“Well then,” saying that, Noel turned around, and wiping the bloodstains off her face with her sleeve, she approached Cynthia.
金金金With a sense of impending doom, Cynthia drew herself back. There was no way to predict what the young girl would do next, and it was the unknown which terrified her. She couldn’t help but think that the innocent smile which had earlier floated across Noel’s face had been completely alien. Of death she was not afraid, or that was what she had always thought. She herself had beheaded some rebels before; however, she had never gazed into the abyss as deeply as she now was. Eyeing the state that Ned and the others had fallen into, despite her best efforts, an insatiable dread gnawed at her stomach.
“You have three choices to consider.”
金金金Gazing timidly at the bodies, Mirut’s voice eked out. It was his first time seeing the dead; naturally he had never killed a man before. He had witnessed his first exchange of human lives, and his mind had not yet caught up with the rapidly developing situation. While he was grateful for being saved, it took all of his might to understand what was happening.
“It’s a discussion of what we’ll do now you know. This affects you too Mirut, so stop spacing out, and help me think.”
“If you say so. At this rate, isn’t it fine if we just join up with the main force? We know the people who will be assaulting Rockbell after all,” Mirut tilted his head as he thought aloud.
“That is our first choice after all, eh? Only, if we choose that, I’m pretty sure that there will be some problematic things to deal with.”
“Why is that?”
“Well then, here’s a question for you. Who was it that killed Captain Ned?”
“… you did, so?”
“Why were we about to die?”
“Because we heard how Captain Ned was actually from Bahar… To prevent the spread of rumors we were to be silenced.”
“And if we mention that after we return, what do you think will happen? Do you think that Ristih, the leader of the rebellion’s army, will just forgive us?”
金金金Noel jokingly continued her scenario. Whether she was acting, or being down to earth was difficult to tell. Even though she had recently killed three people, she continued on in her own little world, completely relaxed.
“If what Ned told us was true we’d probably, no, we’d definitely be killed. It’s a seriously no-good topic after all.”
“That is true, so I guess rejoining the others is out then.”
金金金Noel, with a deep breath, plopped down beside Cynthia as she had done before. Although Cynthia’s face had stiffened, and she’d attempted to roll away, Noel grabbed her cloak, and refused to release it.
“So, for the second choice I thought up all kinds of things, then I ignored them and figured we might just go back to the village and sleep. This option is the simplest, right?”
“True. It does seem simple.”
金金金It wasn’t bad. Originally, they hadn’t volunteered to join the rebellion. Despite their dissatisfactions, they had never intended to take up arms and fight. There wouldn’t be anything strange about returning home as if nothing happened. When the rebels had extorted the village, Noel and the others had yet to join them.
“Unfortunately, if we encounter the trailing rebels, we might see some terrible things. Also, if we return to the village against the flow of the rebel army we’ll seriously stand out. The problem is that we know Geb, and if we get brought before him, he’ll already know about Ned.”
“I’m just saying this, but he did seem pretty dangerous. I don’t know of any roads back that will allow us to pass by undetected, so it seems like returning to the village is also out.”
金金金There was no way to navigate the mountains surrounding the village. Without access to the main roads, they would be limited to unmarked trails, and with neither money nor supplies, such a plan could only be described as suicide. Returning by highway would also lead to confrontation with the rebels.
“Hmm… this is tough.”
“Don’t act pretentious and just tell us your third option. It’s your most thought out plan right?”
“Yup, that is, we’ll join Cynthia in protecting the viceroy’s wife and child. The rebels are probably not too combat effective so we could probably win by helping the knights in their duty, and we might even gain some plentiful rewards to boot.”
金金金Cynthia balked at Noel’s words, but they did make sense. The shock of an enemy who had captured her suddenly discussing becoming an ally had caused her voice to leak out.
“Look, even though it is easy to say that, we are in the rebel army. I’m ineffective enough to be beheaded myself, so this idea sounds ridiculous to me.”
“We were only participating due to coercion though. To top it off, the leader is some guy from the neighbouring province. I think I know how to properly tell them; besides, at this rate, the rebels themselves won’t be able to find happiness.”
金金金She wasn’t speaking in her usual flippant tone. She had adopted a manner completely foreign to her usual simpleminded ways. It seemed as though her very mindset had changed.
“If you don’t want to, Mirut, you can do whatever. I’m going though.”
“F-fine, I get it. We go with option three. Just remember, I’m not responsible if this woman doesn’t say what we want her to,” in the heat of the moment, Mirut agreed to the plan.
“What we do if that happens is simple. We break her neck and run,” spouting words like a general, she spun Cynthia to face her, “That said, you will be rewarded for our safety, so I expect cooperation. Your answer?”
“To betray at the first sign of profit, do you rebels know no shame!?”
金金金Cynthia spat in disgust. Having regained her composure, her knightly sensibilities returned.
金金金Noel may have been an excellent combatant, but she was also extremely lowborn, and Cynthia didn’t like that. While she had been defeated earlier, she was filled with the sense that she wouldn’t lose a second time.
“There’s no other way if I want to achieve happiness. It is the reason that everyone fights after all. I’ll ask once more; will you promise to help us? We don’t have much time, so this is your last chance.”
金金金Noel retrieved the iron hammers from the soldiers she’d killed earlier. She calmly raised one in preparation to bludgeon Cynthia’s head, and expressionlessly let her statement hang. It was immediately apparent what she intended to do if refused; the hammer would crush Cynthia’s skull, and add another corpse to the pile. Faced with such an efficient death, the fighting spirit that had previously welled up dispersed. Thinking further, it wasn’t even an unbalanced trade, or so Cynthia decided to believe.
“I, I understand. You have my word. I swear on my honour that you will live.”
“It’s a promise.”
“Y-yeah,” Cynthia answered while looking aside.
金金金The threats may have been too over the top, but they hadn’t the luxury of waiting for support. That was what she thought, but Noel had spoken in a tone that suggested she’d anticipated everything. She wiped the blood and grime off her face with both hands so that the sight of her wouldn’t cause others to divert their eyes.
“You aren’t allowed to go back on your word, so take good care of us okay?” Noel flashed her teeth in a smile that lit up her face.
Fort Sebtem, near the exit of the secret passage in the tunnel which ran from inside the fort to a natural cave deep within the forest.
金金金When the viceroy’s wife and child were escorted from the cave as they attempted their escape, the Coimbra soldiers who were guarding them were ambushed. The 50 rebels Ned had planted were surrounding the exit with spears at the ready. At the sight of movement, a volley of arrows was unleashed which had already killed several people. Even though Sarah, the viceroy’s wife, was the one being guarded, she had suffered an arrow wound to the right arm. The rebels had around double their numbers, but as they were amateurs in a loose formation, effective command was nearly impossible which left them open. It wouldn’t be impossible to break out, but such an offensive tactic wouldn’t be able to effectively protect their charge, and so the situation had become a stalemate.
“Throw down your swords and surrender! That way, Grohl’s wife and child will be guaranteed safety!”
“Silence shithead! We will give our lives to protect Lady Sarah and Master Elgar! Rouse yourselves, all of you!”
金金金At those words, both forces readied their spears. The rebels used their bows sparingly, as they had been ordered to capture the wife and child alive. Furthermore, if they waited, Ned and the others would ride out from the fort. There was no need to rush.
金金金From further inside the cave came several people, including Noel and Mirut who both had red cloths wound around their right arms. They were followed by the still restrained Cynthia.
“Knight Cynthia, what has caused such an appearance!?”
金金金Responding to the knights’ calls, Cynthia hung her head. Seeing that, the rebel leftenant smiled. It seemed that Ned’s group had finally arrived. Among the rebels present were two from Bahar, and including Ned, there had been three in the fort. They were the most reliable combat force the rebels had as all their other soldiers were recruits. Having surrounded the enemy, and even having a hostage made their opponent’s surrender more likely. Looking at the woman who was captured, the leftenant was sure she was an officer.
“Hold! Is that woman their commander?”
“Yes sir, she is a Coimbra Guard officer in charge of one hundred men, Cynthia Edrich! With captain Ned’s assistance, she has been captured!”
金金金Noel, with her right arm extended before her, executed a perfect Horsheido salute, and her usual jovial tone vanished. The leftenant was slightly shocked, but quickly regained himself. Ned may have taught her how to do that. He was surprisingly friendly, and was the sort of man to look after his subordinates. It was mysterious that even though he was temporarily a rebel, he still taught a salute, but that sort of thing didn’t need a profound reason anyway.
“He, you kids sure have grown in the time I didn’t see you. Did Captain Ned teach you that?”
“Yes sir, he coached us in lots of things! I believe Captain Ned will be arriving shortly!”
“I see, I see! Sit tight until then. If you don’t want that knight woman dead, throw down your arms!!”
金金金The Coimbra Guard were hesitant, but threw down their swords and sat on the spot. With the successful pincer maneuver, their chances of success evaporated. Pathetic resistance would have done nothing to help the woman and child escape.
“All right boys, collect the weapons, and tie them up! Make sure they can’t move! Kill the ones who resist!”
金金金Following the leftenant’s orders, the younger rebels came down with ropes. Their hands were unsteady, and it was unclear whether or not they had properly restrained the knights.
“Hah… you can’t do it, can you? Have you ever tied something before? Here, I’ll show you how it’s done.”
金金金The leftenant removed Sarah, who had been shielding her son, and raised Elgar by his hair.
“What are you doing!?”
“Unhand me, vile peasant!”
“Awww, the wittle prince is reprimanding me. Listen up, anything goes so long as the brat doesn’t die. He’s just one kid, so he can’t do much… Ah, he’s seriously annoying!”
“Please release Elgar!”
“You’re getting pretty annoying yourself!”
金金金Receiving a kick, Sarah released a pained sound.
金金金Elgar reached out to help her up, but his hand could not reach her. The leftenant’s mouth twitched, and he tugged on Elgar’s hair.
“She won’t die, so don’t worry. Well, for the moment.”
金金金Laughing, after poking the child’s face, he tied him up. Elgar looked repentant, and tears began to well up, but there was nothing that could be done.
“Still, Captain Ned is taking his time. Oh yeah, are the rest of the men still in the fort?”
“I have a report about that!”
“What is it? These things can just be said you know. I’ll be the one making the captain angry later if you don’t.”
“Understood. You have my apologies!”
金金金After giving her response, Noel approached the leftenant. Elgar glared at her, but she ignored him, and she again saluted the leftenant.
金金金Suddenly, her concealed hammer came crashing down. The leftenant experienced death, and crumpled on the spot. His helmet had dented, and his limbs convulsed as he lay there. She made sure of his death by crushing his throat beneath her right foot. Falling there, he had not fiercely resisted. It was so fast he hadn’t had the chance. It was a method Noel had learned a long time ago.
金金金Noel called out, but Mirut was petrified and unable to move. He was supposed to stab the other Baharan while he was still surprised by what Noel had done, but Mirut found himself unable to move in the moment.
金金金Noel tutted at him as she made her way over to kill the man herself; however, his sword was already drawn and in the process of swinging down.
“The one who hesitates in battle will die! If you don’t want to end up like this that is.”
金金金Cynthia swung her blade to shake off the blood. The fallen soldier from Bahar had taken a slash which split his right shoulder. Cynthia hadn’t been restrained, and had simply had the red cloth wound around her arms. She had a sword, and was placed near the periphery of the rebels.
“I am Cynthia, Captain of 100 Coimbra Guard! I’ve heard of your circumstances from Noel. If you surrender now, your deeds as rebels will be forgotten! If you comply with my offer, you may simply leave the rebel army in peace!”
“S-shutup! We don’t need your words!”
金金金After some silence, the braver young ones hurled jeers. They were the ones who had actively chosen to rebel.
“Whatever training you have, don’t think you can compete with regular soldiers! If you don’t want to die, throw down your arms!”
金金金Cynthia roared as she, without using a weapon, knocked the sword out of a young man’s hand. It was only then that the tightly grasped weapons of the rebel forces began to be relinquished. Cynthia’s subordinates quickly rose up, took their weapons, and once more became a fighting force.
“I’ll explain the circumstances from here on out, including the reason behind the rebellion’s origin. After that, decide for yourselves. Just be aware that joining the rebellion is a serious crime. Don’t think that claiming to have been forced into it will be accepted after this.”
金金金Having finished the initial statement, she continued on to explain her theory on how the rebellion began. The Coimbra soldiers were irate, and from time to time expressed their rage. After listening to Cynthia’s story, although the flying column was doubtful of her words, all of them still chose to leave the rebellion. Not only did those coerced into joining quit, but also those who had volunteered quit as they did not like the idea of being used by the nobility. Most of the people decided to return home, but the people of Zoim, and several of the other curious ones, decided to follow Cynthia. That was because they wished to receive a reward from the viceroy of Coimbra, or to join in on the front lines as volunteer soldiers. Naturally, none of them had particularly admirable goals. Noel was thinking about how important appearance was while looking at the other people and yawning, and a vein on Cynthia’s temple bulged.
“Lady Sarah, your wound…”
“I am fine, thank you. An arrow wound is a trivial matter.”
“For this degree of incompetence, how can I apologise?”
“It was thanks to your efforts that I was saved, please take pride in that. Furthermore, the one who had planned this was my father, who will take responsibility. In fact, I am the one who should be ashamed,” Sarah clearly stated.
金金金The one responsible for not only his daughter, but also his grandson had been Count Barel. Usually such a thing would call for prosecution; however, mercy had its place. If Grohl’s family had not been there, it would have been dubious as to whether or not he would have sent reinforcements. If he had been so reluctant, it may have lessened his retainers’ loyalty. They would not express dissatisfaction aloud, but it made suggesting improvements to the government difficult.
“We should quickly hide from the remaining rebels, rest until nightfall, and then head for the nearest guardpost.”
金金金If they could, they would head to a nearby village and acquire a horse drawn carriage, but that could only work if the village did not support the rebels.
“I’m entrusting everything to you. Elgar must survive. Arms, or legs, I’d sacrifice anything to keep him safe.”
“Mother, must you speak of such things?”
“Elgar, you will inherit Coimbra one day. Selfishly dying on your own is not allowed. You cannot forget this,” Sarah’s words were both a warning and an admonishment.
“Young prince, rest assured. I shall ensure the two of you safely return. Your guards will put all their efforts towards this goal.”
金金金Cynthia saluted at attention, and turned to give orders to her subordinates.
“Hey, hey, is that the viceroy’s kid? You called him “young prince” right? Even though he’s so small, he sure does look proud, eh?”
“Oi, I can hear you!”
“I want to be important too. That way I might find happiness you know. Hey, should I act important?”
“Can you just stop now? Even if I say that, you’ve been all self-important for a while now.”
“Is that so? Then should I become viceroy?”
金金金Cynthia looked at Noel with eyes that wanted to kill as she muttered absurdities. She wanted her removed in a single strike, but had to dismiss the idea. From her movements earlier, it was clear that Noel was no amateur. To walk up to the enemy’s commanding officer as though it was a simple visit whilst concealing a war hammer required nerves of steel. Even up to his moment of death, her opponent had probably never realised her intentions. It couldn’t be known what she would do if she went back on her word. Cynthia couldn’t imagine Noel’s potential response; she couldn’t shake the feeling that the hammer was coming for her next.
“You there, don’t chatter about nonsense! Make your preparations so we can quickly leave this place! Also, to you who’ve become volunteer soldiers of Coimbra, remove those red cloths! They are an eyesore!”
“Understood, sir!” Noel happily replied.
金金金So as not to stand out, they had not moved far from the fort. The sun had been veiled by night’s cloak, and so they had decided to rest. The soldiers aside, Sarah’s exhaustion had built up considerably. She was unaccustomed to navigating difficult terrain by foot, so it was no wonder that she was so exhausted.
“Knight Cynthia, would it be acceptable to light a fire?”
“Not really, but given the circumstances, it may become unavoidable. Maintain vigilance.”
“Well, are you going to start one then?” Noel asked cheerfully, as though she was asking an old friend.
金金金It seemed her memories of being enemies were already distant in her mind.
“You don’t speak to me like I’m an officer anymore? It might just be my opinion, but you had excellent form during your performance earlier.”
“It’s tiring in all sorts of ways you know. More importantly, if you won’t start a fire, you can let me do it. I brought an amazing treasure with me. I think it’s a super miracle item anyway.”
“A miracle product? What would you be doing with such a high class thing?”
“He he, I found it.”
金金金Having said that, she rushed off to where the soldiers were preparing a fire pit. She suddenly grasped her bident and thrust it into the ground.
“What are you doin’?”
“Just watch, okay? Because this is pretty great. Here I go!”
金金金Noel lightly tapped it with her finger, and a flame burst from its points. Beneath the interwoven branches, the blaze roared energetically.
“Just now, the fire spread from that spear. I named it ‘the curious spear’. It really is curious isn’t it?”
“No way, even of the miracle products, I’ve never heard of something like that! What kind of mechanism is involved!?”
金金金Drawing closer, just as the hand was about to trace the spear’s patterns…
金金金Emitting incredible heat, it couldn’t be properly grasped. The rest of the soldiers tried to grasp it as well, but on touching it, they all gasped in pain.
“It looks like if anyone besides me touches it, they get burned. Such a curious thing…”
“What’s curious!? I don’t get it! Are you sure it isn’t cursed?”
“That was rude. It’s one of my treasures.”
金金金Perhaps there was oil in the shaft, that was released at the tip. The usual explanation would be that the ignition method required thrusting the tip into something and the friction from tapping the haft, but if what Noel said was true, then she could produce the flames at will. It was absurd, yet convenient.
“So the bident could do something like that, eh? I had no idea either.”
金金金Even Mirut, who had known her the longest, hadn’t been expecting it.
“Amazing isn’t it? He he, it is one of my treasures so I won’t give it away you know.”
“It is incredible, but you don’t really need it to get so hot. If you can’t hold it there’s no point.”
“I also have a curious picture book, would you like to waste some time reading it?”
Mirut raised his hands and shook his head, “Save that for Cal. If we make it safely back to the village that is.”
“I truly can’t understand your reasoning. I have difficulty comprehending you and your treasures. I’ll say this once, do whatever. You’re the only one with such nonsensical ideas.”
金金金Noel was happily reading the worn book. Glancing at it from the side, its pages were wrinkled, and the writing was illegible. Cynthia’s mental fatigue increased yet again as she further considered how to achieve her objective; how she could salvage the uncontrollable situation. If she played a poor hand, she could wind up by herself; she couldn’t easily smile with such a scenario dangling over her head by a thread. After quenching her thirst with some water, she sighed as if to expel her hazy thoughts.
“That Cynthia’s in charge of one hundred men right? How much of an achievement is that?”
“It’s better than ten, and worse than a thousand.”
“No, that much I understand…”
金金金Having overheard them, she felt it would be an excellent opportunity to explain.
After clearing her throat, she haughtily began, “Ahem, in the military, rank is obviously present. Not only in Coimbra, but also the other provinces. The system is shared by all of Horsheido.”
金金金First are the fodder. They are the conscripts drafted during a time of war. There is also a leftenant, but he doesn’t necessarily lead the men.; he would be only in charge of about ten. To be in command of one hundred men or more, one must be of knightly status and the ranks are as follows: commander of one hundred; senior commander of one hundred, more prestigious than the standard, but in charge of as many men; commander of one thousand; senior commander of one thousand; and so on. Those were the usual numbers of soldiers that were assigned; however, things such as commanding five-hundred were not rare.
金金金The present situation made it difficult to ascend the ranks to general in any province. As there were no major wars being fought that was to be expected. A major general commanded ten thousand men, and the two in Coimbra were Wilm and Gaddis. The general was the viceroy, and above him was the emperor.
金金金Cynthia’s position over one hundred at the age of 20 was not because of her own abilities, but because of heredity. Her late father had been a major general. There was almost no other way for a woman to become a knight. Her older brother had died of illness while he was young and so there had been no one else to inherit their house, or their family name.
金金金For that reason, Cynthia had undergone rigorous training in preparation for her marriage. Wilm, Gaddis, and her late father had been good friends, and so she was looked after well. Although some of her affiliates spoke poorly of her behind her back, she continued on with all of her might.
“So, we’re simple soldiers?”
“You’re actually slightly lower than a regular soldier; basically an errand runner. What a great name volunteer soldier is. Ha ha ha, I’m sorry Mirut.”
“You’re one too.”
金金金Cynthia had not held back, and plainly stated some things that were not easy to hear. If they died, their names wouldn’t be remembered, and their families would receive no pension.
“The unfortunate one is you! First off, I only became a volunteer soldier because… ah, nevermind, sorry,” Mirut was halted by the glare of a nearby soldier.
“Don’t worry. Only that idiot needs to worry about her language. You don’t have to get used to it, I won’t be so harsh on a volunteer.”
“T-thank you very much!”
“I was just irritated.”
金金金Noel was snickering in the background. Her picture book was closed, and tucked safely away in a pouch hanging by her waist.
“It’s your fault!”
“What is it all of a sudden?”
“Clouds came out so the beautiful moon was hidden.”
“True. If the fire went out it would be pitch black. Well, that would make escaping easier at least.”
金金金With his eyes drawn to the sky, he noticed the clouds had begun to drift. Perhaps it would rain. It would make their detection more difficult, cover their trail, and bog down their enemy. The rain would truly be a blessing, but there was someone present who disagreed.
“Rainy days herald rising horrors. It’s always like that, so I hate rain.”
“It’s like that then. I can tell from your face alone that you don’t like the rain.”
“Yup. Particularly, nightly rains are the worst. It’s something of a living hell for me, I guess.”
“You’re a dramatic one, eh?”
“It’s true, so it can’t be helped.”
金金金Having expressed herself, Noel wiped her face with a wet towel. As the dirt and blood washed away, for the moment, she was completely refreshed.
I returned the ranks to a simpler form.
I might do something next time. Or not. I didn’t help re-edit this one either. I didn’t even write this.