“It’s true that I looked down on you. That’s why, I apologi-ze.”
This admission took Naga by surprise. He scratched his head bashfully.
“Oh, i-is that so? Hahaha, oh well, it’s fine as long you understand, still…”
“You’ve grown impu-dent.”
“Are you praising me or making fun of me? Decide which one.”
“Well then, I’m praising yo-u. Unlike your foolish and perverted looks, you’ve got a brain, so I’m impress-ed!”
“Oi! You’re clearly harassing me with that praise!”
“That’s not tru-e. I’m giving you quite a com-pliment. It’s rare for me to speak well of somebo-dy.”
(Do you seriously believe that?!)
Naga reacted inside his heart. He directed his thumb at his chest.
“Even if I do have a sharp mind, aren’t I just a male human? Are you really fine with that?”
“Be it men, women, or witches it doesn’t matter to me as long they’re clev-er. Saying those words about yourself though, makes you seem conceited.”
Naga instantly burst out laughing.
“Now ain’t you an interesting fellow despite that stern attitude of yours?”
Lela muttered while narrowing her eyes suspiciously.
(That’s not all… The way he tried to steer the conversation to grasp my weaknesses and opinions isn’t something I can make light of, still, that’s what makes him intriguing.)
“…UAHAHA” – Naga continued to laugh heartily, all the while ignoring Lela…
Suddenly, Harrigan’s hair struck down violently.
“Ow, ow, ow, ow stop with the hair AAAHH! I give!”
Holding his head in pain, Naga writhed on the ground.
“Shut up! You’re distracting me!”
Harrigan raised her shapely eyebrows and glared daggers at Naga.
Aside from Lela, the other witches pierced him critical and disdainful eyes.
Naga stood slowly while comforting his bruised head and raised his right hand in a casual apology.
“ …Yeah, sorry, um my bad.”
“I thought I had already told you not to interfere.”
“No seriously, I’m truly sorry. I’ll stop being a nuisance, so please rest assured and continue your work.”
“The next time, you cause a problem, I’ll throw you off of here.”
She threatened while her face slowly returned to her normal expression. Nevertheless, Harrigan’s eyes seemed to be smiling and it didn’t seem like she was seriously mad.
(Good grief) – Naga, breathed out a sigh of relief only to notice Lela watching him fixedly.
“As expected, you’re a foo-l. Despite being smart, you’re still an idiot.”
Naga’s face twisted up into a wry smile.
“Yeah, I’ve got a feeling that people have said similar things about me before.”
“Hmmm…..hm? I wonder who told me so?”
Looking at Naga who had bent his head to stare at the ground, Lela lowered her eyes.
“My ba-d. After all, you’ve lost your memories.”
“No, it isn’t something worth apologizing for, so don’t mind it.”
“Then, I won’t min-d!”
“Actually, on second thought, you should mind a bit.”
“Decide on which o-ne.”
Ignoring Lela’s retort, Naga shifted his sight towards the strange tool in Lela’s hands.
“Hey, can I ask you one more thing?”
“Still not finish-ed?”
“What is that thing you’re holding near your eyes?”
Taking her eyes from the tool, Lela slightly adjusted something that looked like lenses placed inside a pair of slender tubes.
“These are called binocu-lars. A magic tool that magnifies and clarifies things seen from a distance.”
“Meaning a tool that has magic implement-ed.”
“Do you have to apply magic while using it? In that case, wouldn’t I be unable to see anything even if I took a peek?”
“You won’t se-e. It’s meaning-less.”
“Is that so? In the end I guess I can only depend on my own two eyes.”
Naga gave up on the tool and once again focused his eyes on the slope to observe the battlefield.
There was no way for the doll to be completely covered in leather belts, especially where it had joints. However, those parts didn’t seem to receive very many arrows. On the other hand, the parts which were wrapped with leather were pierced by many arrows, but they did not seem to affect the doll’s movements. Several layers of leather had been chipped off, but the iron-made arrows didn’t sink too deeply into the puppet’s main body.
Ignoring the close range blows coming at it, the puppet sluggishly plunged towards the human forces.
The wooden doll began to corner the gradually retreating soldiers as it continued to advance further.
The puppet picked up nearby rocks from the slope of a small hill in both of its fists and tossed them skillfully in the direction of the crowded soldiers.
The formations of the human troops dispersed and the soldiers skittered away like baby spiders.
Once the dust and smoke settled down, Naga could see several soldiers tripping and falling in their haste. Folding his arms across his chest, his face turned solemn and stern for the first time since his arrival in this world. Naga gazed at the strange scenery which he had never experienced before.
It was completely different from what he had felt during the battles he was familiar with.
(I wonder what the battles I knew….looked like. I think the first thing was shooting each other…with bows, probably.)
Assuming he was right, the beginning of this battle shouldn’t be much different from the one he generally knew. At least, the human side was behaving as he expected unlike the witches side. There was one fact, however, which greatly strayed from Naga’s concept of a battle.
It was this giant doll which was coiled with belts and controlled with magic. It swung its arms, threw rocks, and plunged into enemies while cornering them. Naga noticed himself accepting this fact calmly despite the fact that it was bizarre in every aspect.
(If this sort of thing is common in this world, I can only accept it.) – is what he honestly thought.
The 40-50 person troop in front of the doll hurriedly retreated.
It looked as though they were forced off the slope and onto the plain. However, between the people who were dispersing left and right, fast moving silhouettes were approaching the doll which had descended on to the plain.
Four horsemen were galloping towards the doll. What was more, was that they were pulling something.
There was a considerable distance between the top of the watchtower and the bottom of the slope. However confident Naga was in his eyesight, he was only able to see horses and people as miniscule specks. Because of that, he couldn’t tell what they were pulling at first.
(Ah! Isn’t that a battering ram?)
The moment he confirmed what the horse-riders were pulling, he understood. He knew exactly what the human troops intended to use it for.
As he watched, the wooden puppet moved its legs and tried to advance further.
Naga’s angry voice startled the witches who sat nearby.
On the other hand, Harrigan who was clearly angry, turned around slowly to face him.
“You! I told you that I’d throw you off if you were to—“
“Quickly withdraw that puppet!”
“W-What are you–?!”
“Do it fast! At least, try to bring it half-way back to the slope!”
“Why is that?”
“Just do it!”
Harrigan looked at his expression and realized that this was serious.
“Understood. But, I will have you explain yourself to me afterwards.”
Turning back around quickly, Harrigan screwed up her eyebrows in anxiety and followed Naga’s request.
As she did so, the puppet stopped and began to slowly retreat.
(Damn, its movements are dull. At this rate, it won’t make it in time!)
Naga almost cursed aloud when Lela suddenly screamed while looking through the binoculars.
“Ane-sama, it’s a battle ra-m! I think the enemy is trying…to knock the doll with the ra-m!”
Harrigan suddenly leaned forward.
“Get back! Hurry Back here! Return this Instant!”
The sudden shout burst out of her mouth and reached Naga who could now hear her clearly.
The battle ram drew closer until the point where it was clearly be visible with bare eyes.
“Tch!” – Harrigan smacked her tongue and called out an order in a sharp voice.
“Stop the blow!”
This order was screamed towards the giant wood doll. The puppet showed absolutely no intention of avoiding the blow, and instead put up a guard against the rapidly approaching ram. Its large build rendered swift movement nearly impossible. Its strongest asset was disastrous in this situation. No matter what type of weapon, there will always be strengths and weaknesses. It was just a natural course of action for the enemy soldiers to form a counterattack after experiencing battle with the witches.
Naga stared with bated breath at the situation unfolding in front of him.
The horses which came in front of the doll quickly split to the left and right with a pair on each side. Following that, the riders swung down with their swords and cut the ropes.
The heavy cart, on which the ram was placed, careened ahead with the speed lent by the charging horses.
The puppet was braced just between the edge of the slope and plain. In an instant the head of the ram slammed directly into the puppet.
A dull sound of impact, like being socked in the stomach, resounded throughout the area. The ram itself was made from wood, but its tip was clearly covered in metal. As the impact echoed, the giant puppet was flung backwards and ended up lying on its back.
The human troops began to cheer wildly.
“Damn! Stand up! Get up now!” Harrigan cursed.
Struggling to rise, the puppet responded to Harrigan’s scolding by writhing with its limbs. It was barely able to get up in an unsteady manner, Harrigan smacked her lips.
“Tch, so it’s useless? Lela!”
“Yes” Lela responded as she took out the binoculars.
“It seems that the blow just now damaged the magic circuit. I can’t attack any longer nor bring it back.”
“Hold these” – Lela said as she passed Naga the binoculars.
Lela forced the binoculars into his hands, and then stepped forward to the handrail of the viewing platform.
Lela faced Harrigan.
“Are you sure it’s fi-ne?” she asked.
“I don’t care. Just do it!”
Lela nodded slightly then took out a single charm from her bag.
Naga pressed the pair of binoculars against his eyes, but however much he tried to look through them, only a dim and gray world appeared.
(As expected they won’t work for me?)
Naga put away the binoculars and was about to refocus on the battlefield when his eyes were arrested by the sight of the charm burning in Lela’s hand.
(Ah, could it be!?)
Shifting his gaze in a hurry, he looked towards the wooden puppet.
Shortly after, gushing flames appeared on the doll here and there. Those were the charms which Lela attached to the puppet before it left. Naga understood that the charms were responding to the one she was holding.
(I see, she could do things like this as well… Should I say that it’s fascinating, or perhaps unreasonable? Different plans might allow this to be used in more interesting and strategic ways…)
While thinking this, Naga concentrated on the doll to see what would happen.
The doll, now completely covered in burning flames, began to advance slowly once more.
Naga pointedly looked toward Harrigan as if asking What are you planning to do?
“Run and explode!”
She stated resolutely, and proceeded to order the doll.
Once she turned around, the puppet began to progress while swaying its trunk left and right. Despite telling it to run, its speed didn’t increase significantly. Perhaps, it was the best it could do considering its large build and the damaged magic circuit.
Because the doll had fallen before, the human troop tried to approach it once again. The burning puppet walked while aiming for that crowd. Its movements were dull, but its steps were huge which made it faster than it looked.
The puppet waded in amongst the soldiers who cried out in fear while running in complete disarray.
Despite most of them trying to escape, there were those who tried to aim at the doll with their bows. An arrow that would maybe work normally, proved far less effective in this situation. Their actions were probably the result of their normal reactions mixed with the fear of seeing the burning puppet trudging in their direction.
Naga looked on dissatisfied at the quality of the troops’ commanders and their orders.
Naga thought that the situation could have been dealt with more skillfully if he himself had taken command.
At that moment the doll’s arms launched themselves forward.
To Naga, it looked as though the giant was shooting flaming arrows.
Its arms flew towards the slower soldiers and burst directly above their heads.
As if on Harrigan’s command, the arms exploded, sweeping the soldiers away.
After this initial explosion the doll then launched its own head.
Unlike its arms which launched horizontally, the doll’s head launched itself vertically at a steep angle above the slope while slowly correcting its trajectory. Naturally, the angle provided a greater range than that of the arms.
As the head flew above the soldiers who had tried to escape first, it exploded just like the arms, scattering flames in all directions.
Again, the explosion blew away many soldiers, with flaming embers and sparks igniting surrounding soldiers, making them drop and roll.
The soldiers were completely unprepared for this counterattack and immediately threw away their weapons and scattered in fear and confusion.
Naga watched the soldiers’ clumsy escape from the distance and spat in disappointment.
(These soldiers numbered around 200 and they’re all running. There should be a limit to how pathetic you guys can act! But in comparison…)
Naga peeked at Harrigan and her witches.
(Aren’t they a little too strong?)
Naga felt a sense of respect welling up towards Harrigan and her people who had managed to repel an enemy of as many as 200 people. Even if they were witches possessing magic and special abilities, fighting like this wasn’t simple by any means. A thought flickered through his mind as he was evaluating the witches. A small thought of wanting to fight by their side, but it was gone before he even realized it.
Naga turned his attention back to where the doll had exploded and scattered itself into dust.
As he did so, he heard Harrigan heave a huge sigh of relief.
“Are you alright, Ane-sama?”
The nearby witches asked as they supported her.
“Yes, I’m fine. And that went surprisingly well.”
Harrigan narrowed her eyes and gazed at the doll’s remains that lay upon the battlefield.
“We were somehow able to deceive them.”
Naga wondered what her muttering meant. His curiosity led him to guess at the meaning behind her words.
(….Could it be that she’s talking about the explosion just now?)
Naga focused his eyes towards the battlefield; however, there was no sign of anybody. Normally, Naga might suspect someone to be hiding in camouflage, but he felt that it was unlikely in this situation.
Naga thought at first that the enemy intended to run so as to lure the puppet into a place near the battle ram, nonetheless, their desperate running didn’t appear to be an act. In the first place, it didn’t seem like the enemy could have foreseen Harrigan’s explosive assault.
Thinking that it was the right moment to ask, Naga threw a question at Harrigan.
“Harrigan, may I ask you something?”
“Hm? I don’t mind, but…”
“It’s about what you just said, but by “deceiving” did you mean exploding that doll?”
Opening her eyes innocently, Harrigan asked back.
“Why do you think so?”
“I wonder…” – he murmured while looking up at the sky.
“You mentioned before that you have a few puppets in stock, right? That means you probably have 2-3, or at most 5 or 6 dolls. Since the number is scarce, losing one of them means a heavy blow to you. What’s more, you said that attacking the enemy with a burning doll would be your last resort, and that’s what happened this time. This means that you can’t afford to let the enemy know the actual number of dolls you possess.”
“It’s as you say.” – Harrigan grinned.
“We don’t want them to think that there are a limited number of dolls. By arranging an attack using the explosion, we want to give them an impression that we don’t care if we use 2-3 dolls of the same type.”
“So it was like that?” – Naga nodded with a pleased expression. As he did so, Harrigan said teasingly.
“Indeed, you’re quite smart despite your appearance.”
“You’re saying that too!? Just how stupid do you think I look!?”
“No, don’t mind it. A man isn’t just about looks, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.”
She casually stated. Hearing this Naga lifted his face and beamed.
“That’s right. A man is about what’s on the inside. As for women, It’s probably not only about their appearance.”
“Hm?” – Harrigan tilted her head confused. Naga gave her a big thumbs up.
“In other words, I think that not only do you guys have first-rate insides, all of you guys look beautiful as well.”
“Hm? I-Is that so? I guess we’ve received quite the high praise from the Dragon King.”
“Yep. That’s why, please, stop calling me dragon king.”
Facing each other, the two of them laughed.
As soon their laughter settled down, Naga asked.
“It looks like you managed to repel the approaching enemy for the time being, but what do you plan to do next?”
“We will do as usual. We will leave some people to watch and retreat to the 3rd fort.”
“Which means you aren’t going to pursue them… What’s the reason behind that?”
Harrigan narrowed her eyes towards Naga.
“You, are you trying to confirm your own hunch? Or perhaps, are you testing me?”
Surprised by Harrigan’s sharp insight, Naga decided to speak honestly to her.
“It’s not like I’m testing you, but I wanted to confirm whether or not my guess was right. That’s because this world isn’t a place where I can rely on my own common sense.”
“Well, I guess that’s fine” – Harrigan nodded and faced toward the vast land spreading out beneath her.
“Spreading out from here, the vast land of the humans stretches outward with mostly even terrain. There are lots of forests and mountainous districts, but, most of them are wastelands. Even if the area is a small plain the wooden puppet’s combat strength will fall because a proper army can be deployed to face it allowing it to be easily surrounded. If the doll is surrounded by a large army and showered with arrows from all directions, no matter how many belts it’s coiled with, the number of piercing arrows won’t decrease. When it comes to that, the magic circuit will be damaged. Not to mention, the horse-riders can release arrows as well, and if the doll is hit with a more powerful crossbow in a place with no obstacles, not even the belts will help.’
‘In that case, you’d think that it’s better to thicken its armor, but that is not possible. Were we to do so, the transmission of magic would be hindered.”
“How about using iron armor?”
“We don’t have enough skill to make that. In the first place, if we were to put it on the doll, we wouldn’t be able to transfer our magic.”
Hearing her calm and accurate analysis, Naga groaned.
Harrigan lightly shrugged her shoulders and finally added.
“Our low numbers keep us from starting a fight, so we can only assume a reactionary stance.”
“Is that…so? Well, I guess you’re right.”
Naga answered sounding unconvinced; he strongly believed that one can’t gain victory by only defending.
“Still, I can’t really say I like the tone of that comment.”
“Rather than saying you don’t like it, couldn’t you just say I’m not familiar enough with your circumstances? I’m unfamiliar with both this world and your current situation. That is why I’d like you to give me more time. I have some confidence in finding a way for you to win.”
Harrigan suddenly loosened her stern expression.
“Well, I’ll wait for that, though I’m not really expecting anything.”
After saying so, she tightened her expression once again and looked at the witches nearby.
“Then let’s withdraw. We will change the guarding post here. Lela, Selena, and Kei will stay this time instead of Ku, Rinne, and Rinna.”
“Leave it to us!”
The three of them replied calmly.
“Ku, we still have 1 puppet left, right?”
“That’s right Ane-sama”
“We have spares in the village, so we need to bring one more here.”
Harrigan turned her head and looked at Ais.
“Ais, sorry to bother you, but I’ll entrust that task to you.”
“Yes, Understood Ane-sama.”
“O-Oi, it couldn’t be that you’re the one that carries the dolls to this place?”
Ais tilted her head toward the astonished Naga and gave him a look that seemed to say – What are you so surprised about?
“Yes, that’s right.”
“Y-you do this by yourself?”
“I usually get a little help, but basically I do it on my own as it is my duty.”
“Is that so? I got it. Then, I’ll help out as well.”
Naga decided to volunteer as he felt deeply moved by the witches’ courage and strength.
“Even though this guy said so, Ais do you want his help?”
Harrigan asked from the side.
“Um, but…” – Ais looked perplexed and replied sounding conflicted.
“This guy is someone who runs out of breath just from running here, for such a person to ask to help me…”
“Woah aren’t you being way too blunt and honest with that?!”
“I’m often told as much.”
“No, no, honesty aside that’s not what I meant. I tried to offer you help, so shouldn’t you show some casual gratitude at least? Say thanks or something like that?”
“You’re right, I apologize for my ingratitude.”
Ais gently bowed her head towards Naga.
“Despite you being easily exhausted by a mere half day of running, some help is better than absolutely nothing, so I look forward to working with you.”
“You absolutely don’t hold back with the honesty do you?!”
As he uttered this heartfelt cry, Lela added on her own comments.
“Far from being useful, it is complete-ly likely that he will be a nuisance, bu-t…”
“Yet another brutally honest tongue!!”
“Thank you, I’m often told tha-t.” Lela said with pride and thrust out her chest.
“Don’t say that like it’s a source of pride; though I really can’t deny that it’s the truth, can’t you be a little less harsh about it!?”
“As for me, there’s something I’d like to request from you. Will you give me a hand, Naga?” Ais asked.
“O….Oh. But, are you fine with that? Is it alright for someone like me, who doesn’t know anything about terrain or current matters, to help? I may end up dragging not just your legs but also your entire body down?”
“I don’t care if you drag me down just don’t grab my chest.”
“Hahahehe” – Naga laughed stiffly with a weak smile.
The other witches didn’t seem to understand the circumstances, however Ais new the entire story from Harrigan. She showed him a smile that started at her mouth and never reached her eyes. He could feel a chilling intent from those eyes. He felt that they said If you do the same to me, I’ll crush your arms into pulp.
As if confirming his worst suspicions, Ais clenched her fists several times while squeezing with visible force.
Feeling a fearful chill run down his spine, Naga violently nodded in agreement.
“Leaving the joking aside” – Harrigan said as she continued to talk.
“I want you to carefully observe, since you don’t know anything.”
“A…ah, so that’s the reason?”
“I have good reason for this, by having you tag along with Ais, it is possible for you to learn about various things. You can observe the landscape, animals, plants, and features of the forest.”
“I think you’re right. Although I ran all the way here I wasn’t paying attention to anything but running.”
“For the time being, we drove away the human troop and made them go through a bitter experience, so it doesn’t look like they’ll be trying anything soon. So, Ais I might be troubling you, but can you let this guy try to help?”
“Yes, Understood Ane-sama”
Despite Ais’s grand smile, Naga couldn’t help but feel discontented.
“If you say it like that I feel like you’re saying I’m the one who’s likely to cause problems.”
“The fact that you even dropped out of the sky onto our heads is already a big enough problem, so I don’t think you need to worry too much about causing more.”
“YES I DOOOO!”
Harrigan and Ais began giggling and it caused Selena, Dei, and Kei, who felt a bit nervous, to relax a little and smile. On the other hand, Lela’s expression remained firm.
“The next time you carry a spare doll, bring some food as well. Ais, you got it?”
“Yes, Understood Ane-sama.”
And just like that, Harrigan’s group went back, leaving behind Lela, Serena, and Kei. Obviously, Naga also tagged along. Yuki, who had disappeared during the battle, suddenly reappeared without notice. She didn’t even glance in Naga’s direction, so he decided not to ask her anything. Even though the return trip was considerably slower and easier, Naga had not doubts that running couldn’t compare to horses in speed and comfort. (Is there anywhere I can get a horse?) Naga thought wistfully as he ran through the forest.