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One week after the operation had been decided, David departed from Belta, leading 15,000 troops under his command. He set up camp on his side of Sulawesi Grand Bridge and hoisted the flag of the corps commander.
The Liberation Army in response, as if hailing them, also spread out their forces on the opposite shore. They were showing their intent of ‘You shall not cross.’ As if they would let Antigua, which they so arduously took possession of, fall so easily.
Seeing their camp, David snickered.
“From a rough look, perhaps 40,000? It seems drawing out the main force has gone according to plan.”
“We too as per the plan have pretended to have reinforcement forces continuously arriving. All that is left is to root the enemy to the spot it appears.”
Said the Chief Staff Officer, and David nodded.
“We should order the officers and men to make sure to not be negligent… We must also restrict them from forcibly crossing the river. Strengthen the surveillance.”
“As I have been informed. Scouts have been sent to the riverbank, and our lookout preparations are complete.”
“Just as I would expect of you, Chief Staff Officer. You work as fast as ever.”
“I tremblingly accept your praise.”
The Chief Staff Officer respectfully lowered his head.
“It’ll be a long journey from hereon. I will be carefully watching the execution of the plan from this headquarters.”
David headed back, and the staff officers followed after him. The stare-down continued endlessly. Sometimes, horns or drums would sound out, and signs that they were about to attack were repeated over and over. With not even a single arrow fired, the day bade welcome to night.
—-Alucia River, River Crossing Site.
The construction soldiers, waiting until night, lined up small boats until the opposite shore, and built a bridge of wooden boards. As of now, there still were not signs of enemy soldiers. They had not been detected.
After a few hours, several floating bridges were being created. The faces of the construction soldiers showed a little impatience. If they were discovered now, it would be all too simple to send them all underwater. They would be faced with annihilation perhaps. Even so, they safely completed their duty. When the final one was tied down, the construction soldiers went onto land. They would reinforce the bridges until carts could cross them, and they sent a signal to the cavalry of the First Division.
The sky was growing brighter. The sun would rise shortly.
“The establishment of multiple pontoon bridges has been completed. The rest is up to you. We, as soon as the First Division crosses the river, will construct a bridgehead position.”
“Well done completing your duty. Leave the rest to us. We’ll trample them in one fell swoop, just watch us!”
The commander of the cavalry, Major General Alexei encouragingly nodded. The head of the construction soldiers straightened his back and saluted.
“Sir- May the fortunes of war be with you!”
Although the air was pleasantly cool, tensions were rising.
—-The ones to start the battle will be us.
Major General Alexei unsheathed his sword and gave his orders to the soldiers under his command.
“First Division, Advance Cavalry, sortie! Target, Branch Castle Antigua!”
“Start the advance! Stay in file-!!”
The 10,000 cavalry unit that would be sent ahead started crossing Alucia River via the pontoon bridges. Although several horsemen who had not been trained enough fell into the river, by and large they were favorably successful in crossing. They moved out to Alucia Plains, not being discovered by the enemy. Schera’s cavalry unit crossed last as the rear guard.
“Kind of shaky. I feel like I’m going to vomit.”
“Cannot be helped; it will be for an instant. Please take care to not fall off.”
“It will be a funny story if a Second Lieutenant falls off huh, Second Lieutenant Katarina. Take care now.”
“I will not fall off!”
“You’ll scare the horses so don’t be so loud. Do it again and I will be the one to push you off.”
Reprimanded Schera in a commanding voice, and Katarina’s shoulders drooped. Vander next to her was gently soothing her in a humorous manner, going, “there, there.”
None of Schera’s cavalry unit fell off. They had not raised their new flag incidentally. The adjutants had prevented it, thinking it too indecorum. Though, the cavalry members intended to swap flags once they saw a chance to.
Ascertaining that the First Division has successfully crossed the river, the construction soldiers continuing work and started constructing an encampment at the Alucia River crossing site.
They started setting up to usher in the supply unit. Concurrently, the main force of the Second Division, the mixed Fourth Army Infantry division, started crossing the river. They were a large army of 50,000, and it seemed it would require considerable time to finish crossing.
Major General Alexei, entrusted as the vanguard, readily marched to Alucia Plains.
Mysteriously, not even a single enemy soldier was to be found. Perhaps their entire military force had headed to the Grand Bridge. Or so Alexei thought. The Second Division was still lagging behind them, and currently, they were in a long, column formation. The only thing the advance cavalry unit had to pay attention to were the movements of the enemy’s main force setup at Sulawesi Grand Bridge. In a situation where they were to change direction, the cavalry would have to ambush them. Upon that stalemate would come David’s unit, which was aiming to distract them on their side of the bridge, to assault them from the rear.
“Okay, someone! Go check to see if the enemy’s main force is moving or not from the Grand Bridge!”
“Sir- Please leave it to me!”
“Another rider, go check the condition of the march behind us. Make haste!”
Two of his guards were sent out for reconnaissance, and for the moment, the First Division halted. Because there was not a bit of enemy resistance, the march had gone on too smoothly. In this interval, they would rest their horses, and all the group members would partake in a meal.
Schera as well greedily consumed the provisions she was carrying.
It was still just past noon at the time. Before capturing Antigua and before night fell, they wanted to sent up a battle formation so that the infantry unit could immediately set up siege.
A single rider rushed up to Alexei, who was sitting on a simple chair and arranging their progress with the adjutants and a map spread out. Without a moment’s delay, he dismounted and loudly reported.
“Major General Alexei! Figures of enemy forces can be seen at Alucia Plains in front of us! It’s the insignia of the Rebel Army’s leader, Altura’s! She’s leading several thousand infantry!”
“What’d you say!? That insurgent girl had nonchalantly come out here!?”
Shouted Alexei, involuntarily standing up. Right in front of his eyes, the road to fame was opened. The was no option but to apprehend her. If he got her head, he would most certainly be promoted. He ought to go. Alexei decided, impatient.
“Your Excellency, this is a chance that will not come again. If we slay her here, everything will be resolved. There might not even be a need for Antigua to fall.”
“The greatest achievement will be yours, Major General Alexei!”
“I know! Signal the cavalrymen. We will immediately start the attack!”
“Altura’s head will be taken by our hands!! We will have any reward we desire!!”
Under the vigorously hotblooded Alexei’s order, the First Division cavalry wholeheartedly rushed towards Altura’s unit.
Almost as they had expected that, the Liberation Army started retreating like escaping rabbits without meeting them.
A slow platoon was crushed by the hands of the cavalry. The cavalry unit’s momentum was fierce, with bait right under their eyes.
Alexei had not noticed, but the First Division and the Second Division were already separated by a considerable distance. The Second Division, as they were a mix of units, had a disturbed chain of command, and it was difficult to just march. There were many deserters, and morale was low.
Since the rear guard did not need to participate in fighting, Schera’s cavalry unit poised at a middle area. After all, it would be completely preposterous, not even worthy as joke, for Altura’s head to be taken by a little girl. Deeming that now was the only opportunity they would get, Schera’s cavalry soldiers were switching flags. Catching the wind, the flag of a white crow on a black background triumphantly fluttered over them.
The area was dyed by the setting sun. It would soon become the perilous nighttime.
“……Will we not be pursuing them? Major Schera.”
“We can’t go against an order so. Let’s just resign ourselves and loiter around here. We just can’t be negligent on lookout for a surprise attack.”
She signaled to the cavalrymen near her, designating them as the lookouts.
“However, if you take her head in Rebel Army territory, anyone and everyone will recognize you!”
“I have no interest in eating food laced with poison. In those times, it would be proper to let someone else eat it.”
Dismounted, Schera took out a walnut that she had placed in her bag. She crouched and broke the shell with her large scythe. The nut was also shattered, so she started putting the fragments in her mouth.
Vander, whispered into Katarina’s ear such that his superior officer wouldn’t hear.
“When Major’s doing that, she’s like a small animal.”
“You shut up!”
From a distance, the rider dispatched by Alexei earlier as a scout returned with an urgent expression. The main force at Sulawesi Grand Bridge was probably headed their way.
“W, where has Major General Alexei gone to!?”
“His Excellency has gone further westward pursuing the enemy leader. What’s the matter? Calm down and tell me what you’ve seen.”
When Schera stood up and enquired, she received a surprising turn of events.
“The main force at Sulawesi Grand Bridge was fake. Certainly, they are numerous, but half of them are demilitarized civilians. The main force of the Rebel Army is somewhere else!”
“Quickly report to His Excellency Alexei.”
“You don’t have to tell me I know! You guys too hurry up and link up!”
He spurred on his horse and chased after the main unit of Alexei’s. Seeing him go off, Schera crossed her arms.
“Hmm, what shall we do I wonder.”
“……The main force is not at the Grand Bridge, which means that they put emphasis on defending Antigua? No, that has no strategic value. ……Don’t tell me we’re surrounded?”
Vander spread out the map he had and checked. Katarina followed suit, and stated her opinion.
“……Major. I believe we are in quite a dangerous position. Earlier, that force of Altura’s has an extremely high possibility of being bait I think.”
“If we move carelessly, there is the danger that we will be hit by an ambush. Immediately, the scouts—-”
Another rider came running. His face was also extremely agitated.
“Where did His Excellency Major General Alexei go!!? I have urgent news!!”
“His Excellency has marched forward to pursue enemy forces! What is happening!?”
“Our river crossing site is being attacked! They are completed besieged-!!”
“—-No, no way.”
—-Antigua Branch Castle was the bottom of a bag. Alucia crossing site was the entrance to the bag.
The Kingdom’s Army, of their own volition, had entered this giant “bag,” this hell. The fact that the forces of David’s unit at Sulawesi Grand Bridge was a ruse had been completely seen through. As a plan, it wasn’t bad, but with the secret out, the plan had no substance.
This plan was ill-suited in the first place for the Kingdom’s Army with its numerous colluders and deserters. Furthermore, because of the mixed units that had been recently reorganized, no one was suspicious, even though spies had infiltrated them. Their information had gone completely to the other side.
The cavalry of the First Division were pulled in by Altura. The Second Division ventured to cross the river, and just as they were crossing, ambushers attacked the platoon bridges, and they were destroyed. Along with the Third Division, the supply train, they were divided. Completely surrounded, with Alucia River at their backs and the Liberation Army that had lay concealed at their front, they ate a devastating offensive. The infantry of the Second Division, trying to flee, increasingly became corpses. There were also people who were pushed into the river and drowned. As they were wearing armor, they could not sufficiently swim in places where the water was deep.
The encampment that should have become the beachhead was currently like a picture from hell.
“What should we do? Vander, Katarina, say your opinions.”
“S, sir. Our troops are merely 1,000. There is no meaning in us going to reinforce the crossing site. I believe we ought to merge with Major General Alexei, who I fear is about to be ambushed. Currently, with the Third Division unable to merge with us, the capture of Antigua will fail. If we do not think about withdrawing…”
Katarina stated her opinion, and Vander his.
“Further, there is also the possibility of us being destroyed. We cannot think about how to deal with the cavalry that was baited.”
“Major Schera. Either way, there is no time. Your decision.”
“Major! Enemy cavalry unit approaching-! Their numbers are about 1,000!”
A horseman in the middle of lookout discovered a cloud of dust of enemy cavalry. Schera jumped onto her horse and raised her large scythe.
“We intercept them!! Follow me! Kill them, leave not one of the Rebel Army lot alive!-!!”*
Schera and her forces started galloping towards the enemy cavalry. The white crow of the battleflag, basked in the evening sun, was bathed red like blood. The adjutants also followed her, though while confused at the appearance of their superior officer behaving differently than normal. Was this really the same person? They did not have the confidence to say.
Cavalry raising a black battleflag collided into the side of the cavalry raising the flag of the Liberation Army. Schera fluidly robbed four men of their heads, and once again harshly shouted. In a wedge formation with their commander as the tip, Schera’s unit on the assault split the enemy into two.
“W, wha who are you guys-!”
“Whose unit! You lot, are the Kingdom’s Army-!??”
“We are Death’s cavalry. Now you know, hurry up and die!”
While impelling everyone behind her, she mowed down the dismayed cavalry. A rider who had lost the upper half of his body was carried forward. She spurred on her horse and swung her scythe in all directions, cutting ferociously.
A thrusted spear had its tip cut off, and the soldier’s head was blown off by the scythe that traced out a wide arc and came back. A man who resolutely raised his sword over his head was split vertically from the helmet. Blood and gray matter mixed and scattered like trickling fluid when biting a berry.
That sensation when she crushed the skull–it was like that walnut she ate earlier, and her appetite was involuntarily stimulated. Hard on the inside, but soft on the inside. Food was very mysterious. Speaking of which, there were still walnuts inside her bag.
Schera took out a walnut, put strength in her crimson hand, and crushed it.
The nut mixed with someone’s blood, and it came to look like some sauce.
She tried tentatively licking it, and it tasted like iron. Was it tasty? She didn’t really know.
She decided to try giving it another lick.
And then a nuisance appeared. Schera wiped her mouth and turned around.
“You’re the commander!? Your army is already collapsing! Give up and surrender! You’ll at least save your life!”
A commander who thought himself of high cachet closed in on Schera’s dilemma while raising his voice.
“Ahaha-! The only joke’s your face!!”
“—-Stop your useless resistance-!!”
Spear and scythe crossed. Horses stopped, they locked weapons. They intensified their grips on their weapons. The man’s face changed to one of anguish.
“S, strong, w, what’s with you-!”
“Come on come on, my scythe’s gradually getting closer it seems. If you don’t persevere, you’ll get stabbed you know?”
“Kuh, s, stop. S, stop please-”
“That’s impossible. You, are the Rebel Army after all.”
—-The one who dominated the binding of weapons, was Schera.
Simultaneously repelling him, the scythe’s point stabbed into the commander’s face. Schera pushed hard, and his face caved-in.
The body of the Liberation Army general spasmed in intense pain. He was still living.
“Now your face has become a joke. Congratulations.”
When she slowly pulled out, blood spray spewed out. Schera showered in it and was painted deep red. Not giving him the finishing blow, she knocked him off his horse. Several seconds later, he would probably lose consciousness and die though. She thought his manner of twitching was like a fish washed up on land.
When their commander was killed, the unit prepared to flee. Schera’s unit, after being thoroughly riled up, routed the enemy cavalry unit.
While shocked, Katarina acknowledged her superior officer’s effort. Schera’s strength, as she had imagined, no, even more than she had imagined, gripped her. Her tongue wouldn’t move well. Her brain as an adjutant didn’t function.
“T, that was splendid Major Schera! Our unit’s damage is negligible. It is an overwhelming victory!”
“Alright, we will continue and meet up with Major General Alexei! Cavalry Unit, after me!”
Schera’s unit dashed in the evening light. Schera’s body was covered in blood, and the crow carved onto her armor had changed to red. Blood unceasingly dripped and fell from her scythe. In just today, how many lives had she reaped? She herself also didn’t know.
The other party, the advance cavalry unit lead by Alexei, around 10,000 riders, invaded up to the vicinity of Antigua, caught by Altura’s diversion. His ambition of wanting to kill her by whatever means necessary now could not be stopped.
“Your, Your Excellency Major General, do you not think we have pushed out too far? The ones behind us—-”
“Like I care. Isn’t our target Antigua anyway? Being able to eliminate a nuisance is in fact convenient for us.”
In the middle of the Adjutant urging caution, the drawbridge of Antigua Branch Castle lowered, and a cavalry unit rushed out savagely from inside the castle.
It was Fynn’s elite unit, publicizing the Flag of the Lion. They had stored their strength and waited for an opportunity all this time. Altura’s unit that was pretending to be routed combined with them, turned around, and contributed to the counteroffensive.
“Your Excellency! The enemy has launched themselves on us!’
“Don’t be flustered! The enemy is a small force, keep calm and counterattack!”
In accordance with Alexei’s directions, the cavalry in the front set out. The cavalry unit changed their formation, as if trying to wrap them up, to the inverted wedge formation.
Then a report came in again.
“Bad news Your Excellency! Our plan has been seen through!”
“What do you mean!??”
“The enemy’s main force has attacked the crossing site. The Second Division is besieged!! The Third Division is unable to cross the river and are at a standstill!! We are completely isolated!”
“W, what did you say!?”
“New supply of enemy troops! T, they’re coming from the left and right!!”
The spread out two wings–the beast dashed while baring its fangs to tear them off.
“—-T, that’s ridiculous. Why. W, why is a main force of the enemy here….”
Alexei was shocked, and as he was overcome with surprise, ambushers from the left and right beat their wardrums and resolutely started an assault.
Enemy soldiers were approaching their headquarters that was low in manpower. Under the command of Liberation Army Commander Behrouz, they were his picked troops that he moved like his own limbs.
Due to Altura taking command of the troops, their morale had raised to maximum. No one bore any anxiety.
Under pressure from the left and right, the vanguard cavalry unit was forced to take a close formation, and their numbers were gradually diminishing.
Mobility was a cavalry’s life. They were fragile if surrounded. Warhorses that had lost their riders ran around aimlessly.
His voice dry, Alexei decided to take command, but the progress of battle was already no longer in his hands. Making soldiers who had fallen into chaos to be steady would be difficult no matter how great or famous the commander.
Charging onto them, the Lion’s Cavalry split their troops and pushed in. Their vanguard was Lieutenant Colonel Fynn. He took steady aim while spinning his spear. He repelled Alexei’s elite guards and drew near with the force of raging tides.
“Heeeyy-! Don’t be distracted! You bastards, aren’t you listening to my orders-!! Don’t let the enemy soldiers approach me, defend, defend without fail-!!”
“I see you, Major General of the Kingdom’s Army, Sir Alexei! I will have your head!!”
“S, Silence scoundrel-!”
Alexei took his sword and fought against him, but Fynn’s long spear stabbed into his heart. His ambition was vanishing along with his life. As a simple finishing blow, his head was cut off horizontally. The battlefield bursted into cheers, and at their limits, the Kingdom’s cavalry whose morale had fallen to tatters scattered in every direction.
The Liberation Army persistently continued pursuit and killed half of them. The First Division was pretty much annihilated. Many soldiers of the Kingdom and battle flags were tragically abandoned.
Moving to meet up with the advance cavalry unit, Schera and company discovered the defeated cavalry of the Kingdom. The several tens of Liberation Army cavalry in pursuit were crushingly mowed down in payback. She asked for the circumstances.
“Where is Major General Alexei? Is he safe?”
“……His Excellency Alexei was killed in battle. We fell into a state of complete anarchy due to the enemy’s encirclement, and escaped in all four directions for dear life. What happened afterwards I do not know.”
Muttered the soldier saved from his predicament while putting his breathing in order. The cavalry that were saved all bore wounds. There were none that could not move. The men that couldn’t were already left behind and had fallen into enemy hands probably.
“I see, so he died huh. You’ve done well to make it safely back. Lucky for you. Come, you should get treated at once. It would be a shame if you died. —-Someone, come treat this person!”
Death gently stroked his shoulders, and the wounded soldier twitched and stiffened. A nearby soldier rogered while performing a respectful bow.
After instructing for the treatment of the remnants of the defeated army, Schera faced her adjutants.
“What ought we do after this? Your opinions.”
“……The sun will fall soon. We can only slip into the night, march, and find a place we can somehow cross the river.”
“However, places where we can cross are few in number. I think we should hold back and watch. The places we will head to will assuredly have ambushes.”
Vander pointed out several places on his map. He was a pragmatic man, and was starting to think that surrender was inevitable. That he had almost no loyalty to the Kingdom, was actually his true feelings. He didn’t know what his colleague Katarina was thinking though; she had an easy to understand personality he thought, but there was something strange about her.
He could say the same for this respected, young hero though. There was something uncanny.
“What do you think became of the river crossing site?”
“……I do not know. However, it would be dangerous to think optimistically. We ought to act while assuming the worst.”
“What about the possibility that they’ve crossed the bridge, noticing that General David was a ruse?”
“That, I do not know, but I fear they are in a confrontation.”
In all probability, they probably couldn’t move. David was attached to his very first strategy, and he would not cross the bridge. Similarly, reinforcements would probably not come from the crossing site, expressed Katarina, giving her own personal opinion.
“……Alright, we will head northward and rest for a short while. We will recover the remnants of the First Division, and then devise to retreat.”
“N, northward? But Sulawesi Grand Bridge is in that direction……”
“That was my intention. If we can confidently make it back, then that is undeniably good. Even if something like a pontoon bridge isn’t built, haven’t we already dealt with bigger things? I’ve also used it myself to escape once so. If you get it, then we will hurry and depart. First, I have to have a meal.”
Schera shouldered her scythe and began galloping as the vanguard. The white crows silently started following after her. Hoisted on diagonally-forward spears, they started the parade. Perhaps they were no longer feeling fear–The light in the cavalrymen’s eyes had vanished. They just simply followed the instructions of Schera, their superior officer. There was not a single sound of insecurity. Their formation was precise, and their horses advanced forward, focusing on the darkness in front of them.
Vander thought that very eerie.
Katarina was trembling in delight. Her eyes weren’t wrong. This girl, was definitely, a God of Death, she thought. She was convinced. She wiped off the blood adhered to her glasses, and moved her horse in line beside Schera’s.
She was glad to be alive. So glad. Katarina wanted to loudly shout.
Schera’s unit camped at night in a place hard to be discovered by the enemy, and met and recovered cavalrymen from the defeated First Division. In total, they were now 2,500, and they planned to change course for Sulawesi. The defeated cavalrymen, every single one of them, were those that had been taken away from Schera’s unit, and they had as if enthralled by Death came in a straight line to Schera’s campground.
Vander was lost for words, and he felt chills on his spine. Such a ridiculous thing couldn’t happen, he thought. How could these defeated soldiers know of this place? It was unimaginable no matter how one used common sense. They were not broadcasting this location either, no way they could build something like a fire. They were stifling their breaths so as not to stand out. Why? How? He was drowning in doubt.
—-And then, the scariest thing was not a single person thought this strange. As if this was something obvious, the cavalrymen had welcomed them with smiles. The escaped people too, were more pleased that they were able to be reunited than they were at having their lives saved.
Vander could not understand no matter how he thought.
Katarina took it at face value. It turned out like this, so this is how it should be, she said.
—-The battleflags of Schera’s unit melted into the darkness, but they were raised high as if on display.
The soldiers held them over their heads, while smiling as if they had gone mad somewhere.
As if not feeling fatigue, they continued. And continued.
Every soldier except Vander, was looking up at the flags.
A bird prowled the dark scenery–an ominous bird that governed life and death. These men had come home, with this black flag as their objective.
Schera chewed on dried meat while gazing at them, and she laughed happily, and mischievously.
*Schera’s speech pattern changes. Hopefully my translation accurately reflects that she is now more forceful and no longer as lofty.
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