Granvista, a fortified city built in a place that acted as a door leading to other borderland areas.
This city that served as the capital of the Great Earldom of Granvista was also the location of Old Church’s headquarters from which it executed its jurisdiction. It was also the place where Aiba, the district supervisor, was stationed.
“Oh my, if it isn’t Jeweljude-dono.”
Aiba, the district supervisor, spread his arms and invited the man in after standing up from his chair.
The man had a tall, large trunk covered with armor. His face was completely hidden by a helmet called a Ballerifram, and a long coat, called a Salcolt, extended from his top to his feet.
The ornament appearing on his coat was a crest depicting a double-headed lion, which indicated the man’s belonging to a holy chivalric order.
He was so tall that his helmet almost hit the door’s lintel when entering inside the room.
The man reached the front of Aiba’s office’s desk with a calm walking cadence, however, every time he made a step, the floor gave off the feeling as if it was trembling.
Just the standing posture of his completely armored, large body released an aura that made it difficult for those inside the room to breathe.
“You’ve done a great effort by coming all the way here, Jeweljude-dono.”
“Don’t mention it. If it’s a call from you, then I shall rush even to the black forest of the witches.”
What Jeweljude said could also be understood in an idiomatic way, meaning – ‘rushing until the end of the world’ or ‘rushing to hell itself’.
“Please feel at ease.”
Aiba, who said so, sat again in his chair.
Loosening his at attention posture, Jeweljude took off his helmet while bending his legs a bit.
What appeared from underneath the helmet was a stern and gallant face appropriate for his large build.
Once he put down the huge, heavy helmet at his feet, Jeweljude straightened up his back again and confronted Aiba.
“Still, Aiba-dono, what’s the purpose of you summoning us, the Brigade of 88?”
A combat troop from a holy chivalric order would usually consist of 500 units, to which one would refer as a ‘brigade’. However, in this case, the word seemed to carry the meaning of corps appointed for extermination of the God’s enemy with no fixed base.
Among the Old Church’s daring and resolute combat troops, Jeweljude was the one in charge of the 3rd brigade.
There was a reason for why only his brigade was recognized as the ‘Brigade of 88′ instead of being referred to by just its unit number.
Once upon a time, there was fight for hegemony that unfolded between the Old Church and the New Church at full-scale. At that time, being under siege at Fort Resione, the 3rd brigade was heavily exposed to an onslaught coming from the New Church’s military forces that consisted of 5000 units.
This fort held an important strategic position as the enemy would link with the rest of their forces if they managed to pass through it. Assuming that happened, the New Church would grow in strength with a total army of 10,000 units and charge at the Old Church’s headquarters’ city.
Nevertheless, the 3rd brigade was able to endure its enemy’s attack and protect the fort for 10 days.
On the 11th day, a rear guard reinforcement sent by the Old Church arrived on the spot, forcing their enemy to abandon their plan and retreat. Despite them only retreating, one could say it was a fierce fight that could decide on the outcome of this defensive battle.
As soon as the rear guard entered the fort, there were just 88 survivors remaining out of the original 500 people.
The 3rd brigade would be later glorified for its valor and exceptional fighting strength, as well as their ardent devotion and steadfast belief for their God. Since then, they became known as the Brigade of 88, and their valor would remain unchanged with the passage of time.
And then, Jeweljude was also one of them, as well as the actual leader of that brigade.
“Recently, the army of Kasandora Kingdom has been falling in disgrace, you see.”
It looked as though it was enough for Jeweljude to understand the very reason behind him and his brigade being summoned.
“I wonder if it’s about the witches.”
“That’s right. It’s about them.”
Standing up, Aiba turned around and looked at a panel laid at his feet. On which, there was a drawn map spread out. He looked at it in an abominable manner.
“For some reason, the witches, who had been secluding themselves inside the black forest, have started to become more active, even to the extent of taking over one of Kasandora Kingdom’s forts.”
Jeweljude lifted the edges of his mouth.
“Heh? My goodness, could it be that the rumored King of the Witches has finally made his appearance?”
“There’s been no sign indicating that, but….”
As soon as Aiba shrugged his shoulders, he turned back around and faced Jeweljude.
“However, there’s no doubt that something is occurring among the witches. Their battle at the Schweiz River, as well as their capture of Fort Ein went smoothly, and somehow, they didn’t give off the feeling of being dull or sly. At least, this isn’t a fighting style common for the witches.”
“I see. That’s why, you called us.”
“Yes, I’ve summoned you, the merited Brigade of 88, for this purpose.”
“Still, if my memory serves me correctly…. Fort Ein should be a small-scale fort that can house no more than just a few hundred people.”
“It’s just as you say. Apparently, the Kasandora Kingdom put 300 soldiers inside of it after they had suffered their defeat at the Schweiz River.”
Jeweljude, who was a bit surprised, raised his eyebrows.
“And what was the extent of the witches’ strength?”
“To my mind, there should have been around 40-50 of them.”
“40-50?! They were able to capture such a guarded fort with just that many?!”
“Yes. It’s most likely that Fort Ein was brought down with that number.”
“Certainly, if that’s true, the situation isn’t something to be made light of.”
A hue of confusion resurfaced on Jeweljude face which was rare for him.
“Regardless of their number, do you just plan to throw the 500 of us in against the 40-50 of them?”
“No. It won’t be just you. Right now, we are appealing for more soldiers from the neighboring countries. I believe there should be around 3000 units prepared for the extermination of the witches. That’s why,”
Aiba made a slight grin.
“Together with you, that would probably make 3500 units. I’d like for you to extinguish the witches at once.”
(As usual, this guy is saying some nasty things.)
Jeweljude was a fellow adherent who served the Father God and lived devotedly to military service. Nevertheless, even he could sense something running counter to his belief inside Aiba.
(Still, this and that are 2 separate matters. Especially, when it involves the witches.)
“The Brigade of 88 will become the core of this extermination unit. Therefore, I’d like to appoint you as the commanding officer of it. Are you fine with that?”
“As long as it’s you, I have no objections.”
“Then, I would like to entrust you with its management.”
“Do I understand that I should also look for the reason…. as to why the witches have been active lately?”
“Go ahead if you can. However, prioritize your mission first by kicking out the witches and retrieving the fort. If possible, you may also apprehend as many witches alive as possible. Even catching one will do, you see. That’s because they’re suitable for public executions.”
(As one would expect, he and I don’t get along well with each other. Despite that, there’s some truth in what he says about not letting the witches escape. Recently, my skills have become duller as a result of doing nothing but simple battles. Is this a chance for me to rage out of control once again after a long time?)
“Leave it to me, Cardinal Aiba. I, together with the Brigade of 88, won’t let the witches do as they please.”
“I do beseech you, Jeweljude-dono.”
“Notwithstanding, when are we going to commence our tactic?”
“It looks like gathering soldiers, equipment, and army provisions will take some more time. Until then, I intend to have the Kasandora Kingdom participate.”
“Still, will they have enough spare power to join us? After all, they’ve only recently suffered their 2nd consecutive defeat to the witches, right? Speaking of which, if Kasandora Kingdom can take their fort back, then there isn’t any need for us to act, is there?”
“They can’t. But, I’ll have them fight as a form of repentance for disgracing themselves two times, you see. To begin with, I don’t think those fools will be able to retrieve it back by themselves. I couldn’t care less about their fate as long we can decrease the strength of the witches.”
(In the end, they will just act as a stalking horse? Indeed, those from the Kasandora Kingdom are pitiful beings. But even so, it goes without saying they’re paying for their own mistakes. Someone who’s besmirched the name of God is in no position to receive His grace.)
Despite him feeling sympathy for the Kasandora Kingdom, Jeweljude gave up on them.
Not ceasing to smile, Aiba continued to speak.
“The more witches you catch, the more types of execution we can carry out on them, you see. Burning at the stake, beheading, stoning, and even tying them to carts and tearing them apart. Kuku, if those heinous witches beg for mercy, then our Father God shall rise even higher in His prominence. Kukukuku.”
If one was to describe the flame burning inside Aiba’s eyes, it appeared to burn more from insanity, than from his conviction.
(Is this guy…. feeling ecstatic? Well, apart from what he thinks, it’s true we cannot let the mischief of the witches pass unnoticed. Behold, you witches, as we shall strike you using our full force and show you our real strength.)
Just as Naga said, the wind was favoring them in their fight against the Kasandora Kingdom.
However, a new, formidable enemy had appeared in front of them, of which
Naga was still unaware.
A new disturbance that was yet to come was slowly spreading throughout all surrounding areas.