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Chapter 3: Fortress Battle

(TL: At this point in time, if I don't do a chapter of something else once in a while, I will gradually begin to lost interest.)

Fortress Battle

Having invaded Selva, I stood in formation before the fort as Zayin's supreme commander.

We surrounded its structure, and the unit we'd stationed began firing magic into it.

The ancestors watched that scene from the Jewel.

I wiped off my mouth with my thumb, and issued orders to Clara.

[Clara, magic is coming your way. Enter defensive formation.]

[Understood.]

After I confirmed that the magicians within the fortress planned to concentrate their fire on a single point, and burn it away, I gave orders to our forces on the opposite side of Clara.

Novem was stationed on that side.

[Novem, the enemy is focusing solely on Clara's station. Continue your attack. They've lost most their archers, so it's possible they may come out to attack.]

The attacks centered around our siege weapons shot down the enemy magicians. As long as we kept firing magic at one another, the attack and defense would continue until one side ran out of Mana.

ISeeing both sides exhausted and resting at the fall of night was a standard scene in war.

I had thought of using the knight to infiltrate the fortress. But the ancestors wouldn't let me do it.

The Fifth let his voice..

[... They're weak. It's true that things would keep getting worse for them if it went on at this rate, but that wasn't the time to concentrate on a point.]

He gave a harsh comment at the enemy command. But the Fourth was of a different opinion.

[Whichever way it went, they were going to lose, so it isn't a bad thing to look for the greatest plan. In truth, there weren't as much magic attacks coming from Clara's side, so perhaps they thought to crush them first?]

I gave an order to the soldiers near me.

"Send reinforcements. Do we have a messenger around?"

"Y-yes!"

A nervous knight received the orders, and went off to transmit them. I thought this was quite a roundabout way to go about it, but it was also one of the ancestors' requests.

The Seventh spoke.

[Hmm, I guess this is alright for a start.]

The Third.

[Just barely a passing grade, perhaps? Lyle's one thing, but both Zayin and Selva's movements are simply awful. More so, Selva's desperate, so you should try to learn a thing or two from the movements of their men.]

In a fortress surrounded on all sights, the soldiers and knights of Selva were putting up a good fight. But our momentum was on another level.

Within my head, with the Fifth's Dimension Skill, and the Sixth's Spec, I could understand the enemies' movements like the back of my hand.

With my Skill connection, I could swiftly issue out orders.

The stone face of the enemy fortress was slowly being chipped away, and it seems they were panicking as they saw none of their attacks were reaching us.

When they concentrated their attacks on the squadron Clara was assigned to, Eva's corp rushed over, and put their Magic Shield up to block the attack.

On the other side, Novem's force had strengthened their formation.

The enemy was unable to block the magic of Novem's group, and as the fortress wall was shaved away without protection, I saw another enemy movement.

The Third spoke.

[Oh, so they're coming out. It's already the third day, so before their morale hits its low point, perhaps they're going to make a gamble.]

They were mounting their horses in the fort, and preparing to attack.

Alongside the difference in numbers, our side was able to conduct precise attack and defense, the enemy was no longer able to endure it, so they came at us themselves.

The Seventh didn't deny that decision.

[If reinforcements aren't coming, then that what it'll come to if they want the slightest possibility of victory. The state of their rations, and the falling morale... I'd even like to sympathize with this force's commander.]

But that doesn't mean we were going to halt our hand, so if the ancestors decided to move, they would thoroughly crush them, I'm sure.

I stood, and gave a message.

"The enemy is coming out. Tell everyone to brace themselves."

The soldiers ran forth, and Aria came to stand next to me. Rather than putting her out for an exchange of magics, I thought it best to preserve her strength.

Monica and Shannon were in the back, and May was also on standby there. Miranda was on the side of the fort opposite to me, and awaiting my order.

There Creit-san came over to me on his horse.

"Lyle-kun! If the enemy is coming, than I shall take them on!"

Taking along his knights, he held up his spear, and showed his motivation. The soldiers held up pikes, as they waited for the enemy's arrival, so if possible, I didn't want anyone to go out and meet them.

I crossed my arms.

"Please wait for my orders before attacking. Aria, help out Creit-san's force."

When I said that, Aria seemed just a little bit unsatisfied.

"You won't come along?"

The Fourth spoke.

[No, he's earned enough achievements, so there's no real point to sending Lyle out. And wait, it's definitely no good for the general to go up front.]

The general is not to go up front, was a prerequisite. That was the basics of a winning general. But if you didn't show your might, the soldiers wouldn't be able to put their minds at ease.

In that respect, I'd already become much too famous in Zayin.

Without even going forth myself, the knights and soldiers were in awe of me.

"It's because I trust you, that I'll remain here. And the enemy is desperate, so don't drop your guard."

I lightly patted her back, and she took her helmet in her left hand, and ran off to where her horse was tethered.

I don't think it was just my imagination that she looked a little happy.

Hearing that, the Third spoke.

[Trust, I see. Well, she really has grown, you know. That Aria-chan. It's her growing period, so how about having her aim for a General position?]

The Third said it as a joke, but I got the feeling she fit the role surprisingly well.

(I'll consider it.)

And the Fourth...

[... Lylem, you've dragged those girls this far. You better take responsibility.]

Watching her back as she straddled her horse, waiting at the ready for the enemy's arrival, I strongly gripped the Jewel.

-

-

-

... Once the fortress gate lowered, and acted as a bridge, the knights came out on their horses to attack.

The soldiers followed behind, setting a course for the main camp where Lyle was stationed.

Aria gripped her horse's reins in her left hand, and cradled her right hand spear under her armpit.

Nearby, the Holy Knights, and the Divine Knights who'd gone through a slight occupational change looked quite nervous before the enemy's advance.

They were wearing helmets, but she could hear their rough breathing.

Within that, Creit stationed at the front looked at the battlefield from up on his horse, and spoke.

"It's amazing. How clearly I can make out our opponents' movements..."

Soldiers with pikes were waiting to intercept the incoming cavalry. When both sides collided, a number of knights fell from their horses, with spears in their bodies, and blood flowing out.

But many knights had brushed away the attacks, and broken through.

When the soldiers began their intense battle, Lyle gave the signal.

Creit raised a loud voice.

"Attaaaacck!"

And matching his words, the knights urged on their horse towards the enemy.

Aria kicked her horse's stomach to urge it onwards as well, as she looked at the knight closing in.

(Wounded? But still!)

A broken spear was sticking out of a chink in his armor. But Aria took her mounted stance, and let out a thrust towards her enemy.

Her spear that was able to pierce straight through him, armor and all, was imbued with a hardening effect from a Skill. But as he spat up blood, he dropped his weapon, and grabbed onto Aria's spear with both his hands.

"Bastard!"

Perhaps so as not to let her take back her weapon, he put in all his power, and tumbled himself off his horse.

Aria confirmed foot soldiers of Selva nearby, relinquished her spear, and pulled out a sword at her waist.

"I'm not too used to using this one."

She jumped off her horse, and with her sword in one hand, she cut down the few foot soldiers coming straight at her. The glowing red gem hung at her chest allowed her the use of Skills.

And seeing it, the commanding officer leading the soldiers shouted out.

"She's a Skillholder! Surround her and take her down first!"

He ordered his subordinates, but Aria was smiling a bit under her helmet.

"Too slow!"

Her own Skill... with Quick, her movements became too fast for enemy eyes to follow, and after cutting at the commanding officer, she cut down the foot soldiers around him as well.

Her dime-a-dozen sword had become completely unusable from the chipping of the edge, and the blood covering it.

Perhaps she could still use it as a blunt weapon, but Aria hadn't polished her blunt-weapon handling skills up too much.

She picked up a sword off the ground, pierced her own sword in in its place, and took in her surroundings. With eyes of fear, the soldiers of Selva were looking at her.

There, a single knight came out before her.

He had pierced a single knight of Zayin with his spear, before discarding it, pulling out his sword, and trying to lower it at Aria.

When Aria hit the bow aside, her opponent jumped down from his horse, landed, and set his aim on her.

In the weed-ridden ground, the foliage came up to his knees.

Yet he was moving around quite freely in his armor, as he locked blades with Aria.

(This one's strong!)

Aria tried to retreat to make some distance, but the knight's stance changed to hold his sword against his opposite hip.

(It's coming!)

Aria suddenly leapt to the side, as a shockwave swallowed up the surrounding grass. Aria was able to use a similar Skill, but the similar yet different Skill caused her interest to be piqued.

Under her helmed, perhaps Aria was having fun, as she laughed.

"Very nice. I've never really gotten the chance to go against a Skillholder."

Aria tried to jump into his chest area, but he closed in the distance at the same time. Her Skill-reinforced sword let off sparks, and the blade chipped away.

But her opponent's sword was perfectly intact.

"Amazing. How much do those go for?"

There knight of Selva spoke.

"Invader... be cut down by my blade!"

After clashing a few times with her picked up sword, Aria felt she was at a disadvantage against her opponent's physical strength.

His sword was of splendid craftsmanship. It was even possible it was a Magic Tool. She made the judgement as she saw her own sword hardened by her Skill was getting torn up into an unusable state.

Aria tossed aside her sword, and drew the dagger she kept at the back of her hip. And retrieving a stick with her right hand, she swiftly fastened the dagger's hilt to its end.

As her enemy closed the distance, Aria used her dagger-turned-short spear to block, before kicking him off.

The enemy knight... he surely had experience, but his swordplay was by the book. He had likely made it through up to now with his strength and Skill.

Through his visor, the knight glared at Aria.

"You know how to use your legs, woman!"

On her enemy's words, Aria laughed.

"And you're too well mannered!"

Saying that, she stepped in, and used a Skill. Quick.

As her movements changed, the enemy knight coughed her attack, and even countered. He had enough ability to keep up with her accelerated movements, so Aria made use of another Skill.

Body strengthening...

Weapon hardening...

And after taking a big step forward.

"Slash."

The first time she saw the Skill was when Lyle had gone to subjugate bandits. The bandit leader had stolen her red gem, and had shown off the use of the Skill.

But the Slash Aria used wasn't the same one the bandit let out. In sharpness, and destructive power, with Aria's physical ability, and talent, it had all been dragged much higher.

The knight opened his eyes wide, as Aria's short spear cut a deep gash into his plate armor.

By her feint, his own sword only cut fruitlessly through the air.

Blood poured out of his helmet, and when Aria withdrew her short spear, it flowed from his abdomen as well. Her body was splashed with the blood spurt.

The collapsing knight addressed her.

"T-tell me your name."

And Aria replied.

"It's Aria Lockwarde."

While she couldn't see the knight's face, she felt he was smiling. And he looked around.

"... It is our loss. If you're going to steal a weapon off the battleground... you might as well use mine instead. And Aria..."

Around them, the ones who'd come out to attack were being slain, and many were surrendering themselves.

Aria kept wary of her surroundings, as she heard the knight's final words.

"The next time we meet... will be in hell."

She offered a short prayer to the deceased knight. And she accepted his sword. She took off his scabbard as well, and after inspecting it, she found it really was a Magic Tool.

"... I can only really use it as a well-made sword. I've heard that it'll interfere with my gem's Skills otherwise."

With her spoils of war in hand, she heard the soldiers raise a cry of victory.

Looking at the fortress, she saw they had raised the white flag of surrender. And watching it wave, she gripped the sword, and thought.

(Hell, is it... but this scene is yet another hell.)

Around, the bodies of Selvian knights and soldiers. And though less than those from Selva, the corpses of Zayin's knights and soldiers were littered around as well...

-

-

-

... The news that came to Lorphys' camp, was the truth that Zayin had breached through a border fortress within three days.

Alette received the notice as well, and when she heard the specifics of it, she was shocked.

It was night.

As the light of the lantern lit up her tent, Alette gripped the document in both hands. The small number of days wasn't the problem.

In truth, Lorphys had done much the same to a fortress of Selva.

But what she couldn't believe on the report form was the numbers.

"They don't even have ten thousand? What's more, they brought it down with essentially four thousand troops... at the lowest estimate, the enemy should have numbered two to three thousand. So you're telling me they brought it down with those numbers?"

Normally, as long as supplies lasted, the defending side had the advantage in a fortress battle.

Quite a few conditions were necessary, but even so, with only a little more troops, it wasn't a situation that would work out so easily.

And in all actuality, Lorphys had pushed through with numbers.

Reading down the report, she saw the name of Creit, of whom she hadn't the chance to invite to her side.

He had taken the general's head, and performed the greatest service, or so it was written.

But Alette had noticed.

"... They purposely gave Creit all the achievements. I do admit if you use him like this, he'll shine quite nicely."

Creit's strong and weak points were known to her. She knew, them, but didn't try to invite him herself.

Creit was good at faithfully fulfilling whatever was asked, but only performed average when the situation called for him to make a decision himself. No, even lower than average, perhaps.

You needed to be quite a general to make good use of Creit, or so she appraised the man.

"He's not ordinary. As a knight, and as a general, he's first class... a genius of sorts."

Alette never thought Lyle to be a knight of such caliber, but there, the question surfaced.

"Then why did the Walt House drive him out? It didn't seem that he had any particular problems, but... female relations? Did he lay hands on a woman he shouldn't have? It's possible. I have to warn the royal princess one of these days."

Letting out a sign, she straightened out the clenched papers, and neatly folded them... there, it came to her.

"No, wait! He's an upfront womanizer, and if he'll even lay hands on people he shouldn't... the royal princess... even Annerinne san... if it comes to that, then Lorphys will be...!"

With a flash of inspiration, Alette immediately went off to consult with her adjutant. She leapt out of the tent, and in the now-vacant space, the report she had abandoned leisurely drifted down to the floor...