Previous Chapter | Project Page | Next Chapter
Chapter 11: Absinthe Is to Die for Delicious
Around when a grand welcome event for “His Excellency David The Next Field Marshal” was being held in Castle Belta’s VIP room:
Schera together with her cavalrymen were attending to a duty of sheer utmost importance assigned in the name of Belta’s highest emissaries–The ruinous crest of the Third Army’s flag that invited utter defeat for the Kingdom. All of them would be disposed of and replaced with the Fourth Army’s glorious banner… that kind of supreme order.
In simpler terms, it was a present harassment from the Fourth Army to Schera. According to the esteemed officer, “You guys are fit for these kinds of odd jobs.” This kind of treatment was enforced not only on Schera but also on all the other persons.
There was no way mixing the stranger soldiers that came from the northern area and the soldiers that had defended Belta and Antigua would turn out well. They mutually hated each other, and fighting broke out in many places over the most pointless to speak of disputes. Thus, even when they were unfastening the unneeded flags, boos and insults could be heard nearby. Seeing the flags of the Third Army stacked like a mountain, Vander offhandedly complained.
“……Should I have been an artisan, a flag weaver?… I am definitely folding flags.”
He took the flag off the pole, and then replaced it with the new one. He was sick of it that he would collapse.
“Move your hands, not your mouth. There are still some hundreds more as you can see.”
“Yeah… Roughly 1,000 I guess?”
“Ahh-, I’m hungry. How healthy to be under such a bright, glorious sun. Anyone have a nice boxed lunch?”
“There are none, Major. Though I think where His Excellency General David is has some. Luxurious food piled high like a mountain that is. They are surely having a staggering feast you know.”
“Second Lieutenant Vander, mind going over there and getting me some?”
“Please excuse me, but I cannot follow that order. I personally do not want to go to jail, and I cannot escape like you can Major.”
When Vander joked around, Katarina threw the battleflag that she was holding at him.
“Hey, didn’t I tell you to move those hands? We won’t finish by today at this rate!”
“Yeah yeah. I understand, Oh Magnificent Second Lieutenant Katarina. ……Major, we will do the rest. A commanding officer doing such menial tasks concerns our dignity.”
“As he says Major Schera. There is no need for Major to do these kinds of things!”
Katarina raised her voice. This was not work for a hero. However, Schera indifferently continued working.
“I don’t know what dignity you mean, but go feed that to the dogs. I have spare time so I don’t mind. Besides, look. Those guys of my unit are doing something interesting.”
Where Schera pointed, a crowd of soldiers with special paint were making a commotion for some reason. It seemed they were repainting the Third Army’s flag. A soldier who seemed to have some artistic skill was holding a brush and carefully moving his hand.
“……What the heck are those guys doing over there? It does appear that they are writing something but.”
When Vander concentrated his eyes, they had finished painting it pitch black it seemed. They had turned it into a suitable flag for Schera.
“They said they’re putting scrapped materials to effective use. Thinking that it’s trash anyway so no one will care, I gave them permission. They can still be used, and it would be a waste.”
“……If they behave willfully like that, they are going to be scolded again. They are already being glared at it seems.”
Warned Katarina, but Schera had not the ears for it.
“I don’t really care. If it’s just being glared at, nothing will actually happen.”
Muttering that she didn’t care, Schera continued her work. The many cavalry group members, deeming that it was perfect, cheered in joy. They fastened it to a pole and triumphantly waved it around. An emblem of a white bird was drawn flying on a black background.
“……What do you think that is? A bird, right?”
“A white crow I was told. He said that in his birthplace, it’s a sacred bird that governs life and death, and he thought it was appropriate for me and really wanted to make it. It appears to have turned out surprisingly well.”
“Does such a crow really exist?”
“If there is, I want to try eating one. What kind of taste does it have I wonder.”
A white crow was also known as a lucky omen for people. Naturally, it doesn’t actually exist. The soldiers, associating Schera’s person with Death, thought it was a suitable coat of arms. As Schera’s name would spread, this flag would take on special meaning. Just spotting it would make the confronting person quake in fear. Just holding it would make one’s blood boil and no longer fear death.
All because these men, filled with anticipation, working on their own accord for the sake of their overawing superior officer.
“Still, is a black flag not unpleasant? And not only that, arbitrarily making a flag with a coat of arms is something to be court-martialed for.”
“That won’t happen since I’ve pretty much become a noble. It’ll be fine if I just say it’s the Zade family’s new insignia. Well, if it still becomes troublesome, let’s just say we don’t know anything about it. …….More importantly, isn’t there anything to eat?”
“—-Ah, I have hard candy. Would you like some?”
Katarina took out a small bottle from inside her pocket. It seemed she carried it for her superior officer’s sake. She thought hand candy would be somewhat more agreeable than eating bread in the middle of an important conversation. According to what Katarina heard, the rumor went that Schera had been eating beans at the war council before. Katarina, who had guessing that this wasn’t a rumor but more like actual truth, had given up validating it. Of course she didn’t want to ask something like, “Did you eat beans during the war council?”
“Thank you very much. I’ll have some.”
Not stopping to care at all about the soldiers who rushed up to her, she began tasting the hard candy Katarina handed out. It was just sweet and had no particular taste. Withstanding the urge to bite down, she thoroughly enjoyed the sweetness with her tongue.
“We’ve done it, Major Schera! What do you think about this coat of arms!?”
“Ah, yeah. Pretty good I wonder. Very fantastic.”
“Thank you very much! We will make this the flag of our unit, Schera’s Cavalry!”
“Sure sure. Pretty good I wonder. Great thinking.”
To the soldier who asked with excitement if the flag for Schera’s unit was good or not, Schera suitably nodded and consented. She didn’t care for the flag. There was no problem since it distinguished between friend and foe. But that she was thinking that was unknown to the man. His face blushed in delight because he was praised by his dauntless, daring, and dashing commander. He flourished the flag overhead, almost flaunting it. The white crow flew while being shined on by the sunlight. Satisfied before long, he turned around 180 degrees and faced his comrades.
And then, “We’ll paint all the flags over here!” With that dreadful statement, he once again started setting about his work. He had probably been gradually painted by his commander’s personality.
“……Their morale is quite high. There is a remarkable difference when compared to the soldiers of other units. I think their confidence in you is more than enough proof.”
Katarina said, and pushed up the tips of her glasses. This wasn’t flattery or sycophancy. Actually, just try listening to their conversation: “Schera congratulated me! You may think I’m exaggerating, but I saw it with my own eyes!” he said loudly.
“We’ve been together for such a long time haven’t we? Ever since Antigua fell I think. Their commander person also lost and died in one-on-one combat.”
All the people who’ve been above her have for the most part died or met with misfortune, Schera casually thought. Maybe that would mean that Yalder, who hadn’t died, would be reasonably happy. For a moment, Schera thought that maybe she was a harbinger of sorrow, but conversely, there were people that she had saved too, so she adjusted her thinking.
Bearing the omen that governed life and death, Schera gazed at the white bird carved onto the black armor she was wearing. She wasn’t particularly thinking anything. Oh yeah, she hadn’t had bird meat in a while.
“……I heard that Major Schera had taken temporary command after that. You struck down the enemy commander and completed your mission. The cavalrymen had proudly talked about it you know. They say you commanded like a veteran commissioned officer.”
“Even I think it was strange. Faster than I could think, my mouth and body moved on their own. Well, we survived and were able to eat food again; that’s definitely something to be ecstatic about. Most of them were also able to make it back.”
Schera bit the hard candy. Yep, she couldn’t resist. She couldn’t stand it, and completely pulverized it with her molars.
She thought about taking one more, but it seemed the flow of the conversation wasn’t appropriate. Schera resisted, and she continued to listen to their talk. She persevered, but the figure of a white, rounded food floated in her mind. She had probably associated this with bird meat earlier.
“There is probably no need for our aid. Actual combat experience is a hundred times more useful that empty theory after all.”
“Certainly. It is said, one experience over a hundred pieces of knowledge.”
Agreed Katarina at Vander’s remark. They had experience in bandit subjugation, but they had not the experience of participating in actual combat. They certainly had come to be knowledgeable, but whether or not they could capitalise on it would depend on their decisions on the battlefield. That would mean that Schera had enough aptitude as a commander, they thought.
A simple fool should not have been able to survive.
—-But, thought Katarina,
What if that fool possessed enough prowess to blow such trifles out of the water? Possibly…
I absolutely want to see how Schera fights in the coming battle, soon, with my very own eyes, Katarina thought. Dauntlessness enough to be called Death; what a sight it would be. She turned to look at Schera, but her hands had stopped, and she was staring into space listlessly.
“—-That aside. I kinda want to eat an egg. A boiled one.”
Uttered Schera randomly out of nowhere.
“You know, an egg! Immediate food is far more important than desk theory. All I learned in actual fighting is that lots of food is needed for battle. —-And therefore, I leave the rest to you two. I have to return to my own work so.”
‘Good,’ said Schera as she stood up and hastily walked to the barracks. The two bewildered followed after her, where they discovered Schera happily peeling an egg.
The Kingdom’s Army and the Royal Capital Liberation Army were contesting for possession over dominion of the Central Border Zone. Why this location was valued that much was apparent if one could see the continent map. The Yuze Kingdom’s controlled territory divided the continent from the Northwest to the Southeast. To the West was the Keyland Empire, and to the eastern area was the Dolebacks Union. The Central Border Zone was the sole area of the Kingdom’s territory that bordered the other two countries. Of course, many people passed through here, and naturally, it was prosperous. Commerce was blooming. It was currently under the embargo, but that did nothing to check the flow of people. If people were coming and going, then obviously goods would also flow–just now it would be called smuggling.
Furthermore, it possessed wide plains and Alucia River as a source of water, and the earth was fertile. One could expect a harvest of crops from the warm climate, and it was even possible to transport goods on the water using the river. As a matter of course, the towns in this region prospered and were highly populated. The regions the Empire and Union controlled as well. In this area where the borders of the three countries practically touched existed a metropolis that was the very heart of the Mundo Novo continent.
It had the Holy Land of the Three Star Order, the main faith of the continent (and current divided due to a factional strife),
and Academic City Arte, which held the Labyrinth known as the Demons’ nesting place. It had once been called Labyrinth City Arte.
It was a neutral metropolis that belonged to no country, but it was defended domestically and foreignly by armed forces to protect against invasions of the Order. If the Order called to arms, it was assured that adherents in every country would take up arms.
In this era, that was all that was protecting their neutrality, their temporary peace.
In the northern region of the Central Border Zone, which could expect a great deal of profit, the rebel army had risen up to seize those vested interests. The Kingdom would in no way overlook this. The Empire was clearly meddling, and consequently, the Kingdom sought to crush the rebels in their early stages.
The result was that they had suffered a devastating loss with the fall of Antigua, a cornerstone of the southern Border Zone.
Currently, the situation was of Salvador and Antigua in the west confronting Belta in the east with Alucia River in-between them. Losing Belta here would mean forfeiting their sphere of control in the Central Border Zone, and in concert, the road to the Royal Capital area would be wide open. This had to be prevented at all costs.
Therefore, Sharov, the Field Marshal of the Kingdom’s Army, had strictly ordered to not let the rebels cross Alucia River. Though the Liberation Army’s forces may be growing, there was a limit to how much they could support. If they devoted themselves to protecting Alucia River, it would be sufficiently possible to preserve the front, Sharov had judged. And then supposing if they sought to exterminate the Rebel Army, Sharov thought to muster the First Army, and pincer the Rebel army from the North and East with a gigantic force.
—-Though unfortunately, that plan was rejected.
If this plan had been adopted, the Liberation Army would certainly have been put in a crisis.
Despite them being the Liberation Army, they also took into consideration that they did not want to be in anymore debt to the Empire’s Army, who they were receiving aid from. The Liberation Army had not risen up to expand the Empire’s dominion. They had risen up to overthrow the current monarchy.
Incidentally, it was simple why the Union in the South had not moved. They were merely observing the situation, transporting goods, and earning money. There was no need to intervene and expressly lose military power. Moreover, this nation was made of a miscellany of small groups of cities, and thus it took an abnormal amount of time to make any decision. A head was elected via election, but every time a decision needed to be made, it would be majority rule after many, many civil meetings that would drag on forever.
In this status quo where they had completely become independent from the Kingdom, all the town heads were in agreement, recognizing that an expansion policy beyond this point was futile. Everyone understood that, in a situation where they acquired new land, there would be mass chaos over who would govern it. The strife would be more violent than the other two countries, and the amount of blood shed would be nothing to scoff at. Hence, they would not war. It would cost money, people would die, and when cities fell to ruin, it would not be profitable at all.
The extent to which other countries fought was of absolutely no concern. They would celebrate, selling weapons and property. Commerce over war. Their trade partners were the Empire, and then the Royal Capital Liberation Army. For their bitter enemy, the Kingdom, a trade embargo to bring it to ruin.
Then for smuggling, they would beat down prices and buy cheap, and force a sale and sell high. Abundant gold and goods were the strongest weapon. That was the Union’s current course of action.
Report from Armed Spy.
—-Regarding each country’s movements.
-Yuze Kingdom: Reinforcements from the northwest to the Central Border Zone. General Yalder reshuffled. New inaugurated is General David.
-Dolebacks Union: Maintaining observation. No signs of military mobilization.
-Keyland Empire: In the process of concentrating forces in the northwest.
—-Matters of special mention.
-Regarding General David. Regarding the reinforced army.
-Concerning the “Death God,” rumored in the Liberation Army forces.
-Report from colluders. Dividing the enemy in progress. Regarding acquired goods.
Endlessly spelled out a detailed report bearing confidential information.
After a quick, flip-through glance, he thanked the spy for his hard work.
“……Well done. Please continue your work.”
“Make sure to not get noticed by the Empire’s spies. It would be disastrous if the Empire finds out.”
“As I have been informed. Please leave it to me.”
The Liberation Army’s Tactician, Diener, pondered while gazing at the report. The spy had already departed from the room. Diener had invested his own private property and trained competent people of skill. There were also skilled Rangers pulled from the Labyrinth City.
His independently organized Armed Intelligence Unit was secret to even Altura, let alone the Liberation Army fellows. They conducted themselves like normal soldiers, but they were like actors who did not show their true face. Single handedly bearing the dirty work was the Tactician’s job. In order to keep his Princess pure, someone had to do it.
The materials necessary for uprising–who would collect them? Where would they be gathered from? Where did all the resources for the growing Liberation Army come from? Did the Empire so easily support them goods every time?
—-Nay. The effects of the bad harvest had also hit the Empire, and not enough of necessary goods were supplied to them.
There would be no support from the Union in the first place. The Liberation Army’s finances were originally dire.
Then, where did they procure goods from? Why hadn’t they gone bankrupt? The answer was simple. They would fairly “collect” from certain places. In enemy territory within reach, there were many “storehouses” just waiting to be collected from, “unguarded,” and “completely abandoned.” All the infamy would be shouldered by the Kingdom’s Army. Actually, the Kingdom had done this too, so no one was any the wiser.
The realization of a dream required necessary compensation.
Altura did not need to know. If she did not stay pure, the people would not follow. It was this virgin, heroic figure that the people, all the men who had given up, would see as the most brilliant white.
Altura had said that she was resolute. In that case, he would have her serve as the symbol of the Royal Capital Liberation Army until the very end.
Diener had decided. For her ideals, he would perform any and all deeds, and take all the impurity unto himself.
(……But, still not enough. There are too few determined people. Another push is necessary.”
He closed his eyes and began polishing his plan for hereafter. His colleagues in the Liberation Army had to do it on their own, otherwise it was no use. They would win their right to live with their own hands. Their spirit was still lacking. They had the capacity, and he had prepared the means for it. All that was left was fuel to last them till the end. For this hell-like Kingdom to change its present condition, it had to be once burnt to the ground.
An incompetent King. Soldiers only for self-protection. Government officials lining their own pockets. Nobility living in endless luxuriously through citizens’ money. Taxes increasing in severity. Rising war spending. The withering populace. The starving and dying weak. Oil was necessary to to set the Royal Capital violently ablaze. An evil liquid, viscous like dark mud was.
That was what ought to be called “Devil in a Bottle,”* and it would surely ignite the souls of the people into an intense flame.
Sacrifice one to save a hundred. Whether this was correct or incorrect, the future would probably know. If they won, tens of thousands of lives would be saved under Altura.
(A Messiah that liberates from severe oppression, or a diabolic rebel army. —-Just which one will we become?)
He asked to no one in particular. If he executed this plan, that would be a stamping a brand which could not be erased. Did he have the readiness for it? Did he have the heart to accomplish it? Diener slowly opened his eyes, and he burned the report which could not be allowed to exist in the flame of the candle.
—-There was no turning back. In that case, he would determinedly march forward only. Even if he were to run his body into the ground.
* Absinthe is an alcoholic drink also known as Devil in a Bottle. The Japanese call it something like, Devil’s Liquor.