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“I guess it’s about time our night attack succeeded.”
Hiro muttered under the cold sky where thick clouds covered the stars. Behind him, without making a sound, two hundred light infantry were waiting. They all kept their mouths shut, and the area was dark and silent. In the midst of such a breathless group―next to Hiro, a second-grade military officer Driks, who is bending down, asked.
“Are you sure the enemy army is coming from here?”
“This is why I suggested a night attack. The enemy also wants the night attack to succeed, so they won’t be foolish enough to cross paths with us. The more cornered a person is, the more short-sighted their thinking becomes. They want to get a quick result, so they will choose the shortest way to attack. So this is the only way.”
When Hiro finished, Driks let out a sigh of admiration.
“How old are you, Your Highness?”
“I am sixteen now, but I will be seventeen soon.”
“How can you be so thoughtful at such a young age…? It’s a terrible thing.”
“I’ve been reading a lot of books.”
“No, no, no, that’s not all. It’s not only that but the blood of the “god of war” does not seem to fade even after a thousand years. His Majesty, the second emperor, must be very happy to have left behind such an excellent descendant.”
Although he is the person himself… Hiro couldn’t say anything about it and just nodded, and then he noticed a faint noise and lowered himself down. Driks seems to have noticed it too and lowered himself down.
“According to the report of the spy that we have released, there is two thousand camel cavalry. On the other hand, we have 500 lightly armored infantry, even though we are hiding in the dark. We can’t win if we take them seriously.”
“There’s no need to take it seriously. If the camel cavalry and I start to fight, please sound the drum. Just that will confuse them. Then shoot the arrows all at once.”
“All right. Be careful.”
“Please handle the rest.”
Hiro pulled on the reins of the swift dragon and made it stand up. Then Driks shouted in surprise.
“W-what do you mean by that? There’s a chance of you getting hit by an arrow…”
“Don’t worry. I’m sure the Black Princess Camelia will protect me.”
Hiro clapped his chest proudly and disappeared into the darkness. For a while. Driks was dumbfounded, but he immediately began to give instructions to the soldiers. Then, under the cover of darkness, the sounds of sword fights and shouting overlapped, and an invisible battle began.
“Drum loudly. And don’t forget to raise your voice!”
The sound of slashing through the night air was one of the loudest sounds. Then the sound of the drums came from all four sides. A hundred soldiers were laying low on each of the other three sides.
It was still too early to shoot arrows. Driks looked into the darkness. The silvery glow of the night was drawing lines in the darkness and then disappearing. It was as if a meteor was raining down on him, and he couldn’t help but admire the fantastic sight. When a soldier tapped him on the shoulder and brought him back to his senses, Driks hurriedly squeezed out his voice.
“A-all right. Stop beating the drums. Release the arrow into the sky!”
Then, with the sound of the wind, the arrow disappeared into the darkness. There was a pause and then another arrow. As if on cue, arrows were fired from the bows of the soldiers in rapid succession. There were many loud screams.
“All right, we hit them. Keep firing arrows!”
There was no sense of distance. The archers just kept moving their hands. As the arrows began to run out, the enemy shouted, “Run away! from the enemy.” If the sun had been shining, they would have been able to see the enemy soldiers fleeing for their lives, and it was a pity that they couldn’t see the painful scene.
Not long after that, Hiro came back astride the swift dragon. His whole body was black from the start, and it was hard to tell if he was injured in the darkness.
Driks ran up to him and immediately called out.
“Your Highness. Are you injured?”
“That’s good to hear. So, how many of the enemy have you been able to reduce?”
“I don’t know the exact number, but since there were some fights… I think I did more than I expected. I hope they don’t go back to their positions and run away somewhere else.”
“It’s a situation like that. Some of them might not be able to go home even if they wanted to.”
Running away in the dark is like drowning in the ocean. There was no way to know whether to go left or right. It’s hard to think properly when you’ve been taken by surprise and are confused. Some of them would probably freeze to death because they lost their sense of direction. If they were injured, their chances of survival would drop significantly. Driks stopped to think about how many of the two thousand would be able to survive. As the sun rose, he would know for sure.
“Let’s return to the camp later to reward the soldiers.”
Hiro responded to Driks’ words with a nod.
“I agree. Let’s get some rest in preparation for tomorrow. Also, for those of you who participated in this battle, I will allow you to drink as much as you can without it affecting your performance tomorrow.”
There was an exclamation of delight. The soldiers’ feet lightened as if their fatigue had been blown away. Hiro’s mouth fell open. But when Driks approached, he quickly retracted it.
“The enemy must have realized that they were deceived by now.”
“Yes, they will. We don’t have enough men or time to launch another night attack. Above all, this is not the time to be thinking about it.”
Then Driks remembered something and asked a question.
“But why was only one of the enemy spies given the Steichen silver coin?”
“…What would you do, Second Grade Military Officer Driks, if you were asked a series of questions?”
Doubting that he was being dodged, Driks answered honestly.
“It would be exasperating, wouldn’t it? Would I be disgusted, though I would still try to find the answer?”
“It’s the same thing. You confuse them by giving them too many questions. Don’t give them time to think. That’s what the Steichen silver coins are for. They are probably racking their brains right now.”
“And before they find the answer, the next problem will arise?”
“Well, that’s the thing.”
“Do you ever think about failing?”
“I do, but I can’t do anything if I’m afraid of failure. Besides, the plan has been successful so far without any problems. Now, all we have to do is give them hope and let them know what despair is, so they don’t run away.”
What Hiro said so plainly made Driks stop, feeling a chill.
――Everything is in the palm of his hand. Every person on this battlefield is dancing on the boy’s hands.
“Hahaha, a “Royal Talent” indeed. No, I don’t know if that title will be enough…”
He’s only 16 years old, but he’s a terrific talent. Furthermore, the enemy is the raging eagle of the sky. He’s a hero of the Principality of Lichtine, who once defeated 30,000 of Steichen’s army. Instead of being cautious against it, he has been successful with all his bold measures.
Therefore, heroes are nothing but childish jokes, and even the old masters are nothing but children.
Driks wondered how far this boy could “see” and whether his distant ancestor, the “God of War,” could have had the same kind of depth of thought. A mere ordinary man like himself cannot know the intrigues of extraordinary people like them.
He cannot reach the depths of what they are looking at and what their goals are. That’s why he wanted to see where the… interesting―and the boy―would end up.
“Give me the status report.”
Ranquille said as he looked at the burning camel’s body. Dead camels were lying all over the camp. None of them had riders, and all of them had been killed by arrows.
“The damage is minor. A few people were injured, but no one was killed. The rampaging camels set a few of the tents on fire, but we were able to extinguish them before they spread.”
The regular soldiers and slaves sat there breathing heavily, probably from exhaustion. Thanks to their efforts, the enemy’s night raid had ended in failure. Or perhaps it could be said that they succeeded. They were able to take away the strength of the soldiers. Ranquille turned his gaze away and walked to the tent where the military council was being held. His staff followed behind him.
“Give the soldiers a rest.”
“Very well, sir.”
“And one more thing.”
He stopped once and looked back at Ranquille. Everything was in place. But what appeared was 1500 camels without their riders. It was not a human being that he had fought so hard against, but a group of camels moored together by ropes―it was beyond ridiculous.
“Get everything you can out of the spies, and then cut off their heads.”
“Is this what happens when I jump at the bait after being told not to hurry?”
All the measures they’ve taken so far are just trickery. But they are all very effective. A hundred techniques, a thousand ideas. The depths of his recklessness are astonishing. It is possible that a famous person―or even a new star―has been born in the Great Grantz Empire. When times change, when generations change, one cannot help but be reminded that one has grown old.
“I thought I was still capable, but…”
There is no more room for growth for me, Ranquille said. He is neither young enough nor resourceful enough to get the spark to overcome this situation.
Maybe he was conceited. Was it that he had become conceited after being called the “Raging Eagle of the Sky”? After entering the tent, Ranquille sat down deep in his chair. The light was gone from his eyes.
“We should retreat.”
But if he fled back to the capital, he would be betrayed by the nobles and be killed himself. He had encouraged them to believe that they could win, only to find out that they had been outmaneuvered and that they would never be able to obtain forgiveness since the nobles had ostracized them.
“Even if they don’t kill me.”
There will always be nobles who will try to turn against him. If they stay in the capital, it won’t take long for the city to fall due to rebellion. It seemed like there was no point in doing anything, and he was getting tired of thinking about it.
“Excuse me, sir.”
A staff member appeared at the entrance. He walked up to Ranquille and placed three small pouches on the desk. Ranquille turned his cold gaze to the staff officer.
“These belonged to our spies.”
“Did they talk?”
He opened the three pouches, which did not matter now.
“No, sir. They say it’s all true.”
When he knew and understood what was in the bags, Ranquille laughed.
“You still want to deceive me… How greedy can you be?”
Every bag contains Grantz gold coins. The spy who reported the lie had Steichen silver coins. He tried to contemplate what the intentions might be.
Another staff member entered the room, his voice filled with disquiet.
“The night attack has failed! Less than five hundred camel cavalrymen have returned!”
He had expected this. It was only natural that they had been so well outmaneuvered. It’s just that they were lured in from the start.
“It’s a shame.”
“In other words… with only 3,000, the Fourth Imperial Army has defeated more than 13,000, including the rebels.”
It’s the same number as when the Steichen Republic was defeated in the past. However, even if they were annihilated at that time, the Principality of Lichtine still had power left over. They were able to gamble without worrying about the consequences. But now, it was different. If they were wiped out, the Principality of Lichtine would have no way to defend itself against the Fourth Imperial Army. There was no time left to gather the troops again.
The invisible blade pierced deeply into his body. It was trying to reap the life out of them without making them feel any pain.
That’s when the words popped into his mind.
“Marquis! Marquis Ranquille! We have good news, sir!”
The one who rolled into the tent was a messenger. Everyone’s gaze pierced the room at once. But that’s not the point. As if to say, the messenger is only looking at Ranquille. Ranquille furrowed his brow quizzically.
“Calm down; what’s going on? Tell me, what is the good news?”
“W-we’ve discovered the enemy’s logistics, sir!”
“W-what did you say? Are you serious?”
It was a staff member who raised his voice. Ranquille leans back from his chair.
“Where is it?”
The messenger who rushed to the long desk pointed to a point on the map. It’s the fortress that the Fourth Imperial Army had captured, as speculated from the beginning.
“We have discovered that supplies are being brought in here.”
“And the guards? Do you have a number?”
“I don’t know exactly, but I’d say between 800 and 1,000.”
“What was the condition of the fort?”
“The main gate was burned down, and the back gate was also destroyed.”
“Fumu, there’s no need for a siege.”
Ranquille put his hand to his chin and pondered.
“…We will leave the camp as it is, raid the fort with all our forces, burn off the rations at dawn, and hit the demoralized enemy on the flank. Do you think we can do it…?”
The enemy will know that they don’t have the luxury of time. This is why the attack on the logistics must be unexpected. It is possible to overwhelm them before dawn and burn them down when they notice to induce unrest. With his hands on his desk, Ranquille looked at his staff slowly.
“Let me know if you have any questions.”
“Are you certain the camp should remain as it is?”
“Yes, I am. It will take a long time to get rid of the camp. Besides, there is no point in clearing out the camp just to attract their attention.”
The staff nodded, satisfied with the explanation, and Ranquille lowered his voice.
“But I forbid anyone to talk about it. There may be enemy spies lurking around. Tell your men to withdraw, ostensibly. If the spy is sneaking in, that would be an advantage.”
In order to flank the enemy, they must think they are here without being detected. If a spy is sneaking in, at best, let him report that they have escaped. Ranquille’s expression tightened, and he let out a powerful voice.
“As for attacking the fort, that’s between us. If you understand, then start moving.”
“Very well, sir!”
The eyes that had been trapped in the darkness regained their light, and the head that had been hazy became clearer.
“Finally, I think I can drive the wedge in.”