It was a half koku after the war council barrenly ended that Tigre was called to Elen’s tent. In the sky, the veil of darkness went down and only the moon and countless stars were shining.
It was when the youth had just finished eating his evening meal with Titta, Mashas and Gaspar.
He came to her tent as he was led by Rurick. A carpet was spread out, and there, where a lamp with a firm structure was put, was one woman other than Elen and Lim.
“I have kept you waiting, Earl Vorn.”
Her bluish black hair was long enough to reach up to her waist and her hair ornament of a white rose shone. Red and purple roses also garnished the coloring of the pure white dress which she wore. Coupled with her transient smile, that gave her a graceful impression.
She was the Vanadis Valentina Glinka Estes with the nickname of “Illusory Princess of the Hollow Shadow”. Though there was an ominous long-handled scythe composed of red and black in her hand, it mysteriously looked good with her.
“It looks like she arrived just a while ago; by carriage.”
Elen sitting down next to Valentina explained with a frown. Lim was quietly sitting a step away. Porcelain cups were put respectively in front of each of them; they seemed to contain wine.
Tigre looked back towards Rurick, unable to hide his confusion. When the bald headed knight revealed a wry smile as he was troubled, he bowed and walked away. His action was very correct, but only this time did Tigre feel like Rurick ran away from him.
—So, this is the reason why Elen went back at the time of the war council, huh.
If a Vanadis came, then a suitable person would have to receive her.
Anyway, he couldn’t go back to his tent now that he was here. Tigre turned around to face Valentina, sat down on the spot and bowed his head again.
“Lady Valentina. I thank you again for having come.”
“I’m an allied army, so please do not be so stiff. I will be glad if we are able to speak in a more relaxed way. Also, when calling me, just Valentina is fine.”
“Yea”, Tigre raised his face while giving a nonchalant reply. Although Valentina revealed a happy smile, he did not know at all what she was thinking about.
“By the way, how did you know that we were here?”
As he asked what was bothering him, Valentina bent her head slightly to the side and answered.
“That was a coincidence. I didn’t know that you people were here.”
Valentina briefly explained the sequence of events until she arrived here.
After having parted from Tigre and company in the capital Silesia, Valentina sent a messenger to Osterode which she governed and she herself headed to Legnica.
“After boarding a ship from the port town of Prepus, I arrived at the north of Brune. Afterwards, I was supplied with a carriage and went ahead through the highway. Because I knew that Sachstein attacked from the west and the south, I decided for the time being to go to the south where there were fewer enemies.”
She told that as such, she heard that the Sachstein army and the Brune army were in Plainville and had the carriage proceed there.
While she was talking, Lim prepared a new ceramic cup. When she opened the wine bottle put in a corner of the tent and poured its contents into the cup, she put it before Tigre.
While Tigre thanked her and received the ceramic cup, he asked Valentina. He was able to mostly consent with her story, but there was something which bothered him.
“Um, where are your soldiers…?”
Valentina put a thin finger on her shapely chin and wandered her gaze in the air.
“I think that at about this time, they are probably boarding ships heading towards Brune.”
Tigre stared at Valentina with a dumbfounded face. He had never thought that only she would go ahead. Although a Vanadis was famed for being a match for a thousand, he had heard that she had a weak constitution. Even at the time of the Sun Festival, he had rarely seen her.
—she’s different from Elen after all. She only came here by order of the King, so…
I should be thankful just for the fact that she showed up here. Tigre decided to think so.
“I understand. You must be tired, so please rest properly for today.”
“I will do so; but if you are fine with it, could you tell me about the present situation?”
To Valentina’s words, Tigre revealed a wondering face and looked at Elen. Elen folded her arms and answered with a face which was unable to clear away her irritation.
“You’re the supreme commander after all. So you should talk up to where you think it’s good.”
When she finished saying that, Elen gulped down the porcelain cup at a stretch. What she said was reasonable, but there were probably parts where she was flabbergasted at Valentina. Tigre nodded and turned to the black-haired Vanadis. He talked about the Sachstein army as far as he knew.
“Currently, we’re having a hard fight. The enemy is strong, so we cannot find any means of escape.”
“That looks tough, eh.”
Valentina said so in a calm tone which did not let one feel seriousness. Tigre could not help but feel spent, but she patiently continued her words.
“If it is fine with you, could I lend you my wisdom?”
“Rather than wisdom, you want to borrow your Dragonic Tool’s power, right?”
Elen butted into the conservation. She turned a dangerous gaze to Valentina.
“Valentina. I heard that your Dragonic Tool has the ability to travel far distances in an instant. With that power, can’t you do something like jumping to where the enemy General is, and take his head and come back here?”
In a provocative tone, the silver-haired Vanadis grinned at the black-haired Vanadis. There were only Tigre, Elen, Lim and Valentina in this place, so although there was the fact that she spoke of it, she also said it with the intention of sounding Valentina out.
Elen had always thought that Valentina would not come to Brune. This was because with this much distance, there was room for making up plenty of reasons not to come. Besides, the first time Valentina met Tigre was at the Sun Festival, so she has no reason to actively lend him her help.
Elen wanted to know how far Valentina intended to fight seriously. Moreover, she also wanted to know whether her Dragonic Tool really had such a terrifying ability.
Valentina lovely tilted her head to the side and answered.
“Certainly, this Dragonic Tool Ezendeis of mine has such a power; but unfortunately I cannot satisfy Eleonora’s expectation.”
“Hou. Why is that?”
Tigre and Lim were silently watching the two Vanadises’ exchanges. This was because both of them understood Elen’s intention. Besides, they were definitely anxious about Valentina’s ability.
“I get extremely tired when I use that power just once; to the extent that I can’t stand on my feet. Eleonora, is it not also the same for your Dragonic Skill?”
“I certainly have such a Dragonic Skill.”
Elen reluctantly admitted. The silver-haired Vanadis’ Ley Admos greatly consumed physical strength. If she fired it successively two or three times, she wouldn’t be able to stand on her feet.
“But, there’s something we can do. Do you want to hear it?”
Saying so, Valentina meaningfully stared at Tigre. Although the youth made a wondering face, he urged her to continue by nodding.
“First, please propose a talk to the enemy General in Earl Vorn’s name.”
Tigre perceived a disquieting shadow flashing in Valentina’s purple pupils. While tracing the handle of the scythe which she put beside her, the black-haired Vanadis happily continued her words.
“At that moment, we will establish the conditions. That only two persons such as attendants or guards shall escort each commander──”
“That’s a severe condition. Won’t the other party be cautious?”
Tigre frowned. For such a talk, the enemy would carefully investigate about the place and the number of attendants. This was because dragging out the other party under the pretext of a talk and committing assassination was not that rare an occurrence.
“They will certainly be cautious, but do you think that they will decline?”
Tigre pondered as he was asked by Valentina.
“That’s right. If the other party feels inclined to do negotiations, I guess they’ll accept. But, they’ll set the condition of letting them choose the place though.”
“Indeed. Then, if the other party doesn’t feel inclined to do negotiations?”
“Although it’ll depend on the other party and the situation, it can’t be said that there isn’t any possibility that they’ll accept. Like gaining time, for example.”
“Or, in the case that they thought that we’ll use the pretext of a talk and kill them.”
As Tigre faltered, Valentina continued her words then. As if she had completely seen through what the youth would say.
Tigre stared at her, unable to hide his surprise; Elen and Lim too. Tigre, with a face devoid of interest, accepted Valentina’s words.
“That’s right. There is also the way where they might break the two conditions and have many soldiers hide around.”
“Yes. What’s important is that.”
Valentina happily nodded. Tigre was puzzled by that reaction of hers. He did not understand at all what she wanted to say. Elen said, not hiding her irritation.
“Don’t keep him in suspense. Tigre is serious.”
“I know, Eleonora. Then, I shall answer. We will propose a meeting with their conditions. Let’s suppose that the other party consents and really shows with more than two attendants. In that case, we’ll kill the three of them.”
Valentina said with her smile as is as if it was nothing.
The atmosphere of the place froze. Tigre gulped and stared at the black-haired Vanadis with a pale face. Elen and Lim also revealed expressions as if they had forcibly swallowed something bitter.
Valentina continued her words without breaking her smile.
“Suppose that the other party consents, but appeared accompanied not with two, but many soldiers. In that case, we kill only the enemy General and escape far away with my Dragonic Tool’s power. Afterwards, we will blame the other party that they didn’t follow the conditions. ──something like this.”
Valentina traced the scythe’s curved blade with a finger. Reflecting the light of the lamp, the scythe quietly emitted a shine.
“This is the way in which my Dragonic Tool will be able to be helpful to you, Earl Vorn.”
“…In the case that the other party follows the conditions, how will we gloss it over?”
Tigre somehow managed to squeeze out his voice and asked only that.
“After annihilating them, we can prepare as many reasons as we like. For example, we can claim that because the other side flew into rage and drew their swords, we had no other choice but to respond to their attack.”
“But, can we kill the other party so easily?”
“I think that it would be fine if the three of us, Earl Vorn, Eleonora and me were to go. There are not that many people who can match Eleonora’s sword skill and I heard that you are a master with the bow that can hit a target about 300 Alsins away without erring.”
Once again, silence descended into the place. Nobody issued any words.
After about ten seconds, Tigre finally opened his mouth.
“Valentina, did you make that suggestion to other people so far?”
“This is the first time.”
As she answered so, the black-haired Vanadis sweetly smiled. Tigre sighed.
“Then, it’s fine.”
Tigre answered briefly and shook his head. It was a declaration of his intention not to accept Valentina’s suggestion.
“Although it’s something we asked you, you shouldn’t use such a power in the battle and just keep it to protect yourself. As we talked about in Zhcted’s royal palace.”
To Tigre’s words, Valentina fixedly stared at the youth with her eyes wide opened.
“You are a strange person. I thought that you would think this and that about whether there is not a more effective way to use it.”
“I’m not good at using my head for such things.”
Tigre laughed as he said so in a joking way. While laughing, he inwardly asked himself.
Am I naïve? If it’s to win a battle, should the choice of the means matter?
The people whom he brought from Alsace. The people whom he brought from LeitMeritz. The people who gathered from various places in order to protect Brune.
If he could avoid battle by dirtying his hands and save as many of their lives as possible, wouldn’t that be rather the right method?
Thinking up to there, Tigre shook his head.
—It’s no good after all.
There was something that he had said to Ludmila Lourie once. That he did not want to do something which would make him unable to face those important to him.
He might be selfish. But, in order to continue being who he is, it was a line that he could not cross.
“──Then, I shall make another suggestion.”
Valentina said with a smile, and Tigre stared at her with a surprised face.
After the four people ended their talk, Valentina elegantly bowed and left for her tent. By the way, because she did not prepare even a tent, Elen lent her a spare tent.
Elen returned her gaze to Tigre and revealed a wry smile.
“Tigre. Why didn’t you accept her first suggestion?”
The youth frowned and looked at the silver-haired Vanadis.
“There’s no way I’d accept such a thing.”
“But, it’s effective. In order to investigate our intention, there’s probably someone who will respond to the discussion.”
Tigre frowned. He agreed with Elen’s words. And precisely because he agreed with them, he was irritated.
As she seemingly had no intention of ending the talk, the silver-haired Vanadis’ ruby-colored pupils stared straight at Tigre. The youth turned to Lim seemingly requesting her help. However, Lim too requested an explanation from Tigre with her gaze. Tigre answered as he gave up.
“It’s because I didn’t like it. It doesn’t match my nature. Are you dissatisfied with this reply?”
“No, it’s enough.”
Rather, as she greatly nodded as that was exactly what she thought, too, Elen stood up and went around behind Tigre. She sat down so as to lean her back against the youth’s. Her warmth and weight were transmitted to Tigre through his clothes.
“Even I didn’t like her suggestion. Though there’s also the fact that it runs against my principles, more than that, I can’t trust her. For example, supposing that the enemy has prepared 100 soldiers, there’s no guarantee that Valentina would escape with you and me after I killed the enemy General.”
“As expected, I don’t think that she’d do something so vicious, wouldn’t she?”
Although Tigre said that, he had no confidence. He knew nothing about her after all.
“And in the case that that came to light, the honor of Lord Tigrevurmud and Eleonora-sama would be ruined as despicable persons. The reason of the winner may get by for a time. There’ll be also people who will shout that the victor is definitely right. However, such a thing will by no means last for long.”
Lim unusually raised her voice. Quiet anger was dwelling in her blue pupils.
“The terror of a bad reputation will become a fatal blow not when one wins, but when one leaves an opening. As for me, I do not want you two to be burdened with something like that.”
At the same time as Lim finished speaking, Elen pushed her back.
“Honestly, I’m glad that you rejected her suggestion.”
After saying so, Elen smiled at her blond adjutant.
“Come on Lim, how about you show your feelings with action? Since your words from just now were plentiful after all.”
Lim did not return Elen’s words, but she quietly stood up and walked up to Tigre. She went down on her knees there and patted the youth’s head. As to say “you did well”.
While his face turned bright red, Tigre however stayed as is between the two girls.
The day dawned. The Moonlight Knights army did not move out of their camp, nor showed any signs of moving.
On the hilltop, Kreuger who received that report from his adjutant lost himself in thought.
—Does this mean that they’re waiting for reinforcements while letting the soldiers rest?
“Shall we try to go on to the enemy?”
The adjutant asked. By that, he meant to provoke the enemy by stone-throwing, crossbows, abuse and the like. However, Kreuger shook his head.
“Let’s watch the situation for the time being. Don’t neglect the check and watch.”
By check, he meant the checking of all the equipment/devices inside the Hill Fort. The adjutant responded with a bow.
At this time, Kreuger had not yet made up his mind.
That day, not even one skirmish occurred sunset.
When the day was about to go down, Tigre left the camp and walked towards the river nearby.
He intended to bathe. Valentina’s suggestion last night still left a heavy feeling of antagonism in Tigre’s heart. Although afterwards, an alternate plan was presented by her and he accepted it.
If he drank alcohol and got drunk, he might feel refreshed to some extent; but a supreme commander could not afford to get drunk in the face of an enemy. In that case, he thought that he should take a bath; he had told Titta and Mashas about it.
—It’d be good if I were to consult with Lord Mashas, but…
Tigre, Elen and Lim were the only persons who knew about Valentina’s first suggestion. It was not something that could be told to anyone with only the Dragonic Tool’s power as the reason why.
The river could be seen. Although a grassy plain was spread in this area, there were shrubs and bushes near the river. In order to avoid public gazes, Tigre set foot in the area with shrubs.
Suddenly, Tigre knitted his brows. He heard the sound of water. It’d be fine if it was a beast’s doing, but there was also the possibility that someone has come to bathe just like him.
Tigre quietly left the place. He went about 20 Alsins (about 20 meter) downstream.
When he confirmed that he did not hear the sound of water, he took off his clothes. After undressing, he sat down on the riverside. When he scooped up water and poured it on his chest, it was cold, but not to the point where he could not endure.
After having sprinkled water on his body several times, Tigre set foot in the river. He let his body sink little by little and was soaked until his shoulders. He often swam and dove in rivers even in Alsace.
When he put water on himself from head to toe, stretched out his body and swam, he finally felt refreshed.
He then raised his body. He did not swum for that long, but it was probably enough given his current position.
Suddenly, an especially strong wind blew. The water’s surface made a boisterous noise and Tigre couldn’t help but curl himself up. The youth noticed that something white was washed away from upstream. It was one size smaller than a clenched fist.
As Tigre pushed his way through the water and approached it, he casually picked it up.
As he observed it thinking that it was rare, it was an artificial flower. Many petals made of something appearing to be silk were attached on a thin flat stone.
“Why is such a thing…”
Tigre cocked his head in puzzlement. Although the fact that an artificial flower was washed away was strange, it had a structure that Tigre did not know of. Titta had made an artificial flower before, but it was not like this. Though this was made using stone, it was light enough to float on water.
Though he thought about what he should do, Tigre got out of the river holding it. It was then that the sound of footsteps as someone was running was approaching.
One woman appeared from the shade of the shrubs. Tigre stood stock still on the spot with his eyes wide opened. Although he was also surprised that the woman was Valentina, she was not wearing anything. The black-haired Vanadis’s white naked body was exposed before the youth’s eyes.
Her wet long hair clung from her shoulders to her chest and two hills were bouncing under there. Her waist was thin and her legs which extended from her round buttocks gave a flexible impression.
Her perfectly balanced beauty could be found there.
Similarly, Valentina seemed to be also surprised by Tigre’s presence. But, earlier than being bashful, she was looking at the youth’s body with admiration. Tigre was also naked.
Tigre hurriedly turned his back on Valentina. However, it was too late in various ways. Her naked body has already been etched into his mind and did not look like it would easily disappear. In addition, the various reactions that Tigre’s body showed have also been reflected in Valentina eyes.
“S-Sorry…! I didn’t mean to do such a thing…”
Before he finished speaking, Tigre felt the sensation of a cold metal on the nape of his neck. As he moved only his gaze, a huge red and black curved blade came in from the side and touched his chest.
“…Did you see?”
A stifled low voice could be heard from behind. Tigre answered “yes”. His body has already answered honestly after all, so he had no other choice but admit it.
“It’s good that you’re honest. Now then, what should I do?”
The scythe went down little by little while keeping a distance at whether it would touch Tigre’s skin or not. It stopped at the area of his waist.
“Whatever the circumstances, a punishment is necessary after all; so shall I cut down here?”
Tigre’s whole body grew pale. Nonetheless, a part of his body was tinged with heat.
One wrong move and it might really be cut with the scythe. As he could not move at all, the scythe suddenly went away.
“It’s only a joke. Please, give me what you hold in your hand.”
A bright voice reached his back. As Tigre held the artificial flower in his right hand, he carefully turned behind.
The artificial flower parted from the youth’s hand. Tigre then asked as he regained his composure to some extent.
“Was it yours?”
“Yes. The wind blew and it had inadvertently dropped into the river… And I came to pick it up in a hurry. I did not think that you would possibly be there.”
After apologizing once again by saying “sorry”, Tigre realized a certain thing and asked.
“Um, where did your Dragonic Tool come from…?”
After a slight pause, Valentina answered. Rather than having thought about something, she did not seem to be able to guess the meaning of the question.
“I had explained it in the war council, hadn’t I? If the Vanadis calls for it, the Dragonic Tool will appear in her hand no matter how far it is.”
Now that she mentions it, she did say that; Tigre remembered. Precisely because Elen also confirmed it, he accepted Valentina’s second suggestion.
“Still, I guess that artificial flower is very important to you…”
Tigre’s words paused there. This was because he felt that the presence behind him had gone away.
“I guess there’ll be no problem if I dry it. As thanks for having picked it up, I will leave this matter as is without question.”
Along with her voice, the sound of footsteps faded away little by little. Tigre unintentionally asked.
“I am thankful for that, but are you fine with that…?”
“Let’s both keep silent about it. It’s enough like that, isn’t it? Since similarly to your body, you are someone who cannot tell lies.”
Tigre blushed as he was teased.
“I’m counting on you to properly take care of the rest.”
Leaving behind a bright voice as if it was nothing, Valentina walked away. After her presence completely disappeared, Tigre once again soaked in the river for the time being.
It was about when the day had gone down that a messenger of the Moonlight Knights army showed up in the Hill Fort. At this time, Kreuger was having a slightly early evening meal. His meal’s contents were: bread, dried meat and wheat rice porridge with dried vegetables.
As he had eaten about half of the wheat rice porridge, Kreuger stopped his hand which moved the wooden spoon.
This wheat rice porridge was made using the wheat harvested in Brune. When he ate it for the first time, Kreuger was assailed by a fresh surprise.
Wheat could hardly be harvested in Sachstein. Instead, oats could be harvested abundantly.
Oat rice porridge had a bitter taste. Even when one ground them and ate them with bread, the bitter taste would not disappear. But, Kreuger had been eating it as if it was something natural.
When he emptied the wooden bowl containing the wheat rice porridge, Kreuger received a report from his adjutant. At this time for the first time, he got to know the official name of the enemy army which he was fighting.
However, for Kreuger, such a thing did not matter. He was attacked by a surprise that was far more incomparable than that.
He said that it was a young, beautiful girl who came as a messenger. And that she had long black hair reaching to her waist, and wore a white dress not suitable on a battlefield and carried a scythe with red and black colors on her shoulder.
“Except the ominous scythe, she looks like a noble lady.”
Was the report of the soldier who interacted with her. Kreuger frowned.
“Wasn’t there another girl, one with silver hair?”
“There was, but…”
There was clear confusion in the adjutant’s voice.
It was said that two girls had appeared in a place about 200 Alsins away from the Hill Fort. Both were on horseback and the soldiers who saw them could not uniformly hide their surprise.
Regarding Elen, there were many soldiers who had seen her figure on the battlefield. However, it was the first time for them seeing Valentina.
Unlike Elen who wore armor, although a light one, Valentina wore a white dress. She also rode her horse sideways and even the weapon she carried on her shoulder was a boorish scythe which was puzzling.
Elen did not move from the spot; only Valentina got down from her horse and walked. And, she announced that she was a messenger.
—So, the silver-haired girl acts as the guard, huh.
It was a common thing, secretly killing a messenger who was inconvenient for his army and burying their corpse, and then insisting towards the other party that no messenger came. The silver-haired girl watching from a distance probably meant that they would not forgive such a means.
—Which means that if I do something careless, I will completely make an enemy out of Zhcted, huh?
Kreuger lost himself in thought while rolling the dices in his hand. He hesitated to send the messenger away without meeting her. Above all, he was concerned about the fact that not a Brune person, but a Zhcted person showed up as a messenger. He was interested in what they would say in the war of another country.
“Fine. Keep hold of her weapon and let her through here.”
Kreuger waited for the other party in a tent stretched at the hilltop.
The black-haired Vanadis appeared before long. Kreuger fixedly stared at her. Though there was also the fact that he was captivated by her beauty, he was dumbfounded by the fact that she was really wearing a dress.
“Did you perhaps sneak out of a dance party?”
“You may find it surprising, but this is my military outfit. I would choose a more gorgeous dress for a dance party. Should an opportunity arise, I would like to show it to you.”
She answered without erasing her smile and introduced herself as Valentina Glinka Estes; that she was a Vanadis of Zhcted. By the way, the conversation was carried out in Brune’s language.
—I have heard about that name.
Kreuger had actually never seen Valentina.
The reason why he thought Elen was a Vanadis was because he saw her way of fighting. However, a warrior-like atmosphere could not be felt at all from Valentina. Even regarding the weapons, in contrast with Elen’s weapon which was a long sword, it was said that Valentina’s was a scythe.
—Isn’t a large sickle (scythe) a farm tool?
Hiding his doubt and suspicion behind a smile, Kreuger asked in a casual tone.
“I saw a beautiful silver-haired woman in the battlefield the other day though.”
“She is called Eleonora Viltaria, also a Vanadis of my country.”
“Then, are you saying that out of the proud Vanadises of Zhcted, two are actually in Brune?”
“We two are indeed here.”
Kreuger deliberately showed that he was surprised, but Valentina did not fall for it as she broadly smiled as is.
—She’s really something being able to smile without breaking her calm attitude while being in the midst of the enemy.
Whether or not Valentina was a Vanadis aside, Kreuger recognized only that point.
“I am sorry for not being able to provide a decent hospitality as we are in such a place. Though it may be sudden, may I ask for what kind of business you have come here for?”
“I came to advise you people to surrender.”
Valentina answered. She insisted as to persuade him that because they were many brave soldiers in Brune that blame the Sachstein army’s injustice and loved justice and peace, they should hurriedly withdraw.
Though Kreuger did not change his facial expression, he could not inwardly suppress his disappointment and sneer.
He mocked Valentina about whether she came all the way here just to say such foolish things. He even wondered whether she was an insolent noble lady with just beauty as her redeeming feature.
As he waited for Valentina to finish speaking, Kreuger answered with a smile.
“I have heard your valuable words, but we also have our own troubles. You should go back.”
“Those troubles, may I ask what they are?”
Valentina asked. Rather than doggedly opposing it, it seemed that she asked it as she really did not know. Even so, Kreuger, not immediately replying, thought for a short while.
“Among those from the royal family, there is someone called Melisande. If times had not changed, she might have succeeded the previous King, His Majesty Faron and be governing this country.”
“Lady Melisande? What kind of relationship does she have with Princess Regin?”
Kreuger frowned. Valentina’s way of asking questions was too innocent and she really did not seem to know.
But, that rather aroused Kreuger’s wariness. Be it her white dress or her way of talking, he doubted whether all of that was not an act.
“She is Lady Regin’s cousin, and was the late Duke Thenardier’s wife.”
“Was Sachstein relied on by that person?”
“That’s right. Lady Regin governs Brune, but there are many mysterious points about her. For example, the fact that she was brought up as a Prince until two years ago. Also that she was recognized as a Princess by an oracle or something to succeed this country as King Faron’s successor.”
“When you say oracle, I cannot say anything. Especially since my country and Brune believes in the same gods.”
A smile appeared on Kreuger’s lips. It was not a bad way of escaping. He would probably say the same thing even if he was in her position. There was nothing as convenient to use as the gods.
“However, Lady Melisande was suspicious of it. As I said just now, Lady Melisande has legitimacy for sure. Precisely because we believe so, we have moved soldiers for her. In order to expel Princess Regin and make Lady Melisande Brune’s true ruler.”
“I see. So that’s it.”
Valentina struck her hand as to say that she understood. Kreuger was going to call a soldier to make her return. However, the black-haired Vanadis opened her mouth earlier than that.
“I have another thing I would like to talk about, but could you hear it?”
Kreuger squinted his eyes and returned his gaze to her.
“What is it?”
“It is a talk as a messenger of Zhcted.”
Valentina answered without erasing her smile. Kreuger frowned once again.
Her smile did not change even one bit, too. However, a clear change occurred in the atmosphere she was wearing. Kreuger inquired the other party’s reaction by playing dumb.
“If it is about the advice of surrender, I have just listened to it though.”
“That was the message as the Moonlight Knights army’s messenger.”
To Valentina’s reply, Kreuger rebuild his posture. He stared at her.
“Let me hear it.”
“I will go right to the point. Could my country and Sachstein share Brune’s land?”
Kreuger opened his eyes wide. He did think about it as one possibility, but he did not think that they would really do that suggestion.
“Isn’t Zhcted a friendly country to Brune?”
“Of course. But regarding the friendship, if there are the ones which last long, there are also those which doesn’t. Especially between a country and a country.”
“What is the reason for you to join hands with my country?”
“There are too many obstacles for Zhcted alone to cut Brune’s territory. Of course Brune will resist; but including your country, the neighboring countries such as Muozinel and Asvarre will interfere right? In that case, it would be better for us to join forces with one of those countries. Am I wrong?”
“Why with my country and not with Muozinel or Asvarre?”
“We are fighting Muozinel on land and we have trouble with Asvarre in the sea. Fortunately, we have no antagonism with your country. There is also the fact that we do not share a border.”
Kreuger took a small breath. He poured forth questions in succession, but Valentina answered all of them without faltering. And all her answers had a persuasive power at that.
—So this out-of-place dress and her large sickle are things to deceive the beholder, huh.
“Which means that you’re betraying Tigrevurmud Vorn?”
As Kreuger said as to make sure, Valentina shook her head.
“No, Earl Vorn is already a Zhcted person, after all.”
Kreuger raised a “hou” voice as he seemed to be surprised.
“This is the first time I’ve heard about that.”
“Ostensibly, he is still a Brune noble after all. I have no evidence that I can show, but I can explain it.”
Kreuger urged her to go on by nodding.
“Two years ago, after this country’s civil war ended, Earl Vorn stayed in Zhcted as a guest General and Alsace that he’s governing became a condominium of Brune and Zhcted. Do you know about that?”
Kreuger nodded. He had investigated about it to that extent.
“At that time, the preparations for welcoming him as a person of my country have already been done. Just like how you people had your troubles regarding Lady Melisande, we have planned to shave off Brune little by little as a state ceremony of Earl Vorn’s existence.”
Tigrevurmud Vorn was a man with a strong sense of justice and a person who loved his homeland. He was a man who could not help taking action if danger fell upon Brune.
And, if he asked, Zhcted was ready to move as mercenaries. Of course since they are mercenaries, they would not just work for free.
Valentina talked fluently and added.
“We were also planning to step onto the stage and make Alsace a territory of our country. After all, if we were to immediately make it a territory of our country, it would cause a backlash. In addition, as expected Earl Vorn also has a profound attachment to the land where he was born and raised.”
“I see. It’s an interesting talk.”
It was a talk that Kreuger could consent with.
In the first place, in the civil war two years ago, why did a Vanadis of Zhcted lend her power to a small noble who had only a territory in the frontier? He could only think that she used Tigre as an excuse to intervene. In fact, Zhcted obtained the land of Agnes and jointly manages Alsace.
He could also understand if thinking that Tigre also staying in Zhcted as a guest General was a foundation made so that he became a person of Zhcted.
“Do you know of this? Last year, Earl Vorn was requested by His Majesty King Victor and proceeded to Asvarre who was in the midst of a civil war.”
Of course, Kreuger knew of it. For Sachstein, the Asvarre Kingdom was an opponent whom they had a deep connection with. Regarding the civil war in that country, there was no one among the Generals of Sachstein who did not try to investigate about that.
“Although a request of a King of one country, why do you think that Earl Vorn, who is a person of a foreign country, had undertaken it? It was in order to prove that he is a person who pledge allegiance to Zhcted. To that end, the more dangerous the duty, the better. Earl Vorn had always wished for such a duty.”
When Valentina finished speaking, silence fell within the tent. But, it was just for a really short time. The gray-haired Sachstein General looked at Valentina.
Kreuger inspected in his head what she told one by one. There was no contradiction with what he knew. Rather, he was able to understand the reason why Zhcted lent their power to Tigre and why Tigre cooperated with Zhcted and proceeded to Asvarre.
He jumped to Asvarre which was in chaos and ran through battlefields. If he went to such an extent, even the people of Zhcted would recognize Tigre. There was also a rumor that he rescued a Vanadis.
“So that’s why Zhcted taking advantage of this opportunity and is trying to shave off Brune’s territory, huh.”
In that case, he could also understand why they were two Vanadises here.
“As I said just now, it’ll depend on how you will move.”
Valentina revealed a smile.
“If what Sachstein sets up were to be just skirmishes, you will make Brune indebted to you. In case that I judge that it is a full-scale invasion and that Brune cannot resist, I will take back this proposal.”
Kreuger hesitated. Valentina’s proposal was attractive. Certainly, if he were to obtain Zhcted’s cooperation, the future battles would become favorable.
“I would like to confirm it once more. Do you people intend to destroy Brune?”
“As I’ve also said a while ago, we intended to go little by little. I wondered whether you people also do not intend to destroy it.”
“For the time being, we intended to take the west and the south.”
This was because if they were to extend their hands to the north and the east, they would share borders with the two countries Zhcted and Muozinel. It was not that good a thing for Sachstein. Until they held down/controlled Asvarre, they did not want to have their enemies increase too much.
“We are demanding the north and the east.”
If they got their hands on the northern part, Zhcted would get a hold of their long-cherished port which did not freeze even in the winter. The eastern part’s fertile earth was also precious.
“Wouldn’t it better for us to leave you some parts just to the extent where both our national borders do not come in contact without whittling off the whole Brune? In so doing, you will be able to achieve your duty towards Lady Melisande.”
“That’s an interesting suggestion.”
Kreuger laughed in a low voice. But, he immediately returned to a serious expression.
“However, I wonder whether your words are to be trusted. If I believe what I’ve just heard, I cannot find a lie in them.”
If Valentina’s words were true, accepting this proposal would be the greatest achievement for Kreuger. For that reason alone, he had to deal with this carefully.
“Well then, how about we do like this? ──Tomorrow night, I will cause a commotion in the Moonlight Knights army’s camp. I can even give rise to flames.”
Valentina was saying that she would create confusion in her ally camp.
“May I make another demand?”
“Please, go on.”
“Before that confusion, could I have you, the other Vanadis or Earl Vorn come to my army?”
“Then, I will come.”
Valentina easily consented.
Thus, the black-haired Vanadis returned to the camp of the Moonlight Knights army.
The following day, too, there was not a big fight. It was to the degree of a skirmish set by Sachstein side. The Moonlight Knights’ forces were going to fight back immediately, but because the Sachstein side immediately pulled back, it had ended with only them growing irritated.
There was no conspicuous movement from the Moonlight Knights army. It was only to the extent that cavalrymen who, were probably sent for reconnaissance, were going around the Hill Fort. They were probably searching for whether there was an opening somewhere.
The sun passed the zenith and went down to the west, and the sky was covered with darkness little by little. It was about one koku after the day had set that Valentina showed up at the Hill Fort.
“Thank you for waiting.”
“You must be tired, right? How about you take a rest on the hill?”
Kreuger finally trusted the black-haired Vanadis. Even if this night attack ended in failure, he would still have a Vanadis in his hands. Wasn’t it enough of a harvest?
Suddenly, Kreuger took out the two dices that he kept inside the sleeve of his clothes.
Should he try rolling them here and now? He understood that it wouldn’t necessarily be exactly as what was wanted. His feelings were the problem.
He held his breath. His heartbeat could be heard awfully greatly.
Making up his mind, Kreuger rolled the dices on the ground. The numbers which appeared were 2 and 3. It was an odd number.
Kreuger took a small breath. Before he had noticed, sweat was blurred on his forehead. It looked like he was fairly tense.
—But, like this it’ll go smoothly.
Kreuger put the dices back inside his sleeves. He called his adjutant and ordered him to increase the guard of the place where Valentina was.
“Have 100 people stand guard. Deploy them in every key point so that she doesn’t escape.”
“Is it necessary to go to such an extent? Even though we keep her weapon.”
The adjutant looked puzzled. What he was skeptical about was the fact that, in addition to Valentina’s attire which was a dress treated with flowers, he has not seen her fighting style. The adjutant was thinking that even if an unexpected situation occurred and she was to resist, they might hold her with even ten people.
“It’s just to be safe. Perhaps she might be an excellent warrior at the same level as that silver-haired Vanadis. Even if it isn’t the case, that girl has that much value.”
Afterwards, Sachstein soldiers came out of the Hill Fort one after another under the cover of darkness. So as to not be seen by the Moonlight Knights army, other than those for Valentina’s lookout, they left 500 soldiers and made them stand in a conspicuous place.
After nearly half a koku, a little over 18000 Sachstein soldiers unfolded around the Hill Fort. Their helmets, chain mails, spears and short swords were also covered with mud; their faces, too.
Because chain mails made noise, they were not suitable for a night attack. Aware of that, Kreuger let the soldiers put on chain mail. This was because on this occasion, he did not intend to let the soldiers attack.
The plan was that after confusion occurred in the Moonlight Knights army’s camp, the Sachstein army would take that opportunity and charge. There was the calculation that the fact of hearing a sound would be able to give fear to the enemy.
When about half a koku had passed, the Moonlight Knights army’s camp suddenly became bright; that it was in flames could clearly be seen. Several screams of confusion resounded and dancing shadows of people could be seen.
In the center of the Sachstein army, Kreuger shouted. If things went well, they might be able to annihilate the enemy in this one night. In doing so, they might abandon the Hill Fort and even join with Schmidt.
The Sachstein soldiers raised battle cries, tightly grasped their spear or short sword and ran through the grassy plain at night. It was expected that the combined chorus of more than 18000 chain mails echoing would spread a new confusion in the Moonlight Knights army’s camp.
It was at that time that an unusual phenomenon occurred ahead of their gazes.
From within the camp, battle cries not at all inferior to those of the Sachstein army were raised. The Brune soldiers who should have been in confusion had spears and set up shields, ambushing the Sachstein soldiers.
Holes were dug in the ground, oil was scattered and the Sachstein soldiers who rushingly charged faltered as they received a severe surprise attack.
The Zhcted soldiers, who were lying hidden in the darkness away from the camp, poured down arrows on the Sachstein soldiers. Because they shot them low so as not to roll up their allies, there were more arrows that dropped on the ground than the ones that hit. However, it was enough to let the Sachstein soldiers fall into chaos.
While the flames flickered, the Brune soldiers fiercely attacked the Sachstein soldiers. They slashed at them with swords, stabbed them with spears and struck with maces to the best of their power. There were also those who hit them with clubs lit with fire.
The Sachstein soldiers desperately fought back, but because they hadn’t yet recovered from their agitation, there was no force in their counterattack. When it comes to crossing swords, they were being pushed back. Meanwhile, arrows flew from the side and the rear.
While being illuminated by the fire, the Sachstein soldiers were falling down one after another.
“We’ve been tricked, huh…!”
To the ghastly situation unfolding before his eyes, Kreuger made a low groan. He had been deceived by Valentina.
Angry roars, screams, and the sound of swords crossing were sucked up within the night’s darkness together with the smoke. There was a silver-haired girl boldly riding a horse within the flames and cutting down the Sachstein soldiers one after another. It was Elen.
While wielding her long sword, Elen looked around. Her eyes met with Kreuger. Suddenly, the silver-haired Vanadis fiercely rode her horse.
Elen did not know Kreuger’s face. However, she noticed that soldiers were standing so as to protect him. It was enough to judge that he was someone in a high position.
“Your Excellency. Please escape.”
When the adjutant said so, Elen was shortening the distance. Before her slash, spears and chain mails looked like a child’s toy. The tips of spears were sent flying and chain mails were cut and torn down along with the bodies. It looked like there was no one able to stop her now.
Kreuger had no choice but to draw his sword. Elen narrowed down the distance.
Silver sparks scattered along with a shock. Kreuger repelled the blow brought down from horseback. Numbness remained in his hand and the gray-haired General, although he dipped his body in tension, shouted to Elen.
“It looks like in Zhcted a Vanadis’ life is quite light! To think that one would be used and then thrown away in such a battlefield.”
“That’s just your belief.”
Elen heartily laughed without being shaken.
“Man of Sachstein! My name is Eleonora Viltaria. With my name and LeitMeritz’s military power as a souvenir, you should run back to your native land!”
They clashed swords once again. A shrill metallic sound resounded in the depths of Kreuger’s ears. Kreuger was forced to recognize Elen’s ability.
A Sachstein soldier raised a wordless cry and attacked Elen. At that opportunity, Kreuger went away from Elen. He desperately ran in the darkness.
At that time, an arrow flew from somewhere. The arrow bounced back as it hit Kreuger’s helmet. Kreuger’s body staggered. But, he did not fall to the ground.
Kreuger kept running as is and succeeded in withdrawing from the battlefield.
The Sachstein army which found itself in a pincer attack from the front and rear was torn asunder and stampeded. The enemy’s numbers from the front and rear, even if summed up, were fewer than theirs; but those who understood that were a small fraction.
When Elen made Kreuger take flight, Tigre hurried to the Hill Fort leading 2000 horsemen of the Scheie Knight Squadron.
They had to rescue Valentina who was left as a hostage.
To Tigre’s shout, the Scheie Knight Squadron answered with angry roars. They galloped letting the horses’ hooves roar.
There was only a sporadic resistance from the Hill Fort. Although there were people who were hit by bolts from crossbows and fell from their horses, the majority destroyed the fences and jumped into the Hill Fort. Tigre also rushed into the Hill Fort while being protected by the Knights.
Bonfires were lit in various places of the Hill Fort and the shadows of people were busily moving around them. It was a suitable situation for Tigre. Whenever the sound of the bowstring resounded, Sachstein soldiers fell down on the hill one after another.
The Scheie Knight Squadron showed ferocity as to release their anger of these past several days. When they went down from their horses, they brandished their swords in spite of their armor’s weight and ran up the hill. They cut down the Sachstein soldiers.
“It looks like the enemy is quite confused.”
While going up the stairs of earth and approaching the top, Tigre knitted his brows. He was worried about the fact that the hilltop was in flames.
He shouted the name of the girl who should have been held hostage.
Tigre was surprised at the fact that a reply came immediately near him. When he looked back, Valentina wearing a dress covered in mud was standing there.
She had said that she would safely sneak away, but he did not think that she would have already gone down to such a place.
“Don’t tell me you use your Dragonic Skill…?”
When he asked that in a low voice, Valentina cutely tilted her head to the side.
“I said that that is very tiring, right? I did not use it.”
The black-haired Vanadis approached Tigre and whispered in his ear.
“I will specially tell you. I set it on fire.”
“Set fire? How?”
There was no way that Sachstein would allow her to be in possession of something that can ignite.
“Haven’t you noticed something when looking at me?”
When she said that, Tigre fixedly stared at her face. He shook his head. Then, Valentina chuckled and said.
“Please, look at my whole body.”
Tigre carefully looked at Valentina from head to toe. Although his eyes have long since gotten used to the darkness, it was hard to tell in a situation where there was only the light of the moon, the stars and the far-off fire. Even so, Tigre noticed a certain thing. There weren’t any roses decorated on her dress.
“No way, did you use those artificial roses?”
As she chuckled, Valentina pointed at her dress with a finger.
“With two cores, that burns well when you place it between petals and rubbed them together.”
Tigre was dumbfounded. When he had picked up that artificial flower, he had thought that it was something unusual; but he did not notice it at all.
Valentina who was led inside the Sachstein army’s camp entrusted the scythe, which was her Dragonic Tool, to them and was taken into a tent on the hill. Although she was not restrained, she was told to wait for Kreuger’s return there.
There was only a chair, a table and wine in the tent. Outside the tent, ten soldiers alternately stood guard over her, and moreover another 90 soldiers were on alert in various places of the Hill Fort. Valentina had taken off the roses from her dress with a casual gesture and rubbed them together in her skirt.
“There were things such as a pillow and a chair which seemed to be able to burn, so I started smoke with them. I slipped out of the tent under the cover of the commotion and went down the slope. I also have the possibility to summon my Dragonic Tool at hand, but then I will have to literally cut my way through.”
The fact of having put 100 people standing watch was a misfortune for the Sachstein side. The sudden fire and smoke accelerated their confusion.
As she finished explaining, Valentina stared at Tigre with a wondering face.
“Still, you really came to rescue me.”
Tigre had promised to Valentina that he would immediately rush to the Hill Fort as soon as they defeated the Sachstein army. At that time, the black-haired Vanadis laughed and nodded; but judging from her way of talking now, she did not seem to expect him to really do it.
After Valentina smiled with one not knowing what she was thinking, she suddenly leaned coquettishly against the youth. Tigre asked her in panic.
“What’s the matter? Are you injured somewhere──”
“I’ve gotten tired.”
In a tone which did not sound that way, Valentina answered.
“I have talked about the fact that I have a weak constitution, right? Please, carry me on your back.”
“…Could we leave it for later?”
Tigre asked her with a troubled face. There were still arrows remaining in his quiver. The fight between the Scheie Knight Squadron and the Sachstein soldiers was also going on. It didn’t look like he would take a breather until they made them (Sachstein soldiers) surrender or wipe them out.
“Snatching your subordinates’ achievements? I cannot say that you are a good commander, eh.”
While coiling her thin arms around Tigre’s neck, Valentina argued vehemently. In fact, the fight was proceeding in favor of the Scheie Knight Squadron.
“…I got it.”
Tigre could not help but carry Valentina on his back. He thought that it might not look like it but she might really be tired. He thought that he must take her to a safe place for the time being.
—Speaking of the nearest safe place from here, it would be the top…
There were still enemies in the top’s vicinity, but there were many allies, too. On the other hand, if leaving the Hill Fort, the whole area was wrapped in darkness. There was also the possibility that Sachstein soldiers who did not lose their fighting spirit were lying hidden.
Because she wore only a dress, Valentina’s soft body was pressed onto his back. Though Tigre wore leather armor, he could feel elasticity even from above it.
When they arrived at a place only slightly away from the top, Valentina suddenly asked.
“By the way, why did you accept my second suggestion?”
“Because I thought it’d go well.”
Tigre answered with a serious face. Then he added “however” with a difficult expression.
“If I didn’t know about your Dragonic Tool’s ability, I’d have probably rejected it.”
The problematic point in this plan was the part where Valentina said that she would remain in the Sachstein’s camp as hostage when the other party requested a compensation to merited their trust. Of course, there was no guarantee that she would have come back safe from there. Not to mention that she could have been killed; there was no doubt that she would have thoroughly been put to shame if she got caught right.
But, Valentina had Ezendeis with which she could travel to another place in an instant. Although her safety was guaranteed, even with that Tigre thought that he might at least bet on it.
“But, this is the last time I accept this kind of plan. It’s dangerous judging from the way how you escape.”
Valentina lifted her right arm and pinched Tigre’s ear.
The youth raised a short scream.
The darkness covering the sky gradually faded and the day was about to dawn.
Under the indigo blue sky, Sachstein soldiers dragging their exhausted bodies looked like black shadows.
While reorganizing his army’s troops, Kreuger chose soldiers who still had a lot of physical strength, and organized reconnaissance units and sent them one after another. He was covered with blood and mud and was exhausted; but there were a lot of things he had to do before taking a rest.
Currently, Kreuger’s army was to the south about 10 Belsta (about 10 km) away from the battlefield. The number of soldiers following Kreuger was approximately 13000. Which meant that he lost 30% of his soldiers in one night.
—No, it’d be better to think that it was somewhat larger than approximately 1000.
Adding in those who had fled during the night battle, the soldiers who lost sight of their allies within the darkness and confusion should have not been small in number. Because a grassy plain with gentle ups and downs was spread in this area, it would not be difficult to find their figures.
Even if they suffered a crushing defeat, the soldiers still followed Kreuger. There was probably the fact that it was because they were in a foreign land, but this General with a commoner origin had earned popularity from the soldiers.
The reconnaissance units returned before long. According to their reports, it seemed that the Moonlight Knights army had hardly moved from the battlefield. Looking up at the east sky which had turned grey, Kreuger began to ponder.
“Now then, I wonder how the enemy will move. Will they come chasing us, or head to the capital? Or will they go to the west in order to stop Schmidt-dono…?”
They would probably come chasing after them. Although their number was reduced, the number of Sachstein troops present here exceeded 10000. There was no way that the Brune army would leave them as is.
Kreuger had long since decided about his army’s action.
“We will go to the south.”
Kreuger’s army existed at the south side in order to attract the enemy. If the Moonlight Knights army went south as they pursued Kreuger’s army, the enemy would become more distant from Schmidt’s army.
Besides, for Kreuger, there was a problem which he couldn’t ignore. They left food and fuel in the Hill Fort. Thus, by abandoning the Hill Fort, they lost it.
To satisfy the hunger of about 10000 soldiers, just attacking villages and towns would not be enough. It would probably last one or two days, but it would quickly run out. They only had two choices: either waiting for it to be sent by Nemetacum and the port towns group, or defeating the Moonlight Knights army and taking it back.
While looking up at the sun which gradually rose, Kreuger’s army advanced to the south through the highway.
As they entered a region called Bauval plain, Kreuger stopped the march. Other than one small, flat hill, it was a ground where a grassy plain was spread as far as one looked around. He decided to wait for the Moonlight Knights army in this place.
As they checked their weapons, there were enough spears and short swords; but the number of crossbows did not reach 1000. Bolts were even fewer as their number did not reach even 500. As they were heavy, many crossbows were thrown away during the flight.
As expected, Kreuger was depressed, but they could not afford to go recover them. They would have probably been picked up already by the enemy. He only had to think about how to fight in this situation.
The soldiers that he could deploy on the hill were at most around 500. Kreuger set up camps respectively on the top and the foot of the hill. He once again sent reconnaissance units to the north and south.
—As scheduled, food should arrive from Nemetacum tomorrow.
Then today, a group of horses loaded with food and water should arrive at this place which was to the south nearly 20 Belsta (about 20 km) away from the Hill Fort.
However, Kreuger did not inform the soldiers of that. In case an accident occurred and they were late, the soldiers’ morale would fall at a stretch.
While letting the soldiers rest at the foot of the hill, the gray-haired General called two subordinates.
“I will give each of you funds, food and soldiers.”
He ordered one to head to Schmidt’s army and tell him about the current situation.
“Listen well. You should absolutely report that the Zhcted army is participating in the war and that they are two Vanadises.”
Then, he ordered the other subordinate to head to the Capital Nice.
“I don’t mind what kind of means you use. Spread the rumor that ‘Tigrevurmud Vorn is a puppet of the Zhcted Kingdom and he intends to hand over Brune’s territory to Zhcted’ in the Capital. Make it so that it reaches the ears of every person from royalty and titled nobility to commoner.”
Valentina’s scheme made Kreuger come up with this plan. If a crack arose between the Capital and Tigre, the future battles should become advantageous.
As he sent his subordinates as such, Kreuger looked up at the clear blue sky. He talked to himself.
Just one day is fine. Food, time and enough material for one day.
If only he had that, he could make even this small hill into a strong fortress. There were many drawings in accordance with the size and shape of the hill in Kreuger’s head. If he was able to build up a Hill Fort, there was no way that he would lose whether the enemy was Brune’s Knight Squadrons or the Zhcted army.
However, there were no materials. Even if there were, he couldn’t make the soldiers work in this situation. They were tired, and it would be the wrong cause of their demise if they could not move when they had to fight.
After about half a koku, the reconnaissance unit sent to the south returned.
“A unit with food and water from Nemetacum are heading this way!”
A smile giving way to joy appeared on the face of the soldier who made the report. Although Kreuger stopped at only nodding composedly, he inwardly shared the same feeling, too.
However, he couldn’t just be happy. The reconnaissance unit which headed to the north also returned, but they reported as followed.
“The enemy is heading this way. We estimate their number to be less than 10000.”
Kreuger who received that report on the hill looked hard at the north direction. Far away in the distance, something like a lump of black cotton could be seen. It was probably the Moonlight Knights army.
“They came, huh. But, it’s not bad.”
As Kreuger muttered, he issued instructions so that the soldiers were told that food and water would arrive before long. And also that the enemy was approaching.
“The Brune and Zhcted people (army) probably wouldn’t give us time to eat a meal. Tell all the soldiers. ──Win and survive; in order to satisfy your hunger and thirst and to dispel the humiliation.”
Before long, ferocious battle cries were raised from the camp of Kreuger’s army.
The Sachstein army’s battle cries reached up to the Moonlight Knights army as they (cries) rode upon the winds.
After having taken the Hill Fort, the Moonlight Knights had rest and food by turns. Then, they reorganized the troops, left the Hill Fort to 1000 soldiers and pursued the Sachstein army. Although they took a rest, the soldiers were dirty with mud, sweat and blood as they didn’t have any room to take a bath or wipe their bodies.
“Their morale is quite high.”
Tigre who rode a horse at the vanguard of the army knitted his brows. It was not that welcomed a thing that the enemy still had fighting spirit. Regarding the numbers, the Sachstein army was still superior.
Elen who was riding her horse next to Tigre looked at the youth.
“I can’t imagine that they were tormented and became enraged, but… what do we do?”
“We’ll fight here.”
Tigre’s voice was filled with an unshakeable determination. They must not give any more time than this to Kreuger.
The Hill Fort which they succeeded in capturing had a structure so wonderful that Mashas and Scheie were struck with admiration.
“One can’t win against this if he doesn’t use a clever scheme.”
The old Earl nodded as he let his gray beard shake, and Scheie shivered as his stern face stiffened.
“It’s irritating, but it’s really well made.”
The structure, which was fixated on the fine details such as stairs to move quickly from the top to the bottom, walls to block the enemy movement, fences and pathways to divide the enemy and the like, was something that even the Brune people who were made to have a hard fight could not help but recognize it.
“Does it look like it can be useful to us?”
When Tigre asked, the Lutece Knight Squadron’s commander shook his head.
“That’s not possible. The walls and stairs which are on this hill can’t be fully put into practical use if they aren’t built in a place with the same form as this hill. We have no choice but to abandon this.”
He did not doubt that the Hill Fort was something born from the brain of the General called Kreuger. As for the Brune army, they had to eliminate him before he built up a new Hill Fort.
The Moonlight Knights army stopped their advance and formed their ranks. They distributed the soldiers, whose number did not reach 8000, to the central main force, the right wing and the left wing.
The central main force was about 4000 that was composed of the private troops of the Brune nobles. The right wing was the Zhcted army of about 2000. And the left wing was the lineup of the Lutece Knight Squadron of about 2000.
Tigre commanded the central main force and Mashas assisted him. Elen commanded the Zhcted army of the right wing and Lim assisted her. Scheie took command of the Knight Squadron of the left wing.
“Lord Mashas. So to be prepared just in case, there is something I want you to prepare.”
When Tigre explained what he was thinking about, Mashas revealed a grim face. But, he did not reject it. The enemy had the numerical superiority, so even one extra trick was necessary.
Like that, when Tigre adjusted the battle formation of the main troops, Elen’s figure similarly on horseback appeared from between the soldiers. Letting her silver hair flutter to the wind, she rode her horse until before Tigre.
“My side is already ready.”
She said with a brilliant smile. Tigre revealed a bitter smile. That was the duty of a messenger, not something a commander should do. Even knowing that, Elen came to report personally.
Tigre answered with a smile, too. He was happy about her feelings.
“By the way, I think we should talk about it, but…”
As her smile suddenly became gloomy, Elen brought her horse near Tigre’s.
“It’s about Valentina. She said that her physical condition is bad and is waiting on standby in the rear of the right wing. She has gotten on a two-horse carriage, you see?”
Even Tigre was dumbfounded by this. He had met with the black-haired Vanadis two koku before, but she did not look at all like she was in a poor condition.
However, he could not ask her, either. He did not have such a time, and in the case that Valentina was really sick, he would not get off with just an apology.
“Well, whatever. She has already worked enough.”
Tigre cheered up Elen as he said so. But, the silver-haired Vanadis glared at the youth with half-opened eyes.
“I heard that you walked around the Hill Fort carrying her on your back.”
Tigre stared wide-eyed. Someone of the Scheie Knight Squadron probably talked about it. To the flustered youth, Elen said with a face which did not hide her displeasure.
“Don’t tell me you possibly got ensnared by her?”
“I swear to the gods and also you that it isn’t the case.”
As he promptly answered as such, Elen looked at Tigre with a face mixed with admiration and amazement.
“You don’t have to go to such lengths. It will also be a nuisance for the gods that you mention them for such a thing.”
“If it’s to have you believe me, then it’s worth incurring the displeasure of the gods.”
When the youth shrugged his shoulders and returned these words, Elen laughed. She seemed to have cheered up.
“Tigre. Leave the right wing to Lim and me, and focus on the command overall. Lord Mashas is there, so I think you’ll be all right; but don’t overdo it.”
To these words, Tigre answered back with a smile.
“You too, be careful so as to not do something like leave the rest to Lim and jump right into the midst of the enemy.”
“How unexpected. I only do that so to not let go of a chance of victory.”
“It’s the same for me, too.”
Tigre stretched out his hand. Elen held that hand. There were places of the silver-haired Vanadis’ hand which became hard/stiff as she has continued holding a sword. And, it also had warmth which made the youth feel calm.
The youth thought that he wanted his hand to be like that for her, too.
Without either noticing, they released their hands. The youth’s black pupils and her red pupils intersected.
“See you again later.”
The two people uttered the same words. And, Elen turned her horse.
Around when the Moonlight Knights army finished adjusting their battle formation, the Sachstein army similarly finished their lineup.
Kreuger divided the soldiers, who numbered about 14000 adding those who joined his army late, into five groups. The main force of 500 on the hill. The central unit before the hill with 7000 soldiers. The right wing was 3000. The left wing was also 3000. Furthermore, he let 500 spare troops in the rear.
The Moonlight Knights army was approaching the Sachstein army little by little which did not move from the top and the surroundings of the hill. Under a cloudless sky, wind blew and the three countries’ battle flags fluttered. Slightly before the sun reached the zenith, both armies confronted each other.
“Oh King of Gods Perkūnas, God of War Triglav. Witness our battle!”
“Oh God of Thunder Sor, God of Wisdom Wotan. Oh maidens whom possesses wings. Grant us your divine protection!”
The Moonlight Knights army and the Sachstein army respectively began to advance.
The Zhcted army poured a rain of arrows on the enemy. The Brune soldiers too, those who had a bow fired arrows and those did not attacked by means of stone throwing. The Sachstein army held up their shields and defended against the arrows and stones which swooped down on them.
As the arrow battle completed the battle’s first stage, the Sachstein army’s central unit began their advance.
It would be more accurate to call it a charge. Raising beast-like roars and holding either a spear or a short sword in their hands, the Sachstein soldiers ferociously rushed onto the Brune soldiers.
Pushed by their force, the Moonlight Knights army’s central force was about to collapse. From the start, the Sachstein army had the numerical superiority. The Moonlight Knights army quickly retreated while losing soldiers.
In the rear of the main force, Tigre was watching the lead group’s fight while gritting his teeth. Although they were putting up a hard fight, they were falling one after another in a spray of blood.
“Tigre. It’ll be soon.”
Mashas who was beside him said. Tigre nodded and gave an order.
Receiving it, about 200 soldiers who were waiting in the rear of the central main troops moved. They did not even wear armor, but they were holding crossbows in their hands. Commanding them was Mashas’ son, Gaspar.
The 200 people led by Gaspar moved in a form depicting an arc. They set their aim at the Sachstein army’s right side. Gaspar himself set up a crossbow, too.
Bowstrings snapped and 200 bolts went straight through the empty sky. Screams broke out from the Sachstein soldiers.
“…This is really amazing.”
While feeling the crossbow’s recoil throughout his body, Gaspar leaked a breath of admiration.
After the battle of the Hill Fort was over, it was him who proposed whether they could use the crossbows and bolts that the Sachstein soldiers had abandoned. Precisely because he had a good relationship with Tigre and he did not hold that much prejudice to bows and crossbows, he was able to think like that and proposed it.
As Tigre and Mashas approved it, Gaspar eagerly acted and gathered 200 people who did not mind using crossbows in only half a koku. It was this military unit.
The crossbows’ volley/fusillade slightly stopped the Sachstein army’s fierce attack. Soldiers whose arm or foot was shot by a bolt fell on the ground and writhed in pain and agony. But, there was no one to listen to their screams. Even their allies advanced stepping over them.
Then, the 2000 cavalrymen led by Earl Bouroullec charged. They were similarly a unit which was waiting in the rear. The moment when Gaspar’s unit moved that became the signal to him (Bouroullec).
“Don’t always let the Zhcted people look cool! Show the power of the Brune people!”
Bouroullec’s unit attacked the Sachstein army’s left side. Bouroullec shook his curly chestnut-colored hair, wielded a hatchet-like sword and cut down the Sachstein soldiers one after another.
Receiving attacks from two directions, the front and the left side, as expected the Sachstein soldiers stopped their charge. As for Tigre, he thought that it would be good for the time being if he could take/bring the battle at the center into a stalemate. At that opportunity, the right and the left wings would break through both flanks of the enemy and eventually intend to surround and exterminate them.
But, a miscalculation arose here. The Sachstein army’s right and left wings showed an extraordinary tenacity. When the Lutece Knight Squadron attacked, they would retreat; and when the former tried to reform their ranks, the latter would advance. Even against the Zhcted army which constituted the right wing, the Sachstein army moved in the same way.
Elen who wielded the Silver Flash at the Zhcted army’s vanguard cursed them saying “they’re an enemy hard to handle”.
The movement of both wings of the Sachstein army was due to the command of Kreuger standing at the hilltop.
Actually, his true value as a General was in his flexible manipulation of troops. Precisely because he had that, the Hill Fort was not an impromptu stronghold, but he changed it into a fearsome fortress to drag the enemy in and exterminate them.
“Did you think that the Brune knights were the strongest if it’s a grassy plain?”
At the hilltop, Kreuger spitted so out. The reason why he concentrated 7000 soldiers in the center was from his conviction of being able to take charge of the command of the left and right wings.
“We’ll push our way through as is.”
The Moonlight Knights army was gradually pushed.
In the rear of the central main force, Tigre was desperately racking his brains. Even if he jumped out to the vanguard and shot all his arrows, it would be almost impossible to change the flow. Gaspar and Bouroullec were respectively attacking the Sachstein soldiers from the right and left, but they were unable to force the enemy back.
—In that case…
Tigre’s eyes were turned towards the hill where the Sachstein army’s main troops were. The hill’s defense was insufficient. In order to change the flow, he could not help but aim at the supreme commander Kreuger.
“Lord Mashas. I’m sorry, but…”
When he turned to look at the old knight beside him, Mashas ostentatiously grieved.
“In the end, you really aren’t suitable to be a supreme commander, eh. I had wanted you to follow Her Highness Regin’s example.”
“I, too, if I could rest at ease, there’ll be nothing better than that.”
The old Earl scornfully laughed at the youth’s words. He immediately returned to a serious expression and said.
“It would probably be useless even if I say it, but… if you fail, come back even if you have to use the soldiers as a shield.”
They were severe words considering it was Mashas, but he was serious. The youth’s existence was that much important for the whole Moonlight Knights army. Tigre nodded as tension filled his whole body.
When Tigre finished the preparations, he started to move leading 300 soldiers from the rear of the central main force.
He had to hurry. If he was to hesitate, the central main force would end up being destroyed. As he passed the side of Earl Bouroullec’s unit, the 300 cavalrymen with Tigre at the vanguard ran through the battlefield.
Agonizing screams echoed here and there and when looking around, corpses were scattered about. If there were corpses of Brune soldiers, there were also ones of Sachstein soldiers.
The Sachstein army’s central main force went away from the hill by repeated dashes. There was an opening there for Tigre’s unit to get in.
Suddenly, Tigre looked towards his right side. There was one horseman’s shadow which parted from the Zhcted army and was running to this place. Silver hair and ruby-colored pupils; it was Elen.
“What are you doing?!”
Tigre shouted at her. With a calm face, Elen lined up next to the youth.
“I left the rest to Lim and came; same as you.”
Tigre was at a loss for words. But, he immediately changed his thoughts. He took his gaze off her and stared at the front; more precisely, at the hilltop.
“Crossbows are probably lying in wait for an ambush. I think that I can defend against them with Arifal to some extent, but”
To Elen’s words, Tigre shook his head.
“No, I won’t depend on Arifal here.”
He didn’t know whether or not Kreuger had a move other than using crossbows. If he had, he should then use Arifal’s power against it. Tigre explained so. While letting her silver hair flutter, Elen turned wondering eyes to Tigre.
“I understand your thoughts, but do you have any other way?”
Kreuger, who was at the hilltop, calmly looked down at the group of about 300 cavalrymen heading towards the hill. Among them, there was also that silver-haired Vanadis.
The outcome would probably be decided on whether or not he could repel them.
Kreuger made the 500 soldiers on standby set up crossbows. Bolts had already been loaded. It was a battle formation where they could ambush the enemy no matter which direction they came from.
—No matter where you go up from, several hundred bolts will attack you if you step on this hill.
But, the Moonlight Knights army did not step onto the hill. While riding their horses along the foot of the hill, they gradually slow down the speed letting the horses’ legs loosen.
Tigre nocked three arrows to his black bow. Fire was burning on each of the three sickles.
The other cavalrymen set up strings for stone-throwing, but what were inserted in the strings were not stones. But bags filled with oil. Both fire and oil were the things which Tigre had Mashas prepared.
Tigre let the bowstring vibrate. The three fire arrows which were shot, while letting fire flicker, flew in the empty sky as they drew a splendid parabola.
Kreuger inwardly raised a scream of surprise.
The number which he thought was exaggerated. But, the reality was more than that.
The fire arrows which flew high in the sky dropped in accordance with gravity and struck around the hillside.
The season was spring. This hill was likewise covered with lush flowering plants. They were wrapped in fire.
Next, the cavalrymen threw the oil bags. As expected, they did not fly as high as Tigre’s fire arrows, but they were thrown around the hillside.
“Do they intend to attack with fire? Well, that’s if fire reaches up to here…”
Tigre had a soldier running alongside him prepare fire and nocked a new fire arrow. Each time the youth shot a fire arrow, fire spread to the hill. Seeing several lines of black smoke rising up, Kreuger guessed Tigre’s purpose.
“So, it isn’t fire, but rather smoke that’s his aim, huh…”
Kreuger groaned. Although he was confused, and he rebuked the soldiers in dismay, it wasn’t as if there were no means against fire and smoke. He was unable to come up with a means other than leaving this hill, and also unable to issue instructions to the spare military forces in the rear. Smoke obstructed the soldiers’ view and mercilessly harmed their eyes and noses.
While running at the foot of the hill, the 300 cavalrymen led by Tigre threw bags of oil. The fire spread more and more and the quantity of smoke increased, too.
From the top of the hill wrapped in smoke, bolts were shot all at once. However, they were shot in a completely wrong direction.
Tigre shouted. Elen and the cavalrymen raised battle cries. The Moonlight Knights army ran up the slope wrapped in smoke at a stretch.
There, the Sachstein soldiers set up spears and short swords from within the smoke ad swooped down on them. But in a clash from the front, infantrymen cannot beat cavalrymen. They were sent flying by the swarm of men and horses and fell down onto the ground. There were also people who jumped into the fire.
Tigre and company ran up to the top without stopping their horses’ feet and run down the slope of the opposite side as is.
Since it was wrapped in fire and smoke, they couldn’t stop.
And, Tigre and company finally caught sight of Kreuger.
—It’s him, huh…!
Kreuger was running down the slope away from Tigre and company as he was protected by about ten soldiers. Tigre silently took out an arrow and nocked it to the black bow.
Wind blew scattering the smoke just for an instant. At that instant, the youth shot the arrow.
The arrow flew as it drew a curve and pierced Kreuger’s throat.
The gray-haired General of Sachstein staggered and fell down to the ground.
When he thought that he’d received a shock to the back of the neck, Kreuger’s body fell down to the ground.
He did not utter his voice. His body rapidly became cold.
He wondered whether he was dying. When he wandered his gaze, his dices fell. They seemed to have jumped out of his sleeve due to the shock of him falling down to the ground. He could not see the numbers of pips well.
Kreuger stretched out his hand to pick up the dices, but it did not reach. Even though they fell to a distance three or four steps away if one stood up and walked, he felt as if they were beyond the horizon.
“Uh huh”, such a blurred sigh leaked out from his mouth.
He did not realize his dream of building a castle fort that he had pictured. He was frustrated.
The faces of his family that he left behind in his homeland floated in his mind. He wanted to tell them goodbye.
He once again stretched out his hand towards the dices.
Unable to reach them as is, Hans Von Kreuger gave his last breath.
With Kreuger’s death marked the end of the battle of Bauval Plain.
The Sachstein soldiers who learned of their supreme commander’s death threw away their weapons one after another and surrendered. There were also those who still continued resisting, but were either persuaded by their comrades to surrender or they were knocked down by the Moonlight Knights army.
The number of Sachstein soldiers who surrendered amounted to 6000. Their mediator was the person who acted as Kreuger’s adjutant.
Tigre looked down at him and plainly said.
“I won’t take you guys as prisoners. You may go to a port town along the coast after burying your comrades’ corpses.”
“What do you mean?”
Perhaps because he took it as an insult, the adjutant’s voice was trembling.
“If you mean to say that prisoners will be a hindrance, shouldn’t you just kill us? If you set us free, we might join with our allies who are in the west.”
“If you want to fall down on the battlefield, you should just do it. But, I want to ask you. Is it really all right for you not to send your supreme commander’s corpse to your country?”
To Tigre’s words, the adjutant dropped his shoulders and hung down his head. Several lines of tears streamed down his blood- and mud-stained face. And so, they followed Tigre’s advice.
It would have been very troublesome for the Moonlight Knights army to cope with 6000 prisoners.
Taking prisoners meant that they would have to give them food. They would also have to worry about escape. If they half-heartedly discard them, there was the fear that they would become bandits.
If they sold them to Muozinel slave merchants as slaves in some big city, not only would they immediately dispose of them, they would also obtain funds. But for Tigre who had the experience of having become a prisoner before, it was something he did not want to do if possible; even if it was self-satisfaction.
Therefore, Tigre recommended for them to return to their country.
The Moonlight Knights army and the Sachstein army cooperated in order to put out the fire wrapping the hill by covering it with soil. Afterwards, the Sachstein army buried their comrades’ corpses in the south side of the hill, and the Moonlight Knights army buried their comrades’ corpses in the north side.
Although the Moonlight Knights army’s casualties did not reach 1000, three soldiers who came from Alsace lost their lives. While ostensibly, Tigre dealt with it silently, he asked Titta to send words to mourn over their death to the Alsace soldiers.
After having finished the burial, the rest and the reorganization of the army, Elen asked.
“Now then, what do we do from here on Tigre?”
There were four courses of action that Tigre could take.
Either heading to the port towns of the coast or going to Nemetacum
Or heading to the west and fighting the other forces of the Sachstein army
Or heading for the capital.
“──Let’s go to the capital.”
Tigre calmly said. If they were to report that they repelled the Sachstein army of the south and made them flee, the capital would liven up. Princess Regin would definitely feel relieved, too. Besides, he had to give rest to the soldiers. At this rate, they could hardly fight against an army of 50000.
Tigre did not know.
About the plot that Kreuger threw to the capital Nice.
“Looks like it’s over.”
While lightly stretching herself inside the carriage, the black-haired Vanadis muttered with a yawn.
During the time from when the battle of Bauval began until it ended, she was sleeping buried in the cushions that she piled up inside the carriage. Although her pure white dress grew wrinkly, Valentina did not really mind such a thing.
“As I thought, when I act together with him, he’s really a fun person.”
As she looked at the outside scene from the small window of the carriage, Valentina muttered.
She did not know the real intention of King Victor who dispatched her to this land.
Because it was slightly different from the harassing, the dispatch of troops that happened quite often up until now, he might intend to interfere with something in Osterode during her absence.
—If that happens, then so be it; afterwards I can make time to talk with His Majesty King Victor just the two of us, so I don’t mind.
For the time being, her interest was in the outcome of the battle between Brune and Sachstein. Then, in how Tigrevurmud Vorn would move.
“I expect a lot from you. Earl Vorn.”
After muttering so, she suddenly remembered about the fact that Elen called the youth ‘Tigre’. Moreover, also about the fact that Elen’s adjutant called him ‘Tigrevurmud Vorn’.
—Shall I tease him on that point the next time?
She intended to fully make use of this opportunity.
Around the midway point between Zhcted’s capital and Legnica, a wasteland was spread out.
There was one woman there.
There was a vermillion short blade in her right hand and a golden one in her left.
“This is a Dragonic Tool…”
With a surprised face, the woman stared at the twin swords in her hands.
Those twin swords appeared just now before her eyes. And, it calmly called out to her consciousness.
Saying “Thou will become a Vanadis. If thou accept it, take us into your hands”.
The woman was an itinerant mercenary. Since it wasn’t as if she travelled assertively looking for a battlefield, it should be correct to call her a former mercenary. Although there was the fact that she was hired by a small village to drive away bandits who settled in the forest and mountain nearby, she was not that much in need of money, so she was not desperate.
“Which reminds me, was she called Eleonora? That girl whom Vissarion took good care of that became a Vanadis.”
She muttered as she recalled.
There once existed a mercenary group called “Silver Gale”. It wasn’t like the woman had belonged to the mercenary group. It was just that she strangely got along well with the man called Vissarion who was the leader of the “Silver Gale”, she had helped him with work several times and conversely, she had had him help her.
In the “Silver Gale”, there was one girl, something which was unbecoming of a mercenary group. It was said that she, who was named Eleonora, was a child who had been picked up by Vissarion.
The “Silver Gale” no longer existed. Vissarion was no longer in this world, either.
Several years ago, she had heard that the girl called Eleonora had become a Vanadis. When she thought “no way” and inquired about her features to those who saw her, it seemed that there was no mistake.
—To think that I’ll become a Vanadis like that girl…
When the woman put the twin swords into the belt of her waist, she began to walk towards the capital.
Her name was Figneria. She was a former mercenary once called by the nickname “Finé of the War Blade”.
Ludmila Lourie received in the Imperial Palace of Olmutz the report that the Muozinel army had appeared near the border of Zhcted. About ten days have passed since she returned from the capital Silesia.
At that time, the blue-haired Vanadis was in her office. Since it was right at the time when she was putting in order some troublesome documents, she listened to the soldier’s words with an expression somewhat showing her bad mood.
“It is a report from Fort Fordney. Near the Molave River, approximately 5000 Muozinel troops showed up.”
Fort Fordney was at the south end of Olmutz. Although small, it was known for the fact that its defense was solid. The Molave River which was to the south about 5 Belsta (about 5km) farther away from this fort substituted for the borderline of Zhcted and Muozinel.
“Thank you for your work. Take a rest for today.”
As she gave words of thanks to the soldier, Mila rang the bell on the desk and called one civil official. She issued instructions to give a room to the soldier and then added to bring a map.
—Now then, I wonder which it is.
Since the time when she heard that Sachstein had invaded Brune, Mila believed that Muozinel would probably move. The problem was Muozinel’s aim.
Either a full-scale invasion; or would they wait and see like last year?
Before long, the civil official brought a map. Mila took it and spread it on the work desk.
—The soldiers protecting Fordney number less than 2000. The enemy is 5000.
Fort Fordney towered halfway up a mountain and there was a range of steep mountains to the north and west. Even if they gathered five times the number of soldiers, it would be difficult for them to attack. That said, she could not let her guard down.
—If they intend to attack, there’s no way they will with only 5000. Let alone five times, there’s also the possibility that ten times the number of soldiers are lying in wait.
After a half koku, the Snow Princess of the Frozen Wave gathered the chief Knights in one room and held a war council. When she explained the situation, she told very naturally to the knights.
“I will head to Fordney with 2000 soldiers. You too should prepare yourselves so you can deploy at any time.”
“Vanadis-sama. I do not think that it’s necessary for you to personally depart for the front for such a battle.”
“Could you give us the opportunity to distinguish ourselves here? Please, Vanadis-sama. Just wait for the report of victory here in the Imperial Palace.”
The knights unanimously showed disapproval, but feelings of worrying about their lord overflowed in their eyes and voices. If Mila who was their princess and Vanadis personally proceeded to the fort, the soldiers’ morale would rise and they would definitely easily triumph no matter if it was the Muozinel army.
However, not knowing what might happen was what a battlefield was. They wanted Mila to remain in the Imperial Palace.
To her subordinates’ words, the blue-haired Vanadis shook her head.
“I am thankful for your courage and loyalty. But, it is not yet certain that we will fight against Muozinel. That’s why I will go; in order to ascertain it.”
Then, Mila ordered to send messengers to the neighboring nobles and Sofy who was in Polesia. It was also likely that the troops which appeared near Fort Fordney were a diversion and that they were aiming for another place. She invited caution and that they should make preparations for cooperating with each other when necessary.
Moreover, she sent messengers to the various cities along the highway. This was in order to have them prepare food, fuel and the place where the soldiers would stay at. By doing this, she could raise the March speed in her territory.
Early morning of the next day, Mila left the rest to the knights and civil officials whom she trusted and left the Imperial Palace with 2000 infantrymen.
Even if spring came, snow still remained at the surroundings of the castle town. But when going ahead on the highway to the south, snow gradually became invisible. In the grassy plains spreading right and left of the highway, flowers indicating the coming of spring displayed a vivid color.
The 2000 soldiers hung a small sword to their waists and held either a spear or a bow. They wore leather armor reinforced with iron scraps and also put on hats reinforced with iron scraps. There was a shroud/hood on both sides of the hat and that protected their ears and cheeks from the cold.
Their gloves and shoes were also made with fur. Although Fort Fordney was to the south, it was still cold even in the mountains. Mila took that into account.
Mila herself only wore a silver breastplate on top her blue clothes, and covered around her white skirt with a piece of metal and put on leg protectors. The Frozen Wave in her hand protected her from the cold.
—Muozinel soldiers should be weak in the cold. Also taking that into consideration, is them appearing at Fordney a diversion after all…?
Four days later, Mila and the 2000 soldiers arrived at the foot of a mountain where Fort Fordney was. When they took a rest, a little less than 100 soldiers ran down the slope of the mountain. They were floating the Black Dragon Flag and Olmutz’s battle flag. The flag which depicted a plain, blue spear diagonally fluttered in the wind.
They were soldiers of Fordney. While letting the soldiers rest, Mila was waiting for them to show up.
“We did not think that Vanadis-sama would come.”
When the commander of the Fordney’s soldiers came until before Mila, he went down on a knee and bowed his head. Mila placidly nodded.
“I was waiting. Well then, let’s go to Fordney.”
Led by the Fordney soldiers, Mila and the 2000 soldiers went up the mountain which had snow remaining. In about a half koku, the fort could be seen with the white sky and the ashen mountains in the background.
“Vanadis-sama. I am glad that you have come safely.”
When she entered the fort, the chief of the fort Rezanov appeared to greet her. Though he was 35 years old, in addition to his white hair, his beard covering his chin harked back to an old man. His voice was low and strengthened the impression that it was hoarse.
But, just from the fact that his voice was usually like this, Mila knew that he was a man who could raise a loud voice in a battlefield. That was why she left this fort to him.
“I feel relieved to see that you and the soldiers seemed to be fine. How is the situation?”
Returning a smile for just an instant, Mila immediately returned to a serious expression.
“For the moment, they’re staying near the Molave River. A few numbers of people have crossed the river, but they immediately returned to the other side of the river.”
“Did you do something?”
“I had the soldiers go out only once, and then asked them what the Muozinel soldiers were doing. They answered that it seems to be a training march.”
Rezanov answered with an indignant tone. His snorting shook his white beard.
Together with the white-haired commander, Mila went out onto the castle wall of the south side. A cold wind rustled her blue hair and white ribbon. When she smoothed her ribbon upwards with her hand, she turned her gaze to the south. She could overlook the Molave River from here.
On the other side of the river which glittered reflecting the spring sunlight, 5000 soldiers were hovering in a deep black background. What was drawn on the fluttering flag was the golden helmet of the horned ox and a sword. It was Muozinel’s battle flag.
“From here, we can only see those people, but I do not think that that is all of them.”
Rezanov standing next to Mila said while exhaling a white breath. Mila nodded without taking her eyes off the Muozinel army.
“I agree with you, too.”
Two years ago, when the Muozinel army attacked Brune, they were composed of an advance party of 20000 and the main force of 30000. This time, too, they might intend to watch the situation with 5000 soldiers.
Lavias was quietly clad in a chill; as if to respond to the fighting spirit of the Snow Princess of the Frozen Wave.
Would it be over as is with just facing each other? Or would they clash?
Nobody could tell.