“The Side Event has not yet ended.”
While the battle with Merica was still ongoing, Arnold and the rest of the devil subjugation party had completed their mission and started on their way back to the capital.
Unbeknownst to anyone other than Maria, the strategy arc was also about to reach its final stage. Normally, that would mean harsher fights as they approached the climax of the story, but, this time, the mission went very well and they were able to return the capital faster than expected.
The devils and demons hadn’t really grown weaker. In fact, their individual strength didn’t really change and their numbers had even increased so much that this subjugation had been expected to be a close fight. There was another reason why the subjugation ended so well.
「This time, I’m satisfied with our battles! Surely, milord will shower us with praise!」
Apollo was shouting loudly, obviously fired up. He had repeated this line so many times that other people had lost count by now. He wasn’t drunk, for a change, just really elated. And he had been like that even before the latest battle.
The Bandeaux Clans had contributed tremendously in this devil subjugation. So much, in fact, that others had been made to feel as if their personal power had grown by a level or two.
「Do you really believe milord to have that kind of soft personality? If you tell him that you were satisfied with your performance, you might even get scolded for allowing self-satisfaction to stunt your growth.」
Mohit was the one to offer chastisement, but even he sounded like he was enjoying his life right now.
「You’re right! Milord is definitely not only strict on himself but on others too, and equally so! Really, for life to be so hard for those who serve him!」
Apollo might have started to complain as usual, but he was no longer looking gloomy while at it. It was almost as if the rebuke made him happier.
「I believe we should put some more thought into our way of fighting. While Chief Apollo might have been able to improve the cooperation within his troops, that’s merely one of the foundations, is it not?」
Kiel volunteered that it might be too early to pat themselves on the back.
「One of the foundations? How do you see them applied?」
「I believe we must be able to lead our cavalry in a manner that exemplifies each of our clan’s special traits. Now that we are able to match each other’s movements while in combat, we must apply our clan’s unique features to how we fight. If we do that, the results will surely be of use to Lord Rion, and the Bandeaux forces will definitely grow stronger as a result.」
This was not a sudden realization. Kiel, in his own way, had been thinking of how to strengthen the Clan army all this time.
「… As expected of Kiel! He understands milord very well! Hmm, special traits… I see. Our clan’s specialty is strength and the strength in cavalry terms is…. Hmm, this is actually quite difficult.」
The strength of the cavalry was the charge. That being the case, Apollo was at a loss on how to exploit his clan’s trait, strength, in combat.
「The impact of a charge depends on the man and the horse both. Would using horses of larger build not help showcase your clan’s power?」
Kiel’s idea was simple. Apollo could show off the power of his clansmen better just by gathering stronger horses for them.
「Gather bigger horses, huh… I see, that can be done. Mhm, that’s a good idea.」
「Having the movements of the whole unit synchronized was what Lord Rion wished for. This is what brought this idea to me.」
Strong horses for Clan Yellow, fast Horses for Clan Green, and so on. Gathering horses with similar characteristics would complement the units themselves.
「I see. I knew it, milord was the reason, after all. As expected of our lord.」
「Yes, as expected.」
Kiel smiled dryly. This was the first time Apollo personally recognized Rion as their lord. To Kiel that, and Apollo’s merry mood, was amusing but also something to be happy about.
To those who didn’t know the circumstances, however, the reasons behind the clansmen and Apollo’s boisterousness were a mystery.
「…Pray tell, did something happen?」
One of those puzzled people, Crown Prince Arnold, turned around to ask Cassius riding right behind him.
「…I believe Apollo has finally realized how favored we are.」
The head of Clan Red looked slightly embarrassed while answering the question of the young prince. Having to answer in a roundabout manner didn’t sit well with him.
「Favored? What is this about?」
Arnold didn’t understand the reply at all and thus was dissatisfied with the answer.
「…It seems that our lord was able to see through our feelings perfectly. Even though we thought that he didn’t want to associate with us, it seems he has been looking at us and thinking of us the entire time. And now that we learned of the fact, this is the reaction. One worthy of a previously sulking child.」
「Is that so…」
Understanding that the Bandeaux Clansmen were happy at being recognized by their lord stirred conflicting feelings in Arnold. He wanted to be acknowledged himself. He wanted his subordinates to seek recognition as the clansmen had. And he wanted it so much that it nearly caused him to sulk too.
「It may be presumptuous of me, but I do believe Your Highness to be an excellent lord as well.」
Cassius decided to console the young royal having noticed his cloudy expression. This was both out of consideration for the prince and out of the desire to not have him resent Rion.
「I am nothing of the sort. I have blundered heavily in the past.」
「I believe milord thinks the same, Highness.」
「Rion does? Why do you say that?」
Cassius regretted the slip of the tongue. He had failed to keep in mind just who he was talking to.
「…I’m not sure if the subject is appropriate.」
「I do not mind. Explain.」
「…Very well, Highness. It is likely milord still laments the fact that he failed to save… Someone, and holds himself responsible for that person’s fate.」
Cassius didn’t specify who he was talking about. Unsurprisingly, he still felt unwilling to utter Vincent’s name in front of the prince. And besides, there was no need, it was obvious who he was talking about anyway.
「…Is that so.」
「Hence now he is working many times harder than other people in order to prevent such a thing happening again. Or at least I believe that to be the case.」
「Treating failures as a lesson, huh. That is not a mindset adopted easily.」
「Isn’t that something Your Highness does too?」
「Nowadays, Highness is willing to actually listen regardless of who the person speaking is. And that can’t be an easy thing for a crown prince.」
Those days, if it was really needed, Arnold would listen to and heed the opinion of Cassius and the others despite all of them being subordinates of a minor vassal. Normally, their social position would prohibit them from even exchanging a word with the prince.
However, Arnold was no longer a man to pay attention to such a rule. For Cassius and the others, that was a likable quality.
No matter how much they tried, they couldn’t match this young royal to the image of Rion’s old enemy and this was the reason why Cassius thought that the young prince must have changed.
「I wonder if that’s really the case.」
The change would be truly obvious if he were to be compared to his past self. That younger Arnold felt repulsed by the praise from others and never tried to listen to what they had to say. He *had* changed.
「I believe so, Highness.」
Arnold smiled shyly at those words. Cassius couldn’t shake the feeling that this expression was similar to the one Rion tended to show to the extremely limited circle of people in whose company he felt relaxed.
「I have one more thing to say, albeit it might be nonsense. Would Highness like to hear it?」
And he decided to try to express those feelings in words.
「I do not mind.」
「I think it’s not good to be always conscious about one’s past mistakes. This doesn’t mean one should forget about them, of course, but focusing on one’s past failures too much makes moving on impossible. Just how it was for us, the Clans, in the past..」
Arnold thought that the gap between him and Rion was too far too wide, on a completely different scale than the one separating the young Frey from Cassius and others.
「I am aware that it’s not something simple. However, it’s not possible to move forward by doing nothing. That is something milord says often.」
「It is not possible to move forward by doing nothing, huh? I did hear that kind of thing from him many times.」
「So it is, Highness.」
As he said this to the prince, Cassius started to think he wanted Rion to give up his revenge. He thought that if it was Rion, he might be able to accomplish his vengeance no matter how hard a task it would be. However, once the deed was done, he wouldn’t be able to live in the Kingdom of Gran Flamm any longer and Bandeaux would end up losing their irreplaceable lord. There was still a possible path for Bandeaux to revolt against the kingdom but Cassius personally desired that future no longer. Not because he feared defeat, but because he wanted to see Rion accomplish even bigger feats with a larger army at his disposal.
If he were to be supported by the Gran Flamm’s strength, Rion might even be able to accomplish domination over the whole continent. Tentatively the head of Clan Red started to share the King’s ambition.
「…What is happening?」
Suddenly Arnold asked a question, his eyes locked on a single approaching rider. That person carried an emblem of a royal messenger and must have come straight from the capital.
「I will find out at once, Highness.」
Numerous knights of the prince’s royal guard moved forward to intercept. They came back together with the lone rider, confirming that he was indeed a messenger without any problems. However, the message that he came to deliver was a source of alarm to Arnold.
「I bear a message from the capital, Highness.」
「I see. What happened?」
「The forward headquarters of the interception force suffered enemy assault. The status of the Head of Information Control Frey and others present on site is unknown.」
「What did you say!?」
One could almost say that the prince’s fears were on the money, but even he didn’t expect the situation to be so grave. Arnold was stupefied and could only shout in alarm.
「Following that, the communication lines crumbled and the situation of one half of the army is also unknown.」
This time the shout of surprise was Lancelot’s, not Arnold’s. The prince, as opposed to others, was able to infer the collapse of the front from the first line of the message.
Even Maria and Erwin were shocked, all of them became pale upon hearing the report.
「The remaining half of the army is reforming the lines to assume a defensive posture, but remains blind to the movements of the Merica Army and cannot judge if it’s strong enough to repel the enemy. The subjugation force is hereby ordered to return to the capital with all haste and regroup with the interception force. That is all, Highness.」
The messenger didn’t spare even a moment for the reactions of the recipients of his message. He recited the whole thing in one go.
「…My reply is – I shall not return.」
This time, it was the messenger’s turn to be surprised.
「It would be a waste of time. I will head towards the interception force to regroup with them immediately.」
「Y-yes, Your Highness.」
Even before this conversation was wrapped up, one portion of the demon subjugation army was already on the move, the one that wore armor in four distinct colors, the Clans. They departed immediately, even before the crown prince spoke. They couldn’t remain calm hearing about Rion’s unexpected peril.
That decision was a violation of the military chain of command and dereliction of duty, but Arnold chose to cover up for them. And even if they had not done that, the prince would’ve most likely decided to head straight to the interception force anyway.
After all, he, just like the Bandeaux Clansmen, couldn’t remain calm after what he had just heard.
There was a certain fort at a considerable distance from both where the demon subjugation army was presently at, and the capital. It was a stronghold built by the Gran Flamm Kingdom in order to protect their borders with Merica. The terrain of the southern Kingdom was mostly a flat stretch of plains, but this particular region was mountainous. Hence, this fort was surrounded by peaks and sandwiched between a pair of high cliffs making it a fearsome defensive position.
At the moment it was under observation by several people, namely Rion and Sol whom the Army currently considered missing.
「Are we really going to do this?」
「A bit late to ask that now, don’t you think? Just how hard do you think it was to climb here?」
「No need to remind me. I experienced it myself, after all.」
「Could it really be so taxing on you?」
「It was. But can we focus on the subject, please? Can we really capture that?」
They came to this place for one reason, to capture the fortress right in front of them.
「I’m here because I think it’s possible, obviously. Don’t you think reaching it was actually rather easy?」
Being on top of the cliff overlooking the fortress might indeed be a favorable attacking position. However, Sol was not such an optimist to think that taking this place would be simple.
「This fortress can only really resist attacks coming from the direction of Merica. The defenses from this side, as you can see yourself, are nowhere near as imposing. There’s plenty of blind spots that make approach easy and the side gate for supply wagons is rather brittle when compared to the main gate
「…Astounding. Why do you know that much?」
It was almost as though Rion had been considering attacking this particular fortress from the very beginning. Which raised a question why he had thought that to be necessary.
「While I was mulling over the strategy to use, I was presented with a mountain of information. I’ve read it in one of those reports.」
「Still, That does not explain why you decided to memorize even the details of border fortresses.」
「I memorize all the information I am given. It’s not possible to tell how and where the fight will actually unfold, right? Furthermore, this kind of situation is not really outside of our expectations, is it?」
「…True, I guess.」
On the day the headquarters had been attacked, Sol had thought that Merica had turned on them out of the blue. But he had not been correct, there had been prior enemy movements indicating such an attack had been possible. Sol had just missed them.
Rion, on the other hand, having seen through the situation, had chosen to escape before they could get surrounded by the enemies and had managed to slip away unnoticed. He had even prepared a fake corpse to cover his escape and had set the village on fire as the first enemy units had entered it.
He had obviously been well prepared for the event.
「There was also a possibility we would end up having to defend a fort in the course of battle. This kind of knowledge is necessary.」
「Alright, I get it. Enough explanations.」
All those reasons were believable, yet Sol felt like the whole thing got even stranger.
「Hey, you did ask. Enough chit-chat, time to start. Let’s see, what should we aim for…」
「…Do you find this fun?」
「Eh? More idle chatter?」
「Well, you seemed to be having fun.」
「I’m not enjoying this at all. Honestly, I’m in a bad mood. If I really looked like having fun, that’s because the thought of payback warms my heart.」
Their headquarters had been right under the enemy’s nose and Rion had already taken the possibility of enemy attack into consideration. However, the scale of enemy action had been outside of his expectation and so had been their movements. Merica’s forces had completely ignored the Kingdom’s army arrayed in front of the capital and had turned all its troops against the flanking units on its rear.
This had caused confusion in Gran Flamm’s chain of command which had further enabled Merica’s attack. The attacked Kingdom’s troops had had no choice but to keep fleeing south until Rion had managed to reestablish contact with them.
The youth had not simply been trying to escape, he had attempted to gather all the scattered forces as he had moved. He had succeeded at that. Obviously, he couldn’t get them all, but he had assembled enough to storm a fortress.
「Honestly, I want to capture her, but how is her personal prowess, I wonder?.」
「Who? The princess, isn’t that obvious? Hmm… If she’s called a war goddess, she must be strong. Capturing her won’t be easy.」
「Wait a minute. Is Princess Olivia in this fort?」
Sol had never heard about this and he was just about to start complaining again.
「Are you even listening to me? I did say that I came here for payback, didn’t I? Obviously, this means breaking the enemies’ chain of command.」
But the desire waned faced with Rion’s reply that once again broke boundaries of common sense.
「…Fine. How did you figure this out?」
「Overseeing a numerous invasion army can only be done from a central position. But this time, the commander is also a princess. She can’t be taking the same risk I have taken, she’s unlikely to be right at the front.」
「…That is not enough to point at this fort.」
「Then, you yourself said that her personality is not crude. A princess like that would never stay in a camp. But someone called a war goddess would not remain in her own territory either.」
「So she would take one of our castles instead…」
Sol was surprised that Rion thought of this before he even came up with this plan. In hindsight, when he had been asking about her in the past, he must have been already thinking of attacking the enemy command.
Just when Sol thought he was able to grasp the extent of Rion’s intellect, the boy showed yet more. This was already way past just surprising.
「I only thought of this place because we had enough information. It’s not as though I just went for it as soon as I came up with the possibility.」
Rion took Sol’s amazement as criticism of his rashness and started to make excuses, which in turn, made Sol even more amazed. Sol, despite always being next to him, couldn’t figure out just when did he get all the information he was talking about.
「…How shall we take it then?」
Reassured that Rion was acting out of a justified confidence of success, Sol stopped complaining and put his mind to the execution of this plan.
「We do not have to take it. It’s enough to drive the enemy out of this fortress. Once they are outside, we pursue to keep them in disorder and give them no time to issue commands. That’s the objective.」
The goals of this plan were clear and realistic. But it also implied pursuit into Merican territory, something that could possibly be overambitious.
「Alright, everyone’s gathered up. Let’s go back and explain the plan. Then we move.」
「Yes, let’s do that.」
The subsequent battle at the border fortress started with a surprise attack by the Gran Flamm forces and ended in a rout of Merican army with no chance of counterattack. With this, the chain of command of Merican forces had crumbled and the Gran Flamm southern region became a scene of a chaotic battle between both armies that roamed the region without direction.
As a result, the Merican government judged the invasion no longer feasible and the event leading to the fall of Gran Flamm’s capital was avoided.
In the game, this war was merely covered by background narration, but as the outcome changed, the capital city recovery event would not trigger now. The game scenario was officially in ruins.
Can we please, please not do spoilers in the comments? Especially spoilers that are incorrect :] If someone’s curious how the story will play out, there are spoilers on Animesuki, NU Forums and in a dedicated channel of our discord server. Do not destroy the enjoyment of those that do not want to know by posting them here.
Thanks in advance,
Whole HnM team 🙂