A Tiger at the Front Gate, a Wolf at the Back
… By the time they noticed it, it was already too late.
The annihilation of their forces in the rear.
On top of that, the fort in front was full of individuals they hadn’t planned for, and the enemies within it easily surpassed a thousand.
“How is Marina faring!?”
The chief raised a yell, seeking out verification from those around, but no one had a grasp of the situation. It had gone too well, they had grown negligent.
By the time the chief had noticed he had become negligent himself, it was too late.
He looked up at the fort walls. On it, the area in front of the center gate was built a bit higher. Interrupted by that, on the left stood a sea-blue haired level-headed looking woman in white clothing.
When they put up a ladder and tried to climb up, his climbing subordinates were frozen over.
On the other side, the adventurers of the adventurer party, who’d done much the same, were burned by a woman of snow-white hair.
A few days.
This fort was taking way too much time. They had arrived on the site three days after Lyle had set off. And two days after that, they attacked. In the next two days, they took two forts.
“They entered the depths of the forest, and the two we posted weren’t able to catch up, according to the report…”
“When! When did I get that report!?”
The chief lifted his subordinate up by the lapels. It seems he knew it was unreasonable himself, but before the current situation, he couldn’t bear to keep his composure.
“T-three days ago! Back then you said to let Marina—san do as she pleased…”
Throwing his subordinate aside, the chief thought.
(If Marina lost, the quilin should have come at us by now. They’d have been able to pincer us. Decided not to? What does it mean?)
Even if a single quilin attacked him, while it would definitely take casualties, they could win, for what it was worth. It was impossible for the mercenaries, but they had adventurers that had fostered each of their individual’s powers in the Labyrinth.
Drawing the short straw, and after Marina was defeated, taking on a worn-out quilin wasn’t bad either, or so the chief thought.
But his beaten comrades at the rear had notified him the back forces had been annihilated.
And once they launched an offense on the weakening fortress, the ones to come out were…
“Cut the crap! Why are those gals here? Even like that, they’re the representatives of entire countries!!”
The chief looked atop the wall. There, were the forms of Elza and Gracia looking down over them. The flags of both countries had been hoisted around, and their knights and soldiers had even joined the fray.
He didn’t know the precise numbers, but he could see they weren’t scarce enough to lose to his forces. If he fired magic, it was all blocked, and with little trouble, his side had started to be pushed back…
… Novem looked down over the enemy from atop the wall.
“It’s around the right time. The Valkyries did their job well.”
Dispersal of forces.
It was a poor move, but what Novem had accomplished through it was buying time. May had returned a few days prior, and perhaps she was tired, as she had stuffed her stomach with wagons of food, and fallen asleep.
Defeating Marina, the trump-card-like talent of the East Branch, the achievement of keeping her alive, and bringing her along was a large one.
And for that sake, no one requested any more from her. Of course, May’s job was over, and after that, she only had to watch over Marina.
The Valkyries bought time, and expended the equipment at the enemy camp, buying two whole days in two fortresses, and instilling negligence in the enemy side.
After that, they only needed to endure at their main stronghold. Defending against the magic attacks, and acting as if they were wearing out bought a few days on top of that.
Standing near Novem, Monica spoke with a motivation-less expression.
“… Lately, I’ve been doing nothing but look after the knights and soldiers in the Labyrinth. Not taking care of the Chicken Dickwad, just what am I doing with my life…”
They had them hide in the Labyrinth, and had Monica and the remaining Valkyries look after them. It seems the enemy had adventurers capable of recon, so they had a good grasp of the movements within the fort.
But they didn’t go as far as to check the Labyrinth, it seems.
(Well, I was worried over what means they’d use to scout us, but it’s a good thing they didn’t notice.)
Unrest had formed on the opposing side, and there weren’t any signs of further attack. Having some scores of attackers frozen and burned was enough to drop one’s motivation.
The ones who had attacked were to them, their elites. But those elites were torn down by Elza and Gracia.
“Clara, I leave the light to you.”
As Novem said that, Clara at the base of the wall, let light from her staff. And after taking a large swing with it, she flung that light into the sky.
That light spun in the air, dispersed, and lit the surroundings. And like that, that fort in the forest secured some vision.
It was easy to see the scene around. The fleeing mercenaries and adventurers. Novem looked at the forest, and spoke.
“That decision isn’t mistaken, but… your mistake was abiding the Guild’s orders, and going against Lyle-sama. Did you seriously believe we would let you get away? No, I’m sure they do.”
In the city of Beim that could be thought the center of the world, when attached to such a large organization, there were some things one couldn’t see. Precisely because of their authority, they offered blind trust towards the Guild.
When Novem was about to start moving, Elza and Gracia wandered over to her.
“… I’m sorry, but about that matter.”
Gracia looked a little embarrassed, as she lightly fiddled her finger through her hair, and sought confirmation from Novem. Novem responded with a smile.
“Yes, it’s alright. You’ve helped out greatly with these reinforcements, and the port, so I’ll put in a good word to Lyle-sama.”
Seeing Gracia’s relief, Elza panicked.
“What about me!”
“I understand. A little longer, and some free time will open up for Lyle-sama, so at that point, he’ll be going around the four-country alliance. I’ll extend his stay in Galleria and Rusworth. Though he’ll lose time in Lorphys in kind.”
Only Lorphys’ treatment was terrible, but there were circumstances behind it. That the royal princess had yet to give up on Lyle, and that those around, seeing the four-way alliance, were moving to remove some obstacles.
To Novem, she definitely couldn’t recognize the marriage of Lyle, and the princess who didn’t clear the Walt House Precepts.
“I-I see! Then that matter will go as promise, but… are you really alright with that? To your side, I can’t think it’ll give a very good result at all.”
When Elza said that, Novem nodded and spoke. Monica let out a sigh, as she descended the wall to move. Mumbling complaints of, ‘I wanna see my chicken. Lately, I’ve only ever been getting this sort of treatment,’ under her breath.
“There is no problem about it. More so, what’s important is the Trēs House under Fidel-dono, after all.”
Saying that, Novem walked off…
… Inside the forest.
The mercenaries and adventurers that fled were bound in Miranda’s sticky thread.
Eva and Aria were accompanying her, and Eva had a few dozen elves following her.
Before the mercenary men trying to flee at all costs, Miranda felt a tug on a string from her right hand.
“Another one got caught. Do they still think the path they came by is safe?”
She had lain traps on the path they used in their invasion, and waited for an opportunity. Sure they would run away, but she had set other ones as well.
However a majority returned by that same path, so the other ones weren’t getting much love.
Eva stroked her hair.
“I think it’ll be hard not to for the non-elves, you know? Can’t help it in this lighting.”
The reason she obtained the cooperation of the elves was to oppose the other elves. They were the elves living in the forest, and Eva had negotiated to make them allies. To add onto that, all of them boasted skin of brown complexion.
A young-looking elf spoke to Eva in what sounded like a well-aged voice.
“Daughter of Nihil. As promised, our young ones have captured their elves. East Branch, was it? None of them were part of it, so we dealt with them.”
Miranda asked that elf… that dark elf.
“I thought you got along better as a race. Weren’t elves supposed to have a strong sense of camaraderie?”
Eva stifled a laugh.
“We lose to humans in that regard.”
The elder dark elf was the same.
“If assistance is necessary, then help at once. But if they’re enemies, then kill. Simple, isn’t it? We’re not good at complex dealings like humans, but elves and dwarves will war if it’s necessary. True as it may be it’s much less when compared to humans.”
Hearing the elder’s tale, Aria let out a sigh.
“You’re destroying my image here. I really thought you got along better, you know? The singer elves look like they get along fine.”
The elder smiled.
“You can’t make a living in human society by snarling at one other, right? Precisely the sort of necessity I was talking about.”
Miranda looked satisfied with that answer, as she reconfirmed.
“Kill as few humans of the East Branch as possible. And purposely let some ot the others slip away. Also…”
On Miranda’s words, interrupted.
“… Make sure you show them a scene where only the East Branch adventurers are forgiven before they flee, right? I know. It’s to keep ownership of our own forest. We’ll honor the promise. But if you’re to break your side…”
It wasn’t Miranda, but Eva who swore to him.
“By the name of Nihil, I’ll make Lyle honor the promise. A portion of the forest shall be recognized and offered as the village of dark elves. But our current base will expand some, so it will be a portion further away.”
The elder nodded.
“That is fine. For us as well, it’s best to take distance when dealing with humans. We’ll respect each other’s rules.”
The elves living in the forests. But even if they managed their forests, there were tribes that had lost it all in the Labyrinth rampage. Such tribes had flowed about, and as they were searching for a new way of life, Eva had come to know them.
In that Labyrinth out of control in a neighboring land, they had lost their own forest. And to take them in, Lyle had cut an empty promise.
He proclaimed he would offer a land that didn’t even belong to him.
Miranda was aware of that, but she didn’t open her mouth.
“Then let’s go and search for others. Ah, those people are…”
Before Miranda could give any orders, the dark elves had ceased the breath of some mercenaries. Having lost their place to live, seeing them so desperate, Miranda thought.
(Lyle, this really is fine, right? If it doesn’t work out, we’ll have to prepare them some other land, or else… but in most cases, the good places are all already taken up by elves.)
It’s also been said that they were good places because the elves were there. Because the elves were a race that looked after their forests.
Miranda felt a little anxious as she hastened onwards…
Nearby the base for Labyrinth Subjugation, there was a spot suitable for a port.
So not to Beim, I had the ship steered there, but…
“What’s with this armada?”
Turning back, I saw a number of ships beyond the Vera Trēs, almost like a full fleet. In truth, there were some warships equipped with cannons among them, so that wasn’t a mistake. The Vera Trēs also had cannons loaded, so it’s not like you couldn’t call it a state-of-the-art battleship.
When I turned my eyes back to the number of men using dinghies to head for land, Ludmilla-san wearing a white coat put an arm over my shoulders.
“You sure are talented. Even if it was Support Class, looking at the effect, you’re a talent I’d kill to get on my staff. Hey, once you’re done with work, come over to Cartaffs. I’ll raise a ceremony at once to give you the throne.”
I averted my eyes, and endured the sensation of her breasts.
“U-um… I’m from the Walt House of your country’s hated enemy, Bahnseim, and what’s more, I’ve been driven out, so I doubt it will work out.”
When she came on so assertively, I was troubled to counteract. From the Jewel came some customer complaints. It was the Third.
『Why are you pulling back!? That’s where you go on the counteroffense! It may just be that she’s just putting up a strong front!』
But Milleia-san instantly denied it.
『No, if you push this girl, she’ll devour him up before he knows what’s going on. She’s a wild beast, an animal! I want to give Lyle’s precious first to Miranda. So Lyle… keep it vague, get home, and hold Miranda tight.』
The Fifth was taken aback.
『You… were that sort of person? I mean, up to now, per say, weren’t you a little more graceful in your life?』
『Hah? When dear brother isn’t here, what need have I to act? Well, before that man, I felt too guilty to put out my base. This sort of… you know, how he tried so hard in his fruitless efforts, that part of him was adorable.』
But from the Seventh’s point of view, it seems a marriage of me and Ludmilla-san was well-balanced.
『Isn’t it fine? I mean, she’s queen of the large northern country of Cartaffs. Worthy of Lyle, who carries royal blood, is she not? Rather, speaking to status, she’s number one. She’s the leading candidate for legal wife anyways…』
From the Jewel. I heard the sound of gunpowder igniting, and all was silent. I’ve come to notice it these days, but the exchanges between the Seventh and Milleia were almost a form of intimacy or… no, I’m reading too far into it.
“The Walts of Bahnseim, right? Isn’t that fine? Cartaffs’ arch nemesis of Bahnseim. Even within it, the Walt house is a famed name. What’s more, we’ve never directly fought. Being driven out intrigues me a little, but if you hadn’t been, then I’d never have met you. If you think of it as fate, there’s nothing wrong about it. While we’re at it, having you as king to trample Bahnseim is fine too.”
It’s not like I’m fighting Bahnseim for revenge, but it’s true I needed Cartaffs’ support.
As that was happening, a voice called over from behind.
“Hey, I understand you’ve been through a lot, but could you explain it to me?”
Turning around, I saw Erhart with a black sword over his back.
Behind him, his comrades. Plus, the female adventurers that had been Larc’s.
“… No, I explained it, didn’t I? That sword is a special reward. I never thought Larc would be out and about at that time of night, so it’s an apology. And as for the women, it’ll be difficult to get them an acquittal in Cartaffs, but since Beim has the margin to take extenuating circumstance into consideration, we’ll have them take charge of it.”
Erhart screamed atop the ship.
“Then why did you stick them in our party!? Just have them go independent!”
I shook my head. Perhaps Ludmilla-san thought she would be in the way of this conversation, as she parted from me.
“We have to keep them under surveillance as well, and since you’ve become a competent party, what better candidate? They said they were alright with that as well.”
The reason that female battlement chose Erhart was because he freed them from Larc, apparently. And the women who saw the battle were charmed by a stoic(?) side of Erhart never seen in Larc. Apparently.
So when I asked them if they wanted to join Erhart’s party, they were relatively on board.
To give my true motives, augmenting Erhart’s party’s war potential was also necessary for preparations to come. I’m not sure if this would be a success, but it held a possibility. So I put it to practice.
It’s not because I didn’t want to look after them or anything, okay. Definitely not.
“I… have no idea what to do! Having women in the party… you’ve raised the difficulty way too high!”
Hearing Erhart’s honest feelings, I put a hand on his shoulder. When he was once so desperate to get a girl in the party, learning the truth, and getting it all together, I decided to support him.
I smiled, and gave him a thumbs up.
“Good luck with that. I’ve… Always wanted an adventurer friend who shared the same troubles as me.”
When I said that, Erhart grabbed me. He grabbed my by the neck, around, and shook me violently back and forth, while no one around stepped in to stop it, looking on with a smile.