Chapter 29: I’m a Little Tired so I Don’t Really Want to Eat Right Now
Shrieks and screams of the Kingdom’s soldiers echoed on the plains. The cluster of oxcarts wreaked havoc on the line of battle of Octavio’s division.
They had done fine up to pushing back with their shields. Immediately following, the carried sorcery mines exploded at the special duty sorcerer’s signal for ignition.
To enhance its destructive power, the carts were packed with large quantities of gunpowder and sharp, metal scraps. Those scattered in all directions, maiming the limbs of the Kingdom’s soldiers or flat-out penetrating their bodies, and many lives were stolen.
Those that died were still counted as lucky. Soldiers struck by the iron shrapnel were in agony. They were deprived of their strength to fight, and they couldn’t even die, only able to writhe in intense pain.
The sorcery mines were gotten from the Empire, but they didn’t particularly excel in killing or wounding. Sure, they had destructive power, but they could blow away several tens of men at most. If their purpose was to cause losses in men, a large quantity of them needed to be invested, and the cost and labor would be too much.
For the sake of reducing costs with more or less the same effectiveness, Diener had improved the weapons, which originally had to be laid, for use in a charge.
The role expected of these oxcarts, was to unveil a depiction of hell and to drain the enemy’s fighting spirit; to reveal all too sickeningly that even if the soldiers stopped them, they would die; and to display that if they evaded, the oxen would plunge even further deeper into the formation and spread the damage. It was their aim to force the enemy into two unreasonable alternatives. Against the Kingdom’s soldiers who had low morale, these oxcarts were almost painfully effective weapons.
There was no soldier of the Kingdom brimming with loyalty and bravery who would volunteer to be a shield, seeing the disaster before their eyes.
200 oxcarts each were sent into the center wing and left wing as the first wave.
The battle lines of the Kingdom’s Army had fallen into chaos, and there was no longer any control. It was inconceivable that either generals, Octavio or Borbon, had the leadership ability to rally the present state. In this like a bolt out of the blue situation, they only stood in simple amazement. And, there were still prepared many more oxcarts, loaded with weapons of slaughter.
“Calm down-!! Don’t break the line!! You must not let those oxcarts through!!”
“D-don’t joke around! Do you think us shields!!?”
“Do you think to go against orders!!? If they break through the line, they’ll explode inside the ally camp! Stop them here and keep the damage to a minimum! I won’t forgive running away!”
“Like I can follow that order!! You retard-!”
“W, what did you—-”
Knocking down the officer loyal in his service, the Kingdom’s soldiers began running away for their lives.
The second wave of oxcarts broke through the advance guard and detonated inside the formation of Octavio’s division.
“W, w, what is this. Just what the heck is going on! Adjutant, explain!”
“I do not know! B, but, at this rate, our division will be annihilated! Your Excellency! Your orders!”
The Adjutant sought instructions for Octavio, but he was in panic and not in a position to give any.
“W, wait! Those oxen are coming this way-! Hurry and stop them-! Make them stop!!”
“Bodyguards, stop those oxcarts!! Protect His Excellency’s body! Why have they been allowed to penetrate this far-!!? What’re the front-line soldiers doing!?”
The bodyguards around Octavio blocked the oxcarts using their bodies as shields. No matter what kind of person their chief was, bodyguards had to protect at the expense of their lives. The Cologne cows’ rush was stopped a small distance away from Octavio’s headquarters.
The Liberation Army sorcerer watching with a spyglass chuckled, and sent the signal for detonation.
Half of the bodyguards enveloped in the explosion at point blank range died instantly, and the rested squirmed on the ground while sustaining fatal wounds.
The entrails of his bodyguards flew around before Octavio’s eyes. Death had come this close before him. Octavio felt deep-seated terror.
“T, this is the enemy’s new weapon. I must go report to General Barbora. If he doesn’t immediately receive the particulars from me! G, Guerard, I entrust command afterwards to you!”
Cried Octavio tremblingly, wiping off the clots of blood stuck to him. He didn’t want to be in this kind of place. Why did a high ranking general like him have to be in danger of death? In Octavio’s mind existed only the thought of leaving this place immediately.
“Y-Your Excellency, if Your Excellency escapes now, our allies will be routed. We must rally our position, somehow, here! I beg of you, please, refrain yourself and take command. This is something only Your Excellency can do!”
“S, shut up, silence-! I’m not running away; I’m just going to directly report! I’ll be back instantly! I give command to you until then.”
“—-Y, Your Excellency. A-are you abandoning us?”
“I leave it to you, Guerard! I won’t forget your loyalty in my lifetime!”
Octavio quickly got on his horse and began heading towards Barbora’s headquarters while taking his remaining bodyguards. Left behind in Hell, Guerard muttered one phrase while his face was turning pale. Despair, disappointment, regret, he fully let all of it out.
“……It’s over. This is… hopeless.”
The Kingdom’s Army, his own fame, and the Yuze Kingdom. Rampaging oxcarts were imminently approaching. In the end, after calling to mind as many defamations as he could think of against Octavio, Guerard’s time came.
Octavio’s division of the center wing completely fled. News spread that the commander had taken off, and the soldiers of the Kingdom’s Army were falling apart, routed. Diener released oxen which were not carrying sorcery mines and had them drive into the infantry again. The soldiers of the Kingdom began escaping at the mere sight of them. The flow of battle had instantly gone to the Liberation Army.
Borbon’s division in the left wing was in mostly the same state. The commander had not run away, but he couldn’t give out effective orders. He couldn’t even make the decision to retreat. This was karma for having him here entrusted with command. The noncommissioned officers, prioritizing their lives, threw down their weapons and deserted.
Behrouz of the Liberation Army wouldn’t let that chance go by, and he decisively carried out a general offensive. He stood at the head of the army and overran the left wing in a single stroke. Major General Borbon escaped to the rear with what little troops he had under his command… with a staff officer and bodyguard dragging him by both arms.
Barbora’s headquarters in the middle of the torn off middle and left wings.
Larus, seeing through the nature of the enemy’s weapon, immediately spread out the soldiers, trying to keep damages to a minimum.
For the oxcarts, he ordered them to halt the oxen’s feet. Though it was a makeshift plan, it was also the best means in this situation.
“Throw your spears; stop the oxen’s feet! Don’t rush, calm down, and aim!!”
Despite being on the back foot, Larus’s soldiers followed directions and threw their spears. With several spears striking their legs, the Cologne cattles’ balance was broken, and they toppled sideways. The oxcart’s weakness was the weight of the wagon. Their advance could be stopped by pushing it over from the side or attacking the oxen’s legs.
From behind the infantry braced with shields, archers disposed of the oxcarts with fire arrows. The sorcery mines wouldn’t explode so long as they weren’t given a signal of magical power, but the loaded gunpowder was another story. When they ignited, the carts scattered iron shrapnel with a thunderous roar.
“Tell the soldiers on the front lines to aim for the oxen’s feet with their spears-! Or try to topple them over with an attack from the side! We can’t deal with them any other way in this situation! Absolutely do not stop them from the front; don’t die in vain!”
Larus raised his voice, and the messenger saluted and headed to the front lines.
“To think they’d let regular herds of cattle infringe this far-!”
(If we lay out stakes, or maybe defense fences, we can cope. But we won’t make it in time. Shit-, at this rate…)
Looking around him, all he saw were injured officers and men. Looking at the front lines, his allies were completely routed. Just what should he do in this situation? Larus turned around, and headed to Barbora’s headquarters with quick steps. Now that their main forces had collapsed, the next to be surrounded would be their headquarters. They had to make a decision.
Larus recalled Sharov’s final words, and cursed in his mind.
(As Field Marshal Sharov said, I knew we shouldn’t have started an attack. We should’ve hardened our defenses and waited for an opportunity. If we were in the mountains, this predicament would’ve been impossible-!)
Messengers were coming back and forth in a flurry.
Octavio who had made a getaway and came here was giving a frantic explanation to Barbora who had a vein bulging on his head.
The disapproving gazes of the staff officers shot through Octavio. Barbora was holding back his anger while grinding his teeth.
“Y, Your Excellency. That is the enemy’s new weapon. It has terrifying power! I had to come report immediately and came here without looking back at the danger. Please, please understand-! I absolutely did not run away!”
“……And so, what happened to your soldiers. Did you, the commander of all people, abandon his soldiers and scurry home alone? And you still call yourself a division commander!? Do you have no shame as a Major General!!?”
“Y, you are mistaken! I was just too anxious about Your Excellency’s well-being, and I could not stop worrying—-”
“Shut up you fool-!! Know some shame-!!”
Barbora’s fist impacted Octavio’s face. Blowing blood out of his nose, Octavio prostrated.
“—-F, f, forgive me-”
“And that’s not all! You bastard, why didn’t you rush in like the plan said! What were you thinking idly letting our chance of winning escape-!?”
He kicked Octavio’s body. That didn’t quell his anger.
“T, the signal flare. The signal flare did not go up! All the blame is with Colonel Schera! It should have been impossible for such a lowly little girl to accomplish that important duty in the first place!”
Protecting himself was more important than victory or defeat. If he was tried for violating military regulations, it would be capital punishment. Octavio frantically pleaded to avoid that.
“The signal flare did in fact come from Schera’s unit, and reports say you disregarded it! Octavio, I’ll have you make up for this misconduct with your life-!!”
Barbora was clearly at the limits of his patience. He unsheathed his sword and pressed it against Octavio’s neck. Frightened, Octavio grinded his forehead on the ground as a sign of remorse until he bled, and he apologized profusely.
With tears and mucus streaming down his face, his figure as he begged Barbora for sympathy wasn’t very much like a general’s.
“……Your Excellency Barbora. We do not have the luxury to concern ourselves with this idiot right now. I believe we should save dealing with him after this is over. The morale of the soldiers, which are already low enough, will drop even lower.”
Advised the returned Larus. Even as a joke, he hadn’t ever heard of judging a man entrusted with an entire division during a battle. Their precious time was being wasted even now like this. In the first place, just who was the person who appointed this fool to division commander and gave him an entire wing? After glancing at Octavio, Larus gave Barbora a cold look.
“—-Military policemen, restrain this buffoon-!! I’ll lop off that filthy head another day!”
“Y, Your Excellency, Pardon me. Please, have mercy!! Your Excellency, Barbora!”
“Silence-! Policemen, hurry up and take him away! I can’t bear the sight of him!”
The policemen grabbed Octavio’s hair and left the headquarters. His crying voice faded into the distance.
The place fell into silence, and Barbora adjusted his loud breathing. He could hear the sounds of explosions in distance every so often.
“……Major General Larus. How’s the situation?”
“The battle is on the brink of being the worst case scenario. There are already strong indicators of defeat. It probably would not take even an hour until the entire army is routed. Will we fight until the end, or will be escape? I would like instructions from you, the Army Corps commander.”
“……Where, where, where did it all go amiss!! Shit-!! Why-!! Didn’t we have the overwhelming advantage until just awhile ago!!?”
Barbora derangedly mangled his pavilion with his sword. While expressionlessly observing him, Larus stated his opinion.
“We can still maintain semblance of an army. Yalder’s flag can be seen from Carnas Plateau. A withdrawal is possible right now, and we could probably minimize the damages. Your Excellency, your prompt decision.”
“Y, you’re asking me to run away? The Kingdom’s fate hangs in the balance of this battle. Do you understand that? If we, retreat, we no longer—-”
Being defeated in this battle, meant losing their hegemony of the Canaan Area. The taking of the City of Canaan and Roshanak Stronghold would be forced down their throat. Those places would be helpless in enemy territory. If they lost control of Canaan, the gates to the Royal Capital would be opened, and all the feudal lords that had stubbornly stayed on the fence would all go join the Liberation Army. —-And if that happened, it was over.
“There is no longer anything we can do. Will you have everyone die here? Or retreat, rally our forces, and attempt a comeback somehow? Your Excellency Barbora. You must decide. This is your final duty as an Army Corps commander.”
Barbora couldn’t do it. If he wanted to chose a proud death, he ought to bravely fight to the death here. But, the lives of several tens of thousands of men were in Barbora’s hands. As a commander, wasn’t it the right choice to save even one more soldier? His pride as a warrior, or his duty as the highest commander. Barbora anguished, caught between the two. He couldn’t answer.
“If you will not do anything, I would like you to let me return to my unit. I want to die together with my subordinates if I am going to die. Sorry, but I do not have any interest in staying with your until our final moments.”
Coldheartedly declared Larus as he turned on his heels, but Barbora detained him in distress.
“…..I, I understand. We’ll retreat. Order the entire army to retreat! We cannot be wholly annihilated here-!”
“Understood. I will notify the entire army. I will also send a messenger to General Yalder on Carnas. ……Excuse me then.”
Larus saluted and began preparations for the retreat. Barbora covered his face with both hands and crumbled down on the spot. For this man who took command of the First Army after Sharov died, this was his first, but greatest failure, and it crushed him.
—-At the same time, Carnas Plateau, high ground encampment.
One could witness all too clearly the sorry state of the Kingdom’s Army from the high ground. Yalder and Sidamo had troubled expressions.
As for Schera, she finally was able to have a satisfying meal and was cheerful. She got hungry after being active.
Today’s lunch was Cologne beef jerky taken from the enemy camp. She didn’t know why they had such an expensive item, but who cared, and Schera chewed well and savored the delicious meat.
The more she chewed, the more the taste came out, the taste of high-grade Cologne beef. A cavalryman next to her was humming. Schera drank water from a bamboo flask, put the meat between two slices of bread, and bit down. If this meat was fresh and eaten just slightly grilled, it would probably be supremely delicious. But, she couldn’t be spoiled.
It was happiness just being able to eat.
“Sidamo. I think we ought to descend the Plateau and immediately retreat. We would die in vain trying to attack the enemy lines right now.”
Yalder cast aside any wishful thinking and calmly surveyed the situation. If he were a commander on the front lines, he would’ve charged in even if he had to do it alone. This battle’s significance was just that immense. He far from intended on shamelessly surviving after being defeated.
But, as a division commander right now, he had to take the soldiers home to the Royal Capital, while keeping sacrifices to a minimum somehow, for the Royal Capital’s defense.
“I am of the same opinion. The soldiers have expended all their energy to take this Plateau and are exhausted. Regrettably, we would probably be annihilated before reaching the enemy lines. Even fighting on willpower has its limits. In that case, we ought to immediately change course and head to Canaan. We can still repel pursuits.”
“……This situation… has happened before. Sidamo, at the same time we withdraw, send scouts to Canaan and Roshanak. Have them verify that the flag of the Kingdom’s Army is being flown.”
When Yalder was defeated trying to capture Salvador, Antigua fell during his retreat. This situation resembled that. Nay, this situation was probably even worse. It wouldn’t be strange for the enemy to have already reached them.
“Have they already fallen, or have they—-”
“If we tell them of our defeat, what those guys on the fence will do is evident. We must avoid being pincered. For now, we evacuate. Before we’re surrounded.”
“Colonel Schera! We’ll be changing course! Your unit will stand as the vanguard, and we’ll head towards Canaan! Use your mobility and throw the enemy into chaos! Make them know the terror of Death!”
Sidamo shouted his instructions in an angry voice rare for him.
Suddenly receiving a directive, Schera choked a couple times, and then saluted. The dried meat had caught in her throat.
“I leave all decisions to your judgement!”
“Colonel, don’t die in a place like this. ……Let’s, meet again.”
Yalder patted Schera’s shoulder and left to command his soldiers.
Seeing Sidamo chasing after him at a quick pace, Schera spoke up to Katarina.
“We’ve gone through so much securing this place, yet it seems like it was a waste of effort. Just why did we fight I wonder.”
Konrad’s death, and the many deaths of her important comrades. The remaining forces of her cavalry, were probably around 1,500? All their sacrifices to take control of the high ground amounted to: raising a flag and everyone shouting.
“So be it. When we return, I’ll kill that pig Octavio. In a way he’ll really feel it, and never forget.”
“….Also, I won’t forgive you for moving my cavalry without my permission a second time. Engrave this upon your heart.”
Schera glared at Katarina through narrowed eyes. Katarina lowered her head in shame as she touched her glasses with trembling hands.
“S, sir. U-understood. Please, forgive me, Colonel.”
“I don’t want to be saved if it means abandoning my subordinates. After all, I would rather be with you all, my comrades who I’ve eaten together with for so long. You need to include me too, and I won’t ever allow you to leave me out.”
With a faint smile, Schera affectionately tapped Katarina’s shoulder.
“Alright, let’s go. It won’t do if we’re not the vanguard. —-Schera’s Cavalry will descend Carnas Plateau, and change course for Canaan-!! We’ll trample anyone who dares get in our way!!”
“Schera’s Cavalry, move out!!”
Yalder’s Legion and Schera’s Cavalry gave up Carnas Plateau and withdrew, aiming for Canaan. While repelling the pursuit units, they had a splendidly successful retreat. There were hardly any casualties, but that was ultimately because the Liberation Army soldiers, upon seeing Schera, had gotten cold feet. Schera was feared to that degree.
On the other hand, the remaining soldiers of Barbora, Larus, Octavio, and Borbon were relentlessly pursued by the Liberation Army, and they received heavy losses. All will to fight gone, people kept surrendering or deserting, bringing about a state which could only be described as a scene after a disaster.
The City of Canaan, hearing about their defeat, acted on a secret agreement made previously and changed affiliations to the Liberation Army. They postured to repel the retreating Army of the Kingdom. Obviously the feudal lords would protect themselves.
They immediately persuaded the guards, and as a result of giving speeches to the populace, there was no one in opposition, and the City of Canaan fell into the Liberation Army’s hands.
Opinions in Roshanak Stronghold were split. —-Should they continue in their loyalty to the Kingdom, or should they surrender to the Liberation Army.
In the end, a fight to the death broke out, and when the gates were thrown open by the advocates of capitulating, the Liberation Army surged in, and the stronghold fell, the resistance of the guards in vain.
Having lost the critical position that was the Canaan Area, the Kingdom’s Army continued to take flight and headed for the Royal Capital. The soldiers that had numbered 150,000 before the battle had now already diminished to 40,000. Only 20,000 had died in the pursuit, but the number of deserters was unordinary.
Yalder, who had volunteered to be the rearguard, stretched out a formation across the thin road connecting Canaan to the Royal Capital and resolutely resisted.
They smashed a unit of the Liberation Army that was impatient for success, and he displayed such command that he routed them.
“Hahaha-, that’s not nearly enough to surpass I, Yalder! Come at me with at least 100,000! Like I’ll easily be killed by you rebel army youngsters! —-Sidamo, raise it-! Let them know that Yalder is here!!”
At the signal, Sidamo hoisted the flags of the ruined Third and Fourth Army Corps. They were symbols of Yalder’s glory, and his failings, but they were also his pride for having fought and survived with his soldiers. The blood-smeared, mud-caked flags caught the wind and sailed, like showing themselves to the Liberation Army.
“As long as I’m here, the Kingdom will not perish. To the bitter, absolute end, I will fight! Hahaha-! Sidamo, sorry, but you’ll be accompanying me to the end!! If you must resent, resent your own bad luck-!!”
“I’ve prepared myself for that way ahead of you. I as well must beg Your Excellency’s forgiveness, but I will be interrupting you a bit. —-Send the signal to the scouts-!!”
When Sidamo gave his order, his soldiers turned to the cliffs and waved red flags. Conspicuously, they used their whole bodies to wave them.
A short second later, sounds of an explosion roared from the cliffs on both sides. And a few seconds later, a landslide of boulders sealed the narrow road.
The Liberation Army spread out in the front hectically began backpedaling, else they’d likely be caught in the avalanche. They hadn’t known this area’s geography in detail.
Having researched the topography beforehand, Sidamo, assuming the worst, had prepared a plan to impede them, a plan to stop them on their final steps, in the very worse, worst case scenario.
“Nice going Staff Officer! But, this means that you were resigned to losing. I’ll have you court-martialed-!”
Said Yalder at an attempt at humor, and Sidamo feigned ignorance with an innocent face.
“It is difficult to ascertain what you mean. Anyway, with this, we have bought a short amount of time. Let us garrison Cyrus and Sayeh and ready ourselves.”
“Alright, then we move out! This is not a retreat! Don’t forget that this is just changing course! Hahaha, I’m absolutely not making excuses. This is -empty- bravado!”
“Move out! We’re to move out before the enemy readies themselves!”
“Yo Sidamo, hearty as usual. What a reliable man. Alright everyone and all you staff officers, follow his example and stick your chests out! We are the elite unit that took down Carnas Plateau! We march; I intend on making a triumphant return!”
Heroically laughing Yalder swept up his formation and marched.
He knew that the situation would become unsalvageable soon, but as a man of military, he would fight until his end.
He had resolved himself a long time ago. From that day his suicide was stopped.
Barbora, Borbon, and the restrained Octavio entered into the Royal Capital. Octavio was house confined until the investigation was over.
Yalder’s Legion entered Sayeh Fortress, and Larus’s division and Schera’s Cavalry garrisoned Cyrus.
They had to buy time in these two fortresses until the First Army could finish their reorganization. They tried raising supplies from the surrounding cities, but the feudal lords refused them.
Their defeat was widely talked about due to Diener’s workings, and the feudal lords had the strong impression that the Kingdom was already finished.
Unable to prepare sufficient supplies in both fortresses, Cyrus and Sayeh, it seemed likely that a siege was heading their way.
On their separation, Yalder had strongly taken Schera’s hands and spoken to her with a mischievous-feeling smile–a smile wicked like a brigand’s wrinkled his face.
“Colonel Schera. Let’s meet again at the Royal Capital. When we repel the rebel army, come to my estate like I promised a few days ago. I’ll prepare a huge feast to your pleasure. Look forward to it.”
“Acknowledged, Your Excellency. I will visit without fail.”
“Sidamo, you say something too! We won’t be able to meet for awhile!”
“……I only have one thing to tell you, Colonel. I said this before, but if you’re going to die, die outside. It takes money and hard work to raise cavalry. Dying inside a castle is nothing but wasteful. ……Do you understand??”
“Colonel Schera, completely understands!”
“Then good…….Let’s meet again.”
“My god, you guys have no sense of glamour. Well, it’s probably good that you stay true to yourselves. Wahahaha-!”
Remembering their conversation, Schera was resting in one of the rooms in Cyrus.
Schera was slightly tired.
Her body was wrapped round and round in bandages. Her arrow wounds hadn’t yet healed. It wouldn’t be a problem on the battlefield, but her body was slightly feverish. So she could recover before the next battle, she had secluded herself in her room like this.
When she reclined on the bed face-up only in her undergarments, a grand knocking came at her door.
“Colonel, excuse me for interrupting your rest!”
“……What is it?”
Languidly replied Schera.
“Sir-, there is an urgent matter that must be conveyed to you Colonel, and I have come to report.”
“What is it, I wonder. I’m changing right now, so will you tell me while I’m at it?”
Schera received the most crucial piece of information from the cavalry soldier.
“Sprouts of the Colonel’s potatoes have come out!”
A mass of seed potatoes appeared in the hot, hazy depths of her mind. Sprouts shot up from the seeds one after the other, and collectively became stalks as tall as trees. The stomach wouldn’t be filled by potato sprouts or stalks, but when they grew that big, it honestly seemed like a substantial meal.
“The potatoes that the Colonel planted! They seem to be growing well, and sprouts have come out!”
Hearing that, the giant potato sprouts in her imagination vanished somewhere.
“I’ll come immediately; standby at the field!”
Schera jumped off the bed, just so that she could say it faster, and replied loudly.
Whether the potatoes would remain safe was extremely important. She had to deliberately check. This wasn’t the time to be lying down.
“Understood. I will do my best to not let the crows devastate them!”
From behind the door, the footsteps of the soldier enthusiastically leaving could be heard.
Schera stood up, opened the window, and looked up at the sky–the blue sky, with not a single cloud. Blowing against the wind swayed the Kingdom’s flag and the flag of Schera’s Cavalry.
Around them, crows were circling. Was it perhaps because they had no food and were searching for some? There were no bread crumbs left over there though.
Schera closed the window. The crows looked over her, as if demanding food.
(After everything, I’m back here. I wonder, if my final home is this fortress. It would be nice if I could eat my own grown potatoes.)
Schera’s home–Cyrus Fortress–was already preparing for battle. Defense commander Larus was endeavoring to raise supplies until the time came, and was also striving to fortify the ramparts.
He prepared for enemy trench warfare, laid out many traps, and deepened the outer moat. Larus did everything he could.
After the Liberation Army gained total control of Canaan, they would sortie in no time and head for both Cyrus and Sayeh. The battle would begin extremely soon probably.
“There’s many things left to do, so we have to keep doing our best, just a bit more. It’s not over yet. ……Right, wouldn’t you say? Just a little bit more, let’s do our best.”
Only for a moment, Schera looked over her shoulder and smiled, then she turned back and began walking.
—-But there was no one behind her.