Oukoku e Tsuzuku Michi Chapter 395
–Third Person POV–
South Yuguria Army – Eastern Army Headquarters.
Supreme Commander Patricia Raleigh.
「The frontal squad is still engaging Margrave Hardlett’s army. We are at a slight disadvantage.」
「I don’t mind if we get pushed back. Minimize our losses as much as possible and focus on prolonging the battle.」
Patricia says while licking her velvety pink lips.
「They fell for it.」
「The strategy is progressing steadily.」
The staff officers commend their commander.
She is leading a total of 70 000 troops composed of the 30 000 survivors of the earlier fight and the 40 000 soldiers of the reinforcing second division eastern army corps.
The second division was actually formed provisionally in order to conquer the small nation of Malt and were made up of second grade soldiers, so their equipment and skills were both inferior to the other 30 000.
「What’s truly terrifying is Hardlett’s army. Although the main force is centered around the second division, it’s surprising to see the 50 000 of the frontal squad doesn’t stand a chance at all.」
「I thought it was possible to break through from the front when formations were set up in open areas to make use of numbers.」
「Each defensive encampment appears weak individually, but are quite annoying when put together, the tactics are superb and the skill of the soldiers are relatively high…… a world of difference when compared to the lords’ armies the central army fought with and defeated. I would have believed it if someone told me they were the kingdom’s elite of the elite.」
Realizing they must have praised the enemy too much, the staff officers awkwardly check on Patricia’s reaction.
She also nodded and agreed though.
「Umu, my predecessor, General Dabol, also noted how formidable they were, but I did not think they were this strong. He’s like a demon when stepping onto the battlefield and a cunning snake when leading an army…… it may be due to my predecessor General Dabol’s straightforward way of attacking head-on that they fell for our diversionary tactics.」
「However, that is no longer meaningful.」
Patricia stands up in front of a map of Goldonia’s eastern region―― which showed Rafen drawn in the center and Lintbloom further east, and places one token on each city.
「Once Rafen, the central city of Hardlett’s territory, falls, it’s over. There’s no need to engage in swordplay with an opponent boasting superior military prowess.」
The continued struggle of the South Yuguria army on the frontlines was a diversion.
The real attack would come from the highly-skilled elite army approaching Rafen from the east after a large detour.
「They brought all their soldiers to the front after all. Their defense is short-handed.」
「Right, according to information from a spy, there are only 1000 who resemble guards in the city and a very small amount are heavily-armed, about 200, which shouldn’t be a problem.」
「In addition, the thickness and height of the walls are equivalent to that of a small to mid-sized city’s walls. They have plants growing around the wall and also a low defensive awareness, which we can get through if we attack seriously.」
「Currently, the one with the highest authority, to whom the city is entrusted, is the official in charge of domestic affairs. He should not be too capable of commanding.」
「Nonsensical reports of a flying lizard, hands sticking out of the aqueduct and plants moving night after night have been disregarded.」
Patricia nods contently.
「What’s left is here…… Lintbloom, huh. It’s impressive how a city can be built up in such barren land.」
「A group of blacksmiths established the city next to a mine…… to create a production base where everything from swords and armor to arrows and cannons are made. It’s unexpected to see a place like that in this remote area.」
「It means they’re able to use countless cannons. I also hear from rumors that they have more abundant armaments and soldiers than Goldonia’s legitimate army.」
「If we control this city, their supply lines will be severed. They’ll have no way to fight.」
Patricia nods again.
「I’m sure the enemy never expected us to cross the mountain nation territory.」
「And for all of Rafen’s internal conditions to be leaked……」
The female commander snickers.
「He might be called demon, but he can’t get everyone to submit to him. Am I right, you two?」
The staff officers try their best to keep a straight face, though direct gazes of unconcealed scorn at them.
「I simply grieved the future of my family. I didn’t intend to chatter pointlessly.」
「What should I do…… I…… I never meant to……」
At the end of their lines of sight was a disheartened man of short stature and a pale-faced maid trembling uncontrollably.
At the Same Time. Near Rafen – South Yuguria Army.
「There are no enemy soldiers along the walls. The only defense facilities are a handful of watchtowers, just like the advance report described.」
「After the planned small-scale diversionary attack from the east, we’ll mount a full-fledged attack from the geographically vulnerable south.」
The Rafen conquering unit of the South Yuguria army smoothly started their operation.
Details of Rafen’s troop count and defense structures were all disclosed to them.
As the conquering team anticipated, they could proceed to the attack phase.
「Enemy counterattack from the east gate. It looks like they have multiple ballistae and small caliber cannons!」
「It’s a good sign.」
The enemy chuckles to himself.
Facing a counterattack is proof that the hard-to-move ballistae and cannons were installed near the east gate.
In other words, it means the south where their real attack is aimed will be completely unguarded.
「It looks like the information was correct. The one in command is a civil official and not the demon.」
「After showing ourselves, we purposely give them a few hours before attacking to allow them to fortify the east gate. They’re moving as we thought they would.」
「Our information network is totally outdoing theirs.」
「Hahaha, on top of their information being leaked, they have a mere 2000 to our 15 000 troops, not to mention their commander is a government official, so there’s no way we can lose. Let’s bring them down quickly.」
The South Yuguria army pretend to approach the east game and immediately change direction to the south.
Flustered voices from the defense unit within the city can be heard, but there isn’t any time for them to reinstall the ballistae on the southside.
「Hahaha, look at that. There are some trees peeking out on the other side of the wall.」
「Planting trees on the inside…… I’m flabbergasted by the stupidity.」
「Everyone, get your ladders and climb up. Once we get to the top, we can use the trees as foot holds to enter the city however we like.」
The commander laughs and the soldiers charge toward the south wall, certain of their victory.
「Intercept them! Shoot, shootー!」
Dozens of sentinels from the watchtowers on the wall fire crossbows, although it was like pouring water on a hot stone and the momentum of the South Yuguria soldiers wasn’t dampened one bit.
Instead, the reinforcement archers began focus-firing at the watchtowers, either killing the guards or knocking them off the walls.
「Alright, we’ve got a hold!」
With the walls of Rafen not being very high, ladders easily carried by the infantry of the South Yuguria army would be enough to allow them to climb over.
Over a hundred ladders get propped against the wall and soldiers start ascending one after the other.
Rafen’s fate seemed to be sealed quite simply.
「I’m the first――」
It was the moment right as the soldiers reached the top of the ladder and was about to cross over the wall.
There was a crisp crack accompanying the soldiers’ decapitation.
The headless soldiers who climbed up the ladders energetically slid back down lifelessly.
Even the commander wasn’t sure what happened.
「Don’t falter! They must have hidden one or two ballistae. Climb up quickly and force your way over!」
Deciding it must have been a result of ballistae since no booms from cannons were heard, the commander motivates his soldiers to once again go up the ladders.
「If you get hit, then you weren’t lucky enough!」
「I’ll avenge my comrade.」
Soldiers climb up the ladders and try to cross the wall again.
They all scream at the same time as they get sent flying in an arc.
No matter how you look at it, they didn’t get hit by a giant bolt or a cannonball.
After a moment of silence, the soldiers fall down with a flump.
One of them lost his head similar to what happened to the earlier soldiers, the upper body of another was turned into something like a tattered rag, and yet another’s face was damaged to the point it no longer resembles a human. One amongst them managed to stay alive despite getting part of his head blown off.
「Hey, what happened!? What did you see on the other side of the wall!?」
The commander holds the man in his arms and asks.
With a gaping mouth, the man with half his head crushed squeezes out a reply in a weak tone.
「Tree? You mean the trees growing on the other side of the wall!?」
The man’s voice became hoarse and broken.
「Tree…… mov-…… -ing…… monster……」
The soldier passes away and lay limply in the commander’s arms.
A shadow then falls on the men surrounding their fellow soldier.
Everyone turns around stiffly like a defective stone mortar.
「The tree…… grew taller?」
「No, that’s not it…… it didn’t grow taller. The tree is climbing over the walls! This isn’t a normal tree!」
「You’re kidding me…… a moving tree is like something out of a nightmare! Did I get hit by an arrow and faint!?」
Branches of the tree are practically being used like arms and are helping the tree go over the wall.
This is far beyond normal expectations. It would make more sense in a child’s bad dream.
The South Yuguria soldiers either fall flat on their ass, trip over themselves as they try to run or simply stare blankly.
South Yuguria’s information network had no way of knowing the plants around the perimeter of Rafen were all part of an alraune.
With a mind of its own and the ability to move, she was ordered not to attack any humans. That was only if they didn’t intend to harm the city.
Coiling on the ground, the hard-as-steel vines extend and pierce a fleeing man in the back, then throws him up high into the air.
「My hips have given out on me, can’t stand…… gyuu!」
A thick branch reaches out to the head of a man who had fallen on the ground and crushes him flat.
「This is a dream. Impossi――」
A pouch-like vine approaches a man staring dumbfoundedly and sprays a certain fluid on him.
As soon as the fluid made contact, the man’s armor melted away, his hair and skin peeled off his body leaving the red flesh and white bone underneath visible, and eventually he was completely liquified.
「What is thaaaaat!!?」
Tragedies were happening everywhere.
Vines danced all over the place, digestive juices splashed everywhere, and the South Yuguria soldiers let out a chorus of screams.
「H-hey you guys, what are you looking at? We’re supposed to be guards here. Shoot arrows, throw rocks, defend the city!」
「Oh, right. We’re fighting.」
After the guard captain yells at them, the open-mouthed Rafen guards nervously resume their attack.
Rather than looking at the enemy, most of them could not take their eyes away from the moving tree.
「The tree is moving…… this can’t be real……」
「This thing can distinguish between friend and foe, right?」
Sensing the uneasiness of the guard, the alraune transforms one of its buds into human form and reassures the guards by touching them.
「It seems okay for now.」
「Ah, it’s kind of cute.」
The relieved guards concentrate on attacking the enemy.
One section of the wall was cleared of South Yuguria soldiers.
「Get it together. This isn’t a bad dream! That guy is just using monsters he tamed. Don’t lose your composure!!」
「Their numbers are actually overwhelmingly small if you ignore the strange creature! Don’t lose, attack back!」
In an attempt to save the panicking frontlines, a barrage of arrows are released from the rear and rain down around the perimeter of the walls.
Considering the difference in number of troops, one would think the guards didn’t stand a chance.
「Waaaah! ……wait, what?」
Vines of the alraune move at a speed invisible to the human eye and knock down many of the falling arrows in midair, while those she missed stab into her trunk or branches, reducing casualties to practically nothing.
After rustling restlessly, the alraune starts crawling over the wall to attack those who fired the arrows.
「Hey, you can’t go outside! Fight within the walls!」
The alraune twitches in response the female’s pretty voice.
Several of her branches, acting as arms, and its trunk, acting as legs, which were still moving above the wall, stop and retract back inside the city’s boundary.
「Good. We have to protect this place no matter what, that’s why you can’t go out on your own. Understand?」
That did not go unnoticed by the South Yuguria soldiers.
「Did that monster just listen to orders? Is that thing controlling the creature!?」
「Aim for that woman!」
Crossbowmen steady their aim.
The female wearing a rather crude helmet is moving no faster than a brisk jog.
One soldier realizes the bizarreness.
「……hey, wait. Why can we see the woman on the inside of the walls? The walls may not be tall, but they’re still 4 m high.」
「She doesn’t appear to be on a watchtower. What’s going on?」
「Her body is bobbing up and down as she moves.」
Then, the woman turns her gaze at them.
「Up we go.」
The woman’s upper body stretches and rises up past the height of the wall.
「Mu, I’m being targeted!」
Cognizant of the crossbowmen now, she shrinks back down and lowers her body.
The soldiers drop their weapons and mutter flatly.
「Her lower body was like a snake.」
「What’s with this place…… is the base of a demon really a demon city?」
A trumpet sounds to signal the retreat.
Northern Rafen. Aqueduct Bridge – Intake Pond.
「There’s a large sluice gate. It’s just as the information described!」
A soldier submerged in water up to the hip shouts out his findings happily, eliciting a content smile and nod from his commander.
Fellow soldiers who labored to march through the wetlands spanning the northside also cheer.
「I’m sure the battle will be settled just by the frontal assault, but we still need to be thorough. Even if they unexpectedly persist, they won’t last long if we cut their water supply.」
Rafen’s population is 40 000 and it’s well known that satisfying the needs of that many people with only water from wells or collected rainwater is impossible. Therefore, South Yuguria did a complete investigation of Rafen’s water source to aid their invasion.
Naturally, they expected the castleside and water to be heavily guarded, and led close to 1000 soldiers here, but there was in fact nobody at all.
「The civil official knows nothing of war after all. Or perhaps he didn’t have enough resources to spare. In any case, the victor is clear.」
「Then we’ll destroy the sluice gate as we planned.」
Soldiers bring out their large hammers and pickaxes.
「There are no enemies in sight, but certain areas might still be deep, so be careful of your footing. It won’t be funny if you drowned and died in a place like this. If it was me who died, I’d take the form of a mermaid.」
「Hahaha, no doubt about that.」
「Speaking of mermaids, I hear their naked upper bodies are unbelievably sexy. I wouldn’t like to see the hairy chest of the commander-dono.」
As the soldiers laugh and joke around, they get ready to destroy the large brick-constructed sluice gate.
That was when something flew out from the sluice gate, grabbed a soldier and dragged him into the water.
「What was that!?」
「Hey, that just now…… uwah!」
This time, another man gets scooped off his feet and into the water, not floating back to the surface again.
「S-something’s out there!」
「Be careful! It’s around us…… hiih.」
Something jumps out of the water, clings to the neck of a wary soldier and pushes him under the water surface.
「W-what’s there!? A hidden soldier?」
「It had fins. A giant fish……?」
「Don’t be ridiculous! It had eyes, so it has to be human!」
As if mocking the quarreling soldiers, a red stain spreads on the water surface close to them and parts of their former companion floats up.
First it was a wrist, then an ankle, then the head…… hands which stuck out of the water briefly quickly withdrew back under.
More dismembered pieces of the soldiers that vanished begin to resurface, accompanied by countless tiny heads poking out of the water.
There were ten of them.
「Bad people who want to destroy the entrance.」
「I want to eat the bad people.」
「What are these things?」
「Children? No, that’s not it!」
Numerous heads continue to pop up, increasing the amount to over 20.
「It’s been a while since I had meat.」
「We can eat a lot.」
「They have gills!」
「They have hands as well as fins……」
The South Yuguria soldiers were soon surrounded by heads floating in the water.
「I’ll munch on them.」
「They look tasty.」
「Don’t tell me these things are mermaids……」
「In the intake pond of a city? Impossible.」
「They’re coming! Get into defensive formation!」
The flustered South Yuguria soldiers gather together shoulder-to-shoulder in a circular formation like they were ambushed.
The spearmen stand on the outside while the crossbowmen stay in the center and focus their eyes on the water.
「Don’t let your guard down……」
The mermaids swim swiftly on the perimeter, gradually closing the distance.
After pausing for a split second in the water, they pounce.
「Here they come!」
Even without an ambush, the soldiers of South Yuguria were not that easy to take down.
A soldier holds out his shield to deflect one of the creatures that jump out at him.
「Your attacks are obvious!」
A different soldier thrusts his spear into another creature swimming underwater trying to grab his leg.
The mermaid trembles violently and leaves a blood trail as it wiggles its body away.
「Dowah, help me!」
「I’ve got it!」
A soldier staggers after a mermaid jumps at him, but his friend helps by firing his crossbow.
The bolt accurately stabs into the mermaid’s side, sending the mermaid powerlessly back into the water.
「Fuu, that was a close one.」
「You’ll have to treat me to drinks after this is over.」
Both of them exchange a firm handshake.
Meanwhile, their fellow soldiers are shouting energetically, trying to outdo one another.
The commander yells confidently after watching the situation develop.
「Mermaids are ultimately beasts. They can only jump out or grab your feet. If we stay calm and deal with them accordingly, they’re no threat!」
「That’s right! We’ll be fine as long as we don’t let our guards down.」
「We’ll slowly back away from this place. Don’t break formation!」
The soldiers shout in high spirits.
Although they fended off multiple attacks, it is a poor choice to fight mermaids in wetlands where their footing is bad.
Obviously, fighting in the pond is out of the question.
The soldiers needed to return rapidly to a human’s field, the dry plains.
However, their fates would not be very pleasant.
A soft yet sad voice, as if it was speaking directly inside their heads, made the soldiers turn around.
「Poor things…… poor things…… they shed so much blood……」
A single mermaid sits at the sluice gate…… it was especially larger than the others and it goes without saying it was Mirumi.
She held the bleeding child who was stabbed above the knee in her arms.
「It hurts…… mama, it hurts……」
「How cruel…… how could you do this to a child who simply wanted to eat some meat.」
Mirumi glares at the soldiers and slowly opens her mouth.
「I-it’s the boss.」
「Hey, don’t stop moving. We have to get out of this wetlands quickly.」
Mirumi emits a sorrowful yet angry voice.
It was loud, but not audible to human ears.
Regardless, the soldiers instinctively felt something bad was approaching and hurried their pace at the cost of messing up the formation.
「Mama is crying.」
「The baddies hurt our sisters.」
「We have to finish them off.」
Responding to the call of their parent, 50 heads and 100 hands appear around them.
「New enemies! There are lots!」
Bubbles start to form on the water of the shallow wetlands behind them, beside them and in front of them, where slender arms and tiny heads gradually rise up.
「Abandon the form―― no, just run! Run as fast as you can――!!」
The number of heads already surpassed 300.
Both large and small mermaids densely packed an entire section of the pond.
The South Yuguria soldiers not only abandon their formation, they leave their weapons behind.
But humans could not run very fast in the wetlands with the mud robbing their mobility.
On the other hand, the small mermaids can freely move around even in knee-high water.
Soldiers on the side and rear get taken down.
Once they have fallen, several more mermaids pile on and the screaming disappears almost immediately.
「Finish them.」「Chase them.」「No escape.」「Eat them.」「Meat.」「Legs are mine.」「I want the insides.」
The soldiers in the center also get taken down one after the other.
None of their fellow soldiers could afford to worry about anybody aside from themselves.
「Don’t scatter! If you do, you’ll definitely be eaten up! Clump together and run out from the southeast side!」
The commander desperately tries to order his soldiers during the chaos and amongst the deathroes while also trying to escape himself.
But there was a large shadow which stood in the man’s way.
Mirumi stares silently at the commander.
She, who had been in the back all this time, already caught up to him in no time.
Discerning he couldn’t get away, the commander points his sword at the mermaid.
「You have such nice breasts. I’ll retreat from here, so will you let me touch them?」
The last thing the man saw was the sharp jagged teeth which didn’t fit the image of a beautiful mermaid.