The outcome of the battle was decided the moment Rodelia’s army broke apart the enemy cavalries and turned to the offensive.
The left wing that had been drawing in the enemies skillfully till then, restarted their aggressive advance. The cavalries rode with their momentum to assault the enemy’s rear.
Overturning the situation where Wisteria was being half encircled in an instant, Rodelia’s army suddenly expanded and reversed the encirclement.
Losing their elite cavalry unit, Randeshell’s army was forced into a rout.
Managing to claim many enemy soldiers that were in the rout, Rodelia’s army made a triumphant return to the capital having claimed a great victory in the battle.
The battle that decided the outcome of the two countries in a nemesis relationship ended in an overwhelming victory on Rodelia’s side.
Randeshell both suffered a great defeat and lost their elite calvary unit in this battle. Considering how much time it takes to raise a rider and a horse, it will take about ten years to rebuild their strength. Naturally, during that time, Rodelia wouldn’t be a sitting duck.
On the other hand, Rodelia hasn’t suffered any loss. Although many were killed or injured, most of them were only mercenaries hired with money.
The power balance between the two countries cannot be compared because their regular army suffered little damage.
Rodelia was victorious and a celebratory ceremony was held in the capital. Normally, mercenaries would get their pay immediately after the end of a battle, but since the rest of the reward will be paid out after the ceremony at the royal castle, they had no choice but to accompany Rodelia’s army.
Of course, despite being allies, it’s hard to suddenly accommodate this many mercenaries in the capital.
The only ones other than Greyth that participated in the ceremony were Victor, Joan and Elion, a total of four representatives from Wisteria.
As for the others, they had to camp outside the capital while they waited for the four to return.
「Aa~ah. Why are we subjected to such cruel treatment, forced into camping outside, and eating this dry and hard bread when we won the battle? 」
While complaining, Darwat ate the dry bread after soaking it in his soup. It’s not like the soup was delicious either.
The ration that emphasized on amount rather than quality was made from boiling vegetables pieces that were picked a while back, and salted meat jerky that stinks of a gamey odor.
Thanks to being just beside the capital, Ardis and the others were able to get more food, but it didn’t mean that the taste was good.
Naturally, spices which are high-grade goods are omitted. The soup was dominated by the gamey taste of the meat jerky and a little saltiness.
「Just don’t eat if you have that many complaints. 」
Lexy rebuked Darwat who was complaining too much without much enthusiasm.
「After all, there are many others who will be willing to eat your portion if you don’t. 」
「Since when did I say I’m not eating. I thought we were going to eat something better, so just leave me grumbling. 」
「Grumble all you want if that makes it taste better. But you do know it won’t change anything no matter how you complain? 」
「Who the heck doesn’t know that?」
「Then eat quietly. 」
While listening to Darwat and Lexy bickering, Ardis tried the soup.
Not just the taste of the vegetables, but even the salty taste that was supposed to be the base were overpowered by the stench of the dried jerky so much that it was vomit inducing.
While his expression contorted, Ardis stopped his breathing and gulped all of it down in one go.
It doesn’t change the fact that it’s food and a precious source of nutrients. Only the taste was the sole luxury he can’t have.
There’s something he saw after travelling here and there as a mercenary. People that died from starvation in alleyways, and abandoned people eaten by birds outside the city walls.
It was a sight that could be seen in any town, village, and even in a place like this kingdom’s capital where the entire city is surrounded by outer walls.
No matter how disgusting, having something to eat is still many times better.
「Aaah, if only I can get some roasted chicken now……」
Darwat then prodded Ardis about it.
「Hey Ardis, won’t you help out this senior mercenary here and go procure some meat? 」
「Should I go get some Nedulo as per your request? 」
「Dumbass. Even this thing is better than eating Nedulo. I’m saying you go buy some meat in the city. 」
「Even if you say that, we’re not allowed to enter, remember? 」
「So―― I ―― said. Just sneak in and out. 」
「Why should I do that……. do it yourself. 」
「You know I can’t do skillful things like that! 」
「Yeah yeah that’s it. You know how scary the Captain can be if you do that, right? I bet we wouldn’t want to splurge the hard-earned money that we got after almost one-tenth of us died to get the hard victory, with your stupid spending. 」
As Lexy said so glaringly, Darwat had no choice but to withdraw sourly. He also knew it.
Both the victor’s position and the enormous quantity of money acquired resulted from suffering significant losses.
Darwat isn’t stupid enough to let it all evaporate just because of one delicious meal.
「Shiiiit. That Greyth must be eating a feast by now. 」
Looking filled with jealousy, Darwat looked at the capital.
Greyth and the others returned from the capital the next day. However, their expressions were incredibly moody, unfitting of people that had just attended a celebratory ceremony.
Greyth didn’t give out any instructions like he usually does, Victor had an atmosphere that was harder to near than usual, and Elion looked very unusually angry.
「Those shitters! 」
And among them was Joan, who was loud enough that it surprised everyone.
He was emitting furious energy unlike his usual easy going self, and left the camp with his weapon after saying 「I will be back by night. 」.
「Is it fine to leave him alone like that? 」
「……Just leave him be. He was incredibly patient in his own way after all. 」
Catching onto a hint of danger with Joan’s actions, Luciel asked Victor in worry.
「He’s probably just going to hunt some beasts nearby to blow off some steam. I as well understand his feelings. 」
Before Ardis could ask what happened, Victor left immediately after saying that.
「What could have happened at the ceremony? 」
While Luciel and Ardis were tilting their heads as to what could have happened, one person who might knew drew closer. It was Elion that attended the same ceremony with Greyth and the others.
Maybe they wanted to hear the story similarly like Ardis, Sark and other young mercenaries came closer, and Elion started talking about the ceremony with an unusual expression.
「I mean, we are mercenaries that can become both enemies or allies with enough money. But inviting us to the ceremony and giving us that treatment, even Joan would get angry. 」
「Did they lie about the remaining reward? 」
Elion answered the questions made by the nearby listeners.
「No. The compensation was paid in full. Three times the market price even. 」
「Uooh, three times! 」
「That’s great! We can get a feast with that! 」
The mercenaries became excited. After all, more money meant better food. Living a dangerous life that is full of uncertainties, the desire to fill one’s stomach with delicious food is stronger than that of ordinary people.
Among them, one mercenary asked.
「Then, why is Joan acting like that? 」
「There are several reasons…….the first is the certification of military service. 」
After affirming, Elion took a big sigh.
「Of all things, it’s that cavalry unit that trampled over even their own allied mercenaries. A noble called Spencer or something. 」
Hearing that, the mercenaries started looking irritated.
「The one that ran over even his allies got the award for the most contribution!? 」
Many started condemning angrily, but there were also some that accepted the fact with a bitter expression.
「I mean we all know that’s bull crap……」
「Ignoring the fact that friendly fire was involved, that move was certainly the decisive hit. 」
「Unn, I’m sure Captain and the others understood that as well, but that’s probably not enough to make them this furious. 」
It seems like even Elion himself was able to acknowledge that part a little.
「Was there something else? 」
Ardis asked again seeing Elion calmed down a little.
「The woman general that was the commander gave a speech……」
Elion’s expression changed. Probably because of the rage that accompanied him while recalling it.
「In short, 『There were not many casualties. It was expensive, but for the portion of money spent, there were less soldiers damaged』. 」
Those words alone silenced everyone there.
「What was that…….we lost one tenth of our people in that fight. 」
One mercenary said so painfully. Wisteria had suffered damage that was not to be scoffed at in that battle.
A normal battle that would not have casualties reaching the double digits instead had more than twenty in that battle.
There are people here who had lost their close comrades or precious partners. They could never accept being told that the damage to the soldiers was negligible.
Those are not words that can be overlooked in a mercenary band. Including the injured people, they have lost about one third of their combat force in just that one battle.
However, Wisteria was still on the better side if compared with other mercenary bands. Since other mercenary bands were also caught up in the cavalry unit’s friendly fire, those that were lucky were half annihilated, but there were also smaller mercenary bands that were wiped out.
Certainly, the compensation was three times more than the market price, but on the other side of the scale, they had to incur great losses. Considerable time is needed to rebuild their force back to where it was.
「It’s true that casualties were mostly of mercenaries, and their side basically had none. But, they didn’t have to say that and brag about it in front of us. 」
Elion’s blue eyes filled with rage.
「And as expected, the Captain and representatives of other mercenary bands stood up, but that woman general……」
After biting his lips, the words that were spoken by the woman general reenacted by Elion, hit Ardis’s inner self hard.
『Isn’t it a mercenary’s job to die for money? Was there any problem? 』
The woman general rebutted so towards Greyth and the others who stood up.
「Don’t kid me! 」
「Whose job is it to die!? 」
「Who do you think we are?! 」
Suddenly, the entire place was filled with angry voices.
It’s natural. Ardis and every mercenary there knew that their job is always accompanied by danger.
They had resolved themselves to die sooner or later if they continued fighting, but that didn’t mean they became a mercenary to die.
Most of them are those that had no choice but to become a mercenary, those who were exiled from their hometown and became homeless.
Mercenaries are those who want a better life and don’t want to risk their lives but have no choice but to do so to survive.
The number of mercenaries who willingly jump into battles of life and death are in the minority. The words of the woman general were completely prejudiced.
Mercenaries are people as well. They have their own ambitions, troubles and futures. They do not exist only for the sake of being moved like pawns on a battlefield.
「That……I have a question. 」
「What is it? 」
「Why were representatives from mercenary bands invited to the ceremony? From what I’ve heard so far, that general only treats mercenaries like tools, right? 」
「Yeah, about that……」
Apparently, according to the woman general, the mercenary bands had considerable contributions as well.
However, the contributions weren’t anything like taking down strong foes, overturning the situation, or anything of the sorts of what Ardis and the others thought.
『Your greatest contribution is to have died for the sake of Rodelia’s soldiers. Rather than living a sorrowful life as a mercenary, isn’t it better to have a quick and meaningful death? 』
The woman general congratulated them with a tone, and eyes filled with benevolence from the bottom of her heart.
「As expected, that is when I snapped. If it wasn’t for Victor holding down Joan, he would’ve rushed forward for a fight there. 」
The mercenaries that listened to Elion’s story were quiet. However, it wasn’t of a solemn atmosphere, but one filled with rage.
They were silent only because they didn’t know how to react to that insensitive and cruel woman general, but their feelings were certainly burning strong.
More than twenty of their companions died in the combat because of that woman’s commands, using a method that didn’t care about sacrificing all of them.
One person approached the group, which was on the verge of exploding with even the smallest stimulation while appearing calm on the surface.
It was Greyth.
As one of them noticed him approaching earlier, and called out, the others followed soon.
「We heard it from Elion! 」
「Will we leave them with what they said?! 」
「It will just taint the name of Wisteria if we get underestimated like that! 」
「They are unforgivable! 」
Surrounded by the hustle and bustle as if prior to a war, Greyth desperately tries to calm down the murderous mercenaries.
「Calm down, you guys. 」
He started talking when the mercenaries eventually quieted down to listen.
「I understand how you all feel. It’s natural to be angry, but……」
Greyth who was saying it calmly was probably the one seething with anger more than anyone there.
Although it appeared like he was feigning calmness while suppressing his irritation, Ardis could easily see through that.
「She’s still our employer at the end of the day. I’m irritated as well, but we can’t do anything because of the employer contract. 」
「But that employment contract is over already! 」
「Just listen first. 」
Greyth put a stop to the mercenary who stood up by grabbing his arm before continuing.
「Even with the employment contract over, going for the offense now is bad for appearance. Our credibility would drop to nothing if we did that. Moreover, we don’t have the manpower to go against them, with their army basically at full strength having incurred basically no damage in the last battle.」
「Then are you saying we have to cry ourselves to sleep!? 」
「I can’t buy it! 」
「Wait, wait. Listen, we are mercenaries. Depending on the time and situation, we can be either an ally or an enemy. We should act as the mercenaries we are and return the favor on a battlefield. Don’t make that face, we won’t have to wait for long. 」
「What does that mean? 」
「It’s a rumor Victor picked up. It looks like Rodelia has recently been winning too much. The nearby smaller countries have all started moving to catch Rodelia. Since such rumors are flying around, the countries must’ve finished their talking already. If so, Rodelia won’t be winning comfortably either. If the armies of the rumored countries come together, the difference in troops wouldn’t be significant. So, about which side we will pick when that time comes……」
As Greyth continued his words, the mercenaries around soon understood what he was hinting.
「Naturally, it’d be the side to punch that woman general black and blue! 」
「Cutting them down wouldn’t be a problem if we are enemies! 」
Voices agreeing to the idea continued. Despite not heading to a battlefield next, the group morale rose with the slogan of 『Bring down Rodelia’s woman general』.
「And there you have it. 」
Getting this response from the mercenaries, Greyth showed a satisfied smile.
「Alright, listen up! We return the favor we got from a battle on another battle! That woman general thinks that we are just convenient tools, but we will teach her a lesson that even the user will get hurt if they can’t handle their tools well! 」
Greyth’s words incited the surrounding mercenaries. And thus, Wisteria had already decided the next battle they are taking part in. The enemy is Rodelia Kingdom, where the woman general that will be taking command.