The path to the waiting room was very quiet. The words “Don’t run in the corridor” that were posted on the wall were meaningless.
It was quite different from the noise at the front where people were excited about the birth of a new champion or being upset.
No one showed concern for the former champion since no one knew him.
Almost all of the spectators who had gathered in the arena today were first timers. They probably didn’t know that mixed martial art matches had been held here until now.
He had been aiming to be the strongest without being known and he had protected the title of being strongest without being known.
I wonder if the spectators, including us, were fit to witness the end of his aloof strength.
There was no answer to my knock. I pushed open the badly built door.
It’s a bear; not a stuffed animal, but a real bear. It’s very impressive to see him up close like this.
Edward was looking down while still in his boxers, but he noticed us and looked up.
“Who are you?”
His voice lacked power. His face was devoid of any enthusiasm.
“It was a good match.”
I offered Edward a towel. It was a cute sports towel with a bear applique on it that was sold near the entrance of the arena. Yoshinaga-san, who was holding a bouquet of flowers, was standing behind me.
“Did you think it was a good match?”
“Yes, it was a really good match.”
Edward stared at the wall with empty eyes while wiping his sweat with the towel he had just received.
“I was confident that I was strong, but I lost in a single blow.”
“But you did break her weapon.”
“No, she let me break it. She’s very strong.”
“She tampered with it so that it would break?”
Edward nodded and began talking to himself.
The sky piercer is capable of all attacks: thrusting, slashing and sweeping. The <Black Haired Princess> had used all that it was capable of.
She had received the attack of Edward the <Left>, the champion of the mixed martial arts tournament, with her sky piercer.
Edward’s blood boiled when he saw her stance.
Of course, it would. It was the golden <Left Hand> that he had trained with everything he had. And she had received it with a handle. It was the most provocative thing she could have done.
He felt dull pain at the pit of his stomach the moment he struck the handle with all his strength.
It was the shaft.
With Edward’s golden <Left> blow as the point of the force, she rotated the sky piercer. With even centrifugal force on her side, the blow was powerful enough to make Edward fall to the ground even though he was well-trained.
“I believe I would have won if it was just a simple contest of strength, but my opponent was stronger.”
All Yoshinaga-san and I could do was nod.
I hadn’t realised that she had done that at the time. I’m glad I hadn’t said that I would fight Edward even as a joke.
“… I need to be strong. A lot stronger.”
“For the werebears, and for me.”
“Those werebears are waiting for you.”
“Why didn’t you tell me this earlier?!”
I flew faster than I have ever flown before above the Demon Realm. Edward is fast. I wonder if training your body will make you fly faster. Maybe I should do some sit-ups or something.
“Because you swore an oath, didn’t you?”
“I did, but…”
Edward seemed annoyed by Yoshinaga-san’s jab.
He had publicly declared to the manager that he would never break his vow, so he couldn’t argue with her.
“I’ve left everything in the hands of a proxy God until now.”
“Didn’t you tell me that the proxy God wasn’t showing up either, Yoshinaga-san?”
“That’s strange… I pay their monthly salary though. They also send me reports.”
Apparently, one had to submit a report when their salary is paid for remote work.
“Have you read the reports?”
“I have! As I recall, the report was about defending a city named Pazan, and this and that.”
Edward had been tricked. The proxy God had never been to the werebears. They had only submitted a false report and successfully collected their salary.
“That report was a lie.”
“No way… but…”
Edward then became silent.
He must have a lot to think about.
Evil Gods can’t gather karma through faith. So, they needed a source of income to help their believers with miracles. In Edward’s case, it was mixed martial arts.
The means became the end. I guess that’s how it went.
The best example of this was his oath not to go down to the lower world unless he lost.
But I understand how he feels. The Divine Realm is so fascinating that one loses track of time. It has that kind of charm.
When we go down to the lower world, the only people who we come into contact with are our believers, and that too is as God and believers. In the Divine Realm, you can talk and play with Gods of your affinity or even Evil Gods.
No wonder there are so many Gods in the Divine Realm.
But putting that aside, I’m relieved that Edward came down.
It might have only complicated things if I had tried to persuade him to come down before he was defeated by the <Black Haired Princess>.
“I have to apologise to the werebears when I see them.”
“Ah, you better not do that.”
Yoshinaga-san immediately disagreed. Edward seemed puzzled, but I understood why she had disagreed.
“On the contrary, you must forgive the werebears.”
“Why? They suffered because of me.”
“Do you think the werebears will be pleased that their Evil God is apologising to them?”
“To the believers, Gods aren’t friends, but a guide.”
The words that were directed at Edward pierced my heart.
I wonder if I can really guide Draco.
“Forgive the werebears. Keep your apologies in your heart. It will motivate you to be a good God.”
The still-smouldering ‘poison storage’ came into view. I looked for the werebears. Are they still alive?
She chose a leader for every 100 troops.
No such organisation existed in small pack teams.
The men carried their load along the damp forest road.
This made Ri Gudang angry. From being
She had made Ri Gudang angry. From aide to commanding the small packs; this must be punishment.
Still, it was good to experience stepping on someone’s sensitive spot which normally isn’t trended upon.
The men in the small pack groups came from all walks of life and were equipped with all kinds of weapons.
Those from villages who had participated in military service were well prepared. They carried wooden hatchets on their waist and the wooden racks they carried on their backs were covered with cloth.
In contrast, those who were paid were in a terrible condition. Some of them weren’t even wearing hats on this sunny day. Cartier believed that they were magnanimous for getting involved in war since they had to pay for their own equipment.
Was it because of the nature of this area? The idea of ‘small packs’ themselves was something she had only learnt about when she came to the south.
You need a lot of things to fight.
Food, horse fodder, water, money, weapons, camping gear, and much more. There are only two ways to prepare such things. Either you take them with you, or you steal them from the places you go. Cartier was familiar with the latter. For someone who had grown up in such an environment, it seemed odd to prepare many small packs.
She understood why it was done this way.
Stealing supplies took a lot of time and effort and it told the enemy your location. You don’t often get the quantity you expected, and you also incur resentment. Soldiers compete for the spoils of war which was a drain on morale and slows down the march since they were carrying more loot than they needed.
From that sense, this method seemed very progressive.
(But I doubt this kind of method can be used in my hometown.)
She lamented as she put some dried boiled rice in her mouth.
The rice was cooked once and then dried in a cool and well-ventilated place. It was easy to eat once it was hydrated again in hot or cold water. It wasn’t as easy to eat as bread, but it lasted longer.
Rice was the reason why the small packs were created. It was impossible to stockpile large quantities of food to take to war in an area where the reserves are scarce. So, the only method was to steal.
If she could rule this land, then she would be able to dominate the land.
Cartier served Ri Gudang because of this. She served him for her own self-interest.
The fallen <Dethroned Crown Prince, the scheming <Succubus Princess> and the still unknown Demon King candidates. It was clear that she would receive a warm welcome no matter which camp she joined.
She wanted to test her talent.
She lamented the fact that she was born a woman.
She had military talent, or so she believed.
She didn’t know if she was being conceited. The opportunity to test her talent wasn’t even given to her since she is a woman. Back in her hometown, women were thought of as nothing more than egg-laying, child-bearing beings.
As they marched, she gathered the leaders of the small packs and established simple rules.
They were expecting an enemy attack. The enemy was Draco.
What to do when attacked and what formation to take. What to do with those who run away. What to do with the luggage. Just by deciding these matters, the confusion caused by a sudden situation could be somewhat reduced.
A day had passed since they left Pazan. The ranks had already stretched out on the narrow passages of the forest. If she was Draco, she would naturally consider attacking the small packs as an option.
“Are you sure the enemy is coming, Nee-san?”
“It’s not a question about whether or not they will come. We have to prepare for what might happen if they do come.”
“Well, you’re not wrong.”
The leaders were sceptical.
When a large army is approaching, the other side will take a detour and go for the small packs. This tactic wasn’t being employed in the south. Ri Gudang, the supreme commander, didn’t seem to think that Draco would target the small packs. But targeting supply units has often been a strategy used in the northern wilderness and around the capital since ancient times.
What kind of actions will the enemy take when they are placed in a disadvantageous situation?
She had identified the possible and effective tactics Draco could use.
It was hot and humid and there was no water to drink.
Even if they had rice there was no water to cook it and there wasn’t enough firewood since the surrounding area was full of unseasoned wood.
The entire army would be in jeopardy if the small packs were attacked in this situation.
They had to prepare for if Draco attacked them.
At that moment, she heard the flapping wings and chirping of the birds mixed with the loud sound of insects.
They made these sounds to alert the flock.
Cartier, being a harpy, could understand the birds’ words a little.
She moved her body when she heard what was happening.
“The enemy might attack! All units, get ready!”
She took off to the air as she spoke.
She wasn’t running away. She was flying to grasp the situation.
She listened carefully to the birds and checked the direction where the enemy was coming from.
There they are.
It was the enemy.
Their numbers were hidden by the trees but there weren’t many of them.
The enemy also noticed her and shot arrows at her one after the other. The arrows were on fire. They wrapped a cloth containing sap like resin, lit it on fire and shot it. The arrows couldn’t fly very far because of this, but they burnt.
As expected of the <Dethroned Crown Prince’s> command.
If they were a normal small pack, then they would have been thrown into disorder and ran away.
But that didn’t happen. This was a very important battle for Cartier.
Cartier smiled as she lowered her altitude to take command. She could make a name for herself if she is successful here.
A crisis was also an opportunity.
Something was wrong.
The second wave of the attacks had already finished. Things were not going the way Draco had expected. It should have been a surprise attack, but it hadn’t been.
The enemy was just a small pack, and they hardly had any defence with them. They were supposed to burn the luggage and withdraw to Alunaha.
“It’s time to retreat.”
Taibanka, who held the flank, repeatedly came to advise him.
Taibanka was opposed to this plan from the beginning.
It was a dangerous plan. Besides, it would only buy them a little time.
Draco didn’t make the decision to retreat even though he replied.
The entire small pack was holding their ground, although a bit disordered, even though they were shooting fire arrows at them. He became frustrated and impatient at the thought of nothing doing enough damage.
They were taking a dangerous risk to buy them, and yet, he didn’t get the result he wanted.
Is this acceptable?
Draco didn’t pray.
He had to win by his strength alone, without the grace of his Evil God.
Hirano, the Evil God whom Draco worshipped, was now searching for the werebear’s Evil God. That was something that Draco had requested of his Evil God.
He believes in that Evil God.
He believed in him, so he didn’t want to rely on him. He might be abandoned if he does.
That was why Draco was fighting. That determination was now getting in his way.
There was a strong tone of resentment in Taibanka’s voice.
This was understandable since the troops led by Taibanka were cowardly. The core of the troops, which numbered 200, were elite soldiers who Draco had chosen, but the rest were commoners, such as mercenaries, peddlers, and townspeople. They could shoot fire arrows at a certain range, but it was difficult for them to fight in a group.
Draco narrowed his eyes and looked at the small packs.
Smoke was beginning to rise.
It was rising from the rations the small packs were carrying.
It was impossible to do any more damage. He decided, and thus gave the order.
But Taibanka’s reply was cold and flat.
“We’re too late. The enemy’s reinforcements are here.”
The one who had appeared in front of Cartier was Safort, who was supposed to be leading the mercenaries who were following her group.
Like any Night Demon, he was a thin man with pale skin, and looked more sickly than handsome.
“Did I make it?”
“I thought you would have just taken the advance payment and ran away.”
“I’ve heard that’s what Night Demons do.”
“It pains me to say that you’re not entirely wrong. We, the people of the night, aren’t bogged down by our promises.”
The history of the Night Demons was very old.
The Night Demons have a long history of warfare with Draco and the other high rank demons, the troll tribe, and have resisted the rule of the Great Demon King for many years.
They like to seek pleasure.
They enjoy food and drinking, other various things, and being lazy. It was obvious that they would be cast out if they didn’t keep their promises.
But Safort not only kept his promise, but also forced his army to come here. This was a little different from what Cartier had heard about the Night Demons.
Cartier could smell that Safort had the same ‘eccentric’ scent as her.
“I don’t have the time to ask you why you didn’t run away. I only have one question: How did you get ready so fast?”
“It’s very simple. We got supplies the ‘mercenary way’.”
“Ah, I see.”