Oukoku e Tsuzuku Michi Chapter 328
–Third Person POV–
「Troops from Altair ahead of us, approximately 20 000!」
The report from the scout sends shocks throughout the Polpo headquarters.
「The enemy is already at the border zone!? Is it possible that information leaked?」
「Wasn’t Altair in a hopeless situation having to deal with the epidemic and famine? We only have 5000……」
In that tumultuous headquarters, Wilhelmina and the man standing beside her, Zaphnes, as well as the subordinates he brought along, all remain composed.
「Your Majesty, they predicted our invasion! Should we not announce that we are only conducting a training exercise and pull back the soldiers?」
「How unfortunate, we won’t win against an opponent with four times the number of forces. At this rate, we’ll be annihilated!」
Wilhelmina smiles gently before speaking in a calm manner.
「But Your Majesty!」
Zaphnes interposed his large body as the subordinates try to get close to Wilhelmina.
「Her Majesty commanded you to keep advancing. As a soldier, should you not follow orders?」
「Who are you to act so arrogantly!?」
「To begin with, why is someone like you with an unknown background allowed to be in the headquarters!?」
The one to answer the complaints was Wilhelmina.
「I asked him to be here. Please direct any concerns you have with him to me.」
The subordinates could not muster anymore words after the queen provided her explanation.
At the same time, the pressure from the silent Zaphnes forced them to step back timidly.
Ever since Wilhelmina ascended to the throne, she had been publicly relying on Zaphnes.
Rumors have been circulating about how he was “a stray dog picked up by the queen” or a “male lover”, but the young queen took those comments as nothing more than teasing or jokes, and didn’t pay them much attention.
Wilhelmina is receiving support from the citizens as a young, praiseworthy queen so any poor remarks could earn her hostile treatment from them. With her as the sole remaining royalty going down, that would be the same as the weakening of the Kingdom.
The Polpo Kingdom army marches in a straight line towards the nation’s border where the Altair army set up their forces.
Eventually the unrest starts to spread to the soldiers, but the order to stop or take battle positions was never given.
「Hey…… we’re just going to continue marching in a column like this?」
「We’re already at a distance where arrows can reach us. Are the commanders sleeping because they’ve been away from battle for so long?」
As the distance is closed until they could clearly see the faces of the Altair soldiers, the commotion soon changes to an awkward silence. Still, the order to halt was not given.
The Polpo army marches onward, finally reducing the distance to zero.
「Eh? What’s going on?」
Wilhelmina and Zaphnes weave their way through the dumbfounded soldiers, stepping to the front.
In response, Altair also sends a few individuals on horseback to the front.
「Nice to meet you, Cardinal Baghoof.」
「The pleasure is mine, Queen Wilhelmina.」
Both sides greet each other and Wilhelmina offers her hand for a handshake.
「My deepest apologies, I made it a habit not to make physical contact when greeting anybody because of the disease.」
Baghoof smiles wryly before taking Wilhelmina’s hand.
「That disease is the work of the devil, we must eradicate it as soon as possible.」
「It may be possible with the medicine bestowed by the queen. This is truly――」
The cardinal stops his sentence short, then looks at the Altair soldiers around him before continuing.
「Having such medicine brought to us is truly the grace of our God Altair! The will of God brought it not to the Holy City, but to us! Surely, these people from Polpo are not our enemies, they are a form of Altair’s divine protection, they are allies who will repel this devil of a disease.」
After making such a declaration, Baghoof lowers his voice again.
「I’d like to ask for your understanding in order for us to cooperate smoothly.」
「I am aware of your religion. We don’t intend to ridicule the power of your God, Altair.」
When Wilhelmina replies respectfully, Baghoof looks at the symbol of his cardinality – his staff – and smiles wryly.
There is no noble class system in Altair, but it is essentially replaced by the status given by the Pope.
As a cardinal, he has the highest authority in the nation second only to the Pope, which is equivalent to an important position like a minister in the Holy City or a great feudal lord who rules over a wide range of territory.
「To the people, Altair’s grace is the meaning of their lives, but to us who have a different viewpoint and intelligence…… other factors are more important.」
「Yes, I can understand where you are coming from when you accepted our proposal.」
Cardinal Baghoof, the ruler of the land adjacent to Polpo, was also worried about the disease becoming widespread within his territory.
That was when Wilhelmina jumped in with talks about a wonder drug.
「At that time, I really believed we were favored by God.」
「Unfortunately, I don’t have enough to save everyone.」
While the drug proved to have extreme effects, the amount she procured was sadly not enough to completely suppress the disease.
「Still, its effects were miraculous, or so they appeared to be!」
The cardinal chuckles.
“If one were to enter the Holy City Alteria with such a medicine in hand and demonstrate its effects in front of the citizens, would that not show the foolish populace who is the true deity compared to the current Pope with no solution to the devilish disease?”
His body shuddered at the thought when he was approached by Wilhelmina.
「A certain amount of so-called miracles would need to be prepared for that……」
Baghoof looks at Wilhelmina.
「It won’t be easy, but you have my full cooperation. Cardinal Baghoof …… if you manage to get Altair under your control as the head Cardinal, you may very well consider the promise for peace with Polpo guaranteed.」
「Umu, umu. I do not desire needless fighting like the present Pope after all.」
Baghoof’s plan was to treat the medicine like a miracle to get the distressed citizens of Altair on his side before he rises to the seat of power.
Most if not all the people of Altair believe the Pope’s words to be the words of God and have sworn absolute obedience to him.
However those in positions of power…… for example the cardinals, do not believe that. In fact they don’t entrust all matters to him, only praising God Altair and swearing to be loyal as a way to get the masses to obey them.
「Queen Wilhelmina did not have to personally make the trip to deliver the medicine――」
「I wanted to greet the new leader.」
Wilhelmina smiles cheerfully and continues.
「I hope you forgive me for such a small supply of miracles. The medicine is the result of delicate work. Not many understand the formula for it, plus the effects of any accidents are irreversible, so this is all I can provide.」
She subtly hints that everything will be destroyed if any attempts are made to steal the medicine by force.
Baghoof picked up on her intent and steers away from hounding her about that.
All would be lost if he didn’t have the medicine.
Having Wilhelmina walk all the way to the Holy City is not desirable, however Polpo’s army is not accustomed to fighting and the small group of merely 5000 strong could not hope to accomplish much.
「I heard you also offered the medicine to cardinals besides myself.」
「It had to be done. Even at the height of such chaos, the Holy City has tens of thousands of soldiers stationed there. If we combine forces, we would still only have 25 000…… that would be a dangerous gamble. I had to seek help from the others.」
「Mu, that is true…… I’m impressed you know so much.」
The Holy City is continuing its countermeasures for the disease without regard to appearances…… in other words, killing the patients, their families and any other persons deemed suspicious, and then throwing them out of the city, which somehow allowed the city to maintain its function. The cost of that method is that both the political side and military side became a mess, reducing the nation’s defences to a fraction of what they used to be during peace times.
Nevertheless, the Holy City remains the central pillar of Altair and there are still tens of thousands of fanatic soldiers happy to offer their lives to die for the Pope. It would be unthinkable for a small army force to defeat them.
「Rest assured. Baghoof-sama is the only one who I’m depending on like this. As for the others, I’m simply borrowing their soldiers…… the amount of medicine offered is considerably less too.」
As soon as the soldiers could not see her, Wilhelmina brings herself up to Baghoof’s body and looks up at him.
Smaller women tend to always look up at men when they get close.
「T-then that’s fine…… umu.」
As a servant of God, the cardinal was not officially allowed to have a wife.
Unbeknownst to the public, he has several lovers.
None of them came close to the beauty of Wilhelmina.
「When things come to pass and Baghoof-sama takes control of Altair, I also want us to have a close personal relationship.」
As a man, his eyes naturally fall to Wilhelmina’s nape, chest and hips.
If he becomes the leader of Altair, he would be able to treat the queen of a small country like Polpo in whatever way he wishes.
She could be kneeling in front of him with the crown still on her head and servicing him with a face drowned in pleasure. Imagining such a scene made his body shake with delight.
「Alright then, let’s hurry. The goal is the Holy City Alteria!」
And so Polpo’s army headed north together with Altair’s regional army.
In the meantime……
「Everyone, I would like to say a job well done.」
I wrap my arms around Irijina, Myla, Luna and Ruby.
「Please, this is nothing compared to my earlier blunder.」「It’s only natural for the chief.」「For the chief!」「Wahahahaha!!」
Leopolt came up with a concrete plan based off my idea and said that I shouldn’t come out until the end.
Through all that, the girls cooperated without complaining once.
By the way, Leopolt told me to keep one person alive, however I captured a woman which makes the man useless to me.
In the end, I had him gather the severed heads of his companions and bring them back to his employer.
The possibility of him being directly related to Zilgray is low, still it would send a message.
Naturally, I’m not going to let things end here.
「After such a fight, I’m feeling all pent up. I’m going wild tonight.」
「Gosh!」「Allow me to serve the chief.」「M-me too……」「Wahaha! The bed’s going to break again!」
Myla blushes, Luna and Ruby’s eyes burn with lust.
I have to be careful with Irijina since we usually end up breaking lots of stuff when we go too hard.
It was right when I had such thoughts in my mind.
As the escort shouted out the notice, several arrows poked into the carriage.
「There were still more of them!?」
「Archers. And lots of them!!」
They’re still aiming for the girls? Fine, bring it on. I’ll kill the lot of you no matter how many times it takes.
Before Myla and Irijina could react, I grab my sword and head outside.
Myla jumps out in front of me the moment I step out of the entrance.
And then I feel a soft rumble from something making an impact on the ground.
I take a second to check what happened, discovering that Myla dove after me and she got an arrow stuck in her right shoulder.
So the initial arrows were a check of distance and other archers were waiting with their aim ready for anybody who rushed out of the carriage.
What a mistake on my part.
Normally a shoulder wound would not be fatal.
Going based on previous experience though, it might be worse than what it looks like.
「Uuu…… i-it feels hot……」
Myla’s shoulder starts changing to a purple color.
As I thought, the arrow was coated in poison.
Irijina pulls the fallen Myla back into the carriage.
「Hardlett-dono should hurry back in the carriage too!」
「No need. You girls don’t come out.」
I instruct Irijina without turning around.
Although she still looks like she wants to tell me something, she keeps quiet after hearing me speak.
I fix my gaze on the enemies with my eyes wide open.
The carriage was attacked at just the right moment with hills on both sides.
Including the archers, there at at least twenty enemies.
On the way there, we were obviously cautious of our surroundings, but we naturally relaxed after taking out the first set of attackers.
These guys are most likely the rearguard in case the ambush failed. That’s why they didn’t do anything the first time around.
「None of that matters now.」
It wasn’t because the enemy was clever. This was all because of my foolishness.
I ignored Leopolt’s warning, bringing women – albeit women who are used to fighting – to the battlefield, on top of that lowering our guard after winning once.
Everything is my fault.
「That’s why this will just be me venting my anger.」
I can’t let them leave alive.
Either way, the carriage can’t move as long as they’re around. We keep medicine in the carriage for emergency situations, but it’s vital we get Myla to a doctor as soon as possible.
I push aside the escorts guarding the carriage and run toward the enemy.
Five arrows fly at me.
One was off-target from the start while the other four will hit. Since poison is a factor, a single arrow hitting would be the end.
I won’t be the only one in danger if I fall here, so will my girls.
Yet I don’t feel scared or anxious.
My vision remains clear despite turning red due to rage, making the arrows seem slower than usual.
I sweep away one with my longsword, at the same time pulling out my Dual Crater to wipe away another, then allow the sturdy part of my armor to deflect another one, which leaves one last arrow flying at my face.
There was a thunk sound.
「Got him! It hit his face!」
One of the attackers stands up. I wonder what he’s talking about.
It didn’t hit me. I let the arrow caught in my mouth fall to the ground.
「His mouth…… he bit it!?」「Monster! Wait, he’s fast! He’s climbing up already!」
I don’t give them time to fire another shot.
Swinging both the swords in my hands, I slash at the attackers trying to get in front of the archers to protect them.
I can’t tell if that was more like a shout or a roar.
I slice through a guy’s defence and split his body in half vertically, then separate another guy’s body in two at the waist with my Dual Crater.
The blood splatter that covers my body from both sides doesn’t bother me.
Utilizing the momentum from my charge, I drive one sword into each enemy and toss them upward, then send the man in front of my flying with a tackle before crushing his head with my foot.
Three enemies hurry to swing their swords down on me.
One slides off my shoulder armor, next I throw my Dual Crater at the body of the person swinging down the second sword before he could finish his attack, then I take my free hand to grab the arm swinging the third sword and use his momentum to send him crashing into the first man.
Now all that’s left are the archers. I’m being attacked on both sides so I can’t spend all my time over here.
I need to clean this up at once.
「Kuh, he shouldn’t be able to chase too deep. Spread out and run――」
「I won’t let you!」
I take the longsword in my hand and throw it with all my might.
The heavy sword which average men can’t hope to lift whirls in the air horizontally.
It didn’t matter whether the blade hit or not. The sword flew right into all three archers like a rock and sent them flying.
Only one person was left.
「What an idiot to throw away both weapons and losing your cool after your woman got hit!」
That’s right, Myla got injured. Because of your words, I lost more of my reason.
The last man sticks his sword out at me.
I dodge his super slow slash and grab both his arms.
With a nasty tearing sound as I squeeze down and pull, the man’s arms get ripped off his body.
I follow up with a headbutt.
The armless man’s forehead caves in and I leave him to collapse like a broken puppet before I direct my gaze to the opposite side.
My eyes are dyed with anger, and out from my mouth comes a wolf-like growl.
「He ripped a human apart with his bare hands……」
「War demon, was it? He actually has to be a kind of demon or devil!」
「He’s coming over here! Fire, fire!!」
The enemy’s aim switches from the carriage to me.
That’s a good sign. At the very least the carriage will be safe now.
「Shoot him with the poison arrows! He’s still human…… I think, so he should fall if you hit him!」
It was right before their arrows left their bows.
There was a thud and several enemies got crushed.
My eyes blink once and then out comes a huge cloud of dust along with something red.
「Chief, we’ve come to help!」
That red thing is Pochi and riding on its head is Pipi.
The dust was probably kicked up due to the force of landing from the sky.
Oh yeah, Pipi had been talking ecstatically about how she’s been flying around with Pochi lately.
I thought Pipi wouldn’t be suited towards the close range fight for this operation and left her in the mansion so she won’t get hurt, but she really came at a good time.
Pochi landed right where the enemies were grouped together and lets out a cry as if asking what to do next.
「Kill them all, show no mercy.」
「Pochi, do it.」
As Pipi prompts the creature, Pochi roars and stands up on its hind legs, then swipes at the attackers with its large front legs.
「What is that thing!?」
「It can’t be!? D-drag―― gyaaaaah!」
Pochi’s sharp claws easily tear through the attackers and sends the ones who tried to defend flying.
「We can’t fight it! Kill it with arrows!!」
「Pochi, dodge. They’re poison!」
Too bad it has such a large body, it can’t really avoid getting hit. Lizards are pretty big and slow to begin with.
Instead of running away, Pochi raises its wings to its head and protects Pipi.
The poison arrows pelt Pochi’s entire body―― making a light clinking sound on impact and then bouncing off.
「The arrows can’t get through!?」
「It really is just like the legends say! Its scales are harder than steel…… unbelievable!」
Right, I almost forgot Pochi’s scales are abnormally sturdy, swords or axes can’t break through much less arrows.
Even its spread wings, which appeared to be a thin membrane at first glance, didn’t seem to get injured.
No matter how lethal the poison is, it wouldn’t do anything if it doesn’t enter the body.
In the meantime, I’ve climbed up the hill.
「Good job Pochi, leave the rest to me. Letting a lizard do anymore is pushing it.」
Pochi seems to put off by me saying that and begins to inhale deeply.
「Don’t tell me!」「Everyone run awayーーー!!」
The attackers drop their weapons and turn around.
A short moment after Pochi opens its mouth, an intense stream of flames shoot out.
The fire crawls along the ground, chasing the fleeing attackers, swallowing them all up in no time.
「……oh yeah, you were a fire-breathing lizard.」
When Pochi’s flames die down, none of the enemies could be found.
They didn’t get covered with flames and burned to death. They literally melted into nothing.
Looking closer, I can see a tiny bit of red molten metal left behind, though that’s not important now.
「Pochi, you’re also a flying lizard, huh.」
Irijina comes out of the carriage carrying Myla on her back.
The medicine was used on her arm, which stopped the wound from changing color, however her consciousness is still hazy.
She really needs to go see a doctor soon.
In order to make the disguise more real, Schwartz went with the first carriage I was supposed to be riding.
Since he’s not here, it would be way faster to fly than take a carriage.
「Take Myla to Rafen. It’s a race against time.」
Pochi cries out plainly before gently taking Myla on its back and then lifting off.
Somehow it seems sluggish.
「Weight over the limit.」
Pipi tosses Messerschmitt off Pochi’s back.
Pochi shows some concern for Messerschmitt, but quickly flies off to Rafen when hurried by Pipi.
The worthless dog turns its body in midair and somehow lands square on my head, then stretches lazily.
「What a carefree dog…… no use getting mad, I guess.」
I have to calm down and compose myself.
The attack might not necessarily be over.
My thoughts would soon be drowned out by the sounds of galloping hooves.
「Is that Leopolt?」
Security isn’t so lax that they would allow so many cavalry to invade.
For our operation, soldiers aside from the escorts were deliberately positioned far away to prevent the enemy from being too cautious.
What happened just now…… I’m guessing Pochi’s flames, must have seemed off and that urged them to come check.
I can relax for now.
「My apologies to allow for repeated attacks in the territory――」
I cut Leopolt’s words short.
My territory is vast.
It’s hard to stop a small group of people from invading off the main road. That would be even more true when they’re skilled at camouflaging themselves.
「Is this Zilgray’s doing?」
「I do not have evidence, but it is without a doubt.」
Well, I knew that. I just wanted to confirm.
「Myla got hurt. ……can I kill Zilgray?」
It’s ridiculous to compare his life with Myla’s, but I can’t let the mastermind go unharmed.
I need to do it for Myla’s sake, there’s no other way of saying it.
That is my stubbornness for allowing my own woman to be injured.
「It’s possible, though I don’t think it’s something you should do.」
I stare silently at Leopolt.
「The chain of events will soon make its way to the royal palace. It’s clear that if during that time Zilgray, who holds an important position like Governor General, is killed off, it will become disadvantageous for Lord Hardlett, so I say once again it isn’t something which should be done.」
「Are you telling me not to do anything?」
「If you really want to do something, we’ll come up with a plan and carry it out. Still, I advise against it.」
For a while, we fight each other through our stares.
「……fine. I won’t kill Zilgray.」
This was a result of having my own way in Leopolt’s plan in the first place.
Besides, I’m not knowledgeable enough in plotting or politics to offer my opinion.
I’ll listen to what Leopolt says here.
「I have no intention of letting this slide.」
「I agree. Retaliation is necessary.」
I mount Schwartz after he finally gets here and say one final word to Leopolt.
「Think of the worst thing possible in your mind for revenge and do it. Tell me everything you need.」
Leopolt lowers his head and then returns to accompany the carriage with the escorts.
I have Schwartz run back to Rafen.
Schwartz neighs as if whining to not be so unreasonable before giving chase furiously.
The Next Day. Evening.
「Aegir-sama, I’m back! The mission was a success! Praise me……」
Celia’s joyful voice gradually gets softer.
「Oh, good work Celia. ……Myla, here open up.」
「What’s going on here?」
I poke a few leaves of salad with a fork and guide it to Myla’s mouth as she rests on my lap.
「What do you want next?」
「I want meat, but my jaw isn’t strong enough to chew yet……」
「What’s going on!?」
I put the meat in my mouth and break it down lightly before transferring it to Myla’s mouth.
「Your mouth got dirty.」
「Aau, could you wipe it for me?」
I use my tongue to lick it clean.
「Hey, what’s happening right now!!?」
Celia roars, while Nonna sighs.
「Myla injured herself protecting me. I’m going to stay with her until she gets better. From helping her eat and take baths to going to the bathroom.」
「Don’t say something so embarrassing……」
After taking her to the doctor, they said the medicine helped and that Myla’s life is not in serious danger, however her body will still be numb for a few days and it would interfere with her normal tasks.
It would be fine just assigning a maid to take care of her, but that won’t help me get over what happened.
She stepped in to take a hit for me, exposing herself to possibly life-threatening poison.
I’ve been beside Myla ever since last night.
I helped her take a bath, washing her entire body, and also lifted her up when she needed to use the bathroom.
Of course, I’ll continue doing so until she recovers.
「I should have gotten hurt too……」
「Don’t be stupid.」
I can’t imagine what I would do if Celia also came back on the brink of death.
I’d probably ignore Leopolt’s warning and have Zilgray killed.
No, I’d probably march to where he is and do it myself.
「Um, Lord Hardlett……sorry, I-」
「Hm? Oh toilet, I’ll take you.」
I pick up Myla from her chair and carry her.
When Myla’s eyes meet Celia’s, it causes Celia to stamp her feet out of frustration.
Did Myla do something? No, she couldn’t have since her body is still numb.
「Fufufu, it turns you on when I watch you do something immoral like urinate. If you want, I can suck it out like I did yesterday.」
「It’s embarrassing when you say it! That was a temporary trick of the mind!」
When Myla attempts to struggle with her immovable body, I kiss her, and then hear a voice call out behind me.
「Lord Hardlett, come to the office when you’re done.」
Oh it’s Leopolt, I guess he came up with a plan.
As I comfort Myla, who turns red when she finds out our conversation was heard by another man, I feel my heart fill up with anger.