Here’s the chapter, enjoy~
The Principality of Lichtine’s army was within a stone’s throw where the Fourth Imperial Army was engaged with the rebels. They numbered five thousand. A thousand camel cavalry on each wing, a thousand slave infantry in the advance line, and a total of two thousand light infantry in the main and rear lines.
This army is led by the second son of the Prince family, Karl Olk Lichtine. And supporting Karl as his second-in-command is Ranquille Caligula Gilberrist.
The face of the two of them was dark as they rode their horses’ side by side.
“…I was not expecting the nobles to be so afraid,” said Marquis Ranquille, frustrated.
It was only yesterday that last-minute news arrived. The news was that a detachment of the Fourth Imperial Army was burning villages to the ground. This was only natural since they were invading deep into the territory. However, the nobles, who wanted to protect their territories, became weak-kneed.
They started screaming that they should surrender to the Grantz Empire and that they should negotiate with them. It took some time to persuade them, which delayed their arrival here.
“It’s a shame. We’ve brought this on ourselves.”
However, all of the nobles at the time who decided to start a war with the Grantz Empire were killed in battle against the rebels. And even if surrender is out of the question, the Fourth Imperial Army must be crushed in order to negotiate. In order to maintain the appearance of a nation, they must obtain better conditions. If they chose to lose without a fight, they would be laughed at by other countries.
“Karl-sama. This is a critical moment for us.”
“Yes. I’ll leave everything to you. I’m counting on you.”
Ranquille nodded. Then a message came rushing to his side.
“Your Excellency! Some of the rebels are heading this way.”
“So, it looks like the mercenaries were able to get away.”
“Should we let them join us?”
“No, they’ll work as a separate unit.”
In order to make up for the delay, they could not afford to slow down the march by joining up.
In the first place, Ranquille does not trust mercenaries. It is not for the good of the country or anyone else that they go into battle. It’s all about money. Then there is no telling when they will betray the country or when they will run away. If those people are allowed to join the army, they will only get in the way.
“The situation of the war over there also concerns me. I want to talk to the mercenary leader. Can you bring him here?”
A short time after the messenger left, a man in light armor arrived.
Dried blood sticks to his armor and his dirty face lacks any trace of intelligence. Even if he is a mercenary, he is no different from a bandit. Ranquille frowned as he observed the man’s appearance. On closer inspection, the mercenary was wearing the armor of the Principality of Lichtine.
The dried blood showed that it was not recent and that a long time had passed. It was easy to guess that the mercenary originally belonged to the rebel army.
Perhaps it was the spoils of war that they had acquired in the war in which the Prince had lost so badly. This did not sit well with Ranquille. He felt anger welling up in his heart.
“Well, well, thanks for your patronage.”
Without realizing that he had offended Ranquille, the smiling man scratched the back of his head and bowed his head on his horse. Ranquille wanted to cut down the man who had no sense of decency at this moment, but he did his best to suppress his anger by exhaling heavily.
Karl, who was standing next to him, noticed his presence and replied instead.
“Thank you for your time. I am Karl Olk Lichtine. It is my pleasure to have you fight with me.”
“Hmm, well, I’m glad to hear that. I’ve been paid a lot of money, so I must do my part properly.”
“So, how’s the war going?”
“Well, the rebels are being pushed back. It’s only a matter of time before they surrender.”
“That’s not good. Marquis Ranquille, we have to hurry.”
Karl’s words brought Ranquille back to his senses, and he answered with a nod.
“That’s right. Hey, mercenary.”
“Take the lead to the battlefield. Our scouts don’t know that much about it. Bring us to the place where we can flank the Fourth Imperial Army.”
Karl tilted his head at Ranquille’s words. It is understandable because the reports of their scouts are continually coming in. More importantly, they have information on where the Fourth Imperial Army and the rebels are fighting.
“Well, I’m counting on you.”
“Aye, leave it to me, I’ll give them a run for the money!”
After watching the mercenaries leave, Karl called out to Ranquille.
“Why did you say something like that?”
“Are you saying about the lie?”
“Yes. That mercenary must have been laughing in his head. He must think that the Principality of Lichtine’s scouts was not capable.”
“Otherwise, they won’t lead us the way.”
“Even if it was a humiliation for us?”
“The fate of our nation is at stake in this war. There is no greater shame than the destruction of a nation. Let those who want to laugh do so.”
“Fumu… I see. Marquis Ranquille is indeed skilled in controlling his emotions. But I don’t think I’ll be able to divide it up easily.”
Ranquille snorted at Karl, who still looked unhappy, and then spat out his words.
“More importantly, did you notice that the armor the mercenary was wearing belonged to our country?”
“Of course. It was dirty, but there was no way I could mistake it. It must have been bought from some merchant.”
“No, he must have ripped it from the corpse when he defeated the Prince.”
“Are you sure about that?”
“It was made of high-quality iron. It probably belonged to a distinguished noble. I couldn’t identify it because it was too dirty to see the crest.”
“That’s unforgivable. When this war is over, they must be punished.”
Karl snorted in anger. He gripped the reins tightly and glared at the mercenaries who were out of sight. When he saw Karl, Ranquille appeased him.
“That’s why I let them lead the way.”
“The mercenaries must be the first to fight. That’s why I decided to dispose of them as arrowheads. If they are lucky enough to survive, we can punish them later.”
“Hmm. That’s a good idea!”
“Besides, you’ve got it all wrong, Karl-sama.”
“Indeed, you said earlier that I have excellent control of my emotions, but I am not a very noble person.”
Shrugging his shoulders, Ranquille continued.
“Even I myself am not someone without anger. I wanted to chop his head off at that moment, but when I look at the larger picture, even scum have their uses. So I thought putting them on the front lines might take my mind off it a bit.”
Karl was taken aback by Ranquille’s evil smile. He was surprised to learn that even this man could be driven by passion.
“Still, I’m impressed by your resourcefulness in trying to use it to your advantage. I would not have been able to do that. I would have killed that man.”
“That’s a bit embarrassing. I hope you will not praise me further. If you can, save it for when we win this war.”
Ranquille rubbed his neck and looked troubled. The anger had finally passed, and Karl let out a small laugh.
“You’re right, too. We have to win first.”
With determination in his heart, Karl raised his head and looked forward. Ranquille nodded his head in satisfaction, and both of them proceeded with their horses. It was only a matter of time before they were relieved to find that something was wrong with the mercenaries they had been leading.
There was a fierce sound of swords being clashed. The air was shaken by the shouts of the mercenaries who were carrying their spirit in their voices. The mercenaries slammed their swords against their shields to intimidate their opponents and shouted at the top of their lungs.
However, the battlefield envisioned by the Principality of Lichtine’s army was still a long way off.
As Ranquille was wondering, a messenger came in, looking flustered.
“The battle has begun!”
“What…? What do you mean?”
Ranquille’s brow wrinkled deeply as he looked ahead. But the dust and sand prevented him from grasping the details of the front line.
“…It’s only one man.”
Ranquille couldn’t help but let out an exclamation of dismay. He thought he had misheard, but his mouth twitched, and he repeated.
“I’m asking you the number of people we’re dealing with.”
“Only one, sir. Suddenly, he appeared in our path and charged into the mercenaries who were leading the charge!”
“A one-man assault against a thousand?”
What a stupid idea to buy time. What can a single person do?
They might be hiding an ambush somewhere. There was also the possibility that he had done something reckless like charging in alone to distract attention. Ranquille smiled at the thought.
“No, I don’t think so.”
If the Fourth Imperial Army makes any strange moves, the scouts will be able to detect it. It’s not easy to evade surveillance, especially in the desert where you can get a good view. Although his mind was confused by the situation he didn’t understand, he came to his senses by slapping his cheek. Perhaps the purpose of this is to confuse them.
If their goal is to slow down the march by buying time, then they have a pretty good plan, Ranquille laughed.
“Well done. If it hadn’t been for me, many of the generals would have been alarmed and stopped the march. Or perhaps I should say that it was because I was cautious that I took notice…”
“Is everything alright?”
Karl asked with a worried look on his face. Ranquille nodded and exaggeratedly spread his hands to reassure. No matter what the purpose of the opponent, he will be able to read through it. Above all, what can one person do?
“There is no problem. Let’s proceed with the army. There is no need to worry about ambushes.”
However, Ranquille’s confidence was shattered. A few moments later, the advance troops came to a complete halt. Leaving Karl to wait in the main position, Ranquille went to join the advance line.
“What are you doing? There’s no time to rest! Keep moving!”
Ranquille shouted, but he noticed something strange in the atmosphere of the advance line. All the slaves’ faces were pale and bloodless as if they were about to collapse.
Ranquille pulled his horse over to a nearby slave and asked loudly.
A slave in the front row answered with a shiver in his voice.
The eerie words made Ranquille feel a chill in his heart.
It was an old story that parents would read to their children to discourage them from staying up too late. No one knows when the story was first told to the world. Without knowing it, it had spread widely from the nobles to the common people and even to the slaves. It is said to have been handed down by a nameless minstrel or derived from the fairy tales of the Knight Kingdom of Nala, located in the southwestern corner of the central continent.
“Nonsense. What is that endless despair bullshit? That’s just an old saying.”
Ranquille laughed it off, but deep inside his body, a warning bell was ringing. The air should be hot now, yet the sweat flowing down his body is getting colder and colder, and he can feel his body temperature being drained. Ranquille cleared his throat and gasped as he moved his gaze fearfully forward. Something was dancing on the battlefield, swirling with heat.
As if inviting, as if drawing him in――,
――A black crow was spreading its wings.
“Black Crow” is the name of a god in fairy tales. It is also known as the “Black God” and is said to be the god of death and destruction, leading the world to its end.
“What… is this real?”
One by one, the mercenaries who were cleaved by the enraged wings sent fresh blood soaring high into the sky, spreading a large amount of blood on the sand before collapsing. What Ranquille hears are the cries of mercenaries crying out in grief. Some of them must have been famous ruffians. Some must have excelled in swordsmanship. But all of them were nothing but child’s play in front of the Black Wings.
The mercenaries wielding their swords against him would only end up wasting their lives. Although he had thought of using them, he felt pity for them when he saw them killed so cruelly. However, Ranquille did not feel the urge to help. Having witnessed an unidentifiable being, fear had bound his body, and he was unable to move. A head flew at the feet of Ranquille, who was unable to speak.
It was the head of the mercenary leader, whom he hated so much he wanted to kill.
But Ranquille’s gaze was fixed on a single point. It was partly because of his obsession that he would die if he were distracted… but the main reason was that the boy who cut off the head of the mercenary leader was looking at him. He could not determine that it was a boy from this distance, and there was no way he could see his expression. Perhaps his brain was hallucinating. Or maybe he was so terrified that he couldn’t think straight.
But Ranquille was sure that he had seen it.
――He saw the boy laughing.
The mercenaries began to run for their lives. Ranquille can see them running towards him, looking for help.
“Release the arrows! Keep those mercenaries away from here!”
The archers were faithful to Ranquille’s orders. More than a thousand arrows flew, splitting the air and struck the mercenaries in a parabola. The mercenaries who were exposed to the rain of arrows struggled and died out. Of course, the arrows rushed at the boy in black as well, but surprisingly, he was unharmed.
“Is he a monster?”
Ranquille could only imagine that the boy was the Black God from fairy tales. If not, how can he explain it? How can he call him human?
Then Ranquille noticed the situation around him. The slaves were kneeling around him, begging for forgiveness. Some of them were even doing penance. The advance guard was losing their will to fight.
“…This is not good. We can’t go on like this.”
Ranquille opened his mouth wide with all the strength in his belly to stimulate himself. Then he closed it quickly. The boy flipped his black coat and turned away. Ranquille thought it was an excellent opportunity. Now that the boy had his back to him, he thought, he could hit him with one of his arrows. No one has eyes in their back, after all. Otherwise, he would be able to confirm whether the boy was human or some kind of monster.
“Now! Fire the arrow again!”
He swung his arm forward with great force. A massive rain of arrows once again took over the sky. The arrows were so dense that not even a mouse could escape, but they were all repelled by the boy’s black coat.
Ranquille was stunned, but then a series of heavy sounds reached his ears, causing him to look around. The slaves were lying on their backs with gaping holes in their chests.
From the looks on the faces of the dead, they probably didn’t even know what had happened. Fear, despair, awe… the expressions on their faces were all different, but none of them seemed to be in pain. On second thought, it might have been a blessing to have passed away without feeling any pain.
Ranquille was stunned, but a sharp pain in his cheek brought him back to his senses. When he put his hand on his cheek, he felt a slippery sensation.
“…Why am I bleeding?”
When he looked at the blood on his trembling fingertips, Ranquille was startled and looked at the boy. However, there was no sign of the boy there. There was nothing but the bodies of the mercenaries lying there in a cruel state.
A hot breeze blew through, and his body regained its temperature. When his head regained its clarity, he was struck by a shiver that made him want to scream. His heart was beating loudly. In order to quell the sound of his pulsating heart, Ranquille pressed his fist against his chest.
“Kuhahaha… I see. So that’s the man in black that was reported.”
It’s not that he didn’t know. He was only judged by the incompetent nobles who lost their legitimate son and third son and lied in order to avoid being accused of losing the war. He still couldn’t believe it, but now that he had seen it with his own eyes, he had to believe it. Instead of dismissing it as a lie, he should have kept it in the corner of his mind.
It’s too late to talk about it now, but either way, countermeasures against the man in black will be necessary. He wanted to consider it carefully, but the enemy would not wait for him. Besides, the slaves are trembling, muttering the names of the gods. This is sure to be a problem in the future.
“So… I shall stop him. No war is waged alone.”
For the moment, Ranquille decided to retreat. If he didn’t do something about the unsettled slaves, there was nothing he could do. The beginning of a war is crucial. If they stumble here, the future is uncertain.
Ranquille instructed the entire army to retreat and returned to the main camp.