Wortenia Senki (LN) - Volume 4 - Chapter 4

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Chapter 4: Helena’s Revenge 

That night, the moon illuminated the sky with its gentle light. They kept their campfires small, but thanks to the light of the moon, visibility was good enough. 

“We truly are out of luck...” 

“Yes, agreed... Getting a nightless vigil today, of all days, really is bad...” 

Two knights mouthed their complaints as they looked over the dark forest. Both were clad in armor and held sharp spears. Both were the same age, but the one on the right was taller. That night, General Albrecht gave everyone permission to take off their armor and rest. 

But a few unfortunate guards, these two included, were given guard duty that day, and weren’t able to sleep without their armor. The march certainly strained their bodies. Of course, being professional soldiers, their stamina was impressive. Still, they were only human, and the strain was significant. It was only natural they would bemoan their misfortune. 

“But we cross the border tomorrow. And once we do...” the taller knight whispered. 

“Yes... After coming this far...” the other knight agreed. 

“But leaving Rhoadseria behind, huh...?” The taller knight sighed. 

He was born into a family of knights that had been loyal to the kingdom for generations. Or at least, that held true until his father’s generation. This knight held no loyalty for the royal family, and that was why he obeyed General Albrecht, who helped him fulfill his aspirations and desires. Money, women, his position within the knight order... All the things loyalty to the royal family would never grant to him were granted to him by siding with the general. 

But now, the gears had been completely unhinged. 

Princess Lupis, who was nothing more than Albrecht’s mouthpiece and marionette, broke free of his control. And now the country’s nobles were abandoning General Albrecht and his faction. Now they had nowhere to live in Rhoadseria, and they had only two paths open to them. They either wander the continent until they find a new master to serve, or stick to General Albrecht and wait for his resurgence. 

Neither of those is a very good gamble... 

Until just a few months ago, they were living their best lives. But now they were forced to flee their country, and the hardship of it all was hanging over their hearts. 

“Don’t say that!” The knight scolded him. 

“But...” The taller knight tried to cling onto his words. 

“Shut up! I know that much without having to hear it from you!” 

The other knight felt the same way, but hearing someone else say it annoyed him. 

“Right... I’m sorry,” the taller knight apologized, overwhelmed by his friend’s outburst. 

“Forget it, right now we gotta focus on keeping watch! And tomorrow we finally cross into Tarja—” 

They suddenly heard something cut through the forest’s air, and the shorter knight’s words were cut off halfway through. 

“What’s wrong...?” The taller knight eyed his friend suspiciously. 

To him, it looked like his partner kept his gaze fixed on the forest, standing at attention as he always did. But something struck him as different. 

What? What’s wrong with hi— 

But his thoughts would freeze on that question forever, as yet another arrow shot through the forest... 

Sakuya fixed her gaze on the two knights who were now reduced to silent corpses, and slackened her bow’s string. She had kept it primed to fire another arrow in case either of her targets still drew breath. 

Fixed to the bow was a black-dyed arrow. It was black down to its arrowhead, and it was practically impossible to see or evade it under the darkness of night. And regardless, the smallest nick would be enough to make the poison smeared over the arrowhead circulate within the victim’s body and make them crumble to their feet, foaming at the mouth. 

This was a special set of bow and arrows, made for assassinations and passed down in Sakuya’s clan. As a clan of ninjas, they were adept at blending in with the dark. 

“Master Ryoma... It is done. Those were the only guards.” 

As if prompted by Sakuya’s words, a large-built man dressed in black appeared behind her. 

“Yeah... Let’s go.” Ryoma nodded slightly. 

He made a hand signal in the direction of Sara, who stood behind him. 

“Then, everything is going according to schedule,” Sara whispered to Ryoma, and turned her gaze to the mercenaries following her. 

“Yeah, everything’s looking good for now. Make sure to make lots of noise.” 

Sara nodded wordlessly at Ryoma’s instructions and approached the camp while crouching. She was followed by Lione and twenty other mercenaries. Laura was likely finishing her preparations in a separate group, with Gennou. 

“Milord! Preparations are complete!” one of their mercenaries reported. 

“Begin!” Ryoma ordered his men. 

Several of the mercenaries disappeared into the forest, and before long red lights started rising from the camp. At first they were small red sparks in the darkness, but within seconds they spread throughout the camp, lighting it up in luminescent red. 

“Fiiiiiire! A fire broke ooooout! A fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiire!” 

“No, it’s the enemy! We’re under attack!” 

Screams filled the camp, which was set up a short ways from the highway. Soon, the sounds of clashing metal mingled with the screams.

“What?! An enemy attack?!” General Albrecht sat up in his bed hurriedly. “Someone! Explain what’s going on!” 

Tearing off the blanket, General Albrecht rose to his feet and reached for his personal sword. 

“Beloved? What’s the matter?” 

His wife, who was sleeping next to him, woke up. 

“Father...” His daughter, who was sleeping a short distance away, also raised her voice in concern. 

The racket likely woke them up. 

“Everything will be fine,” General Albrecht gently told them. “You have me by your side. You’ve nothing to worry about!” 

“Milord!” One of the knights called out from outside the tent. 

Apparently he didn’t have the courage to barge into his lord’s tent without permission. 

“Yes!” General Albrecht spoke to him through the tent’s entrance. “What’s going on out there? I heard one voice talking about a fire and another saying something about an enemy attack!” 

“It’s all true, milord! Our apologies, we have failed you. Sir Kael is leading our men to mount a defense, and he’s making preparations for you to set out at once...” 

The moment the knight said that, General Albrecht went pale. 

I thought they’d have given up at this point, but apparently I was wrong... 

“Understood... Did you hear him? You need to get away from here!” 

General Albrecht didn’t hesitate one bit. If this was enough to make him lose his sense of judgment, he would never serve as a country’s general. His expression had already turned to that of a warrior who had lived through many battles. 

“Beloved, we’re prepared.” 

General Albrecht turned around to find his family was already dressed. They had apparently picked up on the situation quickly and prepared themselves accordingly. 

“Good! Let’s go!” 

General Albrecht took his family and headed for their carriage, accompanied by knights. 

“Milord! You’re safe!” 

“Kael! What is happening?!” 

As General Albrecht hurried his family into the carriage, Kael approached him. He appeared clad in full armor and with sword in hand. Seeing that, General Albrecht’s expression softened. Seeing Kael predict the possibility of an enemy attack and remain in armor made the general look upon him as a dependable subordinate. 

“Kael, do you know what’s happening? Are these pursuers sent by Lupis?” the general asked Kael questions in quick succession. 

“They don’t carry a banner so it’s hard to say for certain, but...” Kael proceeded to give him an accurate report. “About twenty of the men we’ve set as guards are engaging the enemy in combat. The fire is the enemy’s doing!” 

The guards had assumed they were pursuers sent by Princess Lupis, but given the darkness and their lack of banner, it was quite difficult to identify the enemy. But be they pursuers or just plain bandits, there were only two choices available upon being attacked. You either fight, or run. 

“I see... How’s the outlook of the battle? Can you hold back the enemy’s attack?” 

“I’m afraid not.” Kael shook his head. “But we can buy you as much time as possible, Milord... Take your family and run as fast as you can.” 

Kael opened the carriage’s door, urging the general to get in. 

“Hurry, Milord. You must make haste! We will hold them back here.” 

“Hmm.” Albrecht regarded him with a swift nod. “I leave the rest to you... Kael! Let us meet again at Tarja’s capital.” 

And with those words, Albrecht quickly boarded the carriage, leaving everything to Kael’s care. Honestly speaking, there was no meaning in the general staying behind. Albrecht had to survive this. So long as he lived, his subordinates would be repaid for their services. As haughty as General Albrecht may have been, he wasn’t foolish enough to think he could solve everything on his own. 

“Now go on, hurry...! Hurry up his horse, you fool!” Watching as General Albrecht got inside the carriage, Kael shouted at the knight holding the reins. 

The knight raised his voice in a shout as his whip cut through the air, striking the horse’s behind and prompting it to gallop. The carriage began to gradually accelerate, rolling down the dark road ahead. 

Standing around the vicinity were Kael’s knights, whom he ordered to guard the vicinity. They held onto spears as they looked about cautiously, but weren’t clad in armor. There were roughly thirty men present. Kael had sent the knights that remained vigilant and slept with their armor on to accompany General Albrecht. 

Many of the knights obeyed General Albrecht’s orders and took off their armor, but Kael, along with a select few, elected to not take any risks and kept their armor on. 

“Milord... Stay safe!” Kael whispered as he looked around. 

The knights had spears and swords in hand, but since they didn’t have any armor on, they couldn’t be depended on in a battle. They’d be lucky if the enemies were amateurs, but it was hard to believe any enemy who’d attack them during the night would be that weak. 

Everyone present awaited Kael’s command. They knew their only way out of this situation would be to listen to him. 

“Listen to me. We must form a horizontal formation here. Gather into platoons, and form a horizontal column! You don’t have your armor, and so your only chance of survival is to gradually edge back while warding off the enemy with the range of your spears! Don’t let them get through that range!” 

The knights nodded wordlessly at his order, and began getting into formation with their spears drawn. Still, a horizontal formation was one of the simplest ones employed in this world. The soldiers simply stood side by side, so there wasn’t much preparation to speak of. But it was also the most effective formation for their goal, which was to help General Albrecht escape. 

“They’re coming! At the ready!” 

At Kael’s order, the knights prepared their spears. They were ready to fight for their lives.

Ryoma watched as Kael gathered what remained of his forces and arranged them in a horizontal formation. His lips curled up into a smile. 

“Oh, not bad... He got them to assume defensive positions fairly quickly given the surprise attack.” 

“That’s probably Kael Iruna,” Lione said, standing beside him. 

“Yeah, I figured. We beat him once, but I guess him defeating Mikhail wasn’t a fluke. He’s a capable commander.” 

A ruthless smile played on Ryoma’s lips, as if to say he’d just found prey that would put up a good chase. 

“So what do we do, boy...? Charge right in? We’d take some losses, but we can break that formation no problem.” 

The formation Kael chose was one of the simplest, most elementary formations possible. Knights prided themselves on individual skill. While they might be trained in martial arts and thaumaturgy, few of them spent time on tactical and formation training. Of course, some elite units pressed more importance on group battle, and studied tactics accordingly. Those depended entirely on the commander’s personality and choices, though. 

What’s more, most of the knights here didn’t have a close relationship with Kael. And nothing mattered more when fighting in a group than how much trust the troops harbor toward their commander. That was why he chose such a simple formation. 

Ryoma picked up on Kael’s true intention, though. 

This Kael guy really is sharp. He’s not using a complicated formation like the crane wing here, but a simple horizontal one. It’s proof he knows just what each of his men is worth. And on top of that... 

Even such a simple formation could be made into a formidable one with just a few tricks. Their front line held up large shields, and pointed their spears from the gaps between them. The shields staved off the enemy attacks, while the spears would be used to whittle down the enemy’s numbers. It ended up being a thorough defensive formation. 

This is annoying... But still. 

It was just a tough formation to break. Like Lione said, it may cost them some men, but a frontal assault would be able to brute force its way through it. Ryoma’s victory remained solid. In terms of individual strength, both sides were about even, but Ryoma’s men had the higher morale. And most of the enemy soldiers weren’t wearing armor, either. In terms of fighting power, the enemy had an overwhelming disadvantage. 

“No... We take them out with one blow! Have everyone hang back, and send a message to Laura’s group. Have them circle around and attack the enemy from behind. We’ll catch them in a pincer attack. First, we’ll attack them from the front in full force and get them to focus on our direction.” 

Ryoma proposed a pincer attack using Laura’s unit, which he had sent separately to hunt down any stragglers. 

Ryoma intended to thoroughly hunt Kael’s unit down. He had no intention of showing them any mercy. General Albrecht, as well as Kael and the knights who served under him, were existences that couldn’t be permitted to remain alive. Both for the kingdom of Rhoadseria’s sake, and for Ryoma’s sake. 

Or rather, sparing them would mean keeping a dangerous factor that could threaten them in the future alive. 

“Roger that!” Lione said. “So we need to keep their attention on us, eh... Wouldn’t thaumaturgy be more effective than arrows for that?” 

Ryoma nodded. 

“Then let’s drop some lightning on them first! Ya ready, boys? Fire up a big one and make sure their eyes are fixed on us!” 

Obeying Lione’s order, the mercenaries turned their hands toward the enemy formation. 

“““Spirits that govern over lightning! Manifest your powers before us, with our blood as recompense! Abide by your oaths, and strike down our foes!””” 

And at Lione’s signal, they started chanting at once. Small balls of crackling electricity formed in their hands. As their chant continued, the balls gradually got bigger. 

“Fire it!” 

“““Bolt Blitz!””” 

And the bullets of lightning were launched from their hands, crashing into the enemy formation. Each of them was drawn together, eventually forming a single huge ball of lightning.

“Everyone, shift to thaumaturgic defensive positions! Hold up your shields!” 

Kael shouted, and knights holding up the shields lowered their thighs, straining every muscle in their body to withstand the attack. The shrill sound of electrical discharge echoed through the forest, which shook as white light flashed through it intermittently. The ball of lightning splashed against the shields, raining the area with bolts of electricity. 

“The shields have been granted thaumaturgic defensive enchantments! Do not let go of them, no matter what!” Kael shouted, squinting against the white flash. “Keep them up until the electricity dies down! Back row! Cast defensive thaumaturgy on the front row, at full force!” 

If any one part of the formation were to break, the lightning would travel to the rest of the soldiers from there. Everyone was fighting desperately to hold back the ball of lightning, waiting for the menace to pass. 

Their minds had completely forgotten defending their rear, as their attention was fixed entirely on the spell bearing down on them from the front. And that was Ryoma’s plan.

“Second row, begin chanting!” Lione ordered. 

The mercenaries that hung back until now stepped forward, and began chanting at Kael’s formation. 

“““Spirits governing the wind! Turbulent ones! Abide by your contract, and fulfill your mission! Become a storm at my order, and sweep away my foes!””” 

“Fire!” Lione once again gave them the signal. 

“““Charging Wind!””” 

A gale of wind powerful enough to easily blow away an adult man blew from their hands, roaring as it clashed against Kael and his men. 

“Tch, wasted effort. Keep your shields up!” Kael clicked his tongue, but at the same time was confident that their position was sound. “Their thaumaturgy can’t reach us! If they keep firing spells at us, they’ll just exhaust themselves! Just hold on until they do!” 

Hmph! I suppose they really were just thieves... If they knew we were knights, they wouldn’t try this kind of attack! I thought they were pursuers from Rhoadseria, but apparently I was wrong... They can shoot all the spells they want at us. We have shields with thaumaturgic defensive enchantments. They can easily block low-level thaumaturgy. It’s just a matter of time until they run out of prana. 

In this world, verbal thaumaturgy was seen as lacking in practicality as a weapon. That wasn’t to say it didn’t have its limited uses. There were some who made it their area of expertise, like the Empire of O’ltormea’s court thaumaturgist. 

But it did come with its share of crippling disadvantages. Firstly, most verbal thaumaturgy manifested as long-range attacks. The problem was that prana diminished the farther the attack had to travel. 

With most verbal thaumaturgy spells, they grew weaker the further they had to travel from the caster. What this meant is that even if a caster were to fire an attack with a force of one hundred from a distance of ten meters, the attack would only deal ninety points because of the prana lost along the way. The greater the distance, the less potent the attack became. 

On top of that, not just thaumaturgists, but all living beings unconsciously had prana in their bodies, which formed a protective layer around their body. This was true of everyone in this world, regardless of their ability to use thaumaturgy. 

Of course, this protective layer was far more brittle than anything a thaumaturgist would create. For a simple commoner, it would grant the same level of defense as a thin piece of fabric. It was different with a thaumaturgist, though. Between two thaumaturgists of equal skill, the defending side would actually be at an advantage. 

In addition, in cases like this where one knew to expect a thaumaturgic attack coming from the enemy, they’d be able to use their prana to temporarily up their resistance, forming a powerful defense. And the armor knights wear is also enchanted to resist thaumaturgy. 

All those techniques would allow one to stave off most verbal thaumaturgy attacks. Of course, it consumes prana, and can’t be kept up indefinitely. 

The same held true for the attacking side, except their attacks consumed significantly more prana. This was why battle in this world placed more importance on martial thaumaturgy compared to verbal thaumaturgy, with the exception of the most skilled of practitioners. 

It all depends on how it’s used, though. 

Ryoma smiled to himself as he watched the mercenaries’ verbal thaumaturgy being repeatedly blocked by the shields. Indeed, in games and other such fantasy settings, spellcasters were the ones packing the overwhelming firepower, but in this world, things were somewhat different. Ryoma himself could only imagine those kinds of flashy combat scenes when he thought of magic, so he was disappointed to learn about the restrictions on thaumaturgy. 

But even if thaumaturgy didn’t give the firepower one might expect, it still had its uses.


Suddenly, war cries erupted from the forest behind Kael’s formation, and many shadows leaped out of the forest, pouncing on the knights. 

“Kill them, kill them all!” 

“Don’t let a single one of them escape, you hear?!” 

The men charged them with swords in hand and blatant bloodlust in their eyes, slashing into the knights’ defenseless backs. 

“What?! Enemies, there are enemies behind us!” 

“Impossible! Where did they come from?! Isn’t the enemy just in front of us?!” 

“Who cares about that, you moron?! Defend against them, too!” 

“That’s stupid! We can’t break formation now!” 

“Shut up and stop whining! Do you want to die?!” 

While they were focused on blocking the thaumaturgy attacks launched by Lione’s men, they were attacked from behind. Everyone was screaming whatever came to their minds. Some wanted to prioritize blocking the thaumaturgy. Others wanted to defend against the enemy attacks. A few waited for Kael to give them instructions. 

None of those choices were wrong ones, but none of them were right, either. Because they made the fateful error of allowing Ryoma’s group to approach them from the front. 

“Now! Charge ’em!” 

At Lione’s order, the mercenaries drew their swords and pushed into the enemy formation ahead. 

“Kuh! Front row, don’t let them break your stance!” Kael raised his voice desperately. 

The battle wasn’t decided yet. If the knights would obey his orders, they still had a chance at winning. But Kael’s voice wasn’t reaching any of the knights by now. And that was only natural. In a situation where they were attacked concurrently from behind and from the front, it would take significant training and a great deal of trust between the commander and the knights for them to maintain the formation. 

But Kael and his knights had neither of those things. 

Caught in a pincer attack between Laura’s unit from behind and Lione’s assault from the front, their strong defensive formation was gradually losing its shape like a sand castle being beaten down by the waves. 

“Sir Kael, we can’t last any longer!” One of the knights called out. “We should fall back!” 

“That’s pointless... Where can we run in this situation...?” Kael shook his head in a resigned fashion. 

There were less than twenty men left alive around him. The pincer attack divided their forces, and now they were completely cut off from the rest of the knights. Some of them tried to flee into the forest, while others stayed where they were. A few tried to get back at Ryoma’s forces. But whichever choice they made, they all met the same fate. 


Blast! Why did this happen...? A pincer attack? So they’re not just bandits... So are these pursuers from Princess Lupis’s side...? 

Kael held back his desire to curse out loud, since he knew no amount of complaining would change things. The moment he lost his temper, it would all truly be over. 

So these are the only men I have left... Do we run into the forest...? Or try to cut through the enemy...? Which should it be? If we die here, then there would be no point in us taking the rear guard... I only took up this role because I thought I’d be able to block them with these forces... 

Kael didn’t let General Albrecht go ahead out of good will. He only let the general and his family get away out of calculated self-interest. 

If we can block the enemy here, General Albrecht’s opinion of me will only improve. It’s because he’s fallen so far that he’d be more desperate for reliable subordinates! 

Kael had calculated as much. He thought that by making his loyalty clear to the general, it would help improve his standing when they reached Tarja. If it weren’t for that, Kael would never have prioritized letting General Albrecht and his family get away first. 

In addition, Kael only took on this risk because he thought he was up against mere bandits. Petty thieves would stand no chance against Kael and his knights. Even if they were taken by surprise and were initially on the back foot, they’d have the skill and equipment to emerge victorious. But if those were pursuers sent by Princess Lupis, things were different. 

What do we do... How do I get out of this alive...? 

Kael looked around desperately. The sounds of clashing metal were getting fewer and weaker. The divided knights were being finished off by the mercenaries. 

No good! At this rate, they’ll cut off our path of escape! If the forest isn’t a possibility... Then the only option is...! 

Kael fixed his gaze ahead. Even if he tried to run, he’d just be chased down. He had to confuse the enemy if he was to shake them off. 

There! That’s the enemy’s main force! My only way out is to strike there! 

Standing ahead of Kael was one enemy formation that remained completely immobile. Kael discerned that was likely where the enemy commander was. 

“Listen to me! Crush the enemy ahead, and kill their commander!” 

“You’re telling us to rush the enemy?!” The knights were shocked by Kael’s order. 

But their surprise soon died down. They couldn’t see any way out of this situation, either. 

“Focus on killing the enemies ahead of you and nothing else! Cut down anyone who stands in your way!” 

Kael demanded only one thing out of his knights. To kill the enemy, and nothing else. This plain, simple order dragged the knights, who had been frozen still by the terror of death, back to reality. 

That’s right! Kill, kill, kill! 

We have to kill them if we want to survive this! 

Kill the enemy! Kill them! 

The knights’ desire to live and their hatred toward the enemy both flared up. 


The knights’ hearts once again flared up with fighting spirit. 


At Kael’s orders, the knights attacked the mercenaries. Desperation made their fear into courage. Having fallen for Ryoma’s tactics, Kael and his men were the very image of cornered animals. And right now, they were about to gamble their lives to bite back against their predator, Ryoma.

“Ugh! What the hell?! Why are they gaining heart all of a sudden?!” 

“Stay calm! This is just their last moment of resistance before the end!” 

The mercenaries’ movements stopped as the knights rallied against them. 

“Idiots! What are you doing?!” Lione raised her voice. 

“It’s no good, Sis! The way it’s going now, they’ll break through the front!” Boltz said. 

Lione clicked her tongue and drew her blade. 

“Enough! I’m takin’ to the front!” 

She was always a warrior, to begin with. She may have taken command of soldiers now, but her true value was at fighting directly on the battlefield. Lione’s eyes shined red with excitement for battle, but Boltz couldn’t afford to let her go. 

“You can’t, Sis! Did you forget what the lad said?!” 

“Idiot! Does that even matter right now?! At this rate, they’ll...!” 

The goddess of battle turned her smile to Kael this time. While Lione and Boltz were arguing, Kael and his men broke through the front line. 

“Sis, watch out!” 

Boltz covered for Lione with his body, and a blade swept through the air above them. 

“Tch! He got in the way...” 

As Lione still scrambled to catch up to the situation, an unfamiliar man’s voice reached her ears. “You!” she said. 

“Are you the commander here?! Why did you attack us...?! Well, it doesn’t matter if you’re bandits or Lupis’s men. You’re dying here either way...” 

“Die!” Kael swung his sword over Lione’s head. He looked down on the two of them with muddled, and yet palpable bloodlust. 

“Dammit! Sis!” 

“Move away, Boltz! Dodge it!” 

Boltz and Lione were prepared to die. But at that very moment, something cut through the wind and Kael’s blade was deflected with a shower of sparks. 

“Who was that?! Who got in my way?!” Kael shouted, clenching his numbed hands. 

Kael desperately knocked down the blade that was thrown at him from somewhere. Standing around him were five other knights that managed to break through. They looked around cautiously. And eventually, the single figure of a man stepped out of the woods. 


Ryoma’s large form reflected in Lione’s eyes. 

“Are you all right, Lione?” 

“Y-Yeah!” Lione said, grabbing Ryoma’s extended hand and finally rising to her feet. “I just hurt my legs a bit. Forget that, when did ya get here?!” 

Ryoma should have been leading the group hunting down the soldiers that ran off, and Lione was shocked by his sudden appearance. 

“They moved better than expected, so I left command to Sara and went back to the rear. Just leave this place to me... You and Boltz should regroup with Sara and help her command the hunt for survivors.” 


“It’s fine... I’ll finish him off.” Ryoma cut her off, a cold glint in his eyes. 

His gaze stabbed into Kael and the knights surrounding him. 

“So you’re the one who got in my way!” Kael barked. 

Ryoma ignored him, however, calmly drawing his katana. 

“I’m going to have you disappear here, Kael Iruna,” Ryoma said, hiding the blade behind his body in a flank stance. 

“You won’t lay a hand on Sir Kael, you bastard!” Kael’s knights braced themselves, solidifying their defense around Kael. 

But the next moment, red blood spurted from their necks. 

“You shan’t get in milord’s way, younglings.” Gennou appeared behind their crumpled forms, his own katana dripping with blood. 

His slash must have been unimaginably fast. It may have been amidst the chaos of the battlefield, but he still cut through the necks of five trained knights with a single slash. His skill was reminiscent of the grim reaper at work. 

“Wha... Who are you?!” Kael’s eyes widened in terror. 

“Who I am matters not. Your opponent is milord...” Gennou’s cold words rained down on Kael’s heart. 

Come to think of it, his scheming was what started all of this. 

Ryoma did think there was an odd twist of fate here. Ryoma Mikoshiba was unrelated to Rhoadseria’s internal strife, but what changed that was Kael’s scheme. And the bond between Ryoma and Kael was on the verge of reaching its conclusion. Everyone else on this battlefield could only swallow nervously as they watched over the two of them. 

The shouting around them gradually died down, and a silence settled over the scene. The mercenaries hunting down the knights gradually gathered around, forming a large ring around the two. 

“Sis... What do we do?” Boltz asked Lione, who remained still where she stood, with a voice that was half-resigned. 

He’d known her for too many years, and could easily tell what was going through her mind. Lione didn’t even turn to look at him as she answered. Her gaze was fixed on Kael and Ryoma’s silent standoff. Her eyes refused to miss a glimpse of their battle. 

“The shouting’s gone, so that probably means the enemies are pretty much all dead. In which case, we don’t have any stragglers left to hunt... And ’sides... You don’t get to watch a fight like this often. Yer warrior’s blood is riled up too, ain’t it?” 

Boltz could only nod with a wry smile. He, too, was a veteran of the battlefield. He’d avoided melee combat since he lost his left arm, but his skill as a warrior hadn’t rusted in the slightest. And just like Lione said, Boltz’s experienced eyes could see the transcendent skill these two fighters had. A battle between two men this skilled didn’t come often. 

And warriors had a dignity they understood and abided by. Everyone present here felt the same way. No mercenary here would dare attack Kael from behind now. No... Perhaps it would be more accurate to say they were all bound by the bloodlust Kael gave off. 

“Still, though...” Boltz said. “I heard this Kael person was skilled, but I didn’t think he’d be that good...” 

“Yeah. If ya were to fight him with your one arm, it would be pretty much suicide. This guy... I don’t think even I could take him down in a one-on-one,” Lione murmured bitterly. 

This meant Lione had discerned that Kael’s skill with a blade far exceeded her own. The most important asset on the battlefield was being able to discern the opponent’s own abilities. To tell if your opponent was stronger or weaker than you. If their gear was of better or lesser quality than your own. If the enemy was more skilled in one-on-one battles, or in large battles. 

This power of observation was essential to surviving the battlefield. It didn’t matter how strong one might be if the enemy was stronger than they were. And veteran mercenaries like Lione and Boltz naturally had that insight. And that insight gave them a glimpse into Ryoma and Kael’s skill — a glimpse they were incapable of tearing their eyes away from. 

“I guess we just can’t help that,” Boltz said. “None of us learned actual fencing... Our sword skills are the kind one learns on the battlefield. I think we’d have plenty of a chance to win if this was an all-out battle, though.” 

A mercenary’s sword is honed in large-scale melee battles. It wasn’t stronger or weaker from traditional fencing, but its utility simply lay elsewhere. Mercenaries developed this style of fencing to survive on tumultuous battlefields, while Kael’s style of fencing was better suited for one-on-one engagements. 

Lione nodded lightly at Boltz’s words. She realized the truth they carried. 

“Still, the lad is matching him... He isn’t retreating a single step away from that bastard Kael... Just look at that vigor... Blast! Even I’m being overwhelmed here...” 

The atmosphere had clearly changed. A sharp, cold air spread out from between the two. 

“The boy isn’t going to budge an inch, is he...?” 

“They’re both looking for an opening... And Kael has that shield and armor, too... It’s gonna be hard to land a proper hit on him with those defenses...” 

Kael was clad in full-body armor, with a sword in his right hand and a shield in his left. He was essentially a fully-armed knight. Ryoma, on the other hand, held the katana donated to him by Gennou in both hands, and his only form of defense was a suit of leather armor. It was a light, maneuverable outfit, but put him in an overwhelming disadvantage compared to Kael when it came to defenses. 

“Kael’s heavily armed... If they’re playing by the book, they’ll be fighting to exhaust each other’s stamina.” 

“Yes, but since thaumaturgy can enhance one’s body, it might not be an entirely reliable tactic...” 

“Right... Even with that heavy armor on, Kael’s agility isn’t any worse for wear. And since the boy can’t use thaumaturgy, he’s at a disadvantage here... So how can he keep his vigor so high?” 

Boltz had no response to Lione’s question. Kael used martial thaumaturgy to reinforce his body, and was able to remain nimble even with his heavy armor. The Manipura chakra is located around the navel. By operating this third chakra, he’d already filled his body with prana, gaining superhuman strength and speed in the process. 

It seemed he was Lione and Boltz’s equal in terms of his skill with martial thaumaturgy. Ryoma’s physique was almost double his, but otherwise Kael had the advantage in almost every other way. He was capable of moving just as quickly while retaining the benefit of his armor’s defenses. 

Looking at it objectively, the odds were stacked despairingly high against Ryoma. And yet, the zeal and vigor emanating from Ryoma didn’t waver in the slightest. 

His heart was completely devoid of all obstructive thoughts. There was no fear or doubt. Did this stem from overwhelming confidence? Or was he yet another fool who overestimated his own abilities? 

Sparks suddenly flew between the two. The distance between them was closed in the space of a moment as sword and katana clashed. The two blades rubbed against each other, giving off high-pitched, metallic screeches. 

At first the two were equally matched, but the katana’s blade gradually edged closer to the nape of Kael’s neck. Ryoma was gripping his katana with both hands, while Kael held his sword with only one. The difference between a two-handed and one-handed grip created a gap between them. 

The match was far from decided, though. The blunt sound of flesh being beaten rung out. Kael swiftly slid his shield between his body and sword, pushing with all his body’s might to deflect Ryoma’s charge. Both of their bodies pushed away from each other, once again creating a distance. 

Dammit! Who the hell is this man...?! He’s fighting me evenly! Against me, one of the most prominent knights in Rhoadseria...! And what is that weapon he’s using...? A single-edged, curved sword? A weapon specialized for slashes... 

Kael clicked his tongue in irritation inside his helmet and held up his shield to strengthen his defenses. 

No... Stay calm. The enemy is lightly armed. My sword can cut through that leather armor like it’s paper... I’ll block his charge with my shield, and a single slash across his body will finish everything... He doesn’t have a shield, and that alone puts me at an advantage... I just need to tighten my defenses and wait for an opening to present itself... 

The sword in Kael’s hands was a family heirloom passed down for generations. The same held true for his armor and shield, dating back from when his ancestors served as knights of Rhoadseria. Unlike his armor, the sword wasn’t imbued with any kind of endowed thaumaturgy, but it was still made by a master craftsman. Kael tightened his grip on its handle. 

But the shock that came over him next was the strongest he’d felt yet. 

“Keeeeeeeeeeeeee!” A war cry erupted from Ryoma’s mouth, and an intense shockwave ran through Kael’s left hand. 

His left hand, holding the shield, went completely numb, and his shield was pushed to his body’s side. 

What in the world was that blow...?! My arm’s all numb... It was even heavier than his earlier slashes! No good...! It takes all my strength to hold onto the shield... I don’t have time to look for an opening and attack... Damn it...! What a monster... 

The blade that swung down on him at high speed carried all of Ryoma’s weight of over one hundred kilograms. Every muscle in Ryoma’s body acted, delivering a truly lethal slash. As proof, a deep mark was etched onto the shield where the blade bore down on it. 

The shield’s principal raw materials were wood and leather, with the surface being covered with a thin layer of steel; that surface was now cut through, exposing the wood underneath. Ryoma’s eyes calmly picked up on that fact. 

I cut through the surface... Guess it wasn’t a steel shield, after all... Figures, since he can handle it with one hand, but what do I know? This world has monsters, after all... 

Even Ryoma couldn’t cut through steel that was several centimeters thick. But the crack in the shield wiped away one of Ryoma’s doubts. In Earth’s logic, it wouldn’t be possible to hold onto a steel shield and fight properly at the same time, but this wasn’t Earth. Thaumaturgy existed, and could augment the body, so the possibility existed. 

It really is amazing enough that he can move so quickly with that heavy metal armor... 

Ryoma calmly compared their combat potential. Armor was exceptionally heavy and tended to inhibit one’s movements, all the more so if iron was involved in its creation. But he was still keeping up with Ryoma, who was wearing leather armor, in terms of speed. The fact Kael blocked Ryoma’s katana with his shield proved it. 

He maintained his armor’s defenses, while ignoring its weight and moving nimbly. It made it abundantly clear why knights were considered such an overwhelming presence on the battlefield. 

While confirming the sensation of his katana’s grip in both his hands, Ryoma cast a probing gaze in Kael’s direction. 

Martial thaumaturgy... An impressive skill... It’s much harder to deal with than verbal thaumaturgy and its chanting... 

Of course, verbal thaumaturgy wasn’t to be trifled with, either. Shooting lightning and raining flames down from the sky or through one’s hands with just a few words is a great threat. Compared to that, martial thaumaturgy was nowhere near as flashy. In fact, it would even seem plain. 

But it was this simplicity that made it reliable and lacking in flaws. It required no chanting, and since it only affected one’s body, it wasted significantly less prana. That was what made it the central technique used in this world’s warfare. The capacity to use thaumaturgy was the wall that segregated the rulers from those dominated. 

Three aspects were central to combat. Spirit, technique and body. And of those three, thaumaturgy augmented the body. In the face of overwhelming power, half-hearted technique and spirit meant little. 

But... It’s not an absolute skill... He’s still human... 

Ryoma’s eyes were already fixed on Kael’s weak point. 

Kael... I’ll kill you here, no matter what...! I’ll show you just how potent the techniques Grandpa passed down to me can be...! 

The atmosphere around Ryoma turned cold and sharp. 

“Ryoma... A katana is like a part of your body. You swing not your katana, but your own limbs and skill... And you must never waver when you draw your blade. Doubts will cloud your judgment and concentration, and it will transmit to your blade. Focus on one thing and one thing only — your slash! And believe. In your training, your skills... in the blade you wield!” 

His grandfather’s words surfaced in Ryoma’s mind. 

Concentrate only on the slash... And there’s only one point I should aim at! 

Ryoma raised his voice in yet another battlecry. He held his sword upright in what was known as the hasso gamae , and closed the distance between them with a single breath. 

Come! I’ll block your blow with my shield and cut you down! 

Kael braced himself for the blow. But suddenly, Ryoma’s sprint turned into a leap into the air. 

What?! He jumped?! You panicked, fool! 

In a split-second judgment, Kael raised his left hand over his head. Ryoma bent his body in mid-jump, holding his blade parallel to his back. And by focusing his consciousness on every single fiber of his body, he united them all under a single will, exhibiting superhuman strength in the process. 

“Eat thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis!” 

He focused all the strength stored in his body, which was bent like a bow, onto a single spot. All that might swung down over Kael, with all of Ryoma’s weight to back it. 

The sound of something cracking rung out. And then, Ryoma felt the dull sensation of cutting into something full of liquid. 


Kael’s face was contorted in shock as he looked down at his left hand. The first thing he saw was his shield, split cleanly in half right down the middle. And the next thing he saw was the katana, digging into his left arm. He could feel his arm gradually grow warmer, and something wet on his skin. A warm, slimy liquid flowed down his armor toward his elbow, dripping onto the ground in droplets. 

A dark black puddle began forming on the ground. 

“Damn it!” 

Kael snapped out of his frozen thoughts and swung his sword in Ryoma’s direction. But it was nothing more than a desperate struggle. His posture was wrong and his swing had no strength behind it. Ryoma avoided it easily. 

My left arm... No good... It won’t move! It’s all numb... Damn it! What kind of monster is he?! He cut into my arm, along with my shield?! My armored arm?! This man... What is he...?! 

For Ryoma, knights who were capable of using thaumaturgy, a power completely foreign to the world he came from, were veritable monsters. But one such monster now looked upon Ryoma as if he was some unnatural threat, too. It was almost comical, really, how both of them saw each other as equally horrifying. 

“With how much you’re bleeding... I cut into the bone and severed your artery. It’s over,” Ryoma declared mercilessly as Kael glared dangerously at him. 

The fact he even spoke alone stood as proof the duel was over. 

“Shut up, the battle isn’t over yet! I can still fight!” Kael held up his sword. 

True, Kael could have kept on fighting. He was still alive, and his right arm was unharmed. But the duel had already been decided. 

“It’s pointless... You couldn’t block my slash with a shield, so how do you expect to block it with just a sword? And look at how much you’re bleeding. You’ll bleed out soon if you’re not treated immediately. And there’s no one around to treat your wound... You lose.” 

Kael’s expression contorted. Ryoma said the duel was already over. Kael’s left arm was cut to the bone and wouldn’t budge. Holding up his shield and having his armor on prevented it from being cut clean off, but it didn’t change the fact that his left arm was now effectively dead. Or at the very least, it was dead unless he was given immediate treatment and time to rest. 

And the blood pouring out of his severed artery was mercilessly sapping away his strength. If nothing would be done to stop the bleeding soon, he would surely bleed to death in a matter of minutes. But he was standing in the middle of the battlefield, face to face with the enemy and without a single living ally in sight. He could do nothing to stop the bleeding. 

“So this is the end of the road...” Kael whispered. 

“Yes... It’s over.” Ryoma nodded. 

“I didn’t think I’d die here... It seems luck really has turned its back on me.” 

Kael’s expression filled with a certain resigned understanding, typical of a warrior that realized their approaching death. 

“You’re Ryoma Mikoshiba, yes?” 

“That’s right...” 

“I see... So you’re not just a wise tactician, you’re also a greater warrior than me... You really are a monster.” 

Kael called Ryoma a monster, but that word didn’t carry any scorn. Quite the contrary, actually; his expression carried something like praise. 

“I prided myself on the fact there was no knight greater than me... Both in swordplay, and in my wit! That I could see further than any knight in any country...! But I was no match for you in either of those things... Both as a commander and a swordsman... Why did I lose...? Was it that you had more talent than me...?” 

“No... I’m not better than you... I don’t think I’m inferior to you, but I’m not superior to you, either.” Ryoma earnestly answered Kael’s question. 

This was the dignity he would show to a man with one foot in the grave. And in truth, everything went wrong for Ryoma because of Kael Iruna’s unusual skills. As both a warrior and tactician, Kael’s talents were well above average. 

“Then why did I lose?” 

“You lost to your own heart. You believed in your strength so much, you drowned in conceit...” 

Kael’s eyes widened at Ryoma’s words. In truth, there were two factors that contributed to Ryoma’s victory. The first was that Kael’s strategies all leaned on brute force, and that dulled his swordplay. 

His slashes were certainly swift and sharp. His skill was far more refined than the common knight’s, too. But while he learned fencing from a legitimate school, his reliance on martial thaumaturgy still made him lean on brute strength too much. Ryoma’s gaze, which was honed from years of training with his grandfather, could discern how his range and breathing had a great deal of coarseness to them. 

And the other factor. That was the fact that Kael covered his body in full armor, just as he did on the battlefield. Armor weighed roughly thirty to forty kilograms on average. Knights wore this armor along with a helmet, a shield and a sword. The total weight amounted to nearly fifty kilograms. 

It limited the mobility of one’s joints, but one could move as if they were lightly armored by using thaumaturgy to handle the weight. That, in and of itself, was extremely impressive. One could liken it a vehicle having a tank’s armor along with the speed and engine of a Ferrari. One could easily realize why martial thaumaturgy became the symbol of the ruling class in this world. 

But impressive as it was, it still sacrificed mobility. Using the car analogy, Kael was only moving as fast as a passenger vehicle traveling at max speed. Indeed, considering how armored he was, maintaining that speed was astounding. However, if he didn’t have that armor, he would surely be capable of moving as fast as a race car. 

Which way would the battle have tilted if that was the case? No one could tell. Blocking a slash delivered with superhuman speed by sheer skill would still be difficult. But in the end, Kael owed his defeat to his over-reliance on the power of martial thaumaturgy, and to his own ability to use it. The conceited belief that his being a knight made him stronger. 

“Conceit... Conceit, you say... Heheh. To think it would be exactly what Mikhail said... Let me ask you one thing. Why do you side with Princess Lupis? Is it money? Power? Those are just empty promises... The wall of social status is thick in this country. Even if the princess were to repay you, the nobles around her would never allow it!” 

“I don’t intend to ask the princess for money or power.” Ryoma shook his head. 

“Impossible... Then why did you fight? Why did you stand in our way?!” Kael’s tone became rougher. 

He had to know why the enemy that drove him to death’s door chose to fight. 

“It’s simple, really... Your meddling made us side with Princess Lupis.” 

“My meddling...?” Kael’s expression contorted with surprise. 

“Yeah... Remember how you set Mikhail up?” 

After thinking for a moment, Kael nodded as if remembering. 

“You mean when we smuggled Princess Radine into Rhoadseria?” 

“Right... We accepted a request from the guild, and were attacked on the way there. We took the blow for Princess Radine.” 

“Yes, I leaked the information about the fake princess to Mikhail and had him attack her. And while he did that, we moved the real princess into the country... That went well, indeed... And it was thanks to that that Duke Gelhart accepted my defection to his side!” 

Kael’s words had a tinge of pride at the success of his own ploy. 

“Yeah, it went well, all right,” Ryoma said with a bitter smile. “Except for the fact that it involved us in this whole mess!” 

Perhaps one couldn’t say this was truly Kael’s fault. Laura’s hair just happened to be the right shade of silver. She just happened to be the only silver-haired mercenary in Pherzaad at the time. A lot of little coincidences piled on top of each other led up to Ryoma facing Kael in the present. And if even one of those coincidences wouldn’t have taken place, Kael’s fate may have been different. 

“Aaah. I thought I saw you somewhere, but it was you back then...” Kael’s face twisted bitterly. 

Anyone would curse their fate if they just heard Ryoma’s explanation. What started as his own ploy became the noose tightening around his neck. 

“So it was just rotten luck...” The words slipped from Kael’s lips. 

Such was the remorse of the man betrayed by the goddess of fortune and her whims. 

“Yeah. You were just out of luck...” Ryoma nodded silently. 

And in truth, had the wires crossed in any other way, Ryoma may have been the one lying dead here. The only difference between them really was just a matter of luck. 

“I have one last request,” Kael said. 

Ryoma nodded silently. Kael’s face was already pale from the blood loss, and the only thing ahead of him was death. And Ryoma wasn’t cold-hearted enough to ignore the words of a dying man. 

“I wanted to die fighting... as a knight. Will you be my opponent?” 

Ryoma gave another silent nod, and propped up his katana. 

“You have my gratitude... Thank you.” 

Ryoma lifted up his blade. The stance of fire. The optimal form for Ryoma to land a blow. Kael held up his sword at his flank, and burst into a jog, swinging at Ryoma with what strength remained in him. 

This is the final battle I will ever... 

The moment Kael made to slash at Ryoma’s abdomen, a battlecry erupted from Ryoma’s lips. The next moment, the blade swung up over his head bashed down into Kael’s helmet. Kael’s body ran past Ryoma’s side, and took two more steps... a third... a fourth... 

Kael’s running speed gradually grew slower, and he eventually pitched forward, falling headfirst to the ground.

By the time Kael was beaten to the ground by Ryoma’s blade, Helena’s revenge was approaching its climax in the forest’s depths. 

“Shit! We have to protect the General and his family!” 

“Follow me! We’re breaking through the encirclement!” 

Conflicting orders flew past each other from every direction, complicating the battle further. Some knights said they had to protect Albrecht’s person, while others tried to gather the remaining knights and attempted to break through their pursuers’ enclosure. They all desperately avoided the enemy’s blades, their armor creaking as they moved. 

Reality was ruthless, however. Their desperate efforts would go unrewarded. They held up their shields and swung their swords in an attempt to cut a way through the enemy’s ring, but they all sank to the ground dead, one after another. 

Thirty guards set out from the camp with Albrecht, but now less than twenty remained. Helena’s unit, by contrast, numbered over two hundred. Both sides were fully armed knights, but the difference in numbers was clear and absolute. 

After being ambushed in his camp by Ryoma, Albrecht fell to Helena’s trap next. And that was how their snare was planned, to begin with. Ryoma would be the hunting hound to scare him out of the camp, so that the hunter, Helena, could finish him off. A lethal ploy, indeed. 

“Lady Helena... Everything is moving along as you’ve ordered,” one of the knights reported. “All that remains is to take the heads of Albrecht and his family.” 

“Yes, I think the end is in sight. Ryoma has done well.” Helena nodded with a dark smile. 

“Still... To see things carried out so well... That boy, he’s... terrifying,” Chris whispered as he watched the fighting... or rather, the slaughter carried out before him. 

Of course, Helena and her forces were the ones stomping out the enemy. Each enemy knight was beaten down by four or five of Helena’s knights, and anyone but the mightiest of warriors would fall to those odds. They were also surrounded by a multitude of other knights that stood in the way of any attempt to escape. The only future Albrecht’s knights had ahead of them was death. 

And what created this situation was Ryoma Mikoshiba’s plan. Chris’s eyes were full of fear toward Ryoma. 

“Yes, he’s certainly impressive,” Helena complimented Ryoma’s plan, and then turned to face Chris. “Does he scare you?” 

There weren’t any traces of her earlier smile in her expression. Chris simply held his tongue, which expressed his feelings all on its own. If nothing else, the fact remained Ryoma hadn’t done anything that didn’t benefit the kingdom of Rhoadseria. It wouldn’t be odd to praise him as a reliable ally. But Chris couldn’t shake off a certain concern. 

He has gained some impressive accomplishments. He’s capable at coming up with and executing plans and he’s a skilled commander... But he’s not a man of this country. He’s a stranger, a wanderer... If a tactician like him were to join in with an enemy country, and then try to invade Rhoadseria... 

Chris openly acknowledged Ryoma’s skills, and he also understood his imagination was quite baseless. But even knowing all that, Chris was terrified of Ryoma, and that stemmed from the fact Ryoma had absolutely no ties to Rhoadseria as a country. He hadn’t sworn allegiance to Princess Lupis, nor did he feel much affinity to the kingdom, either. 

The only thing that bound Ryoma to Princess Lupis was a series of coincidences stacked together, and that was an opinion shared by many of Princess Lupis’s lieutenants. That was why Chris feared Ryoma. 

Helena and Chris exchanged gazes in silence for a long moment. 

“I thought so...” Helena eventually whispered sadly. “I understand why you’re anxious, Chris... Several others have already come to me with similar doubts.” 

Chris’s expression changed at her words. There was only one type of plot employed against dangerous characters. That choice crossed Chris’s mind. The dangerous choice of assassination... 

“I did tell them all to not plan anything needless... So as to not stir up any hornet nests,” Helena said with a shrug. 

“Do you mean... assassinating Ryoma Mikoshiba?” 

Helena didn’t answer Chris’s question. If nothing else, people seem to have proposed it. 

Hammering down the nail that sticks out, eh...? 

Chris’s heart wavered in something like a mix of loneliness and frustration. True, he feared Ryoma, but he didn’t consider assassinating him to remove him as a threat. 

No one’s earned as much merit in this civil war as he did. It was thanks to him that Princess Lupis managed to remove General Albrecht and Duke Gelhart... Even if he isn’t a citizen of Rhoadseria and merely some vagabond, repaying the greatest contributor to this war’s conclusion with assassination would be... 

One couldn’t maintain a country without dirtying their hands somewhat. Chris understood that perfectly well. But he still wasn’t comfortable with the idea of assassinating Ryoma, and that wasn’t even a problem of his own sentiments. Even if the situation called for his assassination, it still required a certain condition could be met. 

The condition being that they could actually assassinate him. 

There could be no failing that. Because if he were to survive, the kingdom Rhoadseria would have created a far more dangerous enemy for itself than General Albrecht or Duke Gelhart ever were with its own two hands. That was why Chris felt no urge to assassinate Ryoma despite his fears. 

The best possible solution is to have him serve the kingdom... That way, Rhoadseria would flourish alongside him... 

But of course, that was far easier said than done. The wall of social status in Rhoadseria was too high, and so Ryoma, who wasn’t even a citizen of the kingdom, would run into too many problems. 

“What’s your opinion on it, Lady Helena?” Chris suddenly asked Helena. 

“Me...? I’m against it, of course... It’s only thanks to that boy that I can kill Albrecht. And if someone were to try to kill him and fail, this country would be faced with a far greater threat...” Helena answered ambiguously. 

Anyone would reach this conclusion with a bit of thought. 

His skill as a warrior is exceptionally high, and he’s a first-rate tactician and commander. And there are always people around him, drawn to his charisma... 

Lione the Crimson Lion and her lieutenant, Boltz. Their names as mercenaries were well-known throughout the western continent. Using their connections, Ryoma was able to hire the services of many skilled mercenaries. But the problem was that their relationship with Ryoma felt more like the relationship between master and servant. 

The mercenaries had looked down on him due to his low rank and youth, but following his defeat of Branzo the Black Spider and his success at the river Thebes, everyone’s opinions on him had turned over to complete praise. 

At this point, one could say Lione the Crimson Lion was sitting as the leader of Ryoma’s bodyguards. This was extremely unusual behavior for mercenaries, who had always survived on the battlefield by their own strength. 

It wasn’t for nothing that mercenaries were said to hold loyalty for no one, and that was why their employment terms and pay demands were as severe as they were. Their employers could cut them off at any time for any reason, and so mercenaries never worked any more than they were paid to. They could appear earnest about doing their job, of course, but put conversely, they kept a businesslike approach for anything that extended beyond their contract. 

For mercenaries, an employer was a temporary existence, and not someone they would serve forever. If put in the terms of Ryoma’s world, it was like the difference between temporary and full-time employees. 

And so, if those mercenaries obeyed the command of a young, inexperienced person like Ryoma, it could only be because he had managed to win over their hearts. 

He must have the caliber of a general. 

Ryoma Mikoshiba possessed something Helena must have had in her youth. 

An assassination is a poor idea. Even if it succeeds, Lione’s group would strike back and it would lead to further bloodshed... And who’s to say if we can even kill him... 

That concern shook Helena’s heart. She had no intention of assassinating him, nor any intention of admitting to considering it. If any of her subordinates were to suggest it, she would simply reject the idea. 

But the problem was that someone might decide to do so without her knowing it. In that case, everything would be all right if the assassination went smoothly. If it would remove Rhoadseria’s concerns, Helena would simply have to swallow her own apprehensions and feelings on the matter. 

But what if the assassination were to fail? 

If that were to happen, Ryoma Mikoshiba would never forgive the kingdom of Rhoadseria. He would see it as the kingdom betraying him. Even still, Helena was a knight of Rhoadseria. She would have to fight anyone seeking to harm her country. 

“But if he were to bare his fangs against Rhoadseria... Then...” 

It was a terribly bitter decision for Helena to make, and a future she didn’t wish to see come to pass. 

But Chris didn’t get to hear Helena finish that sentence. 


“““We caught them! We have them!””” 

The cheering rising from the battlefield drowned out her words... 

“You’re not hurt, right? We’re gonna break through the encirclement here... Don’t let go of my hands, understand? Don’t look back, and keep your eyes on me!” 

Albrecht ran in an attempt to break the encirclement, with his wife and daughter behind his back. Their carriage’s horses were promptly killed, reducing the vehicle into an immobile lump of wood. Albrecht swiftly helped his family off the carriage and attempted to flee into the forest. 

However, by this point, Helena’s encirclement wasn’t a net spread out around them - it was a cage, closing them in and blocking their path of escape. He had no choice but to force his way from the knights closing on him. The world wasn’t kind enough to allow such a reckless tactic to succeed. His repeated attempts at escape claimed the lives of a few of the knights he still had on his side, and by now he was completely surrounded by foes. 

“Father...” His daughter looked at him with a pale expression, feeling the bloodlust directed at them from all around. 

Just a few weeks ago, she was one of the most prominent young ladies of the country. She was by no means hardened enough to withstand the bloodthirsty savagery of the battlefield. The journey to Tarja had also depleted her stamina. 

“It’ll be fine, just follow me! You need only run and keep your eyes on my back!” Albrecht raised his voice to encourage the two. 

He could tell that him showing any sign of weakness would probably make their hearts snap. 

“You’ll be fine. Believe in your father,” His wife said, to which his daughter nodded. 

Though she didn’t have much of a choice. 

“Let’s go!” Albrecht said. 

The knights accompanying him nodded. Only four of them remained out of the thirty dispatched with his carriage. 


All four of them charged at the wall of soldiers blocking their path. They swung their swords, held up their shields, forcing their bodies through. The sight of them waving their swords and screaming was reminiscent of a group of rabid dogs. They’d completely cast aside the idea of defense, knowing that General Albrecht’s end would spell their own end anyway. That knowledge reduced them into rash daredevils. 

“Milord, now! Over there!” 

The defending soldiers were overwhelmed by their reckless charge, crumbling the encirclement for a moment. 

“Let’s go! Keep your eyes forward and head right into the forest!” 

Albrecht’s wife and daughter nodded, and upon his confirming that, the three of them broke into a run. 

“Hurry, milord!” 

With their knights’ screams spurring them forward the three rushed onward without looking back. They were only a few meters away from the woods. 

Just a little more! If we can run into the forest, we can probably manage to get away! We just have to keep going! 

Of course, getting into the forest didn’t guarantee their safety. But their chances of survival were that much higher so long as they could break this blockade. 

“Aaaaaaaah!” His daughter screamed behind his back. 

“How dare you! Unhand me! Let go of...!” His wife’s voice also called out, but was cut off by the blunt sound of flesh being beaten. 

“Mother...! Stop! Don’t hit her!” 

General Albrecht turned around, only to be faced with the sight of his wife crouching and his daughter being tormented by the soldiers. His wife’s mouth was dripping with saliva and vomit. She was likely punched. Raising a hand on a woman was despicable from the standpoint of chivalry, but there was rarely any place for such idealism on the battlefield. General Albrecht hesitated. 

Dammit! We were so close...! What do I do, do I save them...? No, I’ll never make it. Do I head back in this situation...? But I can’t abandon my daughter here... 

General Albrecht’s gaze crossed with his daughter’s. Her eyes implored him to save her and her mother. But General Albrecht stayed still. He was this close, this close to getting away with his life...! 

Saving his wife and daughter here was realistically impossible. His cold-hearted side prompted him to prioritize pragmatism. But that was impossible, too. He couldn’t abandon them and run either. Doing so would take away his chance at making a comeback. 

Abandon them and run on my own? What would that give me? I doubt Tarja would even give me refuge in that case... 

The only reason the kingdom of Tarja would give him asylum was because his wife was daughter to a family of Tarjan nobles. If he were to abandon his wife and flee, her family would never forgive him. Self-preservation bound his body. No matter which choice he made, they would all lead him to doom. 

“Cast aside your weapons, General Albrecht!” One of the knights stepped forward. “Do so, or choose death!” 

General Albrecht’s hesitation gave Helena’s knights the chance to surround him, rendering his situation completely hopeless. 


The knights stood in his way to the forest, and it didn’t seem he’d be capable of breaking through. Any chance he had to either save his family or flee to safety has passed him by. 

“What will you do? Will you stand by and watch us behead your wife and daughter?!” 

Heartless words were once again thrust at General Albrecht. His wife and daughter had their hands pinned behind their backs, with swords aimed in their direction. 



Both of their eyes appealed to him as a husband and father. This battle was already all but decided. 

Making a riot here would give me nothing. Any attempt to resist would just give them an excuse to execute us. Vindication... So long as I get a chance to clear my name, I can manage something! If nothing else, Lupis won’t execute my wife and daughter! 

Albrecht threw his sword to the ground. 

“Very well.” Albrecht squeezed the words out from the bottom of his heart. “I... I submit.” 

But as he said those words, his mind clung to his one remaining hope. 

“Very good!” The knights gave a slight nod and raised their hands. 

Several knights swiftly pounced on General Albrecht, and bound his hands with chains. 


“““We caught them! We have them!””” 

The cheers echoed through the forest. Everyone raised their swords in the air in celebration. 

“It’s finally over! A new age for the Kingdom of Rhoadseria begins!” 

“Glory to Her Highness! Eternal prosperity to the Kingdom of Rhoadseria!” 

The knights raised their voices in enthusiastic cheers. 

“What will become of me now?” General Albrecht asked a nearby knight. “Where will my trial be held? Do you guarantee my safety until the verdict is handed down?” 

“A trial?” the knight replied with a chillingly cold glare. “You think you’re in a position to demand a trial?” 

“What? What are you saying?!” General Albrecht forgot he had just been arrested and tried to grab the knight. “I surrendered! I have a right to a fair trial!” 

He only surrendered because he thought doing so would make Princess Lupis put him on trial. He wouldn’t be killed with no questions asked, and his safety would be guaranteed until the trial is decided. He counted on the princess’s kindness and gullibility, believing that, if nothing else, at least his family would be spared. 

But this was all completely overturned. 

“What is the meaning of this?! Did the princess— did Princess Lupis order this?!” 

If that was the case, then General Albrecht had completely misjudged Lupis Rhoadserians as a person. 

That’s impossible, that woman doesn’t have the capacity to order something like that...! 

When taken too far, mercy was nothing more than naivete, and that was why General Albrecht only ever saw Lupis as a puppet to manipulate. If she really was capable of this, then General Albrecht had voluntarily walked into his own shameful, infuriating death. 

Reality was even more heartless than he had imagined, though. 

“No, that’s wrong!” 

The knights surrounding Albrecht stepped aside, clearing the way. And down the path they opened walked a knight in white, clad in ebony armor, helmet and cape, in a composed step. 

“You seem to be misunderstanding things... General Albrecht.” 

“That voice... And that armor!” General Albrecht turned pale. “You’re Helena... Helena Steiner! How can you be here...?! You should be in the attack on Heraklion!” 

The knight removed her helmet, indeed revealing herself to be Helena Steiner. 

“Lady Helena Steiner? Rhoadseria’s Ivory Goddess of War?” 

“Is this... really Lady Helena?” 

Albrecht’s wife and daughter blurted out in surprise at Helena’s sudden appearance. They didn’t expect to meet a national hero here. Helena gave a gentle nod at the two women’s direction and raised a finger to her lips to hush them. She then returned her gaze to General Albrecht. 

“Did you think I could not predict what you’ll be thinking?” 

“You’re saying you anticipated what I’d do?! That’s impossible...! You could never do that!” Albrecht raised his voice angrily. 

For many years, Albrecht had looked down on Helena as a lowly peasant, so he could never admit she saw through him so thoroughly. 

“My... You’re as blind to reality as ever, I see. You overestimate your own abilities and look down on the skill of others... You haven’t changed one bit since the day we first met. But in reality, I have you captured and pinned down here. Isn’t that all that matters?” 

“Shut up, you filthy plebe! I am... I am a descendant to house Albrecht! I cannot lose to the likes of you!” 

Helena met Albrecht’s shout with a bitter smile. 

You stupid man... You have ambition, wits, power and pedigree... How can someone blessed with so much talent be so foolish...? 

“Not by you! Not by a plebeian like you...! You can never and will never be better than me!” 

“You pathetic man... That’s why the former general nominated me as his successor over you. He knew your belief that you’re privileged, and that your conceit would eat away at this country... And he was right! Look around you! Look at how every knight standing here looks upon you!” 

“Shut up! The former general had no eye for people! If he did, he never would have chosen a commoner like you over an heir to house Albrecht...! All of you! Don’t you think this is wrong?! That proud knights of Rhoadseria like you should have to be bossed around by a plebeian woman?!” Albrecht shouted and looked around. 

But none of the knights agreed with him. If anything, they all eyed him with cold loathing. 

“Wh-What’s gotten into all of you? Why are you looking at me like that?!” 

The way the knights looked at Albrecht... It was the same gaze with which he looked down on the commoners. The only difference is that they were also thick with the hatred and scorn of the oppressed. 

“You stupid, pitiful excuse of a man... They’re all low-ranking knights, of common descent. The very people you and the noble knights oppressed and extorted... You think they’re going to sympathize with you? In the end, you really can’t see past anything. You simply sit crossed-legged on your throne of status and pedigree, and never once stop to think of the people supporting your weight!” 

Even among knights, some were children of longstanding houses of knights, while others were commoners who worked their way up to knighthood with sheer effort. However, the commoner knights had to pass through a gate of entry with a far, far smaller threshold. And that still required back-breaking effort to achieve. 

But in Rhoadseria, even those who put in all that effort are faced with a distinct wall separating them from knights of noble birth. Seeing those of common birth struggle to finally attain some merit to their name, only to have it snatched away by a knight of noble birth, was an everyday occurrence. 

The ones chosen to stand proudly in marching parades were always knights of noble descent. Meanwhile, those of common birth were left behind to do the chores backstage. Some of the knights present even had their lovers forcibly snatched away by a colleague. 

Any attempt to report this corruption was only met with the guilt being pinned on them instead. Some were even outright court martialed for their trouble. The noble knights were always the ones to take the credit, while the commoner knights handled all the dirty work and took all the blame. 

And all of that was because the general standing at the top, Hodram Albrecht, was a privileged, prejudiced, hard-headed knight of noble birth. The man in charge being corrupted meant his subordinates would inevitably be just as rotten. 

“Shut up! We are not equal!” Albrecht’s emotions were getting the better of him, and his face was turning red with anger. “You commoners being allowed to become knights was a mistake to begin with! We merely let you become knights out of pity, so shut up, keep your heads down and do as we say!” 

The things he was saying were growing incoherent, but everyone present understood what he was trying to say. That commoner knights should obey noble knights, like him. 

“You really are an infuriating fool...” Helena said. “But, well, so be it... Today is the last time we’ll need to put up with your unpleasant attitudes...” 

“You idiot! Do you intend to break national law...?!” Albrecht was unable to withhold his shock. “I have a right to stand trial!” 

He himself had broken multiple rules until now. He unjustly distributed his human resources, sending people he didn’t like to guard remote regions. He embezzled military funds and took bribes from his personal merchants. He set up colleagues who got in the way of his promotions and pinned all the blame on them. 

But when his life was approaching its end, he depended on the law. It didn’t matter how unreasonable of an act it was, because that was the only thing he had left to cling to. 

“Oh, make no mistake,” Helena said with a smile outright dripping with irony. “It will go down in the records that Hodram Albrecht pretended to surrender, only to attempt murder on Helena Steiner. Left with no choice, she had to kill him in self-defense. And his family was cut down by the knights who assisted in his escape. And all of this is done... by the methods you were always so skilled at using... See?” 

“That’s insane! Y-You call that justice?!” 

“Justice? No, this isn’t justice... This is revenge... For the husband and daughter you took from me.” 

Albrecht’s expression froze over at those words. His wife and daughter reacted with horrified shock. 

“What are you saying?! I have no idea what you mean! I know nothing about your family!” 

“Don’t try it... Five years ago, I beat it out of the slave merchant you hired, Heinz. And I have the witness who helped question him back then.” 

One of Helena’s aides, standing at her side, nodded. 

“I know nothing! I don’t know any Heinz! He was executed already, anyway! How can you prove it?! This testimony isn’t worth anything!” 

“Beloved... What is she saying? Did you really... do that to Lady Helena’s family...?” 


Albrecht’s family looked at him with gazes of indignant doubt. 

“Why are you looking at me like that?! I said I don’t know anything! Do you not believe your own father?!” 

But the more he tried to make excuses, the colder their gazes became. It was obvious to everyone that Albrecht did it. 

“You’re right. It can’t serve as proof... But you see, I don’t need proof. I just want to kill you...” 

“You...” Albrecht finally noticed the madness in Helena’s eyes. 

And at that moment he realized. Nothing he will do or say will help him escape her blade. 

“Don’t worry... We’ll give your wife and daughter a quick death...” Helena said and drew her sword. “My daughter had to be raped to death by a slave merchant, but... That’s fine. I’ll forgive them with this.” 

She then walked over to his wife and daughter. 

“Wait! They have nothing to do with this!” 

Albrecht tried to jump and stand in her way, but the knights pinned him down. 

“Oh, I’d say they have everything to do with this. They’re your family.” 

“Wait, someone! Anyone!” Albrecht cried out desperately for help. “Stop her! Sh-She can’t get away with this!” 

But none of the two hundred people present would lend him an ear. They all wanted him and his family dead. 

“No... Please... Help me...” Tears welled up in his daughter’s eyes. 

She realized the severity of her father’s sin, and just how hated he was by everyone else. The fact that none of the knights present showed her any mercy was proof of that. 

“Goodbye... You’ve done nothing wrong, but... Luck wasn’t on your side. I’ll at least make sure you don’t suffer...” 


Albrecht’s scream echoed in vain. Helena brandished her sword up grandly, and then swung it down at the girl’s neck. The daughter’s body grew limp at once, falling backwards to the ground, smearing it with crimson blood. Helena then swung her blade back, this time cutting his wife through the heart. 

“You bitch! My wife! My daughter! I’ll kill you! I’ll kill youuuu!” Albrecht hollered, his eyes wide with rage and saliva frothing from his mouth. 

But several knights held him down, and he couldn’t budge at all. His eyes alone burned with black, raging flames of anger. 

“Yes! Those are the words I wanted to hear! This is why I clung to life until now!” Helena said with an innocent smile as she walked up to Albrecht. 

Now... It’s over... It’s finally over... Beloved... Salia... You can rest in peace now, right...? Your grudges are finally repaid... 

She was finally about to be set free of the regrets and resentment she had to carry for a decade. She could see her husband and daughter in her mind’s eye. 

“This is how it all ends... Hodram Albrecht!” Helena held up her sword. 

“Damn it! Not to you! Not to a commoner!” 

This was how Hodram Albrecht, general of the Kingdom of Rhoadseria and ringleader of the rebellion, met his end. And this was also how the civil war that tormented Rhoadseria for months came to a close. 

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