… Taking a detour from Redant Fortress in favor of the craggy mountain road, the elite force of Centralle led by Breid proceeded forward, sending local guides and hired mercenaries to lead the way.
The single-file line traversing the narrow trail seemed to carry on endlessly, and when that road that was rarely ever used was marched on by so many, it became an exceedingly dangerous one.
Enough that once they’d found a place to rest and spread out tents, the mercenary chiefs and local men intruded on Breid, and pleaded for him to retreat and rejoin the main force.
“Any further is impossible. A hundred in scale is one thing, but a large force exceeding ten thousand. I went ahead and scouted out, but there are quite a few treacherous points. I can’t think you’ll be able to transport so many people across them.”
Before the mercenary brigade… an organization practically a gathering of adventurers, Breid was annoyed.
(Trash. You aren’t thankful that I’m even hiring you in the first place?)
In the past, he was worked hard by Lyle, and as a result had his achievements conceded to him, yet Breid held animosity towards the boy. By transitive, he hated adventurers as well. Before he met Lyle, he had looked down on them regardless.
Still, at this point, they had become targets great enough for hatred. The reason he hired them despite that was because he thought he was of the caliber to do the same as Lyle, or accomplish even greater feats.
The local guides were those that hunted in these mountains. They hunted in small teams, and when moving, had only experience of travelling in few.
“Dear knight, moving in these numbers is impossible. There have already been injuries, and with all the narrow parts of the path, I can’t think I’ll get you there by the appointed date.”
In his tent, Breid sat on a chair, as he listened to their opinions.
“I know how absurd it may be. But only by accomplishing such a deed do we leave our names in history, correct? If we break through and circle around the Fortress, we can largely decrease the casualties of Bahnseim.”
While his mouth let out a proper-sounding argument, within his mind, the memories of his Gryphon subjugation with Lyle were playing back. He thought he could have done more. And yet Lyle had left him on the reserves the entire time.
The boy was formerly of a count house. A driven-out incompetent. Yet the one who performed on the battlefield was Lyle, and Breid had only been promoted with those merits conceded.
… He didn’t want to accept that fact. Now that Celes had given the order, Breid harbored a feeling you could call unjust resentment towards Lyle.
The mercenary brigade chief addressed him.
“Any more is impossible! If it’s now, you can still turn back and meet up with the main body! If played poorly, the fortress will have fallen before we get out of the mountains!”
On those words, Breid’s brow moved. While making sure his opponent couldn’t discern his irritation, he nodded a number of times.
“Understood. Then we shall divide the army. Five thousand shall proceed ahead. In that case, we should be able to arrive ahead of schedule, I’m sure.”
The guide hunter still seems unsatisfied. The mercenary chief as well, but the right to decide lay with Breid, so he abided it.
Seeing the attitudes of the two, Breid thought in his head.
(Incompetent lot. Why can’t they understand the importance of my plan? If this plan succeeds, among the others commanding armies of thirty thousand, I’ll stand at the top. Celes-sama will rejoice, and I’ll be a man who exceeds Lyle.)
To Lyle, who’d used ploys to defeat a monster army larger than his, Breid burned with a rivalry much greater than is healthy, as he failed to see what was around him…
… On the other side.
At Redant Fortress, an army exceeding two hundred thousand marched down the narrow pathes. From the start, it was a terrain that didn’t let one make the best of numerical advantage, on top of being a place for battle advantageous to the other side.
From the fortress, the cannons blew, and magic and arrows fell like rain on the armies of Bahnseim.
But commanding from the front line, Blois looked at Redant Fortress’ attacks, as he touched a hand to his jaw.
“I can’t think they defeated that monster army with something of this level. As I thought, the presence of a commander is a vital thing. If they had a commander who knew the fundamentals, they’d surely give us greater casualty.”
While Blois laughed as he made himself meek behind the large shield he’d prepared, his fully-equiped adjutant looked fed-up.
“General, quit laughing, and hurry up and breach already. We’ve already investigated all their trap placements, and decided the route of advance. If we disable traps for the sake of retreat, our role will be over.”
The role of Blois’ unit was to go out front, and take care of the traps. Through the mercenaries that had flowed out of Beim, they had paid a pretty penny to buy the information. And even now, there were personnel within the Fortress gathering its internal affairs.
Blois took off his helmet, and scratched his head. But keeping it off was dangerous, so he swiftly slammed it back down.
“Oh dear~, when they’re giving us such a grand and sporadic reception, I wanted to expend them a bit for the men to come, you see. But as a practical problem, the cannons are troublesome.”
To defend against the cannon shells, they used a Magic Shield to kill the momentum, but as they were on a gentle slope, the balls of iron would still roll, and trip up soldiers.
“Hmm, let’s dig a hole to ditch them. Let’s make it so they’ll naturally end up in it if they roll.”
Blois immediately put up countermeasures, when magic impacted the defensive line of shields. A dust cloud rose, and perhaps Blois had inhaled it, as he broke into a fit of coughing.
The adjutant issued orders around, and once night fell, they would start into work.
“Now then, before the ones behind us start shouting for us to do our job, let’s do a plain advance. Move forward avoiding where the traps are placed. But they’ve already prepared rocks to drop down the cliffs, so until another force removes them, we can’t get too close.”
Blois’ unit, advancing bit by bit. They disarmed trap after trap, and prepared a path for the following force to go down.
The adjutant looked atop the fortress.
“… Still, it really is terrible. I think we’d be more troubled if they shot more professionally, or incessantly.”
There were times the arrows they fired were burned up by the magic fired alongside it. They were attacking blindly, and it was unthinkable they had gotten any decent training. Once Blois looked upon the scene his adjutant took in…
“Oh my, they’ve broken into a quarrel top the wall. Adding onto magic and arrow efficiency, thinking of their personnel and the consumables they’d have to gather… as I thought, Beim is a threat.”
The adjutant looked at him, and smiled a bit.
“Revising your evaluation? You did say they’re scarier in times of peace, did you?”
On those words, Blois shook his head.
“Sorry, I’ve no intent to take that back. Look, it seems we’ve finished removing the traps. Let’s advance.”
Issuing commands to his subordinates, Blois made another plain advance…
By the time Bahnseim’s armies arrived at Redant Fortress, I was putting our gathered info in order alongside Monica.
There was a sofa in the place I used as a work room. There, having returned from the fortress, Rauno sat and drank his tea.
“Hah, I’d prefer you’d give me ale.”
“I thought you’d say that, so I laced the tea ever-so-slightly. But right now we’re in the middle of work, so please take it seriously.”
Pushing his back into the sofa, and shrugging his shoulders, Rauno-san put down the cup, and leaned forward. His expression turned serious.
“I’ve already gotten my information together, so you need only read through it. But about Redant Fortress I dropped by along the way, it’ll be breached sooner than anticipated. People of the mercenary brigades have already infiltrated within. The one who did it was Blois Cadel. You know, that general who established stable rule next door.”
Looking over Rauno-san’s materials, I nodded a few times.
“A former Centralle General uncharmed by Celes, is it? I heard he volunteered for his current station, though?”
Monica put an eye through the documents, informing me of an interesting thing she found in its contents.
“None of his unit was gathered from Centralle, they’re all from elsewhere. From places uninvolved with Celes. How interesting.”
“If you plan to lure anyone out, general Blois is the one to shoot for. His evaluation in Centralle is low, but seeing his work ethic, he isn’t incompetent. It’s more proper to say he ran from Centralle, and moved east. But of all the forces they’ve sent, the elites of Centralle alone are no good. They’re a group centered on Celes’ charmed. Luring them away is downright impossible, I’d say.”
There were other individuals likely charmed by Celes he picked out. The safe one was general Blois, is how it seems. It didn’t look as if he was acting for her sake.
And if he were only playing that part, there were a number of strange points on the contrary. Monica looked at the papers.
“The main members have been charmed. Of the rank and file, the thirty thousand elites are a given. Other than that, the feudal lords, generals, knight brigade heads… Chicken Dickwad, there’s an overwhelming lack of usable commanders.”
When increasing personnel, a lack of people on the management side became a problem. Borrowing them from elsewhere was also a problem. If you pulled them from their original post, it would raise problems where I took them from.
In the Jewel, the Fifth took in Monica’s opinion, and spoke earnestly.
『Even if you can gather just the numbers, if you don’t educate people to lead them, it’s no use at all. There are quite a few out there who can get together a few, but the more you get, the less you’ll find. If you grow it even further… there are even less who can take charge on a scale of thousands.』
With Baldoir’s inclusion, we had more people capable of commanding to an extent. But just adding one wasn’t enough.
“The best option would just be to pull general Blois out, unit and all.”
Rauno-san agreed with that opinion.
“Right. I’m sure that’s best. That general has his subordinates, so perhaps he’ll be able to command up to fifty thousand?”
Rauno-san randomly threw that out but it did seem he had the ability and the men to move that scale. Of all else, when he first entered the ruined land, he was commanding several tens of thousands of troops.
I thought over my own available comrades.
“Novem is magic specialized. She’s capable of leading troops and fighting, but if possible, I want to keep her on the back lines. Clara is back lines without a doubt. Shannon is not applicable. Eva, if it’s only a few… no, could she lead her brethren elves? It’s not possible for May…”
The members who could lead a considerable scale were considerably limited.
“Aria and Miranda, I guess. Maksim-san said he had led a few hundred before, but while we’re at it, I’ll have him lead some thousands.”
Monica gave advice.
“If you station Valkyries as aides, I think they’ll be able to lead to an extent. Well, it seems those piles of scrap have had a version upgrade, so they’ve gotten just a bit useful. Of course, the one you need by your side is this Monica alone.”
I let the nonsensical later half slide.
And at the end, Rauno-san spoke to me.
“And I investigated the point you specified. It’s true if it’s battle, that place would be best, but… there are folks invading, and a war’s just begun, you know? I think it’s a bit soon to think of what’s to come after that.”
I looked at Rauno-san.
“I’m sure. But it’s already begun. The one to end it will be me or Celes… only when one of us dies will it be graced with a stop.”
My fight with Celes had already begun.
… Within the Jewel.
Conceding his own chair to Milleia, sitting on the round table, the Fifth sent a glance to his daughter.
『Hey, how long until I can give my Skill to Lyle? I think it’s better I just hand it over already, you know?』
While Lyle had begun his fight with Bahnseim, the Fifth was thinking of handing his own Skill down to Lyle. But saying there was something he had yet to say, Milleia had stopped him.
Milleia looked blankly at the Fifth’s face. And she averted her eyes as she broke into a sweat.
The Fifth jumped down from the table, approached Milleia, and grasped both her her shoulders. Milleia smiled with just her mouth.
『D-dear me, father… didn’t I… already tell you that I lifted the restrictions ages ago?』
The Third and Seventh looked upon that exchange of father and daughter from the side. And they sent looks of sympathy towards the Fifth.
The Third even…
『I wonder what it is. I get the feeling he’s missed his timing by a large margin. If the Fifth entrusted his Skill much sooner, it would’ve been a nice scene.』
It’s not like there was a rule that they had to give a cool parting. But it was clear up to that point each had his share of drama, and they had made a clear parting with Lyle.
The Seventh as well.
『Terrible. This is all auntie’s fault. Though she’s always terrible regardless.』
Perhaps Milleia understood, as today she was unable to point her gun at the Seventh. And that alone made the Seventh look lonely.
But the Fifth took his hands off of her shoulders.
『I-if that’s the case, then say something sooner. It’s true it feels I’ve overstayed my welcome, but I fulfilled my goal, is all. Then I’ll give Lyle the Skill when it seems convenient for him.』
Acting like he didn’t care, he clearly cared. Seeing him like that, Milleia sweat harder.
『… I-I’ll do something about it. It’s father’s all-important parting, so this Milleia will definitely put on a moving performance!』
There, the Third.
『Something like that contrarily fails to rouse the audience, or rather, it’ll feel quite forced in various ways. It’ll just be trouble to both Lyle and the Fifth.』
Perhaps the Fifth was imagining a scene of when it failed, as he covered his face with his left hand.
『… Milleia, I’ve had enough. This much is more than enough for me. So I’m begging you, just let me go.』
There, pressed by the three men, Milleia stood.
『Once you’ve said that much, I can’t stay silent! If it’s come to this, I’ll open the grandest of parties!』
The Fifth panicked, as he grasped Milleia’s shoulders again.
『I’m fine! Seriously, don’t! I get the feeling it’ll take the turn for something worse!』
Within the Jewel, a large problem was breaking out irrelevant to the war…