Chapter 8 (Part 1)

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Myard soldiers who failed to defend the border were gathering in the capital, Aidenberg. The envisioned scorched earth tactics hadn’t been implemented, and on the other hands, the Highserk Empire had gained an intact breadbasket. 

The problem was the Sarria battalion, which consisted of the former citizens of Kanoa Kingdom. Although they greatly contributed to the capture of the mountain castle, which was a key point, plunders and insults were rampant even after the battles regardless of whether the opponents were citizens or soldiers. There was no doubt that they were traitor’s compatriots, depending on the point of view, but still what they did was too much, to the point where a guard was dispatched to supervise the battalion.

Such a Sarria battalion, they tasked to be the one who held the whip, and was useful for capturing villages and towns. Partly due to the issue of governance after the annexation, the Highserk Empire didn’t want to be a villain while advancing, so Sarria Battalion was used to pull the chestnuts out of the fire.

After the siege, Walm was searching through the woods in a line. This was because a report about a guerrilla force consisting of the enemies who escaped the siege had come. Although they seemed to not have a proper strategic meeting beforehand, the attacks, which seemed to constantly target supplies, ensured that they must be collecting information and food from the surrounding villages in the shadows. About a platoon size of soldier unit had been killed, and non-combatants in the caravan who were in charge of transportation had also been killed.

“There must be a magic user.”

“Yeah, it’s a wind attribute, and fire attribute.”

The squad leader and Jose, were crouching down at the corpses lined up, identifying the magical attributes used from the scars.

“…There are two or more magic users.”

Willart, a magical user who was looking from a little further away, added information there.

The wounds carved on the body were due to tears caused by wind magic and detonation caused by fire magic. Walm also assumed the possibility of someone using two-attribute magic, but considering the amount of magic used in a short period of time, it was more natural for multiple people to exist.

“Uhh, is this also by magic?”

“What is, this? The face is crushed.”

Rookie Noor and Barito were distorting their face looking at other corpses. Amongst the corpses that had stab or slash wounds on the vital parts, that they found, some had their faces crushed, and some had their heads missing. By all means, it was as if they got blown away by something.

“It’s not from a halberd.
It’s too wide for a war hammer.”

Walm was accustomed to seeing the corpse beaten by the war hammer. He had also used the halberd that he got from the enemy’s commander of the previous battle, and he was somewhat familiar with what kind of wounds it could make. When Walm was thinking about the real cause of it, the answer came from behind.

“It’s from a shield”

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The answer was from Squad Commander Duwei who had been accustomed to corpses on the battlefield for many years.

“Shield? Really…”

Finding it unbelievable, Noor muttered so. 

Walm agreed. He also thought that it was too powerful something coming from a shield. He had no idea what kind of big man could do if he swung his shield around.

“Perhaps, it’s someone with Skill?”

Jose, who was thinking, asked Squad Commander Duwei.

“Yeah, perhaps.
I’ve seen a similar corpse before.
At that time, I saw a person’s head disappear with just a shield bash.
Same with skill 《Strike》 it’s something that has a lot of users too, I’m sure it’s that 《Iron Wall》.
Even a wooden shield will feel like a heavy iron.”

Now that Walm could use the skill 《Strike》, he understood how powerful skill could be. Even if the opponent wearing iron armor, it can be torn unilaterally just by using the skill. Its advantage could be said as immeasurable.

“Aaah, even though they’re a bunch of defeated soldiers, what a troublesome opponent.”

Jose muttered disgustingly.

“The opponent this time is mixed with a small number of adventurers.
The captive soldiers said so.
Even though it’s a losing battle, what a bunch of weirdos.
But be careful.
The experienced adventurers are better than the regular soldiers in a battle.
They usually have good armor and ability.

“It seems that you’ll have something good if you can defeat them.”

Barito, the rookie, laughed. But his expression was saying differently.
It was clear to Walm that he tried to look strong.

“Oi oi, Barito, our enemies are someone with skill and magic users, you know? Imagine this, fighting against Commander Duwei, Walm, and Willart at the same time, do you think you can win?”

“Well, no, it’s impossible even if there is 20 me.”

“Good that you understand.”

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Seeing Barito admitting the mistake, Jose nodded with satisfaction. It was great that Jose, the educator, was doing his job properly, but for Walm, it was still unconvincing that even he was counted as a non-human group.

“By the way, what is “that”…”

Noor was terrifyingly pointing at the body of a man hung on a tree. The whole body was stabbed here and there, and other than the head parts, you wouldn’t be able to tell that it was a corpse of a human.

“Hmm? Oh, that.
That’s the villager who sold our information and provided food to the defeated soldiers.”

Jose said so as if it was the norm. 

Walm remembered himself when he was a rookie and asked a similar question.

“A, aaa… Is that so? I see…”

In truth, Noor wanted to say, “You will do that much?”. It was something that would leave a very bad taste, but she understood that in a war, sometimes it was necessary.

Thirty soldiers and six citizens (labor workers and merchants) wouldn’t have died, if the villagers didn’t provide information and food. But, people’s resistance at enemy bases had plagued the armed forces of all ages. And the soldier given the choices, whether to annihilate the people of the villages themselves or to execute a small number on a stage to give an example to other villagers, it would differ from time to time. This time the surviving Highserk soldiers attempted to suppress them with a small number of executions.

“Get ready.
It’s about time.”

With the call from Squad Commander Duwei, the squad members step into the depths of the forest. Since it was extremely difficult to search by only a small number of people, a company was sent at once, and the squads were searching every 20m in a line. Even if the enemies were skillful, it might come to an end soon. Walm was optimistic and stepped into the woods like any other soldier.

On the second day after the search, one squad was ambushed and 12 people died. Seven soldiers were injured by traps and bows during the search, and four sentries were missing. Fortunately, there was no damage on Duwei’s squad, but the entire company was getting angry, plus the hard-to-walk forest, the hatred toward invisible enemies was growing within them. The search was prolonged, and the squad was gathered, now leaning against a large tree for a short break.

“This is bad”

The one who opened his mouth, was Jose.

“It’s true that we’ve been searching around on a company scale, but there’s no result at all.”

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250 soldiers had been searching around for three days and nothing was found. The time to move to the capital, which would be the decisive battle, was approaching, but the threat to the transportation route couldn’t be left unattended either.

“Although they’re locals, they’re too skillful in hiding their traces.
It seems they really used to the forest.”

Squad Commander Duwei was looking carefully at the ground, but turned his gaze forward.

“Is it the scout that skillful?”

Noor, who was standing by Walm, asked a question.

“Even if it’s a skillful scout, it can’t be only one.
There are two or more skillful guys who are watching us as we’re getting near to the main forces.”

Walm didn’t think that the opponent was mainly the defeated soldiers, if it were only them, they wouldn’t dare to do guerrilla warfare.

“Rather than scouts from the soldier’s side, it’s more likely Myard’s adventurers.”

Squad Commander Duwei made a conclusion in answering everyone’s questions.

“… Adventurer”

Barito, the rookie, said the word. 

Speaking of adventurers, they were active in the demon territory that covered half of the continent. Subjugating and dismantling monsters, capturing labyrinths and ruins, escorting transportation corps. Basically, it was a general term for people who were active in a wide range of activities. The guild that was organizing the adventurers had stated that it had a base in every country on the continent and that the organization wouldn’t intervene in the war.

In reality, in the name of individual free will, local adventurers were often hired as mercenaries.
The armor made from relics and rare demon materials, could give the one who was wearing it tremendous power.
Even one person who had that could change the battle situation.
Such a monstrous adventurer certainly could be found out there.

Furthermore, there were rumors saying the guild’s private army had been put into conflicts that were regarded as detrimental to the guild. 

Highserk Empire, Walm’s homeland, emphasized the strengthening of armaments, and because the surplus troops took the place of adventurers, there were few opportunities for adventurers to play an active role, but they were a presence that you could see being active in other countries.

“It’s true that adventurers are more accustomed to surveillance and search than soldiers.”

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Born as the third son of a small merchant, Jose, as he ever had hired an adventurer, was nodding as if he was convinced. 

While taking a break, Walm was talking about the enemy’s identity, but the members were busy eating rations and smoking. Walm also inhaled the cigarette he bought from Jose and slowly exhaled it. The purple smoke that popped out of the mouth was slowly spreading into the sky. While tasting the smoke, he asked a question that suddenly came up in his mind.

“Will the smell of cigarettes be noticed?”

“Are you stupid? Our body odor is smellier than cigarettes.
Bring me a wolf.
I’m sure it’ll hate our smell and don’t come near.”

When Jose laughed and denied it, he smoked more.

“Want me to put on some perfume?”

Barito said something that was hard to tell whether he was being serious or not.

“That’s, a good idea.
Should I wear a skirt as well?”

The laughing Commander Duwei replied with a joke. Walm also loosened his mouth and smiled a little. There wasn’t much time left to enjoy silly jokes. In five minutes, Walm would have to continue the hide-and-seek with the enemies in the woods, which seemed to continue endlessly.

Should I make some preparations now?

When Walm was vaguely thinking to start preparing for the search and was about to move from the tree, he heard a scream and in continue, several explosions occurred. When the soldiers who were resting on the ground jumped up, they pulled out their weapons all at once.

“3, no, 400m away.
They were caught in the search network.”

Everyone agreed with Jose’s words.

“We’ll go around from the right side.
We’ll enclose them.
Don’t miss the enemy.

Squad Commander Duwei jumped out while shouting, and the three idiots started to move behind him. At the end were the rookie Noor and Barito. 

Walm squeezed through the branches that cling to his body and kept stepping through the weeds. Unmaintained forests were full of natural obstacles. Because it penetrates forcibly, the sap of tall weeds stuck to the body. The grassy smell was so bad.

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