The 1st wave of the Kasandora Kingdom’s black forest invasion army departed from Fort Ein.
It was comprised of the 2nd battalion, which had 500 soldiers.
On the other hand, the 2nd wave consisted of the 1st battalion and the 3rd wave consisted of the 3rd battalion, both of which had 500 soldiers in them. They maintained well-organized ranks while standing by near the outskirts of Fort Ein. These were not the only troops available, there was also a reserve force within the regimental headquarters.
The ratio between infantry and cavalry was about 5:1.
In other words, in each battalion of 500, there were 420 infantry and 80 cavalry.
Judging from the norms of troop formations in this world, it was a balanced number.
Not to mention, if you paid closer attention to the infantry, there would be 120 archers for every 300 foot soldiers.
Assuming it was a battle on a plain field, the first action taken would be to fire arrows at each other, and after that, charging at the enemy troops with cavalry and infantry. This type of strategy would be frequently applied; nevertheless, it didn’t seem like the cavalry would get a chance to act this time.
The reason for that was because of the steep slope that made it impossible for them to charge in.
In this sort of terrain, they would be easy targets because they couldn’t utilize their full speed.
If the cavalry wanted to take part, they’d have to dismount and lead their horses up while the infantry suppressed any attacks from the top of the cliff.
First, it was necessary for the archers and foot soldiers to climb up the big cliff and gain control of the fort.
With foot soldiers and archers bearing the responsibility of fighting the witches, the cavalry was assigned as the rearguard in case of emergencies.
The 1st wave, consisting of the 2nd battalion, left in the morning, and was assigned the task of passing through the gentler mountain passes, reaching the Schweiz River by midday, and setting up camp.
For the sake of future battles, the army commander General Geobalk decided to set up this place as a base for food storage warehouse.
The General predicted that they would be able to seize the witches’ fort within a day.
Assuming that his prediction came true, the soldiers would be fine with only enough provisions to last for 2-3 days.
However, once the fort was taken over, there would be a need for repairs and reinforcements. Not to mention, they will also have to guard the slope between the plain and the great cliff. Even the road from Fort Ein to the base of the slope needed maintenance.
Geobalk had to make the army of 2000 soldiers strictly follow his tactics within a short period of time.
In regard to fortified cities, there were other methods they could utilize, such as raiding the conquered city’s food storage to feed their army. Nevertheless, there was not enough to be taken from the witches’ small fort.
The general assigned 300 soldiers to attend to the supplies for the 2000 officers and men.
On a side note.
It was then decided that Raibaha, who was harshly criticized for losing the majority of his forces, would fill the position of commanding officer for the supply unit.
Reassigned from a company captain of 100 soldiers to the commander of 300 supply corp, one would think that he was moving up in the hierarchy judging from the number of subordinates.
However, becoming a commander of a rear support troop after being released from the position of a combat company captain, was in fact more of a demotion than a promotion.
“I guess, nothing good comes from being involved with the witches.”
Raibaha grieved, but nonetheless, he wondered himself if it was really as bad as he had thought.
He had directly experienced the dreadful nature of the witches’ attacks.
Perhaps he was actually quite lucky not to have to stand on the front lines and face them.
Leaving that aside, Geobalk, who was a veteran general with a long history of military service, came up with the following plan:
After the 1st wave (2nd battalion) set up perimeter defences at Schweiz River, the 2nd wave (1st battalion) and 3rd wave (3rd battalion) will move in behind them and set up camp.
The next morning, the main force advanced towards the great cliff, leaving behind a small number to defend the base camp.
Judging from their experiences up till now, which was the probing attacks to determine the combat capability of the witches, the General didn’t even consider the possibility that the witch will attack them while they were on the march.
If there was going to be a battle, the General thought it would happen the moment they crested the cliff, but at the same time, he didn’t really think there would be an attack.
The biggest reason for why he thought so was because of the overwhelming difference in the numbers between the two sides.
The witches that guarded the fort on top of the cliff would be, at most, a dozen, or so he imagined.
The witches might possess abilities beyond that of human, which was magic, but there was no way they could match an army of nearly 2000.
No matter how strong the giant doll from the rumors was, as long it’s a battle on a plain, there were countless methods to deal with it.
That doll could be defeated pretty easily if they could surround it with 100-200 cavalry.
Because the potential of a wooden puppet is fully displayed in a narrow place where only a limited number of soldiers can fight it, Geobalk concluded that it won’t be able to utilize its power against a large group in open grounds.
And his evaluation was right.
In the last battle, the puppet that was lured downhill was attack by battering rams pulled by cavalry, which proved very effective.
After that, the allied soldiers sustained injuries due to the doll catching fire and exploding; nevertheless, Geobalk was questioning if dolls that sustain heavy damages will explode.
Again, his guess had hit the mark.
What he also managed to verify was the fact that the witches wouldn’t sortie with 2 or more puppets.
Therefore, he predicted that they would only utilize a single puppet each time.
This assumption was also correct.
If that’s the case, the general reached the conclusion that the witches would not be a threat to his army as long they battled on the plains.
Geobalk’s analysis and hypothesis was flawless.
Or rather, he was completely correct.
The only miscalculation of the General was that the witches had abandoned the way they fought all these while and adopted the tactics of Naga, who came from an alternate world. Since it was impossible for either him or his men to learn about Naga’s presence beforehand, one could say that it was hard to blame him for his tactics failing in this case.
Shortly after the 1st wave left, the 2nd wave also departed from Fort Ein.
Its soldiers’ steps were steady and their formation tight.
Well-disciplined troops meant they were easy to command.
Following them, the general, his staff officers, and his guards prepared for departure.
Geobalk, who straddled on a fawn-colored steed, called out to an adjutant next to him.
“The 3rd wave will depart as well. Tell that to the 3rd battalion.”
Seeing the cavalry messenger breaking into a run, Geobalk addressed his staff officers, who were organizing the surroundings, with a loud voice.
“We will immediately crush the witches’ fort on the cliff! Don’t lose to the likes of witches!”
“Keep his Majesty our King and God our Father in your hearts for this battle!”
“Excellent, move out!”
Responding to Geobalk, voices of the staff officers reverberated through the area.
“General Geobalk will be setting off personally!”
“Don’t fall behind!”
The departure time for the 200 soldiers from regimental headquarters, led by the general, was around 5th watch. (10 in the morning Earth Time)
The majority of these 200 were cavalry.
Following the regimental headquarters, the 3rd battalion of 500 soldiers came after.
Like that, the whole invasion army of 2000 soldiers, 1700 soldiers if the supply unit is omitted, left the fort. If one was to mark their departure date using their calendar, it would be the 24th day of the 5th month of the 12th year of Kasandora III’s reign.
The day’s weather was clear.
Some clouds appeared here and there in the sky, it was a day where they could feel a bit of humidity coming from the unobstructed sun’s rays.
Once the regimental headquarters and the 3rd unit arrived at the encampment, the sun was already about to set.
The location they chose to camp on was an open, flat land, located a bit away from the Schweiz River.
Since there were small tributaries nearby that were pouring into the river, the water supply wouldn’t become a problem.
It was more than large enough for the 2000 men to make camp.
Geobalk’s plan was to stay here overnight and leave the next morning. After that, they would advance directly towards the place before the great cliff and conduct a reconnaissance of the enemy’s movements.
By the time the general and the rest reached, the 1st and 2nd wave have already set up a simple base and set up tents.
Despite saying so, they had only managed to build a wooden fence using logs cut on their way from the mountain, and had yet to set up abatis and blockades yet.
They didn’t consider they’d be assaulted by the witches in the first place, thus, it wasn’t really necessary to strengthen their encampment.
The simple base was for the general, staff officers and officers to rest, as well as a place to store provisions that would be coming later.
After the 2nd and 3rd wave arrived, the soldiers put up their tents in preparation for their stay.
Ahead of their encampment, there was the Schweiz River flowing in front of a gently sloping hill. The river’s width ranged from 20 – 25 yards. Its flow was relatively fast and its depth could only reach one’s waist.
As long as its water doesn’t flood during a rainfall, it should be possible for the foot soldiers to cross the river, not to mention the cavalry.
The battalion commander of the 2nd battalion ordered the scouting troop to cross it for reconnaissance before sunset, however, nothing unusual was spotted.
Of course, there was no sign of the witches.
That too was an obvious conclusion for the humans.
So far, no one had ever heard of reports where the witches left the black forest.
Even if the witches ambushed them there, they wouldn’t be able to overcome the scouts of 10 to 20 men. That was the experience from their battle so far, and the battalion commander didn’t think it would be any different this time.
But to play it safe, he didn’t force the scouts to venture too deep.
If he pushed this hazardous duty onto them, it would only encourage them to desert.
Humans will fear whatever hides inside the darkness.
Humans will fear violent beasts that eat people as their prey.
And they will also fear the witches with abnormal abilities.
For a common soldier in this period, it was impossible to order him to abide by iron clad rules.
Fires were kindled here and there inside the encampment, and the smell of cooking rose up into the air.
Despite the battle being scheduled for the following day, no tension could be sensed coming from the soldiers. Perhaps, being informed about the difference in both sides’ military strength gave them their mental composure.
No matter how strong the witches were, the soldiers knew that they weren’t invincible.
In fact, in numerous battles so far, the human armies had defeated many witches, or capturing and executing them.
The witches were fearsome existences, but not unbeatable.
As long as one had enough numbers, there were no enemies that could not be defeated. That included witches.
This was a belief commonly shared by the soldiers of this period.
That was what the rank and file felt, and was even more so for the officers.
The veteran general and his officers deemed that they could capture the fort even without having to fight. If, however, there was one, it would probably be at the bottom of the slope leading up to the black forest.
Therefore, that night, except for the people on the night shift, the officers and men entered into a sound sleep.
Obviously, nothing occurred on that night as well.
The eastern sky continued to brighten.
Finally, the sun peeked itself over the horizon and it became bright.
On the other hand, the west side was still dyed in ultramarine, however, the east was burning in a deep red with the morning glow.
It was time for daybreak.
Looking above, the majority of the sky was covered with gray clouds, however, there were openings in various spots.
The clouds were not very thick, and there was most likely no need to worry about rain on that day.
*gong gong gong gong*
*gong gong gong*
Inside the camp, a gong signaled that it was time to wake up.
Did they think it was feeding time? The horses pulling carts drew closer after hearing the gong.
One after another, soldiers began to emerge out from their simple tents.
Most of them went to sleep without wearing their armor, as they didn’t expect a surprise attack from the witches. Therefore, they weren’t wearing them as they left their tents.
Another reason for that was because the tents were cramped and low, which made them unable to wear any equipment inside them.
Compared with them, the commanders, captains, leaders, the general, and his staff exited from nicer tents that were several times bigger.
Unlike the soldiers, they were already wearing armor.
“Hey, put your armor on quickly!”
“Those who are on duty, prepare water and fodder for the horses!”
“Don’t neglect your morning breakfast!”
Voices from captains and leaders of platoons and companies flew about inside the camp.
At that time, the scouting troop that patrolled the bank of the river returned,
Their troop consisted of the 6th platoon assigned to the 2nd company of the 2nd battalion.
Since the 2nd battalion was the first to settle down near to the river, they were in charge of scouting.
“Reporting to the 2nd company captain! Reporting to the 2nd company captain!”
Feeling an unusual sensation, the commander of the 2nd company jumped up at the voice of a platoon’s commander.
“Did something happened?”
“Something strange is happening on the other side of the bank.”
“Something strange, you say?”
“No, it’s hard for me to explain, but there’re things lined up.”
“That’s why I’m asking you what’s happening.”
“I-I don’t understand it myself.”
The 2nd company’s captain frowned.
With the report sounding vague, the captain intended to scold the man. nevertheless, his subordinate seemed to be frightened by something approaching.
After all, he was a platoon leader and not a newly recruited person. On top of that, he had some experience as well.
If you consider that, him falling into a panic is something abnormal.
The 2nd company executive officer called out the leaders of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th platoons, and ordered them to go out with the scouting troop to check the condition at the river. The executive officer himself went to report to the company captain.
After hearing the account, the captain then said that he himself would confirm the situation. At that point, the executive officer assembled 20 individuals, who were under direct supervision of the captain, and appointed them to advance towards the Schweiz river. At the same time, he sent a messenger to the 2nd battalion commander.
As soon as the executive officer ordered the 1st, 2nd, 7th, and 8th platoon to prepare for battle and be on the standby, he straddled his horse and tagged along with his superior and his other officers till the Schweiz river.
Progressing to the river bank with his horse, the captain strained his voice as if gasping and opened his mouth widely. Then he stared with wide eyes and looked at the opposite bank.
His subordinates, who were standing in a row on top of their horses, couldn’t provide an answer.
On their right and left sides, the leaders of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th, platoons gazed at the other side of the bank as well, however, nobody raised a voice as they were unable to comprehend the strange view before their eyes.
In front of the right side of the riverbank, there was a wasteland expanding.
Overall, in the south-eastern side, in other words, in the direction of the black forest, there was a gentle slope stretching out, with no undulations, making the view unobstructed.
On top of a cliff on the other side, a thick, dense lump that looked like a black hat was seen.
It was the black forest
Through the wasteland leading to the gentle slope, a path, which could hardly be called a path, stretched onward.
Nearby, there were neatly lined objects arranged in rank that blocked the path, as if hindering the soldiers’ way.
Was the distance from the river shore to that point perhaps about a half of a League?
Since it was far away, it wasn’t clear what those objects were.
However, it was certain some things were lined up horizontally there.
If one was to look closely, there wasn’t just a single row, but several of them.
After all, due to the wide distance, they were unable to decisively tell whether it was 2, 3, or perhaps more rows of those things.
The one who came back to his senses fastest was the executive officer of the 2nd company, who was, at the same time, the actual person managing the company-related jobs.
“T-This is…..Captain, I think it’s better to report this to our Battalion Commander…..”
As he advised his superior with a trembling voice, the captain came back to himself.
The 2nd company captain ordered a messenger to report to the 2nd battalion and immediately gather the leaders from the 3rd to 6th platoons.
Around the captain, there were his staff officers and the leaders of 4 platoons lined up.
He called the name of the executive officer.
“Go and quickly summon the 1st, 2nd, and 7th platoons that are on standby at the camp together with their commanders. But leave the 8th platoon on standby.”
The executive officer, Götze, rushed over to a messenger waiting upon for an order.
Whereas, the commander continued to pass down his orders.
“The 3rd, 4th, and 6th platoons will cross the river so as to confirm what those things are. However, don’t do anything besides that, and don’t go near anything recklessly. I’ll entrust Halous with the leadership of the 3 platoons.”
Being ordered, the 4th platoon leader saluted.
“Halous, after you cross the river with the 3rd, 4th, and 6th platoons, inspect the things that are lined up on the other side of the bank.”
Once Halous repeated the order, the company captain nodded down and responded.
“We will be awaiting an opportunity at the left side of the riverbank together with the 5th platoon and preparing in case something happens. As soon as the 1st, 2nd, and 7th platoons arrive, follow after them. Fine, now go!”
Cursing inside their hearts for being given a troublesome task, the leaders of the 3rd, 4th, and 6th platoons dashed over to their subordinates.
After the crossing of the abovementioned platoons, the 2nd company captain selected 5 people from among his cavalry and sent them toward the other side of the bank.
The horse-riders stopped at the right side of the shore on top of the bank, without progressing forward.
It seemed that their main duty was to observe the other 3 platoons rather than scouting.
Perhaps it was done so as to probe which soldier would escape and which one would perform a meritorious deed.
At the same time, they cavalry would bear the responsibility of immediately running their horses and checking the situation if something was to happen.
The 3 platoons, which were comprised of a total of 30 people, progressed carefully.
In a period where there were no optical instruments like telescopes and binoculars, as long they didn’t possess magic, scouting could only be done using your eyes.
The platoons advanced until they could confirm what the objects were.
Indeed, the neatly lined up cylindrical stumps that ranged anywhere between 0.7 m and 0.9m and stretched out from both sides in front of them would probably be best described as “stumps”. However, the stumps had weird parts.
There were two short, thin, rod-like things attached to their lower end.
And then, on the left and right sides of the stumps, there were two additional thin, pole-like objects attached to them, or so it seemed.
These two poles were also thinner and longer than the previous ones.
“What the… doesn’t it look like a wooden puppet?”
Hearing somebody mutter the word “stumps”, another person responded.
Being told so, the two rods resembled short legs, whereas, another two at the sides looked similarly to a pair of arms.
“They won’t move at all, I guess.”
“As one would expect, ain’t they just puppets?”
“But, why would somebody leave them in a place like this?”
At that moment, the soldiers looked at each other’s face.
“Could it be…..”
“Still, for what purpose?”
“Do they plan to threaten us?”
“You mean with those?”
“Certainly, aren’t they of a size that could be easily beaten if kicked?”
“I wonder if there’s some sort of curse inside of them.”
The soldiers tilted their heads similarly while expressing their doubts. However, in the end none of them was able to figure out the dolls’ purpose
“What should we do, Leader Halous”
The 3rd platoon leader asked the 4th platoon leader that was in charge of this scouting troop.
Once Halous, who looked around his surrounding, turned back around, he responded to the 3rd platoon leader with a heavy tone.
“It appears there are no places in which enemy could hide, so there doesn’t seem to be any need to worry about an unexpected attack coming from the witches…? Assuming that’s true, shouldn’t we try to advance a bit further. Even if the witches left them here, these small sized dolls won’t become a threat.”
“I guess so….”
“Excellent, we will go a bit further.”
At Halous’ command, the 30 individuals moved forward.
Sticking out his face from the inside of one of the holes they’d made, Naga watched the enemy soldiers from a distance and immediately called out to Selena, who could observe the surroundings with her magic called Heaven’s Eyes.
“What’s the situation?”
Heaven’s Eyes was her forte, it was a magic that could move her own point of view high into the middle of the sky.
Like that, Selena could observe over distances and all around while she was on the ground as if she was in the sky like Yuuki.
Selena answered in a whisper.
“About 30 of them are heading in this direction while carefully approaching the dolls. Other than that, there are troops waiting at the side of the riverbank.”
“Is that so? So far, they’ve been progressing like we’d expected them to.”
Naga shifted his gaze around.
The other witches had stuck out their heads just like him with gazes filled with determination.
Not seeing any signs of discomposure on their faces, Naga felt relieved and, at the same time, amazed.
(Will this plan work out? Either way, the battle between the witches and the humans is about to happen, I guess.)
Despite the all-or-nothing battle that was about to happen, Naga wore a daring smile. ‘We did what we had to do. The only thing left is to entrust our luck to the heavens’ – is what it said. Was it perhaps an expression of resolution to show his defiance?
(We’ve trained and prepared for victory. Saying so, I guess we will win as long we don’t lose. Of course it can’t be helped, if we lose. More importantly, provided we win, I don’t want to have any casualties on our side.)
Naga earnestly wished for that.
The distance that separated the scouting troop from the things lined up in the wasteland was around 270 meters. Once they advanced and drew close, they were able to confirm what, exactly, those objects were.
The 3rd platoon was in the first row, 6th platoon in the 2nd row, and the 4th platoon in the 3rd row. They advanced a short distance and then stopped.
They were about 40 yards (100-110 meters) away.
The 3 leaders, who stood right behind the 3 platoons, strained their eyes as if trying to stretch themselves.
“As they said, they’re just stump dolls…..?”
“Seems to be so.”
Numerous things, which appeared to be wooden stumps with legs and hands, were lined up in formation.
Should one describe them as being lined up? Most likely they were placed; nevertheless, the bunch of wooden doll-like object and the scouting troop were facing each other in formation on both sides of the path.
The scouting troop was formed into three rows, however, they confirmed that the doll-like objects made four rows.
Did a single row consist of roughly 16-17 each? Also, the dolls were lined up at an interval of about 10-12 yards between all four rows.
“I don’t get it anymore.”
“I guess they won’t move.”
“That’s because they’re puppets after all.”
“Still, they look similar to that giant puppet controlled by those witches.”
“T-True, we can’t lower our guard.”
The 3 leaders looked at each other’s faces. Finally, two other people beside Halous asked him with questionable faces.
“Then, what should we do, Leader Halous?”
As they threw a question at him, Halous grumbled in a low tone and twisted his neck.
“I guess we should head back, as we were told to not do anything reckless.”
After that, the captain of 6th platoon suggested an idea.
“Because they’re things hard to explain to Captain, how about we take 1 or 2 samples back? Wouldn’t it probably be faster to have him see?”
“That’s true, because we ourselves don’t have the slightest idea as to what they could be, not even from this close range…. we might get scolded by Captain. Since they don’t seem to be too big or heavy to be transported, it’s probably not a bad idea for us to carry back some and show them to the superiors. It’d better for our company captain and battalion commander to have better insight as to what they are.”
“Well then, we’re going.”
The 6th platoon’s leader raised up his hand,
There was probably meaning in what his men, who were the first to suggest, said. However, more importantly, by carrying back the real samples, they would make themselves look more hard working than the other platoons……One couldn’t say whether this proposal with its sly calculation would work.
Was he perceptive enough to notice his intentions? The 3rd platoon’s leader stepped forward.
“In that case, we’ll come as well.”
Halous made a wry smile inside his heart while nodding.
“Then, the two of you go.”
The 2 platoon leaders went back to their group and shouted at their subordinates.
“Oi, we’re going to take those dolls with us.”
“We’ll be carrying the dolls. Half of you come with me.”
Leading 5 subordinates in each of their group, the 2 leaders began to progress toward what seemed to be a crowd of lined up wooden puppets. Once they did so, the things…. looked like they moved slightly.
“Oi, oi, didn’t they just move?”
The leader of the 6th platoon pointed forward and screamed.
The gazes of all the soldiers focused at once on the crowd of dolls.
“Ain’t they…holding something?”
Indeed, there was something lying in front of each doll’s slender, rod-like arms.
As this thing wasn’t visible until a while ago, there was no doubt it was covered with earth so as to conceal it.
“What, is this?”
The 3rd platoon leader shaded his eyes while peering in the front.
Judging from their shape, one could guess it was a bow held by a puppet.
And it wasn’t just a single doll.
All 60 individuals in the front group were holding the same type of bow.
No, that’s wrong.
Aren’t those dolls lying in a row behind them also holding a bow in their hands?
Not to mention, it wasn’t clear what the dolls carried on their backs from far away as it was hidden, however, judging from this distance, it appeared to be something basket-shaped and attached to their backs.
Their right hand, which was half-hidden behind their trunk, showed a slight movement.
It seemed that a pair of arms was splitting from its body with a joint in the middle of each arm.
In comparison with their simple and utility focused legs and trunk, their arms appeared to be designed in detail.
‘What are they intending to do?’ – as if questioning so, the soldiers, who stepped forward, fixed their eyes upon that place.
The 4th platoon leader screamed.
“Return back! Retreat quickly!”
At Halous who was shouting and swinging his right hand, the soldiers of the 3rd and 6th platoons turned around and looked with confused expressions.
“Return backkkkkk! Those guys are planning to shoot us with their bows!”
By the time Halous screamed, the crowd of dolls prepared to fire.
Were the soldiers unable to grasp the sudden change in the situation? They turned around once again while wearing suspicious expressions.
Immediately after that.
FueenFueen – sounds of something cutting through the air were heard.
Following that, a soldier fell.
Everyone’s eyes focused on the fallen soldier.
Between his eyebrows, there was a single arrow quivering.
Having their faces distorted from surprise, again, the soldiers looked around.
The surrounding air trembled from the overlapping sounds of arrows piercing through it.
Raising their voices in screams, numerous soldiers dropped to the ground.
On the other hand, the arrows continued to fall one after another.
They were on top of a plain with no shelter.
Nor had they any shields to block the arrows.
They were also lightly equipped since their main duty was to scout.
Not to mention, about 12 of them were concentrated in close quarters.
With all that, the arrows pierced them without resistance.
The soldiers continued to fall quickly.
Those who didn’t die instantly had their limbs pierced and were unable to participate in combat.
The remaining 12 people, who stood behind on standby, were in the same situation as they too couldn’t hide themselves nor did they have any shields for protection.
Finally, the remaining soldiers fell.
Halous, who saw through the enemy’s intention, was a bit late in his reaction. As a result, he too fell on the spot, with his chest and thighs shot through by the arrows.
There were as well those who responded quickly with their bows, nevertheless, most of them missed the dolls as their target was too small.
And despite some them hitting, the puppets wouldn’t cease moving after being hit with 1 or 2 arrows.
Obviously, this made the soldiers flee.
However, showing their bare backs was the same as committing suicide.
Right after they broke into a run, arrows rained down on them, piercing their backs, their necks, and thighs.
In the end, no one managed to escape from the dolls’ range of fire.
It didn’t take much of time for the 3rd, 4th, 6th platoons of the 2nd company to be completely annihilated.
The cavalry, who were at the right bank and watching over the scouting troop’s movements, realized something had happened.
“Are they under attack?”
They saw the pitiful sight of their allies falling on the wasteland.
“There’s no doubt about it. It’s the enemy’s attaaack!”
“Where are the enemies?!”
“Where are the witches hiding?!”
If it was an attack from the witches, the 5 cavalry couldn’t rescue their allies even if they were to dash over to them.
Rather, they would die in vain.
The 5 of them immediately turned around with their horses.
Aiming for the left bank on which the main force of the 2nd battalion was located, the horse-riders began to cross the river while splashing through the water.
The water was usually shallow, and today it was even emptier than usual.
In an instant, the horses cut through the river.
As they passed from the right to left side of the bank, nobody seemed to have noticed the meaning behind “there being less water than the usual”.
“It’s the enemy attack! THE ENEMY ATTAAACK! the scouting troop is being attacked by the enemy on the other side of the river!”
Shouting noisily, the 5 horse-riders ran up the bank and aimed for the place where the 2nd company captain was.
“What’s the matter?!”
“What do you mean by enemy attack?!”
The staff officers around the company captain yelled in turns.
“I don’t know the details, but it’s certain that our allies have sustained injuries after being ambushed!”
The faces of the officers turned pale.
“We are going to cross the river. Everyone, follow me!”
The captain of the company who saddled his horse shouted.
“But, we still haven’t grasped the situation….”
Trying to intercept the captain, he scolded his people.
“As if we can watch and see our comrades dying? Are you idiots?!”
Being told the truth, perhaps the captain couldn’t handle making the decision to abandon their allies coming from other commanding officers and their superiors.
The 2nd company captain couldn’t handle retreating after hearing of the troops’ sacrifice.
(If I do so, won’t I end up just like Raibaha?)
An image of Raibaha becoming the captain of the supply unit as a result of his tactical failure surfaced inside his head.
Right now, Raibaha was probably carrying the provision to the encampment by the sweat of his brow.
That was the result of him missing his chance for a meritorious deed on the battlefield.
(First, we are going to rush over to our allies. Even if we can’t rescue them all it should be fine as long as my actions will be judged as trying to do so.)
The 2nd company captain was also one of those who had lived through this world of turmoil.
Still, rather than being heroic, the fact that he made a reckless decision despite not understanding the situation wasn’t something that could be praised as a captain.
As soon the captain rode into the river, his subordinates could only follow him whether they liked it or not.
“Mobilize the 8th platoon! The rest will come with me!”
Once the captain ordered, others followed him.
The staff officers and their subordinates rode into the river in succession.
Seeing the cavalry crossing the river ahead, the 1st, 2nd, 5th, and 7th platoons, who were on standby, ran down the terrace. Thanks to that, they were also able to grasp how deep the water was.
Not making a big fuss of that, the horse-riders quickly crossed the river.
The four platoons stepped into it and continued to cut through the stream while splashing the water.
Soon after the cavalry ascended the terrace of the river bank, an unbelievable view stretched out before them.
A row consisting of 60 puppets that was supposed to be far away approached near the river.
One of the horse-riders, who witnessed the ambush of the scouting troop, ran back to them and shouted.
“It’s them! They’re those dolls that were lined up in front!”
The soldiers of the 2nd company who crossed the river in order to reach the other side didn’t notice the approaching puppets as they were descending from the terrace into the river.
What are those crowds?
Seems like they are the ones responsible for attacking the allies.
The officers and men, who couldn’t grasp the situation, were late in reacting.
By the time they realized it, arrows rained down on their heads.
The cavalry didn’t cover their whole body with heavy armor since they were riding on horses.
Wearing it would mean sacrificing the horse’s speed, and the control of the horse would become much more troublesome.
Despite them having their chest, stomach, elbows, and knees covered, the other parts of their body were barely armored.
And whenever arrows fall like that, the possibility of their exposed parts getting pierced is high.
In most cases, a rider who gets hit will fall off their horse and be unable to control it.
Even if they don’t get shot, it was still possible for their horses to be injured. As a result, the horses would go wild and buck their riders off.
The 2nd company captain watched, dumbfounded, as his staff officers and his cavalry dropped from their horses one after another.
He still couldn’t understand what was happening.
Rather than that, should one say that his ability to reason froze?
It was natural that the spaced out captain would get hit.
The moment he felt the pain coming from his pierced arm, the captain return back to his senses.
It appeared that he still wasn’t out of luck as it was only his left arm that got pierced.
There were also those among his subordinates who had sustained life-threatening injuries from getting shot in their thighs and falling off their horses.
As well as those rolling on the ground, who were hit by even more arrows, writhing in agony.
The ones who had the worst luck would die instantly after getting hit in the face.
Seeing the disastrous scene around him, the captain came to realize what a dangerous situation he was in. Abandoning his effort of trying to act like a brave captain, the man attempted to dash away without giving orders.
However, there was a limit even to his luck.
Immediately after the captain galloped away and exposed his back, he was pierced by a single arrow through his nape.
Instantly feeling pain running through his whole body, the man fell off his horse without being able to scream.
By this time, almost all the officers had fallen.
There was nothing more devastating than a unit that loses its commanding officer.
The cavalry, together with the soldiers of 4 platoons, stared in astonishment how their superiors fell off their horses noisily. Nevertheless, once the arrows flew in their direction, they lost their composure and became chaotic.
The platoon leaders couldn’t make their move as they would act on a command from their superiors. They would fight and retreat only if they were told so.
However, there was no longer anyone who could give them orders.
The platoon leaders couldn’t adapt to the sudden change and the men could only follow them around blindly as the unit took heavy damage.
10 people, who quickly escaped in fear, somehow managed to cross the river and reach its left bank. However, the remaining would die in action or incur heavy injuries and fall on the ground at the other side of the bank.
During that time, among the 90 people from all the platoons and the personnel from the company deputy, only 12 people were able to escape and reach the left bank.
Even if one was to add the 8th platoon stationed at the left bank, the remaining number of the 2nd company would be 22 soldiers.
It was a disastrous result. The company lost 7 out of 8 from its whole number.
“Commander, just what on earth is that?!”
A single member of the 2nd battalion headquarters who advanced toward the edge of the left bank looked at the battalion commander’s pale face next to him. The commander, Sneijder, spat out.
“Damn. It’s the witches, it’s an ambush by the witches.”
Having Sneijder draw that conclusion, his subordinates trembled in fear.
Until now, nobody had gone through an experience of being ambushed like that by the witches.
The fact that their magic was powerful was well known, but till now they hadn’t been that aggressive in their attacks.
This was common knowledge among the officers and the men who stood at the front line, still, the surprise attack they just witnessed now was completely out of their expectations.
Just like the Kasandora Kingdom had gotten serious about invading the black forest, this time, the witches gave an impression of trying to stop Kasandora’s plans with their full power.
They were fighting against serious witches.
Just imagining it was terrifying for the human soldiers.
“W-What should we do….?”
Another person from the battalion headquarters looked hard at Sneijder.
“Saying this and that. If they’re going to hinder our march, we’ll just crush them.”
Sneijder who replied so could only say this.
There was no way for him to show a weak attitude as a battalion commander.
He had already lost nearly 80 people out of 500 before charging the fort of the witches.
It wouldn’t be wrong to say it was a big mistake.
Sneijder had to recover from this error.
He had to clear his dishonor.
Otherwise, there would be no future prospects for him.
“We will send a messenger to General Geobalk!”
A messenger stepped forward.
“Tell him that our vanguard was ambushed at the other side of the bank by wooden dolls that seem to belong to the witches. So as to secure the crossing of the river, the 2nd battalion will forcefully eliminate the enemy dolls. That’s it.”
“I repeat: Our vanguard was ambushed at the other side of the bank by wooden dolls that seem to belong to the witches. So as to secure the crossing of the river, the 2nd battalion will forcefully eliminate the enemy dolls. The above message is to be conveyed by the 2nd battalion commander Sneijder to General Geobalk.”
Making sure of the order that was repeated, Sneijder said with an impatient voice.
“Fine, now go! hurry!”
The messenger straddled a nearby horse and galloped toward the headquarters of the General.
Normally, they would have to wait for an order coming from the general commanding the invasion, Geobalk, but Sneijder, who was fired up about clearing his name, decided, on his own, to cross the river.
Depending on the report, the general might move them to the rear and appoint another battalion for the extermination.
If that happened, Sneijder would lose the chance to redeem himself.
This was something he feared.
“Advance with the 1st and 3rd company! The battalion headquarters and the 4th company will follow after that. Once you reach the left riverbank, stop there for a while and check the status of the enemy’s dolls.”
When a command is passed down by one’s own battalion commander, staff officers can do nothing but follow.
They began to move hurriedly toward the river.
Selena, who was facing upwards, called out.
“Naga-san, a force of a battalion’s size began moving on the other side of the bank!”
Selena wore clothes matching to the color of the reddish brown ground.
Naga, who was dressed similarly while lying on his belly, suddenly rose, unintentionally, at her report. However, he lowered his body in a hurry once more.
(That was dangerous. I can’t afford to let myself get exposed now.)
Naga and Harrigan, who had left the holes, progressed toward the river.
In order to convey her commands to the dolls, it was necessary for Harrigan to move forward. The bigger the gaps between her and the puppets, the worse the conditions would be.
Saying so, Naga and the rest also tagged along with Harrigan as her guard.
If their presence was to be exposed, they would probably be showered with the enemy’s arrows.
And even though the possibility was low, there was a chance that the cavalry would rush towards them.
If that happened, the execution of Naga’s plan would become more complicated.
Far from that, he could feel a sense of peril permeating his body at once.
(Calm down me, Calm down me. It should be fine as long as I leave the scouting to Selena)
Telling that to himself, Naga looked at the puppets forming a line in front and turned his eyes toward the terrace of the riverbank,
It was hard for him to check from that position, but Yuuki should be hiding somewhere with her board.
The one who could fly over the actual scene and report to Ais, who was in charge of launching the trap, was Yuuki.
Still, Naga didn’t want her to be spotted by the enemy while she’d be flying over the river.
If that happened, the enemy would become cautious of their trap, making their surprise attack half as effective.
If she got shot down, the plan would be a failure.
(I’m relying on you, Yuuki. Please do it skillfully.)
As if praying, Naga directed his silent words of encouragement to Yuuki, who wasn’t visible.
General Geobalk was the first one to learn about his troops being involved in a battle with the witches from the messenger sent by the 2nd battalion commander.
In an era where there were no telephone or wireless communication, one could only dispatch a foot soldier or cavalry as a messenger. Still, one problem with such communication was the inability to send an immediate response to a situation.
There were many instances in which correspondence would be delayed.
Having an audience with the messenger, who had interrupted his preparation for departure, the general jumped up at the content of the report.
“Oi, stop Sneijder immediately!”
Being shouted at by the general, a messenger was quickly called to the headquarters of the invasion army.
“Tell him to wait until we arrive at the spot, tell him not to do anything reckless!”
At his words, his adjutant instructed the messenger.
“Fine, now go!”
After seeing off the two messengers, the adjutant returned to the general’s side.
“What are your orders?”
“There’s no time for pondering about that. We will immediately depart for the left riverbank of the Schweiz. Pass that information to the 1st and 3rd battalion.”
Watching the adjutant and staff officers gathering messengers and calling out the 1st and 3rd battalion commanders, Geobalk felt an inexpressible anxiety building in his chest.
Being assaulted by the witches at this stage was completely out of his expectations.
The general was convinced that even if a battle was to take place, it would happen no sooner than at the time they would climb up the great cliff.
Looking back at the past battles with the witches, it was only natural to think that way.
In order to understand their fighting style, they had initiated numerous small battles and investigated and confirmed how the witches would cope with it.
Till now, the witches hadn’t attacked outside of the forest, and they would only devote themselves to repelling their attacks.
Geobalk’s based his strategy for the expedition on this premise.
If one was to look at all their battles with the witches until now, this would be the most obvious conclusion. Not to mention that historical records also supported this.
Things like the witches descending to the plains and fighting the human army tactically was a story that was 100 years too early for them to believe.
At the very least, this was something unheard and unseen to him since his enrollment into military service.
The witches should be carrying out a policy of nonaggressive defence. Seeing how this major premise had crumbled, Geobalk felt a disturbance inside his heart.
(Still, no matter how I look at it, this fighting style isn’t like them. Did some kind of change take place among their numbers? Or perhaps, they finally decided to become serious, and bare their fangs at us? Don’t tell me that the scattered clans inside the forest decided to band together? If that’s true, we might encounter more trouble than what I anticipated.)
As the supreme commander, Geobalk had to deal with a new situation.
A situation in which the witches immediately turned aggressive.
Taking along his staff while riding quickly on his horse, Geobalk tried to add amendments to his already drawn strategy, but he couldn’t reach a final conclusion.
As long he couldn’t confirm what kind of attack the witches were trying to carry out, he couldn’t respond accurately.
(Despite this, that bastard Sneijder)
Even if the aggression from the witches was out of his expectation, the veteran general felt the urge to punish the 2nd battalion commander for again exposing his men to a danger after having already lost 80 of his subordinates.
(That good-for-nothing bastard, I need to teach him a lesson once this battle ends)
Upon learning about the witches’ fighting style betraying their expectations, taking careful measures was more than necessary.
At any rate, the witches possessed a powerful weapon called magic.
Til now, they had been able understand, to a certain degree, the enemy’s war potential through their small fights, nevertheless, it was not possible to grasp everything about them.
Naturally, they had to consider that the witches also possessed magic they had never witnessed before.
Therefore, they should avoid any rash actions.
(Still, the fact that only the 2nd battalion crossed the river proves that that guy has no clue of how to judge a situation.)
Geobalk thought about demoting Sneijder on the spot once he caught up with his battalion, but, in the end, that annoyance of his wouldn’t materialize.
That’s because the possibility of demoting Sneijder was no longer an option.
By the time Geobalk was rushing toward Schweiz river with the 3rd unit, the 2nd battalion had already commenced their crossing.
The first one to enter the river was the 1st company. Just before doing so, nobody among the Kasandora’s soldiers noticed there was a little shadow, that seemed like a bird’s, flying overhead.
The shadow, which danced in the sky, moved with a terrific speed, as if gliding, toward the upper stream while distancing itself.
The 1st company of 2nd battalion crossed the river safely and began forming up. They began their advancement at the opposite, right side of the riverbank.
Coming next after the 1st company, the 3rd company began their crossing.
“Naga-san, as one would expect, there’s another company following the first one.”
At the report of Selena, who controlled her Heaven’s Eyes and watched over the enemy’s movements, Naga faced upstream of the Schweiz River without thinking.
“I wonder if it’s about time.”
Around him, there were Selena, Harrigan, Cu, Kay, and Lela.
The 3rd group of the witches, who were waiting at the other side, would follow once Naga and his group advanced.
That side was confirmed by Selena, so there was no doubt about it.
“Naga, we’ve finished lining up the dolls.”
Harrigan’s voice was heard.
“Is that so? The only thing left after that is to wait for the trap to activate, still…”
“Didn’t Yuuki fly over a while ago? In that case, there should be no problem.”
“I wish I could think so.”
Naga waited impatiently for the right moment.
Lela noticed Naga’s body slightly trembling.
(Heh? So even someone like him can be flustered, I guess.)
She was a bit surprised, but in fact, she was feeling the same.
No, not just Lela. Harrigan, Kay, and Cu also glanced back and forth between the front and Selena while waiting eagerly.
But, Selena continued looking at the sky calmly
Naga got impatient and called out.
“No, not yet.”
“Still not yet?”
“More importantly, the 2nd group of the enemy looks like they’ll soon finish crossing. With that, there’s going to be 200 units on this side of the bank.”
“Che” – Naga smacked his lips without realizing.
“That’s bad. Even though we are supposed to target the 2nd group at the time of their crossing. At this rate, all the 200 units will cross the river.”
“A 3rd group! is coming after them to the riverbank!”
“Damn, what are they doing. Yuuki should have already passed the message to Ais.”
If the 3rd group of soldiers passes through the river, the enemy number will be larger than the dolls, making Naga’s attempt of inflicting a heavy damage become more difficult.
Far from that, there’s a high chance for the crowd of puppets to be overwhelmed.
If that happened, they would have to turn tail and run back to the great cliff.
Still, would they manage to escape safely while repelling the enemy’s pursuit? There was no way to be sure about that.
(What’s the matter, Yuuki?! Ais, did something happen?!)
Grinding his teeth, Naga turned his neck to look upstream.