I could see that Gunter’s face was full of frustration when he turned around. Gunter has a low boiling point, and was prone to using his firsts, so he was really showing quite a lot of self-restraint.
“Oh, Viscountess Kaldia. You’re back?”
The moment Gunter heard that overly cheerful voice that seemed awfully out of place on the battlefield coming from next to him, he grimaced. From over his shoulder, I saw a middle-aged man with a face that reminded me of a reptile’s. He is the captain of the Palakis squad.
“… Gunter, Ergnard-sama has ordered the troops to stop. Tell the soldiers to stop.”
I ignored the overly-familiar language from the captain, and directly gave Gunter an order instead. Gunter shook his head, then hoisted his sword. The captain looked around restlessly.
The trailing soldiers immediately halted. The Kaldia army is quite small. Commanding them is easy once one knows how to. The captain, who had come here with the excuse that there was no commander, looked bored. Paolo spoke up and told the captain, “You can go back,” probably because he knew that I thought the vice-captain had a foul mouth.
“Ergnard-sama has a message for you. The knights will be scouting the enemy camp, so the rest of the army will remain on standby. We, the left wing, do not know when the Sill tribe will join us, so we will stay on our guards.”
“What?” the captain responded. He looked back at his Palakis squad, then quickly rushed back. The rear of his squad could see the rest of the army, so they had stopped, the middle also stopped since they had seen that the Kaldia army had halted, but the front was still marching forward.
“… He should command his own squad before interfering with others.”
Gunter said grumpily, while I silently watched as I drew a line across my neck with my thumb, then I pointed at the captain who was shouting, “Stop you idiots!”
“Well, that’s what will happen.”
Gunter shrugged, turned around and got back into line.
“My Lord, I’m going to make a complaint about him and that senile old geezer when we get back to the castle.”
“Do what you want. We don’t even know if we’ll survive this.”
Gunter was more foul-tongued than usual, but it was easy to see that his mood had hit rock bottom. I recalled that Gunter was like this every day when I was thrown into the barracks last year… He really held himself back and finished my training without killing me. On the contrary, he is now serving as a bodyguard right by my side. The change in a person’s mind is indescribable.
――― Maybe, they could have changed into good people if they had the impetus; the family that I had killed that is. Now that I can’t find words to describe a person’s change of heart, such thoughts gushed out from the back of my mind for some reason. I was the one who had cut off their chance to change, and cast them into oblivion. And, Kamil too.
… That’s not what I should be thinking about now. I lightly shook my head to get rid of those thoughts, looked around, and carefully checked our position. Originally, the battle should have begun already, and we were a little past that point. The arrival of the Sill tribe seemed to be only a matter of time.
We probably remained on lookout for about two hours. Nothing had happened during that time, and the plains were eerily silent, but my expression changed completely when I finally heard something from behind us.
Gunter raised his voice in suspicion. A soldier from the back row spoke as if answering Gunter’s question.
“My Lord! There’s a cloud of dust rising from behind us!”
At almost the same time, I could hear battle cries coming from the centre formation. Is it an enemy attack? Don’t tell me they’re coming from behind us?
“My Lord, look over there!”
Paolo grabbed my shoulder. I turned my horse around to look in the direction he was pointing in, and saw black smoke rising from one of the tents in the back of the enemy camp.
I didn’t have the chance to think about it for long, because Gunter spoke again.
“Oi, they’re coming!”
The soldiers immediately stopped making a fuss, and their tension ran high. Horses were kicking up quite a lot of dust from the northeast. The soldier in front of the horses was holding the Jugfena Fortress flag.
“Raise our flags!!”
The 3rd Knight Order whose role was to guide the Sill tribe here was rapidly approaching us, and my army raised their flag as well. Then, I also heard an order from the side, “Take your positions!” The Palakis squad quickly fixed their crooked formation; they organised themselves into a dense formation and readied their spears.
The Sill tribe and 3rd Knight Order rushed at us without reducing their speed. From what I could see, there were many men running on foot, followed by children on horseback; there were two to three children on each horse. The person, who was holding the flag, stopped in front of me and asked, “Would you happen to be Viscountess Kaldia?” I nodded to say that I was. He saluted me, then briefly reported the situation with the detached force.
“About the Sill tribe, their numbers are more overwhelming than was reported. The woman who arrived at Jugfena Fortress apparently had to leave her clan behind in Bandishia Plataea. The men gave their horses to the children and women, and their warriors are running alongside our 3rd Knight Order.”
While we were talking, the horses that had children on them started passing by us, and the women soon followed along with bustling noises and metallic clanging. Behind them were several armed knights; the rest of the knights were probably holding back the pursuers.
“We probably fell into Densel’s trap. The Densel troops are moving from the south to the rear of the Jugfena army. I just heard the battle cries from the centre formation, so it won’t be surprising if they’re already engaged in battle.”
“Then, let us take retreat back to the fortress using Bandishia Plateau. Please leave the lead to me.”
I had wanted him to lead, if possible, so I nodded right away. Then, a man from the Sill tribe who was on horseback stopped in front of us. He had a bow in his hands, but his quiver was empty.
『Oi, they’re the last ones without weapons. What are we going to do now?!』
He spoke in fluent Artolas. Only the knight and I understood what he had said, and Gunter and Paolo looked at each other blankly.
『We’ll go to our fortress through Bandishia Plateau! We can’t go through the plains since the battle has already begun! 』
I slid my glance as the knight answered, and saw an arrow flying in our direction from further east. The angry yells and shrieks could be heard vividly. The pursuing Densel soldiers are close by. Meanwhile, the Sill tribe man who had used up all his arrows and injured people continued to rush forward. They smelled like blood and dirt.
“Let’s go. It’s time to head for Jugfena Fortress.”
“Understood. Viscountess Kaldia, please lead your army.”
I was worried about leaving the rear guard up to the Palakis squad, but we couldn’t afford to stay here any longer. Paolo jumped off the horse as if he had just remembered to do so, and I pulled the reins.
“Kaldia army, prepare to withdraw! We’re withdrawing!”
The soldiers I rode past turned around and raised their swords and spears. Among them, I saw the Sill tribe warriors give up their horses to those running in the lead.
“We’re going to return to Jufgena Fortress through Bandishia Plateau! Begin marching!!”
As soon as the troops started withdrawing, the rear of the Palakis squad advanced forward. The last things I heard were people’s shrieks, horses neighing and people screaming, combined with the sound of metallic clanging.
The exhausted Sill tribe, numbering roughly 300, all tried their hardest to go as fast as they could, despite their condition. Those who couldn’t run anymore would change places with those on horses, and those who looked like they would collapse were supported by others as they made a run to Jugfena Fortress under the leadership of the knights.
A lot of people were reaching their limits, since we were mostly going uphill. But even so, they didn’t slow down because they were scared that the battle sounds right behind them would catch up to them.
Turning back, I could see the forces from Jugfena Fortress fighting with the Densel army. I could see the whole situation clearly since they were battling at a lower elevation than us.
The Jugfena Fortress army had indeed fallen into the Densel army trap and were attacked from an unexpected direction, so the two armies’ positions were reversed.
The Jugfena Fortress army would fire arrows at the Densel army if they stepped back, and if the Jugefena Fortress army stepped back, then they would be caught in the fire that was engulfing the Densel army tents. Both armies were at their last stand, and the situation would most likely develop into a scene of brutal carnage, since they had nowhere to run.
Even though I couldn’t possibly see him because of our distance, I noticed myself looking for a speck of black amongst the chaos.
“We’re almost there, everyone please keep doing your best.”
Suddenly, one of the knights, who had concealed his breath and remained silent up until now, suddenly encouraged the Sill tribe. He had spoken in Arxian instead of Artolas, but the meaning somehow transmitted to them, and they seemed relieved. He had probably said that to give them a sense of relief since we had reached a place where the enemy couldn’t see us even if the knight raised his voice.
『It’s just a little further until we reach the fortress. Let’s go, everyone can take a rest once we reach our destination.』