There are many forests and few plains in the Sachstein Kingdom’s territory. It might be the reason why it’s called “the country of mountains and forests” by the neighboring countries.
The geographical features unsuitable for interactions between fellow villages and fellow towns gave birth to countless small countries in ancient times. After crossing one or two mountains, the area would become a foreign land already. The mountains which surround them, and namely, the little level ground and the forests which are still dark even at noon, were respectively the domains that the kings ruled over.
Sachstein was born by crushing such small countries one by one and annexing them.
Because it held such a past, the loyalty of each powerful local clan was still low even now; even though it’s been more than 250 years since the founding of the country. A powerful local lord is what is called a local feudal lord in Brune and Zhcted, but they took pride in themselves about the fact that they are descendants of kings of the once small countries.
In addition to the noble feudal lords, the name of the one who controlled such troublesome powerful local lords and governed Sachstein was August Benedict Von Rothschild Sachstein. He was 42 years old this year. He was a King whose peculiarity was his stern face finely chiseled as if made by sharpening a rock.
August was known for the fact that he rarely laughed. It was said that even when he welcomed a queen and also when a prince was born safely, he did not even grin.
“Your Majesty, are you not happy?”
When the queen anxiously asked while holding the newborn baby, August replied “there is no way that I would not be happy” without changing his expression at all.
There was a rumor that such an August had been seen with a smile all over his face one day two years ago. It was when he got to know that Brune’s civil war had ended and Duke Thenardier and King Faron had died.
For August who’s aiming for Brune’s territory, the existences of Thenardier, Faron, and Roland known by the nickname of Black Knight were really annoying.
While Roland was at the western border, August kept losing no matter how many times they tried to invade. Even when he decided to appeal to means other than military power, he was obstructed by either Thenardier or Faron.
Although Thenardier was a man who did not pay attention to the King of his own country, he was faithful and eager when it came to protecting his sphere of influence. Faron too was aware of that; thus there had been several times when both of them cooperated and dealt with Sachstein.
August had also attempted to cause a crack between Faron and Roland, but this also ended in failure. Roland’s loyalty and Faron’s trust to the Black Knight did not waver in the slightest no matter what scheme he used.
Those three people have disappeared from the face of the earth. It was no wonder that even August would broadly smile. However, he did not do something like immediately gathering soldiers and invading Brune.
“Roland was premeditatedly murdered and Faron died from illness, but I heard that Thenardier was killed in action. In other words, the one who defeated that man is in Brune.”
It would be embarrassing to assertively invade thinking that there was no longer an enemy and have the tables turned on him. Besides, he was also concerned about Regin who became the ruler of Brune succeeding Faron.
While arranging his military preparations, August investigated about Brune’s internal situation. He investigated in detail about Regin and Tigre and finally decided to move his soldiers.
“The time has come. We will have the white Steller’s sea eagle feast on the Red Horse.”
The Red Horse (Bayard) is Brune’s symbol and the white Steller’s sea eagle is Sachstein’s. It was said that the white Steller’s sea eagle ── Hraesvelgr sent the souls of the dead to heaven.
Out of the three Generals whom he trusted, August ordered Brune’s invasion to two men: Leonhardt Von Schmidt and Hans Von Kreuger.
The two men respectfully received the appointment.
A flag which depicted a white Steller’s sea eagle with its wings spread fluttered as it was struck by the wind.
The 20000 Sachstein troops led by Hans Von Kreuger took up position in a land called Plainville.
Plainville was a place about one or two days march from Nemetacum in the north. It was a very large grassy plain where there was only one hill. The Sachstein soldiers were on standby all over from the top of the hill to the foot of it.
This army called the southern attack troops or also the Kreuger army was mostly composed of infantry and the number of cavalry was less than 100. Only the supreme commander Kreuger, his close aide, the scouts and the messengers were straddling horses.
Kreuger was 31 years old. With gray hair and blue eyes, he had finely chiseled and virile features like a person from Sachstein. Partly because he was born a commoner, he was loved by the soldiers.
“It’s going well for the time being.”
While rolling two dices in his hand outside of the tent he established on the hilltop, Kreuger muttered. He got those dices made with pebble at the age of 15. The corners became round as they were worn down.
It was practically the only thing which Kreuger always carried on himself.
Kreuger suddenly threw the two dices on the ground.
The numbers which appeared were 2 and 4; Kreuger frowned.
Whenever he rolled the dices on a whim like now and the sum of the numbers which appeared was an odd number, it meant that things were mostly going as wanted. However, when the sum of the numbers which appeared was an even number, it meant that something troublesome might stand in the way.
Of course, it was not absolute. It was generally just Kreuger’s personal intuition. There were times when he had failed even when an odd number appeared, and also times when he had succeeded even when an even number appeared. Anyway, the number of pips visible after the throw of the dices was enough to make him be cautious.
More than ten days have passed since they stopped in Plainville. So far, the Brune army has attacked them only once. At that time, they (Brune army) were beaten and had fled.
“There might soon be a second battle.”
For Brune, there was no way that they could leave Kreuger’s troops forever as is.
Kreuger called a subordinate and ordered him to increase the scouting parties.
At that time, the army led by Tigrevurmud Vorn and Eleonora Viltaria was at a distance of about two days from them.
The next day after having left the plain of Vesoul, the Brune/Zhcted combined troops with Tigre as the supreme commander succeeded in joining the Lutece Knight Squadron and the army led by Earl Bouroullec.
Tigre and company who saw them stared wide-eyed. Every one of them was dirty with mud, blood and sweat. If there were people who wounded up bandages all over their bodies, there were also those who had an incomplete outfit as they have lost their weapons and guards. Above all, there were fewer than what Tigre had heard.
—So they fought and lost, huh.
“What a cruel way to lose.”
In contrast with Tigre who did not voice out his thoughts, Elen was direct and bitter/harsh. Although Mashas and Lim were there, they did not blame the silver-haired Vanadis. As there were expectations that their military power would increase, they could not hide their discouragement.
“Lord Mashas. Can we distribute medicine, bandages and the reserve of weapons to them?”
“I’ll do it. You should go meet the commanders.”
While stroking his gray beard, Mashas made a wry face.
There was the fact that he should hear the story from them, and it was also decided that Tigre and company would take a rest of about half a koku. They did not establish a camp. This was because they intended to move immediately after they finished resting.
Before long, two men on horseback guided by Rurick, appeared before Tigre and company. One was a knight clad in armor and he looked around 30. Tigre recognized his large build and stern face. He was Scheie of the Lutece Knight Squadron.
“So, the Lutece Knight Squadron’s commander is you, huh.”
To the surprised Tigre, Scheie brazenly laughed with his face dirty with mud and spurts of blood. The fact that he could make such an expression was probably proof of his mental strength.
“It’s been a long time, Earl Vorn. Sorry for reuniting with you in this slightly unsightly appearance.”
“No, I am very happy that we could safely meet each other,”
The other man was probably in his mid-twenties. He had well-ordered features and the tips of his chestnut-colored hair were curled. Although it was a strange hairstyle, it strangely suited him well. He wore dark gray armor on his tall figure and hung a sword like hatchet to his waist. This man was probably Earl Bouroullec.
Bouroullec did not break his firm attitude, his words were few.
“Please to make your acquaintance. I am Bouroullec.”
There was a sound of anger and humiliation in his voice. The defeat might have been very frustrating for him. After a little thought, Tigre decided to not give words of comfort. There was the fact that this was their first meeting, but he also judged that a man such as Bouroullec should be left alone as is.
Then, Mashas, Elen and Lim respectively introduced themselves. Although, Bouroullec plainly frowned when he heard that there was a Zhcted army, Scheie interceded and bowed to Elen.
“Although it’s a little sudden, could you tell us the story in detail?”
“Then, I shall explain” responded Scheie with a deep voice.
“When walking for about one day from here to the southeast, there is a region called Plainville. The Sachstein army has encamped at the hill there.”
Tigre and Elen, who were listening to the story next to him, gave a small nod.
Brune’s grassy plains were not so rich in ups and downs. That level ground gave birth to and developed the tremendous rush power and mobility of knights. Taking that into consideration, it might be said that it was rather a matter of course that the Sachstein army would take up their position on the hill.
Scheie kept quiet there, and blew a violent snort. Seemingly having settled as to how he should explain it, he once again opened his mouth. Earl Bouroullec kept silent with a bitter expression.
“The Sachstein army has stretched trenches and fences around the hill. Not only that, they also changed the structure of the hill itself. The enemy soldiers that we took prisoners called it “Hill Fort (Gelfort)”.”
Tigre frowned to the words he heard for the first time. Seemingly also the case for Elen, she cocked her head in puzzlement. Scheie unconcernedly continued the story.
“It was yesterday that we clashed with the enemy, but before that we have been glaring at each other for about eight days.”
Receiving the order to repel the Sachstein army, Scheie made a sortie with the 4000 cavalrymen of the Lutece Knight Squadron. Along the way, he joined with the 6000 cavalrymen of various nobles with Earl Bouroullec as the supreme commander, and they had marched towards Nemetacum.
Then, they engaged the Sachstein army of 20000 which took up their position on the hill of Plainville.
Both Scheie and Bouroullec held anger towards the Sachstein army who was the invader, but they didn’t try to attack them (Sachstein). This was because there were many trenches and fences around the hill and they felt that they couldn’t be attacked easily.
Above all, both of them understood that they were greatly inferior to the enemy in terms of numbers.
They set up a camp in a place about 500 Alsins (500 meter) away from the Sachstein army and decided to wait for reinforcements. Even assuming that the reinforcements did not come, it could be said to be fully their victory if they could block the movement of 20000 enemies with 10000 soldiers.
The Sachstein army, which judged that Scheie and company were taking the stance of a long term war, actively set skirmishes from that day on. They attacked by crossbow and stone-throwing from far away; and when the enemy was going to attack, they immediately escaped.
In the case where they didn’t use weapons, they used words. They disparaged that the Knight Squadrons could do nothing other than charging, and ridiculed Princess Regin with indecent words. What particularly angered the Lutece Knight Squadron’s members was the abusive insults to the Black knight Roland. Still, they endured it.
As the eighth day was about to pass in that way, the Sachstein army came out of the hill.
They put on semi-spherical helmets, wore either an overcoat or armor on a chain mail and hung a small sword to the waist. There were people with a spear and a circular shield and people with only a crossbow without a spear or a shield
All the Sachstein soldiers did not come out of the hill. The number was 10000 though. They tidily formed ranks and approached Scheie and company.
When they were more than 300 Alsins away from the Hill Fort, Scheie and company finally moved.
“We did not think that we would lose on an open field. Even if they escaped to the hill, we would just run through and trample them down. Although it’s surrounded with trenches and fences, it’s just a hill after all. This was what we thought, but it was a terrible misapprehension.”
Scheie raised a corner of his mouth and revealed a self-deprecating smile.
The Lutece Knight Squadron rode their horses, brandished their spears and carried out a frontal assault. These several days, they kept enduring it. They let their emotions that they had accumulated so far explode.
It was also the same for the army of various nobles led by Bouroullec. They were attacked with crossbow and bolt almost every day, thrown stones at and were exposed to ridicule.
In addition, the enemy was only the infantry. So by making use of the mobility of the knights, they could probably cut off the enemy’s back.
While raising clouds of dust, the Brune army rode the grassy plain fast and struck their spears with anger. They pierced the enemy’s faces with spears and blew them off with ramming attacks from the horses. And they trampled them down with the horses’ hooves when the enemy fell on the ground.
The screams were drowned out by the sound of weapons and new fresh blood scattered on fresh blood. Fragments of chain mail were scattered about on the ground, and broken spears and crossbows were thrown away.
It was also not as if the Sachstein soldiers were one-sidedly beaten. They drew down the knights on horseback by hanging spears on the horse’s legs and cut at them with their small swords. They stabbed at one horse with three or four soldiers and injured it at the stomach or legs. Also, bolts fired with crossbows pierced the knights’ armors and they died with a single blow.
The Sachstein army’s defense was solid. Even when there were people falling, the soldiers at the back would immediately fill the hole made by those falling. Even when they received the knights’ charges, they would huddle up together and hold out until the end and never greatly broke their ranks.
Even so, the Brune army gradually made the Sachstein army retreat. The momentum was clearly on Brune’s side.
At this time, Scheie noticed that they have got too close to the Hill Fort. It was only natural as they charged and the Sachstein soldiers retreated, but he got a bad feeling.
No matter how much they attacked, the Sachstein army did not collapse. And yet, they had retreated several hundred Alsins in a short time.
Scheie tried to retreat, but the Sachstein army did not allow it. They fiercely advanced as to fill the gap and stuck to the Brune army. However, when the Brune army began to counterattack, they retreated once again. They drew in Scheie and the others to the Hill Fort.
Bouroullec proposed to Scheie that they should charge. He said that since they have already approached the Hill Fort this far, they should run through until the other side of the hill at once by making use of the knights’ charging power.
Scheie got on it. There being 10000 of the enemy here meant that the remaining 10000 were on the hill. But with their current momentum, they should be able to break through.
Scheie and Bouroullec used a battle formation called the “Spear”. Brune’s Knight Squadrons had several battle formations which matched with the current topography and situation. The “Spear”, when seen from above, was something which, as the name suggested, looked like a spear with a triangular tip.
The Brune army decided for the Nth time to charge. They sent the Sachstein soldiers flying, trampled them down or broke through by knocking them down with spears. They fiercely jumped to the Hill Fort as such.
“That was certainly a fortress.”
At that time, Bouroullec opened his mouth for the first time in the stead of Scheie.
The Sachstein army had dug trenches, and used the soil obtained from that to change the hill into a solid fortress. They made stairs, walls, and steep slopes and built a space which would be advantageous in a fight for them.
The Brune army’s charge was stopped and the soldiers became stranded.
The battle in the Hill Fort became one-sided. We were divided with fences, separated in passages with zigzags and were attacked with spears and bolts from countless blind spots. Stones were thrown from above as well.
The Brune soldiers fought hard, but one soldier, who should have charged with a group of at least ten people, would find himself alone and surrounded by enemies before he noticed. He would be skewered by spears; his head smashed by stones and he would be shot with a crossbow.
“So, their retreat was a trap in order to drag us in?”
When Scheie guessed so, it was already too late. If their advance became almost impossible, they had no way but to retreat. Scheie made the 500 cavalrymen who were in the rear make a detour and tried to attack the Hill Fort from another direction. He was going to retreat while they were dealing with the Sachstein soldiers there.
But, this failed. The Sachstein soldiers swiftly moved about in the Hill Fort and were about to pour bolts all at once on the 500 cavalrymen. Meanwhile, the attack on Scheie and Bouroullec’s side did not stop at all. The Hill Fort was made so that no matter where they attacked from, they would immediately be dealt with.
When Scheie and Bouroullec commanded the soldiers and knights who somehow survived and went away from the Hill Fort, the number of soldiers had decreased to less than 7000.
“It was a complete defeat.”
When Scheie finished with that short sentence, a heavy silence swooped down.
—They changed the structure of the hill…?
Tigre made a low groan. His idea was different from things such as building an embankment or taking up position in an elevated place. The enemy’s commander would end up being able to make a convenient fortress if there were a hill of such size.
Elen also looked downward with a difficult expression and did not utter a single word. She was probably not able to think of a countermeasure immediately. Pretending to be calm, Tigre said to Scheie and Bouroullec.
“Thank you for the valuable information, both of you.”
“Will it be helpful to you?”
Scheie laughed exaggeratedly baring his teeth. Tigre nodded.
“I will show you that it will.”
Afterwards, Scheie and Bouroullec consented to coming under Tigre’s command. Although their troops were nearly 7000, there were many injured people, too. Only about 5000 were able to fight.
“Combined with ours, it’ll make 10000, huh. Well, it’s better than 5000.”
Elen lightly laughed as she said so and Tigre also agreed with a wry smile.
“Even if the allies increase, we should be thankful that we can go on without worrying about food and fuel.”
This was because they could purchase them in cities or towns of the neighborhood as the Brune army if necessary. They had trouble with that at the time of the civil war two years ago.
“By the way, Tigre.”
When they had finished their rest and had resumed the march, Elen suddenly made a serious expression and said to the youth.
“How long do you intend to stick with the name “Brune/Zhcted combined army”?”
“The official name is the “Brune’s feudal lords and Zhcted’s Vanadis combined army”. I intended to consider it, but…”
Tigre answered so with a straight face. Elen shrugged her shoulders.
“But it cannot be called considerate to just line words up like that.”
It was as Elen said, so Tigre could only play it off by rummaging his darkish red hair.
He had no intention to use the name ‘Silver Meteor Army’ again. This was because it would make him remember the civil war and there were also people who didn’t have a good impression of the Zhcted army.
However with Tigre’s poor vocabulary, he wasn’t able to think of a good name.
“It can’t be helped. I’ll think of something before we engage the enemy. A name which will make the enemy shudder and tremble with fear just by hearing it will be good.”
“Then, shall we go with “Wind Princess of the Silver Flash (Silvfrau) Army”?”
As Tigre jokingly said so, Elen lightly poked the youth.
When the sun inclined to the west sky, Plainville could be seen in the distance. Tigre and company stopped and set up a camp.
The evening meal was wheat rice porridge cooked together with plenty of wild grasses, a mass of cheese and salted salmon; moreover with one cup of wine. One might eat the salmon as is or put it in the wheat rice porridge. Since the salmon was awfully salty depending on the kind, it was necessary to be cautious.
Among the soldiers, there were also those who warmed their salmon over the bonfire. A fragrant smell drifted in the area, and the people around also came to warm their salmon. While biting the warmed salmon like that, there were also some complaining that they wanted alcohol.
At the place of the evening meal of that day, Tigre consulted with everyone about the new name of the army. There were Elen, Lim, Rurick, Mashas, Gaspar and Titta.
“Then, how about we use the name “Black Meteor” army likened to Lord Tigrevurmud’s bow?”
“If you want a long one, isn’t it all right with “Red Horse (Bayard) and Black Dragon (Zirnitra)” army?”
Rurick and Gaspar gave names for the army as if competing, but before Elen and Lim said something, they were rejected by Mashas who had an amazed face.
“Then, what about “Moonlight Knights (Lune Lumen)” army?”
At that time, Titta who prepared the meal for everybody said that in a casual tone. Mashas shook his gray beard, raised a “Hou” voice of admiration and Lim nodded so as to say that she had no objection. Gaspar shook his body as to say he agreed and Rurick put his hand on his bald head.
Titta’s face turned bright red as their gazes concentrated on her and she waved her hands in panic.
“N-No, um, I think that the moonlight is beautiful, so… Besides, her Highness Princess Regin also seemed to like this title.”
Tigre broadly smiled as he was somehow happy about the fact that the Princess’ name came out of the chestnut-haired girl’s mouth.
On the occasion of the civil war two years ago, Titta had acted as Regin’s personal caretaker. There was no one more suitable than her. Regin had also said that she did not mind if it was the maid serving Tigre and accepted Titta. Although it was a very short period, there had certainly been an exchange of feelings between the two girls.
“You will be able to meet her Highness soon. She will surely be glad.”
When Tigre said so, Titta’s face became more and more red and she looked downward. When she finished preparing the food, she hurriedly left the tent. Elen who saw her off turned happy eyes to Tigre.
“Which reminds me, it seems to be a very old title. Well, I think that ‘Moonlight Knights’ is okay.”
“That’s right. Then, let’s go with that.”
Tigre easily accepted it too and the “Moonlight Knights Army” was born here.
It was about morning on the next day that the Moonlight Knights Army confronted the Sachstein army which was on the hill of Plainville. As he let the whole army go on standby in a place 500 Alsins (about 500 m) away from the hill, Tigre alone advanced his horse and approached the hill.
A grassy plain was spread out around the hill and there were no places where one could hide himself. Scouting was almost impossible. In that case, Tigre thought that he might as well see it with his own eyes.
—They have crossbows, so I must proceed carefully.
If Elen was with him, she could stop the arrows with the power of her Silver Flash; but Tigre did not want to use her power as much as possible. He didn’t want to reveal their cards to the enemy.
Tigre stopped his horse as he approached up to a place about 400 Alsins away from the Hill Fort by eye measurement. It was said that the flying distance for a crossbow was 350 Alsins. Whether or not he would be aimed at by a bolt was another story, but it would be dangerous to approach further.
Tigre who strained his eyes and observed the Hill Fort’s dignified appearance leaked out a breath of admiration before long.
Trenches and fences surrounded the foot of the hill. But, the trenches were not only dug in a horizontal straight line, they seemed to be dug both vertically and horizontally and were combined together. Also in regards to the fence, only one was in sight, despite that it was erected in double, triple layers.
The Sachstein soldiers standing on watch were watching the situation as they hid themselves in the fence and shade.
“I see. A fort, huh.”
There was neither an attack nor heckling from the enemy. Since Tigre was alone, they would probably just keep waiting and see.
While being wrapped in a tense atmosphere, Tigre deliberately feigned a calm attitude and returned to his own army. Mashas welcomed him.
“Didn’t you get a little too close? I felt chilly just watching you, you know?”
In a scolding tone, the old Earl thanked the youth. After Tigre laughed and returned “it was all right”, he shook his head with a difficult expression.
“I don’t understand it clearly, but it seems to have quite a troublesome structure. Even considering Lord Scheie and company’s story, it doesn’t seem to be something where you can say ‘if we can break into it, we’ll be able to manage somehow’.”
“This means that we should seriously think about a castle siege battle, huh.”
“But, we don’t have siege weapons. Neither do we have enough time too.”
While answering, Tigre thought that this was probably the enemy General’s aim. If they proceeded to the battlefield with the plan for a field battle and then were suddenly forced to a castle siege battle, they could not fight unless they had a very large army.
—A castle siege battle, huh…
There were two kinds of castle siege battles which immediately came to Tigre’s mind. Either surrounding the fort with a large army, attacking and annihilating the enemy, or setting up a drawn-out battle, hold out and win. If they had siege weapons, they would have the means to boldly attack. And while daunting the enemy with catapults, they would destroy the fences with battering rams and invade the fort.
But, neither of the two could be used at the present situation. Their side had only half the enemy’s number. It could not be said that food and funds were abundant. There were no siege weapons, too. Even if they were to prepare one, it would take considerable time and effort.
“What do we do? Even if we add Lord Scheie and company’s soldiers, we will be 10000 excluding the injured soldiers. I think that we can also choose to wait for further reinforcements while restraining the enemy.”
Mashas showed a careful stance. Their allies have already lost once. There was no doubt that this news has reached the capital Nice and also the enemy and their allies who were to the west.
When considering the fact that he would influence the overall morale, Mashas’ opinion was also sound.
“Then, let’s sneak around to the south side of this Hill Fort.”
If the Sachstein army were supplied food from Nemetacum and the port towns group, they should interfere with that. Although they couldn’t completely cut off the supply road with a military force of 10000, it was possible to delay supplies even a little by making a detour.
“You’re right. When sneaking around the south side, there is a narrow river. Let’s go up to nearby it.”
Tigre’s order was conveyed and the Moonlight Knights Army started their march while keeping a constant distance from the Hill Fort. The sound of horses’ hooves and the sound of armor intermittently shook the atmosphere.
When the Moonlight Knights Army appeared in Plainville, Kreuger was drawing up a plan on a parchment on top of the hill. Although called parchment, it connected several pieces of paper and was big enough that a human could lie down on it.
The writing brush was the stem of a reed which had become hard. Something which dissolved soot and glue was put on the tip. While grasping the writing with his right hand and rolling the dices with his left hand, Kreuger was thinking about whether or not there was a method to further strengthen this Hill Fort.
It was not like Hans Von Kreuger had this name since he was born. When he was a child, he was called just “Hans” or “Son of Paul, the carpenter”.
He was a commoner who was born and raised in a small town.
In the Sachstein Kingdom, commoners did not have a family name. They were given a family name only after they reached a rank higher than knight. Moreover, the honorary title “Von” included between the name and the family name was not allowed unless one belonged to a powerful clan, noble or royalty.
Hans’ mother was a good-natured housewife. She often went to visit his father’s workshop with her very young son and delivered bread and water. There was a well near the workshop, and since there were also other housewives there, it was ideal for them to engage in idle chats.
While his mother was engaged in idle chats with the other housewives on the side of well, Hans was spoiled by his father’s fellow workers. They taught two things to Hans. Work and hobby ── that’s, the structure of a building and gambling.
Hans had fun betting with them as they used pebbles or fruits of acorn as currency. Although his father was a man who never did gambling, he did not stop his friends and also only told Hans “not to bet money”.
At the age of 15, Hans went on a war. Although a war, it was just a subjugation of bandits. In order to defeat the bandits who made a certain mountain their stronghold and attacked towns and villages, the feudal lord recruited soldiers.
From the town where Hans lived, 15 people including him followed the feudal lord as soldiers. The elder man among them acted as the captain of the 15 people.
His father’s fellow workers gave him two dices made by sharpening pebbles.
Being roped into a war, although depending on time and circumstances, was not necessarily a disastrous thing. During that time, one could have food and, although little, there was a salary, too. One could expect a reward if he achieved a distinguished service. The number of those, who were unable to endure a poor living and a living with an unknown future, thus dreamed of distinguishing themselves in a battlefield, were not few.
Hans’ house was not that poor, and it was expected that the young boy himself would succeed his father. His skill as a carpenter was so-so, but more than that his plans and adjustment of work were better. Battle should have been only mere work for Hans.
But, Hans showed talent here. He pointed out the problems in trenches and fences around the ally camp and discovered that there was an opening in the defense of the enemy who had shut themselves in the mountain.
The captain who heard Hans’ talk reported it to a soldier serving the feudal lord. That soldier likewise reported it to his lord, too. The feudal lord, far from being displeased, was greatly impressed and took an interest in the young boy.
The battle ended in a one-sided victory on the feudal lord’s side. The feudal lord had assaulted the weak point of the enemy defense that Hans had discovered and utterly defeated the bandits.
Afterwards, Hans was promoted by the feudal lord and came to work in the lord’s mansion.
The boy learnt about castle construction; other than the work in the battlefield, he raised achievements even in the improvement of buildings and was given the family name of Kreuger with the title of knight. Furthermore, over the years he obtained achievements of military services in battles with the neighboring countries such as Brune and Asvarre, and was recognized as a noble and was given an honorific title.
Kreuger had a dream. It was to build a fortress which did not let any enemy come near.
This Hill Fort was one form of his dream. Trenches combined in length and breadth, divide the enemy; or twofold or threefold fences to impede the enemy and stairs and walls in order to fight effectively.
Kreuger made a simple hill change into a solid fortress in one night. He built a battlefield that the enemy did not imagine. What was left to do was only luring the enemy to attack and repel them every time.
As he received the report from his adjutant that the enemy had started to move, Kreuger folded up the parchment.
Dream time was over. He now had to return as a General of an army.
“It looks like the Brune army as well as the Zhcted army intends to sneak around to the south side of this Hill Fort.”
“Well, it’s the right decision.”
After answering so, Kreuger said to his adjutant.
“It’s good and all to be serious, but I don’t mind naming them the ‘Brune army’. According to the report, the Zhcted army is approximately 2000, right?”
While looking at the adjutant who answered “as you wish”, Kreuger pondered a little. They had walked up to a place where they could look down at the Hill Fort’s south side.
—The Zhcted army, huh… Then is Tigrevurmud Vorn there?
There were several reasons why Sachstein decided to have their invasion in this time, but one of them was regarding Tigre.
The young hero who killed Duke Thenardier proceeded to Zhcted as a guest General and lived there for one year. As far as Sachstein had investigated, Tigre was expected to stay there for three years. There was no doubt that Tigre had become the bridge that connected Brune and Zhcted.
—Supposing that Brune informed Zhcted of our invasion and Zhcted decided to send soldiers, I feel like they responded too quickly.
While he kept thinking, Kreuger stood at the south end of the top of the Hill Fort. A large quantity of armors and thousands of horses were clamoring in the grassy plain. Among them, many of the Brune army’s Red Horse Flags and the Zhcted army’s Black Dragon Flags were floating. With the river at their back, they took up position.
Judging from the number of battle flags, the Zhcted army being 2000 was probably true.
“Still, taking the right flank, they’re quite assertive. I thought that they intended to aim only for a good place without fighting if possible, like the mercenaries of our country, but…”
For Kreuger, that point was unexpected. Even if the Zhcted army appeared as reinforcements, he thought that they would force Brune to a dangerous place and shove their neck in only the local battle they think they would be able to win. Weren’t reinforcements from another country something like this?
Since the Zhcted army intended to fight, the clash with them was inevitable.
“Shall I clash with them at an early stage?”
Kreuger muttered. He hasn’t yet fought against an army for Zhcted.
If he left them as is, the food carried from Nemetacum and the port towns group would be delayed. Besides, it was a matter of course to reduce the numbers of the enemy in front of him before reinforcements came.
Kreuger called his adjutant and ordered him to take the field with 10000 soldiers.
“I will lead 5000 soldiers and sneak around to their left side. The remaining 5000 will stand by within the Hill Fort and they will strike the enemy after we have dragged them in.”
The Zhcted army was there. They could not let their guard down.
The report that movement of the Hill Fort has begun to become busy was brought by the reconnaissance units.
—Do they intend to attack?
Tigre once again confirmed the current battle formation. In the center, the main force led by Tigre and Mashas was 4000. The right wing with 2000 soldiers led by Elen and Lim. 3000 soldiers led by Earl Bouroullec and Scheie of the Lutece Knight Squadron on the left wing. And the reserve unit of 1000 in the rear.
The right wing’s numbers being less than the center’s and the left wing’s was because it was only organized with the Zhcted soldiers.
Wind blew letting a dry sound resound through the grassy plain. The sun was about to reach the zenith and the clouds floating in the sky temporarily blocked the sun as they were spread by the wind.
It was then that the Sachstein soldiers appeared from the south side of the Hill Fort. When they came out one after another from the Hill Fort, they quickly formed their ranks.
This time, Tigre witnessed the Sachstein soldiers for the first time.
Their armaments were different from the Brune soldiers’. They put on a semi-spherical helmet; they either wore an overcoat on top of a chain mail, or an armor and hung a short sword to the waist. In their hands, they held either a crossbow or a spear and shield.
After a quarter koku, the Sachstein army finished their lineup. The number of soldiers was 10000. They were all infantry and judging from the battle flag, their center was 4000 and the right wing and the left wing were respectively 3000.
“I see. They’re attempting to lure while pretending that they want to attack.”
Next to Tigre, while stroking his gray beard, Mashas said. Tigre agreed, too.
The two of them were roughly in the middle of the main force which was in the center.
A flat terrain with nothing obstructing. And, Brune’s Knight Squadrons excelled at charging power. As they rode fast the grassy plain, they spearheaded towards the enemy many times.
The sound of a horn echoed and both armies advanced little by little.
In the Moonlight Knights Army, those who set up a bow were only the Zhcted soldiers of the right wing. Almost all the Brune soldiers set up a long shield either horizontally or held it upwards. They intended to endure the storm of bolts of the Sachstein army without engaging in an arrow battle.
The long shield had a thin iron plate affixed to the board of oak and moreover it was lined with fur. Although heavy, it was solid and could block common arrows.
On the other hand, 5000 to 6000 soldiers set up crossbows in the Sachstein army.
A change occurred in the Moonlight Knights Army’s movement. In contrast to the center and the left wing which continued to advance, the Zhcted army stopped their advance.
This had been arranged beforehand. Neither Elen nor Lim would do something like jumping into the range of crossbows without holding a shield.
As the distance shortened, the Sachstein army began the attack. The sound of thousands of bowstrings snapping intensely struck the atmosphere; the shot bolts pierced the atmosphere and attacked the Moonlight Knights Army at a tremendous speed.
A sound as if a storm had struck a very high, steep cliff echoed on the battlefield. Most of the bolts shot by the crossbows of the Sachstein army were blocked by the long shields also partly due to the distance helping block them. Even so, several hundred of them crushed shields, penetrated the armor and pierced the soldiers’ bodies. Groans leaked here and there and screams were raised.
Elen who led the right wing of the Moonlight Knights Army shouted as she raised her long sword. Although the Zhcted army also had injured soldiers due to the volley of bolts, in addition to the fact that they took enough distance, there were only a few injured because Elen had created a wall of wind with Arifal’s power.
The Zhcted army quickly advanced and, as they shortened the distance to the enemy before them up to about 150 Alsins, they stopped their advance. They nocked arrows on bows and shot the arrows as payback for a little while ago.
The rain of arrows poured down on the Sachstein army. Although the Sachstein soldiers held up circular shields, it was not something which could be defended against. Screams rose in various places, and the Sachstein soldiers fell down one after another as they either put their hands on their faces or held their shoulder or arm.
“Second salvo! Get ready!”
Elen shouted once again. The advantage of the bow was that second shots could be released immediately. On that point, it was different from a crossbow which took time, where one must cock the string again every single time. Moreover, Elen even ordered a third salvo and a rain of arrows was poured down. Regarding the 2000 Zhcted soldiers, the left wing of the enemy before their eyes was about 3000. At the stage of the arrow battle, their numbers should have decreased by even a little.
“So far, it’s a simple battle, huh.”
While standing at the vanguard of the Zhcted army and watching the progress of the battle, Elen squinted seemingly wanting to say that she didn’t like it. Both armies clashed head-on in this vast plain. It was a picture where either the side with the numerical superiority or the one with momentum would have the edge.
Lim who was next to her looked up at the rear of the Sachstein army. The Hill Fort where several mechanisms were performed towered there; as if lying in wait for Elen and company.
In addition, Elen had one more factor of concern. She quietly dropped her gaze to the long sword that she tightly grasped in her right hand.
—There isn’t one here, huh.
She took a breath of relief. What she was concerned about was demons.
It was said that Torbalan had disguised himself as a human. Vodyanoy too, when he was repelled by Tigre and Mila, it seemed that he appeared immediately close to the camp.
They were not afraid of humans. It was not like they frequently appeared only in the middle of nowhere or in wastelands, either.
If they felt like it, they (demons) could appear anywhere.
In preparation for the appearance of a demon, she had to refrain from using her Dragonic Skills as much as possible.
In the first place, Elen didn’t intend to use her Dragonic Skills on a human. The black knight Roland was the only exception.
But, she had to enforce that stance more thoroughly from here on out. At most, she might create a wall of wind in a wide range to weaken a rain of arrows.
Lim wonderingly looked at the Vanadis who was her best friend as well as her master. Elen pulled herself together and focused on the enemy. At that time, the Zhcted army also put away their bows and set up swords or spears.
As Elen put up her long sword, she shouted while riding her horse.
Raising a war cry, the Zhcted army let the sound of horses’ hooves roar in the grassy plain.
With the charge of the right wing as a signal, Tigre also ordered the center and the left wing to charge. He could not move the soldiers elsewhere. The Hill Fort was in the way, forcing one unit circle around to the rear.
In the center and left wing, the Brune soldiers clashed with the Sachstein soldiers.
They struck the enemy’s heads with the long handles of their spears and swatted the points of their swords on the enemy’s faces. Along with wordless voices of agony, they were intensely choked by the smell of blood hanging over. The sky should have been blue and the earth covered with green. But now, one part of the earth was changing its color into something ugly due to blood, mud and corpses.
Raising a beast-like roar, a Brune soldier struck an enemy’s face with a sword. He did not cut him. He just brought him down with all his strength. A dull sound resounded and the Sachstein soldier whose face was bloodstained fell down.
But, as that Sachstein soldier, not losing consciousness, extended his hand and caught the Brune soldier’s leg, he forcibly dragged him down. Another Sachstein soldier stabbed the Brune soldier who fell many times with a spear. There, another Brune soldier cut him, and thus bodies piled up on other bodies.
At the moment when they clashed, the momentum of both armies seemed to be on par, but the Sachstein side began to gradually retreat. Their movements were flexible and when Tigre noticed it, the battlefield had moved to the north about 200 Alsins (about 200 m) from the start point.
The Hill Fort looked bigger than a while ago.
Tigre gave the entire army an order for retreat. But, a retreat when there was momentum on the ally side was difficult. There was the easy to understand reason that the Brune soldiers wanted to drive away the invaders and that raised their morale. The army of the Lutece Knight Squadron and Earl Bouroullec from the left wing also held a desire for revenge.
Moreover, the Sachstein army didn’t forget to do a modest counterattack while retreating. They provoked the Brune army by throwing stones and shooting bolts with crossbows, and tried to draw them in. Without any other choice, Tigre decided to move himself. He tightly grasped his black bow and checked the quiver attached to the horse’s saddle.
“Lord Mashas. Can I leave this place to you?”
“It can’t be helped, huh… Please, don’t overdo it. Also, keep track of the arrows’ range.”
He meant that he should hide the fact about making an arrow hit the target in the marking point of 300 Alsins.
When the old Earl said so, Tigre advanced his horse so as to weave his way through the soldiers. The youth replied to Mashas by raising up his black bow highly.
The leading group of the central forces could be seen soon. Tigre nocked an arrow to the black bow.
He calmly observed Sachstein’s leading group. After confirming the person giving instruction to other soldiers, the youth set up his bow and drew it to the limit.
The sound of the bowstring shaking was drowned out by the sound of weapons. However, the arrow flew to its target as if being sucked up and pierced the back of the neck of one Sachstein soldier. When that soldier raised a beast-like groan and fell down, Tigre nocked a new arrow to the black bow.
It was accurate to a frightening extent. In a situation where he might hit an ally if he was to make one mistake, Tigre shot three more arrows and killed three Sachstein soldiers looking like captains. The Sachstein army’s movement became noticeably dull and disorder resulted.
Tigre advanced his horse at a stretch and jumped to the vanguard of his army. On horseback, he looked back towards his army.
At the time when he raised his black bow and shouted, a bolt was released from the Sachstein army. Tigre, who caught in the edge of his field of vision that something was headed towards him, reflexively twisted his body.
The bolt pierced the atmosphere and flew as it tore the overcoat that Tigre was wearing. If it had been three fingers off to the left, Tigre would have suffered a serious wound.
In addition to the order, the fact that the supreme commander was aimed at with a crossbow made the soldiers around him regain their calm. They first began to retreat, and their movement was spreading little by little to other soldiers.
Though the left wing led by Scheie and Bouroullec was considerably pushing out as they were drawn in by the enemy, they noticed the central forces’ movement, finally stopping their advance and forcibly began to retreat.
Tigre slowly advanced his horse and returned next to Mashas. Considering the fact that he was aimed at by a crossbow, he should have hurriedly withdraw; but there were also circumstances on the fact that he had to keep dignity as supreme commander. It would also not look good if he hid himself at the horse’s neck.
Until he was distant enough from the enemy, as expected even Tigre wasn’t released from tension.
When he returned to Mashas’ side in that way, a new report was brought.
“Enemy on the right side! The number is about 5000!”
It was the detached force led by Kreuger. Tigre gave a small groan. The enemy was fully making use of the advantage of a large army. At this rate, the Zhcted army led by Elen was in danger.
“Move all the reserve units. And have them attack the flank of the enemy’s detached force.”
As he couldn’t directly say “go help the Zhcted army”; it was difficult to lead combined military forces.
On the other hand, Elen commanding the right wing wasn’t so shaken at the report that a detached force had appeared. The silver-haired Vanadis left the command to Lim, cut several times through the enemy’s left wing and repeated the action of withdrawing after killing a Sachstein soldier.
She alone has already slain nearly 30 to 40 enemy soldiers. Although only sweat has yet to cling to her silver hair, spurts of blood was scattered on her breastplate and gauntlets. It could be summed up as the Vanadis that was famed for being a match for a thousand living up to her reputation.
Thanks to Elen’s active role, the Sachstein army’s left wing greatly retreated. It was not that they attracted to this side, they were purely cautious of Elen.
“Lim. I’m going all out.”
“Don’t tell me you intend to cut through 5000 enemies?”
“Yes, I do. Don’t you think that I can surprise the enemy? Although, it’s just if the enemy’s detached force approaches our side. Unexpectedly, I’ve the feeling that they won’t get closer any more than this”
While asserting so as her eyes shone with fighting spirit. Elen calmly watched the flow of the battlefield. While sighing with a resigned face, Lim nodded at her lord’s words.
“When the enemy understands that their left wing doesn’t match our movement, the detached unit won’t attack. Then, we’ll retreat together with our allies.”
“I understand. Then just in case, let’s head to the direction where the enemy’s detached force is.”
The Zhcted army retreated little by little. The detached force led by Kreuger didn’t recklessly set an attack as Elen and Lim predicted.
When the Moonlight Knights Army came up to the position where the river was at their back, they stopped their retreat. The Sachstein soldiers who saw that began to return little by little to inside the Hill Fort.
“So, the first round is over, huh…”
As Tigre took a small breath, he checked their damage. During the short fight of about one koku, there was a little less than 200 dead people in the central main force. Mashas shook his head with a bitter face.
“We’ve been pulled in by the enemy more than I thought. We’ve incurred a fair amount of casualties at the stage of retreat.”
Less than 100 casualties had appeared for the Zhcted army of the right wing and as for Scheie and company of the left wing, they have more than 300 casualties.
The enemy’s number is greater, so if they incurred almost the same amount of casualties as them, it would be the Moonlight Knights Army that would become disadvantageous if they continued to fight.
For the time being, Tigre ordered the retrieval and burial of corpses, the scouting out of the vicinity and the setting of a camp. This must be done before it got dark.
When the setting of the camp was over, Elen, Lim, Mashas, Scheie and Bouroullec came to Tigre’s tent. Clear fatigue could be seen on Scheie and Bouroullec’s faces.
“I am sorry. I have let the soldiers die needlessly.”
As he let his face distort with bitterness, Scheie bowed his head. Next, Bouroullec also expressed words of apology. Tigre shook his head and respectively tapped their shoulders so as to thank them.
“There is still an opportunity.”
He said only that. It was certainly a severe blow that they lost more than 300 soldiers, but it would be troublesome if they weakened due to it. In addition, he was also trying to persuade himself like this.
The six people sat down as to make a circle. Titta appeared with a tray with porcelain cups for the number of people here. She put a porcelain cup in front of each person. They contained wine diluted with honey.
While putting the porcelain cup on his mouth, Tigre asked Elen and Lim.
“What do you think after having clashed with them?”
“They’re a troublesome enemy. After seeing the central main force led by Lord Tigrevurmud and Lord Mashas, I understood very well that the enemy was skilled at pulling us in.”
Having answered so in a serene tone was Lim. While commanding her own army, she also kept a close eye on her allies’ movements. She noticed the fact that the central main force was advancing ── no, was made to advance little by little.
“Can you tell us how it was dealt with by the Zhcted army?”
Scheie asked with a serious expression. Lim kept quiet and showed hesitation, but Elen calmly answered while drinking the wine with honey.
“I cut through the enemy line several times and make them retreat.”
Tigre and Mashas revealed wry smiles, and Scheie and Bouroullec looked at each other. After a short pause of two breaths, Bouroullec asked reservedly while playing with his curly hair.
“Is that Zhcted’s style of fighting?”
“But, when you think about it, it’s quite effective. Surprise the enemy, scare them and force them to retreat, huh”
Scheie seemed to be very impressed and began to ponder over something as he put a hand on his chin. Tigre looked once again at all the people present.
“How do you think that the enemy will move from now on?”
Tigre was thinking that they would probably come up with the same move.
“It’ll probably be the same strategy. While shutting themselves in on that hill, they will send out soldiers and try to lure us in. Until we possess a military power higher than the enemy, we’ll be able to fight satisfactorily with them.”
Elen answered, and Mashas and Lim nodded at the same time. Scheie and Bouroullec accepted her words while frowning. Bouroullec bitterly struck his knee with his hand.
“If we could just bring them into the open field, we wouldn’t lose against those Sachstein stray dogs.”
“So, unless we somehow drag the enemy out of that hill, a short term decisive battle will be impossible, huh…”
Even Elen, Lim or Mashas could not seem to come up with a plan which could make this possible.
At that time, a voice from outside the tent called out to Elen.
“I am sorry. I have something to tell Vanadis-sama…”
Tigre and Elen looked at each other. This was because it was Rurick’s voice. Although Elen revealed a quizzical expression, she immediately stood up. She could not say “feel free to speak here”.
“I’ll be right back.”
Elen went out of the tent. Tigre and company who were now five once again thought about a countermeasure. Each expressed the best plan which he/she could come up with, but some sort of flaw was always pointed out by someone else and they could not settle it.
They dismissed for tonight for the time being and decided to hold a war council when the day dawned and after they watched the enemy’s situation.
On the other hand, there was Kreuger in the Hill Fort.
The damage that the Sachstein army incurred in this battle was about 1000. It was as Tigre and company had guessed.
“We did a poor battle. Just because it went well so far, I might have gotten a little cocky.”
Kreuger sighed while playing with the stone dices in his left hand. While challenging the opponent with a numerical superiority, they suffered almost the same number of casualties as them. Although it could not be said that they lost, if anything, it was an unpleasant result.
“But, that was a Zhcted’s Vanadis whom I heard rumors about, huh…”
While issuing instructions to the soldiers, Kreuger leaked a mutter which mixed admiration with annoyance. He had seen the figure of Elen who freely swung her long sword when she charged alone into the left wing of the Sachstein army.
The silver-haired Vanadis showed no signs of being daunted by the Sachstein soldiers’ drawn swords and spear points; whenever she let her sword flash, a Sachstein soldier fell down as he became a corpse which did not talk.
Before attacking Brune, Kreuger had investigated about Vanadises.
『They are owners of extraordinary beauty, wielding a weapon in a battlefield and are battle maidens who are a match for a thousand that skillfully consigned their enemy to oblivion.』
When he heard such stories, he thought that it was an exaggeration.
“After all, there are only men in a battlefield. Those who would take an old woman for a beautiful woman are also few in numbers. Even regarding skill in military arts, a woman would be praised for just being able to swing a sword as she was taught.”
He had once talked so in a joking tone and made his subordinates laugh.
“I guess if the black knight Roland is a storm which mows down all, that girl would be a gale which sharply cuts and tears. It was a terrible misunderstanding. This is what it means to ‘surpass one’s expectations’.”
What surprised Kreuger was that it was not just the Vanadis. In the enemy’s central main force, there was a man who shot arrows in succession and killed Sachstein soldiers one after another.
Speaking of a Brune person skilled with a bow, there was no one other than Tigrevurmud Vorn. According to the report of a soldier, his outward appearance also matched with the one from the information he obtained prior.
“They’re indeed a formidable enemy. Now then, how will they move? Do they intend to remain near the Hill Fort as is?”
Kreuger was thinking that it would be convenient like that if that was the case. After all, it was his duty to hold back such a formidable enemy.
When the army of 50000 led by General Schmidt approaches the capital Nice, his side would just abandon the Hill Fort. They had food, water and fuel for 10 days. Even if the supply from Nemetacum and the port towns are late, they would still endure it.
But at this time, one concern/worry was born in Kreuger’s mind.
Tigre and Elen. If he managed to defeat Brune’s young hero and one of Zhcted’s Vanadises in the battlefield or capture them, it would definitely be an extraordinary achievements. In addition, there was no doubt that it would have a big influence in the future battles.
Kreuger was a man who climbed from being a commoner to his current position. Apart from his dream of building a fortress that he envisioned, he also had great ambition as such.
He had the self-confidence that this Hill Fort was an impregnable fortress. But it would be difficult to defeat Tigre and Elen while secluding himself in here.
They should probably come out for a bout at some point. When he thought so, Kreuger stared at the dices within his left hand. After having hesitated a little, he put the dices into his clothes without rolling them.
He decided to watch the situation for a little more.
Translator and references notes
 pips like ‘any of the spots on playing cards, dice, or dominoes”