――― That morning I didn’t hear the familiar low chimes of the bell.
Kan, kan, I heard the high-pitched sounds of metal being struck here and there, and the sounds were gradually getting louder. I thought that it was such a daunting sound that increased tension. It was actually informing us that we needed to be vigilant about something.
I opened my eyes in surprise, and it was still dark inside my room. The sky was still dark blue outside my window. It’s before dawn. The metallic sounds didn’t stop and instead increased in momentum. I got off my bed while my heart was still pounding.
Just as I had taken off my pyjamas and was putting on my tunic, there was a hasty knock at my door. Rather than a polite knock, the person was slamming their fists onto the door and the door creaked slightly to the sound. It was the first time I had heard such a knock, and I gulped involuntarily.
“Viscountess Kaldia, it’s me, Ergnard! You can stay in your pyjamas so please open the door!”
Ergnard, who was usually calm, was shouting anxiously from the other side of the door. I felt slightly relieved since it was someone I knew.
“I’ll open it now.”
I quickly removed the latch on the door with my dalmatica still in hand, and Ergnard threw the door open. The flames that lit the corridor entered my room and dimly lit it up.
“Listen, it’s the Densel army. The Densel army made their camp last night on the other side of the Great Plains.”
I was surprised when I heard that the Densel army had made camp, and looked out the window, even though I couldn’t see them. Beyond the fortress walls was the flat, wide Great Plains. That was all I could vaguely see.
“The draconis detected their scents. We’ll be sending out a reconnaissance unit once the sun rises, and we’ll prepare for battle. Where’s your battle gear?”
Ergnard rudely slipped into my room as he said that. “In the lacquered box,” I answered, and he jogged to the box and went through all its contents.
“What about that? … Alright, it’s in here. Let’s go, Earl Einsbark is waiting for you.”
My body suddenly floated in the air the moment I nodded. I felt pressure on my stomach, and a moan escaped from the back of my throat. By the time that I finally understood that Ergnard was carrying me, Ergnard was walking in the opposite direction from where we usually went with large strides.
Dawn came quickly. Ergard and I arrived at a room in the fortress when the golden sun gradually began rising on the other side of the forest. It had only been 10 minutes, but the scene outside of the window had changed significantly.
“Yes, just now.”
Ergnard put me down, and I staggered a few steps. I was a bit groggy since my body was a bit shaken.
“… Are you alright, Viscountess Kaldia?”
“Y-yes. I’m fine.”
I no longer felt as if I was spinning around, and had no problems standing up properly and bowing. Earl Einsbark checked my appearance, nodded, then motioned for me to take a seat over on the sofa. Ergnard and I both sat down across from Earl Einsbark. There was a table in between us, on which a map of the surrounding the royal fief was spread.
On the map to the east of Fort Jugfefna in the middle of the Great Plains was a toy that represented the enemy soldiers. Also, there was a piece in the Bandishia Plateau that represented the enemy force, and a piece that represented an unknown force. Those pieces probably represented the Sill tribe and the Densel army unit that was chasing after them.
“We sent out a draconis scout unit the moment that the Densel army was detected, but currently, we only know that they’ve made their camp and are unsure of their exact numbers.”
Earl Einsbark picked up a tiny toy piece. He placed it next to the piece on the Great Plain. Apparently, that represented the scout unit.
“We wouldn’t have noticed them if we didn’t have the draconis.”
“Bastards,” Ergnard muttered under his breath. I looked at the pieces on top of the map and was impressed by how skilfully things were done. As long as they have the pretext of suppressing the Sill tribe, a group of rebellions, they can make an excuse to set up camp, chase the tribe down, and catch all of them in a pincer attack. It was such a grand move to corner less than 100 members of the equestrian tribe. Even Earl Einsbark seemed daunted.
Even if they hadn’t done that, they had already mobilised 300 troops to chase after the Sill tribe. They deployed more soldiers, and even dared to make camp at the national border. If the draconis hadn’t detected them, then we wouldn’t have been able to go on alert. Is this how the Densel army operates? I glared at the pieces with a terribly cold feeling.
“… The sun has come up.”
A knock sounded at the door just when Earl Einsbark gazed out the window, and a knight entered the room after he was granted permission.
“Reporting in, the scout unit has returned! The Densel army numbers about 700, and they have siege engines in their camp!”
“Foolish. Does Densel really intend to declare war with our kingdom?!”
Ergnard barked in anger, then stood up with a clatter. I looked at the map again. There is no reason for Densel to declare war on Arxia before Rindarl is established. What is the meaning of this? I grinded my teeth. If only Earl Thelesia was here, I thought painfully. I want to hear his opinion. I suddenly looked up and saw that Earl Einsbark was looking at me, amusingly. He changed his focus in an instant, and also stood up from the sofa.
“Tell Vormav to have the soldiers line up in front of the fortress walls.”
His voice was solemn. I couldn’t help but straighten my back.
The soldier bowed and left the room. A moment of silence filled the room.
“Viscountess Kaldia, get dressed and head to the other side of the fortress walls with Ergnard. If you have anything to tell your army, then I’ll listen to it now.”
“There’s nothing. Thank you for asking.”
Earl Einsbark nodded once, and sighed heavily before exiting the room.
War is now imminent, and is just a stone’s throw away from becoming reality. I was tense to the point of clutching my fists, but I wasn’t filled with fear yet. I checked my mental state, which was surprisingly calm, and nodded to myself.
This day has finally come. It was finally happening on the morning of the 21st day since I’ve come to Jugfena Fortress.
The soldiers, who were lined up in the front of the fortress walls, silently checked their own equipment. I kept glaring at the map of the surrounding territory in my hands while feeling extremely tense.
The role given to the Kaldia army in the upcoming battle on the plains was defending the left wing formation, and to guide the Sill tribe back to the fortress when the Sill tribe and their pursuers engage in battle, midway.
The inner part of the left wing consisted of spear infantry in close formation, and our role was to ambush the Sill tribe’s pursuers. In addition, a cavalry unit will be heading eastward through Amon Nohl towards Bandishia Plateau. They will help and guide the Sill tribe. They have also been included in the refugees who we’ve decided to accept. Thus, we have to guide them to the fortress. The refugees, who have arrived at the fortress, are farmers, and they belong to a class of rulers in Artolas. If we can acquire the Sill tribe, an ex-ruling class, and don’t receive a declaration from them saying that the refugees are ‘Ar Xia believers’, then the refugees would feel obliged to Densel and by extension the Rindarl Union.
Among the reasons to help the refugees discussed at the House of Lords, one was that we must defend our fellow believers who are being religiously persecuted in other kingdoms.
Earl Einsbark must issue the order for troops to move out because he knows this well.
I don’t think that Densel predicted that we would shield and come to the aid of the Sill tribe, but there is no way they prepared that many troops just to chase the Sill tribe. This is evident from the fact that they have brought siege weaponry, even though it’s not needed to subdue the Sill tribe. What’s more, there’s no way anyone could watch as the Sill tribe gets pincer before their eyes.
“My Lord, here, your sword.”
I didn’t realise that someone was next to me, and I raised my face in response to the soft voice that was calling me. When I looked up, I saw Gunther holding a shortsword for me.
“… Oh, ah. My bad, Gunter.”
I quickly received the sword from him, folded up my map, and put it away in my waist pouch. I also sheathed the shortsword into the scabbard attached to my belt. I had completely forgotten to equip myself with a sword since I had already stood my spear next to me. I must have been too tense.
The Kaldia army would not voluntarily engage in the battle itself, since this was a military operation. But even so, the situation on the battlefield could change at any moment, so I need my sword for self-defence, and to lead my soldiers. The soldiers will march when they see my hoisted sword on top of the horse.
“It’s fine, nobles usually have servants help them prepare for war. And, there’s no one here who will help you get ready, My Lord.”
“I’ve made you act like a servant even though you’re a soldier.”
Gunter, who was friendlier and more loose-lipped than usual, was being considered towards me, even if I didn’t want to admit it.
… I will be standing on the battlefield. Just by thinking that, my heart, which had remained calm until now, suddenly started thudding in my chest. I took deep breaths to slow down my rapid heartbeats.
“… What for? If it’s about the sword, then I’ve already heard it.”
It was my fief army’s first campaign. I’m not permitted to freeze from tension since I’m their leader. I was grateful that Gunter hadn’t said that in words. It’ll be fine once my tension clears, I tried not to worry.
“Well, it’ll be nice if Kamil was here. Make up once you get back.”
“… Yeah, I will.”
Was it good that I was able to organise my emotions when I got away from the Golden Hill Mansion?
Strangely, I nodded obediently. Gunter looked at me in surprise, and then sighed.
“… I don’t know what happened between you two, but be that honest with Kamil too. After the birthday celebration, he’s been dealing with his problems the best he could. That orphan almost killed you. And, we didn’t show much compassion. We don’t want to listen to those without willpower.”
I watched Gunter’s back as he returned to the army line after he had said what he had wanted to say. I don’t think he’s someone who would spoil me… but, I wonder if he thought it was evitable for a child to back away just before the battle, even if she is the feudal lord.
Those without willpower, is it? Does that mean that the soldiers recognise my guts? Anyway, I slapped my cheeks and got myself fired up. I can’t fall off my horse from thinking too much.