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Chapter 17: Fortress

Fortress

... Back in Beim, the city was going over its ramparts for defense.

Confirming if there was any damage to them, and making preparations to take down the massive monster army.

But the monsters that had long since begun their march had still yet to reach the free city.

One of the captains leading a mercenary brigade looked out into the distance from the division of wall he had been afforded.

"... Is Fort Redant still holding firm? Well, with twenty thousand, perhaps they'll last a week."

He knew of Fort Redant, but however reinforced it may be, he didn't believe it possible for them to defend against a few hundred thousand monsters.

And that was because he hadn't heard of Lyle receiving backing from the Trēs House.

The considerable funds he received and used to turn the fort to a fortress was a slice of information out of reach for a single mercenary brigade chief.

But even if he knew it, he wouldn't have thought they would hold out.

Beim was seriously working under the premise that that allied forces of Zayin and Lorphys were to be annihilated at Fort Redant...

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... Beim's meeting of merchants.

In that meeting where Beim's top dogs gathered, Fidel was quite irritated.

Meeting hall of multiple levels, the facilitator went on of Beim's impregnable defense.

The main members had already gathered up before the meeting, and confirmed their information with one another. It was precisely because he confirmed it, that Fidel was so irritated.

"As I'm sure you already know, Beim's ramparts are of a special material, boasting a high resistance to magic. At present, we are working to repair any damage they may have, and the mercenaries have already been stationed in perfect condition. The craftsmen are making weapons en masse, and the production of arrows is going on and on."

Sitting in his chair, folding his arms on top of the table, Fidel stared holes into the facilitator brimming with confidence.

(Fool. At this rate, those goods you keep making will become your debt.)

A number of merchants were trying to reap profit from this war.

Purchasing equipment, they were thinking of what would come after the monsters were repeled.

But Fidel knew.

(That gigolo! He went and built up a damn fortress! With my money! He arbitrarily went and used my Trēs House's money to make a fortress, and what's more, he used more than half of it!!?)

There were other facts that made his want to hold his head. Since the Trēs House backed them, a large number of merchants had decided to jump on the bandwagon and back Lyle as well.

That much was fine. But the amount had become something that couldn't be laughed at. Because the enemy's advance had been simply too slow, some of Beim's swift footed adventurers had run off for recon.

And what they found wasn't a fort, but a fortress.

"By the adventurers' diagnosis, even that wouldn't be able to stand up to it, but... a few of them did say that it would. So the possibility exists."

The fact the probability of Lyle repelling the monsters at Fort... Fortress Redant wasn't zero was something Fidel couldn't forgive.

(Just how stubborn can he be!?)

It vexed him, but what irritated him more was...

(At this rate, it will be a victory for him alone!)

In this matter, Lyle had gone to Beim's Guild Headquarters requesting some manpower. Naturally, the Guild was reluctant. If it really came down to it, they were prepared to send two to three thousand, but Lyle immediately pulled back.

If it turned out that Lyle really was able to pierce through the monster legion there, then the 'truth' would be that the Guild had refused to aid.

(... Hmm, but since the Trēs House did aid him, there are no problems on my side. The Guild will probably try to crush the man for it, but that's all I could wish for.)

Starting with Fidel, there were plenty of houses that backed them. They did their part, was another way you could phrase it.

They were small-time merchants who didn't know the surrounding situation, but as many hands were moving under the estimate of the monster attack, a small portion of them had truly thought Lyle could defend against several hundred thousand monsters...

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The second wall.

Having used it to buy five days of time, I entered the preparations to retreat.

It was considerably earlier than estimated, but in this situation, it really couldn't be helped.

Looking down at the monsters from atop the wall, they were crowded together in a not-to-narrow space with cliffs on both sides.

"This is as far as it goes. Almost all of the squad initially stationed here has withdrawn to the fortress. Even changing them out, with repeated withdrawals, our numbers have been cut to a thousand here."

The second wall itself could still hold.

But we didn't have the people for it anymore.

By my side was Eva, who'd returned from the Fortress. Her pink blonde hair was a mess, and she was making a bit of a tired expression.

"Lyle, Alette and Creit and even Albano have withdrawn to the back lines. Aria three days ago... we've no commanders here."

I gave a bitter smile.

"Oh well. Since Noy-san returned, I thought we could last a few more days, but I guess not."

As I said that, she was staring at me intently.

"Our calculations were too soft. Sending them back one after the next, and only sending more as soon as reinforcements come. This isn't normal."

It's true that our calculations were largely off. There, Clara raced up the steps with a message for me.

She had accumulated considerable fatigue as well, and had rested a bit in the back. She had only just woken up, but there were few people who could maneuver Porter, so I had to push her.

"Ah, so here's where you were, elven fraud."

"What do you mean fraud!? Can't you do something about that cynicism of yours? Just listening to you is irritating me, you know?"

Clara made an incredibly wonderful smile.

"I've heard people get quite irritated when the arrow hits the mark. Now then, a message for you, Lyle-san."

Seeing Clara's face turn serious, I grabbed and held down Eva's arm that seemed to want to grasp at her at any moment.

"The preparations are complete. The smiths have also finished up the 'Exploding Arrows' from Arumsaas. When I told them they were invented to make pocket change for students, they got angry and said it was too dangerous. And Boosted Arrows... they've given them an official name."

I nodded, and addressed her.

"Carry back the injured and sleep-deprived. We've things to prepare here as well."

Clara lightly pushed up her glasses with her fingertips.

"A round trip again? Will you be returning first?"

I shook my head.

"My apologies, I'm going back last. Hurry."

When Clara went back down the stairs, I let go of Eva's arm, and spoke.

"Eva, prepare to withdraw. And send Monica and the Valkyries back too."

Eva looked in Clara's direction.

"That toxic wench... yeah, that's fine, but it's already night. With so few people, I think they'll easily get to this point, you know? You sure you want to send off Monica and co.? They'll hate it too."

When she's supposed to be an automaton, why is her self-assertion so strong?

"No problem. In the worst case, this place need only remain in shape."

Because the second wall... really carried a separate purpose.

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Night.

It was about to become morning soon.

As Clara was carrying personnel off to the fortress, I looked at the army of monsters.

"I don' get the feeling their numbers are going down at all."

I was alone there, so I could reply to the voices of the Jewel. The Third sounded as aloof as ever.

[Why of course. No matter how you chip them down, the enemy's some hundred thousand... even if you take out half, it's a massive legion that surpasses ten thousand. This is a bit earlier than planned, but you could call it favorable.]

I looked up at the night sky.

"... We let most of the flying monsters slip by."

While I was resting, or had my attention taken by something else, the flying monsters let other monsters mount their backs, and even crossed over the fortress in the back.

The Fifth sounded a little angry at me.

[Don't think you can do everything. The other folks are doing everything they can. And you did what you could. Then when it passes that, it's Beim's responsibility. Like hell you'd be able to not let a single one get through. Though it may be a different story if you had a greater number.]

With the magic that came flying, the top of the wall was in a bad state.

Eva came over to me, and informed me her preparations were finished.

"Lyle, you're the last."

"Got it."

Descending the wall, I saw the large-scale Porter preparing to depart. The Porter Damien had made for transporting cardo was stuffed with knights and soldiers and elves.

I climbed onto the roof, and told Clara to depart.

"Let's get going."

"... Yes."

She looked somewhat embarrassed for some reason, but now wasn't the time to call out to her on that.

In regards to the wall that no longer had any resistance, the monsters launched their attacks all at once. Feelign the resultant tremor through porter, I turned to the wall.

Perhaps the monsters thought the gate weaker than the structure, as they started concentrating their attacks there.

When Porter was around halfway between the second wall and the fortress, the gate was breached. Monsters began flowing through it.

Preparing the silver bow in my left hand, I took a stance on the roof.

"I'll take down the ones quick on their feet. Clara, just keep straight for the fortress."

"U-understood."

The large porter had a space in the front for humans to ride. By getting in it, Clara was able to look ahead as she controlled Porter, with increased safety.

Getting my breathing in order, I fired an arrow at the Kentaurus running at the front.

The head one fell, and those behind got their legs caught up, and fell as well. But trampling over their fallen comrades, the monsters marched on.

With the next arrows, I could defeat monsters in much the same way, but paying no heed, the monsters continued to tread over them and press on. It didn't have much of a stalling effect.

Using the Skill... Speed... I was accelerating Porter, but even so, it looked like we were just barely going to reach the fortress.

The fortress' gate was open, and we need only get through it.

I fired one arrow after the next, but it just looked as if the bolts were being swallowed up by the army of monsters.

The Fourth let his voice.

[It looks as if it's having not the slightest effect.]

There, the Seventh as well.

[I'm sure it's doing something, more than less. Better than doing nothing, I'm sure.]

As he spoke, a large number of monsters were trampled, and brushing them away with a hand, a large monster leapt out.

White fur, it was a monkey-like monster with a red face. Its long forelimbs boasted sharp claws, and revealing its fangs, it used its long limbs to rush at us.

Size-wise, perhaps five to six meters.

Anyways, it came at us as if it were shot out of the monster army.

Pulling the silver bow, I shot an arrow, but the monster reacted immediately, moved its body just a little to the side, and while the arrow gave chase, it didn't pierce into the point I had aimed at.

It pierced into its shoulder and exploded, but it didn't seem to give too much damage. I'm sure its thick white fur blocked it.

Turning to look at the fortress, it was already before our eyes. I shot two arrows to try slowing the monkey down, but the enemy ignored them, and barreled on.

I returned the silver bow to Jewel form, and hung it back around my neck.

Milleia-san sounded a little surprised.

[Oh, you're not using the sword?]

I pulled the katana at my waist, and took a stance with it in both hands.

"No, I do want to use it. But I wanted to try and test how this one feels..."

At that moment, the large-scale Porter rounded the gateway, and a large and sturdy-looking gate began falling from above.

But the monster took a leap, and ended up infiltrating the fortress walls. The large-scale Porter took a large brake to kill its momentum, the back part of its long and slender body still moving forward, causing it to take a ninety degree turn before it stopped.

I jumped off the roof, and confronted the oversized monster.

Getting out of Porter, Clara yelled my way.

"Lyle-san, it's a Giant Kong! It was probably a boss monster in the Labyrinth!"

As I tread over the ground, the red face of the Giant Kong glared at me.

It seems it had chosen me as its first prey.

It greatly expanded its chest, and raised a war cry, as I started off towards it, drawing my gun from the holster on the back of my hip.

I took a leap and pointed the gunpoint at the large, open mouth of the Giant Kong.

"If the skin doesn't work, how about the mouth?"

When I pulled the trigger, a bullet shot into its mouth. Perhaps it hurt, as the Giant Kong let out a strange voice.

But its fishy breath built up some wind power, blowing me away a bit.

In the air, I aimed at the glaring monkey's eyes, and pulled the trigger.

That was the gun's sixth cartridge, so after landing, I returned it to its holster. The Giant Kong closed its left eye, as blood flowed down from it. Blood also fell down the corners of its mouth, and the red face looking at me with its deep wrinkles became even more wrinkled.

As I took a stance with the Katana in both hands, the surrounding knights and soldiers began to gather. In their hands were guns and bows, and crossbows as well.

"Leave this one to me!"

Saying that, I stepped in, and used the Skill... Up n' Down... to dull my enemy's movements while enhancing my own. The Giant Kong tried to shake off the Skill's restraints, but as I approached, it gave up and swung its left arm around.

I moved to its blind left side. It was recklessly swinging that left arm about, so I went ahead, and took a horizontal swipe with the Katana.

Even though the blade seemed to be made of rare metal, it chipped.

But the Giant Kong's left arm flew off, and collided with the fortress' wall.

"It cuts alright."

I looked at the Katana, and gave such an impression, but it still chipped when smelted of valuable rare metal. Its edge was made too sharp, and too fragile. If I learned how to use it, perhaps it would be different, but in my case, it would be ruined before I knew it.

However, the enemy was one that boasted a robust coat of fur. If it could lop off an arm of a foe like that, perhaps it would work out.

Blood scattered about, as the Giant Kong hit its right fist against me. I rolled along the ground to avoid it, while cutting at its legs.

As its movements gradually became worse, I jumped up, and drew a single line across its neck.

The fur that could stand an explosion was cut through, and its head danced in the air as I wiped off the blood sticking to the Katana.

The sky was turning red, and I looked at the blade.

"It's at least better than a mass produced sabre, but..."

I muttered that as I looked at the chipped edge, and the cracks running along its breadth. Valkyrie Unit One came over to my side.

"Master, a replacement Katana."

From the wing-like binder on her back, she took out a spare Katana as she said that.

Monica came running with a similar replacement, but she stared at us with a dumbfounded expression.

"F-for this Monica to be late..."

She looked considerably depressed.

Letting out a sigh, I replaced the Katana at my hip before issuing orders around. And I headed off towards the stairs to the top of the fortress.

"Strip off the monster's materials. This one will be worth some. Who's up top?"

Clara looked at the Giant Kong and explained the dissection steps to the soldiers before turning back to me.

"Aria-san, and Miranda-san. Alette-san should be in the dungeons... Novem-san is busy with treating the injured soldiers."

Hearing that, I called out to Eva, and started my way up.

Eva addressed the elves.

"How about it! Achievements worthy of song, are they not!?"

... She bragged.

"Certainly. But when we're this busy, I've no time to think up tunes."

"I want to hear the tales of the other ones that stood out."

"If it's to be made to song, then that battle just now should... no, in that case, it would end up too long."

To speak of this battle, and turn it to song, the elves were conversing amongst themselves with serious expressions.

A little taken aback, I headed for the top alone.

Climbing the stairs, I stood atop the high point of the fortress.

The Third, seeing the scene around...

[Now then, it's a big job from here on. We've done all the preparations, so we must properly get out the results.]

... He said.

Cannon barrels were sticking out from the fortress' insides. The soldiers had prepared mountains of arrows, as they held up their bows and crossbows.

The knights and magicians were awaiting my orders, and an army of around ten thousand were gathered here.

The Fourth sounded like he was having fun.

[The rate of Growth breaking out was exceedingly fast, so we've retreated back to the fortress much faster than anticipated. But that's all there is to it. We'll strike them down here.]

The Fifth looked at the second wall in the distance.

[They've faithfully passed through the gate like good Samaritans. So as long as we hold them at our gate, they're sealed in. Let's go about it without letting a single land monster through. Well, I doubt they'll get far, but not having any spills is a good thing.]

The second wall was equipped with two doors. And while the first had been broken down, the second could be closed up at any time.

The Seventh spoke in a serious tone.

[From here on is just plain work. Just crush the monsters you've sealed in. You have enough preparations to take care of that... Lyle!]

I gripped the Jewel, and looked up at the sky. Trying to infiltrate the fortress, Gryphons and Hippogryphs flew in with other creatures atop their backs.

"So they still had some aerial forces on them? But they should've used them sooner."

Higher still than those monsters, quilins racing through the sky let lightning fall from their prided horns, shooting down the flying monsters.

It wasn't just a few of them.

Their numbers surpassing a dozen, the quilins looked down over the monsters.

And in the distance, I could see May. She headed to the second wall, and moved the contraption to close the gate.

Its closing meant the monsters trapped here no longer had anywhere to run.

Having experienced growth, and lost some time, the knights and soldiers could likely display even more power than before.

Milleia-san spoke.

[So even an army of monsters is mere food to raise up your elite soldiers? Good grief, you Walt House heads sure are scary.]

I had no objection.

Stronger than the second wall, the fortress had firm magic countermeasures in place. After that, we just had to wipe out the monsters sealed here.

As I stood on the highest point of the fortress, the gazes of knights and soldiers gathered on me.

Atop the fortress, a flag swayed in the wind, glittering in the rising morning sun.

I held up my right hand.

"From here one, we shall get serious! Use all your strength to... wipe out the enemy!"

Before the sealed monsters, the troops wrung out their voices. Their protruded their fists to the heavens as their morale rose.

(... Right. From here on is the real deal, and from here on, it will be hell.)

I thought, as I watched the army of monsters approaching before my eyes.