Wortenia Senki (LN) - Volume 20 - Chapter Ep

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Countless corpses littered the ground, with obscene amounts of blood flowing like rivers and moans occasionally heard here and there. Sadly, it wasn’t likely anyone would help them.

After all, the battle atop the Runoc Plains had already been decided. Since Queen Lupis’s northern subjugation army began to flee toward the capital, Pireas, it was clear the winner was the Mikoshiba barony, who were giving pursuit.

Both sides in this struggle were leaving the Runoc Plains, and neither side was bothered by the well-being of the soldiers lying on the battlefield. The gravely wounded were doomed unless they could walk alone or rely on their fellow soldiers for help.

No one on the battlefield remained to help those unfortunate soldiers... Or rather, there was someone who could save them. Those were the soldiers of the Church of Meneos who had no intention of offering them any aid.

To them, infidels who didn’t believe in the Church’s doctrine were enemies to be wiped out. Rhoadseria worshiped the God of Light Meneos, meaning they were all believers of the same deity.

And yet, Rhoadseria didn’t follow the teachings of the Church of Meneos and did not acknowledge the pope as Meneos’s earthly representative. Significantly, the ones who joined this war were members of the Eighteenth Order of the Temple Knights, the most skilled members of the Church’s army.

They were infamous for their heretic hunts, having the mission of hunting down demi-humans and others to make the glory of the Church of Meneos known throughout the continent. To the Rhoadserian people, they were better known as the Colsbarga Grave Diggers, instigators of the Tragedy of Gromhen. Either way, they had no mercy to spare for infidels. In their eyes, the only good infidel was a dead infidel.

When Cardinal Roland heard the Eighteenth Order of the Temple Knights was dispatched to the area, Rodney saw him click his tongue in an unusual display of dislike. But their fanatical belief was part of what made them so proficient in battle. And on that day, Rodney understood this better than ever before.

Tachibana, who stood nearby, was in much the same mental state. What he’d just seen utterly shocked him.

Such skill, Rodney thought.

Standing in front of Rodney was the captain of the Eighteenth Order of the Temple Knights, Dick McGall, holding a bow. He was clad in the Church’s armor and had his face covered in a great helmet, hiding his expression.

How he carried himself made it clear Dick was no ordinary knight. The weapon he used was truly well crafted and worthy of the title “great bow.” Unlike ordinary longbows, which usually employed durable wood, this one was made entirely of metal. Using this material would result in a stronger weapon, just as how crossbows were made.

But those were mechanical bows using pulleys and the principle of leverage to pull the string. Since Dick’s bow didn’t have the mechanism, carrying out this action would require even more physical strength. Needless to say, a metallic bow was much heavier than a wooden one. Special made-for-order arrowheads would need to be used.

Every piece of this set was particularly made, one that the average person couldn’t handle. But the man before them wielded that monster of a bow with ease. Even for someone capable of martial thaumaturgy, this was shocking.

In the Holy City, people mocked them as a mishmash of knights.

Normally, the Church of Meneos only had ten knight orders. When the first pope established the organization as an armed group, he established them after the ten angels protecting the God of Light Meneos. There shouldn’t have been an eighteenth knight order, but the reason behind that was related to the hundreds of years of their history. At this point, there were twenty-five knight orders in the Temple Knights, and that number only seemed poised to increase.

Since the Church of Meneos became more widespread in the western continent, and its influence spread from the southwestern corner of the continent to other regions, the ten orders the Church originally had weren’t enough to cover that much turf. When faced with that predicament, the pope at the time ordered establishing an eleventh knight order as a temporary measure.

With this, the first ten knight orders were stationed in Menestia as a defensive garrison while the eleventh and above orders functioned like mercenaries dispatched to other countries. The positioning stopped dissent within the Church and allowed it to remain consistent with its doctrine.

This is why most of the Temple Knights from the first to tenth orders were born and raised in Menestia and have family relations with high-ranking members of the Church.

Cases like Rodney, who wasn’t born in Menestia, existed. But they were all elites born of pedigree and the children of believers. Many could trace their family’s affiliation with the organization to its founding days. There was a weight to their history of being faithful devotees for over a century.

By contrast, the orders branded as eleven and above were mostly of a commoner background. There were a few members of noble families, often those with severed ties or who had their families wiped out for some reason. The greatest difference was that they had all been part of the Church for a few years, perhaps a few decades. They were considered either outsiders or second-generation adherents. In modern terms, they were like a pop star’s bandwagon fans, unlike those that followed that star since their early days.

But that’s what makes them follow the dogma more passionately than anyone else. They need to prove their faith.

Such was the reason the higher numbered orders were seen as mad zealots, even if the mocking and scorn they received contained a hint of fear and dread. This was because whenever popes decided to purge members or groups with the Church of Meneos, they relied on these zealot mercenaries to carry it out. The scorn others showed them did not lead Rodney astray; he was still wary of those knight orders.

In terms of combat experience, the knight orders sent to other countries have much more practical knowledge than the ones defending Menestia. 

No matter how much training one had, it couldn’t match experience on the battlefield. Despite that, Rodney didn’t truly understand how fearsome they were until now.

I didn’t think they were this skilled...

Rodney was one of the more skilled members of the Temple Knights and had combat experience to back it up. His expertise lay with the sword, but he was also proficient with the bow and spear. But he knew he couldn’t match Dick’s mastery of the bow.

This thing probably has a range of over one kilometer.

That distance exceeded anything Rodney was familiar with. The Eighteenth Order of the Temple Knights had positioned themselves on a small hill far behind Queen Lupis’s formation. It was a good vantage point overlooking the Runoc Plains and allowing a good view of the battle. With martial thaumaturgy to augment one’s sight, it would be possible to spot Ryoma Mikoshiba in that area.

On the other hand, an arrow fired from this hill would surely travel long distances unimpeded. Dick would have no difficulty handling such a monstrous bow, but even Rodney could use it to fire an arrow that far.

But that only has to do with having an arrow reach that far. Locking blades with the enemy army is a different story.

Even if Rodney could fire the bow at such a distance, having the arrow accurately hit the target would be impossible. This implied these events weren’t a coincidence. Cardinal Roland most likely ordered them to take a position on this hill so they would have a vantage point.

In this battle, the Eighteenth Order of the Temple Knights only served as the rear guard, and they remained as a reserve fighting force. Rear guards served an important role because they could help their allied troops in an emergency or take advantage of an enemy opening to launch a surprise attack. To fulfill their role, staying on this hill was a good idea. However, that was assuming they intended to participate in this battle.

I felt something was off when I heard Cardinal Roland had all our forces stay put on this hill rather than leave some as lookouts.

These orders were the reason behind Rodney’s unease. The strategy manuals he had read mentioned the advantages of being deployed on high ground, which was why he didn’t object to Cardinal Roland’s order. But deploying atop a hill like this meant they wouldn’t be able to move as freely as a rear guard unit needed to do so.

This means he didn’t intend to fight the Mikoshiba barony army directly. And Queen Lupis knows our intentions.

A rear guard with no intention of fighting was nothing more than an army of observers—this was the only way to describe the Eighteenth Order of the Temple Knights here. Even though the Mikoshiba barony army was locked in combat right in front of them, they did nothing but watch the whole time.

Rodney was unaware that Cardinal Roland and Queen Lupis had discussed this situation. If they hadn’t done so, Queen Lupis would have sent a message to them asking for help once the tides turned against her. The fact she hadn’t meant she didn’t expect any aid from the Church.

But I can understand why she did it in her position.

Queen Lupis needed to use the authority of the Church to validate her cause, but she also didn’t want to risk having to take needless debts from them. Since the northern subjugation army had the numerical advantage, she didn’t need to depend on the church, and there was no necessity to have the organization’s forces fight either. From Cardinal Roland’s perspective, the pope only ordered him to look into Baron Mikoshiba. His involvement in this war was only a means of gathering information, not helping Queen Lupis win.

One could say that Cardinal Roland didn’t care which side won. The Eighteenth Order of the Temple Knights didn’t march in this battle because Queen Lupis didn’t want to owe them a favor, and Cardinal Roland didn’t want unnecessary losses.

And Cardinal Roland accomplished his task.

He achieved this by firing a single arrow at Ryoma Mikoshiba. In the face of that, the northern subjugation army’s flight was inconsequential. Meanwhile, the man who fired said arrow stood there calmly as if relishing the changing situation.

If nothing else, he didn’t seem upset at failing to shoot Ryoma. Had Dick intended to kill his opponent, he could have mobilized his order to move and pursue him, but he didn’t do that. This wasn’t to say there were no problems whatsoever, though.

“My apologies, Cardinal Roland. You worked hard to make all those adjustments, and yet...” Dick said.

He apologized for failing to shoot Ryoma down, but his tone made it clear he didn’t mean it. Rather, it was a formal apology.

Cardinal Roland magnanimously said, “Don’t let it bother you. We only did it to test his abilities. So long as we did that, I have no complaints.”

As Rodney expected, Cardinal Roland didn’t care if the arrow hit or missed.

“To think he sensed the arrow and used his spear to flick it off.” Dick muttered. “I held back a little, but Ryoma Mikoshiba and the young man he was fighting were quite skilled.”

Rodney couldn’t see Dick’s face over the helmet, and there was some excitement in his voice at seeing warriors capable of deflecting his arrows. It showed his confidence that no man alive could fully block his arrows. He had an absolute belief in his abilities that allowed him to easily admit the prowess of others.

Cardinal Roland reacted with a smile and responded, “That was likely Helena Steiner’s rumored protégé, Chris Morgan. Despite his young age, his talents with the spear are quite storied.”

Dick settled into silence upon hearing this, like he was thinking about something.

“Chris Morgan? I see,” said Dick. Finally remembering what that name brought to mind, he laughed out loud. “Oh, yes, I thought the name was familiar. His grandfather, Sir Frank, was a knight who served as Helena Steiner’s aide alongside Bark Warren. Sir Frank was a master spearman, praised as the Shooting Star. It seems he trained the young Chris.”

“Oh, is that so? Well, I suppose it stands to reason he would be the aide of Rhoadseria’s Ivory Goddess of War at that age.”

Normally, Chris would have been much too young to serve as Helena’s aide, but it was clear they didn’t give him the role for appearance’s sake. It would only be natural to think Chris had a special form of education. Someone coming from a good family or drawing on the blood of a lauded soldier didn’t mean they would be skilled. It was training given at a young age that allowed such talent to bloom early.

Of course, Chris would balk at that explanation after years of mistreatment and exclusion by General Albrecht. His position as Helena’s aide and his fearsome spear skills were all the fruit of great talent and steady practice.

But it was only natural it appeared that way to others, as Rodney and Cardinal Roland agreed with this reasoning. But to Dick, Chris being Frank’s grandson was trivial. All that mattered to him was that Chris could deflect his arrow.

“Either way, he is worthy prey for my bow. I want to fight him seriously once,” Dick continued, giving the highest praise one warrior could extend to another. He felt like he was lucky enough to stumble upon an unexpected gem.

“I see... If you, captain of the Eighteenth Order, The Heavenly Bow, offer this much praise, young Chris must surely have the makings of a hero,” said Cardinal Roland after nodding in agreement. After a moment’s thought, he slowly shook his head. “But then again, does that not make Ryoma Mikoshiba quite the monster for defeating that young hero?”

There was astonishment and dread to that question, and Dick didn’t deny his words. His appraisal of the man was a bit different, though.

“Yes, you’re right, Cardinal. However, him being skilled enough to drive the northern subjugation army into a retreat is something we mustn’t overlook. His might as a warrior is fearsome, but his skill as a strategist is considerable as well.”

Cardinal Roland sighed deeply, adding, “So you think so too?”

“While he may have tacticians aiding him, his skill at cutting into the northern subjugation army’s formation implies his prowess as a commander. Even among the Temple Knights, very few of our captains can match his level.”

“How dreadful...” said Cardinal Roland with a strained smile. “He almost sounds like some kind of hero of myth.”

Ryoma Mikoshiba was proficient as a warrior and as a commander on the battlefield—two traits that rarely came together. Given how well managed the Wortenia Peninsula was, he must also be an adept governor. He was a man skilled in both the literary and military arts. The man being a talented statesman would have been too much to manage.

Still, Cardinal Roland couldn’t afford to marvel at Ryoma’s talents. If they could get him on their side, he would be a valuable ally. But if he turned against them, he would become a threat.

“His abilities are certified... If we could make him one of our pawns, he would be quite useful. But the problem is his background.”

Dick nodded briefly. “So when we confirm his connection to the Organization... We’ll have to do it, yes?”

“Yes. We will eliminate him no matter how many sacrifices we must make. He’s too dangerous. When that time comes, I will rely on the Eighteenth Order.”

There was firm resolve to Cardinal Roland’s words; confirming Ryoma’s connections to the Organization meant he would resort to killing the young man by any method necessary. Even if it cost the life of every member of the Eighteenth Order, the pope’s orders were absolute. What Cardinal Roland said next was something Dick didn’t expect.

“We might want to consider requesting reinforcements from the homeland, depending on how things go. In that case, we will ask the First Order to deploy.”

Dick seemed to falter. “Deploy the First?” A slight shiver emanated from his voice, expressing dread toward the First Order of the Temple Knights.

“Yes, of course. If worse comes to worst...” replied Cardinal Roland, nodding. “Should the situation be more than you can handle, my only recourse would be to request that the pope send the Grandmaster of the Temple Knights.”

Rodney, who had listened to their exchange in silence so far, held his breath upon hearing those words. It was something of a miracle he remained speechless. The captain of the First Order of the Temple Knights also doubled as the Grandmaster of the Temple Knights. He had authority and command over the entire group and all its orders. Furthermore, he was considered the representative of the sword that protected the faith and creed of the Church of Meneos.

Rodney was indeed one of the more skilled members of the Temple Knights, but comparing him to the Grandmaster was like comparing a child to an adult. Three years ago, he faced their leader at a match among the group where the gap between them was visible.

Don’t tell me the Grandmaster is actually about to act on this matter. He’s His Grace’s greatest weapon and the strongest man in the Church.

Based on Cardinal Roland’s tone, it seemed the chances of that were slim. However, the problem was that the chances of that weren’t nil, and that was proof that the Church of Meneos recognized Ryoma as a threat. This was the worst possible outcome, which Rodney wished wouldn’t have happened.

At this point, the conclusion isn’t out yet. But...

Cardinal Roland came from Menestia to Rhoadseria to confirm if Ryoma would be a useful pawn against the shadowy group controlling the western continent from the shadows, the elusive Organization. The pope’s orders also included handling Ryoma if he was a member of the group by eliminating him.

Clearly, Rodney was aware of the order since he accepted this mission, and he knew that if things came to this, one girl would shed tears of sorrow.

I was right to have Tachibana confirm Mikoshiba’s face.

Usually, the best choice would be to have Asuka confirm it was him. Yet she wouldn’t have remained composed if she were here for this. She experienced much hardship to seek her relatives in the many days since Koichiro Mikoshiba parted ways with her. It was perfectly likely she’d burst into tears and lose control of her emotions.

If Cardinal Roland were to see her do so, it would reduce all the effort Rodney made to hide her background from him to nothing. Learning about her connection to Ryoma meant the Cardinal would try to use Asuka.

This was why Rodney left confirming Ryoma’s face in Tachibana’s hands. And when they saw him during his duel, Tachibana nodded briefly, signaling it was indeed the man Asuka was seeking and one sent to this world from Rearth.

Considering the rumor that many members of the Organization originated from Rearth, the conclusion seemed clear. If Cardinal Roland were to learn of this, Rodney could easily see him acting accordingly.

We have to make a move now.

Simply standing by and watching wouldn’t make things take a turn for the better. The more time passed, the more details Cardinal Roland would gather. It would only be a matter of time until Asuka’s relationship with Ryoma Mikoshiba came to light.

With that thought in mind, Rodney silently watched Cardinal Roland and listened to his conversation, hoping that he’d be able to protect Asuka.

That night, Rodney called Tachibana over. It was past midnight, and come tomorrow, they would set out in pursuit of Ryoma Mikoshiba, who headed for the capital Pireas. Tachibana was hoping to get some rest early, but he couldn’t refuse a call from Rodney. And that was all the more true because he had an idea about what Rodney wanted with him.

The warning Rodney gave him beforehand crossed Tachibana’s mind. “Make sure you’re not seen”?

In modern Japan, people might still be awake after midnight. With electric lights, modern civilization conquered the dark of night. But in this world, most people were asleep at this time of night. The ones still awake were limited to sentries patrolling the camp. Tachibana had kept their routes in mind, which made running into them quite slim. This was because Rodney tasked him with keeping track of the sentries’ patrols.

A dangerous but accurate metaphor crossed Tachibana’s mind. I feel like a bank employee robbing his own bank. Guess I’ve gotten used to this world too.

That thought made a tinge of loneliness fill his heart. Quite some time had passed since Tachibana was summoned here, so it was only natural he would come around to the ways of this world. His hands were already dirty with blood. He didn’t need to cling to his ethics as a police officer since doing so would endanger others.

Yet, Tachibana wasn’t strong enough to see the changes he was going through and was indifferent to it. As he walked to his destination, relying on the moonlight and the torches set in key positions around the camp, he had no doubt in his heart.

Rodney predicted things might come to this, thought Tachibana as he snuck between the tents.

Tachibana was currently an attendant in service to the Temple Knights, tasked with managing Rodney’s and Menea’s personal affairs. In simple terms, he handled odd jobs mostly limited to the former. It wasn’t usually his business to participate in the camp’s security.

Rodney ordered Tachibana to join the patrols after finishing his daily duties, citing “acquiring combat experience” as the reason. He spent much less time on this duty than a sentry dedicated to these patrols did, which meant it wasn’t very demanding work for him. Indeed, he saw it as a type of work experience. The question was, why did Rodney give him that order?

Looking back on it now, the answer is clear. The next patrol is in two hours. Still, I have to be careful since there’s no telling where someone might be looking.

Though Tachibana did not know how much Rodney could predict, he had considered several scenarios and made meticulous preparations. He could only think of one thing that would hold Rodney’s attention that much, what they had talked about the other day.

Being prepared was important, but no amount of preparation could ever fully defend against unexpected developments. Carelessness at times like these could cause such unforeseen outcomes. Tachibana knew this from experience.

Someone could have come out of bed to relieve themselves, spotted Tachibana, and questioned him. The chances of that were slim but not impossible. When Tachibana was a detective, he arrested criminals based on such coincidences.

So he knew to be careful when he was up to underhanded business. But at the same time, acting like he was trying to avoid prying eyes would make him look suspicious. After all, most people try to move in the shadows to avoid detection. Doing so came across as unnatural, and if someone were to find Tachibana doing this, he’d be hard-pressed to make an excuse. So while he did move through the shadows, Tachibana tried to remain nonchalant, like he wasn’t worried about being seen.

The important part is maintaining balance.

This was the rule of thumb Tachibana came up with during his time as a detective cornering criminals. Tachibana’s clothes reeked of alcohol, and he had a bottle of liquor hidden in his clothes. If someone blamed him, he could play the part of a drunk.

Military regulations forbid drinking, which included severe punishment if caught drunk on the job. Still, it made for a believable lie. Thanks to that, he could head for Rodney’s designated tent without being too wary.

But when he set foot inside, he was a little surprised.

“It’s just me?” he asked. He expected Asuka and Menea to be here for this discussion, but he was wrong. Rodney motioned for him to take a seat. I see. So that’s what this is about...

He didn’t instantly notice that Rodney’s expression was quite stiff and serious upon entering the tent. The reason he was here became evident, and he realized why Asuka wasn’t present. What they were about to discuss was delicate, so they couldn’t risk information about it leaking.

And she’s simply too upfront with her emotions.

This was Genzou Tachibana’s image of Asuka Kiryuu. She was no fool, though, as she was quite intelligent by the standards of this world. And she was skilled at reading other people’s emotions and adjusting to the ambience. More than anything, she was a good-natured person. She couldn’t ignore another person in need and had a bright, cheerful, and open-minded personality, for better or worse.

Asuka was the kind of person one would naturally learn to like and had a character that made Tachibana and Rodney care so much about her. In that regard, one could say she didn’t have any flaws.

But she’s ill-equipped to keep secrets.

Her honesty would normally be a good trait, but this world made that quality a fatal flaw. Rodney knew this, therefore he didn’t call Asuka for this.

But why isn’t Menea here for this either?

Menea Norberg was Rodney’s right-hand woman and his most trusted subordinate. Tachibana couldn’t see why she wouldn’t be present. But Rodney didn’t regard his concerns and went straight to the matter at hand.

“I’ll spare you the niceties. I need you to deliver this letter to that man, Tachibana.”

Rodney handed him a letter sealed with a wax sigil and an emergency pass given to messengers meant to deliver extremely urgent news. With this, he could leave the camp even at night without identifying himself.

So he wants me to deliver this letter to someone.

But the letter didn’t have any names written on it. In other words, its recipient hadn’t been decided yet.

“I understand what I’m supposed to do with the pass, but what about this letter?” Tachibana said as he looked down at the pass. I believe this is the sigil of the count house Rodney was meant to inherit.

The wax on the letter didn’t have the seal used by the Church of Meneos imprinted onto it, which was the kind Tachibana saw every day working under Rodney. But he recognized this one, because Rodney once showed him the emblem of House Mackenna, a count noble family from the Kingdom of Tarja.

Yes, that’s definitely House Mackenna’s seal. I thought Rodney cast that title aside. And that was why he and Menea ended up devoting themselves to the Church of Meneos. Does he simply want this matter to remain unrelated to the Church?

And since he brought up House Mackenna’s name, this was more than just run-of-the-mill dirty work.

Whoever this letter is addressed to, they’re of high station. Having come to that conclusion, the answer was quite clear. Tachibana knew the answer and asked, “So you want me to take this letter to Baron Mikoshiba?”

“Yes,” said Rodney, nodding. “I have a horse and necessary supplies prepared for you in the back of the tent. I apologize that this is all on short notice, but I need you to take what you need and meet Baron Mikoshiba at once.”

This answered why Menea wasn’t present for this and why Rodney was so cautious.

“Did you decide leaving Asuka alone would be too dangerous?” Tachibana asked.

“I can’t know for sure, but...” Rodney answered. “Based on Cardinal Roland’s conduct, he’s very cautious of Baron Mikoshiba. If he finds out about Asuka, for whatever reason, he’d definitely try to use her to get to him.”

“Like, take her hostage?”

“Or outright execute her if things go bad enough.”

Tachibana sighed at Rodney’s reply. He was sensing there was something off about how the Church of Meneos behaved. He didn’t one hundred percent agree with every decision Rodney made either. With Baron Mikoshiba, Tachibana had much more of an understanding of how he acted in contrast with the Church. The northern subjugation army’s retreat made for a good chance.

Right... If we use the confusion of the northern subjugation army’s retreat to Pireas to our advantage, it could work. Tachibana then bowed his head to Rodney as he said, “Understood. I accept this mission.”

This gesture reflected a great deal of respect toward Rodney Mackenna and was the most genuine apology Genzou Tachibana could express for not being able to repay him properly for all Rodney did for him. Tonight could be the last time he ever saw Rodney.

It would make sense to express that feeling aloud, but Tachibana couldn’t find the words. Stating it verbally would certainly make it their last meeting.

Rodney... I was truly lucky to meet you.

Tachibana was a jaded man who knew what Rodney did for him wasn’t strictly out of goodwill. His time as a police officer taught him all too well just how sinful and calculating people can be, and he was aware that this world was far too harsh of a place. 

But even if they had a reason to help us, that doesn’t matter.

When Misha Fontaine, the court thaumaturgist from the Kingdom of Beldzevia, summoned them into this world, they escaped with Koichiro Mikoshiba’s help. Yet they got lost in the woods near the castle. The ones to be kind enough to save them were Rodney and Menea.

It was true that Tachibana was nothing but an extra person they picked up along the way with Asuka. Even so, they’d given him work and all his basic needs for the last few years. The debt he owed them went beyond description.

Tachibana silently left the tent. As Rodney watched Tachibana walk away, he prayed to Meneos to watch over the girl who was like a younger sister to him and was thrown into this world by the whims of fate.

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