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Three hours after the battle began.
The Kingdom’s Army couldn’t contain themselves and moved first. The Liberation Army followed suit, and the center advance guards of both armies collided in the middle of the plains.
In the skirmish between these two vanguards were Fynn of the Liberation Army displaying his spearmanship and Schera with her scythe.
Together with archer support, they both resolutely attacked the line of battle drawn by the infantry and grievously overran them.
The Adjutant Milla came to advise Fynn, who swung his spear even while doused by blood.
“Colonel-! Major Carnac’s unit is being attacked by enemy cavalry-! They’re likely to be annihilated at this rate-!”
Milla pointed behind her. The line of battle was in a sorry state, and cavalry carrying black flags were crushing the infantry with the force of a tsunami.
Carnac was shouting, trying to somehow rally the troops, but he had no effect on the infantry being pushed back. They would be routed eventually if this were to continue.
The main bodies of both armies had not yet moved, so this loss would not be a fatal blow probably, but the tides would turn in favor of their adversaries. They must protect Carnac’s unit.
Fynn sweeped off the head of a Kingdom soldier, and immediately gave his judgement.
“The Lion’s Cavalry will change course and cover Carnac’s unit in the back-! Milla, I leave the rear guard to you!”
“Please leave it to me Colonel-! A hundred riders follow me-! Lure the enemy!”
“The rest follow me-! We will take Death’s head this time for sure!! We will honor our comrades who died on the road here!!”
The cavalry raised their voices, responding to Fynn’s encouragement. The morale of this unit comprised of elite soldiers was the highest in the Liberation Army.
A hundred riders followed Milla, and they began to ride to attract enemy soldiers. Not wasting the opportunity, the main body of Fynn’s unit began heading to Carnac’s unit in the back. Konrad’s unit of the Kingdom’s Army went to obstruct them, but the cavalry’s momentum would not come to a halt. They couldn’t let Schera’s back be attacked like this, and Konrad’s unit pursued with raging spirit.
He had been granted 5,000 infantry, but their casualties had already exceeded 1,000. More than half of his remaining soldiers had wounds of some kind. Though they weren’t homogenous in their birthplaces, his soldiers had high morale, and shouldn’t have by any means been defeated by the Kingdom’s Army.
But, that was exactly the disaster occurring before his eyes. The line of battle they had frantically trained for had completely collapsed. Red blood flowed all over the earth, and evil demons were squeezing the last drop of life from the soldiers on the brink of death who couldn’t move.
“M, Major. Let us escape! We are no match for Death-!! Give the permission to retreat!!”
An adjutant with a sobbing face approached, but Carnac gripped him by the collar and shouted at him.
“You fool-!! This battle decides the outcome of the Liberation War-!! Do you think that our vanguard in front of all the others could retreat!!?”
“Shut it, Death God though she may be, she’s human like us!! She’s nothing but an embellished and spread rumor-!! And take a look, Colonel Fynn’s cavalry is heading our way!! We just have to hold out a bit longer! Then we can launch a pincer attack!!”
At Carnac’s words, the Adjutant focused far in front of them. Certainly, there was a party with the Lion’s Flag galloping towards them.
But, he didn’t think they could hold out until they would arrive. Because:
“Ma, Major, we’ve been surrounded-!!”
“Endure-!! Take a square formation-!! Line the spears and don’t let them cut into us-!! Remember your daily training-! Show the enemy no weakness-!!”
Carnac haphazardly wiped his streaming sweat and grasped tightly his personal weapon, a trident.
After the line of battle had been broken, Schera’s Cavalry raced in a circle and broke into Carnac’s unit from all around them. While constantly moving, never stopping in their movements, they continued to create fountains of blood. Stationary cavalry was fragile. As Schera understood that through instinct, she strictly ordered her soldiers to never stop moving. To supplement that, Katarina was preventing Liberation Army soldiers from reinforcing Carnac’s unit.
The black flag with a white crow coat of arms was already well-known among the Liberation Army. A tragedy of slaughter was playing out while Death’s flag fluttered.
There was no one who would willingly jump to their deaths. They tried their hardest to fire arrows from a medium range.
“…….About time I wonder.”
“Sir-, I think this is sufficient-.”
“Alright, smash the enemy’s formation-!! Everyone follow me-!!”
Schera’s Cavalry that was trampling them with circular movements nimbly took an arrow-like formation under her orders. Their completely disciplined movements would not lose to even the most seasoned of soldiers. This taut, rippling arrow was mercilessly fired at the hiding spot of their pitiful prey.
“S, stay back. D, Death is-”
“N, no, I don’t want to die.”
“M, mom, why, what have I done to deserve this.”
The hands of the soldiers holding their spears trembled, and their faces paled. It was outrageous; what possibility was there to stop Death. But even so, they had to fight. A Platoon Leader person tried to rouse them, stimulate them, and encourage them.
“Save your complaints for later-; set the spears-! They’re coming-!!”
A juvenile-faced female could be seen at the forefront. Wielding a scythe dripping with fresh blood and a joyful smile on her face, she swooped down on them. Her black armor was already smeared with red fluid. A young soldier who made eye contact felt his knees give way, and he soiled himself.
“H, hih, ca, I can’t-. M, Mo, Monster-!”
The Platoon Leader gave his order, and the pikes were sent out. Their tips were easily cut apart, and the large scythe split the bodies of several men on the return swing.
The cursed cavalry instantly surged into that opening.
Soldiers whose strength left their legs were trampled by scores of horses and became pitiful corpses. The head of the Platoon Leader was sent flying by Katarina’s sword.
A few riders of Schera’s Cavalry were impaled by spears, but they paid no attention to them and continued to run as they were.
Raising mad laughter, they continued to kill soldiers, brandishing their spears, and then they suddenly toppled, like dolls whose strings had been cut. Or rather, it would be more appropriate to say they had used up all their lifeforce.
They followed Schera’s orders to trample and slaughter until their final moments. They died with extremely satisfied expressions.
The robust square formation was crushed in one breath, and the demented blade gradually approached Carnac. His adjutant had already died in battle. That was a stroke of luck probably. He had died before confronting the monster before them. Definitely, that was a fortunate matter. At least, more fortunate than him.
Carnac lowered his hips so his gaze wouldn’t meet Schera’s atop her horse. His target was the horse. He would stab the horse, and kill Death when its posture was in disarray. He could see himself winning on equal footing. The horse must fall first.
“—-Major of the Liberation Army, Carnac. Here I come-!!”
“A dog shouldn’t bark so proudly. I don’t care about a trash’s name-!!”
Schera spurred on her horse and approached Carnac. Her scythe was held out horizontally, and she planned on splitting his torso with one blow.
Carnac postured straight in front of her. He concentrated all his nerves on this one attack.
Carnac’s trident sailed true, and it pierced the throat of Schera’s horse. Carnac was showered in its blood.
As Schera’s balance was broken, she couldn’t swing her scythe.
Carnac extracted his trident and waited for the moment the horse collapsed. Once it fell, he would kill Death. So he waited. Waited.
And he waited.
“—-Why… why won’t it fall?”
“Why won’t it die-!! Is even your horse immortal-!??”
“Who knows why, I wonder.”
Dumbfounded, Carnac studied the horse. He was sure his trident had torn the horse’s throat. Yet, why wasn’t this horse dead.
Why wouldn’t it fall. He couldn’t kill Death if it didn’t fall.
In the horse’s empty eyes, the agitated figure of Carnac was reflected. That moment, he thought he saw it smile. Like it was scoffing at the few seconds he had left to live. No, the horse was certainly laughing. The horse of a monster, was after all, a monster.
“Y, you monsters-!! What the heck are you all-!!”
Fallen into a state of panic, Carnac again lunged with his spear.
“Didn’t you guys give me the name? ‘Death.’ So that’s what I am. Farewell, then.”
Carnac and even his trident was cut apart by her large scythe. His body split into two, and his organs splattered onto the ground.
With blood dripping from its throat, Death’s horse crushed underfoot Carnac’s skull with all its weight. Like smashing a fruit, brain matter scattered.
Schera tenderly brushed her horse’s mane, and it lightly neighed, showing its agreement.
“Colonel-! Enemy cavalry are approaching from the rear!! They have a lion emblem!”
“Today is just preliminary fighting I was told, so we’ll fight them while heading back. ……Form ranks-! Schera’s Cavalry is changing course!!”
“Understood-! All units move out-!!”
“BEGIN CHANGING COURSE-! FOLLOW THE COLONEL-!!”
From Carnac’s position, they again reformed the ranks, and Schera’s Cavalry began heading towards the center wing of the Kingdom’s Army. Fynn’s cavalry rushed into them, obstructing them. Behind Fynn raced Konrad to support Schera. They crossed, and it became a momentary battle with only one blow exchanged. They must not stop. A cavalry that stopped its movements lost its offensive ability and would become a target for archers.
At the head of both cavalries, Schera and Fynn were confronting each other while galloping.
“Death God-! I knew I should have killed you that time!! Just how many people will you kill until you’re satisfied-!!?”
“Until I kill all of you, I won’t die! I’ll kill you like that dog earlier!”
“Enemy of Carnac-, my name is Fynn, the Lion General Fynn!!”
“Oh how great for a dog-!! I don’t care about any of your names-!!”
Fynn’s spear and Schera’s scythe crossed. Soldiers of both cavalries collided while wielding their weapons. Many riders fell from their horses at this collision.
Riders died, their heads separated from their shoulders. Helmets were smashed, and soldiers fainted in agony holding their heads. There were people crushed under horses, and unable to move, their breathing ceased.
During all this, Schera and Fynn were swinging their weapons, unleashing intense blows trying to take their sworn enemy’s head. They never stopped moving, and their horses galloped while they exchanged many, many furious blows.
Blood coming from her head, Schera’s frenzied attack was stopped in the nick of time, and Fynn sent out a sharp thrust of his own. Despite gritting his teeth at the weight of her blows, he was somehow standing firm. If Schera was the hero of the Kingdom’s Army, then Fynn was the hero of the Liberation Army. They could not have made it this far with only luck.
They exchanged many bouts, they exchanged many tens of bouts, but neither of them could inflict a fatal wound. Both Schera’s Cavalry and Fynn’s cavalry were holding their breaths while watching attentively. Their cavalries had already crossed each other, and normally, they should have stopped their duel and returned to their groups.
But currently, neither Schera nor Fynn could be stopped. Then, they could only watch and believe in their leader’s victory. In the center of the battlefield, the general skirmish still going on, a weird space was created where only these two riders crossed weapons. Konrad’s unit who came to back Schera, and a unit of the Liberation Army that had come to pursue Schera, couldn’t move.
“Hah-, hah-, Schera-! If you have this much skill, why are you supporting the rotten Kingdom-!??”
Asked Fynn in a tone with not a trace of his normal collectedness. If she had this much ability, she should be able to distinguish herself even in the Liberation Army, no doubt. There was value in just trying to extend an invitation. Having actually crossed blades, Fynn thought so. This woman, was certainly strong.
“You guys are more rotten-!! The ones who stole my last bit of food, were you guys-!! I will never, never forgive you-!!”
Shouted Schera in a rage.
“Come to the Liberation Army-! You won’t die futilely here! Let’s overthrow the Kingdom together-! Princess Altura, will surely build a world, where no one will suffer-!”
“Shut up shut up shut up-! I’ll make it so you can’t spout that nonsense ever again-!! I’ll kill you and Altura-!”
Mad, Schera unleashed an attack charged with all her power. It was an blow unleashed with her eyes bloodshot and her teeth clenched to their limits. It was Schera’s greatest swing, loaded with all of her energy that would smash even the strongest impediment without any resistance. Her scythe howled in displeasure.
Of course even Fynn couldn’t receive this blow, he judged, and he promptly threw himself off his horse to evade.
Fynn’s horse in the wake of the scythe was cleaved in two, spasming while its viscera flew out of its torso, and it died.
Schera with her breathing ragged approached Fynn with his posture broken, to give him the finishing blow.
“This is the end. Regret that mouth that made fun of me. I’ll cut you limb from limb.”
Having thrown his spear away, Fynn drew his sword while on the ground. He wouldn’t be able to stop the next blow like this. He would be cut along with his sword. And he would die.
Fynn steeled himself, when,
“Save the Colonel-!! Repulse that Death God!!”
“Archers ready-!! Fire-!!”
Receiving Adjutant Milla’s orders, the archers volleyed at Schera. Several fired arrows struck Schera’s armor and her horse, hindering her before her final blow could reach her prey. Arrows were fired again. She didn’t receive any fatal blows, but Schera couldn’t go on the offensive.
“—–, you trash get out of my way-!”
“Kill the Death God-!! Use any means necessary-!! Kill her here-!!”
“Another volley, fire-!! Aim for that thing’s horse-!!”
Schera spun her scythe to brush away the drizzling arrows. Seeing that opening, Fynn corrected his posture and ran towards his own soldiers. Schera clicked her tongue, and returned to beside Katarina and the others while knocking down arrows.
She could have killed that man with one more blow. But, he was lucky until the very, very end.
And, her luck was bad. That’s all it was.
“Are you unhurt, Colonel! Damn it, to intrude upon a one on one fight-!”
Katarina and the others had restrained themselves from interfering in the commander’s one on one fight in fear of incurring Schera’s displeasure. She deeply regretted her mistaken decision.
“Yeah. When I thought about a duel, I got too heated, and lost. This isn’t a match, but a battlefield. There is no cowardice or cheating. Next time, don’t hold back you guys. Kill them all.”
Horns resounded, calling them back. From both armies. The sun would set soon. The first day of battle would probably end here.
“Well then, let’s go home. I’m hungry. I’ve moved a bit too much.”
“All troops pull back-! Don’t be negligent with your guard!”
Schera gave the order to pull back, and the cavalry took formation, surrounding their commander, and began repatriating.
The first day of the Battle of Bertusburg ended with 6,000 casualties for the Kingdom’s Army, and 8,000 casualties for the Liberation Army (Dead and wounded included).
The fiercest battle unfolded in the center wing. Constantly, the Kingdom’s Army was superior as Carnac’s unit was destroyed.
Borbon’s division of the left wing succeeded in causing a stalemate, and Yalder’s Legion of the right wing had waited for the sun to set, and began marching towards Carnas Plateau.
There would be many more casualties after this first day, and both commanders, Barbora and Altura, struggled with their power of command. With one order, they would create many thousands, many tens of thousands of casualties. They especially could not miss an opportunity to put a strategy into action. Also, they could not allow their inner anxiety to show on their faces. It would cause unrest in those around them and would probably become a weak link closely tied to their defeat.
These rigorous days that shaved away at their spirit would continue until this fight was over. Until then, they wouldn’t know who held glory, and who held ruin.
Having narrowly avoided death, Fynn thanked his own good fortune, and thanked his excellent Adjutant.
“Milla. You saved me today. Really, thank you. That I’m able to live on like this, is thanks to you.”
Fynn fixed his eyes on the face of his Adjutant and said his thanks. Her face red, Milla flusteredly shook both her hands.
“N, no. It was nothing. When I thought that you, Colonel, would be killed, I was frantic myself. Also, protecting you is my mission!!”
“All thanks to your accurate judgement. I got greedy by mistake. If possible, I thought I could win over the Death God to our side. Now that I think about it, that was a stupid endeavor. There is no way Death could understand the language of humans.”
It was the first time Fynn had been struck by such powerful killing intent. It wouldn’t be strange for plain soldiers to be unable to move with their knees quivering.
“That monster… returned safely despite receiving so many arrows. That horse too. I cannot believe it!”
“…………She really is like, Death itself.”
Muttered Fynn, touching a wound on his cheek. Schera had said earlier that, ‘The ones who stole my last bit of food, were you guys.’
Around when the Liberation Army was in a dire financial situation, there was a rumor that Diener had provisioned food from somewhere.
Perhaps, Death was spawned from those sacrifices, Fynn thought. Which meant that she was an irreconcilable enemy. There would be no accommodation. Until she met her end, she would swing her scythe, killing, killing, and killing. Persuasion would absolutely not get through to her.
Diener’s thinking was always grounded in reason. He was a man who wouldn’t mind killing a hundred by his own hands to save ten thousand. That probably wasn’t wrong. But, for those people included in the hundred, they wouldn’t forget their resentment.
And that resentment which burned hotter than the fires of hell…
(……Though thinking about it won’t change anything. Nothing can be done about it, now that it’s come to this. The only solution is to kill Death. …….If we can that is.)
The biggest problem was whether or not they could kill her. Frankly speaking, she couldn’t be fought one on one. He couldn’t believe it, but Schera surpassed him in physical strength. Fynn was probably better in technique and spearmanship. But, strength was what it came down to in a battle to the death. Superficial technique would be blown away in the face of overwhelming strength. Really, Fynn had been driven one step away from death.
“Next time, we will fight with you. ‘Death God’ though she may be called, if we all fight, I am sure we will manage somehow. Justice is on our side. We will not lose to something like Death!”
Fynn smiled at his constantly optimistic to a fault Adjutant. Fynn was captivated by that side of her.
But, for that very justice, how many thousands of lives had been lost today?
It would be fine if they had resolved to die. But, what about the volunteer soldiers or the militiamen?
And who would take care of their families left behind? What even was Justice? Fynn didn’t know.
But, he couldn’t vocalize that. He had gambled on the Liberation Army’s victory. That’s why he had decided to rise up. He would keep running until the end. No matter how much blood would flow. He wouldn’t die until then. Like he could let himself die. He would necessarily live until the end, and leave behind his name as a hero.
“Momentum has gone to our adversaries for the beginning of this battle. We have to recover from here. Starting tomorrow, we have to work even harder to make up for our disgrace today.
“Sir, we will serve with everything we have!”
Schera was having a meal next to her beloved. While gently petting her dear horse lying beside her with his eyes closed, she was drinking now cold soup. Seeing her, Katarina hesitantly asked her.
Katarina took out her cane from her waist. If Schera wished it, it wasn’t impossible for this corpse to move. She began preparing her sorcery, and waited for the signal.
“No need. Even if you force it to move, it won’t be my horse anymore. So, I will separate from this child here. It’s a little lonely though, since this child has always been with me.”
Schera quietly shook her head sideways. If Katarina used her necromancy, they could certainly be together like always.
But, it would be different, she thought. The soul accompanied the self. In that case, what was here, was only a lump of meat.
Though she looked at this meat, she felt no surge of appetite. Even if she ate it, she wouldn’t be satisfied. So she wouldn’t eat it; it surely wouldn’t be delicious.
“……Forgive me for being so obtrusive. I beg your pardon.”
Deeply apologizing, Katarina fixed her askew glasses.
“It’s fine. I honestly thought about eating it, but I’ll stop this time, since I don’t have the appetite for some reason. So, I won’t eat this child. After this meal, I’ll give him a burial. He carried me all the way here, even with his throat cut. Don’t you think he did his best?”
While his throat was perforated and his entire body was showered with arrows, he had carried his master back to her allied camp. That wasn’t something that could possibly be believed. Yet, this horse had done it. While dribbling bloody saliva, he had carried out his duty.
It was originally Colonel Voleur’s horse of the Imperial Army, but he had been tamed by Schera. Since then, he had carried Death and gone through fierce battles together.
After struggling along to the ally camp, he silently kneeled, and snuggled his face up next to Schera’s, and then expired, like he had used up all his vitality.
While still riddled with arrows, Schera took out all the arrows on her horse. After cleaning up her horse’s body as much as she could, she thus then had a meal together.
The people not of Schera’s Cavalry gazed uncannily at her. How could a person who showed such lack of mercy towards her enemy show such deep compassion towards just a horse? They couldn’t understand. The cavalry members could understand the feeling. Like the saying, ‘Horse and man are one being,’ a horse was one’s partner.
The soldiers of Schera’s Cavalry, no longer able to bear this treatment akin to a criminal being publicly exposed, chased away the onlookers, and then only Schera and her horse’s body were left.
“Can you prepare a horse for me to ride tomorrow? If possible, a strong horse like this child. The fight will yet continue. Katarina, sorry, but please.”
“Please leave it to me. I will procure the finest and swiftest horse. ……Then, I will take my leave. Please call me if you need anything. I will leave one man behind nearby.”
She gave a signal and called one cavalryman over. Katarina gave her orders in a small voice, and the soldier stepped back.
Katarina wanted to stay behind too, but there were many things that needed to be done. An enemy night raid wasn’t impossible. They couldn’t slip in their vigilance.
“Yeah, please do. I… will stay a little longer so you go ahead.”
Katarina saluted and left the place behind.
In the darkness now returned to silence were left Death and her beloved horse. Until Schera felt satisfied, she kept on brushing the cold body.
With an expression unfit for a grim reaper who spread death, she rested her head on her horse’s abdomen, caked with dried blood.
“Oh yeah, I haven’t given you a name yet. We’ve been through so much, so I’ll give you one now. Stay with me a little longer, until I can think of a good name.”
The Pale Horse that raced across the battlefield with Death on his back, would never move again.
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