Unable to endure the time it was taking all of the troops to prepare, Jeweljude’s face turned impatient upon knowing that the Kasandora Kingdom was up to something.
(We can no longer afford to delay our departure. If we don’t advance toward the Kasandora Kingdom immediately…. Now is not the time to fuss over those fools who can’t even make proper preparations.)
Making up his mind, Jeweljude brought with him only those troops that were ready to depart and advanced his brigade.
And so, the first wave of the witch extermination army, which centered around the Brigade of 88, left Granvista and aimed towards the place closest to the royal capital of the Kasandora Kingdom.
Jeweljude decided they would first stop near Kasandora, and then think of what to do next.
Together with the brigade, the first wave comprised of: 500 units sent by the city of Recissus, 200 from the city of Saintes Zephyr, and 400 from the city of Mergas, making it a total of 1100 units.
Since the Kasandora Kingdom’s capital was a small-scaled one, their mobilization power was small as well. Despite that, one couldn’t underestimate their opponents.
The second wave numbered 1200 soldiers; nevertheless, it was falling behind in their advancement.
The remaining 700 were reasonably equipped but had low fighting spirit, therefore, they were moved to the transport troop. Not to mention, they were probably still in Granvista.
The sun shone through the clouds and radiated a red light from its western position, which indicated it was already close to evening. It was then that Jeweljude decided to set up a simple camp and stay overnight there.
Inside a large tent that had the crest of the brigade, Jeweljude, his staff officers, and generals from various countries had gathered.
Due to Jeweljude’s giant body, his head would hit the tent’s beam, so he was forced to bend his back when moving inside.
Including Jeweljude, everyone was wearing armor.
Waiting for them to sit down on the line of folding stools, Jeweljude took his seat of honor and called out toward his comrades in a voice that could be felt in one’s stomach.
“Then, let’s begin our meeting. First, I think we should consider the latter part of our plan, but…”
At that point, Jeweljude cut off his words and looked around at the faces of the other generals.
“In order to retrieve back Fort Ein, we, the Brigade of 88 shall progress first.”
A commotion rose among the generals.
“Therefore, I’d like to have your people stay here and suppress the Kasandora Kingdom.”
“Jeweljude-dono, are you fine with that?”
General Ryuumu who led an army dispatched from Recissus Kingdom made this remark.
“What’s the matter, Ryuumu-dono?”
“Are you saying you plan to charge at the witches with just your men?”
“That’s right. After all, we need to get rid of them as soon as possible.”
(Will they be okay?)
Facing toward the leader of the Brigade of 88, Ryuumu wondered about that. Nevertheless, not wanting to insult Jeweljude, he decided to ask it in a different way.
“However, now that they’ve shown suspicious movements, don’t you think it’s a bit dangerous to leave the Kasandora Kingdom as is?”
Nevertheless, Jeweljude wouldn’t take notice of his colleague’s remark.
“This is why I’m leaving you in charge of them. Also, I cannot possibly think of any reason why the Kasandora Kingdom would attack you. The only concern they might have is whether or not we will get violent within their territory. What’s more, if you assign your soldiers to us, you won’t be able to watch over their territory. Hence, I’d like for you to stay here and observe if there’s any malicious intent coming from the Kasandora Kingdom.”
Saying so, Jeweljude made a large-hearted smile.
“This way, your men can also be at ease and focus on distributing provisions, right?”
(Certainly, it’s just as Jeweljude-dono says, but, not being at war with the witches, won’t it result in us gaining a bad reputation?)
Such was Ryuumu’s concern, which was characteristic of him.
“Fine. Still, will our important provisions be alright? I’m not convinced that the Kasandora Kingdom will be willing to share their food with us.”
“Well, you probably don’t need to worry about that.”
Ryuumu had some misgivings regarding that, however, Jeweljude could do nothing but assert.
“Nevertheless, we only have enough food for two to three days. In case those folks hesitate to help us, we will be either forced to use force or withdraw.”
This was another form of asking if it was fine to plunder the city by Ryuumu. However, at the same time, Jeweljude denied that in a half-threatening tone.
(If you want to withdraw now, then do it yourself. To begin with, it’s not like we’d asked you to come.)
Jeweljude thought so while being irritated, however, he wouldn’t convert that into words, as he couldn’t be ignorant of the ways of this world.
“Provided you’re right about the Kasandora Kingdom not cooperating, you can tell them you might resort to using force, which might work. However, remember that first come negotiations…. and then, actions.”
The leader of the remarkable brigade couldn’t endorse things like pillaging, so he stated his thoughts more or less this way.
For Ryuumu, ‘resorting to strength’ was a last resort, therefore, it was natural for him not to argue any further than this.
Ryuumu exchanged glances with generals from Saintes Zephyr and Mergas, after which, they all nodded to each other.
“Understood. We shall stay here and await your further instructions, while at the same time, prepare ourselves for the upcoming battles.”
(Upcoming battles? This guy is saying some cheeky things.)
Jeweljude laughed at the general inwardly, but obviously, he wouldn’t show that through his expression.
The ‘upcoming battles’ mentioned by Ryuumu were the ones concerning the invasion of the Black Forest. Their plan was to march toward the Black Forest after they have managed to retrieve Fort Ein. By then, it would be necessary to supply themselves with plenty of food to maintain their strategy for four to ten days.
All the generals took part in this campaign with the intention of invading the Black Forest. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have agreed to share in the profits, as it was meaningless to go on such a distant expedition.
Receiving provisions from the Kasandora Kingdom, avoiding any direct contact with the witches, finishing them off once they have been kicked out from Fort Ein by the brigade, and advancing towards the Black Forest, such was the plan of these generals.
The reason why they decided to join together was because of the Black Forest being said to be blessed with fruits of the land, and because of the witches’ hidden treasures.
None of them would complain, as they could claim the best spoils without having to sweat from their brows.
(Still, that applies only if the Brigade of 88 manages their job…. however, as one would expect, there’s probably no way they would lose against the witches. Despite saying so, we shouldn’t underestimate the witches. After all, haven’t they gained victory over those 2000 soldier from the Kasandora Kingdom? If possible, I’d like for the brigade to sacrifice itself a bit, so as to make our job easier afterwards.)
At the moment, Ryuumu and the rest could do nothing but follow Jeweljude’s lead, however, by having the witches deplete the brigade’s strength, they could hope to raise their influence when invading the Black Forest, and even become the core of the strategy. One could say they counted their chickens before they were hatched.
(If that happens, we can receive as many rewards as we want. And if we capture the witches, we can bring them back with us and present them to His Majesty the King without giving them to the Church.)
By doing so, Ryuumu’s dream of marrying a royalty’s daughter and becoming part of it would finally come true.
(Therefore, I need to work them hard, or else…. also, I need the witches to do the same.)
Various circumstances jumbled together, despite the army’s purpose.
Soon after, Jeweljude deployed each respective country’s troops near the kingdom’s border, and sent a messenger to the second wave, then he proceeded to negotiations between both sides.
The king’s representative, Guiscard, tried to be evasive in joining the negotiations, which would take place at Jeweljude’s side’s main camp, however,
“If you don’t cooperate with us, the army shall supply themselves with food using its own strength, which would be here on your territory.”
In the end, even Guiscard had to yield and accept their conditions while having a bitter face.
Naturally, Guiscard’s side was told to do its utmost, but, there seemed to be no need for him to worry for the time being.
Once it had been decided that Guiscard and the rest would carry provisions to the encampment of Recissus’ army, Guiscard himself quickly withdrew back to the capital, explaining he needed time to make the preparations.
With one problem being resolved, Jeweljude hastened his brigade to set off towards Fort Ein.
Some soldiers of Kasandora Kingdom overheard the negotiations and relayed the contents to others, which became the topic of their conversations.
For Linne and Linna, who infiltrated the city in order to gather intel, this was news they couldn’t pass up.
The two of them quickly returned back to the fort and reported the newly acquired information to Naga and Harrigan.
Naga understood that the agreement between the kingdom and the extermination group was, in half, inspired by the latter’s threat.
Dressing themselves in army clothing, Naga and the rest prepared to launch their plan of hindering the enemy, however, little did he know that the brigade had immediately departed in their direction.
“Excellent, we’re setting off!”
Jeweljude, whose body was covered in silver armor, roared on top of his horse.
In addition to his abnormally giant body, being completely armored made him easily as heavy as three adults. Therefore, the black-maned horse that he rode had a large trunk as well.
As if answering to Jeweljude’s impactful voice, the horse neighed and swayed with its torso.
“First, we will kick out those evil witches from Fort Ein! Father who art in heaven shall guide us through our path, so do not fear nor falter!”
The brigade’s cavalry pushed up their lances, the tips of which glittered upon receiving the sun’s light.
*Zun Zun* – As soon as Jeweljude’s horse advanced one, two step forwards, a shock like sound trembled the earth.
The brigade, which belonged to the Church, was comprised of cavalry alone. One could say the structure of this group was biased, however, since the sole purpose of this expedition was to eliminate the enemy, only the cavalry, which excelled the most in speed and power, were up to this task.
They were needed for neither capturing, infiltration, nor maintaining a peace inside an enemy’s territory. Instead, it was their combat efficiency that mattered.
Not to mention, the members of the brigade were remarkable warriors who had honed both their command and control to a terrific level. They would neither waste their time on chit-chats nor disarrange their ranks.
The brigade, which consisted of 500 units, was divided into five troops.
The first troop was led by Thule, the second – by Thales, the third – by Hittite, whereas the fourth one – by Reg.
All of these commanding officers had served long in their military service.
Despite there being scouts and transport troops tagging alongside the brigade, usually there are none under normal circumstances.
That’s because brigades tend to travel from one place to another, solely depending on their own strength. Every time, they would change shifts among themselves when transporting their provisions.
When reaching a city, they would be offered support from their church, however, there would also be instances when their trips would take, at minimum, a few days, so they couldn’t afford to travel empty-handed.
And then, there was the vice-commanding officer waiting on standby next to Jeweljude. The 5th troop fell under Jeweljude’s direct control.
Right now, the 500-strong cavalry of the Brigade of 88 commenced their solemn march towards Fort Ein, with Jeweljude’s troop leading the way.
Early morning, Yuuki, who was scouting the vicinity of the Kasandora Kingdom, returned back to Fort Ein and rushed in when Naga, Harrigan, and Vita were having breakfast.
Once he heard her report, Naga dropped his wooden plate.
“What?! The Brigade of 88 has started to move?”
“Uhm, yes, there’s no doubt about that. The crest that I saw belonged to the Church. It looks like they quickly started to advance.”
Yuuki had probably dashed here at full speed, as one could hear her breaths reverberating as she responded.
“How about the other troops?”
“There were no major movements, I think.”
Naga picked up the smoked meat, which he dropped on the ground, tossed it in his mouth, and munched.
Vita and Harrigan pulled back while staring at him with eyes full of disgust.
“Eating something that you have just dropped…..”
Not being mindful about their criticism, Naga looked up into the air and groaned.
“Is that so? Then, does it mean they are heading this way? I expected they would strike at us using their full force, but…. this is fast, way too fast.”
“Then, what do you plan to do, Naga?”
As soon as Naga spotted tension in Vita, Harrigan, and Ais’ expressions, he looked around at the rest of the witches with a determined-looking face.
“There’s no time to waste. We need to prepare for the battle immediately!”
“We’re going to repel the Brigade of 88, just like we did with Kasandora Kingdom’s troops the other day. We’ll wear the military clothing and charge at them. However, this time, we’ll do it together(?).”
“But Naga, Raibach still hasn’t returned back. Don’t we need slave soldiers to lay an attack?”
Once Vita said so, Harrigan nodded in agreement.
“Also, Nonoel and Kay are absent, as they’ve tagged alongside Raibach.”
“I know that the level of difficulty has increased, but… it can’t be helped. Right now, we can only use the people we have. What’s more, if you cast your spells during a night attack, the enemy will be taken aback, as they probably won’t know what kind of witches they’re dealing with.”
(It’s way too difficult for us to attack without resorting to our magic, so I guess…. this is the only way.)
‘You’ve got a point.’ – Vita nodded as she resolved herself.
“We’ll divide into groups. Harrigan, Vita, quickly gather all your members.”
“At your service.”
Ais and Elysio stood up as if bouncing off and hurriedly left the room.
Taking a single plate from the floor, Naga stood up and tossed a piece of bread inside his mouth.
(Damn, that was faster than I’d expected. The commander of the brigade is surely a decisive guy. I can guess…. a hard fight will be awaiting us.)
Once he swallowed the munched bread, Naga looked around the room, after which he noticed Vita and Harrigan looking at him with astonished expressions.
“He’s surely bad-mannered, that dragon-king.”
“Speaking of which, don’t just swallow that food like it’s nothing.”
“They say you can’t fight with an empty stomach.”
“They do, probably.”
“Again, you’re saying some convenient things.”
“More importantly, we’re going on a sortie. Harrigan, I’ll have you control wooden dolls once again.”
“I think I’ve already got used to it, so there’s no need for me to be that attentive when preparing. Give me a little while and I’ll do it.”
Making a deep nod, Naga faced toward Vita.
“Vita, I’ll need you to restrain the enemy again using your magic. Take Elysione with you.”
“That’s what I always do. Also, there’s no need for me to prepare.”
“As usual, I can rely on you girls. Well then.”
Naga who surveyed the room again folded his arms.
“It would be nice if I could perform something like atsumori(1) here, but…”
“A hot serving?”
“An abundant serving?”
Harrigan and Vita bent their necks in doubt, after which they retorted.
“”How much of a glutton are you!””
“That’s wrong, I wasn’t talking about food!”
“Ah no… I myself wonder about that.”
*Kaku* – both the witches lost their balance.
“Just what on earth?! Is this something, you say, when departing to the front?”
“Right? If you ask me, I can no longer comprehend him.”
Harrigan too, frowned her eyebrows and retorted one more time.
‘More importantly,’ – Naga returned back to the topic by starting with these words.
“Now, we need to come up with a counterplan against the Brigade of 88.”
Harrigan and Vita’s expressions turned serious.
“Do you think it’s possible for us to repel them, Naga?”
“Not only are they elites, they also have as many as 500 people. I doubt our tactic will work twice.”
“Still, there’s one more concern.”
“Is it about their armor?”
“That’s right. Just like I’ve told you before, all members of the brigade wears silver armor. Therefore, we don’t know how effective will our magic be against them.”
“Good grief, you’re not going to tell me that your magic won’t work, right?”
“As expected, that would be way too exaggerated. Even if our magic won’t crush them down, there should be at least no problem in restraining their movements.”
“Then, let’s follow our plan.”
At that time, the noisy sounds of footsteps could be heard.
“It looks like they have gathered.”
Following that, all the witches rushed into the room.
Everyone, except for Selena who was guarding from a watchtower, had gathered and lined up in front of Naga.
“I think you all already know about this, but, the Brigade of 88 is approaching this way.”
The witches gulp down their saliva. One could tell there was tension written all over their faces.
“We will repel them in the same way as we did before. I believe it’s possible for us to do, but, it also turns out Kasandora Kingdom was forced to enter an agreement to supply the brigade with food, which I’d like to cancel. That’s why, this time we need to divide into groups and launch concurrent tactics.”
Saying so, Naga assigned the witches into three groups.
One was meant for repelling the brigade, one – for conducting a surprise attack on the extermination army, and another one – for protecting the fort.
Those who were placed in the repelling group were the main forces of the witches that had previously managed to push back the Kasandora Kingdom.
These were Vita, Elysione, Harrigan, Ais, Yuuki, Lily, Harlequin, and Naga. Obviously, the one in charge of leading was Naga.
On the other hand, the ambush group was formed with those who couldn’t attack with long-range spells, but could fight in hand-to-hand combat.
These were Cu, Ixine, Dora, Selena, Sanprotte, and Lela. The commander of that group was Lela, whereas, Selena was in charge of pinning down the enemy’s location.
Linne & Linna, as well as the rest of the unmentioned witches would stay in the fort.
(As expected, not having Kay and Nonoel present with us is harsh. That’s because they’re both capable in offense. Still, I guess it can’t be helped.)
As soon as Naga double-checked everyone’s duty, they immediately proceeded for a sortie.
Observing the terrain from above, Yuuki looked back at Naga and the rest who were on standby, below her.
“The enemy is advancing through the main road. All of them are riding horses, so I think they should enter our view completely after a short time.”
“Good job. Go with Lily and prepare an onslaught on them. Just to make sure, can you recheck on them a bit later?”
“I got it.”
Yuuki and Lily left the place behind.
“Ais, you too, take your designated post.”
Running away in light steps, Ais carried baskets full of cobbles in both her hands and on her back. Naga was worried, since there was no one he could assign to Ais as her guards, besides Nonoel and Kay.
(Well, there’s no use in asking for the impossible. All I can do is rely on Ais’ quick wits.)
Naga became serious.
“Elysione, there should be no problem with the mantles you have placed, right?”
“None. I can teleport at any time, as long as Mother gets undressed, but…”
“We can’t waste any time on that. If that’s the case, how about you do it here and now?”
“You’re right, but there’s one thing….”
Being glared at by Vita and Harrigan, as well as by Elysione, Naga hurriedly corrected himself.
“There’s no need for me to watch you.”
“Are you sure? You’re letting the chance of watching my alluring body slip away, you know?”
“Ah no, I don’t think it’s the right time for that.”
(By alluring, does Mother mean herself?)
“You want to say something, Elysio? Why not let me hear it?”
*Bunbunbun* – Elysione shook her head from side to side with all her might.
“Harrigan, you too, are you done with your preparations?”
“Yes, I’m ready to use the dolls anytime.”
“Harlequin, how about your wolves?”
“They might scare away our horses if I call them here, so I made them wait on standby a bit away.”
“Well then, go stay by their side and wait for my orders.”
Rocking her animal-shaped hair in the wind, Harlequin left running away.
The place which Naga decided for the counterattack was on a gently sloping hill facing towards the north. On both sides of the slope, there were small hills stretching out. However, since there were only shrubs growing on them, the visibility wasn’t that bad.
(The enemy seems to be fully confident, so they will most likely continue to advance through the main road. I can’t think of them taking any detours or approaching the fort from behind. We should be able to counter them… like we did before.)
Naga thought so, however, a small anxiety welled up inside him
(Why is there this feeling of uneasiness? Calm down, me. If you are flustered or anxious, the witches will be affected as well. I, have to be decisive and prepared, as this is the duty of a supreme commander.)
Naga persuaded himself with that thought.
He forcefully drove away his anxiety and stared in front of him at the road’s northern direction, where the enemy was supposedly to appear.
Just as Yuuki had predicted, the cavalry of the brigade appeared after a short while.
Silver armor and helmets glittering from the morning sunlight could be seen from far away.
“Hmph, so they have come? As I thought, they are wearing silver armor.”
Vita increased at once the magic which she had kneaded.
“Let’s do it, Elysio. Our opponent this time is no ordinary one, so prepare yourself.”
Kneeling down on one knee inside a hole they dug near the main road, Elysione poured strength into her body, so as to prepare herself against Vita’s magic.
*Zun* – a shock ran through Elysione’s body, making her become twice, three times as heavy as her normal weight.
Elysione clenched her teeth. Since Vita’s magic had no effect on inanimate objects, there was no fear the hole would collapse.
Hiding inside a mantle, Elysione held Vita in her arms while enduring her own weight.
Suddenly, the brigade’s horses bent their forefeet and dropped down as if pitching forward.
“What on earth?!”
The cavalry soldiers landed on the ground, like there was something throwing them off. The fact that there was no unsightly crawling was proof of them being the proud elite of the Church.
Still, they couldn’t stand up.
Unable to endure their own weight, one, two of them dropped down on their knees.
“Could it be, the witches?!”
Jeweljude dismounted his horse, which was crawling, stepped firmly onto the ground and struck a daunting pose.
Jeweljude felt the weight of his body, however, he showed no sign of kneeling down.
Looking in front of him, he turned around his head and checked the surroundings.
(No sign of, the enemy? It seems this isn’t meant to be an attack but a constraint? Then, they’re going to attack us following this.)
Jeweljude raised his rough voice and rebuked his subordinates.
“Prepare! The witches will launch an attack! Pick up your shields!”
Despite being told to pick up their shields, it was hard for them to simply move their body. However, the members of the brigade desperately reached out their hands toward their shields, which were bound to their horses’ flanks.
Their movements were sluggish, just like trying to perform an elegant dance, however, a large number of them somehow managed to get their shields and held them in front of their bodies.
On the other hand, Jeweljude was able to grab not only his shield, but also his lance tied to his horse. Indeed, it was a terrific strength.
And then, cobbles cutting through the air came flying.
With a few of these shots sinking into the ground and causing clouds of dust, there was one that hit a soldier’s shield.
*Gagooo* – Generating a dull metallic sound, the cobble bounced off the shield, making the soldier fall backwards.
Once he collapsed on the ground, he was unable to stand up by himself. Facing up, the soldier strived to hold his shield in front of him.
One third of the front columns entered the range of Vita’s magic. Jeweljude was exposed to the flying cobbles as well.
Many of the cobbles sunk into the ground near him, creating clouds of dust, however, he wouldn’t lose his composure, as he turned around and shouted an order toward his troops in the middle.
“Don’t move forward! Stay where you are and prepare the longbows!”
Longbows were bigger than ordinary ones with a powerful tension. Normally, it would be hard to pull their strings using half-hearted strength, but, everyone in the brigade could shoot from them.
Grinding their teeth, the soldiers pulled their bows’ strings.
The members of the brigade released their arrows at once after receiving a handed-down order from their superiors. The arrows flew through the air with a terrific speed, leaving behind sounds of cutting the air, characteristic of arrow feathers.
Making a dull sound, an arrow hit a tree trunk standing in front of Ais. Was the distance more than 80 meters? Ais stopped throwing cobbles without realizing, as she became surprised at the enemy’s counter-attack.
Following that, multiple arrows came flying, piercing through the ground, the tree trunk, and snapping its branches.
Ais lost her composure upon seeing that.
That’s because, not even the Kasandora Kingdom’s soldiers had been able to shoot arrows this far. Their arrows would lose their power and fall short before reaching Ais. Also, there would be Kay protecting Ais from arrows, so she could focus on her task. But now, Kay wasn’t present. Not to mention, the arrows, which had a tremendous power and reach, were beyond Ais’ expectations.
(What should I do? Should I continue to attack under these circumstances?)
Ais stopped attacking due to this unforeseen course of events. What’s more, did the enemy gained more confidence? The number of arrows increased and she could even see some of them piercing deep into the trunk.
(If I pick up a shield in my left hand…. no, there’s no way I could throw the cobbles like this.)
Because Ais enhanced her body using her magic, she couldn’t afford to put on any metal armor. Rather than that, it would become a nuisance, so the only option for Ais was to throw without any armor on her. Despite her strengthened body, it wasn’t like she could become Kay. If by any chance, one of the arrows were to hit her, she would certainly sustain a life-threatening injury.
For the time being, Ais decided to hide herself in the tree’s shadow and continue her attack half exposed. Still, with arrows coming more and more, it was dangerous to expose even half of her body.
Once she stuck out her head and took a peek, she noticed Yuuki’s board receiving arrows as well. After that, the person in question distanced herself from the enemy.
Despite Vita’s magic restraining the brigade’s movements, the soldiers still managed to counterattack with precision. Normally, the enemy soldiers would rush to try to rescue their allies, and enter Vita’s magic’s range However, this wasn’t the case for the brigade, which made Ais perceive them differently from the Kasandora Kingdom’s army.
Shifting her eyes back from the sky to the surface, she realized there was a unit of dismounted soldiers approaching in her direction.
The soldiers could neither grasp Vita’s magic nor know there was a witch hiding nearby, so they were moving with quite careful steps. Still, they moved little by little and shot arrows, after which they repeated the same actions. Such was their method. The twenty soldiers continued to try getting closer, releasing arrows that reached closer and closer to Ais.
(Doing any more here will be impossible. I should withdraw a bit and resume my throws there.)
Ais took her baskets and withdrew to the black forest.
Harlequin, who was on top of a hill, ordered her packs of wolves to charge. She tried to attack the brigade while they were being occupied with shooting down Ais using their long bows.
A part of the cavalry wearing heavy armor dismounted their horses upon noticing the packs of wolves, and proceeded to repel them, in order to protect their comrades who were focused on shooting Ais. The cavalry got off, as they knew their horses would go rampant from sensing the wolves. Despite that being an obvious thing, it was still impressive from them to act as if it was common knowledge.
(Those folks, they sure know how to fight!)
Under normal circumstances, soldiers from the Kasandora Kingdom would tremble from fear and be prepared to flee, however, the members of the Brigade of 88 were looking forward to meeting with their enemy, rather than chickening out.
Swinging their swords at the charging wolves, they cut off a few of the animals’ heads. There were also wolves that managed to jump at the soldiers’ chests, but nevertheless, there were few spots where the animals could sink their fangs in. Were the enemy still riding, Harlequin could’ve made the wolves aim at their horses’ legs, but unfortunately, all the soldiers had dismounted.
As expected, against an opponent that consisted of a fully armored brigade, even the wolves were at a disadvantage. Animal cries could be heard here and there as blood splattered.
(Any more than this will be impossible!)
Harlequin shouted inside and whistled through her fingers sharply. It was a sound that no one could recognize apart from the wolves. The wolves that managed to survive turned around and ran away at full speed.
Thus, Harlequin’s plan of hindering the brigade’s attack aimed at Ais failed.
“Yuuki, wait! If you turn that sharply, I won’t be able to focus on casting my spell!”
“Unless I do so, we’ll fall prey to the arrows! I don’t care if you want to become a hedgehog, but!”
“Ah, no… that would be quite troubling.”
“If so… then, finish your chant!”
Again, Yuuki ascended sharply in the air, as they barely missed an arrow.
“Damn. We’ll seriously become prey if we go any lower than this.”
Yuuki turned around and looked at Lily, who was clinging to her waist.
“Is this place no good?!”
“If I attack them from this height, the lighting will be too weak to take down the enemy soldiers. Speaking of which, don’t shake this much, otherwise, I won’t be able to finish the spell!”
“We might get shot before being even able to fall off! So manage it somehow!”
“This is impossible, impossible, impossible! I can’t concentrate my mana like this!”
The two of them argued on top of the shaking board. As they did so,
*Gatsun* – A shock passed through the bottom of the board.
The board leaned violently as the result of the impact.
“Damn it–! We got hit!”
The moment the board changed its angle, Lily, who was holding onto Yuuki’s waist, lost her grip.
She hurriedly reached out her hands and clung to Yuuki’s body again. However, being in a rush, Lily had little choices as to where to choose to grab.
‘Hyannn?!’ – Yuuki raised a shrill voice.
“Wai?! Where do you think you’re touching?! These are my breasts…. ahnn, yaaan, move your hands away!”
“Eh? Ah, sorry, I just happened to grab there.”
“That’s why, I’m telling you to move your hands away! You aren’t doing it on purpose, are… ahhhhhn!”
“B-b-but, it’s shaking, the board is shakingggg.”
“Don’t fondle my chesttttt!”
“We’ll fall, we’ll fall, we’re going to fallll.”
“Argh, good grief, I can’t control it anymore…. Wai, no good, no ahnnnnn!”
“Mommy, I don’t want to fall, I don’t want to fall.”
“Awawawawaawaw! Don’t grab me that hardddd!”
Yuuki and Lily didn’t crash, however, they left the battlefield behind while descending and swaying, just like a kite when the thread has been cut off.
A deep hue of impatience appeared on Naga’s face.
(Indeed, this is bad.)
Ais’ throws had become sporadic, after which they turned silent.
Naga understood it was due to her being countered back by the brigade’s middle ranks.
Not to mention, Harlequin’s packs of wolves were also repelled.
As well as the board, on which Lily and Yuuki rode, not being able to approach the enemy as they wished, because of the arrows coming from the brigade’s rear.
In the end, not being able to yield a great result using Lily’s lightning, both the girls distanced themselves from the battlefield.
The enemy’s attack was precise with no flaws.
(Still, it was thanks to that commanding officer making the right decision, this is, ordering his troops to attack incessantly, that they managed to repel us.)
Even though the commander who resembled a giant should have entered Vita’s range of magic, he was holding the lance in his left hand, just like a staff, while giving out orders to his subordinates behind. Despite there being soldiers kneeling down on one knee, and even those who had collapsed, the giant commander’s body didn’t move an inch.
(It doesn’t look like his movements are affected, and Vita’s magic won’t last forever. At this rate..…)
Naga faced toward Harrigan, who was putting her dolls on standby, and gave a signal.
She was wearing a leather-made armor, however, her head wasn’t covered with any helmet. After all, there was no need for that, as she could control her hair at will and knock down the enemy’s arrows.
“I’m relying on you, Harrigan.”
“Leave it to me!”
As she waved her hand and responded back, Harrigan moved her dolls forward at once. Having already gotten used to controlling small-sized dolls, Harrigan could direct them from behind. And since Vita’s magic had no effect on the dolls, it was even easier for her to control them.
Not to mention, the number of puppets Harrigan could control had increased further to as many as 100 units, which is why she threw in this much during this battle.
Harrigan hid her body inside a shallow dugout while advancing her puppets towards the enemy.
Jeweljude who stood on the frontlines noticed small objects approaching. Formed ranks of things which resembled short wooded logs were advancing.
“Are they dolls belonging to the witches?!”
The giant commander could perceive the dolls were adjusting their bows to fire at once.
Since the cobble attack had already stopped, Jeweljude could shift his focus and put up his shield in front of him.
“A fresh supply of the enemy’s troops! They’re going to shoot this way, so prepare your shields!”
At Jeweljude’s order, his subordinates set up their shields in a hurry.
The muscles inside the giant commander swelled to the extent of almost bursting. Jeweljude moved one step ahead, as if dragging his legs.
“We shall fight back against those troops of dolls! Everyone, follow me!”
Shouting like that, Jeweljude made one more step forward. As he did so, some men behind him gnashed their teeth, made a roar, and struggled their way forward, as if trying to follow after their leader. Everyone was dreadfully sluggish in their movements, however, far from running away, some of them kept on charging at the dolls instead.
“M…..Mother, the enemy is…. progressing.”
Crawling on all fours inside a shallow hole, Elysione bent her head desperately and called out to Vita in a very painful-like voice.
Vita crawled out from the mantle and stretched her back with all her might to check the situation in front of her. Despite her being naked, she couldn’t care less about that.
Indeed, some of the soldiers moved their legs in a dragging manner toward the dolls, without any regards for Vita’s magic.
Especially, the giant who was in the vanguard walked much faster than the others and was about to clash with the troops of dolls.
“Damn, is that guy some kind of a monster?!”
Vita warped her face and threw this curse at him.
“To think there’s someone who could endure the ‘Song of Gravity’! No, is it also due to the effect of his silver armor?!”
Using all her strength, Vita raised her magic to its maximum. Because of that, Elysione fell completely flat and couldn’t even lift a single limb. Still, far from collapsing, the man who wasn’t supposed to endure the magic kept progressing, which surprised Vita.
Closely packed beads of sweat appeared on her forehead. Not just her head, but also her whole body was covered with large drops of sweat.
Vita was already exhausted, as she had been maintaining her magic.
“Mumumuu, if I do any more than this….”
Vita, whose face became deep red, clenched her teeth.
“Damn it. If that’s how it’s going to be, let’s see who will endure longer before giving up, me or you?!”
“M…Mother, please don’t!”
Elysione tried to stop her mother, however, she could do nothing by shout.
Vita coughed up blood, after which, her petite body bent violently.
Following that, Elysione’s body became light, which would mean Vita’s magic had lost its effect.
Rising up, Elysione jumped at Vita, while waving her mantle, and caught her mother in an embracing manner from falling.
Vita lost her consciousness.
Elysione immediately decided to withdraw and pulled back together with Vita inside her mantle.
Finally, using her full power, Elysione disappeared with Vita as their heads sunk completely.
Jeweljude understood that the magic restraining his body had vanished.
Putting up his shield in his right hand and adjusting his lance horizontally near his left flank, the giant commander charged at the dolls in the next instant.
Arrows shot by the dolls aimed at Jeweljude’s shield one by one, however, not even a single of them could pierce through its thick metal.
Using his grandiose lance, Jeweljude mowed down the dolls from right to left.
*Kou* – Together with an air cutting sound, five or six dolls were blown off at the front ranks.
What’s more, the dolls were sent flying backwards, making other dolls collapse.
A few of them stood up, however, most of the dolls struggled to do so. There were even those that tumbled on the floor and ceased to move, as a result of their magic circuit being severed.
With Jeweljude’s first strike, as many as fifteen to sixteen dolls ceased functioning.
“Is that guy a monster?!”
Harrigan raised a scream.
With Jeweljude using his heavy shield on his left and his grandiose lance on his right, it was clear he was a warrior that matched Harrigan’s definition of monster.
The stream of arrows weakened together with the number of dolls. Using that momentum, those who followed Jeweljude reduced their distance at once and joined the attack.
The soldiers from the rear didn’t hold lances, instead, they carried shields in both their hands. That’s because they knew their leader’s inhuman strength would be more than enough.
The wooden puppets continued to shoot arrows, but, in the end, it wasn’t enough to penetrate through the brigade’s thick shields.
As the soldiers closed their distance, Jeweljude had already struck for the second time, again, blowing away a dozen dolls and making them incapable of fighting.
With his second strike, as many as thirty dolls dropped out from their ranks.
“It’s him! Make the dolls aim at that guy!”
Naga shouted in Harrigan’s direction.
She passed down a new order to the dolls.
“Go! Aim at that giant’s head!”
The dolls that were releasing their arrows at the approaching soldiers changed their target to Jeweljude.
“Attack attack attack! Shoot him till you run out of arrows!”
Several tens of arrows came flying at the giant from the frontline of dolls that numbered as many as 160 units.
As expected, there was no way for Jeweljude to parry the attack completely, therefore, he didn’t try to go overboard and ward off arrows that came from different angles. A few of them hit his armor, but nevertheless, as one could predict, not even a single one pierced through his silver armor.
On the other hand, Jeweljude was able to precisely grasp the shooting power of the dolls.
Making a single turn, he flung his large shield at the densely crowded dolls, making several of them fly off, then pinning them under his feet and crushing them.
On top of that, Jeweljude used his left hand that was now free to swing his lance while charging at the dolls.
The soldiers that had dashed before joined the battle almost at the same time, and just like Jeweljude, they jumped at the dolls, flinging their shields while swinging their swords at them.
“This is no good! I can’t hold them together any longer!”
Being at her wit’s end, Harrigan directed her face towards Naga.
(Damn, I guess I didn’t consider this. Who would’ve thought there was a monster like this among the enemy’s leaders.)
However, it was only for a short while that Naga clenched his teeth.
“We’re withdrawing, Harrigan! Continuing any longer than this will be impossible!”
“Are you fine with that?”
“It’s not a matter of it being fine or not. If it’s impossible, then it’s impossible.”
Saying so, Naga put on a smile on his face.
Was it a smile of composure or wryness? Or perhaps, a smile of self-mockery? Whichever it was, Harrigan settled down a bit upon seeing it.
“You’re right. Then, I shall order the remaining dolls to attack, so as to buy us time to escape. Naga, go ahead.”
“I’m leaving it to you.”
Saying so, Naga turned around.
(Indeed, this guy is tenacious.)
Harrigan made a light, wry smile, which quickly disappeared, and faced toward the remaining dolls.
“Go! Aim at their leader from direct range!”
The dolls formed a crowd in a bustling manner and aimed at the enemy charging ahead.
(They probably won’t deal even a single scratch, but after all, it’s for buying us time. I’m relying on you, please make one last move.)
Directing a request inside of her toward the dolls, Harrigan turned around and ran after Naga.
The witches gathered around Naga, who had escaped to their rear encampment. Among them, there was also Elysione.
(Speaking of which, it looks like something has happened to Vita.)
Just as he predicted, Elysione approached him and reported.
“Mother has collapsed.”
“It seems like she had gone overboard.”
(She had gone… overboard? So I guess, it’s because of that monster?)
Naga turned his head and saw Harrigan running up a slope at full speed with her large chest bouncing.
Had she had her usual appearance, Naga would have admired that view, but, since she was wearing a simple armor today, regretfully, he couldn’t.
(Ah no, this isn’t the time to admire that, me!)
Naga, who reprimanded himself sharply, lifted his head and shifted his gaze to what was in front of him.
Since their base was located at an elevated place, it was possible for Naga to look down on the battlefield. What he saw was a disastrous view of the dolls being on the verge of annihilation.
(Good grief, so I guess we’ve lost this time.)
The weak smile that appeared on his face this time was probably one of self-mockery.
(The dolls were completely destroyed, and Vita’s magic ran out of its effect. Not to mention, Ais’ throws didn’t pass through, and neither did the attack from Harlequin’s wolves. Als, Yuuki, and Lily left the battlefield…. I wonder if those two are fine. It doesn’t look like they were shot down, so they are probably safe and sound, but….)
Looking down at the battlefield, Naga became astonished again.
(The Brigade of 88 is terrifying, indeed. No, it’s actually the leader whose terrifying.)
There were as little as ten dolls left on the field. It was only a matter of time before they went down.
Harrigan, who had run up the slope, stood next to Naga and looked at him.
“I guess, repelling the enemy has become much more complicated, right? What should we do, Naga?”
As expected, even Harrigan’s breathing was a bit out of sync.
Without replying back, Naga continued to stare motionlessly at the battlefield.
The gathered witches gazed at his profile with worried and anxious faces. As they did so, Naga came back to his senses and looked at the witches.
His self-deprecating smile was no longer visible on his face.
“For now, let’s retreat back to the fort. We shall guess their next move there.”
“Still, what should we do if they surround us? Right now, our defense isn’t that tight, so don’t you think it would be difficult to protect the fort with just this many of us?”
“Even if you say ‘surround’, they’re only 500, you know. If necessary, we can always escape through Elysione or Yuuki.”
“I, Is that…. so?”
Again, a smile appeared on his face. However, surprisingly it was a refreshing one this time.
“This time’s battle was our loss. A complete loss.”
“Ah no…. even if you tell me like that.”
“Just because we lost a battle, doesn’t mean we have lost the war. Be it one or two loses, as long as we come out victorious in the end, it should be fine.”
Harrigan frowned her eyebrows doubtfully.
Not just her, the other girls tilted their heads in wonder as well.
“B, But, can we really recover after this?”
“There’s no way it’s over. And our hope of winning this war hasn’t fallen apart yet. Our chances might be slim, but, there’s still hope, so don’t make such a sad face.”
‘Kakaka.’ – Saying so, Naga laughed, which made the other witches look at each other in surprise.
Everyone present there was ready for the worst, but, judging from Naga’s attitude, it didn’t seem like he was.
“However, what chances do we have?”
Elysione asked this in a reserved manner.
“Fret not. I saw a breach in their strategy, and this time, we aren’t going to lose again.”
The witches warped their faces in astonishment.
Naga laughed again at the girls looking at him fixedly.
“What? Why do you look so unconvinced? I’m not lying, you know. Still, we need one more battle to turn the tables.”
“…..And exactly, how do you plan to do that?”
Harrigan asked with a half-doubting expression.
“For the time being, let’s place our hope in Lela and the rest. If they manage to do their task well, they will be able to buy us more time for the next battle. And if that happens, I’ll be able to come up with new plans to defeat the brigade.
One could tell there was solemnity within Naga’s words and conduct.
(It doesn’t look like he’s boasting or bluffing, but… just what on earth is he up to? Anyway, till now, we’ve been able to ride past hopeless situations, so we can do nothing but believe in this guy, I guess.)
Having no longer mixed feelings of doubts and expectations, Harrigan looked at Naga. He was occasionally staring at small hills stretching out to the north beyond the battlefield, while folding his arms.
“I also hope Raibach brings those slave soldiers with him, as they will be essential for my plan.”
Will Lela’s ambush change anything? And will the arrival of the slaves be meaningful? Harrigan, Elysione, and the rest of the girls couldn’t tell at all. Truth be told, they even doubted they could recover. Despite that, Naga continued to stare with a calm and daring expression at the completely annihilated crowds of dolls.
The witches, who had become restless, settled down a bit upon seeing him.
Naga and the rest suffered their first defeat in their attempt to defend Fort Ein.
However, Naga asserted he saw a breach in their enemy’s plan.
What kind of a move will he pull out to recover from this hopeless situation?
The battle between the Brigade of 88 and the witches had yet to enter the second stage, which shall become a cornerstone towards establishing the country of the witches.