DUNGEON DEFENSE - DUNGEON DEFENSE Volume 3 - Chapter 3 – The Mountain Range is Burning (Part 1)
Empire Calendar: Year 1506, Month 2, Day 25
The Black Mountains, Black Fortress vicinity
For several days the fog was severe. The soldiers were afraid to advance through a place where nothing could be seen. The Gods are not allowing our passage……these words were spoken in whispers. We unpacked our gear near the mountain range. Lapis spoke.
“Your highness. This location is a renowned shrine and numinous mountain in the demon world, so it would only be appropriate to perform an ancestral rite to the Gods here.”
“Would it truly be right to perform a memorial service in the middle of a war?”
“There are many soldiers who entrust their psyche to the Gods. Console the bodies and minds of the soldiers, your highness.”
I scratched my forehead.
“It’s bothersome since it feels like it may become a needless pretense. Omit the ceremony and only set the food for the ancestral rites. Do not gather the troops into one spot and regulate them inconveniently. Instead, be considerate and allow the soldiers to offer their prayers whenever they desire. Inform the soldiers that while my intention is to show respect to the Gods, I shall not submit to them. If they depend on the Gods with their minds, then during the times they are unable to see their so-called Gods, their minds will collapse.”
“This one will pass your highness’ command to Miss Farnese and it shall reach the captains from there.”
Lapis handled the matter rapidly. It seems she had already taken care of the preparations for an ancestral rite before we had embarked on our march.
The soldiers steamed white soybeans, ground it, and made it into soup. They then pulled out wheat and turned it into noodles. They were making chilled soy milk noodle soup. Demons believed that if they consumed white soy milk noodle soup while performing an ancestral rite, then their insides would become clear and their spirits would be cleansed. The less salty it tasted, the better it was as food for memorial ceremonies. The soldiers ate the bean soup noodles and prayed to the Goddesses. Following us, the peddlers and prostitutes also made noodles of their own. After having a taste of the bowl that was presented to me, the taste of the soup was pleasurable. A servant had chopped cucumbers and modestly placed it above the noodles, which made me wonder where they could have possibly acquired the cucumbers during this winter season. The servants believed the act of obtaining cucumbers and offering them to me contained their sincerity, so they were quite proud of themselves for it. It’s a relief that there were cucumbers……was what the servants said while beaming immaculately. The soy milk noodle soup was simple and clean. It felt like my internal organs were becoming clear. I experienced for the first time in my life the devotion towards ancestral rites, which I did not experience before, here in this world.
“With this, is the service over?”
“It would be better to capture a white horse from a good descent and drain its blood and then boil that clotted blood to consume. However, since there are centaurs participating in the war as our cavalry, we cannot sacrifice a horse.”
Centaurs were demons with the upper bodies of humans and the lower bodies of horses. For a race of demons with handsome faces, their tool on their lower body was as large as a horse as well, so honestly, they were a cheat-like race. If we were to capture and drain the blood of an animal who had the same looking penis as they did, then certainly the centaurs would loathe the idea.
“I see your consideration is deep, Lapis.”
“It would also be fine to boil the clotted blood of dogs instead of a horse. Your highness, would it be better to capture the hunting dogs?”
“That is fine. Although it may be different if it was duck blood, clotted dog blood most likely would not taste good at all. Rather than that, this chilled soy milk noodles is refreshing. Let’s have this again later on.”
“If we pillage the human villages then we will be able to obtain something like soybeans as much as we desire. If your highness so wishes, then this one will prepare the dish for your highness even if it is not during an occasion such as an ancestral rite.”
“You’re terrifyingly bad at making food, so that kind of lip service is……”
“Could this one’s cooking be as disgusting as Your Highness’?”
“What, how could you call it disgusting?”
Although those words weren’t necessarily wrong, that was still going too far. It seemed Lapis also thought her comment was a bit harsh and fixed her words.
“That was a slip of the tongue. This one apologizes. Your Highness’ handmade food is not disgusting, but rather, it is poor.”
“If you’re saying that as a compliment, then you are also quite the mystery.”
My lover is truly a weird woman.
Referentially, Farnese’s cooking ability was also completely non-existent.
We all grew up eating the food made by others or the food we had picked up, which could not be dared to be called cooking, so the lord and his vassals were all pitiful. How fellows, who have never made themselves a proper meal in their entire lives, could walk forward while trying to go to war, was a mystery. If it was a farce, then it was a comedy. With these pitiable fellows gathered together, they discussed military operations.
The captains disputed on the difficulty of the siege.
— Your highness. The Black and White Strongholds are impregnable fortresses that have been penetrated only 6 times in the past 1,000 years. Moreover, is the general protecting the rampart not the human from the House of Rosenberg? That House has had great commanders for generations.
— There was also a case where the stronghold did not fall despite the mobilization of 40,000 troops, but our current military strength is merely 4,000. A siege would be incredibly difficult.
I took out my pipe and bit down on it.
“Do you think I came here unaware of the difficulty of this path? Would the castle gates open if we were to have another history lesson after having come this far? Put aside the things that are needless to say. I wish to hear your stratagems. Even if you are to make a foolish utterance, I will not punish you by military law, so do not worry. However, keep in mind that the keep you earn is a lot higher than you think. You will have to be brighter in strategy than a foolish lumberjack. If not, then, well……blood will flow from your necks.”
The captains gulped.
— That is, well. Although the enemy forces are relying on the rugged mountain terrain, it’ll be difficult for them to receive supplies because of that terrain. It would be fine for our troops to hold position on this vast field and relax, but the enemy soldiers will have to go on patrols frequently, furthermore, the walls are high so it’ll also be that cold……
I spat on the floor.
“Oho? Are you saying that we should wait patiently until the enemy forces run out of provisions? That is quite the splendid strategy and marvelous tactic. To be able to welcome an imperishable great commander such as yourself, my insides are trembling. Come here.”
I gestured for him to approach me with my finger. Following my instructions, the captain prostrated. I raised my bare feet on top of the captain’s back and declared sternly.
“Until this meeting ends, you’ll be my foot rest.”
The dwarven captain was close to tears.
— Your Highness’ Royal Grace is immeasurable–……
Since a full grown dwarf was sniffling, there was nothing as extremely disgraceful as this sound of whimpers. The remaining captains could not dare to laugh, so only the edges of their mouths twitched. I glared at the captains.
“Listen carefully. Though the enemy’s fortress may be located on a rough mountain terrain, their back entrance is wide open. Their back gate is connected to the White Fortress, and the White Fortress is connected to the Empire, so there are no chances of their supply line being cut. I understand that you feel reluctant about performing a siege, but use your brains a bit, your brains.”
The captains glanced at each other.
— How about turning the witches into a detached force and assaulting the enemy supply lines? It will most likely be an effective attack.
— Although our infantry and cavalry may be nothing more than a total of 4,000 men, the number of witches we have is 50. Normally, an army that reached 30,000 soldiers would have around 50 witches, so our numbers may be small, but we are still a strong force. Please make active use of the witches. If our forces block the front gate of the fortress while the witches cut off the back path, the enemy troops inside the stronghold will be unable to move anywhere and lose morale.
I was in awe.
“It is quite beautiful to see fellows, who claim to be warriors, pass on all their duties to the witches. I should have utilized the money I spent on hiring you chaps to just acquire more witches instead, but it seems I had ended up doing something foolish. There is not a complete lack of logic in your words. However, do you think that a stronghold known as the front line which protects the humankind would not have any supplies in their reserve? No matter how little their supplies may be inside that fortress, it should be enough to keep their forces fed for 2 months, so what would we do during that time? If it is 2 months, then the enemy could easily organize auxiliary troops from the rear, however, we do not have any reinforcements, so what can we do? By the looks of it, it also seems like there are no brains inside those heads of yours, so what can we do about that as well?”
I beckoned to them.
The captains approached. The two captains laid on top of each other like a hamburger. Using those idiots as a chair, I sat on top of them. The captains groaned and endured the sensation of my sexy derriere.
“If you have no better plans, then just get on your knees. I will at least uphold the dignity of those who kneel down honestly.”
All of the military officers gathered in the tent had lowered their bodies at once.
Were these not dubious fellows?
Solely Farnese kept her back straight. Even during a meeting, Farnese had a book open. The fingers clinging to the cover of the book were being brushed by the cold wind, so they had turned red.
Every time she flipped a page of her book with her cold hands, the air around the tent was emaciated by the sound of the paper. The captains and I watched Farnese as she flipped one page at a time. Farnese spoke frankly.
“Just rush in. There are no enemy troops in the Black Fortress.”
The captains glanced at each other with a doubtful gaze. I asked.
“Why would there be no one protecting the stronghold?”
“Margrave Rosenberg is a coward. Since it seems like it will be impossible to protect both, he will try to at least defend the other half. That is the fate of an old general. The margrave most likely does not have the military strength to protect both the Black and White Fortresses. He would want to hold the White Fortress at any cost……”
Farnese let out a yawn. Her words were indifferent so it was similar to the way she was flipping the leaves of her book, and it was lightly passed by like the pages being turned. I thought about the child who was unable to learn how to speak from people and had no other choice but to learn from books. I spoke.
“What makes you say that the military troops the margrave would have brought here are a few?”
“There are several reasons. Those multiple reasons would have fused into one. The margrave most likely wants to achieve vengeance against your highness while relying solely on his own powers. A foolish fellow.”
Farnese let out a dried breath. In the previous battle, the margrave’s troops were all slaughtered after having been deceived by us. Farnese was referring to the vengeance that had blinded him because of that.
“There is also a political reason. The margrave is the starting point of this war. By attacking your lordship, he presented the demons a justification to start a war. The humans who were swallowed up by this abrupt battle will most likely abhor the margrave……”
“So cleaning up after one’s own mess.”
“The margrave himself should be thinking along these lines, so he should feel pressured.”
Margrave Rosenberg was the supreme commander of the northern region of the Empire. Despite that, what was the margrave doing? He had come to this location in order to block me, Dantalian, who was leading an army that barely reached 4,000 soldiers. In contrast, the Imperial Princess Elizabeth went to face Barbatos and Marbas. The roles were reversed.
There was only one conclusion. Although Margrave Rosenberg was the supreme commander, his position was endangered. The nobles did not follow him easily since they treated him with loathing. There may have been complaints from people questioning how the culprit behind the start of this war could go around acting like a general.
That was the reason. That was why the margrave was here. To achieve vengeance against me and reestablish his sullied reputation. A foolish fellow…… the words Farnese muttered were correct. Georg von Rosenberg was a fool.
“Therefore, Lord, be at ease and rush straight in. The Margrave most likely wishes to bring us in as deep as possible. The Margrave is aiming for the desperate measures of giving us the Black Fortress and luring us all the way to the White Fortress.”
“And you’re planning to go along with that plan, general?”
“The most dim-witted fish bites the bait and is caught by the hook. A slightly less dim-witted fish looks at the bait but disregards it and swims off. A wise fish bites only the bait while avoiding the hook, and escapes leisurely.”
Farnese closed the book she was reading. She gazed at me.
“However, this young lady is not a fish but a single shark. I shall drag the margrave in, hook and all, and tear him to pieces. Lord, leave your life to this young lady. This young lady shall offer the lives of thousands to your lordship.”
I nodded my head.
“Do as you wish.”
“This young lady shall carry out the task for only your lordship.”
The first stone was placed on the Go board.
▯The Northern Guardian, Margrave of Rosenberg, Georg von Rosenberg
Empire Calendar: Year 1506, Month 2, Day 25
The Black Mountains, White Fortress
“An urgent report from the Black Fortress! The stronghold was captured!”
The conference room froze because of the messenger’s report.
The captains glanced at each other with an anxious gaze. Only I was silently looking down at the Go board. Since the Black Fortress falling was such an obvious occurrence, there was no reason for myself to panic. I scolded them in a mock-serious manner.
“Oi, where’d my Go opponent disappear off to?”
“Ah. Yes, general.”
The captain hastily picked up his stone piece once more. Regardless, there was no sharp flavor. This is why youngsters these days…… Did they not know how to maintain their composure?
From start to finish, the captain was dragged around by me. Black and white stones were mixed together disorderly. The result was his defeat by a large margin. After obtaining my overwhelming victory, I spoke.
“It seems you lost because you panicked, and you are upset since you have lost.”
“Do not be perplexed, gentlemen. The number of guards that were posted at the Black Fortress was at most 200. Is that not the fall of something that was already destined to fall? Do you not gain victory by getting rid of the stone piece that is necessary to sacrifice? If you try to protect everything, then you will lose it all instead. That is the same for war or Go. Keep this in mind.”
The captains bowed their heads. The very sight of them lowering their heads was docile. How troublesome. These young’uns still lacked much vigor. In the past, I used to beat the commanders around and…… no, wait. Am I perhaps old now? Have I become an obstinate old man that showed dissatisfaction towards everything around myself? That could be a possibility. I started having very mixed emotions. One becomes senseless with age, huh? I should pass on quickly…… Except, that will be after I have killed Demon Lord Dantalian.
“Messenger. What were the enemy numbers? With what method did Demon Lord Dantalian capture the Black Fortress? Tell me everything you know.”
“General, the fog is so dense that nothing is visible. Other than the fact that the snowy fog is immensely thick, nothing else could be known. It felt like the enemy had about 2,000 soldiers, but it also felt like they had 4,000. However, it most certainly wasn’t 1,000 or 5,000. Regardless, it truly is difficult to be positive because of the fog. I heard the sound of gunpowder exploding in the distance and then the enemy forces invaded. Of course, the words that the enemy forces invaded is also uncertain since this one did not witness it personally.”
While being aghast, I muttered.
“I do not know who chose you as the messenger, but you truly are a splendid one.”
As if feeling much obliged, the messenger bowed his head.
“Thank you very much. This is the first time I have received such a compliment.”
“Speak honestly. After hearing that you were unable to see anything, I have become suspicious on whether you had actually run away as soon as the fight started. Did you flee?”
“This humble one has an old mother back home, whom I am taking care of by myself, so I felt as if I shouldn’t die thoughtlessly……”
“Take him away to be lashed.”
The soldiers grabbed the messenger and left. The courier cried out, ‘General, General…!’, but of course, I did not pay him any mind. In the middle of the second round of Go against a captain, another messenger ran in and prostrated himself.
“An urgent report from the Black Fortress! The stronghold has been captured!”
“I already know, courier. Their numbers and through what method the fortress was captured, tell me everything you know.
The courier then exaggerated fluently.
“Yes. The enemy forces were as terrifying as the revival of an ancient demon. The armies that appeared through the snowy fog all consisted of trolls and ogres, which made it feel like giants were approaching us. While the soldiers on our side were scared out of their wits, a dragon flew at us and breathed fire. Although our forces struggled desperately, our military strength was at too much of a disadvantage so they were unable to hold on for even a moment and were defeated.”
After hearing the messenger’s words, the captains whispered to one another.
“If that’s true, then I think we should withdraw as well.”
“Even if we retreat, the dragon will catch up to us and we’ll be turned into grilled meat, so we should just sit here and die.”
“It’s more of a mythical scenery than a terrifying one, and it’s more of a fake scenery than a mythical one.”
I had a splitting headache.
“……You imbecile. State truthfully. Are you saying all that right now after having actually seen it, or are you blabbering after having seen a delusion? Dragons have been extinct for centuries now, but through what method could Demon Lord Dantalian have possibly used to bring one here?”
The courier furrowed his brows.
“Honestly, when the fortress was assaulted, this one was taking a nap in the barracks so even I am uncertain on whether the things I had witnessed were reality or a delusion.”
“Are you interpreting your dream right now in this stern military affair? And are you also claiming that dream as your report?”
“Since this one believes it is true, this one does not think that it is too much of a hallucination. Referentially, is a person’s belief not what forms that person’s world? Because I believe that I have seen a dragon, then that dragon must exist.”
“This man. So if I were to believe that you are soon destined to die, then I guess you will indeed die shortly after.”
The courier tilted his head.
“Although that seems logically correct, something seems wrong.”
“The thing that is wrong is your head.”
“Someone drag this fool away and punish him.”
The soldiers lifted the messenger up and dragged him out. The sound of someone being clubbed could be heard in the distance. While I was concentrating on the Go board and placing my stone down, the third messenger rushed in. The messenger knelt down as soon as he entered the meeting room.
“……I will have no expectations so just speak however you want. However, it would probably be better to say nothing at all instead of speaking whatever you desire.”
From beginning to end, the courier shouted.
“The Black Fortress has fallen by the heinous demons of the enemy forces! Our troops had lowered their guards because they thought the enemy wouldn’t invade due to the fog, but they aimed for that carelessness! The enemy forces put a bit over 20 witches in the front and bombarded our walls, and while our soldiers were running about in confusion, the enemy troops climbed up the walls. Several of our men struggled, but the majority had run away. Furthermore, among the ones that had fled, most of them were unable to escape completely and were captured. General! The enemy infantry consisted purely of dwarves and their numbers were approximately 3,000 to 4,000 men, but their morale seemed to be high and they were all well equipped!”
Once finished with his report, the messenger lowered his head. It was truly a clean movement. The captains lowered their voices and muttered to each other.
“……That’s strange. That fellow clearly gave a proper report, but for some reason, it sounds like a lie.”
“The so-called Shepherd’s Law. If the first two tell a lie, then no matter how sincerely the third states the truth, it’ll seem like a lie. That’s why, while it’s important for a person to be sincere, they must also be first, or at the very least second. This is important as well.”
“I have never heard of a law with that kind of name in my entire life. Are you sure that’s not some law that you randomly made up?”
“Hey, don’t accuse an innocent person……”
These guys, I told them to not panic and ease their tensions, but it seems that they have let their entire heads go.
I let out a sigh and spoke.
“Gentlemen, listen well. According to the reports from our scouts, the enemy army has about 3,000 to 4,000 soldiers. This location is absolutely not the main effort of the Demon Lord Allied Forces. Their goal is to grab our attention with the use of a separate attack unit. Do not be disturbed, and do not be blinded.”
The captains courteously lowered their heads. I continued.
“Gentlemen, personally patrol the walls and reassure our military personnel. Our men are frigid because of the weather, so their hands should be cold. Switch their duty rotations frequently, and prepare hot water within the quarters regularly.”
The Black Fortress was captured, but what about it? There was no problem in the strategy I had planned out. If anything, it would be fine to judge that everything was going smoothly. I contemplated while preparing to write a report.
Demon Lord Dantalian will now pass the Black Fortress and advance further into the mountain pass. Their supply line will lengthen in consonance with that. Additionally, forests were luxuriantly spread out on both sides of the road. The optimum location to hide an ambush. If they were to try and invade thoughtlessly, then most certainly, the ones to die will be on the Demon Lord’s side.
This mountain passage was like a Go board. The Black Fortress was the upper side while the White Fortress was the lower side, and the entire mountain pass was spread out as the face of the battlefield. A single line of a stronghold rampart was merely increased by another line, and yet the battlefield was expanded to a high and low. Surely, the ancestors who had built these walls in this location must have had foresight.
……The thing that I am worried about was not our front. There were no problems ahead of us.
If anything, the complication was behind us. Whether the Imperial Princess Elizabeth was going to properly provide us with supplies or not……
His Majesty the Emperor had appointed me as the supreme commander of the northern armies. However, the nobles of the Empire had sworn their loyalty to the Imperial Princess. There was no prestige or dignity from the certificate of appointment given by the Emperor. It was a tragedy.
The Imperial Princess considered me as a nuisance. There was more than enough of a possibility for the supplies to be delayed. I had to obstruct the Demon Lord in front of me, and at the same time, I had to keep in check the Imperial Princess behind me. For myself to be in a war where I was surrounded on both fronts, just how did it become like this.
I recalled the words the Imperial Princess had spoken to me.
— Sir Rosenberg, do you not think that the majority of the conversations we have shared can be condensed into more simple terms?
— Habsburg grants their faith a single time.
The image of the Imperial Princess, peeling off the skin of an alligator, filled my mind. A cold sweat went down the back of my neck. Being careless with the Imperial Princess was not an option.
From now on, the Imperial Princess will most likely gain complete control of the authority in the Empire. The thought of submitting to the Imperial Princess in order to establish a livelihood and the thought of refusing to bow to the Imperial Princess since my body had already pledged fidelity to His Majesty the Emperor, clashed against one another. The former rigorously encouraged one’s livelihood, while the latter solemnly advised loyalty. I was more concerned about the home front that was glaring at us from behind than the enemy forces that were approaching us from ahead.
Our great ancestors had raised two sets of walls and given us humans freedom, however, it felt like all the liberty in the world was the freedom of the enemy and the freedom of the Imperial Princess. That was so. This place was where I was going to be laid to rest. By breaking through this location with my bare body, was when I will finally be able to survive with my life.
I gulped. With the sick sensation that felt as if something was caught in my throat, I wrote the report.
— 2nd month, 25th day. Enemy forces have captured the Black Fortress. Military strength approximately 3,000. The commander is Demon Lord Dantalian. Our forces are stationed in the White Fortress and are perfectly secured. We are abundant in provisions and have a sufficient number of arms. The fog is severe.
And then, with the intention of warning the Imperial Princess, I added another line.
— The mountains are safe.
……Good. Even the Imperial Princess should be able to understand with this.
After passing the report to the postrider, I gazed outside the window. The Demon Lord will advance through the mountain pass covered in pure white snow.
Come, Dantalian. Come quickly. I shall sever your neck and satisfy my grudge……
▯The King of Peasants, Rank 71st, Dantalian
Empire Calendar: Year 1506, Month 2, Day 25
The Black Mountains, Black Fortress
Our forces had occupied the Black Fortress before a period of having a single meal. Farnese was right. There were barely any troops within the stronghold.
It was barely 200. The majority of them were captured as prisoners. Claiming that this was too insipid, Humbaba complained.
“Tsk–. I thought we were going to be able to smell some blood after such a long time, but we drew a blank. Why did those shitty humans surrender after barely even fighting–?”
“Are you bored since you were unable to fight intensely?”
“A frustrating feeling like feeling—?”
Humbaba pouted her lips. I responded.
“Then burn them.”
“Do we not have a lot more than 100 prisoners? Bring the other witches and take 50 prisoners to burn as you desire. The most entertaining scenery in the world is watching fire, so your stress should dissipate a bit.”
Humbaba tilted her head.
“……But they’re nice enemy soldiers who surrendered obediently–?”
“Since they gave up obediently, then I guess they will die obediently as well.”
“……I don’t really know if that’s okay–?”
“I plan to go and greet the margrave tomorrow.”
I picked up some snow that was mixed with mud and tossed it in my mouth. I scrutinized the unpleasant taste of the dirt and the fishy smell of the snow with my tongue. Despite being considered as a renowned shrine and numinous mountain among the demons, the dirt and snow did not have any distinct taste in particular. I spat the mud out.
“In the past, since the margrave had come and gone from my stone cavern, we had become acquainted. Now, since I have arrived at the margrave’s stone walls, it is only natural for me to give him my greeting. However, it seems I regrettably do not have a present to give him.”
“I feel as if 40 heads should be roughly enough to express my sincerity. What do you think, Humbaba?”
Humbaba twisted the corners of her lips. Ahah, ahahah…… Humbaba put her cone hat securely on her head and laughed flatly. The pitch black brim of her hat covered Humbaba’s face.
“Really, our master knows his stuff.”
“Burn them earnestly.”
“Oh. Us witches are the greatest experts in burning people to death. A person who has eaten a lot of meat knows well, and people who have had their flesh singed a lot can also burn things well. You’ll be stifled, master. It’ll be fine if you look forward to it–.”
The humans were set ablaze while they were still alive.
While looking down at their bodies burning from their leg up, the humans screamed. It was a wail that was like they were vomiting out their twisted intestines. We hung the corpses that were burnt pitch black on the ramparts. Similar to their last cries, their corpses were twisted bizarrely as well.
The witches devised a game. It was a sport to throw stones and hit the corpses. 1 point if you hit the body, 2 points if you hit the head, and 3 points if you hit their balls. Players who hit the balls three times in a row were gifted 10 extra points. The witches under my command were geniuses.
Farnese and I watched the humans burn and their bodies being played with. The sound of the witches’ giggling echoed throughout the area. The smoke blackened the corpses and the white snowy fog mixed into it. That side of the fog, where the whereabouts of the smoke disappeared, suddenly felt like nirvana. Once the laughter of the witches stopped, Farnese spoke.
“Lord. Do you perhaps know which army had captured the Black Fortress the fastest in the entirety of history?”
“I am not interested in history, so I do not know that well.”
“The answer is the revolting army of the Habsburg Empire. After starting a rebellion in the northern region, they assaulted the Black Fortress from behind. They say it took them 15 days to capture the stronghold, and this was an enduring record that was unable to be broken for the past 313 years.”
“When your lordship brought this young lady back from the slave market, you told her this; that you will make this young lady’s name remain in history.”
I had certainly spoken those words.
I had put out a hand of temptation towards Farnese who was trapped within an iron cell and depending on the moonlight to read her history book.
— You’ll shine brighter when holding the baton in a battlefield than you would reading books. I’ll make it so that history will remember your name……
At the time, Farnese had looked up at me with a doubtful gaze. She was a child who did not know how to smile. Now, after half a year, that girl had become a conqueror.
“Indeed, your lordship was correct. On this day, we have captured the Black Fortress, which had once withstood the revolting army for half a month, within merely half a day.”
Farnese grinned eerily.
“It seems this young lady has already left her name in history.”
Her smile was colder than the winter.
I violently rubbed the crown of Farnese’s head. Although Farnese was a girl who put her emotions at the very bottom of her unconsciousness, only her crown was squishy. Farnese squirmed while waving her arms due to my touching divine help.
“Trying to brag after having captured merely a single wall.”
“L-Looord. I told you I hate it there……Hoah……”
“There is a ranking even among the great individuals who leave their names in history. Since you were born as a heroine, you should be aiming for the position as the 2nd greatest personage in history, so why are you pettily being satisfied by a single rampart? For starters, properly learn how to give an oration from Lapis, and then I will provide you an appropriate position.”
“Ah, understood. I understand, lord……”
Farnese dwindled down.
Traditionally, people must learn to be modest.
Before we advanced to the White Fortress, I took a look around our military with Lapis.
Peddlers and panders had spread out a market area below the rampart. In order to avoid even the slightest bit of the winter wind, people stuck as close to the wall as possible. They appeared like the clams which attached themselves to the boulders in the ocean depths, and it felt like the fishy smell from the sea was emanating from there as well. I uttered.
“Let us go. I wish to see how the people live their lives.”
“Why would your highness go to the corner where the lowly people dwell……?”
Lapis bowed her head.
“I want to see it, that is why.”
“This one is afraid your highness’ grace will be sullied.”
“Stop your nagging and guide me.”
I patrolled the simple marketplace. The demons watched me from afar. When I looked at them, each and every one of them was in rags and had mud smeared on their faces.
Below the wall, goblin children were throwing stones at the human corpses. It seems they were imitating the game which the witches were playing earlier. When I drew near, their parents appeared out of nowhere and hastily carried their children away. Their own world was already established there.
“It seems they had set up a world of their own in a corner away from home within a single day. Those people……”
“Should we track down the ones who have run away and interrogate them?”
“It’s fine. Would they not run more if you interrogate them? If they run, would you not be unable to see the end? Leave them as they are.”
Their vitality to establish a world of their own was simply unpleasant to me.
Burnt human corpses were dangling from ropes on the wall. Below the rampart, the demons were rubbing their scrawny bodies against each other. The blackened flesh burnt by flames and the thin dried skin from the people should at least be narrowly divided by what was dead and alive, and yet, it felt like life and death were not separated in that world of theirs. But by all means, I was not vastly unknowledgeable in the fact that that indistinguishability was what life and death were.
My father died in prison. It was a heart attack.
He had tried to write a couple of lines for his will, but he had fallen before being able to write a single line.
That was my father’s will.
I had crumpled the note and stuffed it into my pocket.
My mothers and siblings rushed to me and asked if my father had left a will. I flatly told them, ‘There was no will.’. Instead, he left an inheritance. The dozens of trillions of won was in their possession. Before the deathmatch that was going to be carried out during the funeral, they were jumping for joy.
……Oh, young master. Thank you very much, young master, my mothers would say and lowered their heads. My siblings called me ‘elder brother’ and bowed deeply. The people who had arranged my kidnapping were among them as well. Since it was family that had tried to kill their ‘Young Master’ and ‘Elder Brother’, there was nothing wrong if I were to brush away that family. I chuckled. Try to live as pleasantly as you can. I’ll watch to see how well you all do……
Like so, I had tried to hide from the world, and yet, another world ended up appearing on its own. Now I was unable to tell if the world was insane, I was insane, or the both of us were insane. Furthermore, it was a world that was going to be destroyed if left alone, and it was a world where everything, including the demons latching onto to the wall like clams, Lapis, and Farnese, was all going to disappear. A certain malicious intent hovered over the fact that a world that was going to die was given to myself who had thrown away the world.
Was this God’s intention? I asked. Was this the goal of the Heavens……? The most believable hypothesis was that everything was a part of my father’s ill-tempered joke in order to ruin my life once more. Since there was no God, Heaven’s Will, or even my father in this world, this all depended on how I looked at it.
Very well then. I will wreak havoc. I shall save the world of these people, and after I have salvaged this world, that is when I will contemplate on whether I will decide to take care of the people, rule over the people, or become a gentle lord. For now, does salvaging not have the most urgent priority? Even if hundreds of thousands of people were to die by war, was that not better than the entire world being annihilated?
“Your highness. The weather is frigid. Please go inside and get some rest.”
I turned my head. There, next to me, was the girl who had become one of the reasons why I had to save this world.
“Are you cold?”
“This one is alright. This one had slept in the open during colder days before.”
“I am also fine. Would we not be separated once we go to war tomorrow? I wish to be with you a bit longer.”
“When your highness says those kinds of words, does your highness’ tongue not go frantic because of how disgusting it feels?”
Lapis looked at me as if she was looking at a bug.
“This one is sometimes startled by your highness’ behavior. Please be discerning.”
“And how would I live without you?”
“For someone who has been living fine without this one, your highness sure worries……”
“Are you not afraid of the fact that I will be able to continue living on even if you were completely gone?”
“If possible, do not die. Be careful and be careful again. Cherish your own life over mine. You are the last remaining piece of mind left in me.”
Lapis let out a sigh.
“This one has always been a part of the group of individuals who only care for themselves. Put away your concern, your highness. It is hard to handle and it is disconcerting to hear. Please keep in mind the wisdom of bringing our bodies close while keeping our minds at a fair distance.”
“Yes. That’s right, isn’t it?”
Lapis and I followed along the rampart and walked forward.
Now that I thought about it, we have never had the separate opportunity to enjoy a date.
If that was the case, then this was our first date, and yet out of all the locations in the world, our date course was a wall with a bunch of burnt corpses hanging off of it. What kind of elegant date was this? Be it romance or something else, there was nothing here at all.
The vastly stretched mountain range—a rampart connected by segments—the ropes hanging the corpses—and even the will that my father was unable to complete, like a road that was erased midway through, it felt as if it was rattling on gloomily saying that everyone will end up like this as well. Since this felt like a date course that rather befitted the two us, I chuckled to myself. Lapis gave me a weird look.
In the path that we had gone past, the young goblins gathered once more. I could hear the sound of stones hitting the wall.
After listening carefully, their total score was 3.
▯The Northern Guardian, Margrave of Rosenberg, Georg von Rosenberg
Empire Calendar: Year 1506, Month 2, Day 25
The Black Mountains, White Fortress
I went up to the upper story of the fortress gate and looked down onto the field.
The enemy forces were setting up camp in a location far away from our fortress gate. A black flag was waving in the mountain pass. Demon Lord Dantalian was using a black flag to represent his own troops since he did not have his own emblem. The Demon Lord of the black flag had arrived at the Black Mountains and captured the Black Fortress…… For a coincidence, it was a rather humorous one.
The captains measured the enemy army with their eyes,
“It appears like they have a bit under 3,000.”
“It doesn’t seem like there is a huge difference in numbers compared to our troops. We shall protect this spot with ease.”
I nodded my head. The problem was the number of mages. Last autumn, Dantalian had led over 11 witches. He most likely brought a considerable number of witches this time as well. There was a need to oppose that.
I had spent the money, which could have been used to buy infantries, to hire more mages. Our forces had 25 mages. It was an impressive number. This was more than enough to defend against Dantalian.
“General, look over there.”
In the location where the captain was pointing, the enemy dwarves were building something. It was a self-assembled catapult. Assuming that they were trying to siege us with that garbage, the captains laughed in ridicule.
“Hah. Would they even be able to toss a rock this far?”
“They used their heads a little, though. Dragging a large catapult into this path would be impractical, so an easy to assemble one is…… Well, it’s still useless even if they do that, but their efforts are praiseworthy.”
Moments later, they had begun to launch something with the catapults. Something that appeared to be lighter than stone, either collided against the rampart or landed on top of the wall. A captain went to pick one of the objects up and brought it back. The captain hesitantly presented it to me.
“General, this is……”
The half burnt head of a corpse.
The corpse’s face was twisted fiendishly.
It was the face of a person who had suffered until the moment of their demise.
The enemy had burned the prisoners alive.
My hands trembled when I thought about the penitence that the prisoners must have experienced.
“Those, shameless devils……”
I was already aware that Dantalian was this kind of person.
But there was no need to go out of his way to burn them. He could have beheaded the prisoners cleanly, ensuring that they would suffer the least amount before they died. Despite that, he had purposely utilized the most painful execution method. Just to insult me.
After catapulting over 30 heads, the enemy catapults stopped. Then, six cavalries approached from the enemy camp and stopped at the fortress gate. They were holding a white flag which represented ‘negotiation’.
“……Open the gate. I will go out personally.”
“Would it not be dangerous, general?”
“If something happens to me, then immediately fire the arrows and kill them. Order the crossbowmen to be ready to fire.”
The chief gatekeeper opened the gate.
Once I passed the iron gate, the enemy cavalry was standing right in front of me. Among them, a man wearing a black mantle bobbed his head at me.
“It has been a long time, Margrave. No, should I call this our first encounter? I am Demon Lord Dantalian. I am honored that you did not disregard the negotiation and came out to meet with us in person.”
“A man who does not know his manners……”
So this man was Dantalian. I could not see this fragile looking spineless fellow as a monarch. If I were to wield my blade and charge at him, then killing him immediately should be possible. After readying myself to pull out my sword at a moment’s notice, I spoke.
“Oh, Demon Lord. You must have sincerely come here prepared to die. What is your ulterior motive to have requested a negotiation right after having flung the corpses of the prisoners at us? Tell me the reason why I should not cut your throat right this instant.”
“You are being rather aggressive. That was merely a small gift since we are not individuals who keep a distance between one another, after all……”
“You have destroyed my Demon Lord Castle, and I have now arrived at your walls. I would be ashamed to come here empty handed. Did you like my present?”
“Aha. It seems you were not that satisfied.”
Dantalian slightly glanced up at the wall. The crossbowmen were aiming their weapons at Dantalian there. If I ordered them to, then they will immediately fire their bolts and penetrate Dantalian’s throat. He should not be unaware of this fact, and yet, Dantalian was still smiling.
“That is fine. I had prepared more gifts just in case you were to make a fuss. Look.”
Dantalian turned his body and gestured towards his camp. In that location, dwarves were hammering wooden pillars.
Soon after, over a hundred columns were erected. My eyes went wide the moment I saw what was tied to those wooden pillars. A prisoner was bound to each column. The dwarves approached the pillars with a torch in hand. It appeared as if they were planning to immediately set the humans on fire. The prisoners wailed.
— Save us! General……
— Please don’t throw us away……
My hands trembled. Was that the deed of a man? Did the demons not refer to themselves as demonkind and boast as being humane? Despite that, are you telling me that they can commit that sort of deed without any hesitation?
“Please order your crossbowmen to lower their weapons. I am a petty man with a lot of cowardice. Whenever someone threatens me, my body aches and my flesh trembles, making it difficult to breathe.”
“Is that so? Bask in your last breath in this life as much as you can. After I have slit your gullet, you will long for that breath once you are in Hell.”
“Ooh. Terrifying. How very terrifying. By the looks of it, it seems the margrave has a natural talent in threatening others.”
Dantalian raised his right hand.
“—Unfortunately, that is a talent that I have never obtained.”
At that moment, one of the pillars was set on fire. The column must have already been smeared in oil as the flames had begun to rise instantly. While looking down at the fire that appeared like the maw of a beast approaching them, the prisoner screamed.
— Aaack! Aack, Aaaaaaaah……
At once, the flame swallowed the human body. The prisoner struggled desperately as they burned. Save me, please save me, once these cries ceased, only smoke rose up from that spot. Towards myself who was unable to open his mouth, Dantalian spoke.
“Margrave, let us be honest.”
“As you have witnessed, I am a piece of scum. Garbage, if you insist. It is in my nature to treat the lives of humans lower than that of a fly. But what about you, Margrave? Are you not a governor who follows justice? Do you not cherish the lives of your subordinates as if they were your own children? I am this kind of person and the margrave is that kind of person. It is quite unfavorable for you to face scum such as myself.”
I touched the hilt of my sword with the edge of my fingers.
“……What do you want to say?”
“Let us call a ceasefire.”
A ceasefire? How could he ask for a ceasefire? Unsure of what the other party’s true intentions were, I glared sharply at Dantalian. Dantalian spoke while digging his ear.
“Due to your splendid hospitality, I was able to acquire a bloodless victory. However, passing over the Black Fortress, I do not have the confidence in capturing the White Fortress as well. It is not as if I have a considerable amount of military strength…… Even if I were to overdo myself and attempt a siege, it is obvious that only my forces will suffer.”
“You know your place well, rookie.”
“You should also understand your place as an elderly man, Margrave. Does the back of your neck on your old bones not feel cold? You are in a situation where a young miss is pointing her sword at you, after all.”
“Do you not fear the Imperial Princess, Margrave?”
My mind went blank for an instant.
What was he talking about? What did I hear just now? What exactly did this man before me grasp in order to throw that sort of question? Dantalian snickered.
“The Emperor of the Habsburg Empire has already lost his authority. The Crown Prince is nothing more than dead wood, as well. As you are the last remaining loyalist, she is an individual that only the margrave, such as yourself, would fear. Would the Imperial Princess not desire to purge you when the opportunity presents itself?”
“I am unable to capture your rampart. Be that as it may, Margrave, it would be foolish for you to leave your stronghold and attack me since that would mean you would be performing a pitched battle while leaving aside your safe walls. In conclusion, both you and I can do absolutely nothing and simply stand here face to face. This is quite the fateful relationship we have. Our destiny.”
Dantalian’s voice felt like it was being whispered directly into my ear, and pulled me in. I now understood what it meant to be lured in by someone’s voice.
“By seizing the Black Fortress, I have piled up enough contributions to not be ashamed in the eyes of the other Demon Lords. You as well were able to prevent the White Fortress from being taken away, so that is the same as being able to save face. Since one hand washes over the other, a good thing is a good thing, so this is more than sufficient for you and me to become close friends.”
“Margrave. I am a very liberal person.”
Dantalian smiled smoothly.
That smoothness made my blood freeze. The very fact that a wicked man was capable of smiling like that felt like an insult to the Gods and the disgrace of the world. That man was bragging as if he had already stolen something which must never be stolen. What is that? What are you telling me that is?
“If you agree to the ceasefire with us, then I will more than gladly let the prisoners go. A single person each day. Respectfully. Not the burnt heads of corpses, but humans who are in perfect conditions from their head to toe, I shall send them as so.”
I clenched my teeth.
I understood. This man before me was the Devil.
On that day, the day my subordinates were slaughtered on a hill, the apparition I had seen was not a simple illusion. The form of the Devil that appeared on the hill represented Dantalian. I muttered.
“……By some chance, rookie.”
“By some chance, if I were to behead you right here.”
I gripped the hilt of my sword.
Dantalian gazed at me.
“At that time, what sort of expression will you have on your face?”
As if surprised by my words, Dantalian opened his eyes wide. He then raised his head up and burst into laughter. The sound of the Demon Lord’s laughter stretched throughout the dry winter sky.
“That’s right, isn’t it? Aah. Of course, I am not omniscient and omnipotent. There is a chance that I could have judged a person wrong. There is a chance that you, the margrave, are capable of disregarding the sight of your subordinates being burned to death and take my neck. Yes, that is more than possible……”
Dantalian stuck out his head. Since his neck was long like a snake, he pushed his head right in front of my face.
“Then go ahead and kill me.”
“Let us fall to Hell together, Margrave.”
He was serious.
This man, was saying that sincerely.
“People often say that Hell is a place that is forever burning in flames. However, that is incorrect. If Hell does indeed exist, then it is a winter landscape where everything is frozen. I have no doubts about it. A plain where the winter continues on and on until you forget that it is winter, forget that you are frozen, and finally, you forget yourself entirely. Absolute nothingness will engulf us. Would it not be lonely to fall into such a place by oneself? Let us go together, Margrave. Let us disappear eternally……”
I was barely able to prevent myself from taking a step back.
This person’s eyes were not normal. I thought that it was simply black, but inside those black eyes, a blood crimson color was flowing. The smell of blood emanated from his gaze.
Was this what a Demon Lord was?
Somewhere, in some other place, I had seen eyes similar to these, but it did not cross my mind easily. I could not grasp where I had previously witnessed these eyes.
Dantalian narrowed his eyes. In an instant, the sanguinary in his gaze had vanished. The only thing that remained on his face, where lunacy had dissipated from, was a pleasant smile.
“That was just a joke. Do laugh, Margrave.”
“In order to respect your personality, I shall release 2 prisoners each day. Since I am in the possession of 98 captives, then I guess that means the ceasefire shall continue for 46 days. They say that people become tied together by merely brushing the other’s sleeve, but the tie connecting you and myself is remarkable.”
After uttering ‘Hiyah’, Dantalian turned the head of his horse. Before departing, Dantalian turned to look at me and spoke.
“Oh right. Since 1 has already died, it’s not 98 captives but 97 now. I apologize. I have always been weak with arithmetic. It is my weakness. In truth, it is my only weakness.”
While laughing, Dantalian gathered his group and left. The centaur cavalry followed behind the Demon Lord. Among the cavalry, there was a demon with flowing pink hair squeezed in among them. That woman was most likely the half-breed succubus referred to as the ‘King’s Concubine’.
……Shoot them. Shoot them with reckless abandon.
I was unable to give this order to the crossbowmen. Even though my mouth was open, words did not come out. My subordinates, who were tied to the wooden pillars, were stuck in my eyes. I could not dare give the order because their wailing rang loudly in my ears.
And then I realized.
Which individual had the same eyes as that Demon Lord.
— You cannot buy my respect with fidelity. If you wish for me to respect you, then over all else, you must obtain victory.
— If by some small chance, you were to commit a mistake…… Well, I’ll most likely be very disappointed.
The Imperial Princess. It was the Imperial Princess Elizabeth.
A person with the same eyes as her was within the Demon Lord army.
For what reason were people with the soul of the Devil surrounding me on both sides? Were the Gods trying to test me? A Demon Lord was closing in on me from the front as a single segment, and the Imperial Princess was pushing me from behind as another segment. In the center of that, I was unable to choose life or loyalty.
If I were to raise my troops to tear down the Demon Lord forces and cross over the Black Mountains in order to invade the demon territory, then that would be the path of loyalty that displays the dignity of Her Majesty the Imperial Princess. But I was uncertain about whether that would be possible.
This was difficult. As it was easy to throw away one’s life for fidelity, it was boundlessly easier to discard fidelity for one’s life, and yet, why was it so difficult to go down a path while holding onto both one’s own life and fidelity……