Clemente Village, a farming village in Densel, had been transformed into a liaison base and a rare new base for the Arxian army.
The commoners, who were living under the Arxian army’s occupation, held their breath as they looked at the soldiers who were arriving from Jugfena with terror.
… I’ve heard that there’s a treaty in Rindarl that stipulates the treatment of civilians in times of war. Originally, all the kingdoms in Rindarl were created by dividing the large Rindarl Kingdom. It is said that the treaty was enacted in order to avoid needlessly harming those who had become the subjects of their own kingdoms when they won.
However, that treaty had nothing to do with Arxia. Arxia was a closed country that had completely everything on its own and had spent 600 years since its establishment without making any war treaties with any other kingdom.
The war between Densel Dukedom and Artolas Kingdom was only thirty years ago. Clemente Village was once occupied by both the Densel and Artolas armies when they fought at the border.
Therefore, the way they were treated at that time was still fresh in some people’s minds. ――― Unlike thirty years ago when they could maintain their livelihood as long as they were obedient, the more soldiers we had, the more the villagers were forced to leave their homes and the less they had to eat. The villagers in Clemente village were suffocating from fear and distrust since their lives weren’t guaranteed even if they showed their obedience.
They were just like the villagers at Cyril Village when the stone was thrown at me, I thought while feeling like I was being stabbed with needles.
“… It’s not a good atmosphere.”
Wiegra, who had been giving orders left and right without taking any breaks since we started moving, frowned and said as soon as he finally had time to sit down.
I nodded back sympathetically at the man who looked like he was drowning and gasping for air. My Kaldia army, who are involuntarily used to this kind of atmosphere, was still fine, but the knights and soldiers of Jugfena have never been around civilians before and were restless. It’s not a good idea to expose them to a mentally draining environment for too long when they haven’t even been on the frontlines yet.
“I’m afraid that they will revolt if a chance opens up for them.”
“… That’s awfully convincing…”
“I’m ashamed to say that something close to that has happened to me before.”
“I can’t believe that you, a newly pre-adult girl, has had such an experience, but unfortunately, it does seem true…”
Wiegraf groaned with his head in his hands.
From the window of the chief’s house, the largest building in the village, which was turned into a makeshift base of operations, I could clearly see the area where the commoners were crammed.
Food had been collected from this village since it became a liaison base and sent to the frontline. It’s been eight months since then. The commoners, who were being watched by the soldiers as they went about their work, looked awfully haggard, but their eyes were filled with fear, panic and anger.
“… They’re just the same as slaves.”
I said subconsciously. Arxia Kingdom doesn’t accept slaves. But what is the difference between slaves and these commoners who didn’t know if they would live or die, have no freedom, and have their food taken away from them with nothing in return?
I don’t plan on sympathising with the people of Rindarl. I believe they were informed at the time we occupied this village that Arxia would accept them as refugees if they convert to the Xia religion.
I just felt a twinge of emotion seeing them treated as slaves when they were just going about their daily lives without any responsibility for the actions of their kingdom.
“Arxia had been preparing to release the war prisoners to Planates if war is to break out with Densel. We can’t release them until the war is over now that war has been declared because of the conflict with Planates… When the war is over, we can have a new conversation with them about the treatment of the war prisoners.”
Wiegraf answered my murmur with a hint of mockery. Then, he began to open a map on the desk after a short break.
When the war is over, huh? Well, that’s true, all we can do is end this war as soon as possible.
“It would be better if we ended this war sooner. Specifically, sometime last year.”
“Well, it’s important that we don’t interfere with the outside kingdoms, in order for our kingdom to maintain a quiet and peaceful existence.”
Even as he said this, Wiegraf laid out pieces onto the map without hiding his annoyance and piled up the reports of battle situations from the frontline, that had arrived by red pigeons, around the pieces.
I took my eyes off the commoners and returned to the table. It was time for the strategy meeting.
“――― Now I know this is abrupt, but I’m going to have to keep you a little busy.”
Ironically, Wiegraf broke off a red flower from the vase on the desk and placed it on top of the map.
The place where it was placed ――― was not the remnant hills, which had already turned to a battlefield, but further east, in the capital of Eris, the home base of the Densel army.
He said he had made up this plan because of Radka’s existence.
Wiegrad even said, “In fact, it would have been better if Elize (Radka) is here,” to which I replied sarcastically, “That’s quite a fun idea.” I was a little repulsed by the idea of using me, a mere feudal lord of a fief, so much in a foreign war.
Or rather, I’ve never talked to Wiegrad about Radka, nor have I even let them meet.
How long has he been aware of him? No matter how much Radka looks like me, I don’t think people would notice that I made him look exactly like me.
When I grew suspicious, Wiegraf smiled, and I could guess what he wanted to say.
“I heard Ergnard has seen her a few times at the mansion. I hear she’s a cute maid.”
Wiegraf didn’t look like his younger brother, but he had a smile on his face that looked exactly like his little brother’s smile.
“Well, isn’t it an interesting strategy? Yeah, I’m glad to see you enjoying yourself.”
My smile is twitching. I didn’t know what other expression to make when I was told that the operation name would be ‘Earl Kaldia’s Five Men’.
“The fact that they had taken the trouble to order their scouts to confirm your whereabouts only proves that the enemy forces consider you quite dangerous. The enemy must be getting nervous about your whereabouts, as long as there’s no sign of you on the frontlines.”
Well, that may indeed be true. I’m aware of the fact that I’ve gained a good amount of notoriety for my efforts in killing as many people as I can in the past defensive battles. I don’t know how much the Rindarl people know about the domestic affairs of Arxia, but from their perspective, it must be eerie that I haven’t shown up at all even in spring.
In this world, it’s quite rare to have a legal system where all noble children in the kingdom gather to receive education. Since Arxia was isolated and had not made this known, it was likely that very few people knew that I had retreated back to the kingdom to study.
The jokingly-named operation, which was explained to me, was simple: I and the knights who will be dressed as me will be riding on Rashiok and the draconis who are waiting at each of the bases and taking advantage of our mobility and stealth in the air, we will attack the capital, Eris, and the fleet of ships on Teve River to throw the enemy into chaos.
The three draconis from Jugfena will continue their assault on Eris, and I along with Rashiok, will fly back to the fleet of ships at full speed. As soon as we return from Eris, we will join the fight at Teve River.
… I didn’t feel like I was being asked to work unreasonably hard. It was a reasonable assignment. I’m sure I’m the only one who can ride Rashiok to the fullest, even though the Jugfena draconis were used by a large number of soldiers.
“Rashiok, stop here.”
I stroked the neck of the draconis, who obeyed my words but looked uncomfortable as he looked down at the circular city.
Apparently, he didn’t like the large sack hanging from his back, which was prepared for this mission. Well, even I, as a human, could smell if from here. The stench must be unbearable for Rashiok since he had a really good nose. Therefore, I silently accepted the long, snake-like tail that poked by cheek and head from behind. Poking and prodding with their dexterous tails seemed to be a way for draconis to express and vent their frustration with their pack.
From Amon Nohl, where the sun usually sets, I watched as the sky slowly lit up. Together with the Jugfena knights who flew with us and were already scattered in the sky above the targeted buildings, we used the sunrise as a signal to start our mission.
In the short time it took the sun to appear between the white mountain ridges, we threw cigarette matches into the cloth bags filled with sawdust covered in oil. It burnt up easily if you tie the mouth of the bag and shake it a few times.
Now, let’s have the Densel’s get acquainted with fire before they even see the sunrise today.
The draconis descended all at once as the morning sun burnt my eyes.
I cut off the bag of sawdust that was covered in oil and strapped to Rashiok’s belly at our target ――― the castle of Eris’s feudal lord and threw burning flints at it.
As soon as I gave the signal, Rashiok flapped his wings with a loud flap. The flames that had grown by the wind grew even bigger and spread all over the castle.
Most of Eris’s citizens, who were still asleep, weren’t aware of this quiet rising fire.
I watched as the flames swelled to the point of no return, and after confirming that the area around the other targets had also suddenly brightened, I gave the next signal.
“… Alright, let’s go to our next destination. I’ll leave after I’ve grandly announced myself to Eris’s military personnel. It’ll be really rushed though.”
Behind Rashiok, who understood my signal and flew up in the sky again, the sound of wood in the castle exploded. ――― The screams of the castle soldiers, who had noticed this, pierced through Eris’s dawn.
… That was the plan to attack Eris. The following is a recollection of the strategy meeting.
“We’ll begin our assault on Eris tomorrow at dawn. This operation is entirely based on your and my decisions, and judging from the enemy’s strategy, this will probably be our last battle. It’s on me.”
Your and my, Wiegraf said, but the difference in our status is too great, so it’s mostly based on his decisions. I’m sure this was his own decision since there was no time to consult with the palace, nor did he have time to consult with the commanding general at the fourth base, Di Lo Fee.
“Each draconis who is going to Eris will take a bag filled with enough oil for two or three adults and set fire to the Eris’s feudal lord’s castle and the facilities where the soldiers are housed. I want you to use the draconis to fan the flames as much as possible.
… Hah, I see, that really is a grand action. As Wiegraf talked about the strategy in a calm and refreshing way, while smiling, I somehow understood why Ergnard is like how he is. And now I knew that the reason why I, who had followed his example in the battlefield, had become infamous; it was because of this former chief of staff.
It was a clear legal risk for me and the people of Jugfena to plan and carry out this operation entirely on our own, as it was necessary to seek permission from the Upper House of Lords to attack a hostile city. I’m sure I’ll be accused of acting without consulting the proper authorities, but the fact that the royal army isn’t involved will save us from further trouble, and I could pretend that I had borrowed some of the Jugfena soldiers and acted alone.
Even if I am blamed, I’ll give the enemy army a huge blow to thoroughly discourage their will to fight, and this time, they’ll definitely be able to do nothing but shake their heads and agree to the peace treaty. Everyone involved in this war doesn’t want to be troubled or exhausted any more. It’s not like I’m not being considerate towards the Densel citizens.
“You will set fire to Eris to make it known that you have come to Eris, then you’ll leave immediately and travel to Di Lo Fee. After that, the other three who are dressed as Earl Kaldia will cause great confusion and terror in Eris. By the time you arrive on the battlefield at Teve River, you’ll probably be able to hear the screams from Eris…”
“Then, I’ll cause more chaos?”
“I’m sure they’ll be twice as horrified. I can’t wait. Now, it’s time to talk about the plan for attacking the fleets… I’m going to need you to work a lot while you still can, so that you won’t have much trouble after the war.”
After the war? What does that mean? I raised my eyebrows and Wiegraf smiled at me. His smile pressured me so that I couldn’t say yes or no.