——The grown Zephyr rode the northern winds.
With fearsome speed, the black dragon flies the sky.
By dawn, they will arrive at the Ludo Kingdom’s mountain range…
And then, arrive in the dwarf country.
——Solje and Zephyr use their golden eyes to look at the ground.
Large number of cream colored tents lined up at the morning glow.
The imperial army was encamped at the valuable plains in between the mountainous area.
In the map inside Solje’s head, he notes down the enemies he should defeat.
——-The Graces Kingdom, the dwarves…
Have fought the Empire at their national borders several number of times.
The amount of tents of the 6th division is not enough to accomodate 40,000, is what Zephyr says.
Solje nods, it would be around 25,000.
——Zephyr catches the scent of blood mixed in the wind.
Solje allowed that sidetrack for the sake of confirmation.
As he imagined, there was a battlefield…
The morning glow of Graces was not only being colored by the sun, but also the red of blood.
“Doje…this is…!!” (Zephyr)
“…Yeah, the corpses are left as they are…!” (Solje)
Even though we are far up in the sky, even my sense of smell could catch the scent of blood and metal. A grand battle had taken place.
“…Zephyr, how many have died? Can you count them?” (Solje)
“Yeah! …Wait, I will finish counting them quickly.” (Zephyr)
I could catch the thoughts of Zephyr with my dragon eye. Around 30,000… Umu, half of them might be imperial army soldiers, but the remaining short stature ones are without doubt dwarves.
“The Empire is 17,000…the dwarves are 13,200…” (Zephyr)
“…Got it. Thanks, Zephyr.” (Solje)
“…The forces of the dwarves are 25,000, right?” (Riel)
The bow princess that was supposed to be sleeping with a belt wrapped around her and me mutters this.
Those numbers are mostly correct. It is 27,000, but that’s a small error that doesn’t need correction.
“Yeah, half died… The majority of the remaining ones are most likely injured.” (Solje)
“I see. The dwarves must have…fought bravely in order to protect their country.” (Riel)
“Yeah, they are great. They desperately fought to protect their home, and brought more enemies than themselves to hell…but the price was way too big.” (Solje)
Fatal and serious.
“Looking at this, their army must be on the verge of falling. Judging from the position of the 6th division’s corpses, they must have used a 2 wave tactic… Using the group at the front as shields, the moment the battlefield was in a stalemate, they would use their main force at the back they saved and murdered the dwarves.” (Solje)
“They used their front as bait? …That’s quite the bold tactic.” (Riel)
“…Right. I can feel their ruthlessness. They knew the braveness of the dwarves and purposely had them attack. If it is with the same numbers, there’s no areas where the dwarves are inferior in against the imperial soldiers. The beginning and middle of this battle must have been the overwhelming victory of the dwarves.” (Solje)
“…But the flow changed.” (Riel)
“Yeah, the dwarves are brave, but the straightforward charge took away the stamina of the dwarves. Also, they must have gotten drunk by their signs of victory.” (Solje)
“That does sound like dwarves. When they get heated, their view narrows.” (Riel)
“Right, they are eccentric and maniacs. A trait of craftsmen.” (Solje)
Did the 6th division’s commander…read that far? …A young general that had just reached 40 years old, Marquez Ironwolf.
Second son of the influential nobles, the Ironwolf household, in the southern part of the Empire. There’s rumors saying that they bought their status with money and land, but…it might not be only that.
“What happened after the first half?” (Zephyr)
Zephyr who has high curiosity asks me. Right, we were in the middle.
“Look at the position of the corpses… The southwest area where there’s a whole bunch of imperial soldiers is the beginning of the war… The dwarves pushed them back from there, and went north. Thinking that they will be driving away the remaining enemies from their homeland.” (Solje)
“Looking at the locations of the corpses to determine the time relation.” (Zephyr)
“That’s right. What was awaiting north for the dwarves must have been the sight of enemies running away. Being fooled by that and feeling encouraged by this, they made a marathon towards the gentle slope of that hill.” (Solje)
“They were made to swim…like in fishing?” (Riel)
Yeah, it is similar to fishing. Before pulling them, you shake it left and right to make them swim and weaken them.
“The dwarves had their hearts dancing from their overwhelming performance. Looking at the fact that they were not wiped out, the commander and the king must have noticed, but most of the soldiers had gone rampant from their patriotism.” (Solje)
“They were caught right in their enemy’s trap.” (Zephyr)
“Yeah, chasing after the butt of their retreating enemies, they climbed the hill, and at the time when fatigue could be seen, their plan had been completed. What was waiting for them on the other side of the hill must have been archers.” (Solje)
Using the slope as a blindfold, they were secretly stationed there.
“You can see it, right? It is over there.” (Solje)
“You are right. There’s a lot of dwarves shot to death close to the top of the hill.” (Zephyr)
“That’s where the Empire counterattacked. The fatigued dwarves were surrounded and shot…and they fell into chaos. And from there, the main force that saved their stamina till the end tagged in for the running soldiers, and scattered the dwarves.” (Solje)
“…Cavalry units?” (Riel)
“Seems to be the case.” (Solje)
“Not only were they tired, they were in confusion from the arrows…they were even attacked by mounted forces that are the natural counter of infantry.” (Riel)
“It is a flowing strategy. It seems he knew the dwarves well. We have to be careful, the enemy this time around is different from Claine, an offensive type.” (Solje)
The philosophy of Ironwolf seems to not care about the small fry of his own army. They have the numbers to begin with, and they properly scouted out and had a grasp of the terrain. If it were Claine, he would have tried to reduce the deaths of his own army to 3,000 more.
Ironwolf would have been able to do something similar. Knowledge of their military strength and terrain, as well as the acquisition of a good position; they were clearly at an advantageous start after all.
But it is not like Ironwolf is incompetent. Their main force is practically unharmed.
Umu, I would say it is more the personality of a noble?
He made the young and probably low status inexperienced soldiers into sacrifices for a showy performance of the main force.
Cruel? Yeah, it is. But there’s soldiers you can resupply, and soldiers you can’t. People are overflowing with individuality, and the disparity in abilities is extreme.
The surviving small fry will most likely be expended in the subsequent battles in order to make the main force of Ironwolf rise in status.
If you are strong, you can be promoted.
That lure is inviting the young and spirited into being sacrifices.
This is a style that brings death to many in the enemy and ally side. But that’s just how much the invasion has progressed. It is because they have no care in the sacrifices of their own that Ironwolf managed to obtain a decisive victory like this.
If it were Claine who worries about the damage of his own army, he would have allowed the retreat of the dwarves. He would have hated chasing after them and fighting back. As a result, Claine wouldn’t have been able to obtain a certain victory just yet. He would then obtain an even better terrain, and would have tried to get a way to bring it into a bloodless negotiation. That’s how that owner of a big heart operates.
It is by no means bad, it is actually a great thing. But there’s points you can complain about. He takes it way too slow…
Marquez Ironwolf is not kind. His ability as a commander and his vessel as a person probably don’t even reach the toes of Zack Claine.
But as an invader, he does have points that surpass Claine. His style is aggressive, towards his enemies and allies. That’s how he managed to create this result.
Also, they will most likely be able to attack again soon. A noble that is aggressive, and holds an inhuman esthetic. They just need to get more small fry from their country, and their army will be back to how it was before. Depending on the consumption of it, they might even become stronger than before.
Sacrifice the weak, and defeat them with the strong…
After a defense master…we now have a war against an elitist General with outright aggressiveness showing. My life has variety flying my way.
Ways to conquer this? Of course there are.
The sharper the blade, the brittler it is.
But…right now it is only us. Also, it is not as if we came here to do war. But don’t be sad, we will most likely clash soon. I am the Empire’s enemy.
Wait in anticipation for that moment, Marquez Ironwolf.
I don’t know if I will be offering your head to Queen Claris or the Dwarves’ King, but your head will be going down with my dragon longsword. That’s what I have decided. You are now my prey.
…Hmph, what a bad habit.
What I should be prioritizing is Camilla.
“Zephyr, were you able to pick up the scent of Camilla?” (Solje)
“No, she is most likely not here.” (Zephyr)
I am glad that she hasn’t been captured… I don’t wish for such a result. Please be okay, Camilla… Did you get lost at some hole somewhere? I hope it is a funny punchline like that.
If that’s the case, let’s take the head of Marquez Ironwolf. I will even salt it and present it to you if you want to decorate it in your room, Camilla Breeze…
“Okay…we have finished watching the battlefield. Let’s head west.” (Solje)
“Got it!!” (Zephyr)
Zephyr’s wings hit the sky, and he rotates his big body. I provide Zephyr with the information about our ‘hiding place’ with my dragon.
“We are heading to this ‘home’, right?” (Zephyr)
“Yeah, Gandalla should be there as well.” (Solje)
We have a hideout in each nation. Things like a private house that has been abandoned deep in the mountains, or caves that would have animals living in it. We use those places as bases for infiltration after obtaining the permission of the country, or in completely illegal ways.
We are in the mercenary business that moves around all nations.
It is important to prepare footholds. People need homes. Even a cave is better than not having one.
According to the reports, Camilla had infiltrated the Graces Kingdom 1 week ago. She must have confirmed the safety of the ‘house’.
That’s the home we secured 3 years ago. Due to the ambitious dwarf blacksmiths, the iron mining zone had been completely depleted… It is one of those mines. It is at what was once the church’s medical care facility inside the tunnel, that’s our base.
“…Gandalla, please have information… You were the one who decided to have Camilla infiltrate this place alone… Don’t disappoint me, Intelligent Giant.” (Solje)
…It is not that I am angry.
But if we can’t solve this situation, I will reduce your salary, Gandalla.
- Chapter 137
“The cliff there?” (Zephyr)
“Yeah, there… The base we created 3 years ago.” (Solje)
“Is there a place where Zephyr can land?” (Riel)
“At the top of the cliff, there should be an altar where the dwarves would worship the morning sun. It is an altar made by dwarves, so it should be able to resist the weight of a dragon.” (Solje) <Praise the Sun!>
“On the altar? Wouldn’t the heavens punish us for that?” (Riel)
An opinion likely to come from a forest elf-san that puts importance to laws and traditions. But try thinking about it, Riel.
“We are having our Zephyr sit on a holy place. I would say it is them that have to thank us for that special favor we are giving them.” (Solje)
“…That’s the logic, huh. I don’t hate that, our Zephyr is special after all.” (Riel)
“I am…special?!” (Zephyr)
“Yeah, of course. Now, Zephyr! Get down there!!” (Riel)
“Okay! Got it, Maje!” (Zephyr)
The high spirited Zephyr’s heartbeat and his wings worked together, and he landed on the altar site somewhat proud. The ground shakes. But the stone that shapes this place doesn’t know the word break.
I expected it to at least get cracked, but it didn’t happen. This must be the fruits of the dwarves’ religious faith, and the thorough choice of their stone. But even such a religious place has been abandoned once the mines were exhausted, which is pretty dwarf-like.
Other races would hesitate in abandoning this beautifully ornamented and splendidly polished place where stone pillars are lined up. The normal thought would be to move the place, right?
But the dwarves didn’t.
They think that it is fine to just create a new place. The craftsman spirit shows up here too. As long as they surpass their past creation…they don’t need to get too attached.
Meaning that by repeating a cycle of abandon and creation, their blacksmithing and stone carving ability rises.
“…Fuuh, I am tired.” (Zephyr)
“Right. Good job flying this much distance in one night.” (Solje)
“Ehehe, it is thanks to Doje finding a strong wind.” (Zephyr)
“Then, an achievement from both of us.” (Solje)
“Thanks, Zephyr. Rest for a while.” (Solje)
“I will. If anything happens, call me quickly.” (Zephyr)
“Yeah, rest your wings.” (Solje)
I jump off from the happy-looking Zephyr. The impact of that made the sibling fused Mia wake up. Groaning with an ‘ueeeh?’, several seconds pass, and the questioning of Mia begins.
“…Onii-chan, this is the location for this mission?” (Mia)
“Yeah, we have arrived at Graces.” (Solje)
“…I see…then…sorya!!” (Mia)
Mia used her mana to call a wind blade to cut the rope connecting us.
After that, she takes off the Negler Deer coat, and then, jumps into the sky to confirm her state. She spins three times in the air and lands.
She takes a really low stance with her arms and legs widely spread like a snake slithering on the ground.
After confirming her speed and flexibility, Mia announces.
“Preparations complete. I can move for three days without sleeping!!” (Mia)
“That’s my Mia. We are counting on you.” (Solje)
“Yes!! …So, where’s this place?” (Mia)
“Our Graces base…our hideout.” (Solje)
“Oh, our house, huh…It is dusty.” (Mia)
“We didn’t have people to clean it. Let’s enjoy this antique feeling.” (Solje)
“Yeah, like classy people.” (Mia)
Where did she even learn that word?
Oh well. Now, time to call him I suppose.
“Gandalla! You are there, right?!” (Solje)
“Eh? Gandalla is here?” (Riel)
Maje, who was petting the head of Zephyr that had closed his eyes to sleep, was slightly surprised.
“I didn’t think he was good at infiltrations and searches.” (Riel)
It is true that a giant that surpasses 2 meters in size infiltrating into a land of dwarves would stand out too much. But there’s times when people responsible have to participate even if they are not suited for the mission.
Like this time around.
“…Looks like concealing techniques are ineffective against the dragon eye.”
A bald brown skinned giant climbs up the stairs below the altar.
“It is Gandalla-chan!” (Mia)
Mia, who had stuffed the negler deer coat into the backpack of Zephyr, was merry when she saw him. It has been a while after all.
Do it, the ultra ‘high high’!!
“Mia, glad to see you are doing fine.” (Gandalla)
“Yes! That’s why, jump!” (Mia)
Gandalla presents his giant right hand to Mia who is in midair. Mia kicked that hand, and Gandalla pushes Mia into the sky.
A good duo performance.
Mia rises twice the amount into the morning sky. She seems to be having fun. That’s a cait sith for ya…this nimbleness is something I wouldn’t be able to get no matter how much I wish.
Well, that’s fine, I can just have Mia fly in my stead, and have Zephyr too.
“Onii-chan! Catch me!!” (Mia)
Mia falls right into my arms. Her smile gets close to me and she gives me a kiss on the cheek.
“Thanks! I had fun…that’s why, from now on, all the time will be for Camilla-chan.” (Mia)
“…Yeah, thanks, Mia.” (Solje)
She really heals me.
Right, from now on, it is time for the sake of Camilla.
“Gandalla, you have gathered the information, right?” (Solje)
“Yeah, as much as possible. Also, Otto has come too.” (Gandalla)
“Otto Noran?! I see, if it is the first class explorer, we can leave the underground dungeons to him.” (Solje)
Mia tilts her head within my arms.
“Hm?…Underground dungeons?” (Mia)
“Yeah, there’s a dungeon of unbelievable size under this land.” (Solje)
“Why is there something like that?” (Riel)
Riel, who had separated from Zephyr that had already fallen asleep, stands by my side and asks me this while looking up at my face.
“Mostly the hobby of dwarves.” (Solje)
“They love to play with earth and stone. They dig a hella lot of holes and tunnels, and in that way they increase their lifestyle territory to the underground too. Having underground facilities to preserve wine and meat is convenient, right?” (Solje)
“Is that how it works? …And it ended up expanding into the whole country?” (Riel)
“It ends up that way after digging for several thousands of years.” (Solje)
“I feel like the ground is gonna fall…” (Riel)
“There’s actual cave-ins here and there.” (Solje)
“Then why do it?” (Riel)
Riel is rough on the men’s fantasies. There’s hobbies that only men can understand, you know? It is eternal. I even know men in their 40’s that still gather beetles.
“I can’t believe it. Falling on the holes they themselves dug. Just what is it they want to accomplish?” (Riel)
“Well, that’s simply their hobby… They can’t stop what they like.” (Solje)
“Is it the same as you drinking and sexually harassing us?” (Riel)
You call it sexual harassment, but isn’t ours more like communication between lovers? You don’t dislike it.
“Something like that… The interesting part is that those tunnels are not solely in the Graces Kingdom.” (Solje)
“Oi, are you saying they have spread those sterile holes into other people’s territories?” (Riel)
“Yeah, that’s why Queen Claris consulted with Gandalla, right?” (Solje)
“…What does that mean?” (Riel)
It would be better for the person himself to speak this part.
I look at Gandalla. He nods lightly.
“…The giant underground tunnels of the dwarves reach all the way to the Ludo Kingdom too. It stealthily expanded to the Ludo Kingdom 200 years ago.” (Gandalla)
“…For what reason?” (Riel)
Riel Harveld frowns as she asks.
“Extending their fingers to other countries has no other objective aside from invasion.” (Gandalla)
Right, entering the house of someone else without permission…that action in no way comes from a friendly thought.
“…Then, they are invaders.” (Riel)
“200 years ago, yeah. At that time Graces might have planned a surprise attack by using those, but right now they don’t have those intentions. There’s no history of them doing war with anyone in these 200 years, you know?” (Gandalla)
“…I see. Is it a country worth saving?” (Riel)
“It is. And…Queen Claris is terribly worried. The fact that the underground path might fall into the hands of the enemy.” (Gandalla)
“…The imperial army would use those underground tunnels to attack us?” (Riel)
“It isn’t impossible. Those tunnels were made for that sake originally after all.” (Gandalla)
Right, and because of that, Queen Claris relied on the intelligence of Gandalla, and he…sent Camilla Breeze to this land.
“…The darkness is her specialty… By investigating the underground tunnels, you had her check if the Empire’s army had their attention directed there right, Gandalla?” (Solje)
“Yeah, Captain. Sorry. I feel like I placed way too much burden on her shoulders.” (Gandalla)
“…No, we aren’t many. Also…Ludo and Zakuroa. It is true that we spread our hands too wide. Our lack of people is the result of my policy… Having Camilla MIA is mostly my responsibility.” (Solje)
“No, it is supposed to be my job to keep the place in order when you are absent. I should have rejected the job. If I had waited for Captain and the others to return from Zakuroa…” (Gandalla)
“…Did the assassins attack Ludo to the point that you couldn’t afford that?” (Solje)
“Assassin Knights, huh… It is true that I felt their shadows before we even journeyed to Zakuroa too.” (Riel)
“They are aiming for Queen Claris, right? She is already the symbol of the anti-imperialist force after all.” (Solje)
“Yeah, we couldn’t reduce the number of people protecting her… That’s why I chose Camilla who can survive as an individual force.” (Gandalla)
I can’t find a mistake in the thoughts of Gandalla. The assassination attempts to Queen Claris must be stopped at all cost, and the underground tunnels of Graces are not a problem that can be ignored.
If I had been in Ludo Kingdom, and had to make a decision after hearing Gandalla…I would have chosen Camilla without doubt. But would I have made her go alone, and made her check the underground tunnels and the movements of the imperial army…two heavy missions?
…I can’t blame Gandalla for it, but even so, a hazy distress is making me grind my teeth. Gandalla must think of his own decision’s result as a mistake and must be suffering from it.
Would it be better if I were to reprimand Gandalla while pushed by my own emotions…? Would that make the both of us feel better? If Gandalla himself is looking to be punished…
While I was being bothered by such stupid worries, the professional within my arms speaks.
“Isn’t it a waste of time to think about what has already passed?” (Mia)
“Onii-chan, Gandalla-chan; that way of using time isn’t serving for Camilla-chan, is it?” (Mia)
“…Right. Gandalla, the information.” (Solje)
“Yes, please enter the base. We have the strongest mobility and an infiltration expert. Let’s build our plan around Zephyr and Mia.” (Gandalla)
“While we are at it, let’s bring down the cargo from Zephyr too.” (Solje)
“Understood, Captain!!” (Riel)