Nine days after departing from the capital. The Kingdom’s army that had completed the march set up a camp preparing for the next day’s decisive battle.
The Empire should be aware that they are here too, they would be the same, looking out for night attacks while resting amply for the last time. Groups of people can be seen all over the place taking warmth around a campfire.
And among them, a group of mercenaries, Ted, Norris, Orphellia, the members of 『Bright Stars of White Night』, and Ardis.
「I heard from a scout earlier. 」
Norris started his story like an idle talk while skewering a piece of food with a branch.
「It’s the usual but, how did you even get to hear stuff like that……」
Orphellia had an expression like she’s looking at something unfathomable.
Just like what she said, a report from a scout isn’t something obtainable for mercenaries normally. And there’s no way he would take it seriously even if asked.
Although it’s unknown if Norris used some mystic method to get information, it’s a fact that he would always have some shocking revelation albeit always looking like he’s fooling around.
「It seems like the Empire is shelling up at their camp. By shelling, they’re just building up fences or digging trenches though. 」
「With that, it’s no predicting what kind of hand they will play huh. 」
「Who knows. They won the first one big, I thought they would totally start marching to the capital. Why are we heading towards where they had set up their base? Isn’t it the Empire who had started the fight? 」
「Ted is right. After all, the Kingdom army was in tatters after the first fight, they could’ve totally ridden on the flow and marched to the capital. But the Empire is far away, they had already experienced the difficulties in moving supplies in previous wars, wouldn’t they be trying to avoid the same failure this time around? 」
Elmenia Empire’s territory spans wide across the west and east. And the capital of the Empire is as Norris said, it’s located on the far east side of the border. Their capital is already far from the border separating Nagras and Elmenia, this place should be even further.
Of course, the empire has other large cities other than its capital too. About three days from the border in the southeast direction, there is the so called second capital of the Empire.
But the funds required to move the country’s entire military aren’t little. To maintain the entire army, the funding from their capital is essential.
There’s many precedence in the history of the war for the Imperial army to withdraw from the war even though it won as a result of lack of supplies. One of the reasons is probably because since they are raising the flag of reclaiming their lost territory, they wouldn’t plunder resources from the villages and towns in the Kingdom.
Although there might have been individual actions of the soldier doing so, it’s not like they can get enough supplies to support a large army in that way. Furthermore, the Kingdom’s southeast portion is a territory that isn’t producing food, even if they would try and plunder, there aren’t anything to fill their stomachs.
「That’s why they have holed up waiting for the Kingdom to send their army to them, quite a laid back attitude huh. If the Kingdom chose to station their army to defend, what would they do? 」
「Who knows. But now that the Kingdom had decided to come here for the final showdown, isn’t it just as the Empire’s intentions? 」
「Well, it’s not like we can have a part in saying that, mercenaries like us can only fight in the environment given to us. 」
「Anyways, aren’t we mercenaries going to be thrown into the most dangerous area? I’m not really up for trying to breakthrough a camp that is fortified. 」
「We already participated knowingly it’s a disadvantageous, there’s no use crying over spilt milk now. 」
「Well, that’s so but……」
Having pointed out with a fed-up tone from Norris, Ted was displeased.
「I guess the only thing I can hope is the commander is someone with a good head huh. 」
「I wonder? Apparently, his nickname is『Thirty-three years old child』. 」
「What the heck? Somehow……, it’s an unsettling name to hear……」
「What kind of person is he? 」
Hearing the name from Norris, Ardis who had kept away from the conversation so far spoke for the first time.
「Huh? Ardis showing interest is quite rare. 」
Ardis rarely shows interest and ask when they’re gossiping unless there’s something special Ardis heard before. As such, it somehow roused their interest, even more so if it’s a person.
「I have met someone with that kind of name though. 」
「Heee. To have the 『Three Great Demons Subjugator』 remember me, I’m quite the amazing person huh. 」
At a sudden voice that came from his back, Ardis turned around and responded.
There was a man covered in a full military uniform of the kingdom. A calm and collected expression with a well-balanced muscle body.
Ardis felt the face was familiar.
Four years ago, it was during the request of reinvestigating the island where the 『Four Winged』 used to live. The lifeform there――Rupus――to prove that he’s harmless, he had put an act up to the investigation team from the Kingdom, and the familiar face came from one of the members of that team.
Before, he was certainly called a 『Captain』, but that’s already four years ago. 『Twenty-nine years old child』 had already become 『Thirty-three years old child』, his face had shown the progress of age.
「We’ve met four years ago right. 」
「Unn unn, yeah that. It’s when we’re heading to the island where the Four Winged lived in for an investigation right? 」
Ardis’s memories were procced at his words.
「Why are you here? No, if you’re here, then――」
With a question in his mind, Ardis had arrived at the answer himself.
「It’s so. The one commanding the mercenary unit this time, it is the 『Forever Kid General』, Moore Greyster, that’s me. Ha-ha-ha-. 」
That reminds Ardis, four years ago, there was an instance when his subordinate called him that, Ardis recalled while feeling strange at Moore’s laughter, since it wasn’t something he can brag about.
With Ardis still occupied with the feeling of don’t want to be involved in anything, the commander, Moore had slipped in the gap and sat down beside the group.
「In any case, I thought people said that my face didn’t age that much ……」
Moore was staring at Ardis face like a strange specimen.
「You, you changed nothing from four years ago. Are you actually not a human? 」
At Moore’s rude words, Ardis had an unentertained face. And it was Norris who saw that from the side couldn’t hold back his laughter.
「Pu―. Ardis certainly doesn’t look like a human right. Rather, I would believe if he’s actually some other life form. Ahahah」
「Oi, Norris. 」
Ardis’s face turned even more displeased.
「Sorry sorry, Ardis. In any case, it’s a good timing. 」
「For what. 」
「No, not about Ardis being far from human. Since the one commanding is here anyways, I have something to ask. 」
「Nn? Me? 」
「Yeah, that’s right. Unit commander-san. 」
Although it is just a chat, the other person is a superior, Norris’s words became polite.
「Aah, spare that kind of difficult words. Fine if you talk normally, mercenaries are so anyways. 」
「That so? Then I will do the same. 」
Glad at Moore’s generosity, Norris easily changed back to his usual tone.
「So? What’s the thing you want to ask? 」
「I heard something just now though, about the empire army holing up at their base? 」
「Where did you hear that. That information, to have been heard by a mercenary, what kind of information integrity this army have. 」
Right before a battle, spreading disadvantageous news to the soldiers would do the worse. A mercenary asking about the information that should have been kept secrecy, Moore probably thought the army’s intelligence department is really lacking.
「Well, leaving that aside. 」
Ignoring Moore’s concerns, Norris continued.
「The difference in number is already very wide, isn’t it like we’re rushing into a defensive formation of the Empire? Normally thinking, it’s a losing battle. Is there some kind of mysterious plan that our army have that can magically overturn the situation? 」
「Don’t know. Rather, I won’t say anything even if I knew? I still have my position to consider after all. 」
Although his attitude was easygoing but, it seems like his mouth isn’t that easygoing after all. Actually, if he would’ve simply talked about secrets, it would instead bring loss of trust in the army.
「Well, I thought so. 」
Norris withdrew quietly like he’d expected that, and then it was Ted’s turn to ask.
「In other words, where we’re going to be placed, there’s no knowing until tomorrow? 」
「Let’s see……. Wouldn’t the strategists be doing their best desperately trying to think of a formation now? Jokes aside, it’s quite imaginable where we’re going to be put. 」
「Probably where the most damage will be taken. 」
At Moore’s indifferent answer, Ted cursed.
「Tch. I wasn’t asking something like that. Some commander you are. 」
「Ha-Ha-Ha. Well, I don’t know either where I will be going. Even though I’m a unit commander, the upper guys really seem to dislike me. The order for me to sortie just arrived moments before the war begun. The army formation should be revealed later though. 」
Moore laughed as if he’s sorry.
「Seriously, you say it so easily. Using mercenaries as disposables, is it? 」
「But isn’t that just mercenaries? In the first place, they aren’t creatures that would keep quiet in getting used. 」
Moore turned around and sent a challenging gaze to Ted.
「Don’t you understand quite well. 」
「I’m a former mercenary after all. 」
Ardis showed an expression of understanding with that.
「I see. That’s why you don’t look like a military man at all huh. 」
「Yeah. That’s also why I am commanding the mercenary unit this time around. 」
It seems like Moore’s background as a former mercenary helped him to secure the position as the mercenary unit commander.
「So you drew the short end of the stick huh. 」
Disliked by the upper echelons, Ardis read between the pages at Moore’s words. Moore shrugged and showed affirmative without saying.
「Well, it’s not just me who had drawn the short end of the stick though. 」
The meaning of 『Not just me』, Ardis was curious and asked.
「There’s another short end this time around. Pretty sure they are in the same hot mess not any better than us. 」
At Moore’s 『They』, Ardis understood there is another unit that had bad luck.
「Which unit is it? 」
「The student unit. The kids from the warriors and magicians’ course from the academy in the capital. 」
Ardis frowned a little after hearing that answer. After all, the reason of the person why Ardis participated in this war is there after all.
「It would be a mess to even take a few of them out on a picnic already, now they have to command a bunch of them in a war huh……. I guess I’m luckier in the sense I’m commanding the mercenaries. Although it’s a brat that I’m not good with commanding that unit, I can sympathize with him a little. 」
It was Kyrill who drew the even shorter end of the stick than Ardis.