「How many have gathered?」
「Excluding those without sons and the eldest children of their families, 300 men!」
The man standing beside Gildress shouts confidently.
If the warriors of Aless don’t genuflect even before the King, it means they don’t adhere to the traditional language of respect either.
These warriors, who value fighting over everything, believe having an attitude of servility would in fact be rude to Aless and to the King.
「300…… you say?」
Gildress turns around to face the men following him for the first time.
All those in his presence are strong and muscular men, a towering wall of muscle.
In each of the men’s hands are thick and heavy, but not long, swords and similarly sturdy, heavy-looking shields.
A pitch-black cloak curtains their armor-wearing bodies which are protecting only their vital parts, making it seem like they are naked at first glance.
Perhaps to distinguish himself as the King, Gildress is the only one with a crimson cloak.
「……you, what’s your name and age?」
Gildress calls out to a young-looking man.
The King scowls briefly and then barks loudly.
「Too young! There is an age restriction to who can accompany me on my walk! Those who have not yet turned 30 may leave!」
There was a faint stir amongst all who were present.
「My King, us young men are still warriors of Aless, and will not fall behind any enemies, no matter who they are.」
「Enough! The young ones are tasked with protecting the women and children in Aless.」
The youngsters make a somewhat dissatisfied face, but after seeing Gildress standing in an imposing manner and unwilling to compromise, the young men bowed once and took their leave.
「The future will be created by you guys! Don’t let yourselves waste away like this!」
The youngsters responded with a resounding shout in acknowledgement after the King roared at them from behind.
「How many now?」
Gildress nods, seemingly satisfied.
「Umu, that’s a perfect amount. I’d feel sorry for not giving Goldonia a chance otherwise.」
「I see, you’re not wrong there!」
「Gathering too many Aless warriors would split the earth after all!」
The remaining men laugh heartily.
Then, Gildress’s smile disappears as he addresses the men.
「We will push our limits and rampage as much as we can in this fight in order to display our gallant figures while stopping Goldonia’s advance…… and then we will probably perish.」
The other men don’t say a word.
These men are also men who have continued fighting past the age of 30. They understood the foregone conclusion just from the absolute difference in numbers and the fact no reinforcements will be coming.
「I will say this again, this is nothing but a walk. Some might get stomach pains and some might not feel motivated. If you go back to your homes now, no one would censure you.」
Nobody made a single move from their spots.
And then a single man spoke up to ask Gildress a question.
「My King, is this fight for Aless’s sake?」
Gildress answered immediately.
「Then what is the purpose of this fight?」
Gildress stuck out his chest with pride.
「This is personal…… a promise between men!」
The men making serious expressions eventually relaxed and their mouths opened in laughter.
「A promise, huh!?」「If it’s a promise between men, it can’t be helped.」「A reason worth staking your life on!」
The men shout.
「My King, we understand! Let us go, we will fight as warriors!」
「Umu! No big deal, each of us just needs to beat a hundred and we’ll win.」
There is no indecision in anyone’s eyes.
The men are full of smiles and their muscles tremble in excitement.
「Idiots, I hear the enemy has 13,000. 100 per person will leave 3000 alive.」
The King shouts in a voice even louder than the men who shouted previously.
「Then I’ll take on the remaining 3000!」
All the men cheer.
「You hear that!? The King’s spewing how he’ll defeat 3000.」
「Oh sounds good, then why don’t we all present one barrel of alcohol to him if he accomplishes it.」
Smiling, the King draws his sword and raises his shield.
All the other men follow suit.
「What do we hold in our right hands!?」
「「「Swords of victory which will grant us vengeance.」」」
「What do we hold in our left hands!?」
「「「Shields which safeguard our fatherland.」」」
「What do we possess!?」
「「「Disciplined bodies of steel.」」」
「Here we go, men of Aless!」
The King charges forward and everyone follows behind him.
Because of the restrictions of a rather large city state, they were not able to gather a sufficient amount of horses.
That’s why they will be travelling to their destination, the canyon, on foot.
Hardlett Army, Outskirts of Togor Canyon
「So that’s the Togor canyon…… it looks pretty deep.」
「According to the scout’s report, the lower part is fairly narrow. There are paths in the inner part that can be used to go back and forth but not many people can fit across at once.」
「It’s going to be troublesome to lay in waiting here…… did those guys from Atoroa really scatter?」
「Yes, we had someone trail them and they didn’t enter the canyon, but rather scattered to both sides at full speed.」
「We could have made a detour around too……」
Celia cuts into the conversation I was having with Leopolt.
I was thinking about that too, but different city states are separating the Togor Canyon on the left and right.
And then, their farmlands would be near the canyon.
Even though they permitted us to invade, we are still considered outsiders. If we invaded their farms and did something to their citizens, they might recognize that as a form of hostility and immediately give us a warning.
「We have no other choice but to follow this narrow path. This is something we rarely get to see on the Central Plains, maybe I can include this in my stories when I recount my adventures to Nonna and the others.」
When I pet Celia’s head, her unhappy face slowly loosens up and her eyes narrow.
「Yes……let Leah listen too.」
Recently, Celia and Leah have been strangely getting along quite well.
They’re around the same age, plus it seems the short-tempered and precise Celia is compatible with the soft and calm Leah.
「Leah is like a little sister, but she’s quite the handful.」
Leah also said something like that in the past, something like: “Celia is like a little sister who gets flustered at everything really easily.”
There’s nothing better than when both sides give a piece of their heart to the other.
The army advances while I ponder such things.
Despite the area being a battlefield, the soldiers don’t feel any sense of tension because the enemy was already defeated once.
The only thing left was to attack the city of Atoroa and that’s it – Such an atmosphere was given off by all of the soldiers.
「Urgent message! A military force of some sort appears to have set up camp near the exit of the Togor Canyon.」
I wasn’t the only one surprised, Leopolt and Myla were as well.
「The enemy? Is Atoroa standing their ground?」
「No, the flag is different. Unfortunately, the details are……」
If the scout doesn’t know, that means it’s a flag he has never seen before.
Perhaps another nearby Polis is interfering.
「I believe about 100 of them」
Leopolt and I both tilt our heads.
That isn’t a large force, which means they won’t be much of a threat to us at all.
「There is a chance more soldiers are hiding.」
「However, the paths besides the one we’ve taken are all quite steep. I can’t imagine them hiding in cliffs like these……」
It’s a simple task for soldiers to lay in ambush and rather comical if they went through great pains to stumble their way down from the cliffs.
「Let’s just be cautious. We’ll divide the vanguard into three waves of 200 people each and march forward that way.」
「I agree, we should dispatch a messenger later and get them to move out of our way. It might be a commander who deployed in a panic because he didn’t get the earlier message.」
We eventually progress to the canyon and ascend up a slope to see, as indicated by the report, an army of roughly a hundred men linking arms while standing imposingly in front of the canyon’s exit.
They are tightly blocking the only path out of the canyon.
「Fumu……we sent out a messenger, right?」
「Yes…… but we didn’t get the desired response.」
It can’t be helped, let’s talk to them directly.
I walk up to the front and shout at them.
「We are the army from Goldonia! We are advancing our army so we can dispose of the lawless individuals and save Atoroa. Why are you standing in our way?」
A booming voice echoes in response immediately after I finish.
「I am Gildress, King of Aless! I am taking a walk and enjoying the beautiful scenery here!」
「King…… he said?」
Leopolt opens up some sort of document.
We don’t have much information regarding the city states. A minimal investigation was done to somehow determine the Poleis along our marching route, but because many of the Poleis were closed off to outsiders, we couldn’t find out much about anything.
「Gildress…… that’s the name of the King of Aless, if I’m not mistaken. Aless is a Polis in the west and they don’t particularly have an alliance with Atoroa.」
This seems like it’ll be problematic.
「King Gildress! I am Margrave Hardlett from Goldonia. You mentioned something about taking a walk, but could you allow our army to pass through before taking your time to enjoy the view!?」
「Nay! There will be no charm to the landscape once an army of ten thousand tramples through!」
I guessed this would happen.
In fact, I can’t imagine him really coming here for a walk.
「Leopolt, what do you think?」
「Aless should be a militaristic nation with its power concentrated around the King. There’s no way they could not assemble more than a measly 100 soldiers…… the only guess I have is that the King is unable to move freely.」
I see…… well, no use thinking about something you don’t know.
「King Gildress, we have received approval from the surrounding Poleis which allows our army to advance into Atoroa. Should I take this as Aless not acknowledging that approval?」
「Nay to that as well, Aless has no intention of opposing Goldonia! The ones here with me are close friends who I have chosen to accompany me on my walk!」
「What kind of ridiculous lie is he spewing……」
“There’s no way you bring swords and shields to take a walk” – Celia mutters.
However, I don’t hate this kind of man.
「King, how long should we wait here?」
Gildress probably didn’t consider the time as he tilted his head slightly before answering.
「We will return home when snow starts to fall and it gets cold.」
A soldier standing behind the king unconsciously cracked a smile.
「How dare you act all high-and-mighty with a mere small force of a hundred!!」
Myla’s face warps from Gildress’s provocative manner of speech.
Negotiations have completely broken down.
I can’t just return home feeling sad though.
「King…… we do not intend to oppose Aless either. However, if you continue to say you won’t move, we have no choice but to push through with force, do you understand?」
「Of course, I don’t mind. I do not have the fatherland on my shoulders at the moment, but I will fully demonstrate to you the power of the men of Aless.」
They wanted to do that from the start.
Any further attempts at negotiating would be meaningless.
I step down and return to the back in order to make arrangements to the formation.
「Just a hundred men, they’ll be defeated in an instant.」
He put up a good fight during our little argument, but there’s nothing he can do when it’s 13,000 vs. 100.
「We can only deploy 20 soldiers per row in the area they have positioned themselves. It is uphill as well……」
Tristan doesn’t seem to feel a sense of urgency either.
Although he’s always like this.
「Since he barked so much, he must have quite the confidence in the strength of his troops. We’ll suffer casualties as well if we collide head-on with them. Let’s rain some arrows down to drive them away.」
Only 20 soldiers can be side-by-side, but archers can be used in a vertical formation.
That is probably the best way to settle things.
「They are already deployed.」
Leopolt has already ordered the archers to the front.
From what can be seen of their equipment, they all only have swords and shields…… they shouldn’t be able to counterattack.
Several hundred arrows pour on the enemy like rain.
The enemies immediately topple…… or not.
「Defense! Stance up!」
In an instant, the enemy turns into a steel box.
The arrows rain down on them but are all deflected by their shields.
If they bounced off instead of stabbing into the shields, it means they’re made of metal……they should have considerable weight to them, yet everyone seems to carrying them like it’s nothing.
「……What incredible toughness.」
The shields that each soldier is propping up with their left hand is actually shielding the soldier beside them.
They themselves are protected from the right.
They entrust their life to the man beside them when showered with arrows…… they must have gone through harsh training and have a strong trust in their companions to do something like that.
Once again, arrows soar into the air and fall towards the enemy, but there is absolutely no effect.
I thought a few arrows would get through the gaps though I don’t see a single shield dropping to the ground.
It happened as soon as the commander shouted.
The enemy charges forward collectively as soon as the arrows were released into the air.
So they were measuring the timing.
「……got too close in distance?」
The enemy didn’t seem to be affected by their attacks so the archers got slightly irritated and moved too close.
It didn’t take more than a second for them to shift from a defensive position to charging straight at us.
As soon as the command was shouted on our side, they dashed forward at full speed.
That wasn’t in response to an order, everyone just understood from the beginning what they needed to do next.
「Tch-! What speed.」
Not to mention they are fast, almost like some charging wild boar.
「Reserve unit, loose!」
We can do things besides making fools of ourselves too.
As a precaution, a unit with around a hundred archers stayed back with their arrows nocked.
Those soldiers loosed their arrows in scattered locations.
It should have a greater effect on them now that they have undone their defensive formation.
In an instant, the men brush away the arrows soaring at them with their swords.
Most of the arrows were deflected and only a few managed to hit their targets…… although the men who were stabbed in the arms by the arrows continued to press forward as if nothing happened, shouting even louder while doing so.
「What skill…… even the privates are like this?」
Since the archers can’t move immediately after releasing their volley, the infantry escorting them step up to intercept the enemy.
「Archers, stand down! Infantry, retreat slowly while buying time……」
「Behold the strength of the men of Aless!」
Gildress, who is wearing a crimson cape, stood at the front of the army as they all jumped at us not long after the commander gave the order.
As soon as they collided with our forces, they knocked over several staggering fellow infantry with one blow from the shields they were holding out in front of them.
「Lukewarm! You guys are tepid! In Aless, you wouldn’t even be put in charge of preparing our meals!」
They are highly skilled in setting up their formation, moreover each individual is unbelievably strong.
Our fellow infantry couldn’t do much against them and just continue to fall over one after the other.
Even the rare counterattacks that our forces managed to pull off were easily brushed aside by the enemy’s shields before getting knocked out.
King Gildress stood out even among all those strong men…… he jumped ahead of the army, slammed a soldier with his shield, cut down another two with his sword, then turned around to lop the head off of another.
All the swords and spears swung at him from the left and right were flicked away with his shield.
Every time there was a trail of red from the cloak the King wore, a fountain of blood would gush out and an ally would collapse to the ground.
「Behold my military prowess! This is what a man of Aless can do!!」
The enemy shouts loudly in response to the King’s bellows, while our allies took a slight step backwards.
I wonder if such a man – despite being an enemy – would be called a hero.
「This…… no way……」
Celia mutters quietly as she stares in blank amazement, watching the man tear apart the infantry and even start to cut some archers down.
The commander shouts desperately to get the army to retreat, but is unable to do so efficiently because of the narrow path.
Some space was left for them to retreat just in case, but a complete collapse like this was not within our expectations.
「Have the archers forcibly shoot them, they just have to hit their targets.」
「They are fairly behind. There is a chance of friendly fire.」
「I know, Luna. At this rate, we would suffer heavy casualties though. I don’t mind if there is a misfire, just have them shoot.」
My order must have been relayed to them as several hundred arrows rain down shortly afterwards.
Sure enough, the arrows don’t only pour on the enemies, but also our allies. The enemy – judging that they would be at a disadvantage if they engaged in melee combat while being hit with arrows – retreated slightly to the back in order to assemble their formation.
「Those who are injured, move to the back!」「They only have a hundred…… what’s with these injuries!?」
The soldiers are feeling shaken from not being able to instantly rout an enemy with an overwhelming numerical advantage as they planned.
Celia tries her best to run around and get control of the situation.
「This is unexpected.」
「Unfortunately…… I heard they were powerful, but not to this extent.」
「Right? There are plenty of things in this world we don’t know. Like why I’m here in the first place……」
Myla is staring at Tristan, but this isn’t the time to be falling out.
「What we do know is there terrifying skill. Their teamplay is brilliant but the individual strength of their soldiers is not normal. Each of them can be considered a master at their craft.」
「That’s right. In addition, we don’t have the space to surround them.」
「Yeah, if we allow only 20 people to fight them at a time, we would suffer tremendous casualties.」
I look towards Leopolt.
「I understand. The enemy does not possess any long spears. Let us trample them with our horses.」
Right, it’s our turn to attack next.
About 200 cavalry are lined up, with 10 in each row because of the terrain. Still, the infantry should not be able to stop the charging spears.
No matter how strong the soldiers of Aless are, they are no match for the weight and momentum of horses.
「Hardlett-dono! I’m off to trample them!」
Irijina will be the one leading the charge.
「I’m counting on you.」
「Let’s go, charge! Avenge the archers!」
“Oooh!” – the soldier shout in response and the sound of hooves soon drown out their voices.
Well, let’s see how they handle horses.
「Normally, we can expect them to get into a defensive formation and then aim at the horses’ legs through the gaps in their shields.」
「However strong they may be, if they receive a decent hit from the charging horses, they would be blown back along with their shields. Then we just have to wait until they get trampled by the hooves.」
I watch on with that hope in mind but the enemy doesn’t seem to bat an eyelid at the appearance of our cavalry.
They are standing in front of us, more confident than ever.
It was then that Gildress standing in front shouted again.
I accidentally let my voice leak out.
To my surprise, those guys respond to the charging cavalry by charging forward themselves instead of defending.
「Idiots, there’s no way they could go toe-to-toe with horses.」
「It should be over now, they’re doing something so reckless.」
Myla and Tristan also express their astonishment.
I don’t know where Leopolt went.
And then, right when the two sides were about to collide.
The 20 Aless soldiers at the front stopped charging to get themselves in a half-bent posture, and then the soldiers in the rearguard used the ones in front as a jumping platform to leap at the cavalry.
The cavalry were pointing their spears downward so they were unable to block the aerial maneuvers, getting cut down one after the other by the swords of the enemy.
Some of the cavalry were able to react and intercept the initial strike, but the enemy soldiers were deflecting spears with their shields and then slashing at the horses or soldiers while pouncing.
Because the vanguard had to stop suddenly, the rearguard had no choice but to slow down, eliminating any momentum they built up.
With their legs sealed, the only advantage horses had was the higher line of sight.
Only the agonizing cries of allies could be heard as they get cut down and their horses are strewn all over the place.
With an especially loud growl, the man in the red cloak grabbed a horse’s neck and broke it.
The soldier riding the horse was thrown to the ground.
What an absurd man to snap a horse’s neck with his bare hands.
It was understandable to get irritated. Celia clicks her tongue and looks up at me worriedly.
I know, I won’t charge out by myself.
Irijina turned into an infantry after losing her horse and is swinging her spear, but she doesn’t have her usual vigor. In fact, she seems to be getting pushed back.
「Irijina is getting outmuscled in a one-on-one fight with a private……」
Celia couldn’t believe her eyes.
I’m just getting surprised left and right today, all in a bad way though.
She fights valiantly and not only is she unable to defeat a single one, all her opponents looked completely calm.
At this rate, we might get defeated if we aren’t careful.
「We have to retreat……we won’t win even if we continue fighting.」
「It can’t be helped……」
「This situation seems oddly familiar…… the part where power is used to push through.」
As if they were waiting for my orders, the commander shouts to get the cavalry to retreat, although the enemy is hot on their tail.
And behind them…….
「Did you see that, Hardlett or whatever, this is Aless! This is what men of Aless are capable of! Wahahahahahaha!」
With one leg each on top of a horse that lost its rider, Gildress declares his victory.
「That man…… Pipi! Can’t you shoot him down!?」
「Pipi will try.」
I cover the arrow Pipi aims at the man with my hand.
The fight is over, it will leave a bad taste in my mouth even if he was killed like that.
Furthermore, it would drastically lower morale if he caught the arrow.
「The sun is setting. This is our loss today. Let’s just quietly prepare for tomorrow.」
Now that I look, the other soldiers are pretty out of sorts too.
We struggled this much against a paltry one hundred enemies and only the bodies of allies can be seen all over the battlefield.
Good grief, what an inconceivable enemy that showed up.
I turn to look at Leopolt, who is fumbling around with something behind me.
「Leopolt, are we going to lose tomorrow?」
「We will undoubtedly win.」
Then that’s fine, I can go to sleep tonight.
「I’m going to bed. Celia, wipe my body down later.」
「R-right. Naturally, I will attend to you at night too……」
「No, it’s fine. I’ll embrace you after defeating that guy. Until then, I’ll hold off.」
With that said, I enter the tent personally prepared for me, and after confirming there was no one else around, kick away an empty barrel.
「So he’s actually quite angry……」
「He was provoked that much after all……」
「He was never an obedient person in the first place.」
Quiet, I can hear you.
Protagonist: Aegir Hardlett. 23 years old. Summer.
Status: Goldonia Kingdom Margrave. Great Feudal Lord of Eastern Area. King of the Mountains. Friend of the Dwarves.
Citizens: 160,000. Major Cities – Rafen: 23,000. Lintbloom: 4000.
Private Army: 12,100 men (-500)
Infantry: 6500, Cavalry: 850, Archers: 750, Bow Cavalry: 4000
Assets: 300 gold
Sexual Partners: 202, children who have been born: 46