As she took out a single soaked charm from her waist, she retrieved her pen, which acted as a hair ornament, and wrote something.
After that, she incanted a short chant, and the charm in her hand burned faintly.
“The fire is a bit we-ak.”
(Hm, I see. So it’s not because of the chant being soaked, but rather, how clearly she can write on it? Interesting indeed.)
As he silently pondered, the wooden fragments, gathered by the river bank, burst into flames.
“Oh, it lit up?”
“Then, shall we dry our clothes?”
Once Naga took off his hakama and voluminous sleeves, he spread them out next to the campfire set on the rocky riverside.
“Wha, what are you doing all of a sudden?”
Lela shouted out as she turned her face away.
“Asking what I am doing, if you don’t dry them fast, you won’t be able to. The sun will soon be setting, so you might catch a cold if you continue to wear those wet clothes. Shouldn’t you strip and dry your clothes too?”
(Does he intend to strip m-e?)
“I…I’ll be fi-ne. Even without doing anything, they will dry fast. So if I just expose myself to the fire, they should dry before you know it.”
“Is that so? fine, but…”
Naga quickly withdrew.
(Was, I wrong?)
“Araarara, oh dear, oh dear, the two of you are having fun as always aren’t you?”
Ais’ voice called out from the water and the two froze and gulped.
They turned around to see Ais’ smiling face sticking out of the water.
“Nonononono, wait wait wait. In the first place, the reason we’re wet is because you pushed us into the water, right?”
Once he stood up, Naga walked to the river side. He put his hands on his hips and glared at Ais below him.
She stuck out her hands defensively and furtively glanced away.
“Err… that’s right, I’m sorry for that. That’s why, could you please stop striking that daunting pose?”
After Naga looked down at his body, he realized he was only wearing a loincloth.
It was impossible for Ais not to be troubled.
“Ahh, I’m sorry for this.”
Saying so, Naga tried to step back.
“Ah, stay there, stay there.”
Said a voice.
As he looked in its direction, Kay, who was floating next to Ais, waved her hand towards him.
“Naga-san, it seems that your clothes are wet, so won’t you come for a swim? Even if you keep waiting there absentmindedly for the clothes to dry, it won’t help.”
“Wait Kay, what are you saying?”
Ais looked at her in reprimand, but, Kay replied with composure:
“Isn’t it fine? It seems that the work is almost done, so even if we take a small break, so what? Speaking of which, I do want to take a small break. What about the rest of you?”
“Yes, me too! Me too!”
As soon as Mimone lifted her hand, everyone around her raised their voices one after another.
“Because we’ve been doing our best since morning, let us at least have a break, Ais.”
“That’s right…. But, assuming it’s fine to take a rest, I wonder about you inviting Naga. Won’t it be bothersome for him?”
“Naga-san, are you bothered?”
“No, I’m not bothered in particular. Rather than that, I’d also like to take a break.”
“If so, isn’t it fine, Ais?”
As Ais was pondering, Kay delivered the final blow.
“Isn’t it only Ais and Lela that are having fun while playing around with Naga-san? I want to play with Naga-san too.”
“S, Since when was I having fun with him?”
“Eh? Just a moment ago, didn’t you push Naga-san and Lela into the water for fun?”
“That’s right! That’s right!”
“It’s only Ais having fun, that’s unfair.”
“Speaking of which, Lela too.”
“Monopolizing is prohibited.”
Receiving attacks from all sides, Ais finally yielded.
“It can’t be helped, I guess. But you can only play for a while, though, since we have to finish the dam today.”
“Got it, got it.”
“Ok~~, Naga-san, please come in.”
“Let’s swim, lets swim.”
The witches, who were floating inside of the lake made by the dam, waved their hands, while calling out to him.
“Are you fine with that, Ais?”
As Naga was confirming with Ais, she answered with a sigh:
“Yes, that’s okay. But, please restrain yourself, right? To be more precise, something like stripping everyone’s clothes is no good, got it?”
“As if I would! Just what kind of person do you think I am?”
While floating upright inside the water, she tilted her head and answered:
“Aren’t you being too honest?!”
Naga snapped. He pointed and yelled at Ais; then Kay waved her right hand, beckoning him.
“Hey, Naga-san, hurry, hurry.”
“Ooh, I’m coming”
Waving his hand, Naga looked at Lela next to him.
“Won’t you swim?”
“I’ll restrain my-self. I don’t have much confidence in my swimming ability, that’s wh-y.”
“Is that so? Well then, please look after my clothes.”
As soon he said so, Naga lightly jumped from the rocky outcropping and cast his body above the lake’s surface.
Lela saw Naga and Ais swimming toward Kay and exhaled a small breath.
Were she to express her real intentions, she did want to swim with them.
Her swimming wasn’t as poor as she had said.
Nevertheless, she was worried about the fact that her usual thin clothing would get soaked and seen by others and embarrass her.
Rather, if someone like Lela were to wear only a loincloth and a chest covering similarly to Ais, one would think she’s obstinate in saying that this outfit is what one should wear when entering the water.
(….Am I embarrassed…?)
That was a sensation, which she had never felt until now.
Was it perhaps due to her being surrounded by witches, who were close to her age at the fort, as well as children and witches in charge of the nursing mothers in the village, that she had never seen a man from a close distance before?
(Somehow it’s a refreshing feeling, isn’t i-t?)
It was just like her to analyze her feelings so calmly.
But, despite her feeling a little bit embarrassed and not hating it, it was, again, a mysterious sensation.
(Is he mysterious or interesting? He’s someone I cannot mea-sure.)
Lela felt even more curious about Naga.
She was strongly fascinated by the world he came from.
(Since Naga was able to arrive in this world, wouldn’t it be possible to go to his world?) – She suddenly thought.
However, she decided not to focus on her thoughts too much for now.
(This isn’t something to think about right no-w.)
The battle with the army of Kasandora was a quickly approaching.
Lela thought about the battle, which was approaching in a few more days.
If they don’t obtain victory, there will be nothing left for them.
Not for herself.
Not for the witches.
And not even for Naga.
There won’t be a future.
The fact that Lela’s body trembled might not be solely due to her feeling cold from getting wet.
She was afraid of the battle of life and death that she was about to experience for the first time, and at the same time, she felt her heart beating as if burning up.
Later that Day, Nighttime.
The witches gathered inside the largest room in the residential building of the fort. Because Yuki went out to for scouting and had just returned, bringing the important report, Harrigan rushed to call all the members for a meeting.
All the members sat in a circle on folding stools inside the room.
Not only the witches, but also Naga, who came back from the Schweiz river, were there.
Actually, since this was a tactical meeting, it couldn’t start without Naga.
“Yuki, I’m sorry for making you repeat it, but I’ll entrust you with explaining one more time.”
After Harrigan’s urging, Yuki rose from her stool.
The other witches saw Yuki’s pale face and thought: ‘this is it.’
From the start, Yuki had flown to Fort Ein every day in order to check on the Kasandora army’s preparations.
Today as well, since the sun had set, Yuki launched her air board and went out for reconnaissance.
“A part of their forces seemed to be ready to depart even now. They might possibly leave their fort by tomorrow morning… I think.”
“What exactly did you mean by saying they seemed to be ready to depart even now?”
As expected, because Naga asked the question, Yuki’s face became sullen.
“What? Are you saying I’m unreliable?”
“I do believe you, but there might be misunderstandings as well. It would probably be more effective to discuss that together.”
“I too want to ask that. What made you think so? Report from the beginning, Yuki.”
Once she was told by Harrigan, she couldn’t oppose.
Yuki explained the reason behind her thinking that they ‘….seemed to be ready to depart even now.’
“A part of the enemy folded up their tents, whereas, another one moved in a group. Several of their troops were heading this way while walking along the paths. I think they might be in charge of scouting. No other troops followed them, and since 3 days ago, no other troops have arrived at their fort. Their usual practice at noon was also not done today.”
At that point, Yuki, who finished speaking, put her hand on her hip and glared while being puffed up with pride and said ‘How about that, do you have a problem?’.
“No, we don’t. That’s a crucial part. Don’t you have a splendid eye for observation, Yuki?”
“I-It’s obviou—that’s not what I mean. Speaking of which, this much should be common knowledge. Don’t praise people while acting all high and mighty with that ‘I’m smarter than you’ expression.”
“That’s right. I wonder If I haven’t looked down at you a bit. I apologize.”
Because Naga slightly bowed down, Yuki felt troubled at her own outburst and raised fist.
“W, well. If you understand, that’s fine.”
saying that, she sat down.
Naga seemed to smile unintentionally; nevertheless, because he was facing downward, Yuki probably didn’t notice it. She wouldn’t say any more than that.
Naga removed his slightly visible smile and raised his face up while making a stern expression.
“It looks like the first wave of their troops is going to leave the fort tomorrow.”
As he said that and looked at Harrigan, she nodded in a grave fashion.
“Umu, there’s no doubt about that.”
“So, judging from what Yuki confirmed, about the soldiers being in the middle of gathering, they will most likely reach us in about 11 days? Indeed, that’s insufficient time for making preparations. If we only have this much time, we should probably just consider bringing provisions for the current battle.”
Naga and Co. didn’t know it, but, tomorrow would mark the 10th day since the general, who was in charge of leading the army, informed the king of his plan during the banquet.
In other words, they would be departing, just as they planned.
This couldn’t mean anything except that they were finished with gathering the provisions, weapons, water, and fodder.
“Just as I assumed. Let’s proceed with a blitzkrieg.”
Naga, who lifted himself up from his folding stool, put the map made by Yuki in the middle of the circle. The other witches stood and gathered around Naga.
Only Yuki was looking at her own map as if backing out of the newly formed, small circle.
“What’s the matter, Yuki? Don’t just stay there, come here.”
“Ah, *hesitating*, I’ll be fine standing here, Ane-sama.”
“Because standing there is bothersome, I’m telling you to come here and sit.”
“Ah, Kay, make some space.”
As soon as Kay shifted her body to make sitting space, Ais beckoned Yuki with a smiling face.
“Yes, Yuki, come sit down here.”
“I feel troubled. Even though I want this meeting to proceed fast. Even though I want this to proceed fast!”
Ais, intentionally frowned her eyebrows and cracked her knuckles.
Yuki jumped to the open space with a bounce and sat down with a plop.
“G, go ahead.”
“Kukuku” – Harrigan laughed.
“Please go on, Naga.”
As Naga nodded, he pointed to the wide map on the floor.
“It has been decided where we will repel the enemy’s attack. The problem is when we should expect them to come.”
Saying so, Naga looked at Harrigan’s face.
“Can you give an estimate?”
“I believe so. If they set out, in the morning, from the fort, the first wave should reach the Schweiz river in….”
Considering the advancing speed of the Kasandora Kingdom’s forces and their distance from the Schweiz river, Harrigan roughly calculated the enemy’s time of arrival.
“Despite the mountains being short, they still have to cross them using paths, don’t they? I wonder if they will possibly reach the river around evening. In the first place, I don’t know much about the soldiers’ full armaments nor the speed they are moving at, so I can only guess.”
Assuming they depart at 6 o’clock in the morning and arrive at 3 in the afternoon, it would be 7 hours of walking for them, including 2 hours of break on the way (plus the lunch).
Provided they advance with an average speed of around 1 Liga (around 4.8km) per hour, the distance would be roughly 7 Liga (around 33.6km) til the Schweiz river.
Still, they had to cross the mountains’ paths and walk with heavy equipment on their body. Perhaps their advancing speed would be a little bit slower.
Naga, who came from another world, had no knowledge regarding the enemy’s armaments, walking ability or the level of the Kasandora Kingdom army’s experience. Because of that, all he could do was to believe Harrigan’s words.
Naga once again faced toward Yuki.
“What’s the ratio of their cavalry?”
“Ah, er, I don’t think there were that many. Even if we were to estimate from the whole army, it would be like 1/10 of forces, at most, 1/5 of that…. I think?”
“So it would be around 200-400 out of 2000? So it was like that? Speaking of which, I don’t know much regarding this world, so I can’t say for sure, but…”
Saying so he turned back to Harrigan.
“There should be no big errors if it’s that ratio.”
Harrigan regarded Yuki’s guess positively.
“You think so? If their number is close to as many as 400, it will be troublesome…… still, it doesn’t look like they will be able to hinder the execution of our strategy. Speaking of which, when you talk about cavalry, do you mean they are solely made up of cavalry? Like those horse-riding troops in which the horse-riders would act together as a group? Or something else….”
“As for that, I haven’t heard much, but there is a rumor that whenever there’s a battle between equestrian tribes located in the northern plateau area, both sides would fight with nothing but cavalry. Still, the bordering countries here primarily mobilize foot soldiers and cavalry together.”
“Is that so? Then, there doesn’t seem to be any problem and we can proceed as planned. However, our ability to create and execute second plan will depend on whether or not there’s a problem. By all means, the real fight will begin once they depart, which means we’ll be relying on Yuki.”
After saying so, Naga looked at Yuki. Nevertheless, she turned away.
Then Lela opened her mouth
“Since Yuki is playing a leading ro-le, you should formally request this from he-r.”
Lela said with a nonchalant expression.
“That’s right” – as Naga nodded, he kneeled down with his legs on the floor, and with a formal mood he faced Yuki while he prostrated himself.
“I kindly request from you, Yuki-sama.”
Yuki bent backward with surprise.
“I-It feels gross, so stop!”
“Hahha” – Naga raised his head while laughing and immediately assumed a stern face.
“There’s no doubt that this tactic’s outcome will greatly depend on you. That’s why, I entrust this to you, Yuki.”
“G…..Got it. Because our future is at stake, I’ll do my best, even if I have to die.”
“That’s the spirit. But if you die, it will be no good.”
Without looking in Naga’s direction, Yuki stared at the ceiling while answering with a murmur.
“That was just a comparison. Of course I don’t want to die, so even without your needless worry, it’s fine. But, since I’m the center of this tactic, it should be natural for you to worry.”
“Which one is it?”
“T-that’s why! There’s no need for you to worry, but, I’m telling you to properly worry about me….”
“You’re making quite a difficult request there.”
“W-where do you see it difficult?”
Kay and Mimone chuckled.
On the other hand, Harrigan and Ais were watching both of them with a warm gaze.
Noticing the looks coming from her surroundings, Yuki panicked.
“Wai….What are you looking at? Hey, if we don’t proceed with the meeting, it will be bad. There are still other topics to discuss, right?”
“Yeah, it’s just as Yuki says. Tomorrow, it will be an early morning, so we have to finish this meeting, take a meal, and go sleep. Well then, Naga, won’t you confirm, for the last time, both sides’ instructions? Every member’s deployment too, let’s check it one more time.”
“Right-o” – As Naga answered, he bent himself forward.
“If the enemy’s first wave departs in the morning and reaches the river around the evening, the other waves, perhaps the entire army, might camp out near the river the next night. If so, the first battle will await us in the early morning on that day. The first location for battle will be here.”
Naga showed their side of the river, using his finger to tap.
“They will, without a doubt, make sure of their surroundings. As long as they don’t check that, their main forces will perhaps not advance through the river. The reason is because they seem to be unusually afraid of the witches’ magic.”
Saying so, once Naga put up a sarcastic smile, Harrigan, too, smiled as if scoffing at the enemy.
“Fufun, that’s right.”
“Once they see something incomprehensible, they will probably become much more cautious in their actions. To be more accurate, they will first send out a scouting troop to make sure of things.”
Lela raised her hand.
“Should we prepare a counterplan, in case we have to deal with the whole army deciding to cross the river?”
“That’s true. In that situation, we will launch the second plan. It will be hard to find the right opportunity to do it, but, we can only leave that matter to chance. Because they shouldn’t be able cross the river with their whole army at the same time while in marching order, there should be some time for us to react. We’ll manage it somehow. Even if they only sustain a small amount of damage, it should be enough to make them prepare to flee. With that, once the first wave scatters, we are going to strike the enemy with our first plan.”
“Is this part clear?” – Naga asked as he looked around the witches.
Because there were no questions or objections, Naga proceed with the talk.
“Everyone’s deployment will proceed as planned. The first group will hide in the battlefield – that’s me, Harrigan, Lela, Kay, Cu, Selena. The six of us. The second group will be at the upper part for the river, under Ais’ command – Nonoel, Eleonortha, Mimone, Jiniasu, the five of you. Yuki will be watching the battlefield from above… no, doing that all the time will consume your energy, so it’s safer to hide somewhere. The remaining witches will stay behind the battlefield. I’ll command the first group. In case I can’t, Harrigan will. If neither of us can, Lela will be in charge.”
Lela nodded without uttering a word.
Despite saying ‘if neither of us’, it would mean both of them getting killed or sustaining heavy injuries, and therefore, an utter defeat for witches.
There didn’t seem to be any meaning in deciding who would take up the command next, but even if it was true, witches decided to follow Naga’s emphasis on considering the possible outcomes, as well as preparing to take the right measures at the time of facing the battle.
“The commander of the second group will be Ais. In case Ais isn’t be able, Mimone. In case she isn’t, Nonoel.”
Each of them, replied with showing their understanding.
“The commander of the rear guard will be Ikushina. If she can’t, it will be Linna and Linne. And after them, Neneru.”
This time, the four of them replied with understanding.
It seems that as long Linne and Linna aren’t working together, their individual capabilities will be reduced to half, according to Harrigan.
“Still, it’s not like we won’t be able to use one of them if the other is not available…..”
Such a matter it became.
With that, Naga appointed both the twin sisters as the commanders.
“No matter how scrupulously we consider the tactic, or however detailed our analysis is, battle isn’t something that will go in accordance with the calculations done on paper. You will have to adapt to the requirements of the actual battle. Everyone, I’ll entrust you with that.”
Energetic answers came from everybody.
“After that, it will depend on Yuki’s actions whether the cooperation of the first group and second will go smoothly. I’ll entrust you with this, Yuki.”
“Ah. Yeah, that’s right, I’ll do it. I’ll try my best while not dying.”
Saying that, she firmly clenched her right fist.
“Yuki is becoming honest?”
“As long a storm doesn’t suddenly arrive, it should be fine, right?”1
Kay, Mimone, and Eleonortha put their heads together as they whispered to each other.
“Rather, it will be much more beneficial for us if a storm comes. That’s why, Yuki, it’s fine for you to be honest for a single evening, ok?”
“Wha!? what are you talking about, Ais?!”
Yuki snapped and pointed at Ais while shouting.
“Am I not a good daughter who’s always honest?!”
“Good grief… she came back to her usual self.”
With that Kay looked up at the sky.
“Like that, you won’t be able to expect a storm?”
As the laughing voices from the surroundings suddenly rose up, Yuki glared at her companions, red faced.
Besides Ais, the other witches looked away hurriedly.
“Kukuku” – Harrigan laughed as she jumped in.
“Because it feels a little strange to see an honest Yuki, it’s fine for you to act as you usually do.”
Despite Yuki making a piteous expression, Harrigan ignored her and, as if concluding this topic, urged Naga-
“I’ll let you continue.”
“Yeah, well, let’s continue. If it goes according to our calculations, there should be around 100-200 of them alone on this side of the river. Despite our assumptions, there may be more or less to deal with. It will be troublesome if there are more, but whichever scenario it is, our way of dealing with them will basically not change.”
Naga placed three long, narrow wooden sticks on the map at a parallel.
“First, we will assault and annihilate the scouting troops. Once they notice they’re under attack, the other troops will cross the river to reinforce them. We will aim for that moment and lure them into the trap. Then, we will assault the troop that became isolated on this side, throwing all our forces at them. After dealing heavy damage, my group will deliver the finishing blow. In case there’s not enough of us, the third group will join in and charge.”
While thrusting with his instructing baton here and there on the map, he said so.
“Done. The crucial part is that you have to strike all of them, even if it’s difficult, thoroughly, without leaving any, so as to show them how fearsome your magic is. Even without using your magic, as long they have the delusion of you being incredibly scary, they will start to have unnecessary thoughts, and it will result in them making errors. If we’re lucky, our plan might just be able to stop them.”
Were the witches contemplating his words? No one replied.
(Until now, they have been encountering only dozens of humans at a time. Could it be that it’s unreasonable to force the mentality of a commander, who tells them to fight against hundreds or thousands of soldiers, on them?)
Thinking so, Naga omitted any more details than that in his explanation.
“I think you have already imprinted the plan in your mind after practicing it many times, but if any one of you have any questions, ask. Because tomorrow, before the evening, we have to begin our plan. Speaking of which, I need to have group 2 move, when it’s night, to their proper place…”
Saying so, he looked around at all the members’ faces. There was no one who had any particular questions.
“Everyone has a copy of the map?”
“Good, let’s begin our plan.”
As soon Naga stood up, the witches, too, stood up one after another.
“Ahh, Naga, wait.”
Harrigan halted him.
“What’s the matter?”
“Ais, please bring that.”
“T,that? Right away.”
Ais, who stood up, went out of the room quickly. Seeing her off with a suspicious expression, Naga turned toward Harrigan after Ais vanished.
“What is she bringing?”
“It’s a fine item.”
She answered while laughing.
(So she isn’t going to tell me until I see it myself?)
“Wait a bit, she will come back soon.”
Soon after Harrigan had said, Ais returned while holding something in her hands.
“Here, Big sis.”
Saying so, she handed the thing over to Harrigan.
“Umu, good job.”
Once Harrigan received and placed the very thin item, which was wrapped in a woven fabric, on the floor, she immediately presented it to Naga.
Having a suspicious expression, he faced towards her.
“This is a present from me to you. Look inside it.”
Naga reached out his hands and unwrapped the gift.
“Hey, this is-!”
“Since you arrived here, you have been wearing the same clothing all the time. So I wondered whether or not you’d like some new clothes. Because I’ve never sewn men’s clothing, I used yours as reference, and after that, thought of the right pattern.”
The moment Naga picked up the folded clothes with his hands, he spread it on the floor.
What the witches prepared for him was a quite flashy colored tube hakama with voluminous sleeves.
“You guys, did you make it during the preparations for the battle?”
“That’s right. Since we divided the labor between everyone, it wasn’t that troublesome. It would be nice if you can accept it without restraints.”
“I’ll accept it with pleasure.”
Naga gently brushed the new attire with his hand in a loving manner.
“Well then, shall I go out to the battle tomorrow while wearing this?”
“I think this a suitable clothing for a commander.”
As she said it, Naga smiled gladly.
“Good, then, shall we have a toast to close?”
Harrigan had Ais bring the barrel of the alcohol, which was left in the corner of the room.
Ais, who was lightly carrying it, put it on the floor with a thud, making the floor shake. From this, one could understand it was heavy. She cracked the lid of the barrel open using her bare fist.
“Well then, let’s have a toast and pray for victory.”
Soon after Harrigan stepped forward holding the wooden wine cup, Naga and other witches, too, gathered around the barrel while doing the same.
As everyone was waiting to scoop out some of the grape wine into their cups, Harrigan faced toward Naga.
“Naga, please lead the toast.”
“Are you okay with me doing that?”
“I don’t mind. Speaking of which, you’re the commander for this battle. That’s why, it won’t begin without you doing it.”
“Is that so? Well….”
Lifting high the wine cup in his hand, he raised his voice.
“This battle isn’t as great as other battles may have been, but, it’s the one that holds the greatest importance for our future.”
Despite Naga referring to them as ‘we’ instead of ‘you’, one still could not understand how profound the meaning in his words were.
However, many witches noticed the meaning of his words.
They received his words as the declaration that he would share their fate.
It could be said, that in this moment, they truly became comrades and friends.
“Let’s win. If we win, shall we hold a celebration banquet one more time?”
“The dark witches of the black forest, I pray for the victory of Harrigan Halliway Haindora and her members, toast!”
That night, group 2, under the command of Ais, left the fort and moved toward their respective position – the dam at the Schweiz river.
Even though both of the sides had yet to clash, one could say their battle had already begun from a certain point of view.
In the end, will Naga’s plan lead to good fortune, or ill?
Will the witches open the door leading towards their new future?
The result will probably be decided tomorrow.
Notes and references:
- Most likely saying this is so unlikely to happen that it might snow in the middle of July or something like that