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The day after the fall of Madress, Noel made her triumphal departure with five thousand men. The injured and all those who looked fatigued were sent as a flying column down the Kanan highway. The remaining four thousand were led by Noel down a different route to their objective. She had given every commanding officer the outline of her plan that morning as there was minimal risk of an information leak.
Riglette was in charge of the flying column,which included Mirut and the other men who were unused to battle. Riglette had helped her formulate the plan on the island, so she knew the important parts well enough. Barbas’ objections had been overruled by Noel in order to place her in charge.
“Still, it’s a bold plan.”
“I know right? Even if we fail, we’ll stop the enemy’s movements. If they don’t come, we’ll just pull back. Whichever events unfold, it’ll be to our advantage. That’s why I pushed it so hard in the meeting.”
“Lord Elgar truly has deep trust in you. To be honest, I never expected he would overrule Sir Irvan’s objections.”
“The speed of it all was a huge help. I really want to play with the young master, but it seems like he’s so busy somehow. That being the case, I figured: why not just do what I can, too?”
Noel had returned to fulfill her promises with Cynthia and Elgar. It could be said that she was fulfilling them in that very moment. Everyone could live happily if they were able to bring affluence to Coimbra when the fighting came to an end. In that case, Noel was sure that she would live happily too.
“This plan… was it also devised on Willa island?”
“That’s right. We wrote up a whole bunch of scenarios and thought through how to handle each and every one. By the way, our scenario is going well. Worst case would have been a protracted siege of Madress with the black sun cavalry to contend with. If it came to that, we’d have hidden ourselves and resorted to sabotage.”
In reality, given such a situation, Noel thought it would be best to abandon Coimbra and join up with Gemb. She was fairly certain that no amount of effort could overturn a pincer attack with those overwhelming numbers. In the war three years prior, she had learned the importance of being able to accurately judge her own personal capabilities. Dying alone was one thing, but considering she was burdened with the responsibility for the lives of all her men, she couldn’t do anything reckless; so she thought over things arduously.
That aside, the biggest problem still hasn’t been sorted… Hmmmm, what should I do, I wonder?
Noel pondered methods to counter the Black Sun Cavalry. Along with Riglette, she had thought and thought and thought of how to defeat them, but a direct attack still didn’t seem like it would go well. An ambush would be easily escapable for their mounted opponents. Therefore, she had considered barriers and trenches, but there was no reason to believe they would go out of their way to attack that on horseback. If left unchecked, they were sure to strike somewhere on the continent. Truthfully, the best option was to win them over, but dealing such a heavy blow to the empire would be difficult.
It’s a real problem… they don’t seem the type to let their guard down either…
The biggest problem was the redheaded Falid. Noel was unfortunately unable to get a good feel for how to defeat him considering how she hadn’t been able to follow his movements in their previous encounter. Most likely, a second encounter would unfold in a similar manner. To summarize: if she couldn’t come up with a plan to counter them, then she couldn’t see a path to victory. Even while playing around on the island, the issue had been worked over thoroughly in the back of her mind, there, a shape had slowly emerged from the haze in her mind.
At any rate, Falid had to be killed at an early stage. Rumor had it that some soldiers changed at dawn with some sort of augmentation. With time those soldiers would gain experience and knowledge, becoming ever more formidable. Falid, their commander, had to die before a second or third division of the Black Sun Cavalry could be formed. Doing so would undoubtedly cause confusion in the ranks given that they had a tendency to value force of might over loyalty. Noel remembered what had happened when Rebecca had beaten her like it was yesterday. If she brought down the pack leader, those beasts would undoubtedly fight for status. Lastly, Noel needed to cut out the root of the problem behind Operation Dawn.
“The black sun cavalry? We’re most likely gonna have to fight them again at this rate. They’re a real danger. I think we’d be best off avoiding direct confrontation.”
“Well, leave it to me when that happens. I’ll do something.”
“I shall assist, of course.”
“I’ll accept that sentiment.” Noel clearly expressed her refusal.
Cynthia would surely die in a single strike. Even if the enemy was surrounded en masse, they’d likely retreat with composure after a brutal fight. Noel was thinking hard because she didn’t want to pointlessly throw away her friends or companions. She would use every method to deal with the problem while suffering minimal casualties. As such, she had to be the one to kill them. Such was the duty of a commander.
As Cynthia didn’t look like she was going to quietly accept that, Noel forcefully changed the topic, “By the way, that Irvan of Ir is a great guy, isn’t he? Last night I got wine, melons, and even a toy from him!”
“That… just what happened?” Cynthia raised her eyebrows.
“He called me out to have an important talk, but he just said ‘let’s do our best’ and I got loads of gifts.”
“Wait, it couldn’t be that you just went all happy-go-lucky to that kind of invitation all by yourself!?”
Noel covered her ears as Cynthia started to shout.
“We’re allies so there’s no reason to have my guard up, right? We’re even companions now.”
“How… careless. While it is true that we cannot go without Sir Irvan’s knowledge and strength, I just can’t trust him. They have their own… expectations after all.”
“Why is that?”
“They want to spread their religion and secure somewhere to be. It may become a disaster in the future. There are already warning signs.”
Cynthia had a sharp gaze. Most likely, the censugrass had been propagated by none other than them. Noel too, had heard of the funds. If a large dose was administered, a false happiness would follow. Noel had no interest in that, but the painkilling effects were convenient. Treating those on the verge of death wouldn’t be crossing any lines, and it seemed like there were other useful applications. She figured that if it was strictly regulated, and there weren’t any mistakes in its administration, then there wouldn’t be any problems, but that was also likely one of the reasons that it wasn’t good. After all, people were how people were. From what Barbas had told her, there were some northerners who had become poisoned while cultivating it. Even selling it for money seemed to administer a false pleasure that lead to death. People tried to quit, but it was too late.
Even if they know it’s bad for them, they can’t stop. Censugrass: after a brief moment of bliss returns people to unbearable agony, eh? Hmmmm…
That being the case, it would be best to burn it all and be rid of it; but due to a conflict of interests, that wasn’t an option. Politics was as expected, difficult. Noel would incinerate all of the plants and accept the resistance if she was in charge. Perhaps she would merely place severe restrictions on its use. Such a response was obvious, especially considering that they hurt allies as well as enemies. Noel thought she’d bring that up with Elgar at some point, though she had no intentions of believing in divine punishment for committing a taboo act. At any rate, they were not something to be kept.
“What’s the matter? Suddenly going quiet.”
“No, I was just thinking. Um… in that case, are you going to kill the Ir sect off once you’re done with them?”
It seemed like they were being exploited, and it was painfully obvious that such an option wouldn’t lead to anything good. Fear would begin to spread about who would be next. Noel’s horrifying reputation served as a deterrent, but even when considering that, such an act would probably lead to greater opposition.
“N-no, I never said I would go that far, but I am saying that we shouldn’t just leave them be. As long as we have eyes, they won’t be able to go too far. I merely believe that we must keep them in check if we want to proceed down an acceptable path.”
“Yup, I think we should face forward. People have to be cheery!”
“Was it really nothing? No suspicious movements?”
“Nope, it was fine. We just had a happy chat about bringing bounty to Coimbra.”
“I see… it’s good if that’s the case…”
There was a pause in the conversation. Cynthia and Noel were forced to gallop to catch up with the corps’ advance; not that they had gone too far ahead. For a moment, Cynthia looked like she wanted to voice her opinion, but then she suddenly dismounted and straightened up.
“I’ve always wanted to say this, but I didn’t have an opportunity. Please let me say it now that we’ve recaptured Coimbra.”
It seemed like she had something important on her mind, which made Noel a little nervous.
“I’m really sorry about what happened at Bolbo,” Cynthia apologised with a deep bow, “Friends turning their swords against one another is unacceptable. I betrayed you. More than just retaking Coimbra, I intend to repay you. I am even willing to accept death.”
It was clear she had presented her neck for a beheading, and Noel hurried to get off her horse and place a hand on Cynthia’s shoulder.
“It’s fine, you don’t have to do something like that ’cause I’m not mad at all. I don’t even know what would have happened if you hadn’t stopped me there. Isn’t it fine that we’re all able to be together like this?”
“But you were the only one punished with exile!”
“Life was fun on that island, super fun. And it ended in the blink of an eye, so I’m not bothered at all at this point!”
Noel pulled Cynthia back up, and saw her eyes had gone red. Since she had no intention of teasing her for that, she let it be. Some questions were best left unasked, even if she was just curious or wanted to know. Noel had studied that. Worried that it might be bad if the other soldiers spotted the scene, Noel offered her a handkerchief.
“Here, you can wipe your face.”
“Thanks, I’m really sorry.”
“I played lots while I was there. I studied all kinds of things, and thought very carefully, you know. On top of that, I feel like I was able to find something I was looking for on that island.”
“It couldn’t be… the method to find happiness that you’ve been searching for this whole time?”
“Close. I feel like I’ve seen its tail.”
“Would you mind explaining just what that was?”
“Ahaha, that’d be no good. I’d be so embarrassed if I was wrong, so I won’t tell.”
A mischievous smile floated across Noel’s face. She wouldn’t tell anyone yet, and it was properly recorded in her happiness memo just in case. If something did happen, Riglette or someone would probably dig it up and tell everyone for her. Now that she thought of it, Noel hadn’t interviewed anyone about a way to find happiness while on the island. She didn’t know when she’d stopped. Her friends, companions, and treasures had all piled up, but all she got for her notebook on the island was that one thing. That’s just what it was like.
“Is that so… but it is good that you found something.”
“Thanks, Cynthia. I’m sure that I’ll tell you some day, along with a mountain of stuff I’ll teach all my friends. I also need to teach it to the young master. Riglette… well, if she’s interested, I guess. Seems like I’ll just get made fun of, though.”
She didn’t want to bully Riglette, but Noel didn’t have any intentions to be straight with her either; just to keep things interesting.
“I’m honoured. Ah, it’s a little embarrassing to express my gratitude like that.”
“Ahaha, don’t be so formal, just say whatever. Everyone went and got some of the gifts from Gemb.”
After the two of them shared a short laugh, they once again mounted their horses. Cynthia’s ever stiff expression had eased considerably. The matter seemed to have haunted her up until this point. If Noel had executed her, she’d be the haunted one, without a doubt. That, Noel thought, would really be a bad idea, but that was Cynthia’s way.
Near the Coimbran-Baharan border, the governor of Bahar had opened a meeting about Major General Bartheck stopping his troops.
“According to the reports from our scouts, Madress fell in only two days. Even if we set out now, I think we would be too late.”
“Your excellency, I believe we should pull back temporarily and organise a second punitive force. We are accepting a request for aid, but there is no way for us to accept any orders now that the capital has fallen. With the current manpower, we won’t be able to retake it quickly.”
The staff officers advised caution. They had one thousand cavalry and one thousand war wagons. There were three thousand men riding them, and six thousand footmen for a total of ten thousand men. The war wagons had been assigned by the now prime-minister of Horsheido, Mills who no longer led men from the front. He had to distribute the wagons to keep an eye on Coimbra, Gemb, Giv, and the rest. Usually, their numbers would be adequate, but it was unclear whether or not they could take Madress castle. Considering their lack of siege equipment, and that the enemy could dig in, it was doubtful that they could succeed. Recapture, in summary, was impossible.
“However, at this rate, we won’t be able to take anything back. I would like to strike a blow to the rebels’ morale even as they occupy Coimbra,” Bartheck firmly declared.
Life wasn’t a game for children; it wouldn’t end just because he had been late. He had to think of the future; of how to retake Coimbra as quickly as possible. Emperor Amil had his heart set on the expedition, so they couldn’t afford to waste any strength.It was true the gears weren’t turning at the moment, but the conquest would eventually proceed. Amil had that much ability at least. That was why the continental Verdun was still secure. He was turning enemies aside and gaining land. All those who couldn’t see the long term were stirring the ire of the masses and driving them to revolt. Siden of Gemb was the sole man responsible. It was scheming that had Giv, Gemb, and Karmbeeth had sought independence. His guile had even reached as far as Coimbra.
We should have taken the opportunity to get rid of him along with Grohl in the previous war. In fact, he was the biggest problem. What we thought would avoid needless confusion at the time, only came back to bite us.
“We will acquire a bridgehead to retake Coimbra for his honourable Majesty. I would like to send the cavalry and wagons ahead with the occupation of Rockbell as their objective.”
“Please wait. The road ahead is none other than the narrow pass at Yavits. It is way too dangerous to not send the infantry ahead with caution.”
“Of course. I agree to that. That is exactly why I’ve already sent out advanced scouts to ascertain the situation in the pass and on the Kanan highway.”
“I spoke presumptuously without knowledge. I apologise!”
“I don’t mind at all. Giving your thoughts and opinions is the duty of officials and staff officers. Please speak without restraint as always.”
The arguments from the staff officers came after Bartheck gave his explanation and the meeting went on. Finally, after all the opinions had been stated, the news from the scouts arrived.
“Good work. How is the situation?”
“Yes, sir, the report, sir! The traitors who call themselves the reunified Coimbra have begun to set up anti-cavalry barriers and palisades on the Kanan highway.”
“It seems they fear our cavalry and wagons.”
“However, they are not making much progress. Considering how unused to the construction they are, it is likely that they are forced labour.”
Bartheck rubbed his chin as he thought.
“We saw no suspicious shadows. According to a local hunter, the majority of the Coimbran forces are gathering around Madress.”
“It seems… that they’re prioritizing the defence of the capital, and that they intend to wait for us at the Kanan highway.”
“My Lord, from the reports we can tell that they have neglected Yavits. They must be unable to mobilise the army so quickly after reunification. Now may be the best opportunity for a raid.”
The staff officers canceled the cautious plans, and suggested bolder ones. Bartheck agreed. In fact, if they waited too long, the fully deployed anti-cavalry barricades would become a problem. With their heavy wagons and siege equipment, it would take too much time and effort to attack if the highway wasn’t cleared. The Kanan highway had to be fully under their control to capture Madress.
“Okay, the cavalry and war wagons will go first, and I shall command the front line. The infantry will protect the heavy wagons in the rear.”
“Apologies, but isn’t there no real need for a major general to take that command? We shouldn’t have any problems sending a commander of one thousand.”
“No, adaptability is key. I don’t have the time to idle away in the rear. I may be old, but I am still a knight of Bahar. I don’t intend to be slow.”
There weren’t any objections to his firm statement. The staff officers saluted, and began making preparations. Victory or defeat lay in the timing. He would crush the working soldiers on the highway, and attack before the enemy could shore up their defences. From there, he would retake Rockbell. Though it would be difficult, it was nothing that the disciplined cavalry of Bahar couldn’t achieve. While there were many new men in the wagons, the cavalry was comprised of hand-picked elite veterans. Bartheck had full faith in their bravery and martial prowess.
Bartheck’s men proceeded under the cover of darkness through Yavits pass with the cavalry in the lead, with the war wagons following just behind. Even if they had to do it in the middle of the night, the first order of business was kicking about the workers on the highway.
Good thing the moonlight was sufficient… but it’s too quiet.
Ominous bird calls rang out from between the trees on the mountains, and there was a chill despite the summer not having ended.
Bad memories came to mind, and he turned to a staff officer for confirmation, “Are there any signs of an ambush?”
“There are no problems. Our scouts scoured the area thoroughly.”
“I see. If anything happens, report it right away. We do need to hurry, but we can’t afford to sustain any damage by rushing.”
Bartheck strained his eyes as he searched the tall, deep foliage to his right and left. It was the most perilous time. Of course, they had prepared for that. In the unlikely event of an ambush, the cavalry had been ordered to dismount and form a shield wall. That preparation was why he had risked the dangerous raid.
“Yeah… it’s too quiet.”
Bartheck recalled an incomparable sense of disquiet, but he didn’t know the cause as not a single shadow of the enemy had been discovered and things were ostensibly progressing without a hitch. The staff officers were in the same state as always. Cold sweat began to run down his spine: long years of experience told him to turn back right then and there.
But I can’t retreat without sufficient evidence. We are the cavalry of Bahar, and I cannot sully that name.
He couldn’t let t be known that the commander had lost his nerve. Bartheck turned his gaze to the tri-sabre banner before him as if to shake off the dread; their pride fluttering in the torchlight.
“Your excellency! We’re near the exit, but the way has been blocked by felled trees. Shall we begin work on their removal?”
“Okay. All troops are to remain on alert. The men in front shall begin the removal!”
The soldier saluted and galloped away on his horse after hearing Bartheck’s orders. It was most likely an attempt by the enemy to gain time, but would prove pointless as it could only gain them about an hour. Most likely, it was half finished despite the fact that they should have blocked up the entire pass with stones; doing so would have lost them the support of the territories around the border.
“Fufufu, there was something. Well, considering they’ve just unified, they couldn’t just abandon these territories. Though, this works out for us.”
Just as Bartheck began to sneer at them, a large number of fire arrows came from the front, and the sound of screams echoed through the pass.
“A, an attack!! A Coimbran raid!”
“There were pests in hiding after all! Everyone dismount and use the wagons as shields! The enemy is few in numbers, calm down and we can deal with them easily!!”
Bartheck watched as all his men carried out his orders. They quickly dismounted and took minimal damage in the shadows of the wagons. Once they had located the enemy, soldiers would be dispatched to deal with them, but…
“Y-your excellency! T-the wagons!”
The staff officer’s face went stiff as he raised his voice. When the fire arrows struck the ground, no, when they struck what looked to be rocks, they would explode ferociously in a ball of fire. As a result, they had overturned the wagons, trapping men beneath them.
“T-these aren’t normal fire arrows!? Just what in the world!?”
“They’ve buried something under the road!”
“Enemy attack! Enemy attack!!”
On top of it all, after the hail of fire arrows, with the terrific sound of a bugle call, enemies came screaming angrily down in a charge from the high ground. Their foe came ferociously upon the highly disorderly Baharan train, the wagons holding men like fish in a barrel. Several seconds later, a war wagon erupted in flames and screams.
“W-what? Just what’s going on here!? How can such sturdy wagons be destroyed so easily!?”
“I don’t know, but this is dangerous! Please let us fall back! Let’s retreat and rally! It isn’t a battle like this!”
“All right. Everyone, fall back for now!! Prepare to make a counter attack!!”
As Bartheck gave the order to retreat, an avalanche of logs came crashing down behind them. Shrieks echoed from the rear. Pinned men cried desperately as they struggled, but fire arrows quickly made contact with the logs, turning rapidly into a blaze. It seemed that even the logs had been steeped in oil. A wall of fire burned into their eyes in the night, cutting off their retreat.
Bartheck found himself speechless. He had been pulled into a perfect killing ground.
“S-somebody, h-help me! It, it burns! The fire, the fire!!!!”
“L-lord Bartheck!! Your, your assistance, please!”
Bartheck could make out the enemy flags that flew above them in the light of the fire as he heard the screams of his men. He remembered well the twin hammer banner of Noel Bosheit: the fiend who brought a fiery hell to the men at Carness.
“That… that flag is the fiend Noel Bosheit, is it!?!? When did she get back from Willa!? If I knew she was here I never would have taken this pointless risk!!”
He had been so aggressive because the enemy was supposed to be worn out. He never would have been so reckless if he knew his opponent was Noel, especially since she had attempted an ambush there before.
“Your excellency! We should abandon the horses and wagons to flee into the mountains! If this keeps up we’ll just die in the flames! If we slip into the dark, they won’t be able to pursue!”
“I hate it, but we have to disengage! We can’t fight Noel the Fiend like this! Now we have to minimise casualties!”
“Fall back! Fall back!! Abandon the horses, and take to the mountains! Hurry!”
“Damn that unkillable fiend!! One day, I’ll repay this…”
Grasping his sword with anger and disgrace, Bartheck suddenly cut off his words. When the staff officers turned to look, thinking he hadn’t finished, they saw…
“Y-your excellency! Your excellency!!”
A flaming arrow had pierced between his eyebrows. It had pierced through his thick helmet, and something red was incessantly flowing forth. No matter how they looked at it, he had died instantly, but that wasn’t all: even the staff officers who attempted to remove it faced a slew of arrows aimed at their throats.
The force consisting of cavalry and war wagons who had their supreme commander shot were unable to regain a state of order. The majority of the men who had fled to the mountains were safe, but all those who chose to fight either burned or were shot.
“Continue the attack until you run out of arrows since it doesn’t look like they plan on surrendering.”
Noel had been loosing arrows even as ascertained their situation. She had already confirmed that there were enemies hiding in the wreckage of the war wagons. They had no reason to go so far and sacrifice so many. Noel felt that it was all a bit of a waste of arrows, but they could always make more later. The combustion stones, on the other hand, were nearly depleted and couldn’t be used any more as there wasn’t enough time for them to mine any more. She would replenish stocks later, but the enemy wasn’t going to give them the time to do so. Fortunately, Barbas’ ambush had taken virtually no losses when it had attacked the war wagons. Preparations had been made for the night attack to turn into a free for all, and it was a blessing that it hadn’t come to that.
“Captain, ain’t it about enough? At this rate, we’ve already taken their commander’s head. Don’t know his name, though.”
Barbas showed the helmet and arrow to Cynthia, who had taken command, and Noel, who had become engrossed in her archery.
“That… that’s Bartheck! I can’t believe he came to the front!”
“You know him, Cynthia?”
“Know him or not, he’s the major general of Bahar and the magistrate! Basically, we have killed the supreme commander of Bahar! This is a great achievement!”
Cynthia was making a fuss, but Noel didn’t bother over it and continued to shoot down the few remaining enemies with her bow, until her bowstring snapped with a disquieting sound.
“This is why bows are no good. It’s too flimsy.”
She tossed it aside without a second thought as it wasn’t a treasure.
“They’re built pretty strongly though. That means yer mighty strong, captain, eh?”
“Hmmm, I guess it depends on the person. Shoot ten times and it’s totally done. Should I use harpoons next time?”
Laughing, she picked up a fire arrow and threw it at the enemy line. It fell to the ground with a plop before reaching them; unsurprisingly, it didn’t have enough force behind it. Noel thought that a harpoon could pierce the war wagons, but throwing them would quickly deplete her stocks, so there were some issues with that as well.
“Well then, it’s about time to be announcin’ our victory. Looks like it was quite the achievement this time.”
“Yup, seems like it. Since it’s been a while, let’s do it with force! Here goes, okay?”
Noel took a deep breath.
“I am Noel Bosheit of the Unified Coimbran Army! I have killed the Baharan commander Bartheck!! Huzzah!!”
After her shout, which seemed to resonate through the entire pass, Noel thrust her bident high. In response, the men in the mountain who had been loosening arrows all erupted into a great cheer. Cynthia too, had thrown her fist into the air at some point, elated. It made Noel glad to see Cynthia’s face with some energy again.
“As expected of captain Noel! The White Ant Bloc’s with you for life!”
“She’s the pride of Willa Island! Huzzah for Miss Fiend!”
“Oi, you bastard, the fuck’re you sain’!? Captain Noel’s our captain! Don’t butt in, stranger!!”
“Shut it! We’ve been with her the longest! You lot just got dragged along!”
“Haa!? We’ve been her subordinates since three years ago, you know!? Shall I beat a lesson into you?”
“Only been with her for a year, and yer talkin’ like that! I’ll show ye the fuckin’ power of a former pirate!”
Looking over the soldiers that had begun to quarrel, Barbas finally got them in check. He would enforce discipline harshly in battle, but it wasn’t a problem now that it was over. Noel gave a satisfied looking nod at how good it was that they were full of energy.
“Now then, what shall we do? The enemy seems to be retreating, but a pursuit…”
“Let’s not, okay? I’m a little tired, and all. They’ve lost a big-shot major general, so they probably won’t be able to move, you know. Isn’t that enough?”
Cynthia nodded in agreement as Noel smiled proudly.
“That’s a calm judgment. Quite unlike you. You’ve grown.”
However, Noel reversed her opinion after thinking a little.
“Let’s chase a bit after all, eh? I feel like it’s somehow the time to attack.”
“Oi, don’t just change what you’ve said!”
“It’s fine, it’s fine. I’ll just wave my flag a bit and scare them. If all goes well, we might plant the seeds of fear. I’m not Riglette, but I do think it’ll build up and be useful later.”
Noel attached Bartheck’s head to her bident, and was off on the pursuit. Fresh off the victory, the men still appeared to have plenty of energy to move. After having Barbas signal with his bugle, Noel ordered the attack.
“All forces attack! Pursue thoroughly, and show them the might of the Coimbran army! Kill the enemy, and plunder their supplies!!”
The enemy had already lost all the will to fight, and the soldiers who had seen their commander slain all began to rout at once. While they hadn’t dealt a massive blow to the enemy, they had completely seized all the supplies from the heavy wagons.
“Hmmm, I wonder if Riglette might complain about this later?”
“Well, I don’t think she expected this much military success to pile up.”
“Hehe, it’ll be good for that scheemin’ woman. Looks like she’s been involved in the planning lately, so it’d be ridiculous if she gets annoyin’ about it!”
“Oh, but she’s gotten a bit brighter recently. If you look real close, you can tell.”
“Captain, that’s just proof yer eyes are goin’. It might be best to keep those glasses on.”
“You think so too? I’ll try putting them on for a bit.”
Noel took out her glasses, and adjusted them with pride as Barbas nodded in satisfaction. Cynthia looked surprised.
“Those look worn out, as you’d expect from their age. Should we get you some new ones this time?”
“No, no, it’s fine. Now then, it’s about time we headed back, eh? Irvan and the young master and the rest will be surprised with all these souvenirs that we’ll be bringing back! And there are so many amazing horses!”
Noel grabbed hold of a baggage horse that had lost its master. It couldn’t be used for a cavalry horse, but there were plenty of uses for it still. Noel’s first thought was riding it for a stroll, but she figured it would be better to consider it thoroughly later. For the moment, they had managed to buy some time.
However, they had been winning a lot recently, and as a result, they might suffer a loss some time soon. It would be fine if she survived, but there was a chance that once she became great, there would be situations in which that standard would no longer apply. Now, she had become burdened with the lives of many companions, and not just her own; even more than before Coimbra had capitulated, and she couldn’t abandon them.
Becoming a big shot brings in loads of companions which is good in some respects, but also all kinds of trouble. Well, I guess it’s better than dying sadly by myself. And every day is so much fun, too.
When she thought of death in a hole, pounded by rain, with nothing but a name, it seemed that she could handle anything. With all that running through her mind, she sprang atop the horse.
Careful study for three years brought Noel understanding of all sorts of things. She even feels a sense of responsibility, now.
She has grown up a little bit.
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