Inside the tent of the Empire’s headquarters, the report that came from the right-wing was shocking.
「Is that the truth!? 」
The general had a disbelief in his voice as he confirmed with the messenger again, even the other officers around are speechless at the unbelievable news.
「At present time……. We have received the same report multiple times. 」
The cold bucket of water that was splashed on the entire Imperial army was the news that the commander of the right wing was killed in action.
「Could it be the enemy had reserves in the right wing to overturn the situation? 」
「No, the Kingdom shouldn’t have anything like that. 」
The officers who raised the possibility was denied by the general. But, the problem now is whether the news is true. If it’s true, then it’s a big problem.
The commander on the right wing is Viscount Lathria. He is the son of one of the most powerful nobles leading a faction of his own inside the Empire, Duke Tangram.
There’s no second son in the Tangram family. In other words, if the only son, Viscount Lathria was really killed in action, there’s a problem with succession. Because of that, Duke Tangram who had lost his son won’t keep quiet.
Even if the Empire is a dictatorship country, there’s no ignoring Duke Tangram. Leaving aside if it was just a random noble, Duke Tangram is one of the nobles that had supported the country ever since the founding, and his faction has about half of all the nobles in it.
Depending the Duke’s reaction is when he knew he lost his only son, it might not even be a time for war with the Kingdom. Even if the Empire won in the war, he could already see a civil war boiling in the Empire.
「We were winning……. Shit! 」
The victory that was in their grasp at last was spoiled, and the General swore.
To make sure the nobles wouldn’t get hurt, the General had taken extra caution and put them at the safer right wing. With the enemy lost more than half of their numbers, seeing that they have the upper hand only did the General thought to let them assault while ensuring their safety to the best.
And the result led by that, even the General nor any officers around in the tent expected.
But they still had the role of commanding the entire army. Even if the situation went wrong, even if something unexpected happened and ruined the postwar prospect, they must continue to do what they should do.
「What is going on at the right wing? Confirm and report again. 」
The General that regained himself gave the order.
After a while, the report that finally arrived confirmed the death of Viscount Lathria, and then what follow was even doubted by his ears.
「What happened!? Even if the commander died, there should be substitutes there!? 」
「What is it? 」
「Every officer higher than squad commanders were all killed. There’re no one around to give commands, it’s too chaotic to call it a chaos after Viscount Lathria went down……」
「Everyone higher than squad commander are dead……? What kind of joke is that. 」
The General received a shock that made him felt dizzy for a moment. Although there’re also commoner commanders in the left wing and the center, the officers on the right wing are all nobles.
There’re those who wished to participate on their own will, or those who are sent by their family to gain experience. If all above squad commanders were killed, then that means there’re many casualties from the nobles.
At the heavy casualties, the joy of overwhelming the Kingdom were all blown away.
「How much reinforcements did the Kingdom sent!? 」
With all commanders at the right wing died without exception, a short time had only passed before all three thousand of the soldiers were out of control. There’s no mistake the Kingdom had hidden a force unimaginably greater than what the Empire expected.
But the messenger’s next words were unclear.
「The information pertaining that is still under confirmation. However, the soldiers were apparently saying that it’s a 『Monstrosity kid』……」
「Monstrosity……? Was it not the Kingdom but demonic beings? 」
Even if the General asked, the messenger would have no answer. At the unknown feeling of chilliness, the General’s body trembled slightly.
Changing the scene to the right wing where the Imperial soldiers had retreated. Seeing the Imperial army retreating from a far, Ardis returned back to where Kyrill and the others are at.
Kyrill had followed Ardis’s instructions, and regrouped with other surviving students on the battlefield and fended off the attacks from the Imperial soldiers.
The students had barely managed to survive after going through many hardships but, the figure of the Kingdom’s commander is already nowhere to be found. Kyrill was joyed at the reunion with Ardis, but immediately turned into a confused face and asked.
「What should we do at a time like this? 」
The students had never received proper military training, they had no prior instructions to follow if such a situation happened. Asking the only mercenary on the scene is the right answer.
「I guess now would be looking for the whereabouts of the main unit and return to them. 」
But that’s if the unit still exists at this point, Ardis didn’t say that.
「If not, then retreating out of the battlefield swiftly would be the best bet. The Imperial soldiers are retreating but, there’s a possibility they would regroup and assault again. 」
「If we escaped on our own accord, wouldn’t there be military disciplinary actions later? 」
A young girl with a strong looking eye interrupted.
「It’s not escaping, it’s just 『Searching for a unit to return』. 」
「A façade, it is. While looking for a unit to return into command to, we had left the battlefield before we knew it, is it that? 」
Understanding what Ardis meant, the young girl explained in a way that the surrounding students would understand too. Ardis who nodded lightly looked around the remaining students and said.
「The Kingdom is losing in this war anyways. 」
Ardis who said the certainty of defeat for the Kingdom had attracted the gazes of the students.
「You guys don’t want to die at this place too right? Think about getting back alive for now. If we actually encounter a friendly unit, only then listen to their commands. 」
Although there’re also students that came to the war on their own will, at the very least, there’s no one here that is that. Ardis’s words were agreed unanimously.
Treating the injured with the bare minimum, Ardis and the other students got on the move immediately.
People were all around. ――Those that were people in the past. Though there’re some Imperial soldiers that can be seen, most of them are drafted soldiers from the Kingdom, there’re also figures that looked like students of the Mariules academy. The students that saw the brutal state of their classmates let out a voiceless noise.
But that’s not something they can stop around every time and mourn or collect their keepsake. They had no choice but to dismiss those thoughts and advance.
And about ten minutes with the sun behind them as they walked.
Ardis, who was at the front, stopped. And Kyrill who walked right behind him stopped as well and asked.
「What is it, Ardis-san? 」
「There’s a small group on the east. 」
There’s about thirteen members that Ardis’s detection magic caught. The group that slowly moved towards the north were moving in parallel with Ardis and the students.
「Could it be Imperial soldiers? 」
「It’s not impossible but……」
Even when their entire unit retreated, having about ten soldiers in a group lurking around here is unnatural. But it would be too many people and too slow moving to be scouts. They’re obviously moving on foot.
「It’s probably survivors from our side. 」
It’s probably a group that was retreating in the same fashion as Ardis and the students.
「Should we group up? 」
「It’ll be a loss of time but it’s possible. Isn’t it better to avoid danger as soon as possible? 」
「I understand but……」
Kyrill’s expression was cloudy.
If it’s a survivor group from the Kingdom, then it’s high chance they’re drafted soldiers or students. They were all not people that came to the war willingly. If they all cooperate, then their chances of surviving and return to the capital will be higher.
If they’re students, then it’ll be more so since they’re all friends of Kyrill and the other students. Although it’s obvious which is more valuable between their own lives and those that are dead, the ones that are alive are different.
For the other students, they probably think that regrouping with the other group and joining to form a bigger group will be safer too.
「Well, I don’t really mind either way. If you all want to group together, then so be it. 」
Even if the number of people he had to escort increased by ten or more, it’s not much difference. The Empire’s right wing had already crumbled. Even if the group is Imperial soldiers, it would be the remaining or scouts, or a group of soldier that got separated from their unit.
That much, Ardis can handle it all by himself all while protecting the bunch of students.
After Kyrill discussing with the other students, the students had chosen to regroup first.
As they went closer to the group, their appearance became clearer. They were wearing similar design clothing like Kyrill and the others. The group of people who are wearing the equipment supplied by the Mariules Academy, it’s no mistake they’re fellow students from the same academy.
「Good. They’re still alive. 」
Kyrill sighed with relief beside Ardis. The surrounding students turned bright, and there’re even some that saw their friends and waved.
But after regrouping and exchanging information about each other’s situation, their faces became dark again.
「No way! The commander left us all alone and retreated by himself!? 」
One of the students resented. And there’re several other students that were angry at the commander’s action of abandoning them similarly.
Sacrificing few to ensure the survival of the others. It’s not anything rare in a war. It can even be said as the condition to become a commander, having the resolution to take such merciless decision if the situation so calls for it.
But to expect students that are neither soldiers nor mercenaries to understand that is over expectant. Ardis shut his eyes for a while as if hiding his intentions to talk.
After regrouping with the students, there’re thirty-three members now. There are no more people who are nearby that he could sense.
The Empire’s right wing that had assaulted had already retreated, there’s a low chance there’re still any big groups of enemies around. It takes no effort for Ardis alone to escort the thirty-two students to safety.
Actually, meeting a friendly unit would be more troublesome. If they used their superior status and gave stupid orders, and the students were to enter their command, Ardis who participated as an ordinary mercenary couldn’t barge in easily.
But Ardis’s expectation was surprised in another way. After walking for a while, he detected multiple mana signatures that came at them quickly.
「From northwest……? 」
A direction reverse from the Empire side, he saw dusts waking at the north west direction.
There’s the Kingdom’s headquarters at the northwest. A large group of people are coming from that direction. It’s normal to think that they’re friendlies.
But according to the commander of the mercenary unit, there’s an unconfirmed news about the headquarters being assaulted by the enemy and was destroyed. If that’s true, then the likelihood of friendlies coming from the direction of the headquarters is low.
Ardis thought that they might be the enemy unit that had assaulted the headquarters and turned around to hit the remaining soldiers. But that’s just Ardis’s thoughts.
Did the Kingdom’s headquarters suffered that so damage that there’s no need to follow up on attacks, or are they a different unit than those who attacked the headquarters. Ardis didn’t know.
But at the very least, the faction of the unit that came their way, he could predict it quite easily.
「Imperial soldiers, huh. 」
Ardis’s mutter reverberated clearly at the students who are nervous, making them hold their breath.