Chapter 5:

War with The Duchy (part 2)

Painted Tale

Edward Arklight

It's been a couple of weeks since we set out. We've already joined the main army and arrived at the border. Currently, we're staying in fort Windell. Right now, a strategy meeting for the upcoming battle is being held, but...

"So, does anyone have any ideas?"

" ... "

...We are at an impasse.

In response to His Excellency's question, no answer followed.

We were stuck.

It was easy enough to shut ourselves in the fort, but you can't win by staying on the defensive. Luckily, our supply chains aren't cut off, and we're not in a situation where we will starve to death or run out of supplies. Since they're attacking, we will expend fewer resources, so it should be advantageous to us...

However, they should know that as well. That means either one of two things:

Either they are confident that they have enough of an advantage in numbers, that they will be able to capture the fort, or...

They have a way of breaking through our defenses regardless of that.

Either way, both of those outcomes are disadvantageous for us.

I'm almost sure that it's not the first one.

The Duchy is around the same size as the kingdom, in both territories and its population. They shouldn't be able to secure enough numbers to overwhelm us in a defensive battle.

Therefore, there must be another reason why they're confident in their victory. It might be some sort of new magical ritual or a new type of siege weapon...

"So no one has any ideas, huh?" His Excellency says, making sure that there will be no further progress at this rate.

He waits for some time. After a few moments of silence, he finally reveals his own plan.

"... I think we need to fight them in the Eiden Gorge."

"!" Everyone is stunned at his proposal.

"B-but, Your Excellency, that way we will just give away our advantage!"

"T—that's right. If we fight in the gorge, our losses are guaranteed to be substantial. We can't allow ourselves to..."

"Silence!" His words quiet down the surroundings.

"Don't you understand? Substantial losses are already unavoidable. They are confident they can win this war. We're already at a disadvantage. By staying in the fort, we are merely playing into their hand."

I decide to speak up.

"Your Excellency, there's no guarantee that their advantage won't hold up in the field."

"...That's right, Sir Edward, we have no guarantees that fighting in the gorge would negate whatever trick they have up their sleeves. Hell, there isn't even any guarantee that it won't make the situation worse," he confirms my suspicions.

"However, if we take them on in the fort, there won't be any second chances," His Excellency says and pauses for a moment as if letting the weight of his words sink in.

"There are no forts between The Capital and here. Well, there are some, but they've been out of use for over a century. Past this point lie the territories of our kingdom. If they break through Fort Windell, we won't be able to stop them."

This time everyone stays silent.

His Excellency carries on.

"We will set out tomorrow and get to The Eiden Gorge. We will prepare an ambush at our entrance to The Gorge."

"Wouldn't that be to our disadvantage? Sure, we can hide some of our soldiers and make them lie in wait, but it would be impossible with our entire army. We can attack as soon as they get out of the gorge, but..." I ask hesitantly.

"It would, Sir Edward. There's no way to hide our entire army and wait until most of theirs passes through. And if we attack immediately, they're just going to retreat to The Gorge. Their army is almost certainly way more prepared for this war since they're the ones who started it. Even with a successful ambush, beating them will most likely prove impossible. That's why we won't actually try to fight them. We will pretend to commit to fighting in The Gorge while secretly preparing to escape to the fort."

Sensing everyone's confusion, His Excellency elaborates.

"Listen, the main goal of this ambush is dealing with their trump card. While we pretend to launch a frontal assault, a select few will circle behind the Duchy's army and use that time to gather information. They also might use it in panic at being ambushed, so make sure to keep watch over anything unusual."

"How can we convince them that we are all-out on the attack? How many of our soldiers will we have to sacrifice for that? And besides, it's impossible to climb the steep slopes of Eiden Gorge. At least not in the time that our fake ambush will last."

"You're asking some good questions, Sir Dylan. We will deceive them using magic and magical scrolls. Specifically, we will make human-like dummies from earth magic. We will dress them in robes and attach scrolls to them. When the enemy comes, we will trigger those scrolls and launch a barrage of magic to make them seem like they're ambushed by an army of mages."

"But for that, we would have to use up our entire stock of magical scrolls... They were supposed to be our trump card..."

"I agree with Sir Eiler. And besides, an army of mages? There's no way they're going to believe that."

"Well, there's no way to convince them aside from using scrolls since our own output won't be nearly enough. As for whether they believe it or not, it doesn't matter. Regardless of their thoughts on the matter, they will have to take them into account. We just need to hold out for a bit. Prioritize using bright magic, like fire or light. That will help us blind them and make it harder to tell that the dummies are fake."

Seeing that this time everyone stayed silent, Sir Dylan decides to cut in once again.

"What about my last question? There's no way someone can climb the steep slopes of Eiden Gorge within this small timeframe."

"No... There is a squad that can..." He pauses his explanation...

"Isn't that right, Sir Edward? I've heard your soldiers are quite proficient at earth magic." And then continues it by bringing me up.

"Yes, that is indeed true, Your Excellency. I'm confident we can scale Eiden Gorge."

"See, the problem is solved. Anyway, we obviously will send some of our squads to fight. But since the passage is relatively thin and they will be stunned by our barrage, the vast majority of them will be able to come back alive. Does anyone have any questions?"

"I have, Your excellency."

"Yes, Sir Edward?"

"What do I do when I find their trump card? What if knowing what it is, is not enough to deal with it?"

"...If it's a weapon, then try to destroy it, or at least understand the way it works. If you happen to fail, then our course of action will depend on their trump card. If it's something that we can deal with as long as we know the countermeasures, we will retreat to the fort. On the other hand, if it's something that makes it impossible to hold a defensive battle... We will have no choice but to give them a fight right there, in the gorge..." His Excellency answers me.

After that, silence fills up the room.

After waiting a bit, making sure there are no questions left, His Excellency says his final words for today.

"The meeting is over. Go rest and prepare for tomorrow. We probably have no longer than a week until The Duchy will get here. We have no time to waste."

That's how the strategy meeting came to its conclusion.

Tomorrow, the war is starting.

William Arklight

Thirty-one malf.

That's the threat we're going to face.

I only have fourteen soldiers at my disposal. Only a couple of them knows how to use low-level magic. They're trained soldiers, so their sword skills are pretty decent.

Malfs are pretty widespread monsters. They are similar to wolves but are bigger in size and have purplish-gray fur. Malfs hunt in packs and, if they have enough numbers, can even attack human settlements.

Soldiers have a good chance against malfs one on one, but here, we're at a two-to-one disadvantage.

We're waiting for them on the outskirts of the village.

While we did confirm their presence, consistently tracking them in the forest proved to be impossible. That's why we have to wait for them to attack. After all, we have no chance if we fight them in the forest.

I thought about giving weapons to the village folk, but, firstly, most of the men in their prime are already out on the war. And, most importantly, they won't be of any help.

Untrained men have no chance against malfs. They're too fast and agile. Letting militia participate would only lead to their deaths and the spread of panic on the battlefield.

The difference between trained soldiers and the rest of the folk is vast in this world. Is that because of magic? Does the extent to which your soul spends mana on enhancement depend on how much you train?

I'm trailing off again.

I need to think about hunting those monsters down.

Do we prepare a trap? But how? We can't predict their movements, and I can't think of anything that will prove effective against them. If we make a significant number of traps, we might get a couple of them, but malfs are smart. They will learn. Taking out a couple of them isn't enough for us to gain an advantage. Damn, I'm running out of time.





Out of the blue, I hear Mom's voice.

I turn around and realize that she's, indeed, standing right behind me.

How long has she been standing there? I didn't even notice her.

"William. You've been spacing out for quite a while."

"Ah... Yeah, sorry. I've just been thinking about ways to deal with malfs... It will be dangerous here, so you should go back home..."

"I will. But before that, I need to take you back home as well."

"...? What do you mean. Are you telling me to abandon the villagers? I can't do that. After all, Dad put his trust in me..."

"No. You seem to be forgetting, but it is a parent's job to help their child when they are in trouble," she says with a smile.

"William... How do you think malfs sense where their prey is? How do they know that the village is here?"

Edward Arklight

I'm on the steep slopes of the Eiden Gorge. Behind me are my men. A squad of fifty. All of them are personally trained by me and can use earth magic pretty well. That's the reason why we were given this mission.

Usually, getting this far would require several weeks. The slopes are too steep, and the incline is almost vertical. Crossing the entirety of the gorge without earth magic is nigh impossible.

I grasp the scroll tucked into my leather belt and recall the conversation I had a week ago, right after the strategy meeting concluded.

"Your Excellency."

"Yes, Sir Edward?"

"If Your Excellence just wanted the information, you could have just sent my squad scale the gorge by ourselves. There is no need to create such a large-scale ambush. If it's something that will turn the tides, whether it's a magical spell or a weapon, I would be able to see it from a decent enough distance. There's no need for this plan."

"That's right. If the information alone will be enough."

"...Your Excellence was planning to fight them in the gorge from the beginning..."

"Don't misunderstand, Sir Edward, I will follow the plan. It's just that my gut tells me that defending the fort will prove to be impossible— Here take these"


"This is an Inferno scroll, the strongest spell in our hands. Our real trump card. Use it to accomplish your mission. Although, if it's not something that can be destroyed or they have several of them, and they are stationed separately, don't use it. If we are unable to win the battle, you will have to use it to collapse the gorge and buy us some time.

As for that amulet... It's a communication device. We will use it to coordinate our actions."

"As you command, Your Excellency..."

Suddenly, I feel myself being shaken.

"Sir! Reporting. The Duchy's army is closing in. In a couple of minutes, they're going to be passing right under us."

"...Get ready, everyone. Our mission is starting. Be on the lookout for anything out of the norm. We have to find their trump card."

What will it be? I think it must be something pretty sizable to turn the tides of battle. Even a magical ritual of enough strength to break through the fort's walls will take up a significant amount of space. There's no way we can miss the ritual site.

"Sir Edward, I think we found it."

What? This fast?

I looked in the direction he's pointing and see...

"Rune cannons!? How did they manage to get those..."

"Sir! We've found several of them all over their ranks."

Damn it. That means destroying them with an Inferno is not an option.

Rune cannons. Siege weapons that were created by dwarfs. Massive steel cannons that have dwarven runes embedded into them. Not only their destructive power is incredible, but they're also reinforced by magic that causes every shot to trigger a spell upon collision.

This is bad. Defending the fort will be impossible. The Duchy's forces don't even have to go into attack. They can just bombard us from afar until there's nothing left from our fort.

Luckily, we still have some time.

I take the amulet in my hand and activate it.

"Yes, Sir Edw..."

"Your Excellency, there's no time to waste! They have rune cannons!"

" !... I will tell everyone to prepare for the battle. We will give them a fight in The Eiden Gorge... Meanwhile, Sir Edward..."

"I understand... I will do my best to neutralize them when the battle begins."

"...Good luck... I pray for your success, Edward Arklight. Your actions will decide the outcome of this war."

I know that, Your Excellency. I have no room for mistakes.

Since there will be a full-fledged frontal assault, that should buy me enough time to destroy the cannons. Even if we don't eliminate them, we, at least, have to stop The Duchy from using them during the battle.

As I was watching the enemy's forces advance, a single thought ran through my mind:

The battle of Eiden Gorge is about to begin.