Dungeon Defense Volume 5 Chapter 3
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Chapter 3 - Hell
“⎯⎯⎯Look here, Your Lordship.”
It happened late in the night.
We were making our way through a woodland path. Farnese, who had been marching as the spearhead of our troops, steered her warhorse towards my direction. She dismounted from her horse and pushed something out towards me. It was dark, so I could not see properly. Whatever she had in her hands looked similar to rubbish or gunk.
Once I examined it a bit more carefully, I realized that it was a kitten.
“Its life has been injured.”
To be exact, a dying kitten.
Half of the kitten, the other half of which having already declined into being a corpse, was also diving into the River Styx minute by minute. I wonder what sort of terrifying beast had gotten to this little critter. Despite it being late in the night, the sight of its internal organs oozing out from between the cracks of its injuries was being shown without any mosaics.
Speaking of no mosaics.
In this world, things such as adult videos, a modern convenience that is also referred to as porn, obviously did not exist.
According to the classification of sociology, a society where porn has yet to be invented was, at most, nothing more than a society that was on the border of being referred to as primitive. Despite my looks, I am also one of the Demon Lords who represent demonkind, so is this situation not woeful? This great one has the duty of enlightening these barbarians as quickly as possible.
I had immediately gone into action.
Among the many magic tools, there was an item that recorded the scenery before it. The high-priced commodity known as the Memoria Artifact was an item which had a bad past record with me as it had screwed me over on various occasions. I had utilized this. The price was disgustingly high, but who cares? The billions of perverts of the past, present, and future all combined were cheering me on, I was certain of this.
That was why I had filmed it. The several times where I had slept together with either Barbatos or Lapis. In secret, without having received any sort of prior agreement with them.
‘What is this, Your Highness?’
The very first adult video in the world was discovered in less than half a month since it had been completed.
‘Calm down, Lapis. Compose yourself and listen to my explanation. Even you will end up praising this lofty invention.’
Lapis nodded. Fortunately, there were no signs that showed that she was upset. As expected of my lover who boasted a coldness that lasted all year round.
I harbored hope. If it’s Lapis, then she would definitely appraise this item accurately for its political value.
‘However, before listening to Your Highness’ explanation, there is something this one wishes to talk about. Your Highness, this is a rather serious topic.’
‘All right. Ask me anything. Be it the influence this invention will have in the world from now on, or the impact it will have on the continent⎯⎯⎯.’
‘Give this one at least a single reason why she should not kill Your Highness right this instant.’
She was incredibly pissed off.
I completely ignored something like my honor or whatever and prostrated. Everything was my wrongdoing and crime. In particular, the fact that I did not receive her consent was most likely the worst part.
The artifact that contained Lapis was disposed of on the spot without debate. In the end, I had forever lost the opportunity to leave my name in the history books of mankind as the founder of adult videos······.
And then, Farnese called out to me who had become lost in thought about the lack of mosaics.
“Why are you suddenly staring out into empty space with eyes that appear as if they had given up on everything in the world? Has Your Lordship’s brain perhaps become vacant? Hurry up and heal this life.”
The cat’s breathing was nearly at its end. At the soonest, within 30 seconds. At the latest, its life will most likely come to a complete halt in less than 3 minutes.
I had also just sent the witches out on a reconnaissance mission. Even if I were to call them back in order to make them heal this critter, there would not be enough time. As this was a fact which anyone could tell simply by looking at the kitten, Farnese surely was not unaware of this either. Despite that.
“This young lady wishes to save it.”
Farnese looked straight up at my face.
When we had entered the Crescent Alliance and carried out an opening ceremony for our newly enlisted soldiers, you were the one who had personally cut down the miserable pack of dogs which you had cherished and raised with care, so how could you be opening your heart to the death of a kitten which you have no connection with······I, did not ask her this.
Through war, you have taken the lives of others repeatedly. Just the number of common soldiers you have slaughtered already reaches the tens of thousands, so what is your intention behind now referring to a single kitten as a life and requesting me to save it······I, did not inquire this.
Even now, the kitten’s wound is causing it to languish and suffer eternally so, if anything, the kitten would be better off if you put it out of its misery with your own two hands. What do you think about carrying that small life, putting it in your memory, and holding a funeral for it within your mind······I, did not give her this piece of advice either.
Farnese tilted her head.
Farnese expressionlessly looked down at the kitten held in her arms and then gazed up at my face, she then repeated this motion over and over again, until eventually, an entire minute had passed. The kitten had a small head. Before long, the faint breathing of the small creature stopped. Once the breathing stopped, Farnese’s gaze also got caught there and paused.
I slowly got down from my horse. Since I had not given the soldiers a separate military command, they forked around the two of us and continued their march. Dirt continued to crumble underneath the feet of the soldiers.
I knelt down before Farnese’s feet.
I sat up straight.
I then lowered my head all the way to the ground.
“I am sorry.”
“The reconnaissance mission was urgent. I had temporarily sent all of the witches out. It was my decision. I did not predict that something like this might occur.”
The soldiers passed by us and continued to advance. I could tell because of the footsteps that were shaking the dark ground around me.
Although the footsteps occasionally hesitated and tried to stop next to me at times, the footsteps had no other choice but to continue onward because of the marching of the comrades behind them. From time to time, instead of footsteps, the low sound of whispering could be heard as well. I left those alone and allowed them to pass by.
I heard Farnese’s voice after a very long pause.
“Why are you apologizing, Your Lordship?”
“Due to my decision, you were unable to save a life.”
“It is a coincidence. Is there responsibility in a place where there are no intentions? How can an apology be spoken in a place with no responsibility? Sending witches on a reconnaissance mission is an everyday occurrence in military affairs. On the other hand, trying to save the life of a small critter is not related to military affairs at all. As Your Lordship’s general, this young lady is a personage who carries out the military affairs of a general. Rather than Your Lordship, would it not be appropriate for Your Lordship to reprimand this young lady for being unfaithful to her military duties?”
“I would have admonished you if you had requested that of me as a general. However, did you not come to me merely as a child with hope?”
“Currently, the witches are unable to utilize their familiars too much. This is also an order that I had given to them the other day. Because they do not have enough familiars to use as scouts, the witches have to personally fly up into the night sky. I am sorry.”
I could vaguely hear the sound of a war song coming from the line further ahead of ours.
Uhu uhu······ like that, the soldiers attempted to alleviate their struggles from marching throughout the night by singing. Since our forces were making their way out of the woodland path, the singing easily mixed together with the sound of the wind that flowed through the forest. Woosh······ uhu rya······. The song which mixed together the sounds of the wind and forest sounded more like the disconsolate cries of a feathered creature or a wild beast than the sound of a person.
“Why does Your Lordship have to apologize?”
“Because I am your lord.”
“And is it because Your Lordship considers this young lady to be your daughter?”
“And because I have taken you in as my adopted daughter.”
“This young lady understands.”
Farnese laid something down beside my head. It was the kitten’s dead body. The internal organs which the kitten could not completely let out while it was dying were finally all released once the kitten had died. Like so, because the distinction between the inside and the outside was gone, the kitten was now going to return to the soil.
“This young lady wishes to forgive Your Lordship.”
Farnese sat up straight with my head held in her hands. As she stretched her knees and stood up, she lifted up my body as well. Farnese stroked my cheek.
“So this young lady shall forgive you. Father.”
I was forgiven.
I gazed down at the life that had ended and spoke.
“Child, are you not going to create a grave and give it a burial?”
“What are you talking about, Your Lordship? What a weird thing to say.”
Farnese pointed towards the kitten’s dead body, the soil which the dead body was placed on.
“Did this young lady not bury it in this world just now?”
The child was smiling brightly.
I stayed silent for a moment while I stood before Farnese who now knew how to smile well.
When I looked around, the soldiers were marching.
Similar to a bunch of will-o’-the-wisps heading towards the afterlife, tens of thousands of soldiers were illuminating the night sky with the torches held in their hands. The radiant torches connected with one another and further intensified the illumination. The shadows shone by the torches easily hummed war songs.
It was a barbaric scene. Many of the goblins snickered while they moved their bodies around. Whenever the wolf people at the front of the formation raised their maws and howled, the wolf people behind them would follow suit, causing the military march to be lengthily connected by howls. The shadows danced and howled on the roadside.
Night Parade of One Hundred Demons. These words automatically came to my head.
(TL note: Night Parade of One Hundred Demons, also known as Hyakki Yagyou)
“I see that demons have quite the amount of nocturnal habits since they are not growing weary during a night march.”
“Even if nocturnal habits are a part of their physiology, does that make a march any easier? They are most likely joyous because they are returning home. The soldiers who leave on an expedition always welcome the order to go home the most.”
“Surely. If that is the case, then that would mean that the soldiers without a home would be less joyous.”
“That is so. We have a long way to go. Let us go quickly.”
We remounted our horses and grabbed onto their reigns.
If one were to turn around, then you would no longer be able to see the outline of your home.
▯Kinslayer, Imperial Princess of the Empire, Elizabeth von Habsburg
Empire Calendar: Year 1506, Month 4, Day 11
Polles, Bruno Plains, Army of the Crusaders
Our army led our soldiers and approached the enemy encampment. It was quiet. The enemy troops that should have come out to oppose us were nowhere to be seen, but instead, only a dreary atmosphere loomed over the camp.
Since the nobles were strangers to this sort of bleakness, they did not utter a single word even as they scoured the enemy base while on horseback. Even though this was the very enemy base which they wanted to crush and destroy so much, now that they were actually here, there was nothing to crush or destroy. One of the nobles simply pointed at the lofty tower of human bones that was located in the center of the enemy camp once they noticed it.
“What exactly is that supposed to be? How bizarre.”
“That is a tower which the enemy general, Farnese, had collected and piled up.”
I answered. The enemy general was not considered as a noble since she had been sold as a slave and had murdered her own biological father. Perhaps she was not even considered as human.
“They all appear like skulls in my eyes.”
“Be grateful that your eye sockets are healthy. That is a tower made solely from the skulls of humans.”
“I heard that the enemy general has a hobby of beheading humans, skinning their heads, and making them a part of her eternal collection if they are to her liking.”
We brought our horses close to the tower of skulls. The sky was low since the fog had yet to recede, so the tower was tearing into the center of the low sky.
The nobles murmured. Their voices were filled with fear.
“Was the enemy general not a youngster who was clearly either 17 or 18 years old?”
“A 17-year-old girl with beautiful blonde hair. With her charming beauty, she would have received a lot of adoration if she were to have gone to social circles.”
The nobles went silent.
“Is there a problem, noblemen?”
The ones who could not stay silent vomited at the feet of the tower of skulls.
In the place where the Demon Lords must have rested as recently as yesterday, the leading figures of the Crusaders held an emergency meeting.
— The enemy has evaporated.
With the current situation of the Crescent Alliance having abruptly retreated before them, this is what the nobles had declared. That they evaporated. Because the way the nobles played with their words was foolish, I slowly knitted my brows.
“The word you noblemen are using is unusual. The enemy forces did not disappear spontaneously after being here for a moment. They have led their troops towards the opposite end of the Bruno Plains. Therefore, it would be correct to refer to this as a retreat and not an evaporation.”
“Your Highness, regardless of whether you refer to this as a retreat or an evaporation, is this still not a peculiar occurrence?”
“Sir, since your breath still reeks of vomit, I suggest you go and wash your mouth out first. Once you have washed it out, do it once more. I am unsure as to whether you have always had a foul breath or not, but your breath is severely rancid at the moment. It is making me dizzy.”
“Could it be that your wife has to smell this stench every morning? Your wife’s mornings must be quite blessed now that you are out on a distant battlefield. Since you are gifting happiness to your wife even while a long distance away, you are indeed worthy enough to be known as a model husband throughout all ages. Please give my regards to your wife.”
Shortly after, the noble returned.
The imperial family of the Habsburg Empire is no different to a rotten pile of garbage among piles of garbage as their basis is in incest and they have also made a side-branch in adultery, but there is a single good thing about being born there as the imperial princess, and that is the fact that I am able to freely berate aristocrats. I am not boasting, but I am an imperial family member that has a lot of expertise in berating nobles.
Once we had thoroughly investigated the enemy camp, the day had already become dark. Soldiers were illuminating the surroundings of the meeting room with their torches.
“······What should we do now?”
A noble from the Republic of Batavia opened his mouth.
“I was dispatched from my country after being given the order to defend the Bruno Plains at any cost. If the demons have given up on the plains and retreated, then regardless of any military merits, I have already performed my duty faithfully.”
“With all due respect, but that is the same for this major general as well.”
A young duke from the Empire of Francia continued.
“The royal command His Highness had given to this major general was to protect the humankind that resides beneath the plains. If the enemy has retreated, then would that not mean that they had run away to the other side of the Black Mountains? There is no humankind there that this major general has to protect. No, it would be troubling if there were······.”
The young duke let out a sigh as he shrugged his shoulder. The other nobles chuckled.
I raised the corners of my mouth.
“I have no idea what you noblemen are saying. The enemy forces have urgently retreated in the middle of the night. How large were their forces? Were they not lacking a little under a hundred thousand? An army of a hundred thousand had curled their tails between their legs and retreated, so how could they possibly be in good order?”
“······Nevertheless, Your Highness. Even if they are no longer in good order, their military strength is still a hundred thousand. If they take thirty thousand from that hundred thousand and attach those troops at their rear, then breaking through that would be an incredibly strenuous task.”
“Are you now trying to make me laugh to death? If someone else were to hear you, then they would most likely assume that our military strength is only twenty thousand and not a hundred thousand. Whether the enemy forces make thirty thousand troops defend their rear or situate fifty thousand troops at their rear, why would that matter? All we have to do is sweep their troops and overwhelm them in a single moment. I am asking you all this just in case, but noblemen.”
“Are you perhaps afraid?”
I looked around.
All of the nobles avoided my gaze.
It was strange, so I rephrased my words.
“I asked you all. Are you noblemen trying to take it easy because you are afraid of Farnese, the enemy general?”
These noblemen were trembling.
It has only been a couple of days since our entire army of a hundred thousand had been toyed with by the seven thousand troops led by Farnese. Their memories of that day were still clotting their hearts with fear. These fellows who respectively claimed to be generals and boasted about being knights were quite the impressive sight.
“The other day, I had rescued you noblemen from a crisis. Since the crisis of that day was a crisis where your lives were on the line, you could say that I had saved your lives. The person who had saved you is now commanding you to pursue the enemy. Do you intend to disobey?”
One after the other, the nobles opened their mouths, but they soon shut them. They repeated this several times until eventually, they all began to speak indiscriminately.
— The favor which Your Highness, the Honorable Imperial Princess of Habsburg, had done for us is so deep that there is no true path of paying back our debts, however, Your Highness is not this major general’s king. If the order from this major general’s own country and Your Highness’ order were to go in the same direction, then this major general would more than gladly obey Your Highness’ commands, but in a situation like this······.
— Your Highness, and my fellow noblemen. I am ashamed to be the one to say this, but more than anything else, we must always consider the worst-case scenario. What will we do if this were all simply a stratagem to lure us into desperately pursuing after them······?”
— The general is right. If the enemies are not defending themselves with twenty or fifty thousand soldiers, but instead, they are protecting themselves with all one-hundred thousand of their troops, and by that, if we are not the ones in pursuit but are actually the ones being lured into an ambush······.
— This one apologizes to Your Highness, but······.
— We are honored, but······.
Underneath the place where you could clearly see up the tower of skulls, underneath the pitiable skulls that were dead and thus had no eyes in their eye sockets and no mouths in their mouth holes, the nobles continued to speak in a tone that sounded as if it did not matter what they talked about or what they looked at.
I slowly shut my eyes. Once they were shut, the blood and guts that were spilled by the corpses during the purge yesterday approached me as a scent. Even though there were a lot of still living demons tied up in the enemy camp, the nobles before me were delighted since they were treating those demons as free exploits of war.
Do they intend to be satisfied with the trash given to us as a free share from the enemy army’s winnings?
Do they intend to behead the prisoners whom the enemy had left behind as a contribution and use them as exploits? If they split this up among the nations here, then each nation would be able to take several hundreds. If they hang up the hundreds of demon heads and return triumphantly to their own countries with them, then it would make for quite the pathetic pretext. Instead of trying to win as defeated dogs, these men were already desperately trying to not be defeated······.
They were looking down on the people.
The soldiers you are returning to your countries with are no longer simple soldiers, but germs that have been infected by Dantalian’s poison.
Even if only one out of ten soldiers possessed the booklet with the speech written on it, that will spread to a hundred once they return to their homelands. That hundred will infect a thousand and it will run as rampant as the Black Death. Are the emperors and kings whom you all serve good and wise kings? We are currently in a turbulent period where revolts occur even when there are no epidemics, but do you believe that you can prevent those flames? With what courage are you trying to hold onto the flames which you are unable to block with even your bodies?
There is no other choice but to place an even bigger flame down.
I opened my eyes.
“You are all noisy. Stop babbling wantonly and give me a short answer. Those of you who will obey my military command and pursue the enemies, quietly raise your hands. The rest of you, shut up.”
The useless words naturally subsided.
While the majority of them kept their mouths shut, hands started to go up by ones and twos.
The General of the Kingdom of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Grand Master of the Kingdom of Teuton, and the mercenary captain who was working for the army of the Kingdom of Brittany, but was left in a vague situation as the queen had returned to her home country······.
Good. With these three people combined, we will just barely have a military strength of about thirty thousand. The three of them were all nations that had cavalry units, so it was perfect. They most likely raised their hands because they were confident in their ability of pursuit.
“I am the successor of the Habsburg Empire. I am not the successor of the family which you all respectively serve. Will you still heed my commands?”
The General of the Kingdom of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth lowered his head.
“Since you have saved my life once, I shall devote my life to you once.”
The Grand Master of the Kingdom of Teuton put his helmet on.
“Our king had ordered us to put an end to as many demons as possible. As the major general, this is in spite of myself, but it appears that joining forces with Your Highness the Imperial Princess is the correct path to carry out our king’s royal command.”
The mercenary captain lowered his back slightly.
“Her Highness the Queen of Brittany had left without giving us the rest of our pay. I am only saying this because she is not present, but she is deplorable to a certain degree. If she were not present in this world entirely, then I would have said that she is really deplorable, but since she still resides in this life, I have to practice good manners. I heard that Your Highness the Imperial Princess provides generous compensations. If Your Highness the Imperial Princess pays the remaining half of our backed pay, then we will follow your orders.”
“Not bad. Since a person who knows honor, a person who knows loyalty, and a person who knows money have gathered here, with just us alone, we can easily rival the strength of a single nation. I order you, noblemen, to pursue.”
I then turned to look at the dogs and hogs that did not raise their hands.
“You all can rest easy here. It seems that there is no reason for me to tell you all to know shame. As there are expectations one should have towards others and expectations one should not have towards others, would telling you all that you are barefaced not be a part of the latter?”
“Regardless, there is a trivial request which I would like to ask you all. Share with each of us one of your banners. I know. It is a difficult request to heed. I shall request something more difficult. Take out one thousand and five hundred of the captured prisoners over there and hand them over to me. If you believe that these are truly difficult requests, then consider these requests as the same value of the lives which I had saved and let us call it quits with these.”
The nobles slowly bowed their heads.
The Grand Master then asked.
“When shall we begin the pursuit?”
I looked across the plains. The night was falling upon us.
▯The King of Peasants, Rank 71st, Dantalian
Empire Calendar: Year 1506, Month 4, Day 12
Polles, Army of the Crescent Alliance
A battle of speed. From now on, it was a battle of speed.
In our perspective, the Demon Lords who lived an idle life north of the Black Mountains were traitors, and in their perspective, we were a rebel army. Who the traitors are and who the rebels are, this will most likely be determined by the victors of the war. This was obvious. In order to become victors, we had to cross the Black Mountains and return home as soon as possible.
“Do not be concerned about whether it is day or night and simply continue marching. The armies of the Plains and Mountain Factions withdrawing, in and of itself, is what is important. Do not allow the group of traitors to even call together their soldiers. It should be fine to rest momentarily once you have reached the Black Fortress.”
It was exactly for times like this that I had captured both the Black and White Fortresses.
The bridgehead that was the fastest path to advance into the continent was also the fastest pathway back to one’s mainland. I did not capture this strategic point in order to simply attack the enemy. It was in order to easily receive supplies and also be able to calmly counteract if the situation in the mainland were to ever become problematic. Going through all that arduous effort in order to take the head of Margrave von Rosenberg was worthwhile.
“I also agree that we should retreat quickly, but what are we going to do about our rear? Dantalian, as you had said, don’t the Crusaders have an imperial princess who was born between a monster and a beast that had incestual relations and interbred?”
“It is fine. I shall do what I can to block the pursuers.”
“Hooh? Do you think you can manage the pursuers all by yourself?”
“If I am to be more exact······. I am incredibly sorry, but among the people here, the only military service member who is capable of managing the Imperial Princess Elizabeth von Habsburg is my acting general. Your Excellency Barbatos. Your Highness Paimon. Asking the two of you to do this would be asking too much.”
Even if you glare at me with such dissatisfaction, it cannot be helped. Before it was a matter of ability, it was a matter of talent. The kid, Farnese, had a gift that was capable of grasping battles themselves as melodies. Similar to how there are people who are lunatics since the moment they are born, there are people who are born while possessing these sorts of talents.
“There is also another reason why I must be the one to manage the rear more than anyone else. In the first place, for what reason did Your Excellency Barbatos keep me alive? Is it not because Your Excellency had keenly felt from your previous defeat the fact that it would be difficult for Your Excellency to handle the Imperial Princess of the Empire all by yourself? Since Your Excellency has spared my life, I should be worth my keep.”
“You’re barefaced as well. Why are you the one saying that?”
“All right. Dantalian. There’s no reason for me to stop you if you’re going to volunteer to take the short stick. Go ahead and try to obstruct the Crusaders’ pursuit with the seven thousand troops you brought with you.”
Paimon was looking this way with a worried expression. Her eyes appeared as if they were asking ‘would it really be okay?’ as they also worried about my safety. I smiled slightly.
“This is for the sake of the demon continent. Do not worry, Your Highness.”
A somewhat moved expression appeared on Paimon’s face.
I could hear the sound of affection points going up in real-time. At this point, my image has most likely been glamorized in Paimon’s head as a schemer who uses any means necessary for the sake of the peace of the demon continent. The comical thing was the fact that she was not excessively far from the point.
While Paimon and I were both imagining separate goals, a languid voice came from the side. Once we turned our heads, there was Demon Lord Sitri standing there with her left hand raised.
“Big sis. About that, can I also go to the rear and block the pursuers? The most difficult job in this retreating battle is obstructing those pieces of garbage that are pursuing us, so I feel like it would be shameful if we left that all in the hands of our youngest protege.”
“Oh dear. If you say that you are willing to do so, Sitri, then I would naturally feel reassured, but······. Is that all right? Sitri, you should be aware since you have also faced against the Imperial Princess. This will not be an easy task.”
“Ehehe. Well, I’m not exactly going to be stopping her by myself. I’ll be planning together with our protege here and the human girl. That’s okay, right, Skinnybones?”
Sitri looked this way and smiled gently. Her smile was as natural as the fragrance of dirt emitting from a country woman.
“Despite my looks, I’m confident in my fighting ability more than anything else. If we fight together, then I’ll definitely be of some help. Ah. Would I perhaps be a hindrance to you if I’m present?”
“That is not so.”
I bowed my head.
“If Miss Sitri provides this one with her assistance, then it would be like receiving a thousand troops and horses. This one welcomes Your Excellency with open arms.”
Since the Mountain Faction had sent a Demon Lord, the Plains Factions could not stay idle. Among her subordinates, Barbatos sent Rank 16th Demon Lord Zepar. The meeting was adjourned like that.
On my way out after the meeting was over.
Because we had marched throughout the entire day, it was already dark. After resting here momentarily, Barbatos and Paimon will resume their retreat. I gazed at the other side of the sky and imagined the hooves of the enemies that were approaching.
Was the Imperial Princess Elizabeth chasing after us without rest right now? How many troops did she have with her? We had purposely left the prisoners behind. How well did my dissolution tactic work, I wonder······.
The pursuing forces will most likely have less than fifty thousand troops, but more than twenty thousand troops. The imperial army of Habsburg will obviously take part in the pursuit. The other nations I should be anxious about would probably be the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Teuton. Those two nations share their borders with the demon continent after all. No matter the circumstances, those two nations have no other choice but to be hostile towards us······.
If these three nations all participate in the pursuit, then their military strength will reach an astounding number of thirty thousand. This will not be easy. There was no reason for us to wipe out the pursuers. Holding on until Barbatos and Paimon safely cross the Black Mountains. A delaying tactic. That was enough······.
“Seems like you have a lot of thoughts running through your head in various ways, Skinnybones. Why is it that you have a lot on your mind whenever I see you?”
At some point, while I was heading back to my quarters while also in deep thought, Sitri was at my side. I put my thoughts aside and bowed respectfully.
“The Imperial Princess of Habsburg is a terrifying human. The pursuers will be precipitous and tenacious. There is a need for our side to also be fully prepared in order to fight back.”
“Mhm. You have to stubbornly declare that the Imperial Princess is a scary human after all. If you don’t, then no one will forgive someone like a human girl for going around acting like a general. Isn’t that right? The reasons why you should have a head attached to your neck would also decrease.”
“You’re really hardworking, Skinnybones. I don’t get bored no matter how much I watch you. Yup. How should I say it? Do you not have that kind of experience? Those times when you absently stare at an ant wiggling around on the ground for no reason whatsoever. That kind of feeling—.”
Ehehe, Sitri laughed.
“Sorry. You wanted to monopolize the exploits by blocking the pursuit by yourself, right? By doing so, you would have been able to raise the reputation of the human girl you bring around with you by that much. But that’s too bad, hm? I can’t sit around and let you monopolize the ball, Skinnybones.”
“Your Highness. I will not deny that I did not have that sort of intention, but······.”
“Yup. It’s not that you didn’t have that sort of intention, but that that was the only intention you had.”
“Insects are interesting. Just watching over them is interesting. Why do ants move around like that without taking any breaks? How are honeybees able to easily maneuver when hit by the rain even though they have hair? Why do fireflies live while illuminating their bodies and entice humans by doing so? Although there are times when I get so enthralled while watching these insects that I unconsciously end up sentimentalizing that they are all doing these things in order to make the world beautiful······.”
Whenever the soldiers walked passed the two of us with torches in their hands, they would salute us. We did not receive their salutes. Sitri was smiling with her eyes and looking at me only.
“Ei. That’s a misunderstanding. They’re just doing all that because they want to live. Isn’t that right? In order to live, they either become beautiful by chance or they become unsightly by chance. You’re the same, Skinnybones. To the exact same degree, you’re like a bug.”
“For the peace of the demon continent? For the glory of the Crescent Alliance? Ahaha. You may be able to deceive big sis with those words since she’s someone who sincerely believes in those things, but Skinnybones, I know for certain that you aren’t that kind of person. You reek. The scent of a bug that has rolled around in shit for all of its life emanates from people like you to an intolerable degree—.”
That was a fact which I could not deny.
Since a stench that could not be obstructed even with that innocent smile of hers was also exuding from the beaming woman before me.
People were capable of recognizing their peers. In that regard, Sitri and I were undoubtedly similar types of people.
It was a matter of course that people would be capable of recognizing others who have lived their entire lives in a way similar to their own, but there are times when those relationships work out well and advance into being first loves, and there are other times when those relationships make the two people into mortal enemies. The standard by which those relations were divided, was most likely excessively simple.
“Are you that afraid of being at Her Highness Paimon’s side and attending to her?”
Sitri tilted her head.
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“Is Your Excellency not also referring to yourself as a bug-like fellow?”
As the soldiers went further into the distance, the line of torches followed suit. Similar to how there was a lasting mute vibration after the end of a song, even as the light grew distant, it illuminated the darkness of the road before vanishing. Sitri became shrouded in darkness and stared at me with turbid eyes.
“Your Excellency enjoys reproaching this one, but this one apologizes. In the end, the words which Your Excellency spit at this one will simply return to Your Excellency as is.”
“This is strange.”
Sitri tilted her head further and become further enshrouded by the night. Her face was expressionless.
“This is really strange. Was it yesterday, or the day before that? Didn’t we clearly define our standings? Is it perhaps my memories that are faulty? Or is there a problem in my brain—? Cause from what I can see, you’re messing with me right now, Skinnybones.”
“Your Excellency will probably be incapable of feeling interest towards words such as peace and glory throughout the rest of your life. I understand. The intriguing part is the fact that Your Excellency feels as if that personality of yours is, from beginning to end, wrong.”
“Does Her Highness Paimon appear that blinding to Your Excellency?”
“It is only right for all people to be equal. If there are no nations like that, then you just have to make one from now on. With just that simple reason, Her Highness Paimon had erected a republic. There are people in the world who live simply because of that reason alone. There were······. Did Her Highness Paimon, did Her Highness Paimon’s form, appear beautiful to such an extent?”
“I, definitely warned you.”
“Compared to her, how is your own self like? Is Your Excellency not a piece of trash who does not feel inspired by anything······? My apologies, Miss Sitri. Your Excellency has already admitted it. Your Excellency has acknowledged that while living, one will become beautiful by chance and become unsightly by chance. If we follow Your Excellency’s pet theory, then even if Her Highness Paimon appears beautiful, this is solely by chance, and even if Your Excellency is as unsightly as a bug, this is also solely by chance. In the end, it is all the same. It is the same standard. There is no need to deny it. There is no special difference between Her Highness Paimon and Your Excellency⎯⎯⎯.”
White static flickered before my eyes.
Once I had come to my senses, I found myself on the ground and breathing heavily.
A sticky feeling. The sensation of something shattering.
I instinctively gripped my right shoulder. A sizzling pain was running rampant. My skull felt prickly. Sitri had grabbed my shoulder and broke it in an instant.
The tone of her voice sounded like a person who had done something by accident. A tone with a weight that felt as light as that was flowing over my head.
“Sorry. I sometimes, really sometimes do things like this. I lose my rationality. But don’t blame me too much. Normally, I give about two warnings before I lose my rationality, but you’re the one who ignored them, right? Does it hurt a lot?”
Sitri lowered her back. I was barely able to muster enough strength to look up, but once I did, I saw that Sitri had a sincerely worried look on her face.
Her eyes looked so feeble that if I had forgotten my own family tree, then I may have mistaken this woman as my biological older sister. Is it not fortunate that the child who could have possibly been my biological older sister was stillborn?
Sitri muttered to herself ‘What to do, what to do······’ as she stroked my injured shoulder.
“So why did you act up like that?”
She then dug her finger into my injury.
An intense pain.
I tried to let out a cry, but it was impossible. Sitri had blocked my mouth with her other hand. Press, preeesss······. Slowly, while opening up my wound, each time Sitri’s finger wiggled inside of my flesh, an electric current went down my spine. All of the nerves in my body felt like they had been torn.
I lost the strength in both my arms and legs and fell forward. Sitri received that body of mine in her embrace as if she were some benevolent priest. She whispered into my ear.
“Yup, good boy. Good.”
“······! ······uk, ······.”
“You’ll be nicer from now on, right? Don’t act so conceited. Don’t act like you know it all either. Don’t get greedy in order to get somewhere too high up, and don’t get unreasonably jealous just because you want to know too much······ Okay?”
This damn psychopath.
“I know. I know you better than anyone else. Big sis Paimon doesn’t know you and Barbatos probably doesn’t even try to know you. Skinnybones, children like you are the type of people who I understand the most in the world. It’s hard, right? It’s difficult to endure the world since you were born much smarter than others, right······?”
“You want to live while looking down at them all. You want to live while crushing them all beneath you. It’s really fine. People, even Demon Lords, can be modest to others. Isn’t that a relief? The fact that a bug like you can also be modest. Skinnybones, how many people have you killed so far? You even started something like a war······ haa. It’s all your fault, isn’t it? In the first place, you’re a person who was wrongly born. A child who shouldn’t have and would have been better off not being born. So······ from now on, let’s live while atoning for your sins, okay?”
Sitri removed her finger from my wound. I let out a gasp. Sitri then grabbed hold of my face with her hands and held it in place so that I was staring straight at her.
She touched the corners of my eyes. They were wet.
“Don’t worry. You may be a dirty beast, but big sis Paimon isn’t. Skinnybones, you should also devote yourself to big sis’ ideals. If you do that, then even your body will at least be a slight bit useful. All right? Don’t misbehave. Even that succubus girl with arrogant eyes who has forgotten her place.”
Lapis Lazuli as well.
“Even that human girl who should have just obediently killed her breath while living in a whorehouse after she was sold as a slave, but was instead taken under your wing and is now slaughtering her own kind.”
Laura De Farnese as well.
“Even your royal guard girls who survived until now by spreading their asses to all sorts of Demon Lords.”
Humbaba and the other witches as well.
“Although you’re all rotten mongrels. Although you’re all pieces of trash that would have made the world a better place if you all weren’t born, it’s okay. It’s all okay while you’re following big sis Paimon. You can breathe. Realize your baseness by yourselves and become modest. Okay?”
I did not answer.
I simply glared at Sitri with pain-filled eyes.
Sitri smiled as if she were feeling sorry for a troublemaking child.
“What a pitiful thing.”
“A pitiful thing that is beyond salvation and was born astray. A thing that was born broken. A thing that has become more broken after birth. Why is it that venomous snakes like these continue to be born into the world? If they’re going to be born broken, then it’d be better if they just died the moment they’re born. It’s a difficult thing. It’s a difficult thing to understand. I’ll sympathize with you all. I’ll guide you all. It’ll probably be difficult to throw away your greed, but I’ll help you throw it aside. It’s a difficult path. I understand. I’ve walked that path before after all. Even the small grains of dirt scattered across the road will hurt if you step on them with your bare feet. You guys don’t know pain because you’ve been steeping on dirt with the soles of your leather shoes. Your greed is your leather. Take it off. Throw it away. Acknowledge the fact that you all are worthless and unnecessary pieces of garbage. Yeah. It’s a difficult path. It’s difficult to do.”
However, Sitri uttered and stroked my cheek.
“Repent as best as you can.”
“I’ll repel our pursuers. If I make my soldiers lie in wait around the narrow path and ambush the enemy as they pass by, then even that Imperial Princess won’t be able to do much. They’ve most likely been moving nonstop throughout the day and night after all. Skinnybones, just go to the back and be on standby. The hardest task for people like you is being made to wait without being able to do anything, isn’t it?”
Although I was twisting my body in pain, I managed to barely raise the corners of my mouth. This Demon Lord had pointed at me and said that I was pitiful. It has been a long time since I last received sympathy from someone, so it was not that bad. The problem was the fact that, as expected, I was starting to feel sympathy for this woman as well.
“······With things like this······ I am unsure as to which side is trying to monopolize the exploits now. Are you that afraid, of this one’s acting general······ standing tall as the ruler of the battlefield?”
“Yup. It’ll be troubling if you freely touch the political situation any more than this.”
So is that why you are saying that you will be the one to obstruct Elizabeth Atanaxia Evatriae von Habsburg?
That girl. That girl who was born as an emperor’s daughter and had torn off the skin of her siblings with her own hands. That girl who, in the original timeline, had exterminated all of the Demon Lords and established an empire. That monster.
All right. On one side was a woman who had thrown herself away, and on the other side was a woman who had thrown the world away. Watching the two of them oppose one another and seeing who wins was not that bad of an idea. However, I shall make a single prediction.
You will be defeated.
Ungracefully. Without even being able to counterattack. You are competent, but since a person who is more competent than you is your enemy, you will face utter defeat.
What sort of expression will you make? Will you resent the world? Will you curse at yourself? Will you forever abandon the world as something to resent and eternally leave yourself as someone to be cursed······?
Similar to how you are sympathizing with me, I sympathize with you as well. O Demon Lord whose hair color is the same as both water and fire. What else can the world be to you except Hell?
It was at the time the two of us were pushing each other back with our breaths.
“⎯⎯⎯Sitri? Are you over there?”
Paimon’s voice could be heard from a distance away.
Sitri’s body moved. I also drew my brows together. Once I looked over her shoulder, I could see Paimon tilting her head towards our direction from about 20 footsteps away.
It was night.
A peculiar tension bound itself around Sitri and myself. In her position, it was most likely fortunate that she was holding onto me. My body was exquisitely hidden so Paimon could not see me from the position where she was standing. Sitri glanced at my eyes for an instant before speaking in a voice that sounded no different to her casual tone.
“······Yeah, big sis. I’m here. What’s up?”
“You did not return to our quarters no matter how long I waited. Rather, is something the matter, Sitri? Why are you crouching on the ground like that?”
“Ah, it’s just. I found a dead stray dog.”
Sitri spoke in a voice that sounded jubilant. With only her gaze, she spoke to me with the coldness of her eyes.
Be quiet. Shut up.
“A stray dog? Really, Sitri. Even though you cut down humans with ease while on the battlefield, you are kind to animals like cats and other creatures of the sort. Is it already dead? You are trying to bury it, right? Let this lady assist you.”
Ehehe, Sitri’s mouth laughed.
“No, it’s okay, big sis. This fellow spilled a lot of blood as it died. I have no idea how it survived with this much blood in its body······. I’m, sort of really soaked. I don’t want to show my dirty appearance to you, big sis, so you can go back to the quarters first.”
If you move your mouth even slightly, Sitri’s eyes spoke.
“Truly, this child is warmhearted······. All right, this lady understands. But do not return too late. This lady will be departing with Barbatos soon. Sitri, we will be unable to see each other for a while, so let us share some drinks.”
Big sis, Sitri’s mouth was delighted.
“Of course. If I don’t go to see big sis off, then who will? I’ll be there as soon as I bury this dog and get washed up, so wait for me there. I actually have a bottle of alcohol that I’ve been keeping to myself for a long time just so I could drink it with you, big sis.”
I’ll kill you, Sitri’s eyes threatened me.
To her, the world was simply an enemy, a danger, and a wall. I called the lives whose worlds were enemies, dangers, and walls, beasts. Is she a beast? Was she a beast?
“Oh my, this lady is looking forward to it. Your preference in alcohol is surprisingly luxurious after all. This lady will make sure to drink it all.”
“Ei, drinking it all would be just mean. Big sis is also a surprisingly good drinker. Make the one on duty today prepare some snacks. I’ll definitely be there soon.”
I simply watched the one-man play this woman was performing from up-close.
While I watched her, I recalled the noises that I had left behind in my previous life. The study. The loud shouting flowing in from outside of the door. The woman who had rushed to me and apologized. The sound of music······.
Yes. It was music. It was a melody. What sort of gap must they cross in order for it all to become a melody?
To some, life was nothing more than a couple of noises. Once, twice, thrice, and if you are lucky, it sparkles four times. Something that struggles shortly but ends as a short vibration before coming to a close.
Something that could have possibly been connected, but, in the end, could not be connected because it had been forgotten.
Something that will never be able to stretch itself even once in its life. Therefore, something that can only be seen on the ground throughout its life, so it ends up reaching its end while following the footprints left behind by others. Something that truly comes to an end. Truly. Was that and solely that not the problem?
Who would save that sort of life?
Paimon left. Once a single woman left, the area became silent as if no one had come here in the first place.
Even after Paimon had left, Sitri glared at me for a long time. After glaring at me, she too eventually left. Although the last remaining woman had also left, this area was dark and still as if no one had ever left in the first place.
It happened late in the night.
▯King's Beloved Slave, Berbere Witch Sisters, Captain of the Royal Guard, Humbaba
Empire Calendar: Year 1506, Month 4, Day 14
Polles, Vistula Forest
“Should we really be goofing around like this?”
“Weeell, it’s a superior officer’s order. It’s our duty as peasants to do what we’re told, even if it’s to show our asses.”
We witches were having a pleasant chat while enjoying a tea ceremony. Yeah. Well. What? It may be surprising, but even we have tea ceremonies sometimes. Although we usually don’t.
Despite our appearances, we’re cultured people. Ahah. Although it’s a tea ceremony where we roll dice and the bitch who rolls the lowest number has to gulp down a mouthful of muddy water, it’s natural for highly sophisticated groups to add some spice to their recreations. If anything, you can measure the level of a group’s sophistication according to how stimulating their seasoning is. Tea ceremonies where you just drink tea with no added seasoning is actually considered to be fairly barbaric. In that regard, I can confidently say that we possess a considerable amount of refinement.
Yeah. Well. What? Do you have a problem?
“There’s not a lot of muddy water in this vicinity. Drink carefully. This is extra precious water. We went really far to get this just for you. There was a pool of muddy water with a lot of bugs in it and a pool of muddy water with not that many bugs in it, so I contemplated about which water I should bring back to you, but no matter how much I looked at it, I felt that the water that was more full of life would be of higher quality. In order to prove that the muddy water’s quality is good, I also scooped up the bugs that were living in it. Wow. Even when I think about it, I feel like I’m extremely sincere when it comes to my comrades.”
“That’s more damnably sincere than it is extremely sincere. To be more exact, you have quite the damned personality, but that’s only if someone like you even has a personality.”
If there were problems, then it was probably three things.
First, the fact that these bitches are crazy.
Since this is an issue that’s no different to the usual, it’s an irrationality that can’t be fixed until the world comes to an end. Yup. The end. It can’t be helped. My dear fellow witches. They were crazy since the moment they were born, so please look over this.
Second, the fact that our surroundings are rather arid.
The spring rain which had started in the north had now completely gone south. Although there was a swamp area if we went further ahead from here. Right now, we couldn’t go there carelessly. Because of that sloppy bitch, Demon Lord Sitri’s order, our forces were currently waiting in ambush.
Third, the fact that not only was our surroundings dark, but it was really dark as well.
It was night, but we were also in an aspen forest right now. Not a small forest, but one of those so-called sea of trees which covered the entire area. If you wished to go in a straight line from Bruno Plains to the Black Mountains, then this was the path which you had to take no matter what.
We were currently hiding at the tail end of that forest. We couldn’t even light our torches since we were waiting in ambush. It was so dark that these damn bitches couldn’t even properly see the results of their own dice tosses. You could easily tell that this was the case because every time these bitches rolled their dice, they would keep reporting that they got the best result.
“Ah, I got double sixes again!”
“What a coincidence. I also got double sixes.”
“Oh? To my knowledge, the chance of rolling double sixes is about 3 out of 100, so this is quite the astounding situation. For something that has roughly a 27 out of 1,000,000 chance of happening to have occurred here in this very spot.”
“What are you talking about? Since she and I got double sixes, wouldn’t the probability be around 9 out of 10,000?”
“Mhm. I’m saying that because I also rolled double sixes.”
“It wouldn’t be enough even if these bitches were to lose their wrists. They’re bitches that’ll somewhat be worthy of entering gambling dens only if they actually lose their heads. There’s nothing surprising about this at all. They’re crazy bitches after all.”
In the end, because every single witch who joined the gamble had miraculously rolled double sixes, we all had to drink the muddy water. The sound of bugs being crushed and chewed on resonated throughout the darkness. How beautiful. Do you now understand why witches normally don’t do insane things like having a tea ceremony?
Within the aspen forest where the fragrance of spring was reverberating and the odor of female beasts in heat was pungent. Only the spot where our master, Dantalian was located was being lit by candles. General Farnese was whispering to our master beside him.
“The exact size of the pursuing army······.”
“Mm. Since the enemy troops will also move while utilizing the darkness of night, detailing their military strength would be.”
Referentially, our master’s troops were completely alienated. It was Demon Lord Sitri’s dogmatism. Thanks to that, our seven thousand troops were all waiting here as a reserve.
Although our master all of sudden had his shoulder pierced, it seems he wasn’t that upset about it. He even went as far as to say that ‘if anything, being set as a reserve is fortunate for us’.
Yeah. Even I don’t want to go face to face with someone like the Imperial Princess of the Empire. People were capable of recognizing their peers and the fact that General Farnese was peculiarly obsessed about that Imperial Princess meant that she was a woman who was as insane as our general.
“······By the waaay. Euryale. Why have you been chanting ‘whisper whisper’ into my ear since earlier? Have you gone crazy? No, you are crazy. Sorry. Let me ask that again. Have you gone more craaazy?”
“Master ordered us to whisper if we wanted to talk, didn’t he? I’m simply being loyal to our master’s orders like a dog.”
“Saying that you’re being as loyal as a dog doesn’t sufficiently explain the basis of your behavior. If you phrased it as being as loyal as a pup, then and then only would you be able to articulate your behavior.”
Like I said, if there was a problem, then first off, it would be the fact that these bitches are crazy······ no, whatever. I’ll stop. There isn’t a single sane person underneath Master Dantalian’s flag anyway. I’m saying this while including our master in that list. Despite my looks, I’m actually the sanest among the people here.
Yeah. Well. What? Do you have a problem?
It wasn’t until a fair amount of time had passed after midnight that the sound of an explosion resonated. We had been leaning against each other and dozing off, so we got up in a panic. Should I say it was like a boom? Or should I say it was like a boom boom bang? In any case, we heard a tremendous boom.
“What was that?”
I believed that the fact that we’re able to form a well-ordered harmony according to our own rules while even in a situation like this was an aesthetic that was unique to us Berbere Witch Sisters. There’s a reason why I love these girls. Be it an explosion or something else, it was something to deal with after we have carried out our customs first.
Are you still doing that? Just how many hours have passed since······ no, whatever. In any case, we turned our heads towards the direction of the forest where the sound of the explosion had come from.
The aspen trees were tall, so we could only barely see the night sky, but we could still see a red glow from the barely visible night sky.
Even if it appeared small due to the distance, it was clearly a burning glow. The glow didn’t reach up towards the sky, but instead, it flicked its tongue below the sky. It’s a fire. A large fire had undoubtedly occurred over there.
In no time at all, Master Dantalian put on his mantle and stood up.
“······A fire attack, is it? I see they are using the oldest trick in the book.”
General Farnese stood up beside him.
“It is still effective. Indeed. Instead of charging through the forest head on, they intend to set it all on fire and invalidate any of our chances to ambush them.”
“Considering how they have created such an immense fire, they must have used all of their powder. Would the enemy forces’ aerial mages not have to fly around while possessing no gunpowder pouches now? Why······.”
General Farnese shook her head slightly.
“Look, Your Lordship. Look at where we are.”
If you looked around.
We were in a sea of white aspen trees that reached far up into the sky.
“Since the battle is occurring underneath the trees, the mages have no way of discerning friends from foes while they are in the sky. Furthermore, is it not the middle of the night? The Imperial Princess is aiming for a confused scuffle. Not only will the mages be unable to carelessly drop their gunpowder pouches as they do not know who the enemies and allies are, they will also be unable to descend properly as the tree branches will stab at them. From this point forth, the magic-casting troops are no longer an Aerial Mage Force. They are simply mages.”
Master’s breathing expanded close to the ground.
“······Our forces’ effort of painstakingly placing our troops around in order to wait in ambush for the enemy was in vain, I see. Since this is a battlefield where gunpowder cannot be used, Elizabeth used up everything she had. Does she intend to turn this place into a raging inferno?”
Another explosion resounded in the distance.
Nevermind, it wasn’t just once. Wow. It was as if the very first explosion was merely a sample as a chain of explosions then resounded once, twice, thrice, four times, and several more times after that. The soldiers panicked and made a fuss as they lowered their bodies to the ground.
On the other side of the night sky, several branches of fire were already surging upwards. The pitch black sky, which didn’t have even a single visible glowing star in it, was now dyed in a dark amber shade.
Underneath that sky, the soldiers led by Demon Lord Sitri and Demon Lord Zepar were most likely cowering. It was an unrelenting bombardment. Even us witches who rated fire watching second to spectating fights didn’t feel that excited here. At this rate, I don’t know whether I might pee myself or not tonight.
— ······, ······!
As the sound of foliage shaking, the sound of branches burning, and the sound of beasts roaring like a pack of dogs mixed together⎯⎯⎯the sound of a faint, hoarse voice. Eventually, the screams and shouts coming from soldiers as they clashed against one another started to rush towards us from a distance.
And approached once more.
It approached again and again.
Even the sound of the foliage tilting because of the wind, even the sound of the branches gently proving their existences by crumbling, and even the sound of the beasts roaring like a pack of dogs while desperately trying to erase their own existences, they were all erased.
— ······kill them!
— Slaughter them!
— Kill the traitors······!
As metal collided against metal and clashed ostentatiously, as lives struck lives and bellowed furiously, and as fire consumed fire and burned violently, the world became filled with only these sounds.
Was this at the level of being screwed?
It probably wasn’t. It, most likely, wasn’t. Despite our looks, you know? For the past 300 years, we’re things that have selected only the dirtiest of battlefields and rolled around in them.
We all turned our heads and looked at our master.
“We aren’t really giving Master this advice because we’re possessors of Quadriphyllous medals and have gone through around three or four Crescent Alliances, but?”
“If you add decades on decades, go to war, and be gone to war against, then a thing called ‘intuition’ forms, you know?”
“Of course, even if we say it’s our intuition, there may have been a lot of times where we were right, but we’ve also been wrong a similar number of times. Moreover, when we’re wrong, I can’t say that there has never been a time where we were so severely wrong that our bodies wailed bulkily?”
“That isn’t taken care of soon.”
I nodded. As the head witch who represents the Berbere Witch Sisters, as the captain in charge of the Royal Guards, and as one of the ten witches who possesses a Quadriphyllous medal.
“We’ll probably encounter an incredibly fucked situation.”
I advised our master.
While speaking in a tone that was faster than usual.
“This, is an action that was purposely carried out in order to dirty the battlefield. There isn’t only one or two dirty things about this either. First, the fact that our ambush has failed. Second, the fact that this is a night assault. Third, the fact that the terrain is a forest. Fourth, the fact that aerial battles are impossible. Fifth, the fact that even after creating this scuffle, the enemy general is brimming with the confidence that she can win this battle and is also leading the enemy troops while aware that her goal isn’t some pipe dream. Master.”
“We, the entirety of the Royal Guards, recommend the withdrawal of our forces.”
I bowed my head and the other witches followed suit.
“Master, you possess a force with incredible air superiority known as your Royal Guards, but they’re useless on this current battlefield. Whether it be Sitri or Zepar, Master, you must retreat and escape from the forest while our allies on the frontline are at the bottom of the swamp with the enemies. Although the place will most likely be slovenly, we’ll at least be able to stand a chance if we set up a stronghold and reorganize our formation.”
“The ones dying on the frontline are our allies, and the ones dying in flames are also our allies.”
“If we abandon them now, then we’ll be able to save them after half a day. If our allies flee, then won’t they instinctively flee towards the backline? If Master establishes a stronghold at the back and raises your banner high, then wouldn’t they run to us? This is the first advantage of the recommendation which the likes of us are suggesting.”
The other witches opened their mouths one by one.
“The second advantage is the fact that by the time this happens, the enemy forces will have used up all of their gunpowder. On the other hand, we’ll still be at our peak condition. Even if we’re unable to properly create a stronghold, the sky will be on our side. The night should have completely fallen by then, so in short, it’ll be a world for witches. Yup. I was perfectly logical just now.”
“The third advantage is the fact that Master’s acting general will be able to engage the enemies on a familiar terrain. General, you’ve never experienced a true scuffle before, right? I’m talking about an actual mud fight. There’s no skill involved, so no one knows how things will really end up. We can’t fight in an obscured place. Let’s retreat.”
Euryale lifted her head up. This blue-haired girl, who was second to me in terms of combat experience, had been pressing her ear flat against the ground during our conversation.
“Sound. The sound of hoofs. There’s a lot of hoofbeats······. A real lot. I don’t know the direction. It’s shaking the earth enough to reach here······.”
Our situation was making me swear automatically.
“This one is adding another factor to why the battlefield is dirty. Six, the enemy troops most likely have a shit ton of cavalry units. If you think fighting cavalries on a plain is annoying, then fighting cavalries in a forest is fucking annoying. Who knows where they’ll come out from.”
“Thus, because of the six aforementioned problems, we recommend a retreat.”
“And with the three aforementioned advantages, let’s prepare for the next battle, Master.”
Our master became silent.
The flames ignited more fiercely every passing minute while our master stayed quiet, and loud cries occasionally erupted even louder. In battle, time was momentary and an instant of continuity. If you aren’t able to make appropriate decisions each time continuity approaches, then you’ll lose your life.
We believed that we gave an advice that befitted the group of mercenaries that was still alive after 300 years.
We probably aren’t being conceited.
Master Dantalian turned his gaze and stared at General Farnese. While we were picking up on the progress of the battle and reporting it as fast as possible, the acting general with blonde hair had been expressionlessly staring at the other side of the forest. This girl, no, this general was also a weird species.
The heat of the fire had yet to even reach our vicinity, but there were already several beads of sweat on the general’s cheek. If I remember correctly, there was once a time where I had heard that the general had a constitution which would sweat more profusely the more the general was absorbed in her thoughts.
Our master spoke.
“Farnese. You are the one who handles my military affairs.”
“This young lady is aware, Your Lordship.”
“What do you wish to do?”
“The Imperial Princess of Habsburg must have come close.”
Hey, that kid just gave an irrelevant answer.
“The more chaotic battlefields are, the more afraid the soldiers will be to step foot into them. If the current battlefield is a swamp, then no one would attempt to dive into it. Despite that, since flames have surged and the enemy troops have approached, there was undoubtedly a hero who had led the way by setting foot into the swamp before any of the enemy soldiers. This young lady is certain that that was the Imperial Princess.”
General Farnese finally turned to look at our master.
“This young lady will go out and return after taking the life of the Imperial Princess.”
This crazy bitch.
There were a lot of crazy people among the vassals who serve our master, but among those vassals, the Acting General was especially nuts. As you could tell by how he treats this especially mental child in a special manner, our master was also insane to a formidable degree. Because,
“All right. Do as you wish.”
he said that and nodded.
All at once, we witches made an expression that appeared as if we had chewed on shit. If you’re curious as to how we know what sort of expression one would make when they chew on shit, then······Yeah. Well. What? Do you have a problem? What do you expect from people who have tea ceremonies with muddy water?
“It is not like the advice given by our Royal Guards is unreasonable either. It is worthy to be graded as a wise thing to do.”
That means she thought of the wisest thing to do. How haughty.
“Therefore, Your Lordship, lead the infantrymen to the back and construct a stronghold. If there is a defeated ally, then Your Lordship will have to embrace them.”
“This young lady will take only the cavalry units in order to assault the Imperial Princess. Oh right. It is obvious, but Your Lordship’s Royal Guards will be going with this young lady.”
······This crazy bitch?
“Since this young lady will return triumphantly before the break of dawn, Your Lordship, please prepare a delectable meal. Since a long time ago, have the commanders not said that wars are fought with the energy that comes from a meal?”
We all turned to look at our master.
With a gaze that begged him to please ignore this mental general. Desperately.
And then, our master smiled so benevolently that he appeared like a true saint.
“Have a safe trip.”
▯Demon Lord of Honor, Rank 5th, Marbas
Empire Calendar: Year 1506, Month 4, Day 14
Polles, Near the Vistula Forest
“······Your Highness. Should we not help them?”
The Demon Lords under my command gazed at me anxiously. We were in the vicinity of the Vistula Forest, the dark sea of trees. While placing a fair distance between us and the forest, we gazed at the pillars of flames that were surging up towards the night sky.
Barbatos and Paimon had chosen the worst course of action. They had ignored the advice we, the Neutral Faction, had given them and simply made a dash towards the Black Mountains. Without even a single word of apology or understanding······ now, we have no other choice but to oppose them.
In order to pursue the army of the Crescent Alliance when the moment arrives, I had gathered my troops and brought them close to the Crescent Alliance. However, there was no one who had expected the current situation. The Crusaders had chased after the Crescent Alliance and had bitten them by their tail, causing a battle to break out.
“Your Highness Marbas, your orders.”
The Demon Lords turned to me. They appeared as if they were urgently awaiting my command. It was unbearable. On one side, there was the Crescent Alliance that had betrayed our kind, and on the other side, there were the Crusaders who have always been the mortal enemies of our kind······.
It would be troubling if either side were to gain an advantage. Thus, we could not attack either side or assist them. A mud fight, is it? Do we have no other choice but to sit here and await the conclusion······?
“We will not be taking part in this battle.”
“This is a royal command. Be on standby until they have finished vying for supremacy. If there are stragglers escaping from the forest, then hunt them down and capture them regardless of whether they are from the Crescent Alliance or the Crusaders.”
Once the battle is over, both the Crescent Alliance and the Crusaders will be completely exhausted. If we rally our troops at that time and subjugate the two forces, it was uncertain as to whether we would be able to kill two birds with one stone or not. Regardless, that was a problem to be discussed after the battle was over. Right now, there was no other correct answer than to stand here and wait.
“But, how can we look on with folded arms while our fellow kind is dying······?”
“Did they not kill their fellow kind?”
“I had given them a single day of leave of absence because of your pleas, but what did Barbatos and Paimon do with that day? They did not apologize. They did not even try to come to an understanding. They were busy ignoring us and carrying out their retreat. Do you still not understand?”
“They are no longer our allies.”
The old moon of the Crescent Alliance had finally ended up breaking apart. I had busied myself for the past several hundred years in order to make the Plains and Mountain Factions reconcile, however, the moment the two had finally joined hands, we were the ones who ended up being ostracized. Was this a paradox, or was this a self-evident political consequence? How bitter······.
“Your Highness, over there.”
One of my men pointed towards the entrance of the forest. A single group of soldiers was making their way out of the forest while maintaining their ranks. They were escaping from that Hell. Although we could not tell who they were affiliated with, seeing as how they were retreating through the darkness while fluttering their banners, it seems they were not a rabble of common soldiers who had lost disgracefully.
“Mm. For the time being, we shall capture them.”
“······Is it really all right? Allies. No, they could be a unit that was recently our ally.”
“It does not matter. I shall not order you twice.”
My subordinates obeyed my command and led our troops. Our war horses charged with light steps and instantly surrounded the target unit with ease.
The retreating unit, the affiliation of which was unknown, started to talk noisily once they saw us. They had approximately around a thousand troops. Even while they were retreating, they had managed to take a defensive stance with their spears and raised their weapons at us. It was a well-ordered retreat. Excellent.
I brought my horse to the front and approached them. Once they entered the range of our torches, I realized that they were an army of demons and not humans. They looked terrible. Putting aside the fact that they were covered in dirt, there were people who were scalded, covered in blood, and those who were being supported by their comrades because they had become crippled······.
It was clear that they had most likely survived a fierce battle. They also made a commotion once they realized that we were not humans either. They appeared to be confused as to what was happening. I cleared my throat and shouted.
“I am the Honorable Marbas! If there is a commander who is in charge of you all, then come forth and receive my questioning!”
The soldiers started to talk noisily.
Amongst them, there were even a few fellows who had started to carefully point at me and whisper to their comrades. It’s true, I’ve seen him before from a far distance, it’s really His Highness Marbas······.
A monarch with a robust frame made his way through the soldiers and came forward. I immediately recognized the man’s face. A man who appeared to be in the later part of his middle-age period and had a neatly trimmed white beard. The close aide who Barbatos referred to as ‘my left atrium’. Rank 16th Demon Lord Zepar.
“This one shall meet the honorable monarch of the Crescent Alliance. Your Excellency Marbas, what brings a noble personage like Your Excellency to a place like this······?”
Even Zepar appeared haggard as he had also gone through the same fierce battle as his soldiers had. The panic on his face the instant he saw me was evident. Zepar was a seasoned general, however, he most likely did not predict that he would encounter me here.
“Is your superior not retreating after having mistreated me? I was disappointed, so I had led my troops and followed Barbatos here. To think that I would helplessly chase the tail of a woman even at my age. I am quite pathetic.”
“So what will it be? Will you fight your last battle against me for your superior? Or will you obediently surrender?”
Zepar knitted his brows before letting out a sigh.
“······There is nothing more foolish than fighting against Your Excellency Marbas while carrying out a retreat. We shall surrender. Please bestow upon us your royal grace.”
“A wise decision. I shall treat you with respect as according to our customs.”
I ordered a servant to bring some alcohol for Zepar. Since he had just escaped from the battlefield that was running rampant with flames, he must be parched. Zepar politely bowed his head in order to show his respect and emptied the horn chalice in an instant.
“So, how is the progress of battle?”
“······We were ambushed, so we did not have the time to survey the battle.”
Zepar answered in a subdued tone. How much was he allowed to say? What must be kept a secret? While carefully scratching around these boundaries, the surrendered general continued.
“We heard an explosion in the distance and it was not long after that that an explosion erupted right above the heads of my troops. Although there were only a small handful of people who were actually injured by the explosion, the disturbance was severe. The fire spread faster than we had expected, so we were unable to calm the disturbance. The enemy forces were most likely aiming for the confusion of our troops.”
“Are you the supreme commander?”
Zepar shook his head.
“No, this one is not. Sitri is the one who is holding that position.”
If Zepar was Barbatos’ hands and feet, then Sitri was Paimon’s hands and feet. No, referring to her as simply hands and feet would not be enough. The most trusted warrior and the concubine who was favored the most······.
The two Demon Lords had sent their own respective close aides in order to erase the trouble that was behind them. And they had failed. To be exact, they were currently in the process of failing.
“We tried to hastily unite with Sitri’s army, but we were forced to give up due to the intensity of the flames. Since my troops were lying in wait after having been split up into many smaller groups, we could not get in contact with Sitri who is commanding her own troops.”
There was a bitterness in Zepar’s voice. I nodded. When a general has to report about their defeat, then it was natural that a wretched feeling would penetrate deeply into their heart. Especially for generals who have fought earnestly and carried out their duties sincerely.
“Is this all of your troops? Since you have not lost your energy even while withdrawing, more than this should have survived. Where did the rest of your military strength run off to?”
Zepar did not answer. He simply looked this way and shook his head slightly. This meant that he was not going to tell me this bit of information. Since long ago, he has been a man with a right-minded will.
“How much military strength does the enemy troops have?”
Zepar shut his mouth momentarily in response to my question.
“······I am unsure.”
“You are unsure?”
“By nature, this is a battle that had broken out in a hurry. I was barely able to figure out which nations of the enemy forces are currently involved as their flags were only briefly illuminated by the fire. Sardinia, Castile, Francia, Batavia······. By the looks of it, it seems that almost every human nation is working in unison in order to pursue our forces. It is a massive army.”
“Most importantly······ the first ones who had charged at our forces were not the humans. It was our own kind.”
What was he saying?
I furrowed my brow.
“I do not understand. Explain.”
“······I am referring to the common soldiers that belonged to the seven Demon Lords who were purged. Your Excellency, the humans had placed those common soldiers at their front and pushed their way into the forest.”
Our surroundings were silent.
Before I knew it, the flames had reached the edge of the sea of trees and were burning everything to ashes. The trees snapped and groaned as they collapsed. The sound of the now homeless animals wailing in sorrow continued for a while before coming to a stop.
Zepar spoke slowly.
“The humans had used their prisoners as slave soldiers. There is no doubt that they had threatened them with spears and pushed them into the forest. Because of the sudden appearance of our own kind, we could not attack them properly.
I lamented. Was that how it was? Was this the price for purging our fellow kind? Barbatos, Paimon, the two of you are receiving the crimes, which the two of you had committed, in full.
“Zepar. I see that you have given me a false battle report.”
“The enemy did not set their gunpowder ablaze first. I am certain that this happened later. The first thing the enemy had done was push the backs of our fellow kind and forced them into the depths of the forest. Then, while you all were lying in wait, you thought that the ones who were approaching were the enemy, so you had ambushed them. Your ambush did not fail. If anything, you had succeeded and killed your own kind!“.
“A battle must have broken out. A commotion must have occurred. While you all were panicking due to the confusion, flames started to rain down from the sky. Do you still not understand? Due to the commotion you had caused while fighting and killing your own kind, you notified the enemy of your position. The humans heard the sound of your fighting and carried out their bombardments on those very spots. Am I wrong?! You, if you are going to answer, then do so!”
Zepar’s shoulders trembled.
The white aspen forest was vast. If the Crescent Alliance had spread their units out and made them lie in wait throughout the forest, then did the humans have something like Apollo’s eyes in order to have pinpointed those positions? Were they able to accurately pinpoint those positions and bombard only those spots out of pure luck?
No. Of course that was not the case. The humans originally did not know the ambush positions. Thus, they had first tossed the group of demons into the forest as slave soldiers.
Under the shroud of the night, Zepar and Sitri mistook our kind as the human armies and assaulted them. They ambushed them. They shot an endless barrage of bolts and killed them. They most likely realized later on that the ones they had shot were our fellow kind, but it was already too late······.
Once the battle occurred, chaos followed after. Once the humans had grasped the locations of the ambush points, they sent out their aerial mages and dropped flames onto those spots without any hesitation. Explosions, booms, flames······.
I gnashed my teeth in rage. I grabbed Zepar’s cheeks and turned his head. I forced him to stare at the Vistula Forest. A raging inferno was before us. A Hell that was scalding and burning our kind.
“That, is not a Hell that was made by the humans. You all. That is a hell which the Plains and Mountain Factions had made all by yourselves! Look at it! Can you not see straight?!”
“Did you say that you were unsure as to how many soldiers the enemies had? That is obvious. Because the people you had ambushed and shot to death were not the enemy but our own kind! You pieces of trash that will be chased out of even the underworld due to Hades’ curse······!”
I could no longer hold back my anger and pushed Zepar away. The horn chalice fell to the ground and rolled. Zepar only lowered his head and did not say anything in return. Does he have a sense of honor? Did he kill his own kind because he knows honor? Is that your petty honor? I spat.
“What was that, a purge? A purge to thin out the traitors? That is perfect. You did very well. Since it is now your turn to be thinned out, this is retributive justice. The Gods will take extra care of you all.”
“Oi! Tie up this defeated general and load him onto the wagon. Disarm the troops led by this man and treat them as prisoners. One day, I shall definitely ask Barbatos about what should be done about these men.”
The commanders dragged Zepar away. Even while he was being dragged, the surrendered general did not utter a word. Once their leader was captured, the rest of the soldiers knelt down and accepted their bindings without any sign of resistance.
I gazed at the Vistula Forest with my still burning heart. It felt as if the sound of our kind burning to death, the groans of our kind killing our own kind and the other way around was flowing out.
Aah. What else was this place other than a raging inferno? Barbatos, Paimon, you two have pushed demonkind into Hell······. Now with what face will you two repent with······?
▯Kinslayer, Imperial Princess of the Empire, Elizabeth von Habsburg
Empire Calendar: Year 1506, Month 4, Day 14
Polles, Vistula Forest
The night had become completely dry. Similar to how a temperature somewhat remains in my heart even after a person has left, a heat lingered in the place where a fire had once burned. White ashes crumbled underneath my feet and the night rustled.
“······This is quite the grand sight.”
The Grand Master of Teuton marveled. He trod through the clumps of ash and stood next to me.
“It was difficult for me to understand why Your Highness the Imperial Princess would go through the trouble of painstakingly dragging those dirty demons here, but······. Surely, now I understand. I now understand that when Your Highness had rescued the Crusaders during that previous battle, it was not by luck.”
“I am merely suppressing fire with fire.”
I gazed at the burning forest. Each passing second, the white aspen trees became darker as they burned, and once they had fully deteriorated, they snapped in half and died.
The Grand Master muttered while brushing some dirt off of his breastplate.
“If a scuffle had occurred within the forest just as the enemy forces wanted, then we would have been delayed. The enemy’s main army would have crossed the Black Mountains during that time, and our forces would have most likely run around like a dog chasing after a chicken. Instead of going along with their plan, we annihilate them within a single night of fire bombardments, huh······.”
The Grand Master lamented. His tone sounded somewhat playful. The language of Teuton and Habsburg had the same root, but the tone and words were different.
“I see that the number of things which I must report when I return to His Majesty has increased. The fact that the heir to the Empire is a monster and that we must avoid facing her on a battlefield at all cost. Sheesh. I thought we would be able to relax after Margrave von Rosenberg had passed away, but an even larger wall has been placed at our border······.”
“You are resting for too long.”
I spoke coldly.
“The enemy soldiers are still resisting while having been spread out here and there. Even if the embers are small, they are still embers. Are you unaware that those embers are what grows into flames? We will not achieve victory by overwhelming the enemy with our military strength, but by simply subduing time itself and pushing ahead. In truth, our forces’ center is more feeble than expected. If you have the time to stand around and tell jokes, then take a banner and sortie.”
“······Despite my looks as an official, I have already carried out six charges tonight. Would it not be acceptable for this one to have a short moment of rest······?”
“You will be able to rest for all eternity once you are buried in your grave anyway. Do you wish to be buried?”
“No, absolutely not. Understood. As Your Highness commands. Haaa······. Shall I sortie with Sardinia’s banner this time······?”
The Grand Master saluted and departed.
How rash. He was a man who spat out a lot of noise.
The Grand Master of Teuton picked up the banner of a noble Sardinian household and disappeared into the darkness. A group of foreign soldiers followed their leader and vanished into the darkness as well. While watching that sight, I thought of the man who was hiding past that darkness.
You had used the busy niche of war and carried out a purge. Like this, you most likely intend to charge into your backline and unite the demon continent. After the demon continent has been unified, they will become so powerful and mighty that they will reign over humanity as an unprecedented evil. That was your groundwork and first move.
It was a terrifying move.
I had utilized your purge and detoxified my own army as well. You were so caught up in your own household business that you were unable to take advantage of the opportunity which appeared while I was cleaning my own home. Although the poison which you had spread using your acting general will infect every corner of the world, it will never be able to seep into my nation. I had used your head start and made it into my own. This was my groundwork and my response.
You took advantage of the opportunity which had appeared while I was detoxifying my household and retreated within a single night. You must have clearly known that I was in a state which could not pursue you with ease. A purge should be an extremely difficult and strenuous task for you to perform, but you had simply abandoned the common soldiers who you were supposed to purge and passed that strenuous task onto me. You had grasped my advantage in reverse and used it to your advantage. That was your move with your knight piece and your response.
I had used the luggage which you had passed onto me, not as luggage, but as a sharp weapon. The soldiers who you had tried to purge were full of spite. Because they had nearly been killed by their own kind, their resentment was cold. You may have hidden ambush spots within the forest, but how did you feel when those ambush points had foolishly assaulted your own kind? Once more, I had changed your advantage into my own. This was my game changer.
What will you do now?
Are we not in a relationship where we continue to respond to one another as we desperately turn this into a gamble? Have we not wagered our lives and deaths with one another? I believe that you will not dare to end this high and low here. The time to calmly set down your groundwork has passed. You and I are currently contending with our lives and deaths.
Will you run away? That is also good. That means I will be adding 1 win under my belt in my match against you. I will not refuse the opportunity to win by a wide margin, nor is it an excessively bad thing.
Hurry and burn me. I cannot see your shadow even though I have set this forest on fire. Do I have to burn down this entire sea of trees in order to reveal where you are hiding? Must I truly go that far? I have come. Elizabeth Atanaxia Evatriae von Habsburg is here. Did you not promise me beauty? Have you already forgotten that hollow ground where that female and male dog mated? Was it a lie? Was it a joke? Was it a rash promise? Was it my greed? Was it another type of my avarice for having expected something from you? Have I overtaken you? Aah, still. Will you still not come? Do you intend to never come?
“We attacked them just as you had ordered, Imperial Princess of human descent. We had stepped into the perilous forest first and fought for your army. We have charged into their positions three times and taken down their positions twice.”
I turned towards the noise indifferently. The noise was covered in black ashes and appeared like a clump of ash. The noise also had a maw which humans did not have.
It was unpleasant.
I gave it a single chance.
“Keep silent for a moment.”
“D-Did you not promise us? You promised us that if we followed your orders, then you would spare only our unit. Since your empire is extensive and lofty even among the humans, a promise made by you should also be just as heavy.”
I revealed that the opportunity which I had given it was a chance.
“I had ordered you to be silent.”
“If you back out of your promise now, then in what nation would we be able to live? Our fellow kind had abandoned us. We are subjects who have been thrown away. We had charged at those sons of bitches who had abandoned us because you gave us your word······. I cannot possibly ask you to look at us like your fellow humans. There are caves where beasts can return to and there are nests where feathered creatures can rest. Even if we are not humans, are we beasts? Are we feathered creatures? Are we something below even beasts and feathered creatures? We wish to live. Please keep your promise, Imperial Princess of the Empire. No, are you not the very person who had promised this to us? Please give us permission. If you give us your permission, then we will leave and······.”
“Habsburg had granted their faith to you a single time.”
I glanced at a commander.
The commander pulled out his blade and struck down the noise.
The chunk of flesh was penetrated momentarily. The momentarily penetrated chunk of flesh fell to the ground and could no longer get back up. It grabbed at its own neck.
“······Kuh, kack······! Huek······!”
Blood flowed down from the noise’s neck. The forest floor which had become a pile of ashes consumed the blood with ease. I wonder if it saw the sight of the ground of the world, which had given birth to it, consume its blood. The noise laughed while it groaned.
“······Kuh, ha···. Ha, haha······. Ah·········.”
The noise laughed for a long time. Although it was only briefly in my time, as it was a sound it was making as it died, it was surely a long laugh.
As if it had contracted malaria, the noise twisted its body several times. It was a laughter that was similar to a twisting convulsion. It had chosen to leave behind a ridiculing laugh as its final moment in the world. In order to throw away and deny the world which had spat it out. Once, twice, thrice······ four times.
And it stopped.
“By any chance, if the demons we had pushed the backs of come back alive, then pretend to accept them before killing them all afterward. Do not hesitate. They are not our kind. They are pieces of trash which I do not need in my nation.
“Yes, Your Highness.”
I gripped the reign of my war horse and went further into the burning forest. The commanders of the Empire followed behind me. The imperial soldiers advanced while raising the banners of all nations.
It was late in the night, so we could not see deep into the forest. We could not see the enemy. The screams of the enemy were the only things to mix together with the flames as they surged upwards to the sky. Even though we could not see the enemy, since their screaming was distinct, we headed towards that direction without reserve.
— Kill the traitors!
— Kill them······!
Demons tore each other apart there. The sound of demons being torn apart and killed was chaotic and overflowing.
With that overflow, the things that were born on the earth simply made the earth which they were born on into a viscous swamp. Since there was no way out if you fell into it, and no way to survive if you were set ablaze, this was a sea of fire. As no one could swim out or survive, it was also a grave.
Demon Lord. A sea of flames has been placed between us.
When will you come? Will you be able to reach here?
▯King's Beloved Slave, Berbere Witch Sisters, Captain of the Royal Guard, Humbaba
Empire Calendar: Year 1506, Month 4, Day 14
Polles, Vistula Forest
“Shit! Fuck! Shit! Shiiiiiiit! No! I can’t! I won’t! I absolutely can’t! I won’t do it no matter what! Just kill me instead, you crazy bitch! Kill me! If you’re going to commit suicide, then do it by yourself, Your Excellency Acting Generaaaaal! How do you expect to find a path in this forest?!”
“A witch’s life is spent while avoiding being burned at the stake all their life. In the end, it’s a witch’s fate to be burned to death. At that point where life and fate intersect, resolution blooms and eventually sings······!”
“Instead of resolution blooming, I feel like bullshit is running rampant!”
There’s a reason why we’re all desperately shouting. This, crazy bitch general, is currently forcing us to rush through the aspen forest as fast as possible. I’m not sure if you forgot, but it’s night right now! Furthermore, it’s a night where flames are scorching on all sides of the forest! We’re speeding through a place like this while flying low on our brooms, so of course swear words would come out all on their own.
No. You don’t have to shout, Euryale.
What do you mean ‘whisper whisper’? That isn’t whispering anymore, is it? At this rate, we’re going to have to rip the word ‘whisper’ apart and redefine it. Has your heart taken a direct hit from the phrase ‘whisper whisper’ tonight? How? Why?
I urgently turned my broom and dodged a tree. Sheesh, hey. Sheesh.
I nearly died because I got so focused on Euryale’s antics for a second. I nearly collided with the aspen tree that had slipped through my view. Grouchy words emotionlessly flowed from directly behind me.
“······Can you not fly a bit more carefully, Captain of the Royal Guards? If this young lady were to die, then there is no possible way for our allies to win this battle. Pay more attention.”
That’s right. It’s Acting General Farnese.
Of all things, this crazy fellow decided to ride behind me on my broom. It’s a personage that shows how much of a vital responsibility my low-altitude flying has. It’s quite the damn responsibility.
Currently, we Berbere Witch Sisters were leading the unit as the spearhead. General Farnese was also going with us. The cavalry unit was following right behind us. I’m not sure if they’re keeping up with us properly······. Ah, seriously. I should have smoked one more time before this.
General Farnese whispered into my ear.
“Captain. Go left. If we go right, then we will end up in Hell. Blow the horn and give the signal to the cavalry unit.”
I immediately raised the horn with my right hand and blew into it.
I then turned my broom left.
The witches escorting us also turned the heads of their brooms and flew towards the left side of the forest. I see that they’re doing a good job following us while avoiding the aspen trees. The sound of hoofs followed behind us.
When General Farnese orders this, I would blow a horn that sounded completely different to the one blown earlier.
“Further to the left.”
When General Farnese orders this, I would blow the first horn which I had blown earlier for a bit longer. Yes. This was all there was to the signal system which we had decided prior to the battle.
There were no flags. Hand signals were impossible as well. Due to the flames burning all around us, it was hard to open our watery eyes properly. Even if we tried to open our watery eyes, all we could see were aspen trees.
Two horn sounds.
By relying on these two sounds alone, Master Dantalian’s Royal Guard and cavalry unit were speedingly fervently through the forest. We also brought the horn that signaled the command to charge, but I have no idea when and how this was going to be used. Seriously.
“With what belief are you so confidently commanding us to go left and right?! We’re actually going somewhere right now, right? Yeah? Heeey? Your Excellency Acting Generaaal? I don’t really care where we’re going, but I’ll be grateful if there isn’t a gravesite there—!”
General Farnese ordered in a subdued tone. Although her voice lacks emotions like usual, the difference is that it feels as if she’s really pissed off somewhere deep in her mind and it’s flowing out.
“Captain. Putting everything else aside, your mouth is too careless. Your voice is noisy. It doesn’t distinguish when it should and shouldn’t shut up. This is this young lady’s command, but right now is the time for you to be quiet. Do you understand?”
“Roooger. If you tell me to shut up, then I’ll shut up.”
The Acting General then let out a breath.
It wasn’t a sigh. I could feel a hot sensation on my back coming from the general’s breathing as it seeped through my clothes. Since earlier, General Farnese has been continuously letting out a heated breath like a girl with a high fever. Each time General Farnese let out a breath, my back would gradually become soaked. Whoa, this sticky feeling······.
Honestly, I’m already drenched. At this very moment, the entire body of the general who was latched onto me was as hot as a ball of fire. She’s really sweating nonstop.
Even if the forest around us was burning, we were flying at quite the speed. There’s no reason to be sweating right now. Despite that, General Farnese was sweating so profusely that she had gotten even me drenched.
Fever of Wisdom.
It seems that the general behind me was arduously enduring the fever which Master Dantalian had named as such. I could occasionally feel her shoulders tremble in agony.
“Haa······ mm, haa······ hoo, uu······.”
······At this rate, who knows if we’re going to end up with an unconscious girl.
In any case, we followed General Farnese’s command and darted left and right through the forest.
The trees quickly zoomed in and out of our visions. Occasionally, we’d go by places where flames had yet to reach, places that have completely burned and become ashes, and places that were engulfed in flames. All of those sceneries quickly flew behind us.
“Your Excellency Acting General? Where should we go now?”
Instead of a response, there was only breathing.
A sound of breathing that became hotter by the second.
The girl’s breath was sticky like a swamp.
Once I turned around.
⎯⎯⎯The girl was closing her eyes.
TL note: Thank you for reading the chapter. This chapter actually took a lot of time to finish. I know the site says this chapter only has around 18k words, but that’s because it doesn’t include the text in the images. This chapter is around 24k words long, so it turned out longer than the previous chapter. This chapter also took a bit longer because my editors and typesetter were incredibly busy throughout the entire weekday. It wasn’t until Friday that they were finally able to start editing/typesetting, so I apologize for the delay.
As you can tell, this chapter wasn’t exactly easy to do in the first place. I had to contemplate whether I wanted to only make black pages or do both black and white pages. I went with the latter because my site’s default template is a gray background with white texts, so a switch between that and the black pages wouldn’t be as impactful as this whole black and white contrast. It would also be difficult to actually portray these white pages with just my site, so I found this to be the better decision.
I can already hear the foreign readers complaining that they can’t google translate the black and white pages. They also, 90% of the time, won’t bother to read my TL note and just go straight to complaining, so that’s going to be fun. Makes me wonder why it’s fine when I go through the trouble of doing all of my translations straight from the physical copy of the books, but when these people have to do something similar to that, but to a lesser extent, to them, I committed the worst sin possible and deserve to be crucified. Let me make things clear, I translate strictly from Korean to English. Yes, I would love for this series to spread to a more global audience, but my target audience is people who can read English. If you’re a translator and want to translate this chapter, then feel free to message me on Discord and I’ll send you the link to the doc. Otherwise, be patient or find workarounds. There are plenty of image/png converters to text. You can google it and find it instantly.