Arifureta - Chapter 274
Arifureta After II Reinforcement Army Corps
「What's the status with the sortie preparation-」
The harsh voice of Moana who was wrapped in battle outfit was reverberating in the palace's corridor. She was walking fast with her footsteps making clapping sound as though to express her impatient feeling. Beside her, her close aides with Spenser, Donar, and Linden in the lead were accompanying her.
Spenser replied to Moana's question with a stern expression.
「It's possible for three thousand to sortie in our state. However, the number of arous is insufficient, we are also mobilizing soldiers from the neighboring monitoring base, but we will need at the very least one day to reach the expected number.」
「That's no good. Too slow. Three thousand is fine. We are departing right away.」
「Don't speak unreasonably.」
When Spenser said that chidingly, Moana stopped walking and turned her gaze.
「There is no other way than pushing through recklessly. Right now, even in this very moment Arquette is in the verge of being annihilated!」
That voice contained grief. It was something rare to come from Moana who always endeavored to be composed no matter the time. That was just how abnormal and dangerous the situation was, but for Spenser who had been at Moana's side since she was born, he could guess that wasn't all.
Koone and others who should have departed from the capital at noon the day before yesterday to head toward Arquette returned back at the forenoon today in a desperate state even while being exhausted. Thinking about the distance between the capital and Arquette, their return was too early even if they were taking day trip. Most likely they were rushing back through the night without resting.
Koone and others who returned back looked like they were going to collapse. When they asked Koone and others just what in the world was going on that caused their state to be abnormal like that, the answer they were given was about a situation that was hard to believe.
After making Koone and others rest, Moana naturally wasted no time to assemble her close aides in hurry and instructed them for sortie preparation to reinforce Arquette.
But, there were two problems regarding the sortie preparation.
First was the number of the enemy that was a large army of ten thousand.
The other problem was that they were fighting against time.
The battle strength that was permanently stationed in the capital was twenty thousand in total. The total battle strength from the citizens of the capital was less than thirty thousand. There were several cities set up at the boundary line between the desert and grassland and along the coastline. These cities doubled as surveillance base. If all the soldier force in those cities were mobilized, their number would barely reach a hundred thousand.
It looked enough for a battle force, but the matter wasn't that simple.
After all, the situation this time was a completely abnormal situation. The <Dark Being>had obtained a method to attack the rear while ignoring the front line.
In that case, there was no way they could left the capital unguarded. In this situation where the early detection of enemy using the unobstructed view of the desert was rendered meaningless, enough battle force had to be left behind in the capital no matter what.
In addition, seeing how it would be meaningless unless they reinforced Arquette before the city fell, they had to mobilize using arous no matter what. Because they definitely wouldn't make it in time if the soldier walked by foot to go there.
But, naturally the number of arous available was fewer than the number of soldier.
With arous that were trained to not fear battle, and including the arous that were collected from the capital's citizens, and by also further preparing not to carry any luggage as much as possible, and even after using method where multiple people would ride one arous in place of the luggage, they still couldn't secure arous in the number that could transport ten thousand soldiers.
Even the number three thousand that Spenser said was already an amazing response to be able to prepare that many in this short time.
Nevertheless, challenging ten thousand enemies with three thousand was still too rash.
Spenser had to admonish that action as the royal guard captain.
「Your majesty. However, speaking realistically, we cannot challenge an army of ten thousand with three thousand.」
「Spenser. Certainly I think that's reckless. But, I'm not merely saying that without making any calculation at all.」
Moana started walking again while speaking her thought.
「If Arquette's defensive wall is functioning, it will be possible for us charge through the enemy and enter the city. After that we will hole up there while waiting for the infantry and soldiers from the surveillance bases to arrive, before launching pincer attack from outside and inside the city.」
It was a strategy that was riddled with problem.
Certainly, if they could enter Arquette and then holing up inside, it would be possible for them to endure until the soldier force that was the combination from every area arrived. If it was the art users of the capital, they could easily reinforce and repair the defensive wall, while it would be easy for the soldiers to defeat the <Dark Beings>that sporadically crossed the defensive wall.
The greatest bottleneck of being in the defensive side of a siege that was the food supply was also not a problem seeing that Arquette was a city where harvest was accumulated in there.
「The gate must be closed right now. How are we going to go in?」
「We can use art to send notification for them to open the gate by matching our timing, or we can even use art to create a huge slope to cross the defensive wall. There are many ways that can be used.」
「If we lagged even just for a bit, we will get surrounded and then annihilated. It's a gamble that is really bad for heart. Even if for example we managed that......the plan can only work assuming they are still outside the wall you know? What are we going to do in the case the city has fallen?」
「............If that's the case, we will retreat. We will wait until the infantry and soldiers from every area link up with us.」
Spenser nodded while saying 「Hmm」. If she was able to choose the option of retreat there, then he guessed that she was still calm.
But, that too was undoubtedly also a gamble. It was doubtful whether they could really retreat after approaching the enemy until the range where they came into view. There wasn't any guarantee that the enemy wouldn't lying in ambush for their arrival after taking down Arquette.
Not to mention the <Dark Beings>should have realized that some people had escaped.
Honestly speaking, Spenser had judged that Arquette's situation was ’’despairing’’. It was a rear base with only defensive wall without even any decent soldier. It was impossible for the city to hold out for several days under the attack of a large army of ten thousand.
In that case, even if taking back the city was something they inevitable had to do, the royal guard captain, Spenser ought to think about the safety of the queen. A decision where they should refrain from departing until they could secure enough force had to be made.
However, he also understood Moana's feeling really well. For Spenser, knowing that the people they had to protect was in a crisis made him unable to be calm. Rather, he felt his stomach getting churned up when thinking that even now Arquette was being trampled.
Perhaps perceiving that indecision of Spenser, Moana added her words with a heavy and compelling voice.
「We have to depart right now. Am I wrong, Spenser?」
「......It's about Kouki-dono, isn't it?」
'As I thought', Spenser thought while closing his eyes.
「I understand your worry. You are wondering whether I'm getting rash, or that I'm losing my calm because of Kouki, right?」
Moana nodded while smiling bitterly.
「Certainly, my personal feeling is wanting to go to help Kouki. He is weak even though he is that strong, he torment himself, causing him to be unable to make his decision, but even so he desperately wished to advance forward and keep struggling......I want to help him. I want to become his aid.」
That mysterious young man who was imprisoned by his own mysterious feeling. Even though she had known him only for a few days, but he strangely left impression in her memory, as a person with broken heart.
「Something must had happened in his past. I don't know much about him. Just what happened that he is tormenting himself so much like that? That he can be so disappointed with himself like that?」
Kouki sometimes spoke out his feeling as though he was venting his anger. She could make a guess from that, but Moana instead didn't think too deep about it. Because she wanted to hear it from his own mouth someday, when he wanted to talk to her about it.
「He avoided killing, he is scared of getting killed, he is unable to believe his own decision......however, even though he might not notice it himself, but in the end, he cannot help but saving the people beside him. Because, he is kind.」
Perhaps, that was exactly why he was called as hero. She thought like that.
「Hey, Spenser. When someone who surely ought to be the person who is the most unrelated to fighting said that he will remain behind in an extremely dangerous place, just what is that person actually thinking?」
「......I am a soldier. I don't know the answer. But......I understand the degree of his resolve. I think that he is an owner of resolve that is worthy of respect.」
Moana nodded in agreement.
「That's right. Then we have to meet his expectation.」
Her personal feeling affected her decision. But, her feeling as queen also affected that decision to the same degree.
「An unrelated man without any obligation or duty is risking his life for the sake of our people by himself alone. He is fighting while believing that we are rushing there as reinforcement.」
Not only Spenser, the complexion of all the close aides who were thinking of remonstrating Moana changed.
「This isn't about logic. Am I wrong?」
It was dangerous to go with small force. The safety of the queen had to be prioritized. Arquette's situation was already hopeless. One ought to be rational in front of real problem.
Indeed, all those reasons could just eat shit.
「Indeed. Anything other than that will rot our warrior's soul.」
Spenser smiled while nodding. He had said what he should said as a royal guard. But the queen that he loved and respected still gave her command even then. In that case, taking action by following his soul wasn't something to be sad about. His smile naturally changed into a fearless smile.
「We will depart with three thousand. We will force ourselves to push through. However, we won't do anything thoughtless. Entrust the warrior soul of all of you to me. Spenser, spread my command!」
「By your will-」
Spenser gave his greatest salute to Moana before dashing away.
「The title as soldier chief is a troubling thing in this kind of time. I'm envious toward Spenser.」
「It's just as you said.」
Soldier chief Donar and head art user Linden breathed out a sigh simultaneously. They would stay behind to guard the capital and organized the following force. But, they themselves also wanted to rush out right now without delay.
「Don't say that. It's because you two are staying behind that we can depart without any worry about the future. Besides, the new threat of the <Dark Being>......it's likely that in the battle from now on, base defense will become meaningless. I'll have all of you rush around to my heart's content too.」
「Hahah, we are looking forward to that. However......sudden appearance from empty air, is it......」
Soldier chief Donar groaned with a grim expression. That expression looked as though it was directed toward different matter rather than that threatening phenomenon itself.
Moana who sensed that nodded with a loathing expression.
「.....Only ’’that guy’’ can do such thing.」
Linden continued after her.
「It must be the <Dark King>. Making miasma materialize at far away distance. It also happened at the battle five years ago. But, he should be able to do it within only fifty meter at best. Also even though he was able to manipulate miasma, he shouldn't have the ability to teleport other <Dark Being>.」
「It looks like all this time he isn't just healing his wound.」
Moana's loathing expression changed into an even more bitter expression. But, she shook her head and showed a determined face,
「From here on a war even fiercer than five years ago will start. This time for sure, one side will win and gain the right of survival, whether it's mankind or the <Dark Being>. It will become a war to decide that. All of you, take care of Koone.」
「......As your majesty will it.」
Both Donar and Linden also closed their eyes after a brief silence. They reflected upon Moana's resolve and wish.
She commanded them to prioritize her little sister rather than herself who had lost most of her strength.
They silently accepted the resolve of her who had already like their own daughter, who at the same time had also splendidly grown to become a respectful king.
The outer edge part of the oasis river of Synclea royal capital. Three thousand soldiers were standing by there while mounting arous.
In order to stand in front of them, Moana also approached toward her personal mount Haumu who was made to stand by in front of the stable. The old man who was taking care of Haumu bowed his head reverently and handed over the rein.
Moana said her thanks to the old man and he gently stroked Haumu's nose tip. Even Haumu who usually would frolic(bite) at her currently was only staring still at Moana without showing any reluctant behavior.
「Even Haumu somehow understand it huh......」
Moana whispered while narrowing her eyes with her way of speaking turning casual. She pressed her forehead on Haumu's nose tip and closed her eyes.
「You are my mount. Most likely the time of your death will be the same like me. And then, that time is already nearing. No doubt about that.」
Haumu let out a huff, the glint of his eyes showering down Moana as though to say 'so what'. He was the one and only mount of the king. He didn't fear death or anything, such dominating aura was conveyed even without any spoken words.
Moana smiled widely toward such Haumu. And then, in order to bestow a worthy accessory for the mount of king, she took out a ribbon from her pocket──
When she turned around, Koone was there. Not only Koone, Spike, Lilin, and others, the members who followed Koone to Arquette were all there.
Moana who somehow guessed what Koone was going to say opened her mouth before Koone could say anything.
「You must not, Koone. You stay here.」
「There is no way it can be allowed that not a single royalty is staying at the capital in this situation. You understand right?」
She understood. Even Koone understood something like that. However, it was exactly because it was this kind of situation that her heart couldn't allow her big sister to go to a battlefield where she might die. Fierce unease and feeling of despair where it felt like the ground under her was crumbling attacked Koone.
And then, unexpectedly even for herself, she wanted to obtain the confirmation as quickly as possible with a feeling that was as strong as her concern toward her big sister. The confirmation of Kouki's safety.
「Onee-chan, Koone is──」
Koone tried to vehemently argue further, but as expected her words were interrupted, by the index finger of her big sister that touched her lips softly.
「Koone, be reasonable. Both I and Koone has duty as royalty. As your onee-chan, I am really happy with Koone's feeling. But──I will accomplish what I ought to fulfill. Until that time when I used up this life.」
Moana's words weren't the usual kind and pampering words. She didn't say ’’It will be fine’’ or ’’Onee-chan won't leave Koone’’.
Fulfilling one's duty. She would do that. You too do that. Those were the words of queen. The time where she could just be the kind onee-chan for Koone was over.
「You understand right? After all Koone is the little sister I'm proud of.」
「tsu, tsu......under, stand. Koone, understand-」
Perhaps, this would be their last meeting in this life. Koone nodded while desperately holding back her tear duct from bursting.
Moana strongly hugged Koone whose expression distorted from holding back from crying as though she was hugging a treasure. Koone too also hugged back tightly, really tightly.
「I'll leave the capital in your hand, Koone.」
「Yes, Onee-cha──your majesty. May luck be with you.」
Hearing her beloved little sister changing how she was calling her, Moana was feeling like she was going to cry despite it was herself who was causing Koone to do that.
Moana made a smile so that Koone wouldn't notice that, but seeing Koone's faint smile and gaze, it seemed that she had been seen through. ’’As expected from my Koone-tan’’, she used that way of calling only inside her heart.
「Your majesty, we──」
Spike who was at a loss for word from seeing the exchange between Moana and Koone asked hesitantly.
「Of course, all of you stay behind. With how Spenser is accompanying me, the leader of the royal guard in the capital is now Spike. Protect Koone.」
「tsu, by your will.」
Actually, he wanted to turn around and returned to Arquette. Even while biting his lips, Spike returned a salute in order to accomplish his role.
It seemed that all the members of Koone's escort party shared that feeling. Every single one of them was making the same expression.
Especially Lilin, the expression of the girl who was boasting 「I was born for the sake of fighting」 was filled to the brim with shame because of turning her back toward the enemy regardless of how she managed to accomplish her role of protecting Koone.
Even so she didn't say anything the same like Spike. That was why, Koone opened her mouth in their place.
「Onee-cha──your majesty. Can you allow to let at least Lilin to accompany you?」
Not just Moana, even Lilin was gazing in wonderment at Koone's suggestion.
「Yes. Lilin is Spenser's direct subordinate in the first place. She joined Koone's escort squad in case of unexpected situation. And most of all, Koone think that it's better that someone who know about Arquette's current situation to accompany your majesty just in case.」
It was a reasonable suggestion. And above all else, Koone's feeling behind her words that wanted Moana to bring at least one person from her escort squad into the battle could be really felt.
Moana said 「I see」 and nodded, then
「How is your exhaustion? You will be going back to Arquette non-stop without even a wink of sleep. You also lent your strength for Arquette's defense correct?」
「There is no problem. Your majesty, I beg you to take me into the battlefield. Please give me the chance to slaughter the enemy in the front line.」
The words of Lilin who were bowing her head made Moana smiled wryly reflexively. Spike and others also seemed to feel the same. They made wry smile toward vigorous fighting spirit of the youngest girl of the escort squad.
「Fine then. Lilin, return to your home unit for now. I'm looking forward to your performance in battle.」
「I thank your majesty. I will display my wind for your majesty to see, carving apart the enemies that got away from hero-sama no matter how many they are.」
Spike and others called at Lilin 「Kill a lot for our part too」. Beside them, Koone spoke to Moana.
「Can Koone ask your majesty to give message to hero-sa──to Kouki-sama?」
「──Tell him, 『How dare you did as you please without even asking Koone for permission! You better prepare yourself!』」
「Fuh, fufufuh, go, got it. I will convey the message without fail.」
Kouki was surely alive. The message with a content that was based on such premise caused Moana to be unable to hold her laughter down while thinking that it would surely be hell for Kouki even if he was alive.
Like that, not even thirty minute after that, the soldier force led by Moana departed for Arquette.
Less than two days since the force departed from the capital.
Perhaps it should be said as expected, almost three days had passed since Koone and others escaped from Arquette.
The arous were running with everything they had, even so they are putting up with sprinting while carrying two or three adult men who were fully equipped, so they needed rest no matter what. In addition, as expected marching with three thousand troops even by riding arous lowered their speed compared to marching with only several dozen troops.
The time was several minutes passed the noon. It was about the afternoon of the sixth day since the day Kouki was summoned.
For an army with number of more than a thousand to be able to cross the distance that normally would take one day and a half in that time could be said to be fast enough already.
The army already entered the grassland area and all the arous became animated and increased their speed even further.
「Lilin. If I remember correctly, Kouki deployed a barrier of light that covered the whole Arquette right?」
Moana asked while repressing her impatient feeling.
「Yes, Moana-sama. ......It was a solemn and mystical barrier, not letting the whole army of ten thousand to pass. It was an amazing sight.」
Lilin answered while her eye glint glittered with fighting spirit toward the nearing battlefield. Spenser who was riding at Moana's side shook his head and opened his mouth.
「At that time when we were attacked by Ragar, we were also covered by shining half sphere barrier. It's likely to be the same technique. It had toughness that wouldn't twitch even with the full strength attack of Ragar but......for the same technique to cover the whole city......it's hard to even imagine, a truly miraculous work.」
Spenser's expression seemed to want to say 「What an unbelievable power」.
「Light of protection......then, we should be able to see it from afar before long. Spenser, what about the lookout at the surrounding?」
「There is no gap in our lokout. I have already sent out scouts to every directions. It should be about time for them to return temporarily......」
Before Spenser could finish speaking, one arous showed itself crossing a small hill and joined up into the rank.
Spenser's eyes were scrutinizing the scout's conspicuous act of crossing the hill. The scout was a young soldier who had returned from confirming the situation of Arquette. He was approaching Spenser's position.
Spenser was thinking whether he should scold the scout's rash act, also for focusing everyone's mind, but he stopped from speaking after seeing the scout's eyes that were wavering in bewilderment.
「Commander. Re, reporting」
「Muh, from your look, is there something ahead? Let's hear it.」
The scouts resolved himself and opened his mouth while Moana and others were also listening carefully.
「Yes-. Regarding the barrier of light that we heard beforehand......I couldn't confirm it's existence.」
*hyuh* The sound of breath caught in the throat rang out. It came from Moana. Her complexion turned pale. Beside her Lilin was gritting her teeth audibly and her expression warped in vexation.
There was no barrier of light. That was to say, it was the proof that the person who casted the barrier had ran out of strength.
Holding back Moana from reflexively trying to ask for reconfirmation, Spenser told the scout to continue his report. The most important information was the approximate amount of enemy's current number and whether Arquette had fallen or not──putting it another way, it was the evaluation standard to decide whether they should withdraw the army or kept advancing.
「......Is Arquette fallen?」
「That's......that......I don't know.」
Spenser didn't understand what the scout meant. The scout should have seen Arquette's situation from afar. The scout should be able to see how many <Dark Being>was surrounding Arquette, and whether the gate was already destroyed or not. Spenser's eyes narrowed like a hawk that was fixed toward the scout, asking what he meant.
The scout gulped, and then he continued speaking a bit rapidly to convey the situation that he witnessed as it was.
「It looks like the gate was destroyed! However, around Arquette, there are only a great number of Dark Beings' corpses, I practically cannot catch sight of any moving thing! The number of the corpses, I didn't confirm it from every directions, but at the very least in the east side there were──」
「What, say it clearly! Was it several hundred?」
If that was the case, then the possibility was that the large army of <Dark Being>had already subdued Arquette and occupied the city and right now they were hiding inside, or they were advancing toward the neighboring territory, or perhaps they were standing by somewhere in order to launch ambush.
But, as though to blow away that doubt of Spenser, a shocking report with content that was indeed worthy to bewilder the scout was given.
「Sir-, based from my observation, it was roughly──around six thousand, I think.」
Spenser unconsciously leaked out a stupid sounding voice. But not just him, even Moana and others also showed an expression that wanted to ask just what this person was saying.
「It, it's true. There is really a great number of corpses lying around, even I myself don't know just what is......」
「......Calm down. Were the corpses really the corpse of those guys? What about the possibility of some kind of fake body?」
「Still, I didn't mistake fake corpses as the real thing. All those are certainly dead <Dark Beings>. Even corpses just from species that we knew like bull head species, scaled dragon species, eccentric species......all those are......」
Spenser said 「Good work」 and told the scout to withdraw, and then he looked back at Moana.
「What do you think, your majesty?」
「......Do you think Kouki did that?」
「......I don't know. It's hard to believe that so suddenly. In Koone-sama's report, Kouki-dono himself said that he would run out of strength first against such number. Currently there is no barrier and the gate is opened. Frankly, it's impossible to decide with this unexpected situation. Perhaps we should think that this is some kind of trap by the enemy.」
Certainly it was just as Spenser said. Moana nodded at Spenser's concern and she closed her eyes for a while.
And then she put her thought in order and opened her eyes.
「We are advancing. If there is no enemy and Arquette's gate is opened, then it's fortuitous. We have to make sure of the city's situation.」
「......By your will. We will increase the lookout to the surrounding.」
Regardless of the enemy's nonexistence, there was no way they could withdraw without ascertaining the safety of the citizens. Spenser also agreed with that decision.
The army fastened their pace while being on guard and hurried toward Arquette.
Before long Arquette's state came into view. Moana and the others held their breath.
Just as the scout said, a great number of <Dark Beings>were lying down nearby the east gate. It was clear even from afar that they were dead with lack of body part or severed into two. The cause was undoubtedly from slash attack. It seemed that the cause of the <Dark Beings>' death wasn't from unforeseen circumstance.
「We are continuing ahead.」
The army rushed through the corpses on Moana's order. The corpses were lying on top of each other so much that there was no empty place to step on.
「The blood trace, the position of loss body part, the way they fell......your majesty. It seems these guys were thrown away after getting cut down around the gate.」
「......The north part and southern part looks clean.」
「From the scout's report, it looks like that the west part only have the grain farm area getting ruined but there is mostly no trace of fighting there.」
Moana and others approached quite near the gate before long.
There were also traces of fierce fighting around there too. Everywhere there were the expired bodies of <Dark Being>.
But, at that time, their ears suddenly caught sound of tumult.
「tsu, let's go-」
They passed through the gate. The sound of tumult was getting louder. While the army was spreading through the city with Spenser's instruction, the main force was running toward the tumult following Moana's order.
Houses were destroyed into a tragic state that was clear even just from a glance. The street was messed up as though the ground had been plowed through. And then there were the countless expired <Dark Beings>.
But, they still hadn't found even a single corpse of human.
「Moana-sama! The underground vault is ahead from here! It's at the other side of that big warehouse!」
Moana nodded at Lilin's report. The tumultuous sound was gradually getting louder. The number of expired <Dark Being>was also getting more numerous. The number might reach a thousand even just inside the city.
「The direction ahead! Enemy sighted! Vanguard, charge!」
The moment they turned around the corner from the street that stretched straight from the east gate, they caught sight of countless <Dark Beings>. Although, it appeared that they weren't taking position in order to meet the advance of Moana and the others.
The <Dark Beings>were crowding the street, they were even spreading on the buildings' rooftop. All of them were facing toward a single direction. They only finally noticed Moana and others at the same time when they came into view.
Moana and others felt question seeing that. Even so, there was no need to hesitate with enemy in front of their eyes.
They charged the <Dark Beings>from behind and routed the enemy. A squad climbed to the rooftops following Spenser's instruction and they opened combat against the enemies on the rooftops.
It was hard to use large force inside a limited space. Moana's main force divided further into small units, spreading into alleys and streets like water pervading into countless ditches.
The <Dark Beings>fought back, but the momentum of the soldiers who were driven by rage was tremendous and the enemies were routed one after another. The reinforcement army was advancing forward and forward.
The army didn't hesitate in their path.
Because they could just charge forward toward the direction where the several thousand <Dark Beings>were crowding into.
Like that Moana and others advanced for a while.
Before long, Moana and others arrived at the center of the tumult, they came out at the other side of the large building──the large warehouse that still had its walls standing strong despite having its roof destroyed. There they saw it.
A place that became a mountain of rubble, where most of the surrounding buildings were collapsed.
At that place that was becoming like a large plaza, there were several hundred <Dark Beings>who were tightly forming a round besiegement, and about the same number of expired <Dark Beings>at the surrounding.
And then, at the center, was him.
Surrounded by enemy from all directions, assaulted continuously without any pause......
It was difficult to search any spot on his body that was safe. He had literally become wounded all over his body......
However, under his feet there was a solid looking door made from metal......
That was a sigh that was leaked out by someone.
That figure which was the embodiment of that word shook the soul of the warriors.
And then, the <Dark Beings>who were only concentrating at the enemy before their eyes finally noticed the existence of Moana and others.
They all stiffened for a moment.
The one who moved first was her majesty the queen whose soul was shaken.
「tsu, Roar-, oh warriors! Annihilate the enemy! Save him──Save Kouki!!」
The war cry of the warriors' soul shook Arquette.