There is only one major trend in the Arxian army wartime strategies.
- Stop the enemy’s attacks.
- Wait for the withdrawal, destruction or annihilation of the enemy forces and then launch an offensive attack.
- Quickly achieve the established goal, such as capturing a base.
That very simple pattern is maintained by the vast number of standing armies that Arxia has.
Now that the enemy scouts have invaded, Ergnard has taken his troops to the frontline, but the troops he had taken with him are only performing the first part of the strategy; they were the advance troops who were defending Arxia. The main force is still in this fortress.
As soon as Marquis Lorenzorell returns from giving orders on the frontline, I’m going to ask Eric to act as the King’s representative in front of the main force ――― but he has other work to do.
“What work am I doing?”
When I visited Eric, who was bored in his assigned room, and told him that I was going to guide him through his work, he turned around with a troublesome expression on his face. He did ask what his work was, so he hadn’t forgotten why he had come here.
“You’re comforting the injured. This fortress has a clinic for wounded soldiers. I’ve been told by Marquis Lorenzorell that comforting wounded soldiers in the Royal Army is the job of those who hold the title of Duke and above.”
“Hmm… So, why are you guiding me there? You have nothing to do with the Royal Army.”
“I hold a private Knight Order, which gives me the status of an external military officer in the Royal Army.”
A person who holds a private Knight Order isn’t included as a member of said order. But, formally, they are registered in the Royal Army list as military officials, in name only.
This was apparently a system to show that the private Knight Order ultimately belongs to the state and is not the private army of the holder. It is only a position on paper, and you don’t get paid like a regular military official.
… However, Ergnard and the others are often used as the Royal Army’s military officials, so they take on duties like babysitting Eric. It’s something I can’t agree with, even though they get rewarded afterwards for their actions. I didn’t want to become military personnel at all, and I felt that it was a little unreasonable that I was included in that category somehow.
Well, I know that Ergnard and the others added more to the reward money, so I can understand why this was happening. This was probably their roundabout way of supporting Kaldia fief, which has almost recovered, but still lacked an outstanding industry and is as shabby as ever.
Under the Royal Army’s military laws, the duties of an external military official are treated almost like outsourcing. And since there is no concept of outsourcing fees, the rewards are paid out from the private funds of the commissioner instead of the military budget.
“I’ve been told by the Earl that Baron Dorvadine needs to complete his visit to the clinic before the Commanding General returns.”
“… Hah, fine, I got it. I’ll go.”
Perhaps it was because he had been too bored during the past few days, but it was easier to move Eric than I thought it would be.
The clinic was simply an extension of the fortress’s infirmary.
Although, the clinic was treated as the rear base and it is also a facility that houses many seriously injured people who can no longer fight on the frontlines nor return to their home fiefs.
Eric quietly entered the nursing room with a scowl on his face, but he choked as soon as he stepped into the room.
The soldiers lying in the nursing room, or perhaps I should call them ex-soldiers? Many of the ex-soldiers were missing their arms or legs or had severe burns, and their pain was instantly recognisable.
“Eric-sama, can I ask you to speak to each of them individually? The patients in this room can no longer stand on the battlefield. They can only wait to be picked up by people from their fief or their relatives.”
The doctor spoke to Eric. But Eric shrunk away from the patient’s bed.
The doctor and I looked at each other and shook our heads at Eric’s stunned expression. I had expected this, but it seemed that it was still too shocking for him to see the people who were staying here.
There were no soldiers with minor injuries in this clinic, because those with minor injuries are never brought back from the frontlines. There were only seriously injured soldiers who had managed to escape death but had been injured so badly that they couldn’t move on their own.
I’m sure I had explained to him what kind of place the clinic was beforehand, but Eric has lived his life far away from injuries, so he didn’t understand how shocking it was until he actually saw this scene, even though he thought he understood.
If that had been the Crown Prince or Grace, then they probably wouldn’t show how shook up they were by that. The two must have been trained not to show it.
How should I calm Eric down and get him to comfort these people? I’m only a guide, and I’m not directly related to these soldiers, so I can’t go around and talk to the soldiers on his behalf since it would completely destroy Eric’s position.
… How troublesome. Why do I have to be some kind of educator for a guy my age?
“Heeee! Why, why is the vampire here?! Nooooooooo! I don’t want to kill anymore. I don’t want to kill anymoreeeeee!”
Suddenly, a deranged scream came from the corner of the nursing room.
The doctor turned towards that corner at the same time as when I clicked my tongue at the word ‘vampire’.
Eric was petrified, so he was late to react. His shoulders shook and he looked around restlessly.
“Calm down, don’t get too worked up! Someone! The sedative!”’
“No! No! I’ve had enough of this! I’m not going to hurt others for her food anymore!”
“Why did you come back!? Didn’t you go to the noble’s academy!?!?”
“I can’t fight anymore! Please stop. I don’t want to die or kill anymore! I can’t fight! I’ve lost my legs!”
As if in response, there was a succession of screams and collapsing noises everywhere and the room suddenly became noisy.
A number of glances pierced at me with clear gloomy emotions such as condemnation, scorn and fear.
The doctor urged me to immediately leave the room and Eric staggered after me as if he was following me.
I closed the door behind me as if trying to stifle the commotion, and my heavy breathing became sighs that wanted to come out.
My reputation among the Royal Army soldiers is often not a good one. There seemed to be a strong emotional backlash to my treatment of the war prisoners, and my attacks on the enemy troops, because my methods had differed greatly from theirs.
I don’t think I was the cause of their trauma, but… I bit my lips since my thoughts had been too naïve when I heard the sounds of the doctor subduing a soldier who was panicking and screaming with tears in his eyes through the thin door.
It seemed that to them ――― that to the Arxian soldiers who are supposed to be my allies ――― I am a symbol of death, violence and the battlefield. The longer the commotion in the room went on, the more I felt like my stomach was filled with lead.
“… I apologise, Viscount Dorvadine. It seems like I’ve disturbed the comforting atmosphere. I will inform Earl Einsbark to have someone else show you here at a later date, so let’s go back to your room.”
I called out to Eric, who was unable to comprehend the situation at all and was staring at the nursing room door with a dumbfounded expression on his face.
He turned his gaze to me and looked terribly confused.
“Wh-what happened just now? Why are the kingdom’s soldiers that afraid of you?”
“… The battlefield is a place where one’s heart can be easily wounded.”
I prompted Eric to walk as I walked down the corridor while deciding to talk to him. I needed to educate him a bit and this was a good opportunity to do so. I chose my words carefully, thinking that it would be better for him to be aware of the situation next time he came to comfort them.
“The fact that we have to fight and kill each other, even if we are enemies, causes natural rejection and is mentally draining. As you know, Eric-dono, I am more or less famous for killing a lot of my enemies mercilessly. Their hearts have weakened since they can’t stand on the battlefield ever again, and they must be terrified of anything that reminds them of the battlefield, ally or foe alike.”
“Injury and death can happen not only to the body, but also the mind. Just as a person who has been burnt has a strong fear of fire, it is natural for all living beings to fear the pain that they have experienced. This is so they can live, so that they don’t die and so that they won’t be hurt any further.”
My mind drifted back to my citizens as I explained to Eric about psychological trauma.
Everyone was deeply hurt by the hellish life my father had created for them. Even though it was necessary, what Earl Thelesia and I did afterwards was just a drastic measure. I felt regret, wondering if there was something I could have done to heal their hearts.
The voice that came from Eric wasn’t to show that he understood nor was it to ask a question; his voice sounded as if he didn’t understand my point.
“What about me?”
I tilted my head and asked him back since I wasn’t sure what he wanted to say. Eric frowned as if he also didn’t know what to say.
“You weren’t trying to kill those soldiers directly, were you?”
Of course, I nodded my head at his somewhat roundabout question.
Even though they’re commoners, I’ve never thought of committing such a callous act against the Royal Army soldiers who should be respected. In the first place, we operate under a different chain of command, so they have never directly participated in my evil plans.
“… Is it alright? You’ve done nothing to them, yet they…”
Scream and glare at you. He stopped the words he was about to say, but I knew exactly what he wanted to say.
“They are not my citizens.”
I shrugged and answered. I didn’t answer if I was alright with it or not.
If I say I’m fine, then I’m fine. If I say I’m not, then I’m not. I felt depressed, but unlike my citizens, I didn’t feel like clinging to them in hopes that they would one day understand.
“… No way, so…”
I thought I heard Eric mutter something, so I asked him to repeat himself. Then, Eric looked up and I was pierced by his strong gaze.
“It’s because you’re like this that they call you a vampire and are even traumatised by you. I hate… that you don’t pay any attention to anyone but those within your circle.”
He said he hated it, but for some reason, his expression was not one of disgust, instead, he looked as if he was going to cry.