«AN: Three simultaneous chapter updates. They are on the same points timeline-wise so you can read them in any order (probably)»
[Make the host and guest exchange roles] … number thirty of Sun Tzu’s thirty-six stratagems. The interpretation a retainer supplanting his lord is more popular but there are also cases where it is used to denote a plan where the defending side (host) and the attacking side (guest) swap places. Because the defending side enjoys an advantage in a battle, it denotes the preferable situation where the attacking side would fight as if in a defensive war at the place they were attacking.
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~ Day 1 – Randell Environs ~
It would perhaps be apt to call the battle happening in the environs of the Carmine Duchy central city Randell a [host becomes guest] situation. The Royal Guard who should’ve been attaching the Carmine Duchy was fighting a defensive battle against the Army who should’ve been on the defending side. Right now, hidden behind the walls inside the ‘stronghold’ being attacked by the forty thousand strong Army, Hulbert Magna was grumbling.
“Goddammit … Mister enemy’s way too persistent aren’t they?”
“That can’t be helped you know Hal”
The one answering him was Kaede Foxia who was likewise hiding herself behind the bulwarks. She was speaking nonchalantly in spite of the friendly and enemy arrows being exchanged, flying over her head.
“From how the enemy sees it, they woke up to find a fortress in front of their eyes, and even filled with the Royal Guard, too. So of course they’d be flustered”
“Well yeah … that King sure thinks up incredible things, huh”
It was yesterday that Soma gave Georg Carmine his Final Counsel. As soon as the Final Counsel was rebuffed, Soma dispatched the Royal Guard to the Carmine Duchy, but the first thing they did was to build a ‘fortress’ right under the eyes of the Carmine Duchy’s central city Randell.
“There was originally a fortress here where we would watch the Amidonians from, but the borders were expanded west in the antepenultimate King’s time so it was torn down. The King made us rebuild that. Also … the one here before was a fortress focused on defense”
Each and every one of the ten thousand Royal Guard that had been recruited by Soma for engineering works have now become excellent combat engineers. The earth mages used earth magic to dig the ground to create trenches, piled up earth to create walls, and used hardening magic to harden those walls. The soldiers dug and piled up earth using manpower, hardened the walls with primitive concrete, and used the machinery they brought from the capital for construction. It’s common sense in this world that when one wants to build a fortress out of wasteland one would use only earth mages, but since the all common soldiers and not just the mages could also do construction work this time, the work speed was much faster than usual.
In addition to that, thanks to the addition of Tomoe Inui, they were able to transport materials and people in a short time thanks to the massive moving power of Rhinosaurus Land Trains. The materials were two-by-fours gathered from what was already there at the capital that they can install at the designated places at the destination. For this, he used the way Toyotomi Hideyoshi built the [One Night Castle] at Sunomata as a reference. To wit, he used the Rhinosaurus Land Trains in place of the Kiso River.
Then, despite the Royal Guard only having arrived on the evening the previous day, the fortress had already been completed by morning. From the Randellians’ point of view, it was exactly that a fortress had sprung up overnight. In later histories this would be referred to [Randell One Night Castle]. The Army, busy dealing with the populace enraged by the Final Counsel televised like in the Vargas Duchy, could not interfere with the fort’s construction.
“But still, you gotta hand it to Lord Carmine. He managed to gather the whole Army in Randell before the Final Counsel”
“Though we’re now taking the attack from the forty thousand strong Army because of that. Anyway”
There was the sound of a great explosion. It was probably the enemy’s attack magic hitting the walls. Even though they’re strengthened with Kaede’s corps’ anti-magic, it won’t withstand repeated hits like that. Hulbert picked up a nearby throwing spear, clad it in fire magic, and threw it through the bulwarks in the walls at a group that probably fired the magic earlier. The spear flew like a missile, hit a person and exploded, burning down the group.
After making sure of that, Hal went back to hide behind the walls and sighed.
“Aren’t they attacking way too doggedly here in the west side? The other sides look like they only get sporadic attacks”
“…. That would be the Zemish mercenaries. Probably the ones the corrupt nobles hired”
Said Kaede while peeking over the wall.
“The corrupt nobles literally have their necks on the line here. If they lose this war all they’ve got waiting for them is the gallows. They’re desperate nandesuyo. It’s the death penalty”
“You sure have a way with words. shudder”
Said Hal while throwing a second spear. It hit the mark and roasted another group of soldiers.
“Over there! Over there!”
“The flames, THE FLAAAAMES!”
Hal looked bitterly at the scene of the soldiers rolled around as balls of fire.
(Well, rather than fighting the Army where I have lots of friends, this is easier on the conscience)
Hal had complex feelings inside, being formerly enlisted in the Army. Hulbert and Kaede who were close to the King were two of the few who had the complete picture of the war. Which is why they understood what the King was trying to do. They understood … but still felt complicated.
Being called out by Kaede, Hulbert came to his senses.
“What’s wrong Kaede!”
“This is bad nodesuyo. They, are bringing out that thing”
The thing Kaede was pointing at was a huge cannon that was now being brought into the battlefield. In this world where gunpowder weapons aren’t too well developed due to magic, only cannons were studied as naval weaponry. Despite being problematic because of mobility, the Army, eyeing its magic-less destructive power, possesses three of them as siege weapons, which don’t require mobility. Currently, in Elfrieden, only the Army was in possession of a ground-based cannon.
“…… speaking of which, we haven’t had reports of siege weapons being used from any direction”
“Well they normally don’t get used in the opening moves”
“So, what’s that then?”
“I think the corrupt nobles are getting impatient and took them out on their own nodesu”
“…… Isn’t this quite bad?”
“It’s quite bad nanodesu. Antimagic only works against magic and fire. For physical attacks there’s only this wall’s [ancient concrete] coated earth walls. It’s stronger than the normal ones but if they took repeated hits from that …”
BOOM! …. CRASSH!
With an unnerving noise a shell flew, drawing a high arch. It hit the wall and ‘sank’. The cannonballs in this world are lumps of iron. They seem to have thought up exploding shells but since it doesn’t give much damage to antimagic-reinforced walls despite its showy appearance, it doesn’t see much use. If it were Soma, he would’ve investigated, so the magical strengthening cannot defend against physical energy, but it can defend against thermal energy? Thus the fired iron ball is a mass of physical energy that is the weakness of this wall.
“W, what should we do nanodesu!”
“W, what should we do, but even if you ask me! Can’t you do something with your magic Kaede!?”
“I’m all out of magic because of the construction! Can’t you intercept with a lance, Hal?”
“The speed difference is too big! It’s like downing a loosed arrow with a pebble!”
“Humm. Then how about a bow?”
“” Eh? “”
When the two turned their heads, they saw a well built young¹ male Dark Elven warrior standing there holding a still larger bow. The dark elf warrior nocked an arrow to his bow. He then pointed it upwards and loosed.
¹ Though you can’t judge his race’s age by the looks
Once again, a shell was fired from the enemy camp. The dark elf loosed his arrow at nearly the same time. That moment, Hal and Kaede thought they heard a high whistling sound. It was probably because of the wind magic enchanted into the arrow loosed by the dark elf warrior. Two seconds later, the fired iron shell shattered into pieces in the sky overhead. Hal and Kaede dropped their jaws in awe.
“Humm. Much easier than downing a messenger falcon”
“Ah, who are y…”
“Ah, my. I forgot to introduce myself. I have come from the God-protected Forest, Thule is my name. Pleased to make your acquaintance, sir Hulbert Magna”
As he said that, the dark elf young man, Thule, smiled.
“H, how did you know my name?”
“Sir Hulbert might not have remembered, but that time when the great landslide disaster happened in the God-protected Forest, my daughter was among the victims saved by Sir Hulbert and the King. I later learnt your name because I wanted to thank you, but the first relief corps had already returned to the Capital … that time …”
BOOOM! …. CSHHING!
“So, I would like to apologize for not being able to thank you for saving my daughter”
“No, well, I was only following the King’s orders…”
“I still thank you nonetheless. My daughter who you saved was so taken by the sight of you saving people that she said [I want to join the Royal Guard someday and save lives like that person]. Even I can’t find anything to say to that. Ha ha ha”
While talking, Thule accurately shot down the fired cannonballs. The Elven races, to which the Dark Elves belong, are a race that excel in bowmanship, but he was still amazingly skilled.
“But then … why is Thule-san here? You’re not in the Royal Guard are you?”
Kaede asked, and Thule casually laughed. Ha ha ha.
“I heard something big happened to the village’s savior King Soma. To pay back our debt of gratitude, the Dark Elf village sent us warriors to his side. We Dark Elves mostly don’t want to concern ourselves with the outside world, but this time there were no voices raised against it”
“That’s … I thank you very much nanodesu”
“It’s give and take. You are the ones who taught us that”
Looking at Thule’s face, Kaede felt her tenseness loosen slightly.
(There were more reinforcements than I thought nodesu. Then we might somehow live this through)
There were more than just Dark Elves coming to reinforce the Royal Guard. There were the former members who seceded from the Army, including Hulbert’s father, Glaive Magna. They became a volunteer army, participating in this war under Glaive’s command. Their forces, combined with the reinforcements from the Dark Elf village, numbered over five thousand. In other words, there are currently fifteen thousand soldiers defending the fort.
(I heard that in battle, the attacking side needs three times the numbers of the defending side. The Army had forty thousand. It would’ve been hard with just ten thousand, but with the reinforcements we managed to escape being outnumbered three to one)
Kaede rubbed her chest down in relief. Incidentally, after several years of growing up, Thule’s daughter joined the Armed Forces as she declared and luckily came under Hulbert’s command. One scheme after another happened after that and she came to Hulbert’s family for marriage, this is definitely not a situation where Kaede can be relieved for, but that’s another story². Right now Kaede was racking her grey matter just to be able to survive this fight together with Hulbert.
² «TN: I’m imagining Sherry from GATE with silver hair and dark skin»
Being called on, Kaede looked toward the gates. There was a group of heavy knights there, man and horse alike clad in silvery armor. They were the Royal Knights who defend the capital and the Royal Castle. At their head was the especially prominent Captain of the Royal Knights and the leader of the Royal Guard, Ludwin Arcus. He was a golden-haired, good looking man, wearing a silver-white armor, and even riding a white horse. His good looks that can be called ‘overdoing it’ caused envy in Hulbert. However Kaede paid no mind to those good looks and approached Ludwin with questions.
“What are you doing here! Sir Ludwin is the Supreme Commander here!”
“Sorry Kaede-kun. Please take command for me for a while. We’re going to deal with that noisy thing a little”
Ludwin pointed at the direction of the cannon with his cavalry lance. Kaede held her head in her arms.
“You can just leave those chores to Hal or something nodesu!”
“Ahaha, please don’t say that. Compared to the soldiers doing their best holding the fort, we Royal Knights didn’t have the chance to show our good side. We can’t look cool if this keeps up”
“Cool!? …. Are all men idiots nanodesu?”
“Hahahaha, so you do understand. We’ll leave you to it then”
Before Kaede can say another word, Ludwin gave out orders to the Royal Knights.
“Open Gates! Forward men, to the cannon! Return after it’s destroyed! Ignore the enemy soldiers, don’t give chase too far. Focus on destroying the objective!”
“””” OOOOOOOOHHHH!!! “””
“Pierce anyone in your way with your spears! Trample any hindrance under the hooves of your horses! We are the spears that protect the kingdom! We are the King’s Majesty! Run through without stopping!”
Then the gates were thrown open.
“Let’s go! We will show them that the Royal Knights is not just for show!!””
“”” UOOOOOOOOOOHHHHH! “””
The Royal Knights rushed with the vigor of a bursting dam. The mercenaries fell into panic on the face of the sudden counteroffensive and their ranks scattered. There’s no stopping the Royal Knights’ charge now. Some were impaled by Ludwin’s men’s spears. Some were trampled under the hooves of their horses. Most of them were the Zemish mercenaries that the corrupt nobles spent away their assets and gathered.
Mercenaries have significant personal fighting strength but they are weak at group fights. They fight by each individual’s judgement without a proper chain of command. Because they were merely hired with money, they had no loyalty nor patriotism – when their lives are in danger they will simply flee. That was why they were bad when put against a group that moves with one will like Ludwin and his men. The mercenaries couldn’t defend against a group individually, and they couldn’t cooperate with their allies, thus they were swept away one after the other by Ludwin and were routed.
Then when Ludwin’s men arrived upon the cannon left behind, they set it aflame.
(His highness is going to complain about budget later, but it can’t be helped)
He felt it was somewhat of a waste but he judged this because he couldn’t leave it be and he didn’t have the leisure to drag the immobile thing and return. Behind the triumphantly returning Royal Knights, black smoke and thunderous roars erupted from the bursting cannon.
Skipping straight to the conclusion, the Army weren’t able to accomplish anything today and decided to return to Randell at sunset. The war resulted in a win for the defending side but the Royal Guard were the ones who were originally on the attack. No matter how many defensive battles are won, the situation would get worse and worse until they were cornered. This fact was obvious to anyone that can see.
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That night in the council room in the castle of Georg Carmine in Randell, several tens of nobles barraged Carmine with questions.
“Lord Carmine! What is it with this languid way of fighting!”
“Indeed. It is most unlike you, the feared Demon of the Battlefield”
“Weren’t we the only ones putting up a proper fight!?”
These were all the people who, as soon as Soma launched his corruption investigation, clearly antagonized the King and swarmed like flies on a flytrap to Georg’s side. For these people, who did not fulfill their responsibilities to repay³ and opposed the King, there was no future. If they were to be defeated in this war they would fall into ruin. That was why they spent all their private assets to hire Zemish mercenaries and challenged the Royal Guard.
³ The amount embezzled was too big for them to pay
However, from their point of view, the way Georg fought was unsatisfactory. The Army’s movements in today’s battle lacked motivation. They understood that the soldiers’ morale had dropped seeing the King’s Final Counsel, but Georg didn’t even urge his soldiers to fight. The attitude that was most unlike Georg Carmine, renown for his severe attacks, irritated the nobles.
“What a cowardly Army! The war with the King has already begun!”
“Show us the power of Georg Carmine that’s famous throughout the Kingdom!”
“Surely you’re not afraid after having gone this far!”
Georg glared at the nobles.
“Who are you saying I’m afraid of?”
With just a glare and a word, Georg silenced the nobles. Georg looked around at the nobles that had gone silent, hit by the great general’s spirit, and sighed.
“Aren’t you the ones who don’t understand? The enemy only numbered in the ten or twenty thousands. The fortress built in just one night was surprising but by the way the gradual onslaughts are going, it’s them that will be cornered. There is no need to force an attack”
“I, in that case … if there are only ten thousand of them why not take them down once and for all?”
“But that way you‘ll be the ones going into a total rout. Also, you took out three cannons from the Army armory and of all things got them destroyed”
“Uguu … We deeply apologize”
Glared at by Georg, the objecting nobles made themselves small. In truth, the one who brought the cannons out into battle was one of the corrupt nobles who became impatient from not being able to attack. They threatened the custodian of the weapons using their name and forcibly borrowed them. As a result, they lost three cannons for nothing, and the Army no longer looks too fondly at the nobles’ army.
“There is also one other thing bothering me. There has been no sign of Soma in that fort”
“Wouldn’t he be hiding in the Capital and leaving the fight to his men?”
“He’s not that kind of King. If his whereabouts are unknown then he must be somewhere scheming something. Which is why we must lure him out”
“So you mean, the soldiers at the fort are bait?”
Georg made a big nod to the noble.
“I don’t know where Soma is or what he’s doing, but once he left the soldiers he dispatched to die he will be abandoned by the men and by the people. He will definitely show up eventually. When he appears we can pulverize him along with all the men in the fort”
Georg was a beastman with the head of a lion. When he grins he exposes his sharp fangs. Seeing those fangs the nobles felt chills running down their spine. This is a man we must not make an enemy of.
Georg rose to his feet.
“But you gentlemen must be tired after today’s battle. This is a battle that won’t be finished tomorrow or the day after. The attacks will be conducted with just the Army, so you may rest for the whole day tomorrow”
“”” Y, Yessir! “””
Receiving appreciative words from Georg, the nobles bowed their heads and left the council room. In their place, a man entered.
“Excuse me Lord Carmine”
“….. Beowulf I see”
The man’s name was Beowulf Gardner. He was a wolf-headed beastman in black Army uniform, along with Glaive Magna who has now broken off with the Army, he was one of the two people known as Georg Carmine’s two wheels. He was effectively the number two man for the current Army.
That Beowulf was laconically asked.
“Is everything ready?”
“Yes! Nothing is amiss”
To the saluting Beowulf, Georg nodded in satisfaction and grinned.
“Then let’s go meet the King with the plan we put all our might into”
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On the other side, at the Royal Guard camp Hulbert and Kaede were lining up next to each other having dinner. The menu was the [Instant Zelring Udon] Soma invented. It was something made by boiling Zelring udon and giving it strong flavoring, then drying it with hot air, and when it’s time to eat, soaking it in hot water and waiting for one minute⁴, becoming a complete meal. The convenience of being able to be eaten anywhere so long as one has hot water and a cup made it very popular among the Royal Guard to whom it was distributed.
⁴ It seems to soak more water than instant ramen
“Being able to eat it while camping is …. *sssslurrrrrp* … great isn’t it?”
“His Highness said … *slurp slurp slurp* … [I wanted to fry it but it dissolves in oil! But I like the fragrance of fried noodles better than the non-fried raw ones!] nodesu”
“I don’t really get it … *sssssslurrrrrrp* … must be some obsession”
After finishing their food while having a conversation, Kaede leaned herself on Hulbert’s shoulder. Feeling the scent of Kaede’s hair right nearby threw Hulbert into a panic.
“O, oi, Kaede. What are you doing?”
“Fufufu. Hal, I’m really happy right now nodesuyo”
“Huh!? Happy why!?”
“Because Hal’s here by my side desuyo”
Said Kaede. She giggled.
“I’m glad Hal came over to the Royal Guard nodesu. If you stayed in the Army might have been frenemies nodesu. You might not even be here nodesu”
“But I’m surrounded by forty thousand Army members because of that though”
“It’ll be decided in one or two days nodesuyo. If we could stand our ground …”
“If we could stand our ground … ?”
“If we could stand our ground then everything will go swimmingly, that would be great, right”
“Don’t just mix in your hopes in the end! If you said that much then you should just say everything!”
“So, you’ll protect me, right, Hal?”
“Aaah, sheesh, fine! I’ll just have to protect Kaede from anything and everything!”
“You’re so reliable Hal”
Within the fort, right in the middle of the battlefield, the two cuddled together and smiled to each other.
~ Day 2 – Randell Environs ~
Dawn broke and the Army once again began its offensive.
However, unlike yesterday, there were only sporadic attacks from all directions. Arrows and magic did come flying, but there were no forces making excessive attacks. Hulbert tilted his head in doubt at this half-hearted way of fighting that was unlike the day before.
“The enemy’s attacks have gone tepid, huh”
“I don’t see Zemish mercenaries anywhere. The enemy might be switching to attrition tactics”
Kaede analyzed while watching the enemy army’s movements.
Hulbert turned his shoulders around.
“Then we could take it easy for a little while”
“Hal, you have to be on guard in a battle nodesuyo. You’ll get the rug pulled from under you nodesu”
“…. All right”
Then the Army’s sporadic offensive continued. When the sun was approaching its zenith, the soldier at the watchtower shouted in a loud voice.
“Large number of wyvern cavalry in the eastern sky!! It’s the Air Force!!”
When Hulbert and Kaede looked to the east, tense from the words of the scout, they saw thousands of wyverns flying their way in formation. Hulbert reflexively hugged Kaede. She laid her hand on his hands wrapped around her shoulders and gently smiled “it’ll be fine, Hal”.
“Our bet has paid off”
The wyverns passed by the fort where Halbert and Kaede were and flew towards Randell.
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«Elfrieden Classical Idioms Course»
[Randell One-Night Castle] … Tactics. Meaning [Use everything that can be used to achieve the goal]. The expression came from the events at the junction of Georg’s insurrection, where King Soma used the Combat Engineers of the Royal Guard to restore a torn-down fort. A close synonym on Earth is number fourteen of Sun Tzu’s thirty six stratagems, [Borrow the corpse to resurrect the soul].