On the next day, the Pack Dragons launched an attack for the third time.
The first attack came out of nowhere, so one farm was devastated, but on the second attack, the retaliation made it in the nick of time.
And now, on the third attack, they had learned from the past and killed more Pack Dragons than during the second attack, successfully repelling them.
The biggest achievement during the third attack was the fact that Xavier Guzzle and his subordinate, the bearded hunter, were able to attend the battlefield.
Seeing the Pack Dragons attack in flesh, they confirmed that the pack was the same as the one that had wreaked havoc on the Salt Road.
The bearded hunter testified that he had recognized “several dragons with the same skin pattern and colour he had seen before”. It truly was the viewpoint of an expert, but the reason why Xavier was convinced of it was even simpler.
They had found a dragon that had an arrow stuck in its back. Once they killed that dragon and pulled out the arrow, it turned out that this arrow was shot from a “Dragon Bow”.
Since the “Dragon Bow” was far superior in force and range compared to an average bow, it also used special arrows that were geared to penetration.
Not even a single soldier in the army of Valentia was using a “Dragon Bow”.
In other words, that arrow was shot by the “Dragonback Archery Knights” from General Puyol.
It proved that the pack attacking Valentia was the same pack that had caused a turmoil on the Salt Road.
Furthermore, the bearded hunter had also confirmed that nearly half of the attacking dragons had been female.
It seemed that all his speculations had been spot on.
In that case, they only had to carry on like planned.
In order to make the fourth attack the last one, the army of Valentia “led by Zenjirou” started working on their final move.
The thick forest lay east of Valentia. As the commander, Zenjirou had entrusted a part of the army of Valentia to Xavier Guzzle, who faithfully pursued the mission given to him inside the forest.
“Absolutely do not draw your weapons until I say so. We want to leave as little metal scent as possible in the forest.”
Xavier was commanding soldiers, who he had met for the first time yesterday, instead of the well-known soldiers of his own domain, so his face revealed more nervousness and fervour than necessary.
However, the soldiers of the Valentia army were obediently following the orders of their fledgling commander on their first mission with him for now, since he apparently won their favour by displaying a zest for action despite being young and inexperienced.
As far as Xavier could tell, the Valentia soldiers were just as disciplined as the soldier from the March of Guzzle he had led before.
Thus, he was “neither thrilled, nor put off” by them. Having said this, it would be foolish to face them with the same mindset as the soldiers from his domain, since their numbers were admittedly the same, but the mutual trust between them was nowhere near the same.
(Still, Her Majesty Aura had said she would put me in charge…)
Inside the dim forest, Xavier watched over the soldiers checking tree after tree, while he harboured such thoughts.
His current position was a frontline commander under the direct command of Zenjirou, the supreme commander of the army of Valentia.
All the soldiers of Valentia participating in the dragon subjugation were assigned to Xavier, except for one unit, so he did was in charge of the subjugation in essence.
But the Prince Consort Zenjirou was the supreme commander, albeit just for show, and Raffaelo Márguez held the title of “staff officer”.
Raffaelo was only leading one unit consisting of the personal guards from Zenjirou, but he had an equal standing to Xavier on the paper.
Moreover, the soldiers from the Uppsala Kingdom of the North Continent were participating, too, even if only a few of them, but Xavier had no authority over them as well.
(I wonder if I be able to fulfil my duty properly, when the real fight starts.)
It was understandable that Xavier was plagued by such a worry.
Still, nothing would change for the better, when he became pessimistic now.
He shook his head and tried to focus on the task at hand, when he suddenly heard the well-known voice of the bearded hunter.
“Master Xavier, we found it! There is no doubt! The Pack Dragons have ‘marked’ the tree here.”
“Really! Good, then begin as discussed!”
Once Xavier gave the order, two soldiers took a wooden barrel and headed for the tree that the bearded hunter had identified as a “waymarker”.
“Okay, down on three. One, two, three!”
After setting down the barrel in the scrub, one soldier wiped the sweat from his forehead and heaved a sigh of relief. Following this brief rest, the soldiers opened the lid of the large barrel and scooped its content with a long ladle.
The large barrel was filled with white powder.
“Well then, please scatter it evenly around this tree.”
“Be careful not to get any into your eyes. If you think it happened nevertheless, stand back and wash out your eyes with the water from the water barrel.”
“Here I go!”
The soldiers scattered the white powder they had scooped with the ladle, on the tree pointed out by the bearded hunter, and its surroundings.
The dark brown trunk of the tree and the deep green scrub were painted white in no time.
“Still, will something like that really fool the noses of the Pack Dragons?”
“Who knows, but we might as well try.”
“Well, yeah. We’re just following orders anyway.”
The white powder the sceptical soldiers were scattering was actually “slaked lime”.
Once Zenjirou had found out that most dishes in Valentia made use of clams, he had grinded the seashells with a stone mortar after burning them at an high temperature, in order to present it to Aura for the glass manufacture.
The burnt lime gained from the scorched seashells was an hazardous substance. It would suddenly heat up several hundred degree, if it came in contact with water.
When you let the burnt lime react with water once, it turned into slaked lime after the reaction subsided.
Slaked lime was a deodorant that was often used in Modern Japan as well. Since it erased smells while being relatively harmless to the human body or nature, people used it in their garden for example, to erase the smell of the excrements of their pets in order not to bother the neighbours.
Nonetheless, Zenjirou was an amateur in this field. It remained to be seen if the slaked lime he created would work properly. He had put it into a wooden barrel and sealed it for what it was worth, but the reaction might have continued, turning it into calcium carbonate. The slaked lime admittedly worked against the smell of excrements from dogs and cats, but it was questionable if it would work all the same against the excrements from Pack Dragons. And lastly, it was unknown whether this deodorant was strong enough to fool the nose of the Pack Dragons, since the bearded hunter had claimed that they had a “strong sense of smell”.
There were a lot of open question. But unfortunately, there had been no better idea to manipulate the movements of the Pack Dragons.
Thus, they had concluded that it was at least worth a try.
“Can we really affect the Pack Dragons with this?”
Xavier had given all the necessary orders, so he walked over to the bearded hunter and asked him that this late in the game.
The hunter scratched his thick beard.
“Hard to say. If this deodorant really works like Master Zenjirou has said, then I would say it is possible.
Later we just have to find a similar tree, rub some skin and urine of the Pack Dragons against it. Yes, I say it has a good prospect of success.”
The skin was taken from the Pack Dragons they had defeated during the third attack and the urine was secured along with the urinary bladder dissected from the same dragons.
They would mark different trees with them in order to deceive the Pack Dragons and lure them onto a battlefield prepared by them.
That was the substance of the Pack Dragon Extermination Strategy from the Valentia Army.
Incidentally, it had been Zenjirou as well to suggest that they use the skins and urinary bladders from the defeated dragons. Once upon a time, he had watched a TV show, where the fur and urine of a bear had been used to ward off boars and monkeys, since it made them believe that the area was the territory of a bear.
Anyway, it drastically raised their chance to completely annihilate the Pack Dragons, instead of just repelling them, if they managed to drag them out onto a pre-prepared battlefield.
“We will definitely settle the score in the next battle.”
Xavier muttered as if to convince himself.
Needless to say, the ulterior motive of this strong resolve was to make a name for himself as the next Marquis of Guzzle by concluding this incident with his own hands.
Regardless of how, the prey had already escaped once from General Puyol. It would definitely go beyond the credit of a mere Dragon Subjugation, if he defeated them.
Still, he could not deny his genuine desire to help the involved victims as well as fulfilling his given duty at the same time.
“I will not let it drag on any longer.”
His small stature trembled from a sense of duty and a desire to fight.
* * *
Around the same time, the farm that had been chosen for the final clash was quickly remodelled into a battlefield.
The chosen farm was relatively large and located near a river.
It had been chosen for three reasons. Number one being its sufficient distance to the thick forest.
The second reason was that it was located in a relative lowland plain with small hills south and north of it.
And lastly, the relative recent foundation of the farm provided the third reason.
The first reason, namely the distance to the thick forest, made it more difficult for the Huge Pack Dragon to give out orders from within the forest. Even the cautious Huge Pack Dragon would have to come out of the forest in that case.
It would be somewhat problematic, if the Huge Pack Dragon insisted on staying inside the forest by all means, but they had a countermeasure for that as well, just in case.
The importance of the second reason, namely the lowland plain with a small hill, goes without saying. They would leave the livestock, mainly Meat Dragons, at the farm and deploy the soldiers on top of the hills. This turned the whole farm into a nice trap.
As for the third reason, it was linked to the second one. Since the whole farm was becoming a trap, they temporarily had to evacuate the farmers behind the stone walls of Valentia.
A newly established farm meant that its elder inhabitants were originally born and raised in the city of Valentia. These elders would teach the rest about the rules of the city without the officials having to, so it would cause less problems, when the refugees came in.
“Sir Raffaelo! We have finished setting up the stake wall at the entrance of the farm!”
“The foxholes on the southern hill are completed, too.”
“Same goes for the northern hill.”
While listening to the reports from the soldiers, Raffaelo Márguez issued all the orders with his usual calm smile.
“Understood. When you are done with your work, escort the farmers back to Valentia. Do not lower your guard until you are there.”
Of course the soldiers could not do all the work by themselves, so they had rounded up the farmers, mainly young men, to help out.
The helpers had to be paid for their work. The livestock for the trap had to be bought up. And the seized farm itself had to be compensated for as well.
All this money required for the operation came from the pocket of Zenjirou. The very money Aura had given him to “buy anything he took a fancy to”.
Fortunately enough, Princess Freya was giving him the desired goats for free, so he still had all the money at his disposal.
Thanks to that, everything could be funded without problem so far, but he also had to pay for the livelihood expenses in Valentia of the farm refugees.
If this operation dragged on, the funds would run out. Of course the treasury of Valentia, which was said to be even greater than the one in the Capital, had enough capacities, but Zenjirou absolutely wanted to bring the incident to an end without using the money for which Aura had given no permission.
As a matter of fact, Raffaelo understood his inmost intention the best.
“He really is the person my dear stepmother described him as.”
As he had no more orders to give right now, Raffaelo cast a glance at the distant walls of Valentia and muttered to himself.
His stepmother was Lady Octavia and she was working as a private tutor for Zenjirou. Due to that, she previously had told Raffaelo all kind of things about him, but after meeting him in person, Raffaelo was once again reminded of how accurate his other mother could judge people.
Lady Octavia had said the following:
“He is extremely intelligent, down-to-earth and resolute. And above all, he harbours a genuine affection and faithfulness towards Her Majesty Aura.”
Well, his mother had the tendency to exaggerate the compliments more than necessary, when evaluating someone, but putting the “extremely” aside, Raffaelo had noticed during their short acquaintance that Zenjirou indeed possessed an adequate wisdom, reasoning and determination.
Despite that, Zenjirou never took action by himself, neither in the Royal Palace, nor here in Valentia. That was because he was well aware of the fact that any rash assertive moves from him might sabotage Queen Aura instead.
Although he voluntarily discredited himself as “incompetent” and “effeminate”, he always did everything in his might to make things convenient for the Queen, so it was undeniable that his affection and faithfulness towards her were anything but normal.
“Then the current situation must be rather unpleasant for him.”
Even if it was in name only, Zenjirou did get involved with the Dragon Subjugation as the “supreme commander”. Raffaelo accurately reasoned about that worry of his as well.
The current situation obviously deviated from his usual policy to stay in the background and appear incompetent without taking credit for himself as much as possible.
Originally, Raffaelo had been put in charge, but Xavier Guzzle had barged in from the side as he was sent from the Capital.
As a result, the roles had been reassigned. In name only, Zenjirou himself was in charge, whereas Raffaelo and Xavier were practically equals working under him, but Xavier was leading eighty percent of the troops.
Raffaelo was the “staff officer” and granted just as much authority in the planning of the operation as Xavier, but he would have almost no chance to fight a real battle.
This complex ranking was literally crying out for a desperate attempt to right some kind of grave discrepancy between Aura in the Capital and Zenjirou in Valentia.
“It might prove to be an interesting ‘story’ to report to my father later on.”
Mumbling that, Raffaelo showed the usual calm smile on his face.
* * *
At around the same time in the residence of the Duke of Valentia in the centre of Valentia, Zenjirou confronted the passionate persuasion from Governor Damian, with a stern face.
“Master Zenjirou, would you please reconsider?”
The middle-aged man appealed almost pleading, but Zenjirou answered brusque while giving him an indifferent look.
Sir Damian was choking back his tears and while this would have worked coming from a beautiful maiden, it was nothing but annoying, when an middle-aged man did it.
“Frankly speaking, it is utterly insane that you want to go out on the battlefield yourself, Master Zenjirou. If something were to happen to you, I would not be able to face Her Majesty Aura in the Capital again.”
Nonetheless, Sir Damian still tried to persuade Zenjirou with these words.
The matter that plagued him was the fact that Zenjirou was going to lead the soldiers onto the battlefield himself.
“You’re exaggerating it. I’ll be nowhere near the actual frontline.”
Zenjirou intended to deploy himself and the soldiers far away from the trap village, where Xavier lay in ambush.
They were supposed to be on stand-by just in case the guidance of the Pack Dragons went wrong and they would have to protect the other nearby farms that had not been evacuated.
Of course Zenjirou had no idea how to lead an army, so Raffaelo Márguez would actually give out the orders as the “staff officer”. In other words, Zenjirou would be a mere figurehead there as well.
Because of that, Sir Damian claimed that there was no need for Zenjirou to leave the walls of Valentia and should just stay in the residence of the Duke of Valentia while leaving everything else to Raffaelo.
As a matter of fact, his opinion was completely warranted, if you only took the efficiency at the scene into account.
Even Zenjirou himself had not the slightest desire to expose himself to danger and was well aware of the fact that he would be nothing but a hindrance on the battlefield.
(I hope he would stop trying to persuade me so passionately. To be honest, I’m already starting to doubt my decision.)
Oblivious to Zenjirou feeling weak at the knees, Sir Damian continued to reason with him.
“A battlefield is unpredictable. Permit me to remark that your safety is far more important than the safety of Valentia.”
At the present time, Zenjirou was one of only three royalty in the Kingdom that inherited a “bloodline magic”. Furthermore, he was the only grown-up male from them.
From the point of view of simply increasing the practitioners of the “bloodline magic”, it would be no exaggeration to say that he was even more important than Queen Aura or the infant Prince Carlos.
Zenjirou was able to relate to that, so he started to question his own decision, when he was told all that.
But he shook off the thought.
“No. It’s a great chance to win fame with barely any risk. Why should I pass on it?”
Zenjirou spoke like a short-sighted person obsessed with fame to get rid of the protest from Sir Damian.
Needless to say, he had not the slightest intention to win fame for himself. If anything, he planned to lay the groundwork as much as possible in order to declare that he had been nothing but a figurehead, when this incident was resolved safely.
Then why did he insist on leaving the safe stone walls, although he knew that he would be a hindrance? Because this incident was a “subjugation” of the dragons.
For a defensive mission with the purpose to “protect”, it was acceptable that the commander stayed behind the walls and gave orders, but that was not the case for an offensive mission.
In such a case, the person giving orders on the frontline was acknowledged as the highest ranking person for the mission, automatically assuming that the superior officer behind the walls had “entrusted all authority” to the commander on the frontline.
And like the “subjugation“ part implied in the current Pack Dragon Subjugation, it was a full-fledged offensive mission. Technically, it could also be seen as a defensive mission to protect the city of Valentia from the threat of the Pack Dragons, but in the Capital, Aura had acknowledged the mission as a resumption from the subjugation on the Salt Road, so it was officially recorded as an offensive mission.
(If Xavier ends up as the highest ranking person, they’ll believe that I, the fully authorized representative for the Duke of Valentia, have accepted the intervention from Queen Aura and changed the personnel.)
It would mean that Queen Aura had meddled with the self-governance of the domain, when Xavier was appointed as the highest ranking person. Likewise, it would mean that the Prince Consort had ignored the orders from the Queen, when Xavier was not appointed as the highest ranking person.
Either decision would cause problems. After wracking his brain over it, Zenjirou had come up with this desperate workaround.
He himself would be the highest ranking person in name only. In the field, though, Xavier was obviously the highest ranking person. And Raffaelo, whom he had initially put in charge, would be an equal to Xavier on paper as the “staff officer” and command his bodyguards, giving him at least the necessary authority in the field.
Xavier would have to put up with being the “highest ranking person in the field”, although he was promised to be put in charge by Queen Aura. Raffaelo would have to put up with being the “highest ranking person for strategic planning”, although he had been put in charge once before. And Zenjirou would reluctantly act as the “highest ranking person in name only”, although he originally had intended to do nothing.
This compromise in staffing slightly differentiated from the respective expectations all three of them have had.
(Rather than compromising, I get the feeling we’re walking a really fine line here.)
Zenjirou inwardly suffered from a stomach.
Still, a following political scandal could not be avoided wholewise, so this was the tamest solution Zenjirou had been able to come up with.
The problem was that others would think that the “Prince Consort showed signs of ambition”, but he had no choice but to deal with that later on by discussing it in length with Aura.
“B- But what are we going to do about Princess Freya? If you take your guards with you, she will be all alone here with her own guards.”
Damian still refused to back down, whereupon Zenjirou evaluated the middle-aged governor at heart as someone, who was really passionate about his duty, even if part of it was due to self-preservation.
“No need to worry about that. I have already discussed it with Princess Freya. She readily agreed to accompany me. Needless to say, that goes for her guards, too.”
Although he spoke about it so casually, the matter was hardly to be taken lightly.
“Sh- She will… No way…”
Damian was finally at a loss for words.
No surprise. After all, not only Zenjirou, one of the three most important people of the country, was going out on the battlefield, but also Princess Freya, an acknowledged royalty from overseas. Any sane person would only take that for a joke.
As a matter of fact however, there was no way that they could leave Prince Freya behind all alone in the residence of the Duke of Valentia, when Zenjirou left with all his guards.
Once his guards left the city, the only troops remaining in Valentia would be the coast guards and the city patrols.
That fighting force was a bit too unreliable to stop Princess Freya, if she were to act malicious in an unlikely event. Thus it was better for their peace of mind to remove that very anxious altogether by taking Princess Freya complete with guards along with them.
“The decision is set in stone.”
When Zenjirou spoke resolutely like that, Damian abandoned the persuasion at last and hung his head disappointed.
* * *
Two days later then.
The Pack Dragons launched their fourth attack.
Their target was the farm near the river, where Xavier was waiting with his troops after laying a snare. With one attack alone, it could not be said whether the idea from Zenjirou had success or if it was a mere coincidence, but either way, the important fact right now was that this outcome was playing right into their hands.
“The Pack Dragons are coming!”
“Good. All hands, take your position! All orders from now on will be given by hand signals until the battle commences. Do not make a single sound in the meantime!”
Xavier gave the last order like that and also laid down prone in the shallow hole they had dug on the hill.
His whole body from head to toe was rubbed with plant sap and mud in order to erase the body odour, which in all honesty, was not really a fascinating sight.
The wet mud stuck to his scalp and made it itchy. Apparently some of the mud also had gotten into his ears, when he applied it, so the inside of his ears felt sandy. Every time he licked his lips, he tasted a bitter and acrid flavour, since there was plant sap around his mouth.
The whole situation was just disgusting, but even so, Xavier suppressed that instinctual disgust and simply waited for the right time.
(So far, everything is going as planned. We will definitely put an end to them here.)
He persuaded himself like that and strongly crunched with his back teeth from the bitter plant sap taste in his mouth.
More than anyone else, Xavier knew how lucky he actually was.
The original mission had been prepared by his father Marquis Guzzle for him in order to ease his worry about succeeding the title of Marquis. Because of a lack of forces, he had given up the leading role once, though. And even though he had called General Puyol for reinforcements, he was now, at the end of the road, entrusted with the full command over the decisive battle.
If he were to fail here now, he would never be able to face his father, General Puyol and Queen Aura again after they had such a high opinion of him. Eager or quasi zealous at heart, Xavier clenched his fists and then the Pack Dragons finally appeared.
There was an enormous number of them. They definitely amounted to almost a hundred. The first rough estimate from Xavier counted around ninety-four, which seemed a bit too few. During the second and third attack, some dragons had been defeated, so that might be the reason they no longer filled up the hundred.
The attacking dragons stopped at the entrance of the farm for now.
A fence of trees with sharpened tops blockaded the entrance. Its height only extended to around the shoulder of a human at best, though.
That height was no challenge for the Pack Dragons to skip over. The bunch of Pack Dragons leaped over the fence one after another. Instead of skipping over it, some well-built dragons even dared to jump against the fence, destroying it in the progress.
The fence was not slowing down the Pack Dragons in the slightest, but that did not affect the strategy of the battle.
To begin with, it had been built to prevent the “Meat Dragons”, which were left inside the farm as bait to lure in the Pack Dragons, from escaping, instead of defending against the Pack Dragons.
The height of the fence was a piece of cake for the two-legged Pack Dragons with their superior jumping power, but for the four-legged Meat Dragons with their short legs and plump bodies, it proved to be an insurmountable obstacle.
The Meat Dragons screamed and scattered in all direction, when the carnivores suddenly appeared.
Speaking of, where was the Huge Pack Dragon?
That thought suddenly crossed Xavier’s mind and he took a small peek out of the hole on the hill, observing the entrance of the farm. But its silhouette was nowhere to be seen.
(That means he is not coming out of the forest, not even at this point.)
It was a bit disappointing, but not really a problem in itself. They did choose this farm, because there was enough distance between it and the thick forest.
When the boss did not come out of the forest despite that distance, it meant that they had succeeded in separating the commander from its troops.
The Pack Dragons had always been so annoyingly quick to retreat, because their boss, namely the Huge Pack Dragon, had made all the calls. The Huge Pack Dragon had developed an abnormal intelligence, but all the other Pack Dragons were not even smart enough to go against their wild instincts.
The chance of success for the battle had gone up drastically with this.
Xavier licked his lips, which had gotten dry from nervousness, while the cruel game of hide and seek between the Meat Dragons and Pack Dragons in the uninhabited farm entered its final phase.
Normally, the Meat Dragons would have no chance of escaping from the Pack Dragons, but that would have been inconvenient to Xavier and the others, so they had set up round logs vertically between the buildings like clothes poles to stop the Pack Dragons.
With their four short legs, the Meat Dragons could easily slip through under the logs at the heights of a human chest, but the two-legged Pack Dragons were taller than a human, so it was the perfect height for a blockade, forcing them to jump over it.
As a result, the majority of the Meat Dragons managed to escape death and fled to the open square of the farm. Chasing after them, the Pack Dragons reached the square a bit later.
Having said this, the open squared belonged to a small farm. It was not wide enough to accumulate all of the almost one hundred Pack Dragons at once. Nonetheless, Xavier wanted to kill as much of them as possible on their first strike, so he suppressed his urge to give the order to attack right away and waited for the right timing.
All of the Pack Dragons had already entered the farm without exception and around forty percent of them had gathered in the open square so far.
Needless to say, not all of the Meat Dragons could escape, so some Pack Dragons could be seen here and there how they happily feasted on the unlucky Meat Dragons that had been caught, but it was still on a tolerable level.
(Okay, now is the time!)
The time was ripe. Sensing it, Xavier simply raised the staff of command in his right hand while still lying prone on the hill. The nearby soldiers could be heard swallowing hard from the tension.
The soldiers on the other hill across were supposed to see it, too. At this point, there was no way to tell, if they really had, though.
Xavier took courage and quickly swung down the staff of command in his right hand.
In the next moment, all the soldiers around him sprang to their feet, drew the longbows in their hands and shot the arrows.
Several hundred arrows shot through the air with a whing and hailed down on the Pack Dragons chasing their prey in the farm below.
Three hundred archers had hidden on the hill and another three hundred on the other side. That made a volley of six hundred arrows in total.
The Pack Dragons that could scream were still better off. Most of dragons were hit by the rain shower of arrows from above and died without knowing what was going on.
The physique of a dragon was usually beyond the imagination of man. An arrow or two would not kill them and depending on the impact point, they would not even notice that they had been hit. However, it was a different matter, when six hundred arrows rained down on less than one hundred Pack Dragons.
Moreover, the bows from the soldiers of the Valentia army were longbows. Its range and penetration power was on a completely different level from the short bows, which the soldiers from the March of Guzzle led by Xavier had handled.
Of course they were still no match for the “Dragon Bows” used by the “Dragonback Archery Knights”, but the terrain made up for it. The archers were shooting from a hill down on the gathered Pack Dragons below.
Under these favourable conditions, the longbow demonstrated the same penetration power as the “Dragon Bow” on a plain.
As a matter of course, it would be a miracle, if they could only aim at the Pack Dragon and spare the Meat Dragons at this distance. Since that was not the case, the Meat Dragons were caught in the crossfire and wiped out after they had splendidly fulfilled their role as bait.
A sad, but necessary sacrifice.
Anyway, one volley was certainly not enough to completely wipe out the almost one hundred Pack Dragons. Some dragons were even unhurt, since they had taken cover behind the buildings.
A dozen of the surviving Pack Dragons chose to attack the humans on the hill instead of running away.
The little slope was nothing for the powerful legs of the Pack Dragons. Utilizing their two thick hind legs and even thicker tail, they rushed up the hill, where the archers stood, with a speed no human could ever hope to achieve.
However, Xavier and his men had anticipated this development as well.
“Archers, fall back. Spearmen, forward!”
Upon the order from Xavier, the archers stood back and in exchange, the soldiers with long spears stood atop the hill.
Their spears were almost twice as long as the wearer himself was tall. Needless to say, an average soldier could not wield such a long weapon at will.
But they only had to point the tip of the long spear towards the Pack Dragons running up the hill.
No matter how strong the legs of the Pack Dragons were, they definitely could not make a jump on a steep hill. The Pack Dragons ran straight into the risen spears and did not advance any further.
Under normal circumstances, it would be impossible for humans to stop the charge of a Pack Dragon, but the advantage of the terrain bore fruit here as well.
The soldiers pointed the spears down from atop the hill and the Pack Dragons were running up the hill from below. It usually was difficult to upset the collision between these two, but the higher ground made their momentums barely equal, if not inverting their initial situation.
A few Pack Dragons slipped and fell down the hill, whereas the reorganised archers shot the dragons that were still barely standing, with arrows through the gaps between the spearmen.
Before long, the few attacking Pack Dragons had kicked the bucket without achieving anything.
Although Xavier was the commander, he observed the battle unfold from a distant point of view as though it did not concern him.
“Wow… Is this what General Puyol meant?”
He recalled the words of the general in the back of his mind.
According to General Puyol, the strength of humans lay in technique, weapons and cooperation.
Back then, the general himself had pushed a Pack Dragon to the ground head-on right after saying this, so Xavier had laughed it off, but the claim of the general certainly felt vindicated, when he saw it in action now.
The army from the March of Guzzle had been pressed for a though fight on the Salt Road, because of its limited space. During the following hunt in the forest, even the “Dragonback Archery Knights” led by General Puyol had to put forth an effort to finish off a couple of Pack Dragons.
The difference in the battles was overwhelming, now that they outnumbered them and had the advantage of the terrain.
They had exchanged the short spears meant for the thick forest and the short bows meant for even terrain, with long spears and long bows and instead of leaping into enemy territory, they had drawn the enemy onto a battlefield prepared by them, attacking at the same time with the whole force.
Just by doing that, the result was outstanding.
Somehow calming his excitement, Xavier now watched over the battlefield below him.
The battle was practically over, but they still had to finish off the remaining dragons. Xavier suddenly felt a temptation, when he saw the scene below.
At this point, it would be alright for him to participate in the battle himself, would it not? He did not want to brag, but Xavier was confident that his skills with the bow were at least as good as the skills of the soldiers around here.
With that in mind, he readied his hands, but noticed that he was holding a certain “something” in his hands instead and turned red with anger.
His hands were holding the “staff of command”. It was not his favourite bow or spear, but rather a small wooden stick that had literally no offensive power.
(Oh right. My duty is not to slay Pack Dragons with my own hands. I have to give the right orders, so that the soldiers finish off as many Pack Dragons as possible while as few of my subordinates as possible die.)
Reminded of his given role again, the young commander overviewed the whole battlefield and then gave an order.
“Near the river on the north side. Four dragons on the run. Stop them before they can jump into the river!”
In the end, only very few Pack Dragons had been able to escape from the trap under Xavier’s command.
* * *
Some time earlier.
When Xavier and his men had laid in wait on the hills with bated breath, an exceptional large Pack Dragon stood in the thick forest.
Its size would surely mess up your perception of distance, when you were somewhat familiar with the animal called Pack Dragon. At the very least, it was twice as big as a normal Pack Dragon. In actual fact, the Pack Dragon was classified as a medium-sized carnivore dragon, but this dragon was an expectation, large enough to be called a large-sized carnivore dragon.
But the top brass of the Carpa Kingdom had not been worried about the mere classification of this Huge Pack Dragon. The problem with this huge carnivore dragon was that it had gained wisdom over the years and in accordance with it, a thoughtful judgement.
Even while its subordinated Pack Dragons charged the farm as hungry as a wolf, only the Huge Pack Dragon had obstinately not taken a single step outside the thick forest.
Of course it could afford that privilege, precisely because it was the boss and the other dragons would bring it a part of the spoils, but its prudence was still abnormal. One might as well call it a coward.
And right now, it was displaying that very prudence again.
It was at the very time, when Xavier swung down the staff of command on the hill and unleashed the all-out attack against the Pack Dragons.
Six hundred arrows cut through the air and then rained down on the subordinated Pack Dragons, whose death cries reached all the way to the forest, to the ears of the Huge Pack Dragon.
The sounds were not descriptive enough to allow an accurate grasp on the situation.
But the Huge Pack Dragon concluded that it was “bad news” based on instinct and experience.
Should they retreat? The exceptional developed brain of the Huge Pack considered that option.
However, the already fighting Pack Dragons would not hear the Huge Pack Dragon, even if it were to give the order with its loudest voice. Still, running away by itself and abandoning its subordinates was not an option for the Huge Pack Dragon, either.
Over the years, the Huge Pack Dragon had grown bigger and accumulated wisdom, but in exchange, it also had lost various things. The first being its agility and the second being its tolerance for simple food.
Having grown too big, the Huge Pack Dragon could no longer make small turns in exchange for its superior strength, making it unsuitable for hunting. Yet his large body needed a great deal of food to survive.
As a result, the Huge Pack Dragon could no longer live without subordinates that provided it with food.
In a way, it was a “parasite” inside the pack.
After a moment of pondering, it seemed to have reached a decision. The Huge Pack took one step outside.
Between the forest and the farm extended a plain without any place to hide.
Unless its crossed at least half of that plain, its orders would not be heard by the dragons attacking the farm.
After advancing for a while, the Huge Pack Dragon stopped, when it noticed a shadow ahead.
It was fully armed human soldier. The Huge Pack Dragon was well aware how scary an armed human was. With a hundred of them, the Huge Pack Dragon would surely abandon its subordinate and run away. Not quite, it would probably already turn on its heel with just ten of them, considering there was no ally in the vicinity.
The leader of the Pack Dragons was that cautious and that cowardly. This cowardice had assured its survival until now and had even given it this irregular large body.
However, there stood no hundred men before the Huge Pack Dragon right now. Not even ten. Only a single human blocked its path.
Considering the difference in their physiques, the expression of “blocking its path” seemed more than ridiculous.
The blocking soldier aka. Victoria Kronkvist let her blonde hair tied up in a ponytail wave in the wind while she looked at the nearby Huge Pack Dragon with an unconcerned expression void of any fighting spirit.
“Oho, that’s the Huge Pack Dragon? It certainly is huge.”
Saying that, the female warrior drew her favourite short spear.
Xavier was taking on the main force of the Pack Dragon with the main body of their army while Zenjirou and Princess Freya stood on stand-by with their troops at a distant point in case the deception of the Pack Dragons went wrong.
When they had decided on this tactic, the first problem that came up was how they were going to deal with the boss aka. the Huge Pack Dragon.
The farm, where they lured the dragons to, was far enough away from the thick forest, so even the Huge Pack Dragon should participate in the battle this time without staying behind in the forest.
That was what they had predicted, but a prediction was nothing but one possibility. Even this time, the Huge Pack Dragon might remain in the thick forest again.
What would they do in that case? It was a no-brainer. They just had to prepare a special forces against the Huge Pack Dragon.
But it was difficult to appoint people to it. After all, they were anticipating that the Huge Pack Dragon would likely appear at the farm. In other words, the special forces would end up not being needed, if everything went according to plan.
But in the other unlikely event, they would get the biggest achievement of defeating the Huge Pack Dragon. Furthermore, it was already an established fact that the Huge Pack Dragon was good at running away.
It was a delicate appointment that would be useless, if everything worked well, but earned the biggest credit otherwise. Moreover, the position required the ability to prevent a possible escape of the Huge Pack Dragon.
It was a tough choice. So much that Raffaelo Márguez wanted to do it himself at first.
But then Victoria Kronkvist had volunteered for the position as she had been present at the strategy planning.
She had confidently declared: “I have the means to stop the Huge Pack Dragon.”
“The Huge Pack Dragon will choose to flee once the odds are against it. What are you supposed to do then, if you want to defeat it without it running away?
The answer is: Confront it with as few people as possible, so that it will not consider the situation as disadvantageous. Simple as that.”
The female warrior mumbled that as if it did not concern her and closed the distance to the Huge Pack Dragon with movements that seemed to suggest she was being unwary.
Any sane person would hardly ever call that “simple as that”, more probably “crazy”.
To begin with, a human was not capable of fighting a dragon one on one.
The Pack Dragon was a weak species amongst the carnivore dragons, but it would take three average soldiers to barely take down one of them head-on without projectiles.
Even most of the well-trained “Dragonback Archery Knights” would lose a single combat against a Pack Dragon with a spear or sword.
Not to forget, the Huge Pack Dragon was an abnormal existence that went beyond the scope of a Pack Dragon. It was cautious and quick to run, but that did not equal being weak.
No surprise. Wild animals would not follow a weak leader. The Huge Pack Dragon had lead up to five hundred dragons, so it was capable of ripping an average soldier to pieces without using its fangs, if it felt like it.
And right now, the Huge Pack Dragon was totally up for it.
It only feared an organized group of humans. When a single human faced it head-on, the Huge Pack Dragon had not such a low self-esteem to fear her.
But the absence of fear in the female soldier was in no way inferior to the dragon.
“The mighty ‘Sorceress Skathi’ is rumoured to have slain an evil black dragon all by herself. As the successor to her name, I must at least be able to take out a mere dragon, or I will not be able to face His Majesty again after he bestowed the name ‘Skathi’ onto me.”
Saying that, the female warrior aka. Skathi pointed the short spear in her hands straight at the Huge Pack Dragon.
Although Skathi was exceptional tall for a woman, she was still no match for the dragon. Most likely, the Huge Pack Dragon only considered the height difference between a normal woman and Skathi as a “variance of error”.
The ground shook a bit as the Huge Pack Dragon approached and Skathi was completely covered by its shadow. But the woman from the North Continent showed not the slightest sign of disturbance.
On the contrary, she quickly confronted the approaching dragon and suddenly swung the spear in her hands to the side.
Suffering a vertical wound at the chest, the Pack Dragon turned furious and exerted its two short front legs like crazy.
Needless to say, it was a plain attack without any tricks. But therein lay hidden a destructive strength that not even a broadsword swung at full power by a trained soldier could attain.
Skathi stopped that very attack with her spear.
Well, she did not exactly stop it. Instead, she skilfully deviated the attack at the right timing and angle with her spear, when the claws came down on her from above.
While she did that, she did not retreat a single step backwards.
“What strength. As expected of a dragon.”
Going by her words alone, it sounded like she was wary of the attack from the dragon, but in reality, she stood in front of the Huge Pack Dragon and brushed off its attack head-on.
Moreover, she did not stay on a one-sided defence. With every two attacks from the claws of the Huge Pack Dragon, Skathi used her spear for an offensive as well, albeit only once.
And while she deviated all the attacks from the dragon, she managed to cut the thick skin of the dragon with every swing of her spear, making it spill deep red blood.
The green plain was dyed red in no time with the viscous blood of the Pack Dragon.
The Huge Pack Dragon raised a voice of anger as the battle did not go as expected. These kind of wounds were still no threat to it, but the Huge Pack Dragon was frustrated about the fact that none of his attacks connected while it one-sidedly was cut up, so it forgot its long-standing experience and went on the full offensive.
The Huge Pack Dragon stopped attacking with its claws as if to boast that she would no longer be able to deviate them, and struck out at Skathi with its large body this time.
And certainly, not even Skathi could stop or deviate its attack now. But she made no exaggerated evasive moves.
Knowing that the charging Huge Pack Dragon could not make any small turns, the female warrior took a small sidestep to the right. They passed by each other at such a close distance that the left leg of the dragon barely bruised the right shoulder of Skathi.
Needless to say, Skathi did not choose such a risky evasion just for fun.
In the very moment they passed by each other, she single-handed swung her spear diagonally upwards.
Along with the shrill sound of metal, the tip from the long tail of the Huge Pack Dragon was cut off.
The cut-off part was not really all that long, not even ten centimetre. But losing a part of its body certainly caused an intense pain for the Huge Pack Dragon.
The dragon screamed so loud that any timid person would have fainted just from hearing it.
Of course Skathi was the complete opposite of timid: She was an Amazon.
Forget about even flinching from the scream, Skathi became even more offensive as if jumping at a “chance”.
“GYA! GI, GIGI!”
And then the same procedure as before repeated itself. The Huge Pack Dragon flung its front legs and Skathi made precise counterattacks while parrying its attacks.
On a closer look, the ratio of attacking and defending was even inclining in favour of Skathi.
Earlier she had thrusted her spear once for every two claw attacks from the dragon, but now, she managed to swing her short spear once for every attack from the Huge Pack Dragon.
Naturally, the fact that Skathi deviated all the attacks from the Huge Pack Dragon and hit it with all of her attacks, did not change.
The difference from before was the cut-off tail.
For any animals with a tail, not just dragons, the tail always fulfilled the important role of balancing out their bodies.
That was even more so the case for two-legged animals like the Pack Dragon, so it naturally affected its movements, when the pivot of its balance was cut off, even if it only was a ten centimetre part from the tip.
The Huge Pack Dragon might get over the disability with time, but Skathi was obviously not giving it that time.
“GYA, GYA, GYAA!”
As the Huge Pack Dragon continuously attacked at random without success, its screams gradually sounded more rushed.
Skathi diverted the claws coming from above with the spear head of her short spear and even added an attack, when the Huge Pack Dragon showed an opening.
Her attacks were limited to shallow slashes. A thrust with the spear or a deep slash for more damage, came with the risk of getting stuck. The situation would reverse in an instant, if she were to take even one hit. No matter how advantageous she got, the seasoned female warrior never forgot that fact.
Even small wounds sped up the loss of blood, if there were enough of them. The battleground had already turned into a red puddle from the body fluids of the Huge Pack Dragon.
If Skathi were to trip in that viscous red puddle, the battle would turn out differently, but she had foreseen this development from the very beginning, so she wore special made shoes that had short nails worked into the soles.
Even in a pool of slippery blood, these nails pierced into the ground beneath it and stabilized her footing, making it almost impossible to slip.
Anger turned into impatience, impatience into timidness and the timidness finally turned into fear.
This little creature was strong. Even just one of it was stronger than itself.
The Huge Pack Dragon realized that fact all too late. And hesitation came along with that realization.
No matter how intelligent it had gotten, the Huge Pack Dragon still felt no manlike emotions like shame or honour, so it turned on its heels and quickly ran towards the thick forest at full speed.
It was more sluggish than before, because of the blood loss and damage to its tail, but it was still a lot faster than a human in full sprint.
At this rate, all the effort to corner it would be in vain, when it escaped.
But even now, Skathi still showed no sign of worry on her face.
Her unchanged cold eyes looked at the back of the escaping Huge Pack Dragon while Skathi gripped her short spear near the spear head, raised it to her face and chanted.
‘Grant me a flame that even burns the ground. As compensation, I make one hundred and eight offerings of magical power to the fire spirit.’
The chant took effect immediately. The spear head of the short spear in Skathi’s hand was engulfed in a bright red flame.
Any spectator would surely be astonished again by the audaciousness and calmness Skathi exhibited.
Because it was that difficult to evoke magic on the battlefield.
Evoking magic required the “correct intonation”, the “correct amount of magical power” and the “correct perception”. The problematic part from evoking magic on a battlefield was the “correct perception”.
Although it was only for a brief moment, one had to completely bear the “magic in its activated state” in mind in order to evoke it.
In that state, you were quite vulnerable. Frankly speaking, you quasi fell into a “deep microsleep” that left you almost completely defenceless on the battlefield.
Moreover, you deliberately had to assume that vulnerable demeanour. A normal person could not help but worry about its own situation, thus failing to completely focus on it.
But it seemed to be no challenge for Skathi in particular.
Once she confirmed that the magic had activated correctly, she grabbed the spear burning at the tip with both hands, resting it on her shoulders behind her head.
Then she started to spin on the spot. One step, two steps, three steps. After exactly three steps, she had made a complete turn and used the motion of that spin to launch the short spear after the fleeing Huge Pack Dragon.
It was more like a discus throw than a javelin throw. Furthermore, her motion did not stop at that. Right before releasing the spear from her hands, she made another half a turn with her right foot, kicking the end of the flying spear in a backwards roundhouse kick motion.
Accelerated from the spin, the spear was further sped up by the kick at the end and swiftly darted at the Huge Pack Dragon.
The discus throw certainly raised more momentum than a normal javelin throw, not to mention the kick at the end. But that throwing technique naturally sacrificed some accuracy.
Still, that worry was of no concern to the superhuman female warrior, either.
The spear launched by Skathi pierced the head of the Huge Pack Dragon faithfully.
It easily penetrated the thick skin and even thicker skull and perfectly struck the inside of the head.
That alone was hardly ever lethal, since dragons had a relatively small brains, but it had been no ordinary spear.
The tip of the spear was burning with a magical flame.
That flame ignited the inside of the head, toasting the brain.
The Huge Pack took one last step toward the thick forest and at the end of its tether, it collapsed on the spot with a dull thud noise.
“Seems I finished it off alright.”
Finally softening her facial expression, the female warrior casually strolled over to the Huge Pack Dragon she had just killed herself. Just in case, she drew and held the curved sword from her waist in her right hand. It was typical of Skathi that she stayed cautious at all times.
But before she could reach the corpse of the Huge Pack Dragon, there came rustling sounds from within the thick forest and in the next moment, several silhouettes approached the Pack Dragon.
“Wow, she really killed that ridiculous huge land dragon all by herself.”
“That’s our Victoria-sama! Common sense doesn’t apply to her.”
“Is she really a woman?”
“You mean, is she actually human?
It were the soldiers from the “Yellow Leaves” that had hidden in the forest by order of Skathi.
Even Skathi had not been so arrogant to guarantee for sure that she was able to kill the Huge Pack Dragon all by herself.
Therefore she had let the men hide in the forest to cut off its escape while the Pack Dragon was distracted by the single combat with her.
Needless to say, she would have given a signal at once, if the Huge Pack Dragon was beyond her strength, and tackled it together with the help of these men.
Fortunately enough, it turned out to be an unnecessary worry. But that only became apparent in hindsight.
Skathi had not the slightest intentions to bite the dust and leave her sworn princess behind in this foreign country.
When she arrived at the corpse of the Huge Pack Dragon, she picked up some stones lying on the ground and threw them at the still opened eyes of the dragon just in case.
Seeing as there was no reaction, Skathi could be sure that it was really dead, so she put a foot on the ridiculous huge head of the dragon and drew out her beloved short spear.
Although the spear was stuck in the hard skull, Skathi had no trouble pulling it out, because of her outstanding strength and skills.
The thick and warm cerebrospinal fluid spilled out from the resulting hole.
“Guess it needs some sharpening again.”
Skathi quickly got away, so that the fluid did not get on her feet, and mumbled that, when she looked at the tip of the spear she had pulled out.
Even the magnificent spear made from the tusk of a Sea Elephant needed some maintenance after the fight to the death with the Huge Pack Dragon.
“I just hope I can get a good replacement until its done.”
Muttering to herself, Skathi then looked at her subordinates for the first time and said with a small smile.
“Okay, roll call. If everyone’s present, we’re going back. The princess is waiting for our report.”
The soldiers completely trusted Skathi, even though she was a much better soldier than them despite being a woman.
Although their answers were not in unison, the robust men obediently followed the female warrior and left the place.
* * *
While Xavier eliminated the main force of the Pack Dragons and Skathi defeated the Huge Pack Dragon in single combat, the other forces under the command of Zenjirou stood by for any emergencies in some place far away from the battlefield.
To be honest, the term stand-by was only for show and in reality, they were actually set apart from the battlefield.
Of course Zenjirou himself was aware of that fact more than anyone and was not even discontent about it. If anything, he was grateful that he ended up having nothing to do, considering what would happen if a real emergency actually were to take place.
The reason he had deployed in name only was completely political. From a practical perspective, he was nothing but a hindrance.
Hence Zenjirou felt a bit small in the presence of the girl standing next to him, who he had made play along with his political scheme.
Dressed in a leather armour that suited him even less than the official attire, he called out to Princess Freya next to him.
“Are you okay, Princess Freya? If you are tired, I can get you a chair.”
The princess from the Uppsala Kingdom smiled gracefully in response to his concern.
“Thank you very much, Your Majesty Zenjirou. But please do not mind me.”
She answered him like that with a more practised expression than him.
Even if the chance of Pack Dragons coming all the way here was pretty low, it was still far more dangerous here than inside the city of Valentia.
Still unable to shake off his anxiety, Zenjirou asked Princess Freya a silly question in order to distract himself.
“You appear to be rather calm. Could it be, you are quite accustomed to situations like this one?”
His question seemed to come as a surprise to her, though, since she widened her ice-blue eyes.
“No, not at all. It is my first time lying in wait like this. So, to be honest with you, I am rather excited. Did I really appear that calm to you?”
“Well, what can I say? You are more spirited than you look…”
He could have related to it, if she had said nervous, but excited? She was one hell of a princess.
Princess Freya showed an elegant smile on her white face, which showed no signs of tanning even under the sun of the South Continent.
“But I have to say, who would have thought that you really tamed land dragons here? I have heard the stories, but seeing them with my own eyes really impressed me.”
While she said that, she looked at the “Raptorial Dragons” ridden by the knights.
“Are dragons rare on the North Continent?”
The casual question from Zenjirou was met with an honest answer from Princess Freya.
“Yes. We really have very few land dragons living on our continent. Although dragons per se are not that rare, since our seas are filled with Sea Dragons as well.”
“I see now. Unlike the continents, the sea is one big continuous environment after all.”
“Indeed. That is why waterways on the North Continent are said to be so much more dangerous than the land routes. In reality, though, it is not all that dangerous anymore these days thanks to the advance in ships and sea travel.”
It happened while Zenjirou had such a casual chat with Princess Freya.
In command of this unit in place of Zenjirou, who was nothing but baggage in this operation, Raffaelo Márguez approached him.
Maybe Zenjirou just imagined it, but his smile looked brighter than usual.
“What‘s up, Raffaelo?”
Asked curtly like that, Raffaelo broke the goods news to him with a bright smile.
“Just now, the unit of Sir Xavier and the unit of Victoria-sama have finished their missions almost simultaneous.
Sir Xavier has engaged the main force of the Pack Dragons and pretty much wiped them out without any causalities.
Likewise, Victoria-sama has engaged the Huge Pack Dragon at a different location and defeated it.”
Zenjirou could not hold back his delight at the long-awaited report.
“Oh! They did it!”
“Congratulations, Your Majesty Zenjirou.”
On the other hand, Princess Freya congratulated him on it with a composed smile, as she had expected this outcome.
“Thank you. It is thanks to your cooperation, too. Your guards are truly excellent warriors.”
From the earlier report, Zenjirou had misunderstood that the whole unit from Skathi defeated the Huge Pack Dragon rather than Skathi by herself, so he spoke praise like that.
“Thank you very much. I am sure she, too, will be pleased to hear that.”
Princess Freya however had been told in advance that it would be a single combat, but she dared not to clear up the misunderstanding and simply laughed it away with a polite smile.
She was sure that her trusted retainer had defeated the Huge Pack Dragon one on one, but Skathi had mentioned that she would “immediately call the others for help if things looked grim”. It would shame Skathi later on, if she carelessly assumed wrong facts now.
“Your Majesty Zenjirou, Your Highness Freya. As I reported, the battle is now over. I know it comes at a short notice, but I would like to depart for Valentia at once. Do you mind?“
Raffaelo asked that and Zenjirou did not object, of course.
“Not at all. We can move out as soon as the preparations are done.”
“Yes. According to the report from Sir Xavier’s unit, very few Pack Dragons escaped here and there. I am sure these dragons will flee into the forest for now, but we are better safe than sorry.”
A cold shiver ran down his spine, when Zenjirou heard the explanation from Raffaelo. The city of Valentia was located between them and the battlefield, where Xavier and his men had engaged the main force of the Pack Dragons, so it was close to impossible that the scattered surviving dragons would come here, but Zenjirou just not felt comfortable in his skin, when he it was brought to his attention once again.
Raffaelo probably noticed his unrest.
“Rest assured, Master Zenjirou. Even in the unlikely event that the Pack Dragons come all the way here, we will be able to take care of a dozen of them.”
He smiled at Zenjirou with these words.
Zenjirou answered a bit overhasty, as he somehow sensed that he was seen through.
Zenjirou was a surpassing slow walker and could not even ride a Raptorial Dragon, so Raffaelo had prepared a dragon carriage drawn by two Raptorial Dragons. The relative small carriage was originally intended for four people, but right now, it only carried three.
Namely: Princess Freya, Zenjirou, and his attendant, the waiting maid Ines.
Zenjirou sat next to Princess Freya while Ines sat across from them.
Riding the carriage was admittedly better than walking, but it had no proper suspension, so it was by no means a comfortable ride, when it ran over an unsealed plain.
If you were not careful, you could bite your tongue. Zenjirou had experienced that painful fact first hand, so he refrained from speaking inside the carriage.
For that reason, the dragon carriage advanced in complete silence. Not really bothered by his behaviour, Princess Freya added to the silence by keeping her mouth shut of her own will as well, but that only made it even more awkward.
The silent passage continued for a while. When they had covered about half of the distance, the dragon carriage came to a halt.
“What’s going on?”
Zenjirou spoke again inside the stopped carriage after a long time and Princess Freya answered him.
“I guess we are taking a small break? The soldiers will have to answer the call of nature after all.”
He was convinced, when she mentioned the call of nature.
In short, it was a toilet break.
The soldiers were certainly told to “endure the number one and just leak the number one“ in the midst of a battle, but it distinguished a good commander, when he issued a break like this during a peaceful march.
Needless to say, the mentioned “good commander” did not mean Zenjirou, who was just a figurehead. The effective commander was Raffaelo Márguez.
“I will excuse myself for a bit as well, Master Zenjirou.”
Saying that, the waiting maid Ines stood up from her seat across from him, but Zenjirou was not that insensible to ask her for the reason now.
He permitted her leave with as few words as possible.
Then it was time to wait.
While Zenjirou waited inside the carriage, he believed to hear boisterous voices outside.
“Did something happen?”
“I wonder? It does seem a bit noisy outside.”
Both, he and Princess Freya, cocked their heads wondering.
Since his body had gotten stiff from sitting inside the carriage for a long time, too, Zenjirou decided to get off for now.
“What’s going on? Did something happen?”
It goes without saying that several soldiers were positioned around his carriage as guards.
The apparently highest ranking soldier of them quickly came running over, when Zenjirou get out of the carriage, and explained with a slightly agitated voice.
“Yes, Milord, your waiting maid has discovered Pack Dragons a moment ago.”
“WHAT!? Is Ines alright!?”
From that reaction, the soldier noticed that his explanation had been insufficient, so he quickly corrected himself.
“Oh, my apologies. I did not explain myself properly. What she found were the corpses of Pack Dragons. They were apparently already dead, when she found them. There are a total of three corpses lying near by.”
Needless to say, Ines was a woman and could not do her business in the same place as the soldiers. In search for a place, where no soldier could see her, she had gone further afar and discovered the corpses of three Pack Dragons.
The soldier reasoned that the Pack Dragons had barely escaped with their lives after they were wounded in the battle against Xavier’s troops, but succumbed to their grave injuries after coming this far.
“I see. Thanks for the report.“
Assured of Ines’ safety, Zenjirou replied to the soldier like that while he, too, headed over to where the noisy onlookers had gathered.
Although he had heard that she was unhurt, he was still a bit worried about Ines, considering the woman had discovered the corpses all by herself. And he also wanted to see the reason for all the ruckus in the country with his own eyes, even if only as a corpse.
“Ah, please wait, Master Zenjirou!”
Flanked by the guards that hastily followed after him, Zenjirou went over to the scene to find the waiting maid Ines standing in a large circle of soldiers that had turned into onlookers.
When he called out to her, the crowd of onlookers split.
“Oh, Master Zenjirou. It seems I was a cause of worry to you. Many apologies.”
Ines lowered her head deeply with these words. As far as he could tell, there was nothing wrong with her.
“No, as long as you are all right. Must have been tough. Are you hurt?”
While saying that, Zenjirou looked at “it” lying behind Ines.
“No. I was surprised and dirtied my clothes a bit, but fortunately, I am not hurt.”
Just like she had said, red bloodstains could be seen here and there on the hem of her long skirt, on her chest and in her hair.
“I see. Better get a change of clothes, when we are back in Valentia.”
Although he replied like that, his attention was no longer on Ines.
(So this is a Pack Dragon…!)
Overwhelmed by the first sight of a carnivore dragon, albeit dead, Zenjirou was actually the shocked one.
It was not all that much bigger than a “Raptorial Dragon”, but the biggest difference were its front leg claws and fangs.
The claws were as long as his upper arm and the longest and thickest fang was even bigger than his palm.
On a closer look, all three dragons had deep vertical cuts at their “throats”. The wound was so deep that any normal animal would have died immediately without even being able to utter a death cry.
The Pack Dragons had fled all the way from the battlefield up to here with this kind of wound?
Apparently, the will to live from wild dragons was way beyond Zenjirou’s ken.
Looking at the dead dragons like this, he suddenly realized something.
(Oh, I declared a battlefield with a hundred of these monster as ‘barely risky’ and walked out against all opposition.)
Never mind that he had guards, he finally recognized what an outrageous thing he had done. His mind went black, his feet and hands turned cold and his heart skipped a beat.
He had to admit that he had admittedly understood the danger of this world in theory, but had not experienced it physically so far. Governor Damian had been a faithful subject without doubt. It might prove to be difficult to apologize to him face-to-face as royalty, but he wanted to reward him in some kind of way for his warning.
(I won’t ever do something this stupid again. I will never leave the city walls again, even if it causes a political disgrace or trouble for Aura.)
As the Prince Consort, Zenjirou vowed that to himself and that very vow might turn out to be the biggest achievement from the Pack Dragon Subjugation.