Oukoku e Tsuzuku Michi
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Chapter 385: Central Plains Unification War ⑩ Arkland War: Part 3, Lost Things
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Oukoku e Tsuzuku Michi
Author :Ofuro Ashitsubo
© Wuxiaworld

Chapter 385: Central Plains Unification War ⑩ Arkland War: Part 3, Lost Things

arkland – outside the gates.

i hold up my hand to shield my eyes from the morning sun.
the soldiers similarly curse under their breath while squinting from the brightness, then quickly widen their eyes.

「they didn’t have to come in the morning. we’re not going to run away, so can’t they at least let us enjoy breakfast?」

my grumble was directed at the orderly ranks of the south yuguria army in front, likely still accumulating more soldiers even at this moment.

「they will probably continue attacking from morning until night. the persistent old-man type of attack with continue.」

sekrit says as she bites down on a steamed potato, losing interest in it half way and tossing it to schwartz.
schwartz swiftly catches it in his mouth.

「the enemy is attacking with the entire army. with those numbers…… it’s like they never lost any of their troops.」

perhaps because of yesterday’s contributions, erich noticed our compatibility and decided to place the starving dog army under my direct command. the poor trio didn’t seem to have any objections to that.

「we fought hard yesterday, but the piles of corpses do not even amount to a thousand. in a battle between hundreds of thousands of soldiers, the total numbers won’t decrease much unless a thorough pursuit is conducted.」

「don’t say something so obvious in such a serious manner, idiot.」

「uuu…… please don’t get mad at me. my heart will break before the battle begins.」

viscount binbo slumps over disappointedly. although he also seems happy in a way.

yesterday’s battle was, without exaggeration, a fierce one and both sides undoubtedly suffered considerable losses.
nevertheless, the battle is far from being settled.

「as i thought, my beloved spear, hinsoumaru, is shining more brilliantly.」

after completing the finishing touches of his maintenance, gokhin speaks to himself.
apparently, the sharpness of his beloved spear dropped when he was comfortably enjoying the money borrowed from me.
since the battle of south yuguria started, he experienced a shortage of funds again, and his spear returned to the way it was.

「the enemy is moving!!」

binbo shouts.
the royal army around us draw their swords and get into a ready stance in unison.

i also toss a half-eaten steamed potato in schwartz’s mouth.

he spit it out. i’ll get him back for that.

「hey sekrit.」
「if you want to fuck, save it for later.」

if i was to have sex here, i would probably be remembered in the days to come as an extraordinary sex maniac.

「are you alright?」

sekrit answers without turning to look at me.

「huh? we haven’t even started yet, idiot.」

「is that so? then that’s good.」

i don’t hound her anymore and ready my longsword.

south yuguria’s offensive began with an attack on us, who are protecting the castle from outside.

their intent must be to push our outside army into the city via a field battle so they can deploy their siege weapons.

erich already anticipated that much and stationed a large force outside the walls who fought an unyielding battle.

thinking the battle would develop into the same stalemate situation as yesterday where both sides could not finish the other despite a fierce fight, the sound of galloping hooves and a cloud of dust from within the enemy ranks splits apart the frontlines.

「a new addition of cavalry!? spearmen form a wall and archers support――」

the head of the ally commander about to give orders is blown off.

「commander-dono! argh, do as instructed and…… uoh!」

spearmen trying to get into anti-cavalry formation are taken down one by one.

「are those-!?」
「the reported chariots!? but there are so many……」

it was a group of chariots that arrived on the enemy side, not cavalry.
there was more than just ten or twenty. from what can be seen, there are at least a few hundred.
finally, the enemy seems to be getting serious.

the chariots are not hesitant to charge head-on.
bolts were fired on the run, mowing down rows of soldiers and dismantling the spearmen formation. with heavy armor plating thicker than the armor of heavy cavalry, thrusts from spears are deflected and arrows don’t have much effect.
in addition, with every charge, the blades attached to the turning wheels of the chariots would tear through the sides of anyone they passed by.

the anti-cavalry formation was instantly ripped to shreds, which allowed cavalry to flood through the hole.

「chariots, huh…… using them in such numbers is interesting. now then, if we don’t reinforce, the entire army will collapse.」

i kick schwartz’s belly without needing sekrit to tell me anymore.

「we’re going too!」「cavalry, follow along!」

being military feudal lords, the poor trio doesn’t dilly dally either.

we reach the heels of the group of chariots running toward the center of our allies.

chariots may be highly mobile, but they are not faster than regular cavalry so it wasn’t difficult for us to catch up.

「the problem is―――― go right!」

schwartz changes direction just in time for a slicing wind sound to whizz by his left ear.

「so the ballistae can fire in all directions.」

sekrit comments as she grips her reins tighter and moves in a zig-zag pattern.
a few soldiers trailing behind start to be shot down.

「uwa! m-my spear is moving on its own……」
「what handling of the spear!」「i didn’t expect him to see through that!」

the fuss behind me is from gokhin deflecting a bolt with his spear.
judging by his face, it is a product of coincidence, but luck is also part of skill on the battlefield.

「woah.」

i position my longsword vertically in front of me and hold my left hand behind the blade for additional support.
a bolt accurately hits my blade, accompanied by a powerful impact and a loud crushing sound, then splinters of wood and metal fragments spray on my face.

schwartz and i were swayed ever so slightly, although i don’t fall off and schwartz doesn’t stumble.

「it doesn’t look like it was a coincidence for you.」
「i guess not.」

things are not looking good.
at this rate, the enemy’s aim will increase in precision the more we close the distance.

「if we jump in line, they can’t shoot the ballistae. be careful of the blades.」

i tell the soldiers that and dive into the group of chariots.

「sorah.」

passing behind one of the chariots, i decapitate the ballista operators.

「that’s two.」
「no, it’s three.」

as i crush the ballista along with the soldiers, sekrit stabs a throwaway short sword into the back of another enemy soldier at the same time and runs past.

even without the ballista, the charging chariots are deadly weapons.
the threat to our allies hasn’t changed much.

「they won’t stop unless you kill the driver.」
「i know.」

i know that, but it’s difficult to do.
the driver platform is protected by sturdy armor plating so i can’t finish them off without a strong attack.

to do that, i have to approach from the front, which, if i’m not careful, would risk the legs of my horse being cut by the blades attached to the wheels of the chariot. supposing i jump and evade them, it would put me off balance when dealing with the next enemy.

「i’ll use brute force here.」
「isn’t that what you always do?」

i go from behind a chariot, similar to before, and pierce through the operator with my longsword.

「i’m going to reuse you.」
「give me half.」

i throw the impaled soldier up in the air, slice his body in half, then bat the lower half at the chariot with the butt of my sword.
a loud bang resounded from the chariot’s armor denting from the impact, but the chariot’s course did not change.

「argh, that didn’t work?」
「you suck. do it like this.」

sekrit grabs the top half of the soldier by the collar and throws it at the wheel of the chariot.

「「gyaaaaaa!!」」

the helmet-wearing corpse of the soldier gets stuck in the wheel, stopping its rotation suddenly, which causes the chariot to topple out of control onto its side.

「i see, so that’s how.」

i stab the rider of an enemy cavalry attending another chariot and then hurl the body with all my might at the chariot’s wheel.
the enemy ……didn’t get jammed in the wheel, instead the entire wheel breaks apart, lowering one side of the chariot to the ground, which is dragged by the momentum until being kicked up in the air by the uneven surface of the ground and crashing down in pieces.

「……whatever works, i guess.」

sekrit says with a sigh before her eyes sharpen.

「it’s not going so well. we tried and can’t do anything about it.」

the starving dog army attempts to stop the chariots, but the enemy is too much to handle.
their swords and crossbows bounce off the armor of the chariots, unable to deal damage, meanwhile more ally soldiers are flipped over by the blades on the chariots’ wheels.
we’re the ones attacking, yet we’re suffering more casualties.

「this will be my fourth―― but……」

my words are spoken as i cut the horse pulling the chariot and take down another chariot. still, the enemy doesn’t react.

「this is an order from his excellency, maestus. if you face the demon, ignore him. find meaning solely from winning!」
「focus all your attention in advancing forward! believe in her majesty’s divine protection.」

similar things are being shouted all around me.
no matter if i flip over a chariot or cut down a cavalry, the enemy soldiers simply keep their eyes in front and accelerate past me.

when i attack from the front, the enemy soldiers close their eyes without slowing down and continue running.
i cut down their friend next to them and they don’t stop to do anything about it or even seem to care.
i yell angrily and dismember the enemy soldiers, spraying their guts everywhere, and still no response.

「arrgh, how annoying. look at me!」

i shout as i slice another―― whoops, that was close. it was a female soldier.

「even you can’t take out more than ten or twenty speeding chariots. so they determined it to be more detrimental to slow down and deal with you…… the soldiers following those orders are pretty disciplined.」

dammit sekrit, this isn’t the time to be impressed.
more than half of them passed us. this means we failed in stopping the enemy.

「it can’t be helped. those things will devastate the outside. the gates won’t hold either. we should prepare to enter the city.」

inside arkland.

as sekrit said, the chariots overran the field army, finally pushing them back behind the walls. now, the enemy can bring forth their siege weapons and begin a full scale siege.

arkland’s defense force fought hard, with no help from the outside army who allowed the enemy soldiers to rush to the gates. eventually, battering rams knocked down the south gate and the enemy flooded into the city.

letting the enemy invade the city didn’t exactly guarantee a loss.
a sufficient amount of troops were left in the city and the narrow spaces did not provide the enemy with an easy avenue for attack.

when the enemy took three steps forward, our allies took two steps back. battles would continue in that fashion.
even so, the soldiers of the royal army could not hide their panic from the unmistakable predicament they were in.

「the north gate hasn’t been broken yet, right? have the defending soldiers move to the south and pile dirt up to seal the north gate.」

「don’t be stupid, the field army is still outside! if we let them in, our force will incre――」

「we don’t have enough space! if more soldiers are allowed into the city, it will clog everything up! have them go around the perimeter of the walls and circle to the enemy’s rear――」

「the enemy’s chariots are rampaging! we can’t maintain enough control to detour.」

「more importantly, the headquarters should move back! if, on the off chance, it is attacked by the enemy, everything will fall apart.」

i listened to sekrit and returned to the headquarters, but everything is a mess. i don’t see erich either.

「where’s lord radhalde?」

if i’m going to ask anyways, i might as well as the female staff officer.

「be quiet! until the commander gives the order, focus on the enemy in front of―― o-oh, pardon me!」

the busy-looking woman earnestly apologizes after yelling at me.
of course, i’m not angry because she’s a woman.

「no worries. so, where is lord radhalde?」

to convince her that i’m not mad, i rub her ass and ask again in a softer voice.

「the military commissioner withdrew to the back. it’s chaotic here after all……」

「i see. how troublesome.」

well, what can i do if erich isn’t here?
i poke the female staff officer’s asshole with a finger above her skirt and tilt my neck.

「i guess i can decide what to do on my own.」

「that should be fine. making choices on your own authority is the beauty of battle. although if i did it, my head would be chopped off.」

let’s start by driving the enemy out of the city.

「this time, they can’t ignore me like before.」

i actually felt pretty lonely when they did that.
i want to face them properly next time.

after one final squeeze of the female staff officer’s ass, i once again head out to the frontlines.

「auu! uuu…… he was just like the rumors described…… maybe after the war is over, i’ll give my body……」

i lead the starving dog army to the main road, the place where the fiercest battle is occurring.

there, allies and enemies alike were shouting, screaming and making all kinds of noise, literally like pandemonium.
although the enemy is pushing with overwhelming force, our allies, while inferior in number, don’t seem to be moving back too much.

「short spear unit, support the right. there is pressure from the left, second company go provide reinforcements!」

the one yelling in an especially loud and clear voice is a man i know well.

「hey agor.」

「lord hardlett! reinforcements from headquarters!?」

agor’s sweaty and bloody face lights up when he sees me.

an arrow seems to have grazed his head as a thick patch of blood stains his face.
i look down and see the chainmail covering his side has been torn off and blood is trickling out.

「i came here on my own accord, though you’re not wrong that i’m here to help. is your injury serious?」

「this is nothing more than a scratch.」

agor is leading a group of roughly a thousand.
i think he told me before that he’s steadily rising up in ranks and is now a battalion commander.

schwartz, unamused, bites agor’s head.
that’s his way of greeting him, i guess.

「right now, i can use all the help i can get, whether it’s ten or twenty.」

during the time we were chatting, the enemy is pushing further.

「does it look like you can hold on?」

「honestly, we’re walking on a tightrope. anything could trigger the enemy’s breakthrough. we can’t keep moving back when we’re in the city either. i requested urgently for headquarters to send reinforcements……」

「headquarters has moved back. your message was likely not received.」

agor’s expression warps when sekrit chimes in.
he’s a former subordinate of mine so i know this guy is a reliable commander who makes few mistakes.

however, when unexpected situations arise, like now when the message to headquarters did not get relayed, he struggles.
leopolt likely saw that trait in him and said he was about as competent as a company commander.
well, there’s no need to worry. i’m here after all.

「sekrit. do something to help them recover.」

sekrit’s eyes narrow as she glares at me. what is she trying to say?

「……whatever. your defence isn’t bad, but it’ll only last 30 more minutes at this rate.」

agor looks at me with a troubled expression.
oh yeah, he doesn’t know about sekrit.

「to weaken the enemy’s pressure, not only is defense needed, an effective counterattack is also required.」

「alright, then i’ll give you command of the starving dog army. use them well.」

when i said that, sekrit looks at me unhappily while agor stares with a blank expression.
on the other hand, the poor trio don’t voice any complaints and are literally waiting for orders like dogs.

「making me do all this annoying work…… i charge a high price.」

「sure. i’ll pay as much as you want.」

after that, i dismount from schwartz and let sekrit get on in my place.
it’s convenient for me that she can take command, plus schwartz can do something if necessary.

「……hmph.」

sekrit hops on schwartz, then flings her cloak up so she can draw her sword.
hmm, she looks the part way more than i do.

「you’re called agor, right?」
「yeah.」

sekrit quickly points the tip of her sword at the frontlines.
she has an air of ruthlessness and gallantry about her, which was more pronounced by her extremely polished movements. if i was a woman, i would have been charmed by that.

「continue the way you were fighting up until now while gradually retreating. let the enemy think you’re being pushed back.」
「what? then they’ll really break through.」

sekrit doesn’t answer agor and points with a whoosh at binbo.

「that’s where you guys come in. when the border of ally and enemy passes that red house, give the signal. then push through the center of our allies and slam into the enemy.」

she points at me before binbo could answer.

「you stand in the front, right in the middle of the enemy and engage them. you’re the one who told me to take command. you’ll have to obey me.」

「sure.」

i was about to answer with a bark instinctively. this dangerous effect must come from the squad name being ‘dog’.

「you guys get what you have to do, right? alright, now go.」

「「woof!」」

the poor trio actually said it. don’t they have any pride?

「i don’t know about letting lord hardlett charge in like that, but that aside, a poor counterattack will only create a larger crisis.」

sekrit snorts at agor’s objection.
schwartz’s height was not the only reason she seemed to be looking down on him.

「they are pushing their attack back and forth on the left and right. if we deliberately retreat, the pressure on both sides will likely increase. if they receive a powerful blow to the center, the entire offensive will collapse. ……most idiots who operate by the textbook will lose from this.」

i didn’t catch the last part of what she mumbled, but it doesn’t matter.

being ordered by sekrit turns me on in a way i can’t describe. if it was leopolt, i would get annoyed.

on foot, i ready my longsword and shield and wait patiently.

as sekrit instructed, agor’s unit, who had been holding their ground steadily, are now starting to move backward.

「look, the enemy is retreating! now’s our chance, push them all the way back!」
「let’s break through all at once! if we pass the main road, arkland’s conquering will soon follow.」

the enemy’s attack visibly strengthens.
meanwhile, our allies are accelerating the speed of retreat as they fend off the enemies…… moving the frontlines closer to the distinctive red house.

the schwartz-riding sekrit swings her sword up, cutting the air with a whoosh sound.
then, after briefly holding it in place vertically, she similarly swings it down sharply.

「starving dog―― charge. ……seriously, what a stupid name.」

「「「oooooooooh!!」」」

the starving dog unit erupts with a war cry and charges.

i can’t lose to them.
i also let out my own roar and lead the charge with my shield in front.

「uwah! what’s that!?」
「open a path! some kind of beast is coming through!」
「what is an orc doing all the way out here!?」

hearing me, ally soldiers jump or roll out of the way to clear a path.
this is good. they probably would have been knocked aside by me if they stayed in front.

the formation parts in half and we rush out at the enemy.
i run in a posture with my shield over my shoulder. this is the best way to charge if i’m on foot.

「what――」

before the enemy could say something, i feel a soft impact on my shield.
of course, something of that level is not enough to stop me.

i shout to pump myself up and accelerate further.

dull metal thuds accompany the continuous impacts on my shield.
i can’t tell whether those are from enemies being sent flying or simply from blocking spears.
right now, my top priority is not stopping my feet or looking around at what happened, it’s to charge forward.

after charging to a certain point, i lower my body and then build up momentum for a rising shield bash before finally coming to a standstill.
there was a remarkably loud sound as i feel the sensation of several soldiers being knocked away.
that was when i first laid eyes on what i did.

「a……agh……」
「higyi……」

i created a path straight through the densely packed enemies from my charge.
many soldiers, who probably got hit along the way, are writhing on the ground in pain on either side of me, their arms and legs bent in unnatural angles.

it appears that my final attack was right when i jumped into a line of heavy infantry.
three soldiers wearing full plate armor are lying motionless on the ground.

while i expected the enemy to freeze in place, it was a little surprising to see the starving dog army also frozen, so i thought it would be best to let out a roar.

「there he is! he finally came to where we are!」
「how unlucky can we be to meet up with the demon!?」

the enemies are visibly shaken and my allies chase after them while letting out their own roars.
a melee ensues.

now that i look, the enemy’s offense has completely halted and agor is starting to push the warfront in the opposite direction.

although the enemy sends more reinforcements, their attack cannot be so easily resumed once it has been broken down, allowing our side to push the enemy back much further than when i arrived, and forcing the enemy to bring out their large shield unit to fortify defenses.

「crossbows and spears behind large shields, or more commonly called, a slow turtle formation. it’s a formation which completely abandons offense.」

sekrit belittles the enemy commander before returning her sword to its place.
the mission of defending the main road given to agor was a success.

「lord hardlett, look there!」

agor points his finger to the walls all of a sudden.
my eyes follow the end of his finger to see a goldonian flag waving in the wind. that’s the mark of headquarters.

「headquarters on top of the walls? what a place to put it.」

「but they can see both the field battle and city battle at the same time. it’s not a foolish plan.」

sekrit comments as she jumps off schwartz’s back.

「woah.」

because she looked away, she stumbled forward three steps before glaring at me briefly and then returning to a neutral expression.

「2000 reinforcements will come from headquarters.」
「the enemy was defeated on the southwest street.」
「the west gate was recaptured by ally forces.」

erich must have started taking command seriously. good news is coming in one after the other.

「the area outside the castle from the east gate has been taken back, allies are coming into the city.」
「enemy siege weapons have ceased firing and are retreating.」
「enemy chariots were lured to the quarry site. they are panicking after losing mobility.」

even the situation outside the walls has turned around.

「the enemy is withdrawing from outside the walls. we’re safe.」

「geez, making me worry. he better introduce me to a nice girl or this won’t be worth it.」

while laughing, i lightly tap agor’s shoulder.

with both enemy and ally tired after all that, this is probably the end for today.
i head to headquarters, hoping to rest after giving erich a quick report.
sekrit, probably with a similar idea, yawns and follows me.

i imagined the headquarters to be filled with joy from repelling the enemy attack or relief from escaping a crisis.

however, that wasn’t the case when i got there.

the amount of unrest could not be compared to before.
that female staff officer is running around with tears in her eyes.

「what happened?」

i find erich and ask right away.

「our logistics base in roksta, about half a day north from here, was attacked. all supplies were burned.」

erich kicks over a desk.
it’s rare to see him this enraged.

roksta, if i remember correctly, is a small city north of arkland being used as a storage point.
it’s fairly far from here. the enemy can’t just walk over and attack whenever they want.

「they used several thousand infantry…… i was told that the enemy corps appeared in countless wagons and ambushed the defense force of 10 000, routing them instantly.」

erich slows and quiets down his tone of voice.
he must be trying to calm himself as he talks to me.

10 000 soldiers were routed. i can understand that.
even if the enemy only had a few thousand soldiers, roksta is located in the north, far away from arkland, the principal battlefield.
it would be reasonable to assume the defense forces let their guard down.

what i don’t understand is how the enemy appeared there.
the warfront is south of arkland. no matter how much mobility they boast, if they head north, they are bound to be spotted by scouts. it’s unthinkable for erich to forget to deploy scouts.

「there’s nothing we can do by discussing it now.」

「you’re right. we have to run quickly.」

sekrit puts her shoes back on and tightens the string tying her armor together.

「the order hasn’t been given yet.」

i don’t move from in front of erich.
logic must be used to convince him.

「you think we still have a choice? the supply base was lost and the enemy with superior mobility is staying there. the enemy in front of us is likely to have their hands full right now.」

erich glares at sekrit for a moment and then opens his mouth.

「we’re retreating. abandon arkland, make preparations to evacuate and wait for orders.」

erich and i exchange looks for a few seconds, then i nod and take my leave.

after exiting the headquarters, sekrit makes a sarcastic comment.

「now the south half of your territory, no rafen as well, will be in danger.」

i don’t respond.

「worst case, the country will be destroyed. get ready to flee. fortunately, there is an open path to the remote regions east of the federation.」

i walk without answering.

「if it was just the two of us running away, we could manage, but because your large family is made of mostly women, it will take some time.」

my gaze is fixed in front of me.

「it’s a good idea to bring some money. that stupidly large lizard shouldn’t have trouble carrying a mountain of gold.」

i turn to sekrit.

「something unexpected happened. sorry, but i need you to take command again.」

sekrit’s already narrow eyes become even sharper.

「haah? you can just hop on your horse and run away. if you run in a straight line, nobody will catch up to you.」

murderous intent oozes from sekrit’s eyes.

「don’t tell me you’re honestly going to follow orders like an idiot and fight. do you understand the meaning of a retreating battle?」

i understand. however, i’ve never done it before.

ever since i came to goldonia, i’ve never lost and even in the days as a mercenary, i’ve always ran away before it got to that point.

「a retreating battle, one with the enemy chasing, is what produces the most deaths. we could be looking at a massacre here.」

「i don’t want that to happen.」

sekrit grabs my shoulder and brings her face as close to mine as possible.
her eyes don’t have a single trace of sexual feelings. in fact, a normal man would have pissed his pants from how much murderous aura she is emitting.

「that man named erich lost. he said it himself, that man is done. you don’t need to listen to orders from him. you’ll be pulled down to hell along with him.」

a chuckle escapes my mouth as i kiss sekrit.
……she bites down on my lips.

「don’t tell me it’s some kind of aesthetic to die with him. are you going to spout rotten-smelling phrases of wanting to be together with him?」

the more killing intent she bombards me with, the warmer my heart feels.
if sekrit wanted to run, she would have disappeared quietly long ago.
she’s flaring up in this manner because she cares about me.

i would like to make her a little more flustered, but brynhildr is peeking out halfway from the carriage with eyes brimming with an inhuman amount of murderous intent. this should be good enough.

「i’m not going to die and erich is not done yet.」

「what?」

i remember the moment erich and i exchanged gazes.

「he hasn’t given up. he definitely has a way to win.」

i don’t have proof, it’s a gut feeling from fighting alongside him for such a long time.

「then why didn’t you explain back there?」

「who knows. maybe there wasn’t enough time or the situation didn’t allow for it. it doesn’t matter.」

sekrit stares into my eyes.
i naturally stare back.

「……idiot.」

after saying that, sekrit turns her back to me.
the face partially peeking out of the carriage also slips back inside.

「nevertheless, an enemy pursuit is dangerous. if you want to run, you can run first.」

her response was in the form of a thrown rock.

「treat this as pointless monologue and listen. i remember seeing these tactics before.」

sekrit begins explaining as she gets ready.

「thorough detours and encirclements at the strategic level, rough around the edges on the tactics and combat level, resulting in an inevitable cornering of the enemy despite frequent defeats. even the attack on the logistics base in the rear is something that guy is most fond of. i don’t know what kind of magic trick he pulled to have soldiers appear suddenly, but for him to come all the way out here must be some kind of fate…… man, this really disgusts me.」

she stopped making sense to me halfway through.

i didn’t tell sekrit that i had another reason for not wanting to run away besides erich having a way to win.

「i fought with him for so long. leaving on my own would leave a horrible feeling in my heart.」

of course, i don’t plan to die with him and i’m not going to protect him to the end when he’s not a woman.
i’ll run away when there really is nothing left to do. but i want to fight until there really is nothing i can do.

「i didn’t tell her because she would get angry and make fun of me.」

see, one eye peeked out of the carriage because she caught wind of it.

「all troops, retreat. retreat――!」

「fall back without turning your backs on the enemy! it’s all over if you show any opening.」

「fight back while you withdraw quickly! obey the order without complaining!」

we were immediately pursued by the south yuguria army after leaving arkland from the north gate.

without forming a rigid line, the enemy attacks in waves of dispersed infantry and cavalry.
it’s a move made after confirming we won’t be shifting to a counterattack.

「their information travels fast. they were probably waiting for this.」

sekrit says as she knocks down an incoming arrow.
i also deflect an incoming spear with my shield and counter with a thrust of my longsword to the enemy’s throat, defeating him.

we aren’t exactly fleeing in a disorderly manner. we are maintaining a certain level of defense while retreating as to avoid taking catastrophic damages.

「it might just be a matter of time.」

sekrit jerks her chin.

「the enemy is circling around from the side.」
「it’s fine as long as we have a path of retreat. ignore them!」

i see the enemy cavalry run from out flank.
normally, we would either spread out so we don’t get surrounded or we would send our own cavalry to intercept, however neither option was chosen.

the enemy cavalry can do as they want to our allies.

luckily for us, we’re in the middle and we don’t get affected by the attack to the side, although the attack from the front is that much more severe.
scattered volleys of arrows forces our allies to stay hidden behind shields.

「even so, they’re fast.」

i wasn’t referring to the enemy’s movement. i was talking about the running speed of the royal army.
they’re running as if completely ignoring the people fighting at the back.

「don’t worry too much about fighting back. focus on keeping your legs moving quickly. if you get isolated, it’s over.」

sekrit gives out orders to the starving dog army, hastening the pace of retreat.
naturally, the ranks get messier and more people are taken down, but that can’t be helped.

「if they don’t slow down, we can’t keep up.」

the complaint was directed at the royal army.
out of the feudal lords’ armies, the starving dog unit has decent command and they are finding it hard to follow too.

「lord shils’s army has been isolated! requesting help!」

「not possible.」

i answer right away.
before i knew it, the army was swallowed up. there’s no saving them.

「it looks like we’re falling apart……」

because the royal army’s retreat speed is so fast, the feudal lords’ armies with weaker leadership are being left behind.
the enemy’s severe pursuit only grows more intense and our allies are noticeably becoming agitated.

「lord hardlett……」

count monashi is looking at me with teary eyes.
i know what he wants to say. at this rate, we might become decoys.

we have about 20 000 and that’s perfectly edible bait for the enemy, plus our total annihilation won’t affect the overall situation in the eyes of the royal army. considering the bigger picture, it’s a valid way of thinking.

「i wanted to say one thing.」

grumbling at this point won’t get anything started.

the enemy cavalry is moving from the side to the rear.
they’re trying to cut us off from the royal army.

while the royal army intercepts and stops the enemy, the difference in our speed of retreat regrettably causes the distance between us and them to increase.
if this continues, we’ll be split apart in no time. even i can tell from one glance how dangerous this is.

「throw away your shields and run away at full speed. give up hope if you get cut in the back.」

sekrit changes the orders.
the starving dog unit abandons their large shields and runs faster.

that of course increases the number of people who get shot by arrows and slashed in the back.
fortunately, that also means the other feudal lords will appear to be running slower.

「lord crastle has died in battle――!!」

「this is the crystal full moon knights! w-we’re requesting support――! requesting support――!」

「lord mckay ickser has died in battle!」

everytime an ally squad who couldn’t escape in time was annihilated, the enemy seemed to slow down ever so slightly.

the royal army who went ahead were not the only ones whose surroundings were exhibiting signs of total annihilation, we also had our fair share of dead bodies all around us.
things aren’t looking too good.

just when i was wondering what to do, sekrit changes her orders again.

「the royal army is mounting a counterattack. all troops, hold your ground and prioritize intercepting the enemy.」

「anh?」

i stand up on schwartz to check and the royal army only seems to be running away faster.
there are no indications at all they’re fighting back.

however, with no time to look at what’s going on, the soldiers heighten their will to fight and stop running.
before i could say anything, sekrit brings her mouth close to my ear.

「the retreat path has been completely cut off. this will be a catastrophe.」

「then why did you order them to stand their ground.」

sekrit turns her horse to the back.

「you already know why. we’ll use them as a decoy and run away on our own. the enemy won’t pay much attention to two riders.」

aah, so that’s how it is.
that’s the most optimal for us to survive.

i glance over at them.

「uoooh, now is the time to fight back!」

binbo raises his spirit.

「hinsoumaru is glowing!? what’s going on!? my hair is standing on end!?」

gokhin’s spear is shining for some reason.

everyone believed what sekrit told them.

「what’s wrong? let’s go.」

i feel a smile form on my face.

「those previous orders are rescinded. our path to retreat is blocked so all troops prepare to charge to the rear.」

i hear people express their shock and grief.

「hey.」

sekrit’s earth-rumbling growl is quite impressive.

「in other words, we just have to breakthrough the enemy behind us and run, right?」

「what a stupid thing…… soldiers and commanders are all pieces to be used. what good are they if you don’t use them?」

it’s not about that.
the poor trio are not people i don’t know but i’m not going to risk my life to save them either.

「using decoys and running away doesn’t fit my style.」

this is me just acting on my self-satisfaction. i wouldn’t feel good abandoning my allies and using them as sacrificial pawns.
the soldiers might hold a grudge and haunt me as ghosts after they die, like casie.

if they’re going to get annihilated anyways, having them die as a result of charging won’t hurt my conscience as much.
the soldiers will also be satisfied and die a peaceful death.

「so you plan to die for that reason?」
「i won’t die. i will defeat the enemy and return alive.」

even if the soldiers are wiped out, i will survive. i have that much resolve and confidence.

「what basis do you have?」
「none. let’s go.」

the starving dog army, with me in front, turns around.
i ignore those in the back who get taken out by the enemy.

「we’re going to defeat the enemy blocking our escape route and breakaway. follow me.」

if i’m too long-winded, they’ll be annihilated before charging so i don’t leave things at that.

the feudal lords’ armies in the area have pretty much been totally crushed.
i don’t know what erich is thinking isolating us like this, but i can worry about the heated discussion later.
now is not the time for that.

we face the enemy and charge forward.
it is a reckless charge but the enemy that severed our path are cavalry and we don’t have to worry about an anti-cavalry formation.

「here they come!」
「they’re prolonging the inevitable out of desperation. if we hold on a few more minutes, we can annihilate them with a pincer.」
「…… i see something dangerous in front though.」

it’s exactly as the enemy says, we can’t take too much time to charge.
we have an enemy chasing us from behind too. no matter what, we can’t stop moving our legs.

「slam into them. don’t look back.」

i say as i engage the enemy first.

it was literally a full speed dash from schwartz.
both rider and horse was knocked down and schwartz doesn’t hesitate to trample over them.

「damn you, monster horse!」

an enemy aims at schwartz’s body from the side with a spear.
he snorts and wiggles his ears. am i to take that as a signal for me to do something about it?

「don’t order your master.」

i deflect the spear with my shield and then whack the enemy’s torso with my longsword.
the enemy soldier is sent flying off his horse and splendidly crashes into the ground.

「you’re not going to kill him? what a warm-hearted person.」

sekrit, who seems really upset, jokes around like she usually does.

「i just don’t have time to―― cut him, that’s all!」

i swing my longsword like a club and knock down another cavalry.
it would be troublesome if i failed to cut down an enemy and it gets stuck in their armor or something.

「how nice and easy it is to be big.」

sekrit blocks an enemy’s sword with the sword in her left then thrusts into the enemy’s throat with the sword in her right.
then, she bends her body back on her horse to avoid the enemy spear coming from behind and counters by poking her sword backwards into the opponent’s eyeball.

「you’re doing pretty well yourself.」

i knew it, sekrit’s strength is something else, and the enemy soldiers can’t hope to handle her.
if celia was put in the same situation, i couldn’t help worrying, but her――

「guh!」

sekrit tried to finish off her third enemy, but her sword bounces off the enemy’s helmet, creating an opening for the enemy to swing down their sword.

such a dull slash was obviously not going to hit her.
it did, however, cut into her horse, who after painfully neighing, bucks backward and throws her off.

「not good!」

i was about to run over to help until i saw sekrit beautifully adjust her body midair and fall gracefully before sweeping at the enemy horse’s legs.
although she made me sweat, i really don’t have to worry about her after all.

it happened right when schwartz ran to sekrit to give her a ride after she lost her mount.

「prepare yourselfー!」

an enemy cavalry wielding a halberd with both hands shouts and runs at sekrit.
his voice is the only thing that’s loud as his upswing is slow. he isn’t a very skilled opponent.

「heh.」

sekrit also scoffs.
i’ll let her ride with me on schwartz after she finishes that guy off.

「doryaah!」

the sluggish swing relying purely on power is dodged by a hair’s breadth and her two swords stab into the enemy’s vitals―― or that’s what was supposed to happen.

「what?」

before sekrit could move her body backward, her movements stopped suddenly.
no, she didn’t stop. she was stopped.
the anguished face she’s making with her clenched teeth tells me it wasn’t complacency or provocation.

she stands still and crosses both her swords to receive the attack from the enemy’s halberd.
however, the strike, which should be easily avoidable even with her eyes closed, is too heavy for her to take head-on.

「gah!」

the sword in her left hand breaks in half while the sword in her right is knocked far away.
the strike she wasn’t able to block completely continues travelling down onto her shoulder.

her two swords reduced most of the energy from the opponent’s attack.
if she wore normal armor, the attack would have simply ended with a bruise.

sekrit drastically decreased how much armor she wore and chose to equip herself with light armor so the blow was heavier than what it should have been.

i could tell it knocked her unconscious for a split second.
i kick schwartz’s stomach.

「hngaaah!」

one more strike comes down on the defenseless standing sekrit.
the foe’s weapon was aimed squarely on the top of her head.

i pull my longsword back, ready to throw it.
no, i won’t make it in time.

the moment right before the bardiche reaches her head, light returns to sekrit’s eyes.
with moves quick enough to leave afterimages, she tilts her body to the right.

the blade fails to split her head and――――

her left arm was cut off with a dull sound.

my thrown sword finally stabs into the man looking to attack again.
but another infantry picks up where the first man left off and attacks the one-armed sekrit.

「――!!」

sekrit grimaces as she retrieves the sword from her severed left arm and blocks the slash, locking swords with her half-broken weapon.

i hear her teeth biting down and drool leaks from her mouth like she’s a crazed dog.
matching her movement, spurts of blood squirts out from the open wound where her arm was cut off.

「gaaah!」

sekrit roars like a beast and hits the opponent with her left arm, which has pretty much been cut in half.

「uoh! t-this bitch…… gugeh!」

seeing the enemy falter slightly, sekrit pounces and takes the soldier down, then screws her broken sword into the man’s throat.

as she stands up unsteadily, more enemies rush at her.

that was when i finally made it there with schwartz.
although swords and spears graze my side and schwartz’s thigh, there are more important things to worry about.

a puddle of blood is pooling at sekrit’s feet from her arm.
my heartbeat seems awfully loud right now.

i swing my longsword on instinct.
i don’t even know how i did it.

「the demon is here!」

「we can take care of the wounded on later. first, we kill the demon and, hm?」

「huh?」

i crush the fallen enemy’s head as they were still talking.

「get on, sekrit!」

i extend my hand out and shout to her, although sekrit doesn’t move.

「fuuhーfuuhー」

she is just holding up her broken sword, staring blankly at empty space while breathing hard.

not good, she isn’t conscious anymore.

「i’m definitely going to save you.」

i grab sekrit by the hair and have schwartz run off.

it’s a very rough way to treat her, but it’s less of a hassle than risking grabbing her arm and having her thrash wildly in her hazy state of mind.

「the north is no good.」

the starving dog army already tore through the enemy and met up with the royal army.
they shouldn’t have had the luxury to think about us straying away.

since those guys got past, the enemy reinforcements should be concentrated in the north.
the enemy infantry should be participating in the encirclement and it would impossible to breakthrough on my own.

「just keep running and avoid enemies the best you can!」

i leave the decision of what route and direction to take solely to schwartz as i examine sekrit’s injury on the roughly bouncing ride.
her left arm was cut at the elbow and the gushing blood has stained me and schwartz red in no time.

sekrit was acting strange from the beginning. if i think about it now, there were plenty of clues from yesterday.
i shouldn’t have needed to hear it from her, i should have realized myself.

self-satisfying charge, my ass. if i escaped with sekrit, this wouldn’t have happened.
i feel anger directed at myself filling up inside me, except this is not the time.

「i have to stop the bleeding…… she won’t last much longer.」

i rip off a piece of her clothes to apply a tourniquet on her army.
however, blood still drips from her severed arm.

schwartz then neighs suddenly.

「i’m not letting you get away!」
「prepare yourself!」

enemy cavalry close in from both sides.
because he was focused on avoiding enemies, he couldn’t bring out his top speed.

“don’t get in my way”

that was what i meant to say, but all that came out of my mouth was a shout.

i grab the horribly slow sword with my bare hands and twist it, breaking the weapon in half.
before the enemy could make an expression of shock, my fist sinks into his face, causing the parts above his shoulders to explode like a fruit that got smashed.

i quickly move on to the next enemy, this time grabbing his arm instead of his sword, and pulling hard towards me.
i was planning on pulling him off his horse, however for some reason, the enemy stayed on his horse.
i look at my hand and see that i pulled so forcefully that only his arm came with me.

too much strength was used. this might be me taking out my anger on them.

as we continued to run, the number of enemies in front of diminished to nothing.
it appears as if we got out of the enemy surround through the west side.

「they’re still chasing from behind though.」

a considerable amount of them are pursuing.
they’re screaming “some demon you are”, so they certainly have me in their sights.
it looks like i went overboard.

「they won’t catch up to your speed.」

schwartz neighs, agreeing to the obvious statement. as proof, the distance between us and the enemy is growing.

i feel some relief, although sekrit’s condition is highly unpredictable.

cold sweat is dripping from her brow as she trembles uncontrollably in my arms.
more importantly, i can’t say her bleeding is completely stopped.

「we have to get back to our allies as soon as possible.」

sekrit’s injury is my fault.
not being cognizant of her condition and initiating the charge falls on me too.

a river appears in front of us.
fortunately, there is a bridge. there doesn’t seem to be anybody to stop us.

without lowering my speed, i have schwartz dash onto the bridge. once we passed the halfway point, schwartz stands up on his hind legs and comes to an abrupt stop.

「――are you trying to kill sekrit!? i’ll turn you into horse meat!」

the moment i let out a furious outburst, i hear something cutting through the wind.
i quickly bring up my shield and deflect an incoming arrow.

「we caught a surprisingly big fish. time to spring the ambush!」

after the order was given, soldiers hidden in the grass on the opposite shore stand up.
there are roughly 50…… no, 100.
these guys were probably waiting for when goldonia retreated.

furthermore, i hear the sound of galloping hooves behind me.
because i stopped moving, my pursuers have caught up.

i’m sandwiched on both sides by the enemy.

「this is a pincer like never before.」

i quietly dismount schwartz and stand in the middle of the bridge.
a weak voice then comes from the person against my chest.

「……i can buy time for ten seconds. jump in the river.」

sekrit wobbles as she struggles to stand beside me.

「you need to sleep.」

i help her lean against the railing of the bridge.

「stupid, you can’t handle such numbers. i can’t be saved with such an injury. i might as well make myself useful to you.」

「just sleep. i’m going to save you for sure.」

after repeating myself and covering sekrit with my cloak, she doesn’t say anymore.

leaving her behind and running away is not an option for me.
the charge earlier was for my own satisfaction but this has to do with my way of life.

i would rather die than let a woman take my place.
of course, i’m not planning on dying here.

i confront the gradually approaching enemies from both sides of the bridge.

「hey, can’t you pretend you didn’t see me? we can settle this without anybody dying.」

「don’t be stupid.」
「you’re dying right here. same goes for that woman.」

that didn’t work.

「then i have no choice. i’ll have to slaughter you all――」

i get into a stance with my longsword and shield, then take two deep breaths, exhaling sharply on the last one.

「until you want to let me go, that is.」

thus begins the deathmatch on the bridge.

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