DUNGEON DEFENSE - DUNGEON DEFENSE Volume 3 - Chapter 4 – FOG OF WAR (Part 2)
Empire Calendar: Year 1506, Month 3, Day 11
Neris Plains, Plains Army Encampment
Barbatos woke me up.
My body had become exhausted after having played with Barbatos since midday, thus I had fallen asleep. Barbatos should also not be completely fine due to the exhaustion, but during the night, during this ambitious night where even the sound of birds could not be heard, she had woken me up. For reference, the people I despise the most in the world are the ones who wake me up while I am asleep. People who wake up others are all psychopaths and mental patients. I will accept no arguments.
“Is something the matter?”
“Follow me quietly.”
Barbatos lowered her voice and giggled. Although she had told me to follow her, she abruptly grabbed my hand and started to drag me along. Barbatos and I were currently in the state where we did not have even a single scrap of thread on us, thus meaning, we were naked. My God. Barbatos was trying to drag me outside the quarters while we were in the nude. I had no choice but to be shocked here.
“Hey, are you insane?”
“I’ll show you something good.”
“I don’t know what it is, but I can’t go outside while naked!”
“I told you to be quiet, you idiot.”
Barbatos continued to chuckle. She was a girl without a grain of sense. The heinous part about this girl was the fact that while she was senseless, her grip strength was also needlessly powerful. Where in that small physique of hers did this strength come from? When Barbatos dragged me along, I would helplessly be pulled along like a piece of straw drifting down a river. Oh Lord. This crazy bitch really did drag me outside the tent!
It was late into the night, so the encampment was quiet. Only the sparsely spread out torches held by the guards on patrol flickered in the distance. I let out a shriek.
“Save me, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy!”
“Sheesh, shut up a bit, will you? You really do disregard what other people say, don’t you?”
“Are you saying that to me? Aang? Is that something you’re saying to me right now?”
“Oh, Embers of Solace.”
Barbatos blew her breath into her palm. Barbatos then touched my face, neck, shoulder, chest, and bottom, with her right hand. The moment she did so, a warm heat spread from the areas which Barbatos had touched. The savagely cold winter night had become as warm as the evening during the early autumn. The sleet that was fluttering through the air all melted before they could reach my skin.
“Now, is that better?”
“Thanks, you have my gratitude. I’m really thankful, but a more fundamental problem, do you not think that there’s perhaps a more fundamental problem?”
“The fact that you’re ugly?”
“Shit, I’m bringing you along to show you something good, so just follow me. It’d be fine if only your lower tool was long, but your mouth is fucking long too. Your tongue is so lengthy that you could probably make a farm on it, you limp dick bastard. Should I tear your trap out and shove it up your ass, you inept shit? The bastard who’d flap his asshole every time he opens his mouth and also make the smell of feces drift from the North Sea to the White Sea is you, you son of a bitch. Hm? Don’t make me turn that shit hole into a diarrhea hole and make you leak shitty water every time you walk, you amateur. Fucking shut your mouth and follow me.”
Going head on against Barbatos in a battle of curses was an incredibly foolish thing to do.
Since I was an individual who had acquainted myself with proper education and beautiful refinement since the earliest days of my life, furthermore, because profanity was another world’s language, I could only helplessly be dragged away by the hands of the villainess known as Barbatos. What am I to do against Barbatos’ divine grace of profanities that contained 500 years of her labor. If it was a sin to have been born kind, then I was that sinner. I treated my crime with sympathy.
Barbatos led me to the outside of the military base. We were nearly caught by the patrols several times. While avoiding the guards, we had made twists and turns through the military camp. During that time, Barbatos would occasionally turn around and kiss me for absolutely no reason. Barbatos was a girl who kissed when she felt like kissing. I could only surrender.
Due to the snow, the outside of the encampment had become a white field. Corpses were buried in the snow field, and above those bodies, more snow fell and pushed them a layer deeper into the ground. After we had reached this spot, Barbatos let go of my hand.
“Okay. What do you plan to do here……?”
Barbatos walked towards the snow-covered field by herself.
Towards the night sky where the snow drifted down from, Barbatos spread out her arms. She started to sing. Wondering what sort of action that was during the middle of the night, I stared at the girl.
It was a song that flowed with no lyrics but only sound.
Barbatos gazed up at the sky as if she was a saintess receiving the epiphany of God, and as she walked out towards the boundlessly vast snowy fields, she pulled the blizzard into her arms as if she was going to disappear forever.
It was difficult to distinguish the snow-covered field with Barbatos’ pure white naked body.
Her song felt as if it were coming from the blizzard and not her vocal cords, and the blizzard felt as it was weeping in the distant winter sky.
Winter was wailing in that spot. The cold cries of winter easily pierced through the warmth that was covering my skin. My neck became cold.
Putting more strength into her vocal cords, Barbatos’ song slowly became more powerful. Barbatos opened her mouth wide and kept her eyes narrowed. She received the blizzard that came down from above with her melody, and made the wind surge back upwards. It felt as if her voice had entered a vocal range that my ears could not handle.
Ah–…… the snowy wind carried this noise. Carried by the wind, from this side of the snowy earth to the other side, to the edge of the forest of hyun poplars, to the wolf that had poked its head out of the woods and was silently watching us, to the gaps between the wolf’s teeth, to the corpses that had their faces shoved into the frozen earth, to the eyes of the bodies where the blood had froze, from there to here, and to even the areas that were further than those places and were isolated, the blizzard crawled into those locations and the melody seeped into them as well.
From below the snowy earth, the rotten arm of a corpse rose up. Pieces of flesh were torn from the arm revealing the bone. Even the speck of snow that was on the bone could be seen. With a ‘thuck’, the sound made when one stepped on snow echoed low throughout the area. Thuck, thuck, each time this sound resonated, arms surged up from the snow. As if they were trying to grab something, the frozen hands waved through the empty air. Hundreds, thousands of hands clawed at the sky.
Barbatos’ song slowly came to an end. With her at the center, a countless number of dead arms had erupted from the snow. Gazing around at the skeletons, Barbatos spoke.
—All of you. Return to life.
Were they waiting for that single line?
The arm movements of the corpses stopped. In the empty space where there was nothing, the arms clenched their fists. As the corpses stood up, puffs of snow scattered as well. Once thousands of piles of snow scattered at the same time, the blizzard became more severe, and then, it slowly settled down. Once it had calmed down, there were thousands of corpses standing on the snow-covered field.
Barbatos let out a breath. Her visible white breath flowed from between her lips. I gawked at her.
“How was it?”
“Despite the slight cold, it was a good idea to follow me, right?”
“……What did you do just now?”
“Hm? Replenishing troops.”
Barbatos answered immediately.
Replenishing troops? How could this be supplementing troops!? Was this not an utterly insane girl?
I had just now witnessed the certain point in ability that I will never be able to reach no matter how much I struggle. I had also witnessed the reason behind why the social system, that was similar to that of tribes, had not collapsed within the demon world yet. Demon Lords were not only lords, but they were priests, shamans, and saints. Other demons were obedient because of that terrifying force contained within that divine name.
One day, my authority may become great enough to allow me to control the lives of others as I desire. However, I will be unable to control the things which have no lives. My political ability would suddenly become courteous when within the presence of Barbatos’ own capabilities. How was I to take this? How was I to conquer this? Unsure of how I was going to accept you, I asked.
“Barbatos, who are you?”
Barbatos placed her lips on the corpses. She did not distinguish the corpses with torn flesh and the skeletons that had lost their flesh. She blessed all the corpses with a kiss. A gust of snow blew through the field. With a corpse’s head held in her hands, Barbatos turned only her head to look at me.
And thus, the army of skeletons advanced.
▯The Northern Guardian, Margrave of Rosenberg, Georg von Rosenberg
Empire Calendar: Year 1506, Month 3, Day 12
Neris Plains, Imperial Army Encampment
The enemy had arrived at the end of the field which was enshrouded by a fog of snow.
It was night. Hearing that the scout had arrived to give their report, I walked outside. The blizzard and fog had mixed together making it difficult to distinguish anything in front of me. The scout was breathing heavily.
“I saw it. General, I have witnessed it. I am certain. Corpses, frozen corpses were approaching like a swarm. Aah, I saw it……”
I brushed the snow off of the scout’s shoulder. Within the House of Rosenberg, the records of war written by our ancestors were passed down throughout the generations. The report that the scout had briefed was accurate to the characteristic which described Demon Lord Barbatos. There was nothing strange about it.
“Do not worry. I believe you.”
“You believe that, Sir Rosenberg? Do you truly believe those foolish words?”
The Crown Prince, who had quickly arrived after hearing about the urgent report, laughed in ridicule. The Crown Prince was currently wearing his sleepwear and had a fur cloak draped over his shoulders. I wonder if he had spent the entire evening drinking since his neck and his cheeks were red.
“I see that due to your age, the praise of you being a great commander is an antique now. Put yourself together, Rosenberg. How could corpses possibly move?”
“The enemy leader is Demon Lord Barbatos. In the records of the previous holy war, there are many passages of Barbatos having used black arts to control the dead.”
“Ah, those records are probably wrong. You should think using common sense. This great one may be drunk, but I am looking at the world properly, while it seems you are sober, and yet, looking at the world in reverse. It is a problem that occurs when you have not drunk alcohol. Now then, some alcohol. Let us go and enjoy a drink together.”
“Your Highness the Crown Prince.”
“Oho? Are you saying that you won’t receive a glass from me?”
“How could this one possibly……? I merely wish to protect the Crown Prince from the enemy demons.”
“Can a person who was unable to defend a single wall, be able to protect me?”
The Crown Prince made an invidious remark. I closed my mouth.
“I am joking. Do not be upset.”
“Your words are immeasurable, your honor.”
“Oh dear, you really do plan to not drink with me. Even though you, Sir Rosenberg, are the person who needs alcohol the most. This great one is worried. I am sincerely concerned, Sir Rosenberg. How could you possibly endure your world without alcohol?”
“This one plans to persevere through what must be endured.”
The Crown Prince took a bottle of alcohol out from his fur coat. Due to the Crown Prince being intoxicated, the bottle slipped from his hands. The bottle fell into the snow, so it did not break. Oh dear, this precious thing…… the Crown Prince uttered and made a fuss. He blew away the snow that had stuck onto the bottle. This precious precious thing…
I tried to glare through the blizzard, but I could see nothing. Although I was unable to see anything, I ordered the captains to organize the troops. The soldiers that the Imperial Princess had left behind were all either old and frail or were individuals who were so tired and sick that they were unable to overcome the cold night. The officers and men had put their crossbows on the ground and were rubbing their palms against their legs. Ah, it’s so cold that I could die…… the old soldiers whined. The sound of ah…… ah…… mixed together with the noise made by the snowy wind.
The Crown Prince asked.
“So, did Elizabeth tell you to die as well?”
“Her Highness the Imperial Princess had told this one that she would provide this one an appropriate location.”
“Oh? Is that location within the Imperial Family?”
“This one does not know.”
“Then you’ll die not knowing.”
The Crown Prince spoke flatly.
“Elizabeth is a devil. I know that she is a devil. Have you ever stared into those pure red eyes of hers for a long time? I have. I could smell blood. She’s a girl who makes the smell of blood flow wherever she gazes……”
I abruptly became curious. How was the Imperial Princess’ childhood? Was the Imperial Princess still the Imperial Princess when she was young? Was she like this since the beginning? I coughed. There was a wet sensation to that cough. Due to my experience, I knew that it was a bad omen when a dry cough would suddenly turn into a wet cough.
“Your honor, did something happen in the palace?”
The Crown Prince gulped down his alcohol without a word. Although the Crown Prince was looking towards the same direction as myself, it did not feel as if we were looking at the same location. It seemed that to the Crown Prince, the blizzard that was raging before us appeared like an illusion. The Crown Prince spoke.
“It’s my sin.”
The Crown Prince said nothing more after that.
The Crown Prince, Rudolf von Habsburg, was inferior to his little sister on all sides. The rebellion that the Crown Prince was unable to suppress for 7 months with an army of 5,000, was swept away within 15 days by the Imperial Princess’ army of 1,000. The ancient language, that the Crown Prince had become proficient with at the age of 14, was mastered by the Imperial Princess by the age of 5. As the misgovernment of His Majesty the Emperor continued, the nobles started to wish for a competent monarch. The Crown Prince was ideal.
“Do you see it?”
The Crown Prince muttered.
Unsure of what I was supposed to be seeing, I looked at the Crown Prince. He was glancing down obliquely at the blizzard which was raging at the bottom of the hill.
“Someone has come.”
The haze of dawn barely touched the lower region of the hill. A skeletal leg came out from within the blizzard. The skeleton’s feet lightly stepped on the sloping path enshrouded by haze. As it took another step forward, the shape of a bone foot was left imprinted into the snow in the spot where the foot was previously at.
At the bottom of the slope, the skeleton looked up at us. It appeared as if it had the gaze of a wanderer who was carefully examining the mountain range which they now had to climb. Though the skeleton had no eyes, I could feel its gaze. It was a cold and transparent gaze. The Crown Prince let a laugh flow into the snowy wind.
“A lot has arrived, huh?”
From the fog mixed with snow, thousands of corpses started to pour out. Aiming for our forces’ encampment, the corpses slowly ascended the hill. The sound of a horn echoed from our base. The roosters were startled by the horns and started to crow. Once the crying of the birds, which seemed as if it would never stop, had finally ceased, the blizzard raged powerfully once more and concealed the skeletons. Nothing was visible through the flurry of snow. Nothing could be seen, and yet, our troops raised their spears and crossbows.
“It’s winter, I see!”
The Crown Prince bellowed loudly. He cupped his hand around his mouth to amplify the sound and shouted in a loud voice.
“It’s winter! Winter is coming!”
Our soldiers feared the Crown Prince’s lunacy. It felt as if the Crown Prince was not informing the soldiers that the corpses have arrived, but instead, he was calling for those corpses to approach us with haste. The Crown Prince tipsily pulled out a long sword and raised it into the air.
“All forces, charge! Chaaaaarge!”
The Crown Prince leaped over the wooden fence and started to run. All forces, follow meeee… this sound of the Crown Prince echoed widely. Do not fear death, men–… The soldiers stayed in place. Uncertain of what they were supposed to do, they glanced at one another and then turned to look at me. The Crown Prince’s figure disappeared into the snowy fog.
The Crown Prince returned from the fog. He was breathing heavily. After pushing himself through the crevice in the wooden fences with difficulty, he walked to where I was. Lowering his sword down, the Crown Prince raised his shoulders conceitedly.
“Wow, not a single person came. It seems they don’t have any intention to fight.”
“Let us just withdraw, general.”
Turning back to the captains, I ordered.
“Roll the boulders!”
The captains repeated the order. The boulders, which we had prepared beforehand, started to roll downwards. Due to the fact that the boulders were unable to roll properly, they often tumbled down towards a completely random direction, however, since there were plenty of undead in those random locations anyway, the directions they rolled could not be called entirely random. The stones collided against the skeletons and shattered their bones into pieces.
“What. Why do they listen to the general’s words but disregard the commands of a lord? These guys are really discriminating people. Once I return to the capital, I’ll punish them as rebels.”
The battle was heated since dawn.
Though our soldiers were old, they had that much experience as well. Since they had seen more surprising things during their lives, the veteran soldiers were not alarmed by the march of skeletons. Although there was a soldier who had run away, no one tried to stop them. The veteran soldiers seemed to have understood that even if one were to flee on their own out into the lonely snowy plains, they would either die from hunger, freeze to death or be eaten by beasts. The old soldiers chewed on the stale bread, which was distributed as breakfast, for a long time and swallowed it down with water.
Once all the boulders had fallen, the old soldiers drew their crossbows. Crossbows were ranged weapons that absorbed the magical energy from their surroundings and fired out bolts using that energy. The projectiles flew unnaturally if the weapon was fired too quickly, and would recoil heavily and cause the bolt to go astray if fired too late. The captains did not have to separately give instructions to fire since the veteran soldiers could shoot the crossbows while making rough assumptions of the timing in their heads. The bolts fired by the old soldiers flew quickly and firmly pierced their targets.
As they had lived according to their own discretion, they fought according to their discretion as well. The way they fought was similar to the natural physiology of the people. ……So the people are fighting. The ones who are fighting are the people. I deeply inhaled the cold winter air.
“Heed my words, captains!”
The captains immediately stood in a close single file line. They were aged captains. They were old soldiers who had grown old in low-grade military bases because they either had a humble status, had insignificant capabilities, or were unable to stand in a line properly. As the majority of them were people born in the north, they were also thrown away here due to the reason that they were born in the north. Since their spines had not rusted yet, they held their backs up straight.
“Yes, your honor.”
I called out each of the captain’s name. A captain whose beard was still brown stood forward and raised military rites. He was the second little brother to the minor official that managed the mill which was in my territory. During my youth, back when I was sharing a childhood crush with a maiden in the village, I stood guard at the mill.
“Currently, the military strength of our central force is no more than 2,000. No matter what the cost, you must not allow the front to be breached by those corpses. Do you understand? Defend your position till your last breath.”
“As you command, margrave.”
“Hold on for as long as possible. The chances of our retreating comrades being able to survive will increase the longer we withstand. The North shall not send your death to oblivion.”
The captain headed out with his servants in tow. In the distance, we could hear the faint sound of the captain shouting at his soldiers through the snow. The other remaining captains had their ears turned to that voice.
A middle-aged man wearing silver armor walked forward. In this location, this man was the only one to have not been born in the North. Although his name was all he had left, he was once the leader of the Royal Knight Guards for the Emperor. There were 6 knights in our current forces and they had 20 valets following them. They were the last remaining knights here.
“While leading the knights, skim over the slope and sweep away any undead that protrudes excessively. Your duty is to prevent the corpses from reaching even 50 meters from our fences. Defend the front line with your lives, and fall at the front line.”
“I shall carry out your orders, general.”
“The North shall not forget your death.”
“I, Roenbach, shall achieve glory.”
The knight leader adjusted his helmet on his head and mounted his horse. The other knights gathered around their leader. The warhorses, which belonged to a good descent, were letting out heated breaths even within this cold wind. The knights lowered their heads towards my direction once, and then they did it once more towards the Crown Prince. The Crown Prince bobbed his head. He did not utter a single word of complaint about me using the knights as I pleased. The Crown Prince merely stared at the blizzard with drunk eyes. One by one, I called each captain’s name.
“Bergmann, I shall put 20 heavy infantries under your command. If there is a portion of our defenses that seems to be in danger, go there and fight.”
“Yes, your honor!”
Decades ago, during the year of famine, the young boy who had once displayed his innocence by shyly claiming that he had hunted a pheasant in worry that the young master was starving, had now turned into an old captain and responded.
“Gebauer, gather the servants and distribute projectiles to all of our soldiers. Furthermore, hand out the rest of our provisions to our officers and men. People fight with the strength provided by food.”
“I shall serve as needed, your honor.”
The girl who had enlisted in the military despite her gender, the girl who was frequently mocked by the men, and at one time, had retorted in a loud voice questioning where the males and females of the North were, was now replying to my commands here in this location after many decades had passed.
“Mighty soldiers of Habsburg, listen to my words.”
I turned towards the troops.
“I do not know who you all have sworn your loyalty to, and I do not believe that loyalty is required when your meals are on the line. However, all of you should know. The duty of a person and the task of a soldier, these are things that you all should know well. If we flee, then the youths of our country will die. If we yield, then our country’s land will be set ablaze. Oh, great soldiers of Habsburg, who were once young and have always lived in these lands, it is time for us to pass down the things which we have enjoyed to our sons and daughters.”
I unsheathed my sword and raised it to the sky. The formal dress-sword, which had been passed down for generations within my family, was lost in the previous battle. But why did that matter? I lived on the battlefield. This was my home. This was where the House of Rosenberg was at.
I cried out. The heat from my gut surged upwards, burning and piercing through my wet coughs, and exploded in the winter atmosphere.
“For the Empire!”
The soldiers raised their crossbows and spears and shouted back fervently.
— For the Empire!
While hoping for my voice to reach the other side of ranks, that could not be seen due to the fog and snow, I roared.
“For the Empire!”
The soldiers reciprocated.
— For the Empire!
The voices from the other side of the base, which was concealed by the flurry, reached where I stood as well. The aged soldiers, who were born from different places and lived their lives differently, were going to die together at the end of their lives in the same location. The snowflakes, which had all respectively formed within different temperatures and were carried by diverse winds, all fell to the same floor and subsided. To live like a snowflake and to, at last, die like a snowflake. The snow that melted first in order to prevent the snow, which was going to stack on top of them, from melting. I gladly accepted all the snow with similar lives and all the snow with similar deaths. The North was a country of snow. A home that was established for the people who were unable to go south. Turning my face towards the sky, I let out a sigh. This was a day well suited for wailing. A good day to wail……
At forenoon, a captain came running to me.
“Your honor, the first line has been breached. The remnant soldiers of the first line have joined the second line. Fortunately, there was little confusion during the momentary retreat. Although many were injured, few were killed.”
“Good. Continue to defend as so.”
While glancing down at the map, I gave the order. The blizzard was fierce so it was impossible to perceive the military camp with one’s eyes alone. While drawing the things that could be seen and could not be seen on the map, I felt my way towards a direction and made assumptions as to where our soldiers had to go.
“We are already winning just by being able to hold out like this. Do not fight hastily, and do not die quickly. Endure for as long as you can. Instruct this to the troops once more.”
After a while, an orderly ran in. The orderly was the captain’s adjutant. Since the captain had fallen in battle, the adjutant was doing the captain’s task in their stead. I did not ask where the captain had fallen, and the adjutant did not tell me as well.
“General, the second group has been breached. The second and third line have joined together and are resisting the enemy. Our morale has yet to diminish. The leader of the knight corps has fallen.”
“Very well. On your way back, inform company commander Gebauer to abandon her given task and participate on the front line. Fight while abiding your time, but move with haste. By moving quickly, you will be able to fight less.”
Once it had become midday, around the time the blizzard had ceased, an orderly ran in. Once again, it was a completely different person. On the next occasion, the orderly had died and nearly all of the other captains had fallen, so the only ones who could run in to report were now the adjutant’s servants. The messenger gave a very punctual salute and gave the situation report.
“The third line has been breached. Our whole army is fighting back at the final wooden barricade. Although the ranks of the unit are disorderly and assimilated, there are no issues in fighting together as a group.”
“Good. I command the remaining knights to charge. If you utilize the narrow pathway between the fences, then the charge should be easy to carry out. Strike the flanks of the enemy who are engrossed in our side.”
“Understood, your honor. May we achieve fortune in war.”
Then a different soldier, and a different soldier……
Everything had become still because there was no longer anyone in my surrounding.
Like a person of the North, the captains had struggled till their very last moments. We did not capture the soldiers who fled, and since we did not catch them, I believed that more had stayed. In the Royal Knight Guard, from the royal knights to the knight servants, all of them had died in battle heroically. During the final assault, the Crown Prince went forward with the troops without a word. I did not ask how the Crown Prince had died, and no one had told me how he had died either. The final messenger to give me the battle report was not a captain, not an adjutant, and was not even an adjutant’s servant. The last report was given by a soldier who did not have a rank. The soldier informed me that the final line had been breached and immediately headed back out to the front.
While receiving the serene midday sun on my back, I stared down at the map.
The sunlight melted the frozen waste, spreading a foul damp smell throughout the camp. It was the breath that had flowed from the Heavens. Since snow descended from the sky, and this was the scent that was emitted when that snow had melted, it felt as if this was the smell of the sky. ……Was the country of snow the country of the sky? Were the people of the snow the people of the sky? Was that the reason why the people of snow returned to the sky so easily?
My back became heated because of the sunlight. While taking in the damp scent, I recalled the time the Imperial Princess had washed my body. I was not completely ignorant in regards to the reason behind why the Imperial Princess had discarded both the Crown Prince and myself in this location.
— What should this one do?
— You will block our rear.
— Is your highness telling this one to die while defending?
— I will not stop you. However, it will not only be you. My brother shall be there as well. If you let the Crown Prince of the Empire die, then you will most likely become known as a traitor for all of eternity.
Become an eternal traitor.
The Imperial Princess was saying that.
People whispered among one another that Margrave Georg von Rosenberg was the origin to the start of this war. Margrave Rosenberg lost the Black Mountains and ruined the Empire’s plan to end this battle with a short war. Furthermore, Rosenberg was now unable to protect the Crown Prince from death and will thus shake the courtroom of the Empire. Therefore, while shouldering all the crimes and tasks by himself, Georg will collapse and be submerged in the frozen waste, that is how you will contribute greatly; this was the Imperial Princess’ true words. Feeling blinded by that immense Imperial grace, I asked the Imperial Princess.
— Is your highness giving this one an opportunity?
— I simply wish to give you an appropriate location. Leave while bearing all of your humiliation alone.
Although it was a devil’s offer, at the same time, it was the only path to saving the Empire so it was an undeniable offer.
……The Imperial Princess has truly given an appropriate place to this old bag of bones. As this region was my home and my country and was the place where the people will reside and reside again, her highness had seen through this.
A shadow entered from behind my back. The shadow stepped on the snow. While making an indistinct sound, the snow received the weight of the life which stepped on them.
“Hm. Are you Georg von Rosenberg?”
“That is so.”
I continued to stare at the map. Each map was a place where people had died. I thought of the people who had fought similar to the ways they had lived. I thought of their coarse and firm hands that pulled the triggers on the crossbows. Even after they had fired the bolt, they continued to pull the wire. Shoot and pull again, they continued to pull. The battle continued on as long as life persisted, and it felt as if I was nothing more than the single instant that proved that endless continuation.
“The battle is over, human child. What are you looking at?”
“And if that battle is over as well, what will you look at?”
The sound of metal approached and severed the winter air.
……So this is the sound of my life being cut.
I thought as so. I wonder if the flesh diverged more delicately than the air since I could not hear the sound of it being severed. My vision was flipped and flipped several more times until I was eventually staring up towards the sky. That was the place where I will turn to. I closed my eyes.
— Since I cannot cleanse your mind, consider the thought that I am consoling you by cleansing your body. The path of consideration will at least not be solitary.
I shall contemplate the meaning and contemplate once more. However, since the country of snow was the country of the sky, one day, they will return to the earth and pile up once again, thus continuing their pitiful lives. The thing which consoled me were those poor lives and was immensely more comforting than your highness’ consideration.
Your Imperial grace is immeasurable, your highness.
Please treat us subjects with sympathy.
▯The King of Peasants, Rank 71st, Dantalian
Empire Calendar: Year 1506, Month 3, Day 12
Neris Plains, Imperial Army Encampment
I gazed down at the head of Rosenberg which had fallen to the snow-covered ground.
Rosenberg was still looking forward with narrowed eyes. Things were most likely no longer visible in those eyes and things were most likely unable to be appreciated by those eyes anymore. Regardless, Rosenberg will forever point towards a direction with that frozen gaze. After I turned my head to follow his eyes, I saw the sky. I muttered.
“Go to a good place, margrave.”
I lifted up Rosenberg’s head from the snow. I brushed off the snow that was in his hair and wiped off the liquid which was flowing from his neck with a washcloth. Barbatos had beheaded Rosenberg.
Thus, our plan was a success. Although there was a variable where Marbas’ second army was defeated by the Imperial Princess, considering the Imperial Princess’ capabilities, if anything, that was an acceptable result. It would be better to consider it a relief that Barbatos had not lost. Additionally, it was thanks to the Imperial Princess winning that I was also able to acquire victory. A tie. It was still a tie……
For quite a while, the war had reached a state of lull.
Marbas had to recruit troops once more and Barbatos had to reorganize her army as well. The ones that needed time was not only the Demon Lord Allied Forces but the Human Alliance, which required time to form a new strategy, as well.
Though it seemed the humans were hoping for the war to end with a short battle, I apologize. This is still much too soon. Please partake in my waltz a little longer. While looking at Rosenberg’s face, I beamed.
“What are you trying to see even after death? Close your eyes and rest well, margrave.”
I lowered Rosenberg’s eyelids with my palm. Thus, Rosenberg had finally closed his eyes. I did not know what great cause and what sense of justice this old man was trying to look at in his final moment. It was probably something tedious.
A captain approached and informed me that Barbatos had called for me. I ordered the captain to hold onto Rosenberg’s head. I intentionally intimidated him.
“I plan to gift this to General Farnese. Hold onto it well since the general will like it very much. If you were to, perhaps, lose it, then the general would be quite upset at you. At that time, even I will be unable to stop the general.”
The captain’s face turned pale and he carefully bundled Rosenberg’s head. The way his fingers trembled made it seem like he was handling his own head. I chuckled and made my way towards Barbatos. Within the empty enemy quarters, Barbatos was filing her nails.
“Oh, you’re here?”
“I am here to congratulate you for the great victory, your highness–.”
I uttered while kneeling down. I was the type of person who would even kneel if it was for a joke. Barbatos snorted.
“All right. It’s quite nice to see that your bullshit is ascending. Follow me.”
“Are you going to show me something good again? Your good things are lined up for each day, so I’m unsure when I’ll be able to get some proper sleep.”
“Can you just follow me without a word?”
If you make a fuss, then I’ll pour profanities on you by the bucketload again.
That was what Barbatos’ gentle smile was suggesting.
As an individual who believed in common sense and refinement, I followed Barbatos. A prisoner was bound in one of the corners of the military camp. His armor was quite thick. His social standing was most likely a high noble. Barbatos whispered into my ear.
“That’s the Crown Prince of the Habsburg Empire.”
This was something truly great.
Barbatos slightly bit my earlobe with her front teeth.
“Dantalian, you won’t swear your loyalty to me. That is a tragedy that I consider to be quite regrettable. However, although you haven’t sworn your loyalty, you are still faithful to me. I don’t plan to accept that without a price.”
“Oh? And what do you mean by that?”
“I will give him to you.”
Barbatos brushed my chest with her hand. It felt as if each of her fingers contained an organic function. So this was what the touch of a hand, that could resurrect the dead from the earth, felt like. That was how I thought. If it was this much, then even I would have gladly stood up immediately if I were a skeleton.
“You can use that prisoner as you wish.”
I gently raised Barbatos’ chin. Barbatos did not refuse my discourteous touch. Our lips drew near.
“You may know this already, but I despise women with small bodies.”
“But you alone, I cannot refuse.”
“I know, you idiot.”
We kissed for a long time. It was a kiss that contained gratitude instead of lust. Barbatos, for the reason that I had forced march northwards in order to save her, and myself, for the reason that she did not disregard my standing and presented me with a proper reward. How beautiful is a partner who knows how to be honestly grateful for what they had received, and reward the other party soon after? We were beautiful business partners. I removed my lips and whispered.
“—Although it feels like the desire to take this to the end right here and now, has piled up.”
“It’s fine. We already had our fucking fun yesterday. Go and take care of your business.”
Barbatos gestured towards the Crown Prince with her chin. I nodded my head and approached the Crown Prince of the Empire.
I wonder if the Crown Prince had rolled around on the ground a bunch since his appearance was dirtier than that of a mongrel. His hair was silver, and yet, due to the mud, it was crudely mixed together with a brown color. With a face full of dirt, the Crown Prince looked up at me. His eyes were sunken like a drunkard who had just woken up from being intoxicated.
“Who are you……?”
“Do you not wish to hear my proposal, oh Crown Prince?”
I grinned smoothly.
Sir older brother.
I am here to inform you of something nice.