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Chapter 11: Dead Men

 Dead Men

... While avoiding the maintained roads, Breid managed to march his army all the way to the destination point.

But when he finally thought he was growing closer to South Beim, what he saw was more than forty thousand enemies ready and waiting.

The battleground was set for noon, and the elites and soldiers scraped up from the feudal lords were in the midst of total exhaustion. By the daily attacks and loud noises, they weren't able to get any satisfactory rest. Their horses had been set free, so to carry their supplies, they had to put humans on the job, causing even greater exhaustion.

Within that situation, Breid looked around himself. The two Baronets who had approached him at Redant Fortress... and the knights they got to follow them. Before he had realized it, they had stuck on a reason, and withdrawn from the force, unit and all.

The worst of it was that they had taken off with valuable supplies. Arrows on top of spare equipment. But still, it wasn't to a level where they were incapable of battle. More than that, Breid had enough power to overturn this numerical disadvantage.

For these soldiers he brought along were the elites who had sworn absolute loyalty to Celes. These men would easily throw down their lives for her sake.

With a numerical difference of this level, and even this great disadvantage, they had enough perseverance to easily break through. However, there was something Breid couldn't forgive.

That ascending the incline, on the defenses above solidified like a fortress, stood Lyle looking down over them in blue and white armor.

"... So you set this up! You tricked me... you!!"

Breid's anger was immense. More than that the Baronets had betrayed him, he couldn't forgive that he was dancing on the palm of Lyle's hand. The reason being that to Breid, Lyle was his detested idol of loathing itself.

Just the thought he was from a Count House made him detestable. What's more, hearing he was a driven-out incompetent, he ridiculed him within. But he had defeated a Gryphon, and acted as if he had no interest in that achievement. He had conceded the merits Breid was dying to get his hands on.

It felt as if he was just being tossed the leftovers... no, it was fact that Breid had gotten his current status by chance. By chance, he had stabbed the knight Celes failed to kill from behind.

His black armor was the armor that knight wore over his body. That gallant knight who swung about his spear on his horse... the knight Breid aspired to be. Out of a desire to be closer to that knight, he had fixed up the armor and draped it over himself.

Wearing that armor with a contrastive coloration to Lyle's, Breid extended a hand to the hilt of his sword. He was tired, but with the enemy before his eyes, his fighting spirit didn't fall short from that of the throw-away elites.

"You incompetent washout!! Captain of the royal guard... Breid Vamper will teach you what it means to be a true knight! Attaccckkkk!!"

There was no such thing as a plan. Breid chose to simply charge at the enemy before his eyes. But that itself was the fighting style with the highest possible rate of success at these elites' disposal.

"Chaaaaarrrggeee!!"

Everyone reached for the medicine concealed in their pouches... opening the lid, they all chewed up and swallowed the solid masses within...

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At the defensive lines we prepared for emergency's sake, our arrows bows and magic were overcome by the soldiers, who successfully breached the first wall.

The scene of over thirty thousand attacking was quite a masterpiece, but now wasn't the time for that. I looked upon it as I mutter.

"What... just what's going on with them!?"

The soldiers who joyfully leapt in front of the loaded guns. Using those soldiers as shields, the ones in the back pushed their way to the wall, and stuck themselves to it. Pierced with spears or cut with swords, it looked as if the only thing on their minds was to breach this wall.

Not dying so easily even with fatal wounds, they gripped the soldiers on our side, making an opening for their allies. They broke into a fighting style that easily sacrificed their comrades.

I couldn't call their perseverance anything but abnormal.

"... Do they know no fear?"

The unit stationed at the front was attacked by the enemies that breached the wall bloodstained as they were. What's more, they were all laughing as they fought.

From the Jewel, the Fifth clicked his tongue.

[Che... Lyle, have the forces step back. This is worse than I thought.]

They were more dangerous than the Fifth had anticipated. I had the forces retreat. To create an opening for that, I sent those two out.

"Have Gracia and Elza step out. Don't let the soldiers get close by any means! Just blow them away!"

Originally, I planned to have those two come out when the enemy had been stalled at the wall, but I instead, we were going to make some time for the front force to retreat.

Riding their horses, they lead their own battalions at their flanks to provide relief to our allies. When they fired their magic at the enemy, soldiers were sent flying through the air.

But an enemy that wouldn't stop even upon witnessing that scene. They were deploying a Shield through magic to keep casualties down, but they didn't show any fear to the magics that easily burst through it.

Soldiers burned through by Gracia's pale flames. Jumping over the opened gap, the others let their bodies be clad in flames as they pressed on.

The enemy soldiers frozen by Elza's ice... the soldiers pressing behind paid them no mind as they shattered them underfoot.

Just press forward... just kill the enemy before your eyes... before the enemy force with that mindset, I clenched my fist.

They were supposed to be exhausted, yet this force that wouldn't stop their assault even come night. Normally, we were supposed to have an overwhelming advantage, but we were being psychologically cornered.

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Night.

While the front line was still fighting, I stepped back a bit, and gathered all the main members.

Within the tent, I sought the opinions of those who had actually witnessed the force of our foe.

"Even with our greater numbers, we're being pushed back. The enemy's casualties are greater than ours. But we're losing psychologically. I want to do something about it."

Hearing that from me, Maksim-san folded his arms.

"I've clashed with the enemy soldiers a few times. But those really are dead men. For an army as large as thirty thousand to attack resolved for death... it may overturn our numerical and terrain advantage. The enemy casualties haven't reached ten thousand yet, and even if it does, their hearts won't fold. If we put out any more casualty before that..."

Our hearts would be the first to break, though Maksim-san didn't say it through to the end. Everyone who'd been out on the battlefield understood it. I had prepared thinking they were an army with the power to overcome, but I never thought they would be that abnormal.

No, if it was mere abnormality, that wouldn't be a problem, but all their soldiers were undoubtedly elites with a certain level of ability.

Having defeated many enemies, Gracia made an unmerry expression.

"Are all Bahnseim's soldiers something like that? That's plain bizarre. Without even thinking of the deaths they suffer, for them to simply press forward..."

Elza shared her opinion.

"I can understand when someone knows this is where they will die. But it truly is abnormal to be able to accomplish it with those numbers. Celes, you called her? She really is dangerous."

I tried thinking over what Celes had done to those elites. It's true dead men were a threat. But I couldn't understand how it brought about such an aptitude to break through.

There, Monica entered the tent.

"Pardon me. Chicken dickwad, there is something I need to inform you of."

"What?"

I looked at Monica. She straightened her back, and spoke without any of her usual jokes.

"... About the soldiers on Bahnseim's side, it has been determined they have ingested a sort of drug. Result of analysis shows it is something that puts them into an excited state. Magic analysis is out of my expertise, but according to Professor Damien there is a possibility it's bestowing them a pseudo-Skill effect."

Everyone's eyes opened wide. Even in Beim, I'd never heard such a medicine existed. And if such a convenient drug existed, every country out there would be seeking it out.

But Monica spoke.

"At the same time, its design has a toxic nature. It is thinkable that they aren't displaying more than ten to twenty percent of the Skill, yet after use their bodies won't be able to adapt to it, and will perish as a result. There is a high probability monster materials are being used as ingredients.

I've heard of monster materials being used in medicine before. But by Monica's tone, they were using things not meant for medicinal purposes, and conducting war by shortening lifespans.

I witnessed Novem's expression warp as she grit her teeth.

"... How long until they die? A day or two?"

Monica shook her head.

"No, at the very least, it will take three months. Soldiers set to die is exactly what they are."

From the Jewel, I heard the Third and Seventh's voices.

[... She's really done it. Who the hell goes that far? Her elites were to be thrown away.]

[To plan to kill off thirty thousand of your soldiers from the start...]

The Third's voice was lower than usual, and scary. The Fifth seemed to be thinking over something as he spoke to me.

[Lyle, make a bit of time. It'll end at once.]

Milleia-san raised a surprised voice.

[Father!]

The Fifth spoke.

[Don't stop me. Now is the right time... it seems a meaning has come to my way of life.]

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... A ship from Beim arrived at South Beim.

It was a ship managed by the Trēs House, and the ones aboard were Roland and Gina. Those two that brought a Guild executive from Beim had come to seek reinforcements from South Beim.

In the Trēs Manor prepared in South Beim, Fidel and Vera were carrying out negotiations with the three.

They sat across a table, each side seated. Roland and Gina were lowering their eyes, while the executive frantically explained the present situation.

"Fidel-dono, Please rescue Beim from its current predicament. That lovely lady said she was Lyle-dono's lover, did she not? This is a chance for the Trēs House to return to Beim!"

The other party promised reinstatement as an adventurer, preferential treatment, and a great sum of money if Lyle came to offer relief to Beim. At the same time, they said they would revoke the Trēs House's exile sentence from the city.

Vera stayed silent. But Fidel was different. He dealt with them smiling.

"That sounds nice. If we return to Beim, we won't even be comparable to what we were before, but we'll have a more stable stronghold than what we have here. It will be easier to do business."

Seeing Fidel smile, the executive smiled in kind. But Fidel's face turned serious.

"... But just returning the status I lost in Beim holds no meaning. The merchants I've dealt with over my long years, and the customers have already moved far away. You say you can bring everything back to how it once was?"

"T-that would be difficult. But we will put the utmost effort towards-"

"-It goes well without saying you'll be applying yourselves. And so? Did you plan to be evaluated on such an obvious fact?"

As he troubled the other party, Vera looked at Gina and Roland and opened her mouth.

"... I heard rumor at the harbor. You've both been abused quite well by your surroundings. What were you trying to do by making the Trēs House's scale average even in Beim?"

Gina in regards to her.

"Do you want to be number one that badly!? I didn't want to marry someone I didn't even love to maintain that! I just wanted to live with Roland in a house that fit his stature!"

Vera replied.

"Can you really say those words to the ones working under you? You're already in a position where you have to protect the ones working for your House!"

"C-could the two of you put that on hold?"

The executive soothed Gina, and spoke to Fidel once more.

"We don't have any more time. I would like to call Lyle-dono back. Beim is in need of his power."

Fidel placed both elbows on the table, and folded his arms to conceal his mouth.

"... Sorry, that's impossible."

"Fidel-sama!"

Roland stood forcefully. Are you fine with your homeland of Beim engulfed in flames? Or his eyes seemed to chastise. But he had enough rationality not to put that to words.

Fidel held in a laugh.

"Hmph, I don't have the right to decide. This isn't Beim. Everything is managed by that brat here. And his current representative is..."

"... Pardon my interruption."

With her pink hair fluttering, a woman surrounded by black-haired maids opened the door, and entered the room. The woman stood before the three, and gave her greetings.

"The management of South Beim has been left to me; I am called Lianne. My surname... will eventually become Walt, so there is no use in saying it."

Fidel turned to the Guild executive.

"This place doesn't follow the same rule as Beim. So no matter how hard you plead to me, it's impossible. But I've prepared your opportunity. Why not try making your case here?"

Fidel and Vera stood from their seats, while the maid-clothed Valkyries seated Lianne before the three visitors. Lianne leaned forward and smiled.

"We're wasting time, so let's get to it. Now then, just how much do you plan on doing for us?"

The executive, panicked as he was.

"A-as I've just stated, Lyle-dono's reinstatement as an adventurer, and-"

"-Rejected. Why would we want adventurer status at this point? It's a problem that comes even before negotiations. Now return at once, and tell them... to give us everything. Money and status, fame and land and authority! Give us everything, and next time you come, have everyone here to kneel before Lyle Walt. Do you understand? Now off with you. We're not going to negotiate. Either accept our conditions, or reject them and perish. Choose whichever one you like. We're fine if Beim is destroyed. More so, it would be better for us if it did. I mean... you're the ones who drove him out in the first place, aren't you?"

While the executive attempted to say something, Roland spoke to Lianne.

"We understand that. So Beim will promise the maximum reception and..."

Lianne leaned her back into her chair.

"... If that's the maximum, then Beim isn't anything special. If you can't protect yourselves, then fall. You can't get by in the world so easily. The weak will collapse. Underestimating the surroundings, failing to get their cooperation, and betraying your old allies, it's all your peoples' responsibility. And all is over once the responsible parties take responsibility."

Before Lianne's smile, the three abandoned hope of any further negotiations...