In the meantime, I heard a voice say, “Line up!” and the soldiers, who had all finished preparing their equipment, organised themselves while making clanking noises.
“Are you ready?”
Vormav, who was standing in front of the troops, glanced around and spoke. He hadn’t spoken in a loud voice, but it carried well, just like his father Earl Einsbark’s voice. The soldiers and the knights all saluted at him together. He briefly informed the troops that the Densel army was right upon our doorstep, and that we were going to battle to protect the Sill tribe. When the soldiers responded, Vormav stepped down, and Wiegraf stepped forward.
“The infantry and cavalry troops will set camp outside the castle walls. The centre formation shall consist of the 1st and 4th Knight Orders, as well as Egor’s squad; the right wing shall consist of the 2nd Knight Order and Levski’s squad on the outside; and the left wing shall consist of Palakis’s squad the Kaldia fief army. All archers shall man the castle walls. Avelyn squad, please take charge of the fortress and wall defences. The 3rd Knight Order is acting as a detached force and has already moved out.”
The 3rd Knight Order that he had just mentioned is probably the unit that is meant to guide the Sill tribe. Not counting the archers, the 3rd Knight Order, and the squad who we were leaving behind to defend the fortress, our battle strength is approximately 450 troops. Being surrounded by 700 soldiers is a tough battle, but our victory isn’t winning against the Densel army.
“Listen up, our main objective is to protect the Sill tribe, not the eradication or retreat of the Densel army.”
The overall plan was to first get into the arranged formations and march our soldiers towards the Densel army camp, both as a threat and to directly inquire the meaning behind their advancing army. Judging from their situation, the war will surely start, and our tactical objective is the destruction of their siege weaponry. Along with joining up with the Sill tribe, the 3rd Knight Order and the Kaldia army will protect the Sill tribe, and withdraw. Afterwards, the knights and soldiers will also retreat, and we will focus on defending the fortress.
“Retreating is a difficult strategy, but it’s not impossible based on the situation. Don’t turn your backs on the enemy, and don’t forget to keep formation while retreating.”
The knights showed an admirable salute after the chief of staff, Wiegraf, personally informed them of our battle strategy. Behind them, the soldiers looked anxious as they also saluted.
I suddenly realised that it’s also their first time fighting against people. The Densel army hadn’t gotten this close to Jugfena Fortress since the Artolas War, 17 years ago.
Just like its neighbouring kingdoms, Arxia uses a conscription system to recruit soldiers, so it was common for farmers, who have only ever used hoes and ploughs, to get drafted onto the battlefield during wartimes. In fact, half of the soldiers in the Kaldia army were farmers, and even those who were enlisted in the army and not drafted will return to their hometown for three months of the year to cultivate the fields, and they were also the ones who grew the wheat in the land under my direct control. When I thought like that, I felt anxiety creep up from my toes. How many people here actually have real combat experience?
I shook my head a little, and raised my head to dispel the anxiety and tension that I was feeling. War had nothing to do with me in my previous life, so the concept of people killing each other on a battlefield had only seemed like a fantasy up until now. My head can’t keep up with the reality that was unfolding in front of my eyes, this doesn’t excuse my naivety towards reality. How many times have I reflected on the reality that was happening right in front of me? I chewed the inside of my cheeks lightly, and used the pain to discipline myself. I organised my feelings faster than usual because of the pain.
I straightened my back and got on my horse. Now that I was on the same line of sight as an adult, I saw knights clad in black on the other side of the soldiers.
Ergnard came running up to me among the soldiers trickling out through the castle gate.
“Be careful out there. I pray that Xia Fema and Misorua keep you safe.”
“Same to you. Your role is probably much more dangerous than mine.”
After all, he is in the centre formation. Moreover, his role is to rush at the enemy when the battle starts. His job was much more dangerous than mine. Ergnard smiled softly, and stoked my hair without messing it up.
“I’m fine. I, and the people around me, are all prepared to die. However, I have no intentions of dying in such a small skirmish.”
I couldn’t say a word. All I could do was keep staring at his face to the extent of burning it into my mind. It was a bit different from his words hitting me in the chest, but his words did ‘stab’ me in the chest.
“… Take care.”
I finally managed to squeeze out with much difficulty, and Ergnard’s smile deepened for a moment before he left.
The soldiers quickly got into formation outside of the fortress walls. “Densel’s army has noticed us,” the leader, Vormav, said. They don’t know that we have draconis here, so they probably won’t know that we’re aware of their movements. On the battlefield, the side with more information has the advantage. One of the basics is to move quickly so that the other side doesn’t get your information.
The drum was beaten heavily and in a steady rhythm at Vormav’s command. In accordance with the beating, the soldiers advanced. While surrounded by soldiers, I was impressed by their marching, even though I knew it was inappropriate. During my birthday celebration march, I kept thinking that I wanted a marching band and, as expected, the soldiers marched with much more unison with even just one drum. The soldiers in my army stuck to the rhythm of the drum; they had probably acquired this skill from practicing here. The left-wing stuck out because of the flat terrain here, but we were still within a 200 metre distance of the centre, so it wasn’t a problem.
Before long, the Densel army’s tent gradually came into view on the horizon; and also their 700 troops who were lined up densely at the front.
But the closer we approached, the more I felt that something was off. I squinted since I couldn’t ignore this trivial feeling, and probably because I looked insecure, Gunter asked, “What’s wrong?”
“I don’t know… but, something seems strange about the enemy. It might just be my imagination.”
“Huh? … Hang on a second.”
Gunter glared suspiciously at the enemy camp when he heard what I had said, and I thought he was going to remain silent, but then he raised his voice, impatiently, “Hey.”
“There’s no horses in the enemy ranks. And, most of the troops seem strange and their heads are fluttering about.”
When I heard that their heads were fluttering, the memory of scarecrows, which were placed in fields, from my previous life suddenly flashed through my mind. Their heavy heads would flutter in the wind. When I look back on this, I was often impressed that such a thing conveniently came to my mind at a time like this.
“… This is probably a decoy.”
“What did you say?!”
“Who, who is the fastest in our army!?”
When I turned around and shouted this, my army soldiers, who were following behind me, stopped in surprise. Dammit, I frowned when the soldiers froze up, and a skinny arm rose up from among them.
“Yes! I’m quite confident in my speed, and everyone says I’m the fastest!”
The one, who pushed the soldiers aside and stepped out as he said this, was a squire named Paolo; he is a boy with a short build. We crossed paths when he joined the army.
“Alright, then I’m giving you an order. Head directly to the 1st Knight Order in the centre formation, and give their leader, Ergnard, this message, the enemy army seems strange. They have no horses present, and their soldiers look like props.”
“Isn’t that terrible!? I’ll go right now!”
Paolo raised his voice with his eyes wide in surprise, but he knew the urgency of the situation, and immediately sprinted in a diagonal direction. His back that had gone off to the distance was honestly fast, and I felt strangely impressed that his confidence and reputation wasn’t just an exaggeration or a lie.
“What’s the matter, Viscountess Kaldia?”
The vice-captain of the Palakins squad walked his horse over to us, probably because they were wondering why the Kaldia army had suddenly stopped marking. He’s an elderly soldier with a white moustache and a beard, and rather than fit, he is a bit more plump.
“There’s something strange about the Densel army, I believe that it could be a decoy.”
There are no horses, and the enemy soldiers’ heads were swaying unsteadily in the wind, much like papier mache. The vice-captain listened to my explanation as he stroked his beard, but when I requested that he report the situation to his captain, he began to chuckle.
Gunter was struck speechless when the vice-captain suddenly began to laugh despite the tense situation. The vice-captain continued to laugh without regards.
“Viscountess Kaldia, you’re really such an adorable child. You remind me of my grandson.”
The vice-captain suddenly went off about something that I didn’t understand at all. I reflexively grimaced, but the man turned to Gunter and continued talking with a joyful expression on his face.
“When they’re surrounded by only adults for the first time, children will say things that will make them stand out. You don’t need to take them seriously.”
What the fuck is with this guy? His attitude and manner of speaking stunned both Gunter and I.
“… If you have time to screw around, then quickly go and report this to your superior.”
Gunter finally managed to squeeze his voice out and say something, and I could easily tell that he was exasperated with, and quite angry at, the vice-captain. The white moustache vice-captain grimaced slightly, but he didn’t say anything and walked his horse back to his rank the same way he had come. He stopped next to his squad captain, but judging from his attitude, he probably won’t be carrying out my order.
I had ordered the vice-captain to tell his captain what he had heard. I have no status in Jugfena Fortress, but I’m still an Arxian noble with the title of viscountess, and this won’t change in Jugfena Fortress or even in Densel land. I took my eyes away from the plump back that I had lost interest in, and felt something trembling at the back of my ears.