Whether one’s perception of time is dulled by continual combat, or seasons pass without one having the opportunity to enjoy them, the passage of time continues, equal for everyone.
Having grown into a young man from just a boy, Ardis has completely become a familiar member in Wisteria. Like Sark and Elion, he has come to be regarded as a young talented person and his presence in the mercenary band continues to grow.
「Say, Ardis. 」
Despite Ardis’ difficulties with communication, his extensive service in the mercenary band has naturally helped him get along with the other mercenaries of his generation.
When one of his comrades calls out to him, he has learned to cooperate enough to respond even though he is uninterested.
「I heard that our commander this time is a girl. 」
However, it looks like his lack of interest was apparent on his expression, as he was met with a difficult face.
「What hmmm. That’s all? 」
「I mean, it’s rare, but it’s not like it matters to us right? It’s not like we will meet her directly or anything. 」
「That’s true but. 」
Currently, Ardis and the other mercenaries of Wisteria are heading for their next battlefield. While both distances to the battlefield and meeting the employer are still far away, the mercenary band is quite easygoing.
While they were conversing, another mercenary joined.
「But I heard that’s not all. I mean, certainly a female commander is rare, but I heard she’s only in her twenties, on top of that, she’s actually from a common birth rather than a noble. 」
Probably thinking that it’s a good opportunity to kill time, a few other mercenaries chimed into the conversation.
「Common birth? 」
「From a remote farming village I think. 」
「And she’s the commander for an army at her twenties? That can only come off as a joke for me. 」
「But doesn’t that mean she is just that capable? 」
「Or it’s just blown up by their kingdom. 」
「Nah, that’s too farfetched. Rodelia is a meritocracy country, I can’t imagine that they would do anything like that. 」
Ardis has completely become one of them and participated in their chat.
「I agree on that. But there was another intriguing rumor……」
「That person, I caught wind that she uses the soldiers quite gruesomely. 」
「I mean, that’s probably how a common birth of a farming village can become a commander for an entire army. 」
「So we can expect treatment to mercenaries will also be harsh. Why did Greyth accept a job like this again? 」
「Isn’t that because our assets are in the red after our last battle? 」
No matter how strong a mercenary band might be, losses are always incurred during battles, and it’s not like they claim victory every battle.
There are also occasions where victory does not pay out more than the cost. Of course, it’s still better than losing, but to maintain a large mercenary band, income and expenditure are just as important as winning and losing.
If there’s a large deficit, they would be forced to choose a good paying job to fill that hole up. Wisteria is currently in such a predicament.
「Darwat-san even said that the pay this time is 『Exceptional for a winning battle』. 」
「Exceptional…… right. 」
「But doesn’t that just means that we would be wringed dry for that? 」
「Haha, that’s true. 」
The employer this time is a big country, Rodelia Kingdom. And the opponent this time is the Randeshell New Country.
Rodelia Kingdom holds the obvious upper hand in both military force and national power. The war this time consists of six thousand from Rodelia and four thousand from Randeshell.
The quality in soldiers isn’t that much different. However, because of the difference in numbers, it’s a war where victory for Rodelia Kingdom could be seen nine out of ten times.
It is within that day, Wisteria had regrouped with their employer, the Rodelia army.
After reorganizing the army with the inclusion of other mercenary bands, the plan is to meet the enemy on the next afternoon amid the plains.
The enemy, Randeshell New Country, has solidified their center and right wing with infantries, with their tiger cub cavalry placed at the left end of their formation.
To counter the enemy’s cavalries, Rodelia’s side had put their own cavalries at the right wing, and infantries at the center and left wing.
It was like a mirror image. The only difference present is that the mercenary unit of the enemy is located on the left end when viewed from here, or on the right end if viewed from the enemy’s perspective, while the mercenary unit on the Kingdom’s side is sandwiched between the cavalries on the right and the infantries in the center.
With the strongest mercenary band, Wisteria taking the front, other medium to small mercenary bands followed behind.
「I don’t like this placement. 」
Seeing the placement between themselves and the enemy, Greyth muttered unsatisfactorily.
「But well, it’s a job. We need to work for our pay. 」
Greyth who stood at the front turned around and faced his comrades. After looking over all faces from the mercenary band, Greyth raised his volume.
「Listen you all. We will properly accomplish the job we agreed to! 」
Following Greyth’s words, everyone in Wisteria raised their voice.
「Don’t loosen up just because it’s a winning battle! 」
「Don’t get distracted by the short-sighted victory and miss my instructions! 」
Mercenary bands are different from regular armies that are trained.
With a vague commanding chain, Greyth’s instructions as the commander might not always reach the mercenaries’ ears.
That’s why they keep the words to convey to the least, and only the most important things are reminded immediately before.
That is the answer that Wisteria arrived to. These series of exchanges are already familiar to Ardis. It’s a ceremony they always do before heading out for a battle.
Greyth pulled out his sword and raised it above his head.
「Our swords are for the sake of victory! 」
「For the sake of victory! 」
Voices of comrades resonated together after Greyth.
「Our hearts are for the sake of our comrades! 」
「For the sake of our comrades! 」
With each of their lines synchronized, the mercenaries begin to feel exalted and united.
The group that already had a strong sense of companionship is further enhanced, and what was originally a gathering of individual mercenaries melted away.
The heightened atmosphere was what transformed a bunch of mercenaries into the mercenary band, Wisteria.
『Well, it’s that. Like setting an atmosphere. If we don’t try to put some spirit to those who are still inexperienced, they will easily get caught up by the battlefield and die in no time.』
As if it were a fleeting thought, Ardis suddenly recalled what Greyth said once.
Do not get drunk over a battle.
Do not get drunk over a victory.
But on the other hand, to survive, there will be times they have to willingly be intoxicated in the battle to extinguish their fear.
Despite it still being a contradiction, everyone chooses to be intoxicated in that way to shake off their anxiety in battle.
「Here we march, with glory under our flag! 」
「With glory under our flag! 」
Everyone raised their weapons and shouted to the extent of their lungs.
While being wrapped in their loud voices that would even reach the enemy in the distance, Ardis entrusts himself to the tension.
Kill or be killed. That day, Ardis threw himself into the fray where his fate is on the line again.