No Fatigue 80. Alfred’s Reminiscence (End)
Ugh.. a 5k word wall of text…
「After the interrogation, we finally understand the enemy’s goal」
I gathered Julia-san, Poporus-san, and 4 of my squad leaders and explained the enemy’s strategy that we got from interrogation.
First of all, the Southern Sonorat Feudal Lord alliance’s true goal was to bait Santamana Kingdom army into their location and destroy us. In other words, the alliance had accomplished their goal.
Due to their inferior numbers, they schemed to pull the Kingdom’s army to Golhatta and use the geographical advantage.
For that reason, they intentionally left the fort half-finished, left only a small number of soldiers in the fort, and positioned the other soldiers in the ridge for an ambush. Of course, in order to destroy the Santamana Kingdom’s army with Hikisanbou strategy.
「However, according to the interrogation, that is not their only strategy」
The alliance had foreseen the possibility that they still couldn’t destroy the Kingdom’s forces, even with Hikinsanbou strategy, due to our overwhelming number.
In case the Kingdom’s army was too tough to destroy, the alliance would temporarily give up on attacking and retreat backward.
But, the plan goes even deeper from this point.
「The alliance will pretend to retreat again into the fort, and then, they went PAST it instead. In other words, they will make it look like they are abandoning the fort」
「Eh? So they won’t even stay in the fort that they spent aaallll~ the trouble making?」
Julia-san asked with a puzzled look.
「Apparently, they had planned to give the fort to the Santamana Kingdom to begin with. They don’t know if the Kingdom will decide to use the fort or destroy it after this campaign, but in either case, we have to put our soldiers inside. That is why, even though they are retreating, the alliance would still keep their formation behind the fort」
After the receiving minor damage from Hikisanbou strategy, the Kingdom’s army would choose to enter the fort, giving them a chance to reorganize themselves. Even though it is incomplete, the fort was still easier to protect than to attack.
「So assuming we really put soldiers in that fort, what are they planning to do next?」
「They planned to burn the fort down」
「Burn it down!?」
「Despite the outer walls being made out of stone, the interior is made of wood. Furthermore, they prepared some tricks to make sure the fire will spread easily. In other words, turning the fort into an oversized coffin to imprison our army and burn every single one of us」
The enemy soldiers we encountered previously were mages and their escort units that were arranged to burn down the fort after Santamana Kingdom’s army entered the fort.
After confirming that the Santamana army had entered the fort from this spot, which has a great viewing distance, they will approach the fort and shoot fire spells and fire arrows to burn it down.
Of course, it will be difficult to set it on fire with only a single unit. Similar units of mages and soldiers were scattered all around the fort and are supposed to set it on fire, attacking in waves, when given the signal.
「Wa-wa-wait a second! Isn’t their aim is to invade Santamana and pillage the food from the grain-producing region in our north-western area!? The fort is their foothold for the invasion, so why would they burn their own important fort…」
「Once the attacking Santamana army has been cleaned up, the alliance can invade Santamana without much resistance. We thinned Ranzrack’s defense to increase the number of our soldier for this campaign. Once they capture it, they wouldn’t care about this fort. Their supply lines might be stretched, but they don’t even have food in the first place, so it doesn’t matter」
Poporus-san was rendered speechless.
I could understand that feeling. A desperate plan where a single mistake could lead to their ruin.
If you think about it, as a foothold for attacking Santamana, the position of the half-finished fort itself is not that good. If their plan was to dig a path through the ridge, they should have attacked immediately. The fact that they are leisurely building a fort for protection is definitely strange.
「Haaah… They suuure work their strategists hard」
Julia-san muttered, her expression was indescribable.
As expected of a country that is constantly in a state of civil war, they are adept in planning complicated strategies.
「So what are we planning to do, Icー Alfred-san?」
I had a feeling that her speech is slurring worse and worse. I wonder if that was because she’s loosening up around me.
「General Fergusson is doing his best fighting against their strategy. Well, you would expect no less from such a daring and courageous commander」
「Courageous? That’s a weird way to pronounce “stupidly reckless”, no?」
I couldn’t help but smile wryly at her sharp remark.
「In this case, Julia-san is definitely right. The wounded General Fergusson will most likely rally our main force to pursue the alliance army. And then, he will definitely take the alliance’s invitation and put our soldiers into the fort…」
「The enemy sure did read our commander like an open book」
I fear that his words were most likely true.
「I was hoping to send a messenger to explain the enemy’s strategy to General Fergusson, but we are currently deep inside the enemy’s territory. I did send a messenger, but I wonder if they can make it in time……」
As soon as I said that, the captains fell silent, They all looked intense.
「Don’t make that kind of face. It’s fine, I have a plan」
「A plan, Sir……?」
I nodded at the captain who asked the question.
「We are going to burn their fort first. No matter how ahem… “courageous” he is, General Fergusson will not position our soldier inside a burning fort, no?」
Everyone smiled wryly after hearing my words.
「Even so, right now, the enemies are swarming near the fort. Slipping through them and burning the fort will prove to be difficult. If possible, we are going to aim when the enemy soldier had passed through the fort but…」
「But at that time, the Kingdom’s soldiers had started to go inside the fort, riiight?」
「…… that is correct」
Everyone of us went silent for a moment.
「With my magic, I can start the fire from a distance as long as we’re not too far away, you know?」
Popurus-san listened to Julia’s suggestion.
「If Julia-san sets the fire alone, wouldn’t it be extinguished easily?」
「Weeeell~, I guess. If I can get close enough, I can probably prepare a biiig gift for them, but there are still Alliance soldiers around the forts, so…」
After her reply, Julia quieted down with a troubled look.
Once more, we went silent for a while.
Surprisingly, the one who broke the silence was Poporus-san.
「Alfred-dono. I have a plan」
Poporus-san then explained his plan.
It was quite the risky plan… but if we succeed, the reward will be commensurate.
And so, I made the decision.
Location: In front of the fort
Braziers are lit all around the Sonorat Southern Feudal Lords Alliance’s encampment.
The three of us, Julia-san, Poporus-san, and I were heading towards the biggest brazier.
Right from the front, with no intentions of hiding ourselves.
「ーHalt! Who’s there!?」
A guardsman in front of the camp questioned after noticing our presence.
The one to answer here is Poporus.
「Excuse me, good sir, I was lead to believe this is a Sonorat Encampment, yes? Or have I made a mistake?」
「Yes it is… And you are?」
「I am but a humble peddler. Poporus is my name」
「We have enough military supply, if that’s what you’re selling.」
「No, this time I’m not here for business」
「Not here for business? What exactly do you mean? Behind you… are they your escort adventurers?」
The soldier observed Julia-san and I with a suspicious look and muttered.
I had discarded my Santamana Kingdom equipment and was currently wearing a uniform taken from a defeated Sonorat soldier instead. Due to prolonged warfare, the Sonorat Army wasn’t able to standardize their equipment. With how dirty the uniform was, they wouldn’t even suspect anything if you said you were an adventurer. Of course, I had already scraped off the Sonorat Emblem.
…Usually, as the commander of the scouting group and the adjutant of the main army, I shouldn’t be showing myself in front of the enemy.
But the surviving knights of the scouting party were all loyal, stereotypical knights, who simply didn’t have the flexibility to do this job. None of them were suitable for this kind of ad-lib-heavy work, so I decided to go out myself.
Besides, I couldn’t just stay behind and wait while Julia-san and Poporus-san were facing danger, when they weren’t even knights themselves.
「So peddler, what do you want here? The battle with Santamana Kingdom’s army will resume at any second. If you keep staying here, you will end up involved and die」
「I was ordered by Shidnam Shogun’s soldier to deliver an order for your troops… Usually, us peddlers don’t receive this kind of request, but with how bloodthirsty the shogun’s soldiers looked, there’s no way for me to refuse……」
「Why are you here and not the messenger?」
「I wonder. I wasn’t privy to the reason, but judging from what the soldiers said, it seems they had also found and asked some other passersby do the same thing.」
「Then, why you are the only one here?」
「I wouldn’t know… Considering the fact that Santamana’s knights had shown themselves to be in the region, perhaps…」
「They were caught, I see…
If so, is the enemy blocking our communications? I heard that the enemy commander wasn’t the type to fight using tricks.
…No, no point thinking about that right now. Give me those orders.」
Poporus-san took out the “order letter” from his pocket and handed it to the soldier.
His hands trembled slightly, but it’s understandable.
Fortunately, the soldier seemed to have taken it as a simple nervousness. He paid no mind to it and received the order letter.
ーーThe order letter was, of course, a counterfeit.
According to Poporus-san,
「It’s because Sonorat was in a state of confusion. Taking over streets, setting up checkpoints and collecting “tariffs” are still considered quite tame. There isn’t a lack of corrupt feudal lords who took products and goods without paying while calling it “requisitioning materials”.
As a result, many counterfeit orders are circulating among the merchants going to and from Sonorat. Even the customs officers would suspect the documents to be forgeries, but they fear the man above, and so they don’t make any trouble for the merchants with the orders.
Furthermore, if you search through the official channels, you can even acquire the tools for counterfeiting. If that’s happening even for official orders, fabricating simplified orders during wartime is child’s play in comparison.」
That was the situation.
It’s not something that would ever happen in the Santamana Kingdom’s army, but the Southern Feudal Lord Alliance is a gathering of various groups. It’s difficult for a lord to distinguish real and forged order letters when they came from another lord’s territory.
Much to our surprise, the soldier opened the order letter right then and there, and begun reading it.
That means that this guy is not a simple lookout, he must have a certain degree of status.
Looking at his poor equipment, who should be one of the officers, I could clearly see the dire straits their alliance was in.
The soldier glared at the letter with a troubled face.
The content of the form is as follows.
ーStop the plan temporarily. Wait for the reinforcement inside the fortー
「Hey peddler. Is it truly a letter from Shidnam Shogun’s army?」
「Yes. Of course, it is.」
「……Any chance this was a forgery from Santamana Kingdom’s army?」
My heart skipped a beat after hearing the soldier’s cautious words.
「We came along the highway from the Sonorat-side. Even if it’s from a unit not under Shidnam Shogun’s flags, I’m sure it’s not from Santamana Kingdom」
「……Is that so. Hey, you adventurers in the back, which city do you belong to?」
The question caught me off-guard, and I couldn’t think of a reply.
Then Julia stepped in.
「I’m staying at Fauno City, buuuut I was in Golhatta until last year」
Is that okay? That sort of answer is okay?
I started worrying, but then the soldier replied.
「It’s true that Golhatta has become a garrison for the South Feudal Lords Alliance’s army. It must be hard for adventurers to do your activities. There’s also a possibility that they’ll be conscripted if the war situation gets worse. ……Are you one of those guys who hate the situation and ran away?」
「Al-kun and I are newlyweds. I feel sorry for people in Golhatta after taking care of me for so long, but I…… can’t afford to do anything dangerous」
Julia-san blushed and grabbed my arm with one hand and stroked her lower stomach with the other.
…Understanding the meaning of that gesture, my cold sweat flowed like a waterfall.
The soldier also looked at her.
「I-I see… Especially in this kind of times, we must take care of the lives about to be born. I also had to leave my wife and kid behind, back in our hometown…」
「They must be worrying you quite a lot…」
「No, it’s not something that should concern you…
In any case, the situation seemed to be more complicated than it looks.
After injuring the boar with our strategy, we were supposed to lock the limping beast inside the cage and roast it whole. Judging from how we haven’t received any communications, it seems the fort strategy was a failure. If so, I can certainly understand why our allies used this method to send us an order to retreat…
No, now is no time to hesitate. I must begin our retreat immediately.
Anyway, thank you for your work. Here’s your payー」
Saying that, he handed us 4 gold coins.
After reducing the gold content several times, Sonorat gold coins was currently in a bad state, but it’s still worth about 10 pieces of Santamana Silver coins.
It goes to show how valuable this work is.
「…Siiiir? Why are there 4 coins?」
Julia-san asked, while I wondered the same thing.
「There’s one for each of you.
Including that one who still hasn’t been born yet」
The soldier said it while giving a happy grin.
The three of us froze up after seeing that innocent smile.
「T-thank you very much. May the fortune of wars be with you」
Poporus-san managed to give a reply, being the first person to come back to his sense.
「Thanks. You guys should be careful too. There are still Santamana knights around here, and the alliance soldiers are also rearing up for a fight」
He looked intimidating at first, but he was truly a nice guy.
We turned around, as if to shake off the guilt in our hearts, and left the Alliance encampment.
Not long after, we returned to the spot where we encountered the enemy squad and safely regrouped with the other knights.
From here, high up on the ridge, we could clearly monitor the state of the fortress.
The alliance army, who was previously setting up in front of the fort, could be seen gradually moving inside.
「It seemed we were able to trick them without any complications」
Popurus-san said with a complex expression.
「Yeah. I definitely feel guilty about this… But this is war」
I responded, my own expression was not any better.
All is fair in war. But at the same time, the enemies also have their own friends and family waiting for them to return home. I wish I could forget that fact while fighting.
「It’s the Sonorat people who started this first. …Let’s go」
I said as if to cut off the weakness inside my heart and we began going down the mountain, heading towards the fort.
「Julia-san, is this close enough?」
It’s rare for her to be this quiet. Maybe something still lingers inside her after deceiving that soldier.
「This is what I told you to do. You are not responsible for it」
「No, this was my decision. That’s why… I’m doing it until the very end」
After her reply, she slowly took a deep breath and drew magical runes in the air.
She drew four, no, five, six… se-seven runes!?
「 卜 ∨ ∨ 卜 卜 λ λ 」
Chanting a spell I’d never heard before, Julia-san was the very picture of seriousness.
Apparently, her control over the spell was not perfect, judging from the uncontrollable fiery winds ravaging her surroundings.
The blaze fanned her hair, and the fire shaded the lines of her face.
–I was captivated by the sight of Julia-san desperately trying to control the spell, and the enormous amount of mana overflowing from her wasn’t the only reason why.
She completed her spell.
A flame orb similar in size with 《Fireball》 flew from her hand and slipped into a gap in the fort wall.
Immediately after that, crimson flames completely devoured the fort walls and its interior.
We could only partially see the situation inside the fort from this location, but Julia-san’s magic was raging inside the walls, and it looked like it has spread to the wooden structures. Thundering screams and cries could be heard from inside the fort.
「F-fine… I’m fine… But I probably can’t cast anything else. Yeaaah, I knew it, the spell is still incomplete……」
Julia-san was completely drained of her MP after casting that grand 7-rune spell.
Such horrendous power… and that came from an incomplete spell?
「That’s plenty enough! Alright, let’s go back to Poporus-san and regroup with the army!」
With Julia-san exhausted, I carried her in my arms and gave orders to the surrounding knights.
There should be no other alliance soldier around here.
With regrouping with the main force as our top priority,we turned our back away from the burning fortress and ran through the mountain as fast as we could.
A short while later, we regrouped with the main army led by Commander Fergusson.
The main force was in the middle of preparing to pursue the enemy once they saw the fort fire.
Looked like the brave general really was going to stick his head inside a burning fortress.
I was flabbergasted. No words could describe such madness.
I hastened towards general Fergusson’s tent to report what happened.
「We have achieved our strategic goal of destroying the fort.
Spending any more time here is meaningless, not to mention dangerous」
The goal of this campaign was to prevent invasion from the Sonorat’s Southern Feudal Lord Alliance.
With their desperate strategy broken, the alliance would no longer pose a threat.
There’s a possibility that they would still try to force their way into Santamana due to the food shortage looming behind them, but we should be able to repel them easily if we focus our strength on Ranzrack Fortress. Because currently, the allied forces doesn’t have the supply to commit to a siege.
On the other hand, the Santamana Kingdom’s army had been greatly diminished by the hikisanbou strategy.
We don’t know how many soldiers were burned in that fire attack, but once everything quieted down, they would lose their numerical advantage, or perhaps even incur a disadvantage.
We should pull back to the Santamana border and prepare our troops to repel the attacking alliance.
「Don’t joke with me! They’ve made a fool out of me, and you’re telling me to let them leave?!! Don’t you have your pride as a warrior, half-elf?!!」
Our fierce commander’s head was still boiling in humiliation after getting caught in the enemy’s trap.
He will not go back to Santamana until he pays them back. His resolution could be seen clearly on his face.
「…I, right here, right now, stand here not as an elf, but as a proud soldier of Santamana Kingdom.
My words are an objective observation of the situation.
Once again, I must request. Please give the order for a retreat!」
「Just quiiiit it already!
If the enemy recovered from their confusion, won’t we be the one to be in disadvantage position!?」
Julia-san, who was still borrowing my shoulder, yelled impatiently.
「Silence, little girl! And besides, with your magic, we can completely mow down those bastards!」
「Wait a second there! Who was the great commander who reduced his great 30 thousand men army into half by going straight into a diversion that only children would be fooled by? Wasn’t it you, Commander Fergusson!
Putting that aside, your subordinates had given their utmost efforts into a strategy that had turned our situation around, and you’re going to let all of that go to waste just because of your silly “pride”?
On top of all that, now you’re relying on the help of this “lowly adventurer” “little girl”. There are limits to how shameless you can be!」
「T-t-this… little… g-g-g-girl…」
Fergusson’s face were dyed red in anger ー and he fainted on the spot.
His attendant rushed over just in time to support the Marquis.
The marquis was blowing foam now, his eyes rolling backward.
An oppressive – or hilarious, depending on your point of view – silence covered the tent.
Everyone present looked around with awkward yet hectic eyes… eventually, all of them were looking at a single point.
One pointー That’s right. Unfortunately, they were looking at me.
True, now that the Marquis had collapsed, I am now the highest ranking noble here.
No, in the first place, even though everyone treated my respected my peerage in name only, I’m still the deputy commander of the army.
The fact that Julia and I were the cause of the marquis’ unconsciousness would prove to be a problem, but everyone present in this place had seen how it happened.
Only the Marquis’ attendant was glaring at me, his face set in a scowl.
I cleared my throat and declared.
「…We’re withdrawing. Make the preparations!」
And so, we returned to Santamana Kingdom.
On the way back, the enemy gave chase and orchestrated a tremendous attack, but we somehow managed to survive thanks to Julia-san.
I entered Ranzrack and strengthened our defense, but the Alliance withdrew without trying to even surround Ranzrack Fortress.
In the end, with the destruction of the enemy’s fort and my success in leading the expedition army back safely, I was the star of the show.
It’s a little later that I noticed the title 《Fort Destroyer》attached to my status.
Marquis Fergusson was charged for being responsible for wasting the lives of his knights and soldiers, and his nobility lowered into a Count. He was forced to retire, and his territory was reduced by a large margin as well.
「ーThen what about Julia-kaasan?」
「After that, I submitted personal requests at Fauno City a few times. And sooner or later, it just naturally happened… Yes, that’s how it was.」
「Natural? Father, you were the one to put out those personal requests. I’d say everything you did was intentional, no?」
Flustered, Alfred-tousan scratched his cheeks.
「It was really hectic when we announce our marriage. The adventurer guild started making a fuss about a noble snatching their idol」
「So, what happened back then?」
「Umm, I… sort of asked the guild to pick the top adventurer to fight me in a sparring match and made them acknowledge me」
「Wow… not bad, father」
He always looked calm but my father is unexpectedly quite a carnivorous man.
Even his “Fort Destroying” activity in the night is the stuff of legends, too…
「…Ed, Are you thinking about something weird right now?」
I turned my eyes away and was just about to give an excuse, but at that moment,
「What are you boys taaaalking about?」
Julia-kaasan stopped by.
「Ah, it’s the story when I first met you」
「Eh? The story about those personal requests?」
「Not that one. It’s the Golhatta Campaign……」
「But, isn’t the first time we met was when you choose me for a quest?」
「What are you talking about? I’m pretty sure it was during Golhatー」
「Do you… not remember?」
「It was a long time before that. I remember taking a nominated quest from Al-kun. It was… yes, it was when Kanan-san was still alive and I was still a rookie adventurer」
「Is that so…… If so, then I probably requested the guild to send a promising new adventurer in the personal request at that time.」
「Oh, was that sooo? Yes, it was a request to escort Al-kun, your wife, also David-kun from Fauno City to the Capital」
She said so while putting her hands on her cheeks, looking nostalgic.
「Why did you hire an adventurer as an escort when you had your knights?」
「Fauno City had a lot of work in harpy season, but it was dicey in every other seasons. That’s why I put out those kinds of requests aimed at new adventurers as a form of “public work”, using Ed’s words.. For me, it’s also a nice opportunity to connect with the local adventurers… And also, when you bring a lot of escort knights, the cost of staying at the capital jumps by a considerable margin. In comparison, we only need to pay for their costs during the trip in order to hire adventurers.」
My father explained.
「I see… So, at that time, how does mother view father?」
「I thought they were a well-matched couple, the sort of relationship I yearned for. Al-kun and Kanan-san were also kind to adventurers.」
「It’s because we used to do adventurer jobs using fake names while we were studying at the military academy. So I understand a bit of the adventurers’ hardships」
「But that only made it even more surprising during that time at Golhatta. A request for a guide during a war is something that high-ranking adventurers dislike. But I remembered Al, so I decided to take the request. But when I arrived, I was surprised to see an amazingly cold-hearted elf. When I knew the elf was Al-kun, I was surprised even more」
「Is… that so」
「I thought he had changed. I had heard about “The Frozen Noble”, but I didn’t know about what happened to Kanan-san, so at first, I thought power had gone to his head and changed him.
But when I saw him not even hesitating to protect me, a simple hired adventurer, and when I saw him care about his knight subordinates, I was relieved that he truly didn’t change. And so… Umm… I thought, I wanted to help him…」
Julia-kaasan faintly blushed red while saying so.
「When I thought about it, I felt like I could use 《Firestorm》 even though it’s still in development… And when I attempted to cast it, it succeeded without complications for the first time. At that time, my control was still weak, so the spell wasn’t ready for real combat, but…」
「Wha…! Hold it right there, Julia. So the 《Fire Storm》 at that time wasー」
「Yup, first success ever!」
Alfred-tousan froze up. If he could open his mouth any further, his jaw would be dislocated.
「Bu-but… At that time, you said that if you can get close enough, you can probably prepare a big gift for them…」
「Yeah, I mean, I said “probably”, didn’t I? You said “leave it to me” with so much confidence, I thought you aaaalready understood what I meant and believed in me.」
Because my mother is the intuitive type, if she thought something is within her capability, it’s probably true. But for father, who’s the type to think about all the minute details, he must have felt like a person who didn’t realize how flimsy the bridge he passed through years ago was, until now.
Since father froze up, our spear training session was forced to come to an end.
「I guess we can’t call him《Alfred the Ice Prince》anymore, he’s《Alfred the Ice Statue》now.」
So she smugly said… But mom, remember who did that to him.
ーAnd thus, the second year I spent in the capital went in a blink of an eye, and I turned 3 years old.