«AN: Three simultaneous chapter updates. They are on the same points timeline-wise so you can read them in any order (probably)»
~ Day 1 – Crimson Dragon Castle Village ~
Even after one night since the Final Counsel conducted by Soma, protesting voices kept on increasing in front of Castor Vargas’ castle in the Crimson Dragon Village. They probably came from all over the Vargas Duchy. If the protesters kept on increasing like this they would go out of control and there would even be risk of rebellion, so despite the Royal Guard already entering the Carmine Duchy, the Air Force were still unable to move.
Inside his residence at Crimson Dragon Castle, Castor Vargas was at wit’s end. Castor, who shows unparalleled strength in the battlefield, was completely out of his depth with political bargainings such as this.
It is rare that the word [muscle-brain] would befit a man to this extent. Therefore it wasn’t like he harbored ill will towards Soma. Even the reason he rebelled was from simplistic thoughts like If even that sober and honest Georg Carmine revolted against him then he can’t be a decent person, if that kind of person suddenly became king and wanted us to follow him, then I will test his mettle in the field of battle!
But how was the reality. Just with one Final Counsel he was branded a rebel by the people. The [muscle-brain] was completely unable to deal with the sudden turn. Such a Castor was currently being watched with compassionate eyes by his steward Tolman and his daughter Carla. Castor gave Tolman, who was superior at political maneuvering than him, an entreating glance.
“Tolman … can I solve this situation by going to the Royal Castle and defeating Soma?”
“…. Out of the question. You definitely should rather avoid doing that”
Tolman quietly rejected.
“Definitely, you say?”
“Then let me ask you this Milord. Do you wish to take the crown for yourself?”
“I couldn’t possibly do that”
“Then can Milord settle the country’s politics after King Soma died?”
“Of course not. I even had to leave the Duchy’s administration all to you”
“Then you certainly can’t attack. Lord Carmine might be able to pacify the country, but Milord certainly can’t do that. If Milord kills the King without becoming King yourself, then Milord would only become a liege-killer and become the enemy of the whole Kingdom. If he were a wicked King then you can claim justice but Soma’s reign is largely popular”
His Lord Castor held antipathy towards Soma, but that sentiment probably had an element of [prejudice] contained within. Soma had both the reformist disposition he showed through the Royal Broadcast and the non-idealistic realistic pragmatism, a rare kind of King. That kind of King was sure to make the old-fashioned Castor anxious. In that aspect, the flexible Tolman gave proper judgement.
“Sir Tolman, how about raiding the capital and favoring His Highness the previous King? If we installed Alberto-dono then we could prove our lawfulness, can’t we?”
Castor interjected Tolman who was making a calm analysis of the situation. However Tolman shook his head and simply said “no”.
“It’s another matter if he were forcibly removed, but Lord Alberto’s abdication was by his own will. Also, his daughter Princess Liecia actively supports the new King. If we appealed him for cooperation I’m sure he would shake his head”
Castor too had seen the scene where Liecia showed her resolve for Soma’s sake against Georg whom she idolized like a father that she even cut beautiful hair. The resolve Liecia showed even made Carla recognize anew that [the new King Soma was a great statesman and never an usurper]
Castor became perplexed again.
“Then what should we do now”
“…. There are only three things we can do”
“Three things? Let’s hear it”
“First is a frontal attack. We join forces with Georg Carmine’s Army, and attack the capital together with him. If it’s Sir Georg, he should be able to consolidate the Kingdom”
“That would be the best thing to do if we could, but … it’s impossible with our situation now”
With how the town was in disorder and the troops couldn’t be properly moved, it was impossible to join forces with the Army. Furthermore, there was no end to this chaotic situation in sight. If this continues the Air Force might have to sit out the war and follow the conclusion of Soma and Georg’s battle. No, it was actually better if they concluded quickly. If they dragged it out the only ones who would profit are the Amidonians encroaching from the southwest.
Understanding that, Tolman immediately scrapped the plan.
“Second, this is the safest and the one with least casualties”
“Milord should go apologize to His Highness. Earnestly. Kowtow”
Castor was at a loss for words, but Tolman continued disinterestedly.
“Since Milord already denied the Final Counsel Milord probably won’t come out of it unpunished, but Milord will at least keep Milord’s life. If Milord retires and hands over the family headship to Lady Carla or her younger brother and all goes well, the family name might even continue”
The straight-out refusal came from Carla.
“You’re saying we should beg for our lives to an opponent we’ve already decided to fight, to sacrifice father so that the family name may remain? That’s just the same as destroying the proud family name”
“This one’s the safest, though …”
Tolman breathed a sigh. He wanted this plan to be accepted, but well, a person who would accept this plan wouldn’t have gone and opposed the King based on emotions alone to begin with. Which is why he understood that they wouldn’t accept it.
“Then third, reconcile with the King”
“How is that different from the other one?”
“The second one is about acknowledging your loss. This one is a draw. Suspend the war to find a point both sides can compromise on. Right now it’s [vassalage in return for recognition]”
“……. But will that King accept that?”
Someone who had already flown the banners of rebellion once won’t be easily pardoned, or possibly being watched for another possible treachery. Thinking so, Tolman nodded.
“Yes. It would be difficult. If rebels were forgiven so easily he won’t be able to discipline the other retainers”
“Then, for this plan, we would need to [capture the King alive]”
Tolman said with his face as the second in command of the Air Force.
“If we could capture King Soma alive he would accept our demands to some extent. In that case reconciliation might be easy, I think”
“… It’s easy to say, but we can’t move right now, you know. How are you saying we should capture Soma in this situation?”
Castor tilted his head, Tolman spread out a map and explained.
“According to reports by the wyvern scouts, there doesn’t seem to be anyone resembling the King among the troops heading for Carmine. I think King Soma is moving separately as a detached force, and his target is most probably … Our duchy”
“Hold on a minute. The Royal Guard is heading for Carmine, right? Call him a detached force, but he doesn’t have any more troops left does he?”
“That I do not know. He could have borrowed soldiers from the Navy or befriended some of the nobles and borrowed their private armies, or he could possibly have had some kind of scheme prepared. However, it is the truth that they could not allow our Air Force to move. We should think that he has some other trick prepared other than inciting the populace”
“… and we catch him there”
“Very well. If it’s only on the level of the Navy or private armies, the forces we have are enough to bite into them”
*slap*, Castor slapped his knees.
“We can solve everything with strength, this is a plan best suited for us! Let’s go with this. Which means that we only need to wait until the fake King Soma comes to the Crimson Dragon Castle Village!”
Castor smiled happily.
“… No, they’re already here father”
Carla’s face turned serious. The next moment.
[This is a message for the residents of Crimson Dragon Castle Village]
Soma’s voice was heard throughout the Crimson Dragon Castle Village.
◇ ◇ ◇
[This is the Acting King of Elfrieden Soma Kazuya speaking. Castor Vargas has, in spite of repeated Counsels, refused to show willingness to fealty to Us. Consequently, We are therefore branding Castor Vargas a rebel, and an assault on his abode, the Crimson Dragon Castle is in order. We will delay it for one hour from now on account of the common citizens, so during that time, please evacuate the Crimson Dragon Castle Village]
Soma’s speech, delivered through the Royal Broadcast in a loud volume, threw the citizens into an uproar. Even the citizens raising voices protesting this verdict scattered like ants. Surely that was due to the confusion coming from the citizens trying to escape the Crimson Dragon Castle Village. Castor looked at the situation bitterly through his window.
“Damnations! What the hell is he thinking, rousing the citizens to escape!”
“I guess he’s saying he doesn’t need the people to hold us back anymore”
Castor frowned at Tolman’s analysis.
“Are they going to start something?”
“Probably. But I can’t say what that may be …”
“But I have not heard reports of any military forces heading this way”
“… that is indeed the problem”
Of course, even Tolman couldn’t tell what Soma was thinking. They had sent out wyvern scouts earlier but they didn’t see any signs of an army coming. Yet Soma declared that he would assault the [Crimson Dragon Castle] in one hour. It might have been a bluff, but in that case, he couldn’t understand the reason why he would send the citizens to escape. If he only wanted to buy time then letting the citizens surround the castle would be more effective.
(Wait … Soma did say he wanted to attack the [Crimson Dragon Castle])
Tolman felt a slight discomfort at those words. That’s right … If he wanted to attack this place then he would’ve said to attack the [Crimson Dragon Castle Village]. The towns of this country were walled and unified with the castles after all. Yet Soma said he would attack the [Crimson Dragon Castle]. Which means he’s saying he wouldn’t attack the town but precisely assaulting this castle. If it wasn’t just a mistake in wording, then the action he would take would be ….
Having gone that far, Tolman’s train of thought was interrupted again by Soma’s voice.
[Can you hear me, Castor Vargas?]
It was an unassuming voice, unlike before. The voice came from a receiver placed in one corner of the room. Soma’s face was displayed there. Soma would usually pay no mind as to what he was wearing but now he was clad in the uniform for Kings going to war. It was dim and indiscernible, but he seems to be inside a small room. Castor prepared his orb and stood in front of it.
“… I can hear you, false king Soma”
Though being called a false king, Soma’s expression didn’t change. Rather, he seemed as if he was looking at something insignificant, with cold eyes. Those eyes sent slight chills down Castor’s spine.
[This broadcast is sent to your place only. I’m not broadcasting it everywhere like I did yesterday]
Castor clicked his tongue. He had gone through lots of trouble because the Counsel was made public.
“So, what does the King want? You’re going to attack, aren’t you?”
[I thought I’d at least give you one last chance to beg for your life … I guess that’s out of the question]
“Of course it is! If you want to attack, then come! But then again, you don’t look like you have the troops to attack Crimson Dragon Castle Village”
Castor provocated. Soma snorted.
Soma’s attitude enraged Castor.
“What’s so funny!”
[I never said I was going to attack ‘Crimson Dragon Castle Village’. To begin with, I can just attack and capture you. All I need to attack is the ‘Crimson Dragon Castle’]
“You, what are …”
[… It’s time. I’ll show you. Main battery number 1 and number 2, FIRE!]
Then two loud booms came from a distance. Then the next moment.
A large quake shook the Crimson Dragon Castle along with the sound of explosions. The attack was like an earthquake from directly underneath. The room’s furnishings tumbled, hung paintings fell, and Tolman and Carla fell on their backsides. Having somehow stood his ground, Castor yelled.
“W, what was that! What happened?”
Then one of the Air Force officers came rushing into the room.
“Lord Vargas. C, cannon!”
“Cannon!? The Royal Guard isn’t supposed to have cannon!”
Within the armies of Elfrieden, only the Army owned cannons for use in land battles, and only three of them at that, for use in castle sieges. He never ever heard of the Royal Guard having them. Could they have made some new ones, Vargas thought, but they cost a lot of time and funds. It was unthinkable that they would be made in such an economically distressful time.
However, Soma calmly declared.
[No. They’ve been with the Royal Guard since even before I was made King]
“Impossible! That couldn’t …”
At that moment, yet another officer came rushing in with an unbelievable report.
“We have detected the battleship [Alberto] in the forest in the southern plains!!”
◇ ◇ ◇
The only seagoing vessel of the Royal Guard, crowned with the name of the previous King. She was the flagship of the kingdom’s naval forces. She was similar in form to the flagship of the combined fleet during the Battle of Tsushima, the Mikasa. She was propelled not by internal combustion engines, but drawn by two sea dragons lined up like a horse drawn carriage. However, now that she was on land, there was obviously no sign of sea dragons who live in the sea. Also, she currently had a total of four main cannons on its fore and aft. Those were the cannons that assaulted the Crimson Dragon Castle just now. Now that the battleship had been brought to land, she had become an artillery battery.
Another four shells were fired onto the Crimson Dragon Castle.
“Guh … ridiculous! Why is the Alberto here on dry land!?”
[Don’t underestimate the Royal Guard’s transport capabilities. A single Rhinousaurus could pull a battleship with ease if you put wheels underneath]
“You dispatched a battleship on land!?”
What an outrageous idea. Castor felt like he was seeing the Devil. If Castor was a little more of a modern person well acquainted with weaponry, he would have thought the battleship was simply being used like a railway gun¹. However, to a person in this world where the idea of a railway gun simply didn’t exist yet, Soma’s action was like the work of the gods or the devil.
¹ A normally difficult to move large cannon made capable of being hauled long distances by mounting it on a train.
“You … what are you!”
[An ordinary human being. A powerless man on the streets who desperately racks his brains out]
“Kuh, don’t make fun of me!”
[I’m not making fun of you, Castor. I’m just angry]
As he said that, Soma’s eyes turned serious.
“Hmph! Because I won’t follow you?”
[No, because you are just being manipulated²]
“Huh? What are you talking …”
[Everyone is. Including me. We’re all being manipulated some way or another. But I’m going to dance by my own will. Unlike you who only dance because you were carried by the flow]
“What, what are you talking about!”
² «TN: odosareru: being manipulated / being made to dance»
“No need to put up with the enemy’s nonsense, father!”
Carla interjected in between Soma and Castor.
She then turned towards Castor and said
“Father! It seems that the castle’s attacks came only from the battleship Alberto! I will lead the wyvern units and silence that battleship!”
“Wait, Carla! We still don’t know if there are any more traps somewhere!”
“Which is why I will be going! Father should stay in the castle, just in case!”
Carla flew away, not listening to Castor.
Castor clicked his tongue.
“Damnations. She wouldn’t listen to me when I tell her to stop. Just who does she take after?”
“… You can say that again. I’d like to see what her parents look like”
Tolman said sarcastically, but Castor didn’t have the spare energy to pay it any mind.
“Please Tolman. Watch Carla so she doesn’t do something reckless”
“… I suppose it can’t be helped. I shall take my leave then”
Tolman chased after Carla. Left alone in the room, Castor glared at Soma’s face in the monitor.
“Wyverns are coming your way as we speak. We will have you shed your skin of disguise!”
[Skin of disguise … is it?]
However, Soma only reacted to Castor’s declaration with a faint smile.
[It’s not exactly skin … but the golden cicada has shed its shell]³
³ «TN: Sun Tzu’s thirty-six stratagems number 21, Slough off the cicada’s golden shell. Leave off one’s distinctive traits behind and become inconspicuous»
◇ ◇ ◇
The wyvern cavalry led by Carla took off to the sky in good order.
They would use wind magic to reach an altitude higher than the cannonballs could reach, regroup there and swoop down to attack. Once they had regrouped, Tolman’s wyvern came in close to the wyvern Carla was riding⁴ when she was about to give the attack order.
⁴ Although Carla herself, being a dragonewt, could fly on her own, she would normally ride a wyvern to give the battle her full concentration
“Milady. Please wait”
“What’s wrong Tolman”
“Something’s amiss. Even though we’re this high we can’t see any of the enemy’s follow-up movements. It looks like the enemy’s forces are really just the [Alberto]”
Tolman looked doubtful. Carla cocked her head.
“We already received that report, right?”
“Yes. However, I think they might be hidden or have a flying column lying somewhere. Milady, do you think you can take over a castle with only siege weapons?”⁵
“You can’t? Sorry, I’m not too familiar with land battles”
⁵ «TN: siege weapons can’t capture cities in CiV, but ships can (melee ships anyway)»
“It can’t be done. Even if you would be able to attack the castle, you would need other units with higher mobility to take control of it. However, I can’t see any of those units among the enemy”
“Which means … what?”
“I don’t know. But doesn’t it mean that the enemy is planning something?”
Carla thought for a little while, but then shook her head.
“Even so, the Crimson Dragon Castle is being bombarded even now. To secure father’s safety it is urgent that we destroy that battleship”
“That is … as you say, but …”
Seeing Tolman unable to reply, Carla raised her right hand high.
“Attack target is battleship [Alberto]! Capture target is fake King Soma!”
[[[ OOOOOO!! ]]]
To Carla’s command, the brawny Air Force men raised their voices. Compared to the other armies, the Air Force, being led by a muscle-brain, put focus on force supremacy. To the air force, might makes right, power is absolute, and tactics can be left to the other forces. The Air Force themselves simply tear down the enemy before their eyes with strength. Which is why the Air Force officers and men highly respected the Vargas father and daughter pair with their overwhelming strength.
“Commanding all dragons! Descend! Rush! Overrun!”
That highly respected Carla swung her right hand down, and the Air Force soldiers began swooping down onto the battleship [Alberto]. On the field, the Air Force’s sure-kill tactics are to do a nose dive while at the same time release the dragons’ [Flame Breath] attack, then swoop back up and withdraw. Normally one wouldn’t be able to deal with this high-power high-manoeuvrability attack using ground-based equipment.
The battleship Alberto’s main armaments wouldn’t be able to deal with the speed, and her armor wouldn’t be able to stand for long in the face of the wyverns’ attack. Which is why battleship [Alberto]’s destruction was just a matter of time … or that was how things should have gone.
*shwump* *shwump* *shwump* *shwump* *shwump* *shwump* *shwump*
“Ughaa, my shoulder …”
“My dragon’s hit! I, I’m falling! Somebody, help …”
“Take cover! Take coveeeeeerr!”
A rain of arrows from the battleship [Alberto] was launched onto the swooping dragon cavalry. Unable to bear the volley of arrows like a torrent of rain rising from the earth, the dragon cavalry climbed back up. With just this one attack several wyverns fell, and there are those among the ones who were able to safely withdraw that had anguished faces from having an arrow lodged somewhere on their bodies.
Looking at the terrible scene, Carla rammed her fist on her knee.
“What are those arrows! Such numbers!”
“They reached wyvern cavalry who were still hundreds of meters in the air. This was not a human feat. And those numbers … I think they might be anti-air machine ballistae endowed with wind magic”
Tolman analyzed as calmly as he could. Carla scrunched her eyebrows.
“Machine ballistae!? Why are those things loaded on a ship!?”
Anti-air ballistae weapons that can fire off several tens of wind magic enhanced exceptionally high range arrows a second, a weapon specialized for anti-wyvern battles. Normally installed on castle walls, having them on board ships was unheard of. The reason was because of one of the differences between dragons and wyverns – dragons do not fear the sea while wyverns do. Wyverns have the nature of being startled and going out of control when they saw ocean without land in sight. In other words, there would be no fighting between land-based wyverns and sea-based battleships, and therefore battleships do not need to be equipped with anti-wyvern weaponry.
“That false king even expects to fight wyverns on the sea!?”
“He probably appropriated some from a fort somewhere. Which means that battleship is now already a small fortress. What a nuisance”
Carla clicked her tongue, having listened to Tolman’s analysis.
“Damnations… what should I do”
“I wonder … even though you can call it a small fortress it’s still battleship-shaped. I think it still has the same blind spot”
“A battleship’s blind spot?”
“Between the deck and the waterline. Battleships do not have a means of attacking anything lower than their decks. In case of the Alberto, the space between the ground and the deck is a blind spot. Which means if we were to attack the ship …”
“We only need to approach flying low!”
Carla rejoiced having obtained a good plan. Flying low with wyverns is usually an act fraught with the danger of eventually crashing onto the ground, but these were skilled Air Force units.
“Listen up! All units, fly low and approach the [Alberto]! Speedily neutralize the main cannons and the anti-air ballistae and all other weaponry!”
“Understood, but only the weapons? Wouldn’t it be faster to just pulverize the whole battleship?”
One of the wyvern soldiers asked. Carla shook her head.
“I think Soma’s on that ship. If we kill Soma we could no longer pacify the people and father would carry the disgrace of being a liege-killer. We need to capture Soma alive”
“That’s difficult isn’t it …”
“Though it’s a lot of trouble for you all, please”
As Carla bowed her head, the men beat their chest hard.
“Leave it to us, Milady”
“We will be sure to capture the false king Soma!”
Carla nodded to the men’s response. She once again called the assault, “Attack!” then all the wyvern cavalry, as if they were shot down, plunged head first straight down. They restored their postures right before hitting the ground and flew low, as if creeping along the ground. As might be expected from soldiers who had strict training day in and day out, not a single one of them fell away from the series of manoeuvers.
With Carla at the lead the wyvern cavalry maintained their low altitude and headed straight for the [Alberto]. As Tolman surmised, the rain of arrows didn’t come. Carla confirmed by eyesight where the anti-air machine ballistae were deployed.
“Found them! All units, attack the enemy’s weaponry as planned! We don’t know where Soma is hiding so don’t destroy anything needlessly!”
“”” Aye! “””
“Let’s go … Fire!”
On Carla’s order the wyverns let loose breaths of fire, hitting and destroying all the [Alberto]’s weaponry. The next moment, the [Alberto]’s main cannons installed at the fore and aft exploded and the machine ballistae burned down⁵. Having destroyed the [Alberto]’s weapons in an instant, the wyvern cavalry climbed up as if riding the smoke rising up from her. Confident in her victory, Carla elegantly circled with her wyvern.
⁵ Explosions depend on whether there was gunpowder or not
“Right! Now storm the [Alberto]! Secure Soma!”
“”” OOOOOO! “””
Only one among the elated wyvern cavalry expressed a dubious face.
(… This is strange. Even though the [Alberto] has secondary armaments, only the main and anti-air weapons were used during the attack. It would’ve been better for them to use greater numbers in bombardment, or possibly … they don’t have the ‘numbers’ on this ship!?)
When Tolman realized this Carla and the wyvern cavalry had already swarmed the [Alberto]. Tolman cursed his own carelessness and struck his knee with the pommel of his sword.
◇ ◇ ◇
Meanwhile, what greeted Carla when she stormed the [Alberto] was the sight of an empty bridge.
“Reporting! We are currently conducting a search within the battleship [Alberto], but we haven’t seen a single soul, let alone the false king Soma”
“Impossible! Then what have we been fighting until just now!”
A ship without crew. The bombardment happening just moments before and the undiscovered bombardiers. This was almost like the ghost ships the stories speak of. Did the false king Soma use some forbidden magic. Chills ran down the spines of the Air Force soldiers. Then, a new report came in.
“Reporting! We discovered part of a suit of armor in the wreckage of the main cannons and the machine ballistae!”
“Armor? A corpse?”
“That is … we found the hand of a mannequin doll in the armor gauntlet we found”
“It was likely that kind of trick”
The answer came from the anguished looking Tolman who just entered the bridge. Tolman came upon Carla and advised.
“Milady, let us hurry back to the castle”
“Wait, we still haven’t found Soma yet!”
“In all likelihood, Soma … no, nobody was on this ship. I don’t know what manner of magic it was but he probably attacked us through the dolls we found. We have been lured to an empty battleship [Alberto]”
“Lured …!? No, then their target is…!”
Seeing Carla noticing this, Tolman nodded gravely.
“Probably, Duke Vargas who we left in the Crimson Dragon Castle”
◇ ◇ ◇
~A few minutes prior, Soma’s POV ~
The biggest problem when hostilities with Castor Vargas was decided was the fact that I had no soldiers to send to the Crimson Dragon Castle Village. I had to send all the Royal Knights and Royal Guard to Carmine Duchy and had ordered the Navy on another errand. With this lack of manpower, the course Hakuya and I chose was to pile up plan upon plan to separate Castor from his subordinates and with just twenty select individuals, secure Castor’s person.
First I showed Castor’s attitude during the Final Counsel to the citizens and raised a protest movement⁶, sealing Castor’s movements. We then blended in with the protesters, infiltrated the Crimson Dragon Castle Village, and hid. We then arranged it so that we could enter the Crimson Dragon Castle anytime through the emergency escape routes like the ones we had in the capital Parnam. At the same time, we carried the battleship [Alberto] with a rhinosaurus under the cover of night and hid her in the forest near the Crimson Dragon Castle Village.
⁶ Other than the spontaneous protests, there was also Hakuya’s man who infiltrated and fanned the flames on the people
Then today, while the Air Force were all still stationed within the Duchy, I declared war against Castor Vargas using the Royal Broadcast equipment we brought along ‘from within the Crimson Dragon Castle Village’. Just like a stage magician waving his right hand to hide the trick being done by his left. With this, Castor would likely be thinking that I was inside the [Alberto]. While he was thinking that, we were already lurking inside the Crimson Dragon Castle Village. Practicing the Art of War’s number 21 of the 36 stratagems [Slough off the Cicada’s Golden Shell] (draw the enemy’s attention while our forces do something else).
The bombardiers inside the Alberto were armored dolls I moved using my [Living Poltergeist]. I played with the Air Force using the main cannons and the machine ballistae I appropriated from Parnam’s castle walls⁷. That way, while the wyvern cavalry were lured to the empty [Alberto], I used the gap to infiltrate the castle, and now I am able to catch Castor’s person.
⁷ I can’t move enough dolls to also handle the secondary armaments though
The problem now was whether or not Castor himself would lead the wyvern cavalry. Even if we could launch a surprise attack on the Crimson Dragon Castle it would have been meaningless if the all-important general wasn’t there. He seems to prefer that kind of fighting to begin with so I was worried, but Hakuya confidently said that it would be alright. According to him:
[Duke Vargas is lacking in forethought, but he is well aware of that fact. He had come to danger several times during his nearly a hundred years of military campaigning. Which is why we would use the fact that he is aware that he is not good against an opponent that always attacks from the rear like Your Highness. In all likelihood, he should hesitate to come out thinking Your Highness might have something else in store. Even if Duke Vargas wants to come out, the steward Tolman or someone else with judgement would reproach]
To even consider the opponent’s mentality when forming a strategy, he is a fearsome man, just like Zhuge Liang in the Annals of the Three Kingdoms. When I told Hakuya my impressions, he replied:
[I would like to not hear it coming from Your Highness who even came up with a plan to use a battleship on land. I only measure a person’s subtleties carefully, Your Highness is the one crushing them from the outside]
Well, that was roughly how Hakuya and I each used our respective expertises to cook up this plan. As a result, the plan worked splendidly, and we the infiltrator team could enter the Crimson Dragon Castle Village. There were a meager amount of defenders in the castle, but they were all swept clean by the number 1 in strength, Aisha.
And then that’s how we come to this ‘face to face meeting’.
“I’m relieved we could meet each other like this, Castor Vargas”
“You … Soma Kazuya!”
Currently, I was facing the Air Force Marshal Castor Vargas in the Crimson Dragon Castle banquet hall. He looked younger than what his projection showed. Is that your impressions on seeing a two meter tall man with dragon tail and wings? I smiled wryly to myself.
“Your Highness, please stand back!”
Aisha and the infiltrator team elites stepped up to defend me. The [Musashiboy-kun doll (large)] among those elites looked surreal. … it was a weird choice if I could say so myself.
Seeing me defended by the soldiers, Castor barked.
“Oi Soma Kazuya! You’re a hero aren’t you!? Aren’t you ashamed of yourself, hiding behind a woman!? Fight with me man to man!”
“Don’t be ridiculous. All I’ve been doing since being summoned was deskwork, you know”
Being challenged to personal combat, I could only shrug my shoulders. Having a boss fight right away even though I never had a chance to raise my level⁸ was out of the question, right. Even though I was part of this infiltration team, I didn’t even defeat a single guard. Well, I was useless here, but in another way, I’m right now in the middle of a fight of my own.
⁸ I have no idea whether the concept exists here, though
I was in the middle of a battle, working my split consciousness in full, manipulating the armored dolls I left in the battleship Alberto to operate the main cannons and anti-air machine ballistae I surreptitiously loaded, luring the wyvern cavalry away. However, it seems the wyvern cavalry was more skilled than I imagined. They were taken by surprise but even the machine ballistae that are know as wyvern-killers did not take out many of them. I probably wouldn’t last much longer.
“… well, whatever. I don’t have much time so I’ll arrest you right here”
“Hmph, just you try! Don’t think you can catch me with just this few people!”
Castor loudly spread the wings on his back to intimidate me. The wind pressure from that alone threw several of the infiltrating soldiers to the back wall. … are you kidding me!? Is this a dragonewt’s power? Having the blood of humans and dragons isn’t just for show, I see.
The next moment, Castor kicked the ground and after staying in the air a short while, he lunged. He didn’t even give anyone else a glance, his unsheathed sword was pointed straight at me.
Aisha stood in front of me spreading her hands to cover me. She stopped Castor’s attack with her greatsword. A loud *ching* rang out as metal collided with metal.
“Damnations! Out of the way, dark elf girl!”
“I refuse! I’m not letting you lay a finger on His Highness!”
Aisha swung her greatsword with all her strength, sending Castor flying.
Castor nimbly landed and cursed.
“Damnations, what ridiculous strength!”
“Yes. I’m not good with my head. But we have Hakuya, Juna, and Duchess Walter, all people with good heads. Yet when I’m told that my strength will be needed for His Highness’ supremacy, when I’m told I can stay by his side, I’m fine with ‘ridiculous strength’!”
Aisha readied her greatsword again, gradually shortening her distance to Castor.
“Why! Why are you so loyal to this man who hides behind women!”
“If you’re asking my opinion, then it’s because my King’s country’s cooking is delicious⁹, and because he saved my village … and a lot more, but after all, the most important one is because I like him as a person! I want to always be right by King Soma and Princess Liecia!”
⁹ «TN: priorities …»
Ah … this is embarrassing. I know it’s not that kind of scene, but I can’t help being happy when a pretty dark elf said something like that to me. In contrast to my broadly smiling face, Castor had a loathsome look on his.
“… Then die in his defense”
As he said that Castor slashed at Aisha once again, but that moment.
[I won’t let you!]
The [Musashiboy-kun (large)] that had snuck behind Castor unawares slashed at castor with his halberd. Castor turned back and stopped the attack with his sword, but the moment he was going to counterattack, Musashiboy-kun rolled aside. Then as if tearing through his back, Liecia jumped out from inside holding her rapier.
“What!? Princess Liecia!?”
Against Liecia’s counterattack, Castor reflexively withdrew his sword. To Castor, Liecia was the daughter of the Lord he swore his allegiance to. Normally she wouldn’t be someone he would raise his sword against. If we had confronted Castor from the start with Liecia in clear view, he would have used his strength to disarm her without wounding her. To not let that happen, and having anticipated this sort of thing, I had Liecia hide inside [Musashiboy-kun (large)] and wait for her chance. That hesitation proved fatal to Castor.
“[Ice Sword Mountain]!”
Not letting the gap go, Liecia produced spikes of ice from the floor and ceiling, restraining Castor.
“Got it Princess!”
Turning towards the now immobile Castor, Aisha struck him with a full swing of the flat of her greatsword. The sound of ice breaking followed a moment later by the sound of Castor crashing onto the wall resounded. I witnessed the scene of a person being thrown against the wall making a circular-shaped dent like in a fighting anime. Having received an attack that would unmistakably kill me in an instant if it were me on the receiving end, Castor still kept his consciousness even while being wounded all over. As expected from a dragonewt, I suppose. The wounded Castor groaned.
“Kuh … why, Princess … I, only wanted to … return the crown, to Lord Alberto …”
“Has father ever even asked for that?”
Liecia bluntly said as she looked at Castor with cold eyes.
“No, what father wanted has nothing to do with it. I want Soma to be King out of my own will. If father wanted to have his crown back I will fight him by Soma’s side”
“Why do … you go so far …”
“Because I want to see it. The ‘new shape’ of this country that Soma will make”
While saying that Liecia attached something black on Castor’s neck.
“You should know this already, but this is a [Slavery Collar] for slaves. This item contains magic that can make it constrict by the master’s will, and upon harm being done to the master it will cut the head away. If this collar were to be taken off without the master’s consent, it will likewise cut the head away. Finally, this collar’s master is set to Soma Kazuya”
With the collar on, Castor hung his head. Castor was now unable to go against me anymore, the moment the Air Force was defeated by the Royal Guard. At that moment, a young girl burst into the room.
The girl with fiery red hair and glimmering golden pupils and dragon wings rushed to the slumping Castor. Ecksel once said “one of my granddaughters stayed at Castor’s side …” with a sorrowful face. Which means that this girl must be Castor’s daughter Carla. Just a while ago I felt the battleship [Alberto] being disarmed. Seeing her metallic red armor, she might have been fighting the [Alberto] up until now.
The moment Carla saw my face, she drew her sword.
“You. How dare you”
“Stop it Carla!”
Liecia pinioned Carla from behind as she was about to attack me.
“Liecia!? Let go! He …!”
“Duke Vargas has already been attached with a [Slavery Collar]! If you kill Soma, Duke Vargas will also die!”
Strength left Carla’s body and her sword dropped from her hand. She fell to the floor once Liecia released her. Tears streamed down her face as she looked in stupor. It hurt my chest a little, but she was one of the supporters of this rebellion. I can’t give her preferential treatment. I asked Aisha to also attach a [Slavery Collar] on her.
As she does the wyvern cavalrymen who were attacking the battleship [Alberto] gathered within the hall. They were all seething with anger but upon seeing the [Slavery Collar] on Castor and Carla’s necks they understood there was nothing they could do and grit their teeth. The heavy air felt unpleasant but I can’t flinch here.
“Is the Vargas house steward Tolman here?”
“…… over here”
I called out and a man with white streaks in his hair that looked more fitting in a suit rather than armor stepped forward. So this is Tolman.
“You remember the rule we set at the Final Counsel, don’t you? [If an opponent is defeated or captured, then the army under him will immediately placed under the winner]”
“As you can see, the Air Force Marshall Castor Vargas has been arrested. I am authorizing you to be the temporary Air Marshal as of now. Organize the Air Force and fall under the Royal Guard!”
“… May I ask you something?”
Tolman said as if swallowing a bitter pill.
“… what is it?”
“What will happen to Duke Vargas and Lady Carla?”
“The sentence for these two will be decided after the war. It does not merit mentioning now”
“Rather than your Lord, worry about yourselves. The entire Air Force is now a rebel army you know”
I said as I looked around at the lined up Air Force soldiers and officers.
“If you fall under the Royal Guard now you will be considered only following Castor’s orders. Those who don’t will be considered a rebel and given the same judgement as Castor”
“You want us to sell our lord!”
“That’s right! We won’t abandon Lord Castor!”
I glared at the dissenting voices.
“Think about it carefully. Guilt by association is a thing in this country. If you became traitors of the state, not only yourselves but your kin will receive the same judgement. You should speak only if you have the resolve!”
“” ……… “”
The room became silent. Though the Air Force have no fear for their own lives, that’s because the only lives they’re wagering was their own. They’re not so stubborn as to cause trouble for their families.
In the heavy atmosphere, the first to kneel was Tolman.
“…… I shall abide by your words, Your Highness”
“S, Sir Tolman!”
“We can still …”
“Silence! Don’t you know that you’re only making it worse for Duke Vargas by resisting!”
With a single roar the dissenters were silenced. Tolman bowed once again.
“Your orders if you may, Your Highness. What shall we the Air Force do henceforth?”
I gave orders to the splendidly bowing Tolman.
First, you shall declare that battle in the Vargas Duchy is over. Announce that Duke Vargas has been arrested and the Air Force is now under the command of the Royal Guard. Afterwards, you shall gather all the Air Force members that are not currently here. Once they are all here I will have you head for the Carmine Duchy. Additionally, you shall also announce that anyone who still continues to rebel after this will be judged as a traitor. Is that clear?”
“Yessir! It will be done”
Thus the ‘needless fighting’ in the Vargas Duchy, both to the losing and the winning sides, ended. Now … I can finally head for the Carmine Duchy.
“Just you wait, Georg Carmine”
◇ ◇ ◇
«Elfrieden Classical Idioms Course»
[Attacking a castle with a battleship, (Like —)] … figurative expression. An act, or a person who does something, no one else thought of. The expression came to be when during the Five-Day War King Soma attacked the treasonous Castor’s castle, he gained victory through a plan involving a battleship. Close synonyms on Earth are [Copernican Revolution (Idea)], [Columbus’ Egg].