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Chapter 15: Retrea

Retreat

The third day.

On the third day since this defensive war was initiated, the first wall had become quite tattered.

Our return fire slackened during the night, but it's not like they weren't attacking us.

We had prepared three squadrons of three thousand, and had them work on rotation, but our limit was approaching.

Many soldiers and knights had been sent to the back lines from injury.

By the point close to half had to step down, our limit had arrived.

What's more, that number included logistic support. Not just combatants, a number of supports had to retreat to the back.

Granted, the majority of those stepping down were our main fighting forces.

Unsteady on his feet, the captain of Zayin's Holy Knight Brigade Noy-san came to give me a report.

His expression wasn't the best, and he looked like he'd collapse at any moment.

"We're at our limits. We should abandon this post."

Hearing the words of an unsteady and dispirited Noy-san, I nodded with a tired expression.

Using Damien's large-scale Porter, Clara was transporting troops and supplies, but we decided to pull back the cannons already.

I told Clara to put a hold on the supply chain, and pick up the cannons. But in that case, enemies could break the wall and flow in while we were moving it.

"We're moving into preparations to withdraw the cannons. Wake everyone up. And let some of the troublesome monsters through."

I had some preparations of my own to make, so I watched over an unsteady Noy-san, before calling out for May.

"May, it's almost your turn."

Lying down in human form, she looked considerably exhausted.

"... Got it."

Rubbing her eyes, and raising herself sluggishly, she put a hand against the wall to stand up. Even a divine beast such as herself was showing such signs of exhaustion.

From the Jewel, the Fifth let his voice. For some reason, he sounded moved.

[May, you're working so hard...]

Thinking that I should be on the receiving end of such an evaluation as well, I looked at the sky, with the morning sun just barely beginning to rise.

We had put up a small, and plain defensive up to now, but from here on, it was going to get a little difficult.

Turning to look at the second wall, I...

"It's even earlier than I thought."

... Let out such a complaint.

-

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... Morning.

On the third day, the abandonment of the first wall was determined, or so Clara came to inform the second stronghold.

Moving frequently between the fortress and frontlines, Clara had bags under her eyes.

Aria awoke in a room within the second wall, and confirmed Lyle's order from Clara.

"Didn't he say it'd hold for five days, at least?"

Clara looked over Aria's drowsiness with envy.

"There has been a change of plans. And it seems there numbers were even greater than anticipated. Even Eva's been rendered immobile, after all."

Eva had already withdrawn to the fortress.

With only Miranda and Lyle holding out, and more than half of the troops at the first stronghold falling back, they no longer had the means to maintain that point.

After Aria got up, she went into preparing herself.

"I just have to go out is all, right? We're already prepared on our side."

Clara transmitted the information she obtained from watching the front lines.

"The extra-large monsters are gathering. Please be careful."

The powerful monsters that had started out in the rear, with the army that couldn't move a foot, they had crushed the lesser creatures in their way underfoot to make their ways to the front.

Land Dragons and Trolls, and large monsters like Ogres.

The figure of a Sand Golem had been confirmed as well, and talks had proceeded towards purposely letting those sorts of monsters pass through.

Aria changed her clothes, and left the room.

"Now then, it's our turn."

Taking a stretch, she set about getting ready. Seeing her back, Clara hurriedly returned to the fortress, transmitted Lyle's orders, and prayed for her next rest.

(The problem with Lyle-san's Connection is how it gets cut the moment you fall asleep. And that I'm the only one on messenger duty.)

Clara wasn't the only one capable of manipulating golems, but neither Lyle nor Damien had a thing for kissing guys.

Both their opinions aligned, and Damien had work to do, so it couldn't be helped that messaging was left to Clara.

(Hah, if the first wall is breached, we'll just be moving to the second wall... but the frequency will surely increase. Wouldn't anyone do? Just teach someone else golem magic already.)

Clara wanted to return to the fortress, and flop onto a bed at once. But therein lay the problem.

(The fortress is a hell of its own, so whether one can rest in peace or not is... as I thought, we must secure personnel with all due haste.)

It was a good thing she had work to do, but Clara wanted to do something about the situation where she was the only one for that job...

-

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-

Between wall and wall, there was a wide space...

It was to combat the monsters that breached through. There was an incline to the space, and it was made in a way to put the invading side at a disadvantage.

Barricades of mud were erected, and the preparations to counterattack were in place.

With Aria at the head, Lorphys's side had Alette, and her deputy officer in command.

Meanwhile, Zayin had the vice-captain combo of Creit and Albano participating.

None of them were mounted, as they stood in file, and waited for the monsters to come.

Around Aria, the Valkyries stood as guards. Alette called over.

"Now then, I can't wait to see how you do, little lady. You're the commander here."

She said that to Aria in jest. But Aria...

"All we have to do is defeat the enemies before us, right?"

That's all she said.

There, Albano burst into laughter in response.

"No doubt about that! 'Cuz this mish-mash hasn't coordination or anything to speak of."

Creit drew closer to him.

"What do you speak of in such an important time!"

"What? Wanna go at it, rock-head!?"

Seeing the belligerent two, Alette, and her adjutant shook their heads.

"And you two haven't changed at all. You've become vice-captains. How about mellowing out a bit?"

There, a colored smoke rose from the first wall. It was the signal beacon.

"It's time."

Alette looked at Aria.

When Aria nodded, she issued orders to her squadron. And seeing that, Albano and Creit took command of their forces as well.

A squadron of five thousand was going to fight under Aria's command.

Aria put power into her hand.

Looking forward, she could see the first wall's gate slowly rising in the distance.

And as if a sea wave had closed in on the coast, the monsters began their assault.

They weren't a flock of Goblins or such small fries; they were all giants. She could make out the form of a Land Dragon among them.

And one of the Valkyries called out to her.

"Preparations complete."

Aria nodded, before turning her spear towards the encroaching wave of monsters.

"The enemy is coming. Roll!"

On her voice, the soldiers turned barrels on their sides, and ignited their fuses. Using the incline to send them rolling, they sent a large number of barrels towards the monster army.

At the first wall, allies used magic to blow away some monsters, and quickly closed the gate.

The Valkyries beside Aria spoke up.

"Numerically, I have to say around three thousand. The enemy's elite have flooded in quite splendidly."

"Master is amazing."

"It is time for us to stand out, and appeal our worth to him."

Containing her urge to put a hand to her head, Aria looked straight ahead.

A three thousand that didn't even reach ten percent of the enemy's total forces. But looking at quality alone, even among monsters, they were of quite the strong variant.

If they were to all concentrate their attacks on it, perhaps the first wall really wouldn't be able to handle it.

A majority of the barrels were swallowed up by the flood of monsters, exploding in their midst, and lowering their numbers.

The Valkyries again.

"Second camp ready."

"They have fallen for it quite splendidly."

"It is a victory for gunpowder. But the dragons are not stopping. How unfair."

Even with barrels full of gunpowder exploding, the Dragons and giant Trolls didn't falter. Things of Ogre level were blown off their feet, but they still tried to get back up.

When the second camp let their barrels roll, a large Lizard opened its mouth, and tried to attack.

Aria's group hid in a nearby cavity to avoid it.

A large mass of flames slammed into the second wall, but...

The twin tailed Valkyrie offered a line.

"How unfortunate. It has been reinforced."

The flames dispersed. Unlike the first wall, the second boasted an increased strength.

When more explosions rang out, blowing more monsters away, Aria took up her weapon, and exited the trench. The Valkyries leapt out as well, each with a weapon in hand.

Allies also showed themselves from the trench, beginning their attacks with bows and crossbows.

The Land Dragon rushing up the incline blocked bolts with its hard skin, as it advanced.

"This is the end of the line."

Aria slipped into the space right below its neck, swung her spear, and let out a shockwave.

Its head fell to the floor, while the Valkyries also used their weapons to take down a Troll. Cutting it down, and letting it fall, they shot out their arms in search of their next pray, and grabbed hold of another Troll. Unlike with the Hippogryph, they freely retracted their wires to transport themselves to the enemy.

And using that momentum, they cut the monsters down.

Their movements so as not to be bathed in the blood spurt was as if they were dancing.

Aria avoided the lowered log of a Troll, jumped onto, and ran up it to send her spear through its head.

Hopping off the collapsing Troll, her red armor was dyed even deeper in monster blood.

Using her longsword to cut down the surrounding Orcs and Ogres in an instant, Alette looked upon the scene.

"Truly daring, that lass. I'd like to recruit her myself."

Her adjutant gave the orders for her subordinates to get the monsters gathering around her in order.

"We are short on personnel, after all. Makes me remember back when we were just scraping by. But right now..."

Alette held up her sword, and made a faint smile.

"I know... [Multi-Airblade]."

She swung it, producing invisible blades of wind, cutting down monster after monster before her eyes.

It was a Skill particularly useful for dealing with foes in close formation, and one that allowed her party to deal with a large number of monsters.

There, a monster began to prepare large-scale magic.

"How troublesome. We're retreating back to the trench at once."

When Alette said that, a single knight raced out, and used a Skill.

It was Creit.

"How about you leave this to me! [Allshield]."

Creit held up the spear in his hand, manifesting a number of large shields, and blocking the enemy's attack. It blocked both physical attacks and magic, and even put a stop to enemy advances.

Alette looked at Creit.

"Couldn't you have used it earlier!? And if you had something like that, then say so beforehand!"

She complained.

In any case, she had never heard that Creit possessed such a useful Skill. At most, she thought he was able to put up a shield to protect a party.

Raising a grand laugh, Creit...

"I'm growing by the day, you know!"

Even with anger directed his way, he wasn't dispirited...

-

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After disposing of the elite monsters we had invited in, we withdrew from the first wall.

There were quite a few knights and soldiers dragging their bodies, and with our fatigue, our movement speed was down.

My own retreat had May's assistance, so I was the last in line, and I also had to confirm the destruction of the stronghold.

I had the Skills to verify there was no one left behind, and as the one in charge, I wanted to hold the image of the reliable one who stayed behind to the end.

It's image tactics.

Something you really couldn't make light of.

In war, the commander should be stationed at the rear. And that was the type of commander I was, but if I did that from the start, there would be a problem.

I had few achievements, so the soldiers were anxious.

No matter how capable the commander may be, a majority of soldiers were normal commoners. Even among knights, there were some who looked down on a commander who didn't go out front, so what would happen if a greenhorn like me was to take up a rear position?

The one to teach me that was the Seventh.

I could understand if it were the Third, but it seems such a trend was strong in the Seventh's time as well.

[Yes, truly a perfect commander play. On the front lines at the offense, and the last one to retreat. This alone can encourage the troops.]

The Fourth sounded reluctant.

[If we wanted to prioritize efficiency, Lyle should've been stationed at the center. But with image building in mind, we'll have to milk it.]

As I wished they'd worry a little more for me, the soldiers finished pulling out with the assistance of Aria's forces.

"Looks like we made it in time."

The first wall swayed from the attacks of monsters. A magic flew my way, so I held up my left hand, and blocked it with a Magic Shield.

Crumbling all over, the first stronghold felt like it would give way at any moment.

"You've fulfilled your role perfectly. Thank you."

Saying that, I straddled myself over quilin-form May, and rode her into the sky. My Mana was at its limits, so there was little I would do.

I was lacking in sleep, and my physical state wasn't at its peak.

It pained me, but I had to buy time for my allies' retreat.

Soaring through the air, I confirmed that my comrades were a good distance away, before taking a stance with the silver bow. The arrow had some fire cast on the tip.

"So I'm sorry."

When I shot the arrow into the wall's insides, the gunpowder storage caught fire, and the wall exploded.

It didn't flashily burst apart, I felt it crumble quite slowly.

The monsters clinging to the crumbling wall were dragged in and crushed.

From the sky, I unsteadily watched over it.

May spoke.

"Our allies have reached the second wall."

On her words, I collapsed over her back.

"Then, please... carry me there too. If possible, make sure not to drop me."

Milleia-san spoke in regards to my conduct.

[I'd really like if he could be reliable to the end... well, it's Lyle we're talking about, after all.]

She seemed weary, but I think I work hard.

(I wonder if it would be alright to get a bit of a higher evaluation here.)