his hair. If the pillars of fire had risen up earlier, we wouldn’t have suffered this much damage. Maybe the elves tried to run away after getting cold feet.
Even such delusions polluted his mind.
“Captain, the detached unit’s come back.”
“――ng!” Chrono lifted his face and got up.
Dark emotions were simmering within him. He believed that he’d be able to rid himself of this shitty feeling if only he could draw out a confession that the detached unit had taken actions to delay their task.
What did you do? Didn’t you try to save your own skin!?
Such abuse ― such a wretched attempt to find excuses for himself didn’t leave his lips.
What came out instead was a silly yelp. Chrono blankly stared at the detached unit.
Even though the elven archer unit was supposed to consist of 300 men, less than 50 stood in front of him. All of them were injured. Some had lost arms. Others had lost eyes like Chrono. The two masculine centurions were missing with a single woman standing in front instead.
She was an elf with silver hair and dark brown skin. Her hair, short as that of a boy, and her limbs, reminiscent of a feline carnivore, were smeared with blood and mud.
“…I am terribly sorry, Captain.” The woman knelt down, almost as if crumbling down.
As a wound had apparently opened up the instant she went on her knees, fresh blood trickled down.
“The enemy pressure was tremendous.” Her golden eyes looked up to Chrono.
“…I’m…” Chrono let his head hang, overwhelmed by shame.
The elves had fought. Obeying his orders, they had headed towards almost certain death. They had carried out their duty while having paid dearly for it. And yet Chrono had been about to push the responsibility he ought to shoulder on them.
If this is no disgrace, what else would be?
“…Go on with the report.” Chrono prompted her, gritting his teeth.
If he hadn’t done that, he’d have mostly likely broken down in tears then and there.
Afternoon of the next day ― reinforcements arrived. The one leading them was a female knight, her body clad in silver armor. Her figure as she led the soldiers with her long hair tied up in a bundle could be even called picturesque.
Chrono breathed out in relief while sitting on a log, “We’re saved.”
“Still too early to say that, Captain.” Mino lifted the corners of his mouth sarcastically.
“It’ll be alright.”
“Yer way too optimistic.”
“It’s no optimism. Tilia has been in the same class as me at the military academy.”
“Tilia?” Mino lifted his eyes, inclining his head as if ruminating. “Feel like I’ve heard that name somewhere.”
“She’s the daughter of Emperor Ramal the Fifth.”
“That means she’s an Imperial Princess!!”
Mino fell prostrate with a yelp as the female knight ― Tilia ― stopped her horse in front of Chrono.
“Hurry with the transport of the wounded and the construction of a field encampment!”
When Tilia hurled out her orders with a powerful voice that seemed to thunder across the vicinity, her subordinates exhaled all at once.
Very likely her men were worried that she might come up with some unreasonable orders again. It doesn’t look like she’s been aware of it, but her method to disperse their anxiety with a few, brief words is magnificent.
“Long time no see, Chrono.” Tilia dismounted with a broad grin on her face.
“I think it’s been something around a month?”
“Captain! Caaaptain!” Mino pulled on the cuff of Chrono’s trousers while still prostrating himself.
“Captain, she is Her Highness the Imperial Princess! If you take such an attitude with her, you will lose your head in no time!”
“I don’t mind, Minotaur.” Tilia said with a sigh. “Give me a report of the situation.”
“I wonder where I should start…”
Chrono began to slowly talk about the recent events. Tilia gave suitable answers to keep him going, but as soon as she heard him mention Igniz, her expression changed.
“You won…against General Igniz Fomalhaut?”
“It feels more like having driven him away than having actually won, I’d say.”
“As expected of the man I had an eye on! I was certain that you’d be able to somehow handle things!”
“…Thanks.” Chrono bowed while not quite clear what he should answer here.
“That right eye is a truly honorary wound. No doubt…I’m sure…hmm, it doesn’t look like it comes from a duel.”
Her excitement gradually ebbed down, just to turn into a calm comment at the end.
“So he was such a great person.”
“Of course! Do you have an idea how much trouble this guy has caused the Empire!?” Tilia raised her voice as she answered Chrono.
“Captain, that’s the normal reaction.”
“Well, it still doesn’t change the fact that I didn’t know him.” Chrono scratched his head. “Come to think of it, what about Marquis Erakis?”
“That guy’s busy with work in Harschel. Since it looked like he’d need more time, I went ahead, but…”
“What, so he properly asked for reinforcements. That means Rick and the others were with him as well?”
“Rick? I haven’t seen anyone with that name, you know?”
“Oh, I see.”
It seems Rick’s group has run away for real.
“By the way, what do you think about this time’s situation?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean to ask why the Holy Kingdom Argo has attacked.”
“Since General Igniz said that he has to babysit His Highness, it’d make this a fight over the throne of Argo, don’t you think?”
“Hoh,” Tilia narrowed her eyes.
Even if the heir to the throne has been decided, many should not be all that happy with the heir. That’s why they’re trying to have the prince gain some achievements on the battlefield to silence those being against him. In reality, there’d be nothing to criticize about the achievement had they won the battle.
“You believe Argo is going to soon attack us again?”
“They lost while having their tenfold numerical superiority overthrown. They’ll abstain from attacking for a while, won’t they?”
If they’ve invaded in order to obtain achievements, the prince’s unifying force is definitely going to wane. The reputation of Igniz is probably going to take a big hit as well, now that he’s a defeated general.
“It’d be warmly welcomed if they could pull the rug underneath each other, but…”
“That’s hoping for too much.”
“Still,” Tilia fixed her eyes on Chrono.
“As I thought, you’re a truly smart guy.”
“Are you making fun of me?”
“I’m praising you. Even though you didn’t know about General Igniz, you perceived the situation from just a few short words.”
“I think that’s normal though…”
“Calling that normal is one of your funny parts. Haha,” Tilia laughed.
“Your Highness! Your tent has been prepared!”
Tilia groaned slightly when a knight yelled loudly at her.
“Well, leave the rest to me, and take a nice break in Harschel.”
“I have a request before that.”
“What is it?”
“I’d like you to write a few lines for Marquis Erakis.”
“I see,” Tilia nodded while surveying the wounded soldiers. “It’s indeed doubtful that a man, who abandoned his men, would cordially nurse those very subordinates.”
“It’s a big help that you catch on quickly.” Chrono breathed out in relief.
“I’ll write it in a way that won’t allow any room for misunderstandings.”
“That’d be a great help. It’s great to have friends.”
“Spare me the slickness. I’ll write the letter right away, so wait a moment.” Tilia declared and turned on her heels.
“I’ll go check on our men.”
“Is there anything I can help you with?”
“Captain, ye rest.” Mino stood up and headed over to his subordinates.
Chrono scanned the surroundings while sitting on his log. The soldiers Tilia had brought with her were busily running around him. Once the situation began to shift, a newbie officer would be unable to do anything.
“…Three years, huh?” Chrono ― Kurono Hisamitsu mumbled under his breath.
Three years had passed since he came to this world. Back then he had been at a loss, but fortunately Baron and Baroness Chroford had picked him up. Another fortune for Chrono was that they possessed a magic translation item. Without that item, he’d have been stuck learning the language through gestures.
“Is there anything I can do in this world?”
He had no cheat. All he had at his disposal was just the knowledge from his compulsory education.
Chrono sighed deeply before looking up to the sky.
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- One comment on the naming in this novel: It’s basically an ongoing gag. All of it. Chrono is written as Kurono, his father’s first name is Kuro~do, and his family name is Kurofo~do. Even the novel’s title, Kuro no Senki, could also be called “Military Exploits of Chro.” Usually I’d call his father Claude Crawford, but I’ll go along with the gag by shifting the names appropriately
- Samurai speech ~degozaru.
- The “dance” here represents kagura. Kagura is an old form of dancing at Shinto shrines. A term that has no English localization. But well, dance will do since this is a different world and not friggin’ Japan.
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