Leonhardt von Schmidt liked riding horses since he was a child.
The Schmidt House where he was born and raised had neither a high nor a low pedigree among the Sachstein nobles, but they had large grasslands in their territory and owned many horses.
However, there was almost no one excellent at horse riding in the Schmidt House. They mainly brought up horses in order to sell them to other nobles and knights.
But, Leonhardt was different.
Sachstein had more mountains and forests than plains, and probably because of that, it was said that Sachstein’s horses, compared to other countries’, had strong legs and loins. Leonhardt got on a horse, crossed the mountains, went through the forests and ran through the grasslands. He thought that as long as he was on horseback, he could go anywhere.
It might be said that it was an extremely natural course that he came to have an interest in the activities of the cavalrymen.
The Sachstein cavalries were by no means weak, but they didn’t always raise brilliant war results, either. Especially, they had numerous hard fights against the neighboring country of Brune.
In a clash between fellow cavalries, the Brune Kingdom had a slight superiority. Even regarding the cavalry’s numbers, Brune had more cavalry. It might be from these days that Leonhardt came to consider Brune as an enemy.
“I want to lead tens of thousands of cavalrymen someday. And then, I’ll kick about Brune’s cavalry.”
It was not an innocent dream of a child. It was the goal that he decided he would realize by all means.
When he grew up, Leonhardt became a knight, and accumulated distinguished military services such as bandit extermination and reached the point where he could command one squad of cavalrymen. And then, he confronted various problems that a cavalry has.
“Compared to infantry, cavalry takes money and time.”
Summarizing it in a few words, it came to look as such. It was the price of high mobility able to go for the tremendous charging power to kick about even a group of heavy armor infantrymen holding shields, and the enemy’s flank and rear.
First, there was water and food. The cavalry also had to prepare the horses’ shares. A horse ate food and drank water as much as or more than a human being. Even simply considering the portion for one human, food and water for 20 people would be necessary when moving a cavalry of ten horsemen.
They must take care of it. They had to wipe their horses’ bodies when they sweated, and by all means clean up after they took a dump. There were many stories of an army being exterminated because the horses’ poop, which they forgot to clean up during the march, was discovered by the enemy and they received a surprise attack after their position was pinpointed from there.
Moreover, there were also the expenses of horseshoes and saddles. One or two horses aside, when it came to 10 or 20 horses, the expenses were not to be sneezed at. In the case of horseshoes, craftsmen were necessary too.
“A battalion of cavalrymen isn’t realistic.”
Such a conclusion would be made. It would be settled with a talk that organizing a squad of approximately 500 and using it at every important point would be more efficient.
However, Leonhardt did not give up.
“Each soldier should just learn to take care of a horse. Regarding the horseshoes, we’ll just collect craftsmen as cavalrymen. What, we should just raise war results accordingly.”
Thus, Leonhardt, other than the salary given to him by the kingdom, also invested even his own assets and began with the training of his subordinates. He made them learn how to read and write, to look after horses and drilled in them the way of fighting on horseback.
Leonhardt made his subordinates use clubs and maces rather spears. Long-handled weapons such as spears tended to be deemed suitable when wielding them on horseback, but it was a different story depending on a soldier’s proficiency.
On a jolting horse, one grasped the reins with their left hand and wielded a weapon only with their right hand. There were many people who broke their balance as they swung a long-handled spear around. In addition, such people ended up injuring their horse with their weapon and obstructing their horse’s view.
“I do not need to have all the knights and cavalrymen hold a spear. It’s just for a single blow from the horseback in addition to a charge. A weapon easy to rotate in hand will be enough.”
In addition, Leonhardt selected an officer for each squad of 50 horsemen with 5 horsemen made up the smallest part of the unit and giving discretion authority to them. Confusion was easy to happen during the march for cavalrymen, who moved not on their feet, but by riding horses. So, Leonhardt took measures so that they were able to move quickly even without his instructions.
But still, the problem of food and water stood in their way; but Leonhardt was not so troubled regarding this.
“We will march near rivers and lakes, and about food, we should just procure it locally.”
It was not unusual for an army to attack and pillage towns and villages. It would become a problem after the war ended and moreover only in case that the allies lost. If they won, some injustices would be overlooked.
But, if he actively permitted pillaging, the leadership would relax and there was the fear of it resulting in the collapse of morals. Soldiers, who got drunk with cruel acts and ran wildly without listening to orders, could only be regarded as evils.
Therefore, Leonhardt enforced the method of the pillaging.
“It shall be done premeditatedly, systematically, effectively. Don’t kill the residents as much as possible, stop at just knocking about those who resist and have them deliver food and materials. Excluding the cases when there is an order, burn the houses and fields; and those who killed a resident will be sentenced to death without exception.”
Then, Leonhardt carried out what he said. He beheaded those who burnt the houses and those who killed a resident, and exposed their heads along the highway.
When he solved one problem, the next problem appeared. Leonhardt did not give up; he racked his brains and steadily overcame the problems one by one.
One time, Leonhardt had been summoned by the king of Sachstein, King August. The King, whose peculiarity was his stern, finely chiseled face, asked Leonhardt.
“Is it you? The one who thought about a unit of only cavalrymen.”
“It is not that small as to be called a unit.”
Leonhardt puffed up with pride and dignifiedly answered as such to the King.
“It is an army. I intend to someday run through grassy plains with tens of thousands of cavalrymen.”
The King did move one eyebrow to Leonhardt’s high-sounding words. It was a King known for not having laughed even when the Prince was born. As expected, even Leonhardt was daunted.
Not only that, but also the words uttered by the King after a pause surprised Leonhardt.
“Obey my orders for one year. If your cavalry can give satisfactory results, I will give you support to some extent.”
Leonhardt respectfully fell and prostrated and expressed words of gratitude. At this time, he did not believe August’s words. He had no hope towards the word, “support”.
But, he wanted to prove that his thoughts were correct and wanted to give his cavalrymen, who grew little by little, a place to distinguish themselves.
For one year, Leonhardt and his cavalrymen literally rode about in Sachstein. They were roped into bandit extermination, dragged into skirmishes with Brune and Asvarre and made to go fight against feudal lords who arbitrarily moved their army.
The time of one year passed in a flash and Leonhardt was once again summoned by the King. August looked down at Leonhardt with an expression devoid of a smile as usual and shortly said.
“It is a promise. I shall support you. Make a powerful army useful for our country.”
Leonhardt fell and prostrated and swore him allegiance from the bottom of his heart.
Even if he received August’s support, it wasn’t like Leonhardt’s dream got closer to realization at a stretch. His dream needed time above all. However, as expected he was thankful for the King’s support.
He needed a time of more than twenty years before achieving all the tasks.
When he was appointed a General by the King, Leonhardt von Schmidt had turned 43 years old. His blond hair, which was lustrous when he was young, lost its luster and turned brass. The sharp tips of the mustache, which grew near his mouth, stretched on his cheeks and had a feeling of hardness.
He was currently the head of the Schmidt House, but he left the matters of the house to his 20-year-old son. The person himself (Leonhardt) let his blue eyes brighten energetically and completely devoted himself to the adjustment of the cavalry which he’d built.
Schmidt had the nickname of “Leonhardt of the Blitz”. The cavalrymen whom he commanded were said to be fast like lightning, and ferocious like thunder.
His army which accomplished the invasion into Brune ran around literally like lightning. The villages and towns which became targets of their pillaging were countless. Even in battle, they defeated the Brune troops five times. It was an outstanding distinguished military service for the Sachstein army.
Now, with their speed and ferocity, they were finally going to aim for the Capital Nice; but people who obstructed that appeared.
It was the Moonlight Knights army led by Tigrevurmud Vorn.
The Sachstein army’s 50,000 cavalrymen were in a place about 6 or 7 days on foot to the west from the capital Nice of the Brune Kingdom.
Schmidt, who received the reconnaissance unit’s report of having discovered a large army, looked unenthusiastic when he had begun to hear it; but when he finished listening, both his eyes overflowed with fighting spirit. He shook his shoulders and revealed an extremely happy smile as he let his mustache wave.
As he made the soldier withdraw, Schmidt called his adjutant Birnbaum and ordered the entire army to take a rest. Then, he ordered him (adjutant) to prepare a map.
“Will we fight?”
Birnbaum, who turned 40 this year, shortly asked.
He was a man with an artless and somehow elusive atmosphere. Serving the Schmidt House from the time of their ancestors, Birnbaum was half forcibly made to help with the cavalry training by his young master whose age was close to his. Now, after Schmidt, he was the man who knew the most about the cavalry which Schmidt commanded.
To the question of his adjutant, who was a long time acquaintance, Schmidt immediately replied in a good mood.
“Of course. The enemy number is approximately 40,000. Moreover, in addition to the Black Dragon Flag of Zhcted, there’s also a battle flag which draws a white half-moon and a meteor on a blue background. What is he called again, that man……”
“It’s Tigrevurmud Vorn, right?”
Schmidt gave a broad smile. But, he immediately returned to a serious expression.
“As expected, we can’t ignore an enemy of 40,000. All the more, since we have to take revenge for Kreuger.”
Schmidt knew that Kreuger was defeated by Tigre. This was because the Brune Kingdom was spreading it around enthusiastically.
“Your Excellency, I thought that you did not like General Kreuger very much though.”
Birnbaum threw such hazardous words to Schmidt without hesitation. He knew that his hazardous frankness was highly valued by Schmidt.
“If asked whether I liked or disliked him, then well, I’ll say I disliked him.”
Schmidt folded his thick arms and looked up at the blue sky.
“He was a commoner after all. I had talked several times with him, but we disagreed on everything except on the topic of war. But, it isn’t like I didn’t highly value his ability. His brilliant talent of building up a fortress is something that I don’t have. When I think about that, as expected I have to take revenge for him.”
“You are right.”
While giving the map to Schmidt, Birnbaum threw words of agreement. His supreme commander was currently endowed with anger, fighting spirit, and calmness altogether. It was enough if he could confirm only that.
They received this map as a gift from the woman called Melisande. Schmidt knew about the fact that she had died after failing in a revolt. This was because Brune spread it around like that time with Kreuger. But, Melisande’s death did not cause any strong feelings to/in Schmidt.
“Where do you think the battlefield will be?”
“It will probably be at Prowirl, right?”
Both men’s gazes concentrated on one point of the map. That place was a plain spreading in the south slightly away from the place where the scout party discovered the Brune army. When advancing through this plain to the east, several rivers intertwined with each other and became a flowing marshland. The marshland was an inconvenient place to deploy a battalion of cavalrymen.
“It’s quite pessimistic for an enemy who defeated Kreuger.”
“If the scout party’s report is correct, the enemy number is inferior to our troops’. Moreover, they have been encircled and defeated twice so far. I think that they are trying to avoid being encircled first.”
Birnbaum’s opinion was persuasive, and Schmidt accepted it by nodding.
“Very well. I’ll crushingly defeat them at Prowirl.”
After the break was over, Schmidt gave an order to the whole army.
The swarm of nearly 50,000 horses shook the earth and resumed their march.
It was a time still too early to call noon that the Moonlight Knights army and the Sachstein army confronted each other in the field of Prowirl. Although it was sunny, the sunlight was weak and more than the heat of the sun, the coolness of the wind could be felt on the skin.
The Moonlight Knights army took up position with the whole area thought to be the marshland at their back. They deployed about 20000 soldiers, whom the noble feudal lords led, and 2000 knights of the Knight Squadrons in the center, lined up the Zhcted army of 5000 to the right wing and 8000 Knight Squadron cavalrymen to the left wing, and had 3000 soldiers standby to the rear as reserves troops.
Though the right wing had fewer soldiers than the left wing, it was the matched opinions of Tigre and Elen that it was better than poorly adding Brune soldiers there.
The Knight Squadrons of the center stood before the soldiers of the noble feudal lords. They anticipated that the enemy would probably charge after an arrow battle.
The Sachstein army also organized their forces to the center and right and left wings, but they were all cavalrymen. Their formation was clear with a composition of 20000 in the center and respectively 10000 to the right and left.
In addition to this, there two detached forces are heading to the battlefield now. They each comprised of 5000 cavalrymen and originally bore the role of showing up to the enemy’s rear and completing the encirclement. This time, it was planned that they would unite with the Sachstein army’s left and right wings respectively.
“As expected, there is a feeling of intimidation when tens of thousands of cavalrymen line up before you……”
At the center of the Moonlight Knights army, Tigre took a small breath. He felt like he understood that the soldiers were intimidated just by looking at the group of pitch black figures (horsemen) in the distance.
“Are you all right? Tigre.”
Mashas who was by his side anxiously called out to him. Tigre turned to look at the old Earl and revealed a smile to let him feel relieved. When he turned around to the front, that smile disappeared and his black pupils filled with fighting spirit firmly focused on the enemy.
Riding upon the winds, the sound of more than 100 horns echoed in the battlefield. The Sachstein army began to move. The White Eagle Flag (Hræsvelgr), which was floating overhead of them, intensely fluttered as to encourage the soldiers.
“Oh War God Tyulare, give us divine protection!”
“Oh War God Triglav, be witness to our battle!”
The Moonlight Knights army undauntedly raised their voices, too. It was fortunate for them that Brune and Zhcted believed in the same gods. The Red Horse Flag of Brune and the Black Dragon Flag of Zhcted fluttered as they were struck by wind.
Because the Moonlight Knights army did not move, only the Sachstein side advanced, shortening the distance. They held crossbows.
The Knights of Brune set up their long shields. These were made by sticking leather and an iron plate on a thick board. Only the Brune infantrymen numbering several hundreds and the Zhcted army of the left wing prepared bows and crossbows.
The distance between both armies shortened to less than 300 Alsins (about 300 m). The Sachstein army stopped their advance.
The strings of more than ten thousand crossbows and several hundreds of bowstrings shook all at once and made the atmosphere tremble. The bolts shot straight became silver lights, tore the wind and attacked the enemy. At the same time, several hundreds of arrows, which drew an arc in the sky, became a white rain pouring onto the Sachstein army.
The Brune knights blocked the bolts coming towards them with their long shields. It was the fighting style of Brune knights to block not just the bolts, but all kinds of projectile weapons with their long shields. There were also knights who failed to block them, receiving bolts on their shoulder or stomach and falling from their horses.
The Sachstein army also suffered some damage, but it wasn’t to the extent that they got confused. The center forces threw away their crossbows, brandished swords and maces, raised war cries and kicked their horses’ belly.
The Brune knights in the center of the Moonlight Knights army also reset their long shields, tightly grasped swords and spears and rode their horses. They had stepped forward before the infantrymen for this moment.
Words of the same meaning collided in Sachstein’s and Brune’s languages. Horse hooves of extraordinary numbers shook the earth, kicked the grass around and rolled up clouds of dust.
Right in the middle of both armies, the White Steller’s Sea Eagle and the Red Horse clashed. Weapons and weapons crossed; angry roars, shrieks, the sound of iron breaking and the sound of meat torn to pieces became harmonious and reached the ears of the soldiers of both armies. Death, destruction, fresh blood and pieces of meat were mercilessly scattered on the grassy plain.
Neither retreated; they swung their swords, struck their maces, thrust with their spears and tried to reduce the enemies in front of them even if by one. Those who fell from their horses were trampled on and crushed by enemies and their allies’ horses as is.
Tigre and Mashas were surprised at this situation. This was because it was their plan to retreat luring the enemy after having charged once. They had to make the other soldiers and knights retreat before they let their fighting spirit become highly strung and followed them.
On the other hand, Schmidt made a complicated expression at the center of the Sachstein army. He also intended to make his side retreat and see the enemy’s attitude. However, he was happy after seeing his subordinates’ brave fight. It was only his adjutant Birnbaum who made a bitter face.
Horns were blown many times in both camps, and the Sachstein knights and Brune knights somehow managed to retreat before other forces/squads moved.
“I’m sorry. I misread their fighting spirit.”
Tigre honestly admitted his own miscalculation and apologized to Mashas in a low voice. The Brune army had kept losing. He should have thought about the possibility that the knights would rouse themselves excessively. Mashas shook his head while stroking his gray beard.
“What, judging from that horn, it seemed to have been unexpected for the other side, too. It’s not also like we’re done one-sidedly and the battle has just begun.”
While talking, both of them watched the enemy’s state.
The Sachstein army turned their battle flag around and began to retreat with the whole army. But, it was far from being called orderly and indeed built an “I want to attack them” atmosphere. Moreover, they even spurted jeering in poor Brune language.
“It was also the same in the battle with General Kreuger, but…… they really have a sharp/nasty tongue, those Sachstein people.”
As Tigre thought a little, he had the knights who fought a little while ago retreat to the rear and the infantry advance. He ordered the right and left wings to be on standby.
Seeing the Moonlight Knights army’s movement, the Sachstein army stopped their retreat. Their side too did not move both their wings, and only the cavalry of the center advanced. The gazes of the vanguards of both armies, and then their weapons came in contact.
The Sachstein cavalrymen swung down their swords and maces from horseback. The Brune infantrymen either blocked them with their shields, or thrust with their spears from outside of the range of swords and maces.
The Sachstein soldiers, who were dragged down from horseback, piled on top of the Brune soldiers who fell down as they were sent flying by horses. In the places where it became a scuffle/ jostle, the Sachstein soldiers trampled down with their horses’ hooves, or the Brune soldiers thrust them down with spears. No one knew who attacked who.
The horses neighed, people screamed, the smell of blood and the smell of iron were mixed and paralyzed their sense of smell. The fresh blood splashing around drew many dark red rainbows in the air.
Tigre, keeping his impetuousness in check, ordered the soldiers to retreat. He grasped the black bow which he hung on the saddle. He thought that he could jump into that place as just a archer.
But now, Tigre was the Moonlight Knights army’s supreme commander, a position where he had to proceed calmly.
When the Moonlight Knights army retreated, the Sachstein army, which was lured in, advanced. But, as they seemed to have noticed that they were being lured, they stopped halfway and retreated. On the contrary, they retreated even further inviting the Brune army to stand out/stick out. Of course, Tigre did not take the bait and orderly had the soldiers retreat.
—Now, it’s a contest of endurance.
He wondered how Schmidt would judge the Brune army’s movement.
It was then that a change occurred in the Sachstein army’s movement. The troops of both wings that were on standby until then greatly deployed/spread out sideways while advancing. If looking down from the sky, one would have the impression of a Steller’s sea eagle seeming to have spread its wings.
Under Tigre pressing the area of his chest in strain, two horse bound messengers showed up. They were messengers from the Zhcted army of the right wing and the Knight Squadrons of the left wing respectively. They reported that the enemy’s detached forces which appeared from outside of the battlefield joined respectively the right wing and the left wing and the enemy’s thickness increased at a stretch.
—So, he moves his detached forces like that after all.
Since the Brune army had the marshland at their back, the Sachstein army could not sneak around to the Moonlight Knights army’s back. No, they did not need to sneak around. This was because they just had to encircle the Moonlight Knights army by utilizing the marshland.
For the Moonlight Knights army, the marshland was a defensive wall protecting their back, but it was also an obstacle which did not allow their retreat. As for the Sachstein army, they should just corner the enemy from the three directions of front, right and left; and they were just doing as such right now.
The Sachstein army’s wings stuck out and went around the Moonlight Knights army.
The Zhcted army and the Knights Squadrons attacked so as to not allow it, but the Sachstein army’s movement was skillful. While they made a wall with several units and blocked the Moonlight Knights army’s attack, other units rode their horses and hurried the completion of the encirclement.
The sun was close to the zenith when the Sachstein army surrounded the Moonlight Knights army from the three directions.
Tigre inhaled a small breath, exchanged looks with Mashas and ordered the whole army.
The Moonlight Knights army set foot in the marshland spreading at their back. Though they should’ve quickly lost their footing on the soft soil and their movement should’ve become dull, it did not happen.
The Moonlight Knights army continued to retreat orderly and escaped from the Sachstein army’s encirclement. Moreover, just like the enemy, they took a formation, spreading out right and left.
Although Schmidt, who was the Sachstein army’s supreme commander, frankly revealed a surprised expression, it was just for an instant and he immediately regained his fearless smile.
“Since they had the marshland at their back, I thought that they took some kind of measures, but……”
Schmidt guessed that they had probably spread thick board-like things in the marshland and camouflaged it by putting earth on top of them. This was because Schmidt himself had used such a way in order to quickly pass through quagmires and snowy fields with cavalry.
“Your Excellency. At this rate, both wings which are spread out will be in danger.”
Birnbaum indifferently warned. At that time, both wings of the Sachstein army were already receiving attacks of the Moonlight Knights army.
Until they were surrounded by the enemy a little while ago, both the Zhcted army and the Knight Squadrons have been ordered to standby. Even the attack in order to try escaping from the enemy’s encirclement was no more than a pretense.
But, the opportunity for the counterattack finally came to their side.
“I kept you waiting! Charge!”
Standing at the vanguard of the Zhcted army, Elen resolutely cried while brandishing Arifal. She blew about the bolts shot by the enemies’ crossbows with the power of wind, fiercely rode her horse and jumped into the Sachstein army’s left wing.
Cries in the Sachstein language surrounded Elen, and swords, maces and clubs attacked her. As she revealed a smile filled with fighting spirit, Elen swung her long sword as she let her silver hair flutter in the wind.
The first enemy had the arm holding his sword cut down and he fell from his horse, the next enemy had his head bisected as he had a posture where he raised his club.
Elen dodged the mace which the third enemy let out by slightly bending her body. She struck a return blow to the throat of the Sachstein soldier. The Sachstein soldier died as he scattered fresh blood.
The Zhcted soldiers too, who jumped into the enemy territory following Elen, literally showed the ability of a raging lion. Rurick successively shot down those thought to be the enemy’s commanding officers with his bow, and Lim also cut down the Sachstein soldiers one after another.
Valentina had her soldiers surrounding her and did not fight herself, but the Osterode soldiers showed a way of fighting not at all inferior to LeitMeritz’s soldiers. They always acted in groups of three, and thrust with their spears from multiple directions aimed at a Sachstein soldier on horseback.
The Sachstein army’s left wing numbered 15000 after adding the detached force which joined later. Although it became long and narrow vertically after they had spread out, they were overwhelmed by only 5000 Zhcted troops.
But, the Zhcted army’s fierce attack did not continued any further. A group of Sachstein cavalrymen, who suddenly appeared, attacked the Zhcted army’s flank. As they charged taking advantage of the momentum, the Zhcted army’s movement stopped as they received an unexpected counterattack.
“Was there still a detached force……?”
While cutting down the enemy before her, Elen gave a small groan. “No, that’s not it” she immediately realized. They had probably made a detached unit with either the central forces or the cavalrymen who were behind the left wing.
“Still, their reaction is quick. Should I say as one would expect of a General of Sachstein?”
Elen did not panic. She gave up attacking any further and gathered the soldiers with Lim. They moved to retreat. Valentina too moved like her and orderly retreated.
A similar situation was also happening to the Sachstein army’s right wing. Attacking on that side were the various Knight Squadrons of Brune. The knights of Brune carried out a charge from the front.
“Charge! Make those Sachstein rats regret having come here!”
Scheie of the Lutece Knight Squadron shouted standing at the vanguard. A fierce charge as to make one wonder whether the grassy plain wouldn’t turn into a wasteland made the Sachstein army flinch.
When allowed to charge on flat ground, Brune’s Knight Squadrons displayed a tremendous power. The Sachstein army either shot bolts from crossbows, or huddled together and tried to defend themselves with shields; but they were not able to stop Brune’s Knights.
The long spears which were thrust even pierced through the back of the Sachstein soldiers and their horses toppled sideways unable to endure the force. The Sachstein soldiers were by no means weak, but they were out pushed in spirit. As the humiliation of the defeats so far was struck on them (by the Brune army) at a stretch, the Sachstein army’s right wing had already begun to fall.
However, it did not completely fall apart. This was because Brune’s knights stopped attacking as they were exposed to an intense attack from the left side. It was a Sachstein cavalry squad who attacked them.
“No good! Retreat here!”
At this rate, they would end up receiving the enemy’s attack from the front and the left side. Scheie who judged so loudly shouted while knocking down with his spear the Sachstein cavalrymen coming slashing at him.
Though they weren’t as prompt as the Zhcted army, even so Brune’s knights retreated little by little. They had to prepare for considerable sacrifices in order to completely pull apart from the Sachstein army.
“──Hmm. I guess I should have attracted them a little more.”
While issuing instructions at the rear of the Sachstein army’s central forces, Schmidt flipped his mustache with a hard feeling. The detached forces, which attacked the Zhcted army and Brune’s Knight Squadrons, were the ones that Schmidt organized after cutting some cavalry from the central forces.
What was surprising was probably the speed in which the detached forces were organized after he’d issued the instructions. Schmidt was able to prepare a detached unit in a time less than half of the time that an ordinary army would need. It was also for that reason that Elen and Scheie were about to mistake the timing of their retreat.
Though, Schmidt’s attitude too did not have that much composure. Although they succeeded in counterattacking and made the enemy withdraw, it was the Sachstein army which had been caught in a trap in the first place.
“They put the marshland at their back…… No, they had two aims for pretending it to be as such, huh. As expected of a hero. He’s not bad, eh.”
He made the Sachstein army give up the way they fought so far by aiming for the enemy’s encirclement (strategy), and on top of that, let the Moonlight Knights army attack in the form they wanted. And Schmidt was made to ride on Tigre’s plan.
“──Birnbaum. Attack with all the cavalrymen the center.”
Though he was lost in thought for a while, Schmidt told as such in a quite plain tone.
“But, I don’t think that the traps that guy has set has run out. Therefore……”
Birnbaum nodded after receiving the order of the dull blond-haired supreme commander. Judging from only his expression, it was hard to discern whether he understood it or not. But, he has never once gone against Schmidt’s order until now.
It could clearly be seen even from where Tigre was that the 20,000 horsemen of the Sachstein army’s central forces had started moving. As they rolled up a cloud of dust and raised battle cries, the image of 20,000 cavalrymen marching just like surging waves could only be described as a masterpiece.
Tigre, while inwardly restraining his tension, calmly stared at the enemy on horseback and turned to look at Mashas with a composed expression. He had the soldiers make the preparations for a certain thing.
—How far will this work……?
The flexibility of Schmidt’s cavalry use was far out of Tigre’s reach. It would probably be difficult even for Elen and the people of the Knight Squadrons.
The flag of the white eagle fluttered. The flood of men and horses and iron which raged attacked the Moonlight Knights army as to swallow them in one gulp.
Tigre nocked an arrow to his black bow and drew it. The tip of the arrow was wrapped in fire.
It was not only Tigre. All the people with a bow and arrows in the Moonlight Knights army such as Mashas’ son Gaspar, prepared fire arrows and set them up. Besides, there were also people who wetted the tip of their javelin with oil and set fire on it. These were what he asked Mashas to prepare a while ago.
Mashas shouted. With that as the signal, dozens of fire arrows were shot into the sky. Scattering countless sparks in the empty sky, the fire arrows drew an arc and came down, overhead of the Sachstein army. Moreover, dozens of javelins which wore fire attacked the Sachstein army.
Most fire arrows and javelins were brushed away by the Sachstein army, but even so several of them stuck into the ground. Immediately after, flames gushed out of under the feet of the Sachstein army.
The horses screamed, drowning out the surprised voices of the humans. Either they acted violently and collided with their comrades, or they reared up and threw off their rider onto the ground.
Even the humans could not stay calm. There were people who unintentionally pulled their reins and collided with the comrades following after them. There were also those who fell from their horses and writhed within a sea of flames.
When the leading group completely stopped their advance, the people following after them either abruptly stopped their horses, or couldn’t help but be rolled up. Those who toppled sideways without their horses stopping and those, who spread the damage as they rolled up other people further, appeared one after another. The Sachstein army’s charge completely stopped.
Though there were also people among them that ran through the raging flames and approached the Moonlight Knights army, they were not a menace if not gathered. Spears were thrust from many directions and the men and horses fell together to the ground.
Tigre had spread out thick boards on the marshland. It was just as Schmidt had thought.
But, Tigre fully let oil soak into these boards. There was also the calculation not to let it spread more than necessary if the surroundings were the marshland.
The Moonlight Knights army attacked the Sachstein army taking this opportunity. They slashed at them with swords, thrust at them with spears, drove them in within the flames. The Sachstein army in confusion was unable to counterattack and they fell down one after another within the raging flames.
At the rear of the Sachstein army, Schmidt calmly gazed at the battlefield. Since he was to the rear with Birnbaum, he did not fall prey to Tigre’s trap.
Then, he gave new instructions to his adjutant.
“Don’t think that surrounding and fighting is the only way of fighting that my cavalrymen are capable of. Tigrevurmud Vorn”
On the other hand, Tigre divided the central forces, which he himself commanded, into the left and right. He intended to make them detour around the flames and defeat the Sachstein army.
But before they carried that out, the Moonlight Knights army encountered an unexpected counterattack.
A detached force of the Sachstein army fiercely attacked the Knight Squadrons which were in the left wing. The Sachstein cavalrymen’s swords and maces cut down their shoulders, smashed their helmets and knocked them down one after another in a pool of blood.
This detached force wasn’t the only one; with the path after the first unit immediately retreated after attacking the Knight Squadrons, the next unit cut in immediately after the first one retreated, the Knight Squadrons were not given any room to rebuild their formation, let alone counterattack. They were forced to retreat and saw their numbers rapidly decrease.
Tigre, who received the report from a messenger, hurriedly stopped the attack by the central main forces. He realized Schmidt’s aim.
—So, he intends to crush the Knight Squadrons and make the left side of the central main forces, which I lead, defenseless, huh.
Moreover, he probably intended to make our central main forces collapse by attacking it from the front and the left side.
Tigre could not help but shiver. Not only to Schmidt’s thoughts, but also to his ability of being able to do that in this situation. He certainly operated his cavalry units like his hands and feet. If he felt like it, there was no doubt that he would be able to organize several hundreds or several thousands of units in a very little time.
Speaking strictly of command of cavalry, Schmidt would be superior to Muozinel’s King’s younger brother, Kreshu Shaheen Baramir.
And Tigre had to defeat such a man.
—We must absolutely win in this battle.
He was a man able to pull off anything such as encirclements, surprise attacks or even attack in waves. And at an amazing speed at that. Even if Tigre and company were able to win this battle, he was not an opponent they should fight once again.
For the time being, Tigre had the reserves forces of the rear head to the Knight Squadrons’ aid. He pondered about something while letting fatigue spread on his face.
He was reminded of the silver-haired Vanadis’ smile. At the time when Tigre said that he would work in the capital, she hid her sad face and gave him her blessing while laughing. He apologized for having relied on her and making her jump into the line of death.
Tigre turned to Mashas and consulted him about what he thought. Before long, messengers ran from the central main forces to the Zhcted army of the right wing and the Knight Squadrons of the left wing respectively.
At the center of the Sachstein army, Schmidt and Birnbaum were watching the battle progress.
—Looks like it’ll be over without me using my army’s trump card.
Schmidt muttered without voicing it out.
That trump card was not something which Schmidt thought of. It was something that King August had prepared in secret.
4000 horsemen from Sachstein’s detached forces once again went through the sea of flames and attacked the Moonlight Knights army’s left wing.
Tigre shouted. The Knight Squadrons retreated, and the left side of the central forces became exposed. Furthermore, Tigre adjusted the central forces’ battle formation.
When looking from the sky, a part of the Moonlight Knights army’s central forces seemed to have been greatly dented. The Sachstein army’s detached forces got in there. This was a mistake for them. When the Moonlight Knights army dragged in these detached forces as is, they surrounded and attacked them from three directions.
As they were either attacked with swords, struck with spears from the front, right and left, or their horses were injured, the Sachstein army’s detached forces saw its numbers decrease at an amazing speed. They turned their horses and began to flee as they could not endure it. The Moonlight Knights army did not block up their path of retreat, nor did they chase them.
Lined up to the flank of them, who returned after running away from the main forces, was the Zhcted army ── LeitMeritz’s cavalrymen led by Elen that stuck out from the right wing.
“We’ll jump into the enemy as is!”
Elen brandished Arifal and shouted. At the same time, the central forces led by Tigre and the left wing’s forces led by the Knight Squadrons advanced fiercely in order to support Elen.
Schmidt and Birnbaum who commanded the Sachstein army were surprised.
“I didn’t think he would come up with such a way/method……”
Schmidt groaned as hot sweat moistened his hair and mustache. Faster than he could issue instructions for interception, LeitMeritz’s cavalrymen engaged the Sachstein army’s central forces. Because he had built many detached forces, it was a misfortune that the central forces’ battle formation lost its thickness.
Every time when Elen swung her long sword, bloody wind violently blew and the Sachstein soldiers fell down as they became silent corpses. It seems like neither a sword nor a mace nor could anything, which could injure her, reach at all. Her silver hair glittered as it bathed in the feeble sunlight, and the silver blade she held in her hand also emitted dull brightness.
“Your Excellency, please escape.”
Schmidt shook his head to Birnbaum’s words.
“These cavalrymen are as good as my body. Are you asking me to abandon my body and escape?”
In the meantime, Elen swung Arifal and literally cut her way through the enemy and approached Schmidt. Though Schmidt was also confident in his military prowess, he understood he could not match Elen after witnessing her way of fighting.
“Kreuger wrote about it in the letter, but…… She is indeed a war goddess.”
At that time, the battle reached a new change. A little less than 10,000 figures of horsemen appeared in the rear of the Moonlight Knights army. Tigre thought that it was a detached unit of the Sachstein army, but he held his breath to the report of the messenger.
“They are…… They are floating the battle flag of a Red Dragon!”
Red Dragon. It was Asvarre.
Tigre and even Mashas could not react at once. It was that much of a shock.
The Asvarre army ran up the marshland without minding their ranks breaking and moved to the Moonlight Knights army’s right wing’s rear. It wasn’t like they didn’t set an attack, and though there’s also an opened distance of about 300 Alsins (about 300 meters), the unrest that the Moonlight Knights army received was intense.
In the worst case, they would be taken into a pincer attack between the Sachstein army and the Asvarre army.
Elen had no choice but to give up on her attack. Without the support of the central forces led by Tigre, the LeitMeritz army would be left behind in enemy territory. The silver-haired Vanadis was a commander and had a responsibility towards the soldiers following her.
She turned her horse and once again swung her long sword while roughly breathing. Schmidt who saw her figure issued instructions to Birnbaum and opened a path of retreat for the LeitMeritz army.
“We’ll withdraw, too. Today’s battle is already over.”
While playing with his mustache as he frowned, Schmidt told so to Birnbaum. The trump card ── which was in the form of relying on the Asvarre army was extremely unpleasant for him.
Floating the flag of the white eagle, the Sachstein army swiftly retreated at a surprising speed.
The Moonlight Knights army, as they were dumbfounded, could only see them off; and speaking of the Asvarre army, they reformed their ranks and left as though to say that they were done here.
The first day of the battle of Prowirl closed its curtain like this. The Moonlight Knights army’s casualties exceeded 4000 and the Sachstein army’s casualties numbered 6000.
On a grassy plain 500 Alsins away from the field of Prowirl, the Moonlight Knights army set up their camp.
Five people, Tigre, Mashas, Elen, Lim and Valentina gathered in the tent for the supreme commander. There were baked sweets and wine for the number of people in front of them. It was something that Titta had prepared.
The five people’s topic focused on the Asvarre army.
“Sachstein is really careful. To think that they didn’t just join forces with Melisande, divide in two and attack from the west and south, but they even prepared an ally which is Asvarre, too.”
When Elen said so in an impressed voice, Mashas stroke his gray beard in displeasure.
“Asvarre’s aim is probably the northern territories. It doesn’t conflict with Sachstein’s aim. Still, it worries me that long-standing mortal enemies came to cooperate so well.”
Sachstein often caused skirmishes with Brune, but they also frequently set small-scaled wars with Asvarre.
All the more, the fact that Asvarre became an ally of Sachstein gave a great shock to the Brune army. Before coming into this tent, Mashas met with the noble feudal lords and people of the Knight Squadrons and had to eagerly soothe them who were confused and anxious.
“So Earl Vorn, what do you intend to do?”
While picking up a baked sweet, Valentina asked with a smile as if to say it had nothing to do with her.
“Strictly speaking, with this it has become a two versus two, but…… just the Asvarre army alone has 10,000 cavalrymen. And it’s not like we gave a heavy blow to the Sachstein army, so I can’t help but say that it’s a disadvantageous situation.”
“Is that sarcasm?”
Elen glared at the black-haired Vanadis with eyes tinged with hostility. “No”, Valentina shook her head as she denied with a smile. As Tigre gulped down wine with a difficult expression, he turned his gaze to Lim.
“How about it? Do you have any plans, Lim?”
“It is not to the extent of being called a plan though.”
While biting a small portion of a baked sweet, Lim answered.
“I am concerned about the fact that the enemy did not take us in a pincer attack. Considering the Sachstein army, this may because the threat called Eleonora-sama came close, but……”
When Tigre nodded, he moved his gaze to the baked sweets put on the plate. That was certainly strange. The Asvarre army just showed their figures and didn’t try to attack us, and the Sachstein army too had retreated quickly, after Elen had retreated.
Even if the Asvarre army did not move, if the Sachstein army had held their ground as is and continued fighting, the battle’s situation might have changed again.
—Does this mean that there isn’t a relationship of mutual trust between both parties?
As Mashas had said, Sachstein and Asvarre were mortal enemies. If he wondered about whether the enemy did not match their (Brune side) movement, he could understand their actions.
“──I’ll try contacting the Asvarre army.”
Looking around at all the members, Tigre said.
“I don’t know who their commander is; but if it’s a person I know, there might be room for negotiations.”
Saying so, Tigre told the four people about how he got involved with Asvarre’s civil war. Though he has already told Elen, Lim and Mashas about it, one might say that it was an explanation for Valentina.
“If we can hold back/stop the Asvarre army by negotiations, I will certainly be thankful, but……”
Elen frowned and folded her arms as she lost herself in thought.
“The personnel selection is difficult. In case they don’t intend to negotiate with Asvarre, the sent emissary will without doubt be sent to the Sachstein army as materials for diplomacy.”
Not anybody could be a messenger. Unless it was someone of a suitable position, it would be treated as rudeness towards the other party. Should that happen, the person becoming the messenger, in the worst case, must prepare himself for not coming back alive. Tigre gave a small groan.
“If you don’t mind, shall I go?”
It was Lim who suggested as such in her usual indifferent tone. Tigre and Elen stared wide-eyed and were about to spin words of objection. But, earlier than that, a voice of agreement was raised.
“That’s right. If it is Limalisha-dono, I think that she is suitable as the messenger.”
Elen spontaneously glared at Valentina. Warding off her gaze filled with hostility with a smile, Valentina continued.
“She has a deep friendship not only with Earl Vorn, but also Earl Rodant. She will be the most suitable to show the friendship between our country and Brune. Besides, Asvarre should not want to make an enemy out of our country. I do not think that they will give her a rough treatment.”
“I’m against it.”
Tigre shook his head saying so in a peremptory tone.
“If anything were to happen to Lim ── Limalisha, Brune will lose the LeitMeritz army’s trust.”
Valentina gave no answer towards that and turned her gaze to Lim. As Lim slightly shook her golden hair tied on the left side of her head, she calmly nodded.
“Eleonora-sama. I will go to the Asvarre army as the messenger.”
“Wait. This is Brune’s war. So it’ll be logical to let a person from Brune go.”
Tigre restrained Lim as he said so, but she did not nod her head. As she moved her gaze to Tigre, Lim revealed a smile on her lips.
“It is not a definite fact that I will definitely die. Besides, I think that compared with a person from Brune, the possibility of a person from Zhcted not ending up killed is certainly high.”
It did not seem like she intended to change her opinion. Tigre turned a gaze mixed with irritation towards Elen. He appealed to her to stop Lim without voicing it out. The silver-haired Vanadis, who kept silent until then, turned her pupils of ruby-colored brightness to her adjutant who was also her close friend.
“──Is it fine to leave it to you?”
After a short pause, she asked in a tone tinged with strictness. Lim nodded, and Tigre stared at Elen with a dumbfounded face. The Wind Princess of the Silver flash deliberately avoided making eye contact with the youth and looked at Mashas.
“Lord Mashas. We’ll send Lim as the messenger. Lend me your help.”
The gray-bearded veteran briefly replied. Then, he lightly tapped Tigre’s shoulder.
“Somebody has to go. I too think that Limalisha-dono is a good choice.”
Being said so up to there, Tigre also couldn’t help but answered that he understood. Now that it turned out like this, what the youth could do was only praying to the gods for Lim’s safety.
It was about when the sun went down that Lim left the Moonlight Knights army’s camp, but she did not come back even when night wore on. It did not even take half a koku to go on horse to the Asvarre army’s camp.
Tigre persuaded himself thinking “maybe the negotiations dragged on”, but as expected he was impatient. He wondered whether he should have let her go after all.
Inside the tent for the supreme commander, there were only Tigre and Elen. Mashas and Valentina should be sleeping respectively in their tent. Tigre and Elen also understood that they must also rest their bodies, but even so they were unable to sleep as their nerves were highly strung.
At first, they’d exchanged a trifling conversation in order to kill time, but now both of them hardly moved as they were in a posture where they sat down on the carpet; and it was to the extent that they only drank wine that Titta had put when they felt thirsty.
The light of the lamp suspended from the ceiling unreliably illuminated inside the tent.
When the moon approached its zenith, they noticed footsteps approaching from outside of the tent; both of them abruptly raised their faces. After a little while, the soldier who stood on guard called out to them from outside.
“Your Excellency Supreme Commander, I am sorry to disturb you as you are resting. May you get up?”
Did Lim come back? While harboring such an expectation, Tigre asked as he controlled his voice. But, the soldier’s reply was slightly off from the youth’s wish.
“Someone calling himself the messenger of Asvarre has shown up and wants to speak with your Excellency”
Tigre unintentionally exchanged looks with Elen. With a tense countenance, the youth addressed the guard.
“Understood. Bring him here.”
And then before long, one man entered the tent. He was in his mid-twenties. He’d wrapped his body in a gray overcoat and revealed a friendly smile. He respectfully bowed to Tigre and gave his name and position.
Tigre leaned his black bow against the wall of the tent, stood up and greeted him.
By the way, Elen stayed seated on the carpet as is. Without naming herself, she was observing the messenger. Although she kept her hand away from Arifal, if she felt like it, she could grab the scabbard and handle, unsheathed the sword and cut down the messenger in an instant.
“Did you meet the messenger whom I sent to you people?”
While urging the messenger to sit down, Tigre casually asked about Lim. It must not be perceived that he was worried about her. Sure enough, the messenger answered with a smile.
“Yes. It is Limalisha-dono of the Zhcted army, right? It is precisely because I was told the location of the Moonlight Knights army’s camp by her that I was able to come like this without losing my way.”
“Glad to hear it. By the way, who is your supreme commander?”
The messenger answered with a smile as though to say that he was waiting for that question.
“With all due respect, does your Excellency Earl remember the name of Tallard Graham?”
While being careful so as to not reveal his inward surprise on his face, Tigre composedly nodded. “I thought so”, he’d also had such a thought.
“Of course. After all, not even half a year has passed since I parted with him. I was in his care when I was in Asvarre.”
One might say that the latter half of his lines was lip service. It was in last year’s autumn that Tigre intervened in Asvarre’s civil war. The civil war was over before winter, and Tigre left Asvarre with Sofy and company.
In a country where a civil war had just ended, Tallard’s ability of preparing an army in a little less than half a year and performing a foreign campaign might be said to be frightening.
“I am grateful. Well then, I shall convey the demand of our lord. Duke Graham wishes to meet your Excellency Earl Vorn with only the two of you.”
More than the contents of the words, that part caught Tigre’s attention and he cocked his head in puzzlement. The messenger answered as if it was nothing.
“Lord Graham was granted the rank of Duke for the achievement from supporting Princess Guinevere.”
Not only Tigre, but also Elen opened her eyes wide at this. She also had heard about the events in Asvarre from Tigre. Tallard Graham was born a commoner and he shouldn’t have had that high a rank before the civil war occurred.
—And now he’s a Duke……
Tigre held his breath. He could not help recalling the exchange with Regin before leaving Nice. However, the youth immediately pulled himself together and said to the messenger with a smile.
“I see. Tell Lord Tallard my congratulations.”
To Tigre’s words, the messenger exaggeratedly bowed his head and expressed words of gratitude.
Then, the messenger told some conditions for the occasion when Tallard and Tigre would meet.
That both parties not move their camp and army.
That Brune’s side decides the meeting place and Asvarre’s side decides the time of the meeting.
That from the Moonlight Knights army, only Tigre alone came. And from their side too, Tallard who was the supreme commander would also come alone.
When she heard the third condition, Elen frowned. Tigre going alone was too dangerous. If Tallard was to deceive them and bring soldiers along, the battle’s outcome would be decided at that moment. By the Moonlight Knights army’s defeat, that is.
“Are you saying that Lord Tallard will come without bringing even one escort along?”
To Elen’s question, the messenger immediately replied without changing his complexion one bit.
“His Excellency deeply trusts Earl Vorn. Besides, if he was to move accompanied by a group of attendants, there is the fear of being found by the Sachstein army.”
After a short pause, Tigre opened his mouth. Though Elen revealed a surprised face, Tigre asked the messenger without looking at her.
“By the way, does Lord Tallard like wine from Brune?”
To the unexpected question, the messenger revealed a puzzled expression. But, he smile afterwards and answered.
“Yes. His Excellency likes alcohol from neighboring countries, but he seems to particularly appreciate the ones from Brune.”
“I see. Then, I shall bring one bottle with me. Since we’re in such a place, it’s impossible for me to bring the finest one though. Can I ask you to tell Lord Tallard to prepare the cups?”
Again, the messenger was unable to answer immediately. He could not guess Tigre’s true intentions. But, he immediately revealed a smile and respectfully bowed. He promised to convey it to Tallard.
“By the way, is our messenger at your place?”
As the negotiations were over, Tigre asked while pretending to be indifferent. He thought that if the other party was Tallard, he would not carelessly hurt Lim.
But, he could not feel relieved. This was a battlefield, and Tigre and Tallard pointed their blades at each other. No one knew what would become the trigger to change this situation.
“Yes. Duke Graham was very pleased with Limalisha-dono.”
Tigre, who heard the messenger’s reply, unconsciously knitted his brows. He could not guess at all what kind of conversation Tallard and Lim exchanged.
The meeting place was settled to be at a hill ahead when walking about 2 Belsta (about 2 km) to the north from the place where the Moonlight Knights army and the Asvarre were facing each other.
Although dawn broke, Tigre went to the hill on horseback alone as promised when the sky was still dim.
Before leaving the camp, the youth naturally encountered strong opposition from the surroundings. Elen looked at the youth with a depressed face, and Mashas, Gaspar, Rurick and Gerard, who were told about it later, were all against it. Only Valentina did not object.
“Do you approve of it?”
Being asked so by Elen, the black-haired Vanadis answered as follows.
“I have never met that Tallard Graham. It is the same for you too, right, Eleonora? Then, isn’t it natural to leave it to the person who has already met him?”
“If anything happens, Tigre will die, you know?”
“Eleonora. Our duty is to help him, right?”
“That’s right. In other words, at times when he makes a wrong decision, we should make him understand it even if we have to hit him.”
“I do not think so. This is Lord Tigrevurmud’s war. If there is a chance of success, we should refrain from excessive interference. Above all, we are foreigners after all.”
When being told so, Elen could not strongly argue against that, too. When examining it as the Princess of LeitMeritz, Elen helped Tigre too much.
Of course, Elen also had her point. For LeitMeritz which shared a border with Brune, she would be troubled unless Brune became stable moderately.
“I got it. Here, I’ll do as you say.”
It was certain that they had to do something about Asvarre. Though Tigre said that he would be all right, she was also worried about Lim’s well-being. And, she also had to keep a lookout on Valentina so that she didn’t do anything unnecessary.
Seen off by Elen and company, Tigre advanced his horse to the designated place. If he went straight, it would not take a quarter koku, but he had to take a detour in order to avoid the Sachstein army’s eyes.
When nearly half a koku had passed, the hill of the meeting could be seen. It was a small hill and except for the fact that trees grew there sparsely, it was covered with short grass and was dyed with greenery.
Where Tallard was waiting was not at the top, but at a slope which went down by approximately ten steps from the top. This was also chosen after considering this place to be hard to be found by the Sachstein army’s reconnaissance units.
He went down from his horse, hung a basket, which wine was put in, to his left hand and went up the hill while pulling the reins with his right hand. Before long, Tigre found the figures of a man and a woman near a tree which grew diagonally. They were Tallard and Lim.
Tallard was in his mid-twenties. He had a medium build, and his short blond hair and transparent blue eyes did not change from before. No, the ambition floating in his eyes increased from before and seemed to strongly shine.
His suntanned face was tightened sharply and dignified, and the silver armor wore on top of his blue silk clothes suited him well.
Lim was still the same as when she left the camp as the messenger. As there was no sign that she received any external wounds, Tigre heaved a sigh of relief and smiled at her. Then, he turned to Tallard.
“It’s been a while.”
The blond-haired Duke revealed a carefree smile and held out his hand to Tigre. Being lured in by that, Tigre unintentionally laughed, too. Tigre asked him in a joking tone.
“I’m thankful to you for having accommodated our messenger overnight, but you didn’t do anything strange, did you?”
“About that, Lord Tigrevurmud.”
Lim butted in from the side. Slight fatigue blurred in her voice
“I was certainly together with Lord Tallard overnight, but we spent the night talking about you.”
To these unexpected words, Tigre looked at Lim’s and Tallard’s faces alternately with a perplexed face. Tallard revealed a mischievous smile.
“Because at the time of the civil war, you quickly went back to Zhcted with the beautiful Vanadises, we weren’t able to talk at all. It seems that after becoming Lady Eleonora’s prisoner, you spend a really eventful life, eh. I should have asked about it earlier.”
Tigre rummaged his darkish red hair with a face showing he didn’t know what to say. He looked at Lim and said “thank you for your hard work” with a wry smile. He could not voice out any other words than that. When Lim bashfully cast down her eyes, she bowed to the two men and left the place.
Tallard sat down at the place and put two silver cups, which he prepared, on the ground. Tigre sat down opposite to him and opened the cork of the wine bottle. He poured wine into the silver cups. Then, both of them respectively pick up a silver cup and lightly knocked them together.
“It’s a toast for your achievements so far and your achievements in the future.”
“Same to you for your victories so far and your victories in the future.”
And they gulped down their wine cups at the same time. It was an action not only to celebrate their reunion, but also to show that they trusted the other party.
“It’s a good wine.”
When Tallard blew out a breath tinged with heat, he erased his smile and revealed a serious expression. Seeing that, Tigre too pulled himself together.
“Let’s settle the main issue before getting drunk. What is your demand?”
“Withdraw from Brune.”
To the direct question, Tigre also returned a clear answer.
“I don’t want to withdraw just like that (free of charge). It costs money just to come here.”
“In the first place, why did you join forces with Sachstein? I heard that Sachstein and Asvarre are mortal enemies though.”
To Tigre’s question, Tallard wonderingly cocked his head in puzzlement.
“Things like friend and foe; it’s something which changes depending on the circumstances of the time, right?”
“What are these circumstances you’re talking about?”
“‘Check by yourself and think’ is what I would like to say, but…… well, it’s fine.”
Saying up to there, Tallard shook his shoulders and laughed.
“We need achievements as soon as possible, you see? In such a time, Sachstein approached us with an offer; asking us to attack Brune.”
“Did you accept their proposal?”
“There was the talk that you’re in Zhcted after all. They also said that, the current Brune not having great Generals, we were free to cut the territories from the north and the west. So, I thought that helping those guys to earn small change would be good.”
Tigre grieved to Tallard’s words. Saying that they were free to cut the land Brune as they liked was like humiliating them.
Although, when considering the total of 70,000 troops, the command ability of Kreuger and Schmidt, the betrayer Melisande and moreover Tallard’s existence, he could hardly say that they were high-sounding words.
Though Tigre defeated Kreuger, it was a close victory. He was not able to defeat Schmidt. On the contrary, it was probably Tigre who would have lost were he to make a wrong move. Were this to happen, Brune would have definitely lost some portion of its territory.
Tigre decided to shift the topic a little.
“Is Asvarre all right? Not even half a year has passed since the civil war ended, right?”
Even in Brune, the scars of the civil war two years ago still remained throughout the country. It should be safe to think that it was also the same for Asvarre. Sure enough, Tallard frowned at Tigre’s question.
“I can’t say that there are no problems. If Sachstein didn’t approach us with that offer, we would probably have devoted ourselves to domestic affairs for several years by now.”
“Then, why?” as he was about to ask as such, Tigre thought of one possibility.
“Don’t tell me, it’s in order to strengthen your position?”
Tigre recalled the words of the messenger that Tallard became a Duke. Although he had enough achievements that no one could refute, he must’ve played a considerably forcible hand in order to be granted the Duke rank just after half a year. In addition, there were Tallard’s current words.
If Sachstein attacked Brune, Asvarre would be done worrying about the threat from the south. And then, it would be possible for them to turn the spare strength generated there to head to Brune.
Moreover, Tallard’s goal was to become King. For him, even the Duke rank was no more than a passage point. Since he aimed much higher, more brilliant achievements should be necessary. If he succeeded in obtaining a territory of Brune, the throne would become quite close for him.
Tigre talked about this thought of his while pouring wine into his silver cup again. Though Tallard said nothing as he only revealed a happy smile, his expression proved the rightness of Tigre’s thought.
When Tigre finished speaking, Tallard asked as if seeming to have been waiting for it.
“Now then, what do you want from me?”
“My desire is that the Asvarre army withdraws from Brune.”
“Understood. Battle us and lose in a flashy manner. If you become a prisoner, I will give you a warm welcome. It was as such with Zhcted, right?”
As he’d probably heard it from Lim, Tallard said something outrageous with a bright expression. However, he immediately added in a sarcastic tone.
“I’ll say it just in case, but I’ll decline any half-hearted agreements. If you want to have such a talk no matter what, you’ll have to bring even Princess Regin along.”
“Are you meaning that I’m not trustworthy?”
“To put it bluntly, that’s right.”
Tallard immediately replied to Tigre who looked puzzled as he knitted his brows. To the youth who opened wide his eyes in amazement, Tallard indifferently explained.
“I heard it from Limalisha-dono. You’re currently Earl Vorn governing Alsace, and also the supreme commander of the Moonlight Knights army formed temporarily, right?”
Tigre nodded. At the same time, he noticed that the blond-haired young man’s expression became unusually severe. What did he mean by he could not trust him (Tigre)? Tigre did not think that Lim gave an explanation which caused Tallard to misunderstand.
“For example, let see. Let’s say that we made an agreement of withdrawing from Brune with 500,000 gold coins as deferred payment. In your current position, this is more likely to be reneged.”
—Reneged? Why would I……
Not understanding immediately the meaning of Tallard’s words, Tigre dropped his gaze to the wine cup. To put it another way, it means that he could not pay out the agreement with his current position.
“Ah!” Tigre almost shouted unintentionally. He understood what the blond-haired young man meant. As Tigre raised his face, he stared at Tallard with a bitter expression.
“This is because when this war is over, the Moonlight Knights army will be dissolved, right?”
Tallard, not smiling, inclined his wine cup as he silently nodded.
Tigre tried to make an agreement with Tallard as the Moonlight Knights army’s supreme commander. Afterwards, when the war would be over, the Moonlight Knights army would be dissolved and Tigre’s position would be naturally lost as well. By that, he could evade the agreement.
Even if Tallard demanded the fulfillment of the agreement to Brune, Brune could just say ‘collect it from Tigre’. However, when the Moonlight Knights army dissolves, Tigre would only be Earl Vorn governing Alsace.
Moreover, Alsace was in a location that was close to Zhcted, so it would be bad to carelessly cause it trouble. Sending soldiers there and pillaging it by force was almost impossible.
Therefore, Tallard told him to bring Princess Regin. More precisely, it would be all right even if it wasn’t Regin. As long as the one he brought along with him was a representative of the Brune Kingdom.
Tigre scratched his darkish red hair. As expected, he didn’t think that Tallard would obediently accept his demand of withdrawing from Brune.
But, he didn’t think that he would be made to recognize the weakness of his position in such a place. Would it have been different if he had wished for a status or territory after the civil war ended in Brune?
—It can’t be helped, I guess.
At the time when he knew that the Asvarre army’s supreme commander was Tallard, one plan was born in Tigre’s mind. It was hardly that great a thing to be called a plan, but he had no choice but to use it.
What he needed was not wisdom. It was the thick-skinned face in both meaning. Tigre inhaled a small breath while putting his silver cup on the ground and fixed his breathing. He put strength into his stomach.
—Before, Tallard said that……
He would not hesitate to abandon the people if necessary. The blond-haired young man in front of him had once said so to Tigre. When Tigre thought about how he was going to make a proposal from now on, it pained his heart. But, there was no other way.
Tigre straightened himself and called out to the young Duke of Asvarre. After having slightly moved his eyebrows, Tallard likewise put his silver cup on the ground like Tigre and received the youth’s gaze. He asked with a happy smile.
“Do you have some interest topics?”
As Tigre gave a small nod, He spoke as if biting on every single word.
“Would you consider breaking off from Sachstein and joining forces with us?”
“What benefits will I have by doing so?”
“You can live on without fighting me.”
Tigre flatly declared.
Tallard stopped moving for a moment as if he’d heard a foreign language and stared at Tigre with his eyes greatly opened wide. Then, he thoroughly scrutinized the youth’s words and burst into laughter when he understood their meaning. He held his sides and shook his shoulders repeatedly. He seemed to be eagerly enduring laughing in a loud voice
Without breaking his posture, Tigre silently waited for him to hold his laughter.
—I guess boasting is fine as well.
Assuming that he fought against Tallard, he did not know whether he would win or not. Rather, he might lose. And yet, he proposed it as if it was the compensation for treachery. It was to the extent that Tigre wanted to laughed at himself thinking “since when did I become such a very fine person”.
But, he couldn’t come up with any other thing which seemed to be able to make Tallard move.
Besides, it was not something that would come straight to one’s mind.
Tallard said that he took advantage of Sachstein’s plan. However, that plan of Sachstein’s began to crumble like a sand castle hit by the rain.
Kreuger was killed in action. Melisande also lost her life. Schmidt was till powerful, but Tigre was standing in his way.
And behind Tigre, Zhcted’s shadow could be seen.
Tallard should also understand the things to happen from here on.
Before long, Tallard raised his face. Revealing a fearless smile that nobody else could imitate, he stared at Tigre.
“Depending on one’s way of thinking, it’s a perfect opportunity to fight against you. Knight of the Moonlight. Star Shooter. Were I to beat you, who hold these two nicknames, I might become King with Guinevere as my wife by the end of this year.”
To Tallard’s seemingly assertive statement, Tigre sighed. Was it no good after all?
But, Tallard slightly laughed and nodded his head.
“Fine. I accept that proposal.”
Actually, Tigre’s suggestion wasn’t that bad an option for Asvarre.
He did not think that there was an error on Sachstein’s part. Brune displayed power which exceeded Sachstein’s expectations. Especially, this man who came back after gaining the Zhcted army as his ally.
He did not mind Sachstein losing as is, but it was unbearable for him to be rolled up in it. It was necessary for Asvarre to wash off their hands (give up) somewhere. So, why not now?
Tallard lost himself in thought. If he were to fight alongside Sachstein as is, he would be taking on the two countries- Brune and Zhcted as opponents.
The problem was how long would Sachstein hold onto their will of fighting against Brune.
For example, in the case that Sachstein were to reconcile with Brune before Tallard knew of it, Asvarre would have to confront the three countries of Brune, Zhcted and Sachstein at the same time. Though there was not this stupid of a story, if he perused the history of various countries, there were many such precedents.
Of course, Tallard thought about capturing Tigre at this place, cutting off his head, or even sending him to the Sachstein army as a present. In that case, Brune would collapse and Tallard and the Sachstein army would be able to cut Brune’s territory as they pleased.
However, there was one concern. It was the existence of the Zhcted kingdom.
Tallard also heard by chance the rumor that Tigrevurmud Vorn has in fact changed sides to Zhcted. If that was the case, were he to murder Tigre or hold him prisoner, Tallard might end up making an enemy out of Zhcted.
The stories that Tallard also heard from Lim during last night became something which reinforced that rumor. Tallard too investigated various things about Zhcted, but there was no foreigner like Tigre who was close to many Vanadises. Lim’s stories were all full of persuasiveness and he did not possibly think that they were lies.
Though already mentioned, Sachstein was their (Asvarre) mortal enemy. Tallard did not know when they might point their blade to Asvarre.
Were he to murder Tigre and savor well the juice called Brune, if it resulted in Asvarre being caught in between Zhcted and Sachstein, the name of Tallard would be handed down as one of a fool.
“However, I have some conditions.”
Tallard raised two fingers of his right hand and pushed them straight out to Tigre.
“One is to provide us with food and materials. And then, I want traffic (passage) permission in Brune’s territory.”
Although Tigre was puzzled at the second condition, he immediately understood.
“Don’t tell me that you intend to pass through Brune and attack (invade) Sachstein?”
Tigre groaned to the words of Tallard who seemed happy from the bottom of his heart. It would certainly be effective. As expected, I’m glad that I don’t have to fight against this man, Tigre thought.
The secret meeting was thus over.
Leonhardt von Schmidt finished his troops’ reorganization in one day and strengthened his determination to absolutely defeat the Moonlight Knights army in the next battle.
But, he no longer had the occasion to fight against the Moonlight Knights army.
When he left the field of Prowirl, deployed his troops in the grassy plain called Monde and confronted/faced the Moonlight Knights army, he noticed it.
That Asvarre has betrayed them.
At this time, the Asvarre army had taken up a position to the Sachstein army’s immediate north. Thinking very normally about it, it should look like both armies were going to attack the Moonlight Knights army which was in front of them.
But, it did not look like that to Schmidt.
If they clashed with the Moonlight Knights army, wouldn’t the Asvarre army go around to their rear as if they were waiting for it? He could only think so.
The experience, which he cultivated in the battlefield for more than twenty years, let an intangible warning resound in his consciousness. Furthermore, the fact that the Moonlight Knights army was settled down too much while having to face a new enemy might have stimulated his intuition. Those who saved his troops the day before yesterday threatened them today.
While burning with rage, Schmidt said to his adjutant with a groaning voice. By retreating in this situation, he would probably not avoid the slander of being labeled as a coward.
But, it was better than losing. By thinking so, Schmidt kept his boiling feelings in check.
The Sachstein army retreated. The Moonlight Knights army did not move, the Asvarre army, too.
When they took the time to move about 1 Belsta (about 1 Km), Schmidt told his army about the reason of their retreat. Explaining that the Asvarre army has betrayed them.
It was about eight days later that Schmidt understood that his intuition was right.
It was 5000 Navarre Knight Squadron horsemen and 10,000 Asvarre horsemen who ambushed the Sachstein army, which replenished food and materials while attacking villages and towns and came back to the border using a road different from the one they used to enter.
“Damn, as expected you bastards……”
It was said that because of too much anger, a part of Schmidt’s brass-colored hair was dyed gray.
While enduring the fierce attack from two countries’ armies, Schmidt returned to Sachstein.
To the report that the Brune invasion has failed, the Sachstein King August shook his shoulders.
The several cards which he played were all rendered useless. The shock which he received was bigger than anyone else.
August received Schmidt in the audience room. He looked down at Schmidt, who got down on his knee and dejectedly reported, with eyes as to let one feel cruelty. Since Kreuger was no longer in this world, Schmidt was the only one being held responsible for the defeat.
But, August forgave Schmidt. Were he to lose Schmidt, there would be only one remaining person, to whom a large army could be entrusted to, in the current Sachstein. August understood that.
Above all, he had another target/object to turn his anger to.
Waiting for Schmidt to finish his report, August opened his mouth.
“I will allow you to take a rest for only three days. After that, rebuild your troops as soon as possible.”
The courtiers sitting in a row were surprised at the King’s lenience. August continued his words.
“Your next enemy is Asvarre. Until you take the head of that hateful Tallard, do not think about passing through the royal palace’s doors.”
Schmidt was delighted at having been given an opportunity to clean up his disgrace. As he once again lowered his head on the floor, he swore not to set foot in the royal palace until he has killed Tallard.
Thus, this became the last audience for Schmidt.
For approximately ten years from now, Schmidt did not move from the border between Sachstein and Asvarre and spent his days continually fighting the Asvarre army.
The nickname of “Leonhardt of the Blitz” would be known as the nickname of the brave General who supported Sachstein, which walked the path of destruction as it continued being robbed of its territories by Asvarre, until the end.
It was about when the people had begun to feel the end of spring that the Muozinel army started to move.
“It will be time soon.”
Kreshu gathered his subordinates who were commanding officers and said so. He has long since discovered a path to invading Brune by passing through Agnes. He had caused skirmishes several times with the Olmutz army led by Ludmila Lourie. Though only once, he had soldiers go to Polesia governed by Sofya Obertas.
The Zhcted people would probably no longer suspect it. They should think that Muozinel intended to fight only Zhcted. He used that psychological chance/gap.
“If we achieved the invasion in Brune, first it’s the south. We will take control of the group of port towns there.”
If they controlled the group of port towns of southern Brune, the Muozinel army would be able to contact their own country using the sea route. That would let the soldiers feel relieved. In addition, it would become possible to send what they would steal to their country, and conversely, have their country send food, materials and soldiers.
“Now then, what is Brune doing about at this time?”
Kreshu did not know Brune’s current status. He knew that Sachstein had invaded it and had also sent a messenger to Sachstein, but his information gathering stopped there.
If it turned out to be war, the situation would change countless times in a short period. It was not unusual that the information, which was more precious than gold yesterday, became more worthless than a stone on the roadside today. Moreover, the Muozinel army was in a land far away from Brune
“Now then, it’s the last fight against Ludmila Lourie. Let’s flashily perform this act as best as possible.”
The next day, Kreshu sent the elites, whom he preserved, to the Olmutz army. Mila eagerly endured the fierce attack which could not be compared with the previous skirmishes.
The battle which began since morning continued until the afternoon; the Muozinel army, which was exhausted as expected, greatly retreated like a tide going down when the battle was over.
And then for three days, the Muozinel army did not come in contact with the Olmutz army.
“What are they thinking?”
Mila looked at the Muozinel army, which showed no signs of moving, with suspicious eyes.
“Maybe they are revising their strategy as they were unable to make this fort fall by the attack three days ago.”
Although Mila’s subordinate said so and the blue-haired Vanadis nodded as she agreed, her blue eyes were still tinged with the color of doubt.
It was the next morning that Mila was made to realize Muozinel’s intention.
The Muozinel army disappeared without leaving even one soldier behind. Although they had slipped into the night darkness, a big army of 50,000 performed a movement without the Olmutz army noticing at all.
Mila hurriedly sent reconnaissance units in the four directions north, south, east and west. At the time when the sun went up to its zenith, a report that the Muozinel army was finally found in Agnes arrived to her.
—We were tricked……!
Mila strongly bit her lips from anger and frustration. Muozinel’s goal was Brune from the beginning, and their offense and defense until several days ago was only a diversion.
The darkish red-haired youth’s figure appeared in the blue-haired Vanadis’ mind. He was fighting against Sachstein and now, had to deal with Muozinel too.
She wanted to rush to him. But, she could not take the same action as two years ago.
This was in part because Mila was ordered by King Victor to standby. There was no guarantee that all the Muozinel troops had went away to the other side of Agnes. As soon as Mila chased them thus making the border of Olmutz short of manpower, there was enough possibility that a detached force of Muozinel would attack there.
Ordering the soldiers to be on alert, Mila put in order the reports in the commander’s room.
It was then that the Frozen Wave, which was put beside her, emitted brightness.
Mila stared at her Dragonic Tool in blank amazement. After holding her breath and regaining her calm, she picked up Lavias. The Dragonic Tool’s intention was transmitted to Mila through its long handle.
Mila knitted her brows and stared at the Frozen Wave. In the northwest from here ── in other words, in Brune, Lavias appealed to her that there was a demon.
—What does this mean? Even though it has never informed me of such a thing until now……
She knew that demons were acting secretly in Zhcted from when all the Vanadises and Tigre gathered on the occasion of the Sun Festival and talked about it. She heard that Baba Yaga and Vodyanoy had showed up in Lebus, and Liza, Elen and Tigre had repelled them.
Was it a problem of distance? Were Sofy in Polesia, Olga in Brest, and Liza in Lebus informed as such by their Dragonic Tools about this time, too?
—There’s no time to confirm it.
Mila tightly grasped the spear clad in coldness. She was taught by her mother, who was a Vanadis, that a Vanadis was also an existence which killed demons. Although, it seemed that her mother had never encountered a demon.
Mila thought that she was probably making an awfully strange face. Even though she has just decided, as a commander and as the lord of Olmutz, not to go to Brune, as a Vanadis, she must go to Brune.
Mila called her right-hand man and told in her usual tone.
“I’m going to Brune. I leave the command here to you.”
“Are you meaning to chase the Muozinel army heading to Brune?”
Her subordinate’s question was certainly natural considering this situation. However, Mila calmly shook her head.
“I’ll be the only one going to Brune. I won’t take anybody along.”
When it came to fighting a demon, an army was unnecessary. On the contrary, they might become a hindrance. To her perplexed subordinate, Mila continued issuing instructions.
“Send messengers respectively to the capital and to Sofy in Polesia. I leave the preparations to you. I’m sorry for being unable to explain the situation to you, but this is something important.”
Mila appealed to her subordinate with a serious expression. Although her subordinate did not immediately reply as he seemed to be perplexed on how he should answer, the trust in his master eventually won over. The Snow Princess of the Frozen Wave was not trying to abandon her duty. She was trying to accomplish a different duty.
“As you wish. Please, leave the command of this fort to me. So, Vanadis-sama should be at ease and accomplish her duty.”
With a smile, Mila expressed her thanks to her subordinate who was her elder.
And then one koku later, Mila, who was ready for her trip, rode a horse and left the fort.
Though it looked like she was chasing the Muozinel army, there was no other shorter way to arrive at Brune, so it could not be helped.
—With a demon as the opponent, I’m in a situation where I would like to borrow Tigre’s and Elen’s powers, but……
Currently, there should be Tigre, Elen and Valentina in Brune. Since she did not know whether she could possibly count Valentina as a war potential, she put her on hold for the time being.
She disliked Elen, but the two girls never hesitated to join hands together when necessary. That was precisely why they were able to kill a double-headed dragon in Brune’s civil war two years ago.
—I wonder how the battle against Sachstein is going.
The problem was that. If it looked like Tigre and company was having a hard time with Sachstein as their enemy, she would have to think about fighting against the demon by herself.
Dry wind blew on the highway. Mila silently rode her horse.
In a place about one and a half days on foot to the southwest from the capital Nice, there was a grassy plain.
There were approximately 10,000 soldiers there. Their blood lines were various. If there were those who were soldiers serving a certain noble, there were also those who were bandits until just the other day. There were also those who were knights.
They were soldiers gathered by Earl Cotillard. Cotillard, who pledged allegiance to Melisande, gathered soldiers in Nemetacum in order to support her and was waiting for that day.
However, that day never came.
Currently, it was not Cotillard who commanded these 10,000 soldiers. It was a different man.
Cotillard was in front of that man. With an appearance of a gag in his mouth and the bottom from his neck (and his neck down) buried underground. If left alone as is, there was no doubt that he would become the food of a stray dog.
The man expressed his thanks to Cotillard with a happy voice. It was a man with gray hair.
“You did a good job, Earl. The soldiers that you’ve gathered, I will effectively make use of them.”
The man’s name was Charon Anquetil Greast.
After having stolen “Durandal” from the royal palace and given it to Duke Ganelon, he visited Nemetacum. And then he pretended to be from Melisande’s faction and got in contact with Cotillard.
“Oh yeah, I must also thank Melisande. She was quite useful in everything.”
Ganelon and Greast, who realized Melisande’s ambition, thoroughly used her and her supporters. While Melisande tried to get Regin assassinated, they (Ganelon and co.) stole Durandal. Moreover, they stole the soldiers gathered using her name and funds.
Greast called the captain of each unit and briefly told them.
“We will go north. We will kill Tigrevurmud Vorn who will be totally exhausted from the battle against the Sachstein army. Then, we will make a triumphal return, get rid of Regin and hold real power.”
When the captains left at a quick pace respectively in order to issue instructions to their units, Greast closed his eyes. What appeared in his mind was the figure of the silver-haired Vanadis that he saw two years ago.
“Wait for me, Vanadis. I shall make you mine now.”
As if singing, the gray-haired Marquis muttered so.
As they had repelled the Sachstein army, the Moonlight Knights army which parted from the Asvarre army was heading to the capital. It was said that they came in contact with the so-called Greast army and engaged in battle in a place two days from Nice.
The Moonlight Knights army was defeated.
The supreme commander Tigrevurmud Vorn and Eleonora Viltaria, the commander leading the Zhcted army, went missing within the chaos of the battle.