… Redant Fortress.
The first wall had been taken, and the armies of Bahnseim were in formation before them. They were lined up in a narrow space, but made sure to avoid the cannons’ line of fire.
The commander of the fortress, a commanding officer of Beim grit his teeth as he watched.
“… How in the…”
The traps they placed were thoroughly disarmed, and they weren’t able to afford much casualty to Bahnseim. The rocks meant to fall from the cliffs were removed before Bahnseim could pass under, rendering them completely useless.
“How in the hell are we losing!?”
In this restricted space, a tactic of numbers wouldn’t work. So surely Bahnseim was fighting at a disadvantage. It was common sense in this world that the defending side held an advantage over the offense.
And yet before Bahnseim’s advance, the fortress had already put out casualties close to half their numbers. Deaths and injuries. Even if they had supplies in excess, they couldn’t even use them to stall the enemy.
The quality of their equipment didn’t fall short of their foe. More so, theirs was of a higher quality than Bahnseim’s. When the first wall was breached, a rescue squad had been sent from the fortress. But they had lost to Bahnseim’s knights.
They were numerous. They had the better equipment. Yet they lost. Deputy commander offered council to the commander.
“Commander, at this rate, we’re on a one way road of falling morale. Why not move the injured to the back, and draft more for the front lines?”
“We’ve already done that! It’s because the merchants were so frugal that it came to this!”
With expensive armor over his body, the commander was the third son of a merchant house. His body was of large build. When he found he had no business ability, and was unable to help out his house, he had aimed to become a soldier. From there, he received the support of his house through promotions, and now he was appointed commander of the fortress.
The commander whose heart danced at the prospect of moving over fifty thousand. But reality was cruel.
Into the conference room of the fortress burst a messenger.
“Bahnseim’s army has infiltrated the fortress! Both sides are clashing on top of the walls, but so many Bahnseim soldiers are climbing up that we cannot handle it! Reinforcements please! Please send reinforcements!”
In a limited space, both sides sent troops into close combat, it seems. But the soldiers of Bahnseim were defeating the soldiers of the fortress and moving on.
“Have the adventurers deal with them!”
At those words, the messenger seemed vexed.
“Well… most of the adventurers have already been taken out. There are some whose leaders were assassinated on the premises, rendering them immobile.”
Alongside the start of the attack, the mercenary members lurking within had made their move. Assassinating the main adventurers, they had brought about Bahnseim’s advantage.
“A-assassination, you say… how? How did the enemy infiltrate us!?”
Following on, a beaten messenger fell into the room. Bloodstained, and of feeble breath.
“What!? What happened!?”
The messenger tried to let out his voice. But perhaps he hadn’t the strength, as only a small sound came out. When the irritated commander carelessly approached, the messenger man gave a grin. He clung onto the commander, and stuck a sword through the gaps in his armor.
“Thanks for that. I never thought the commander would be the one to come close.”
Right after, men wearing the armor of Beim’s side surged into the room one after the next.
“Che, so he’s the one that gets the commander’s head. Got to make do with the rest, I guess.”
Even if the fortress’ conference room was wide, it was still a room. With dagger and shield, the mercenaries took over Beim’s command room. And the weapons of the commanding soldiers were swords and longswords, and other armaments too long for the task.
“Bastards, you turned coat!?”
Hearing those words, the mercenaries hesitated a moment, before suddenly bursting into laughter.
“Turned coat? That’s wrong. The other side had better conditions. And since I got the feeling they would win, I chose to side with them is all. From the start, we were on the other side. But your naivety really was a huge help. So… die for the sake of our riches.”
The upper command faces fought the mercenaries in the conference room. The guarding soldiers tried to surround them and take them out. The mercenaries certainly faced casualties, but without paying mind to such a thing, they continued slashing on.
The deputy commander was stabbed by three men’s daggers and fell to the ground. Spilling blood, and with a pale face, he looked up at the man managing the mercenaries before his eyes.
“Do you know what you lot are doing? Beim will… the Guild will never forgive you guys.”
On those words, the mercenaries laughed harder. As the Deputy looked around, one of the mercs leaned over to look into his face.
“Oh how scary. But listen here… the guild you speak of is Beim’s Guild, right? Could it be you seriously believe no one can lay hands on the Guild? Bahnseim has seriously come to crush Beim, you know?”
The deputy opened his eyes wide.
“It couldn’t be you guy plan on… Beim… Do you understand!? If Beim is gone, you are all the ones who are going to be troubled!”
The deputy commander was kicked to the side by the mercenary mediator.
“You sure are loud with those condescending eyes. We aren’t the dogs of the merchants or the Guild. We helped them out when things were going well between us. If we can’t earn bread in Beim anymore, then we have to go somewhere where we can, right…? oh, already croaked, have you?”
Losing interest in the silent deputy commander, the mercenary gave orders to establish contact with Bahnseim’s side.
“Oy, tell Bahnseim we took out the general. With that, our reward’s going to become something extraordinary.”
The laughing mercenaries. Ironically, the fortress of the city of merchants and adventurers had fallen by the hands of adventurers… by mercenaries…
… By the time Blois moved himself to the fortress, everything was over.
There were traces of blood everywhere you looked. That’s just how intense of a battle it had been, but even so, it had ended quite one-sidedly. Looking at the result, it was Bahnseim’s complete victory. Without any conspicuous casualties, and obtaining a large quantity of supplies from Beim’s camp, Bahnseim’s army could march straight to Beim’s city districts without anything of value lost.
Entering the cleaned-up conference room, Blois gave apology to the generals who’d already arrived.
“Shucks~ looks like I came in late. My apologies.”
One of the generals overlooked his light air and attitude. Their victory had put him in a good mood.
“You were at the first wall after all. There’s no helping you be late. Now then, to continue the conference.”
The supreme commanding officer opened his mouth.
“We will march straight to Beim. And also. The feudal lords have their demands. We will be procuring goods from the area.”
On those words, Blois thought.
(So human desires are never sated. As expected, it’s come to this.)
The lords of Baron and below who took part all rejoiced at the words of pillage.
“Even if there were supplies within the fortress, we’re an army of over three hundred thousand, after all. It’s a tad lacking if we wish to take Beim.”
For the shameless viscount taking part, a count who’d been silently folding his arms voiced his approval.
“We’ve kept the soldiers waiting. If we keep them contained so long, it will be beyond our power if they run amok.”
A baron still young in years immediately nominated himself.
“In that case, we will proceed north from here.”
There, the other lords raised voices of disapproval.
“The north is the most developed part, is it not? A baron will surely be shot down. Why not let us take charge of it?”
“How rude. You saw the weak men of Beim, didn’t you? Losing to that would be the disgrace of a feudal lord.”
Jovial voices ruled the room. Within all that, Blois alone looked depressed. The lords were laughing, but what was to come from it was a tale laughs wouldn’t atone for. Based on how things went, some may even burn whole villages, and kill off their populaces.
The reason the lords were so serious over the matter was because they had heard that Beim was a land without any lords where each village was guaranteed prosperity. Unable to offer any proper resistance, and the adventurers they relied on were busy with defending the city. It wasn’t by much, but they couldn’t think they would lose.
From what Blois had researched, it was the perfect hunting ground.
(It’s true I’m not quite pleased. But it’s not like saying that will stop anyone. And our capital really plans on annihilating Beim. If I speak out of turn, I’ll be the one punished.)
Blois didn’t think the world turned on nothing but pretty words. But still stood the fact he felt unsatisfied with himself.
And the supreme commander looked at Blois and opened his mouth.
“By the way, General Blois. You performed splendidly in that battle before. I’ll report to Centralle that your contributions were great. I’m counting on you in Beim’s capture as well.”
“No, I’ve only done what I could. Rather than me, the other generals are…”
The moment he tried to humble himself, and pass the evaluation onto others. The door to the conference room opened. There stood Breid.
The scornful eyes of generals, knights, and lords concentrated on him. The supreme commander held his head, and gave a grandiose gesture of shaking it to the side.
“Good grief, how pitiful. Not only did you ignore opposition to move independently, you didn’t even make it for the battle. The polar opposite of General Blois.”
Blois thought inside.
(Really, stop it. Breid-dono is staring daggers at me. With that, you’ve definitely made me his enemy.)
Even for Blois, it was difficult to follow through for Breid, who leapt off saying he’d take a detour and didn’t make it in time. If there was something he could say…
“Supreme commander, I doubt anyone would have imagined we could take the fortress in such a short time. The work of the other generals in its fall was brilliant. I don’t think it fair to blame this untimeliness on Breid-dono alone. More so, isn’t it everyone’s responsibility for doing such a smashing job of taking it?”
When Blois said that, the surrounding general, knight chiefs and lords burst into laughter.
“He has a point. If they knew the enemy would be so weak, I’m sure the royal guard and elites would’ve stayed behind.”
“They traversed such a treacherous mountain. It would be cruel to treat them so coldly. They must’ve faced considerable casualty as well.”
“That’s right, it wasn’t that they didn’t make it, we were simply too strong. There’s nothing that will come of criticizing the head of the royal guard.”
Within the surrounding laughter, Breid was glaring at Blois more and more. Blois wanted just a bit of his gratitude for having changed the subject. The supreme commander called for Breid to sit. The only open seat was the one furthest from him.
“Now then, we’ll be moving as scheduled. And we’ll be dispersing our troops, but make sure to keep a firm grasp on the reigns. We cannot do something if they go out of control. Don’t forget to gather them at the meeting point by the time we’re set to march as one.”
Once the supreme commander stood, the lords and generals gathered for the meeting followed suit, and left the meeting room. While looking at Breid.
“Good job making it to the meeting.”
“If it were me, I’d be too embarrassed to live on.”
“It’s because he’s Celes-sama’s favorite. That alone made him captain. Isn’t it a tad too harsh for us to depend on his competence?”
Blois was the last one to leave the room, and as he passed by Breid.
“… You dimwit general who became one merely by being born to it. Don’t be so conceited over a moment’s merits.”
Standing right after, Breid pushed past Blois, and left the room first. Blois let out a sigh.
“No matter what I do, he hates me. Good grief, why am I in such a troublesome standing again?”
Shrugging his shoulders, he left the room last.
There was a single Baronet observing the state of that conference room…
… Breid kicked his belongings in the personal room in the fortress he’d been assigned.
“Each and every one of them! It isn’t my fault! I was late because the guides and mercenaries were so hesitant! If they hadn’t been like that, we would… no, I would…!”
The furniture left in the room was in tatters. Breid didn’t feel his rage subsiding at all. But he planned to rampage until it was contained.
To his room came a knock at the door.
“Who is it!?”
The door opened, and the ones in the doorway were two Baronets. From Breid’s point of view, they were foes not worth his time. The soldiers they brought into the fray numbered one or two hundred at most. As they weren’t anything special, he didn’t bother to greet them.
“What’s your business? I’m busy!”
Those two Baronets. One was the Baronet who’d made a promise with Adele.
“… There’s something I’d like to pass to the royal guard captain’s ears. Though I was mulling over who was the best person to inform.”
What was presented was a letter. Breid took it as if snatching it from the man’s hand, and confirmed its contents. As he read on, he gradually lifted it in both his hands, the corners of his lips folding up.
That letter with the seal still intact had yet to be read by any. He spoke to the two who’d shown it to him.
“This is… a letter of betrayal.”
Written in it was a cooperation request from a member of Lyle’s party known as Adele. With his past debt to Lyle, the letter called for his cooperation as he had promised.
Breid looked at the two Baronets.
“Judging by this letter’s contents, I assume the two of you are already conspirators.”
The other Baronet… the one who’d pushed an impossible request onto Adele explained the situation.
“Betray an army of three hundred thousand, and join Lyle’s side with only a few? We aren’t so foolish.”
The Baronet with a long-standing relation to Adele’s house spoke.
“We have already distributed these letters to a number of Knight Class houses. Well, there was some profit in it for us if they agreed to cooperation. But thinking of our own futures, there’s no need to even think over who we’ll side with. That being the case, you have cooperated with him once before. So we would like to ask if you’ll intervene in Centralle.”
Lyle’s party had betrayed him. With that on his mind, Breid listened to the two.
“Very well. I shall intervene from my side. And will they offer me their own cooperation for the task?”
The two Baronets nodded.
“Of course. However…”
As he stood on guard to what the Baronet was about to say, the two began talking about Lyle’s plan.
“There may be those who feign betrayal, and hand the letters in. Lyle’s conspirators makes use of quite some dirty means. I only wish to warn you about that.”
Breid wondered if that was all. But at the same time, he thought it was possible. The two of them had handed the letter without cutting the seal. It would be fine to trust them to an extent.
“Then the moment they bring this tale to another, it’s certain they are traitors, I see. Understood. I’ll deal with it. And about this letter… I would like to continue correspondence from here on.”
The Baronet looked perplexed.
A single plan had floated in Breid’s head. To drag Lyle’s party out, surround them, and strike them down. Seeing the men before him fail to comprehend that, he made fun of them to himself.
(They can’t even think of something so simple?)
“Yes, that’s right. Because it’s an important plan. I’d like the two of you to cooperate. And does anyone else know of this.”
They shook their heads. And they put out Blois’ name.
“That general called Blois isn’t suited. Well, the other generals are more or less in the same boat. But we thought the captain of the royal guard could understand the value of this letter. You actualized the mountain crossing no one else would attempt. While you may not have made it in time, that was merely because Beim was too frail. Under normal circumstance, you’d have made an opportunity to pincer, and your achievements would have been greater than anyone’s.”
Put in a good mood, Breid smiled and nodded.
“Well then, I’ll have to think of a response. If a letter comes, please inform me at once.”
And like that, the battle of Breid and Lyle had become unavoidable…