Maybe it’s because Paulo knew how tainted I felt from having to deal with the vice captain, he spoke up for me and told the captain “I think you can go back now.”
“There’s a message from Ergnade-sama for you. The knights will be taking charge of scouting the enemy camp, and the rest of the army is to remain on standby. We’re still to meet up with the Shiru tribe and make sure to protect them, but since we don’t know when we’ll meet up, we’re to be on guard.”
“That’s what’s going on?” was the captain’s response, and he hurriedly went back towards his own Franks squad after taking a good look in their direction. Half of his squad had already stopped marching due to receiving the order from the center formation and seemed to be looking over here at us, while the other half was still marching onwards.
“……Before making comments about command ability in other armies, learn how to manage your own squad.”
Gunther insulted the captain while I watched silently as he drew a line across his neck with his thumb, as the captain was running off, shouting “stop marching, you idiots!”
“Well, that’s how it is.”
Gunther shrugged and turned around, and we headed back for our army that was lined up in neat and orderly lines. Originally though, we had expected that battle should have begun already at this point in time. It’s just a question of when we’re going to meet up with the Shiru tribe.
We remained on guard at our current location for approximately one hour. Nothing had happened during that time and the plains were eerily silent, when we finally heard something abuzz from behind us.
“What’s going on?”
Gunther raised his voice, trying to figure out exactly what was happening. A soldier from the farthest column behind us answered him.
“My lord! There’s clouds of dust rising from behind us!”
At that same moment, I could hear what sounded like battle cries from the center formation’s army. Is it an enemy attack? It couldn’t be, from behind us?
“My lord, please look at that!”
Paulo grabbed my shoulder. When I looked in the direction he was pointing, what I saw was black smoke rising from one of the tents in the back of the enemy camp.
I didn’t have a chance to think about it for long. Gunther was already raising his voice again.
“Oi, they’re coming here!”
The soldiers immediately stopped making a fuss, which was replaced by a feeling of high tension instead. Northeast of us, horses were kicking up quite a lot of dust. The soldiers in front of the horses had the flag of Fort Jugfena.
“Raise our flags!!!”
It was the 3rd Cavalry Platoon whose role was to guide the Shiru tribe here that was approaching us rapidly, and my army raised their flags as well. From our side, I heard “take your positions!” as well. The Franks squad was hurriedly fixing their crooked formation, and organizing themselves into a dense formation of spear infantry.
The Shiru tribe and the 3rd Cavalry Platoon which consisted of knighted nobility were approaching us without reducing their speed at all. From what I could see, there were many men running on foot, followed by children on horseback. There were two to three children on each horse. One of their leaders who was holding a flag stopped in front of me, and asked, “would you happen to be Viscountess Kaldia?” I nodded saying I was, and he saluted me and began giving me a concise report of what happened with the detached force.
“About the Shiru tribe, there’s overwhelmingly many more of them than we expected. They are the remnants of the Shiru tribe that helped their women escape to Fort Jugfena first and were left behind at the Bandishia Plateau. Their men are letting the remaining women and children use their horses, and their warriors are running alongside our 3rd Cavalry Platoon.”
While we were talking, the horses with children on them started passing by me as well, and with bustling noises and metallic clanging, women soon followed. Behind them were armed knights, probably to protect them as a rearguard.
“Our current situation here is that I’m afraid we may have fallen for Densel’s trap. The Densel army seems to have gone around ours and taken the southern route. Since I just heard battle cries from the center formation, it could be that they’re already engaged in battle.”
“Then, let us retreat back to the fortress by way of the Bandishia Plateau. Please leave leading the way up to me.”
Since that’s what I wanted to do as well, I nodded immediately in agreement with him. That’s when a man from the Shiru tribe who was on horseback came riding up in front of us. Although he had a bow in his hands, I noticed that his quiver was empty.
“Oi, the last of us, those with no weapons, have all arrived now! What are we supposed to do now!?”
He spoke fluent Artolan language. The only people who understood him were me and the knight though, Gunther and Paulo just looked at each other blankly.
“We’re going back to our fort by way of the Bandishia Plateau! Since fighting has already broken out on the plains, we’re going to avoid that path!”
As the knight answered, I saw an arrow flying in our direction from far behind us. I could hear vivid sounds of roaring and screaming. The pursuing Densel soldiers are close by. After the Shiru nomad who had used up all his arrows, injured stragglers kept trickling by us one by one. They smelled of blood and dirt.
“Let’s go. It’s time to head for Fort Jugfena.”
“I understand. Viscountess Kaldia, please lead your army.”
I’m strongly worried about leaving the rearguard duties up to the Franks squad, but we can’t afford to stay here a moment longer. I mimicked Paulo and smoothly jumped up onto my horse, and took its reins.
“Kaldia army, prepare to withdraw! Withdraw!”
Many soldiers passed by my side, with their swords and spears at the ready. Among them were also some male Shiru tribe warriors on foot, having ceded their horses to their women and children.
“We’re going to return to Fort Jugfena by way of the Bandishia Plateau! Begin marching!!”
As my troops were withdrawing, the Franks squad was advancing. With metallic clanging sounds in the air, combined with horses neighing and people screaming, I could hear clashing sounds as we withdrew from our current location.