The roaring voices of several thousand people reverberates at the foot of the mountain that had become a battlefield.
“”Advance, advance, Holmea’s brave men! Go forward! Go forward shoulder by shoulder with your comrades! Open a path for the comrades following behind you! Come on, comrades! Advance forward together!!””
That was the song Holmea’s heavy spear infantry unit sings when they link up into formation and advance.
Them being made to collectively sing that is not only because of the drum beats, neither is it for staying in step so that the march doesn’t get disordered, but it’s for the effect of alleviating the soldiers’ fears by having them sing with loud voices.
The drum and fife instruments play and the heavy spear infantry regiments raise their voices to the noise, marching on as they line up their spearheads. The spectacle went beyond dread and entered the realm of being bizarre.
That doesn’t mean that Souma and the others simply watched on as the heavy spear infantry regiments closed in.
First the archer unit led by Eladia delivers a preemptive strike.
Eladia shouts while nocking an arrow to the string of her own bow as well. Matching that, the elven women simultaneously nocked arrows to their bows.
The sound of bows being bent with heavy, dull creaks resounds all over.
The released arrows pour down on the dense formation like rain coming down in torrents.
However, the arrows were blocked by the shields of the heavy spear infantry. There were a few soldiers who were wounded through small gaps in the shield wall by chance, but the soldiers in the rear immediately filled those holes, not allowing the formation to fall apart.
Eladia’s beautiful face is dyed in the color of irritation.
I had been told about it in advance, but I believed that we would be able to inflict more damage if we made use of our archery skills. But, the defence of the dense formation is tighter than predicted. At this rate we probably won’t be able to obtain any military achievements no matter how many arrows we shoot.
In addition, due to not having touched a bow for a long period of time, they already felt their arms getting heavy and tired, causing doubt on whether there’s any sense in pointlessly continuing to shoot arrows like this.
At that moment voices were raised from the western side of the camp.
“The enemy has come to attack from the west!”
The ones who were closing in on the encampment from the western side in concert with the heavy spear infantry regiments was just one unit that had been deployed in a place further away from the regiments.
“They came after all!”
Souma ran up to the western fence and checked the enemy forces.
The formation of the heavy spear infantry regiments sustained a clean rectangular shape while advancing. In contrast to that, the unit attacking from the west had an unstructured formation in order to advance while avoiding the rocks spread out in the terrain, and looked similar to an amoeba from afar.
According to their plans, they should deal with it by assigning around 30% of their forces to the west if they were to be attacked from there as well. But because the elven archers were stronger than expected and the heavy spear infantry regiments' defence was solid, Souma decided to change the plan.
“We are altering the plans! Eladia and all elves, move to the western side! Please prevent the enemy unit to get close by any means necessary!”
Eladia gallantly waves the hem of her clothes and moves towards the western part of the encampment while taking her sisters along.
“The other people will get ready for the enemy main force coming from the south!”
Yelling that, Souma looks for the others. Finding them, they had already started acting before even receiving Souma’s order.
“Yes, I know, I know.”
Dvalin and the dwarves waiting behind him took bundles of firewood and dry grass into their hands. The dwarves efficiently piled those up before the fence.
And, at the moment it swelled up like a hill, Dvalin set it aflame with a torch he held in his hand. The bundles of dry grass and firewood caught fire, and as green wood was put in in-between, a dense white smoke rose up. Being carried by the north wind blowing down from the mountain in the rear, the smoke flowed towards the heavy spear infantry regiments.
Ascertaining that with his own eyes, Souma hurled further orders.
“Garam’s group, fall back! Dvalin, Jahangil!”
The zoan, who were throwing stones in front of the fence, withdrew behind Souma. The dwarves and dinosaurians went in front, as if changing places with them, and lined up in a row behind the fence. The sight of them lining up with their burly bodies looked just like a wall of flesh.
“Hey! Fighting Spirit! Raise your fighting spirit!”
Alongside Dvalin’s encouraging yell, the dwarves and dinosaurians raised their voices while banging the butt ends of their long-handled weapons in their hands against the ground.
Those screams even reached the ears of Regimental Commander Kadomos who led the heavy spear infantry regiments on the other side of the white smoke.
The enemy camp was already at a distance of beckoning.
Originally attacks by arrows and stones would intensify at such a distance and it was an established tactic to charge without stopping at that point. If it was this level of distance, the soldiers had been trained for running it at full power while maintaining the dense formation.
Of course the rebels will likely counterattack with stones and arrows, but at most they will be able to launch one or two waves of arrows until we reach the enemy camp. Even if they throw stones at us, they won’t be able to throw more than three stones per person. If it’s that much, we will reach the enemy camp without suffering any considerable losses.
The rest would be keeping the enemy at bay by thrusting the spears into the fence, and once we knock down the fence and destroy the embankment with ramming attacks using our shields afterwards, that will likely decide our victory.
However, coming up to this place, white smoke was rising from the enemy camp.
I can’t believe that they are betting on fire in such an open place. Besides, considering that it’s a fire attack, it’s extremely weird for only white smoke to rise up.
In that case, all that I can think of is them using it as a smoke screen or maybe they plan to stop our feet with the smoke.
Kadomos calmly surveyed the area from the heavy spear infantry regiments up until the enemy camp. Because the northwind is strong, the smoke disperses before reaching our location. At most it is at the level of worsening the visibility of the enemy camp and its surroundings.
If ropes to trap our feet have been spread out or pitfalls have been dug out around there, it will become troublesome.
Kadomos called a nearby messenger.
“Send a message to Judius who’s leading the regiment on the left. Drop the march speed. Be cautious of traps in front of the enemy camp!”
The messenger repeated Kadomos’ words, turned his horse around and galloped to the location of Regimental Commander Judius.
After confirming that, Kadomos ordered the drums and fifes to slow down the march rhythm with his hand. Thereupon the advance speed of the dense formation matched with that and became slower as well.
“Front row! Advance as you hit the ground in front of you with your spears!”
In accordance with Kadomos’ order, the spears of the soldiers in the front row match up with the drum beats, adding the sound of hitting the ground to the whole. With this they should be able to discover any ropes or pitfalls in advance.
Moreover, he also instructed for the infantry to watch out for stones that may be thrown out from the other side of the white smoke.
“Properly maintain the defensive shield wall! We don’t know from where arrows or stones might be coming in!”
However, at present he didn’t sense any danger from thrown stones.
The shields held by the heavy spear infantry are reinforced with metal on the surface of its wooden board and have leather affixed to them on the inner side. Even if they can stop arrows because of this design, they are not capable of blocking heavy stones many times over. The white smoke has made it difficult to see the approaching stones, but the enemy has also lost the ability to focus their throws. That's instead convenient for us as we will be able to avoid the increasing power of the stone throws as the distance shortens.
All that’s left is to trample down the enemy camp!
At the time when Kadomos thought that, Darius’s place also saw the scenery of white smoke rising from the enemy camp.
“… What’s that?”
Darius stared intensely and scrutinized the enemy camp trying to read the enemy’s intention.
“Your Excellency, is it the enemy’s fire attack?”
The commissioned officers, who heard of Souma having burned 800 Holmean soldiers to death with fire, wondered whether he was trying something similar.
Darius also considered that possibility, but rejected it right away.
“That’s not it. There’s probably no meaning in launching a fire attack in an open area like this. Besides, even if it was a fire attack, I can only see smoke but no fire.”
Just as Darius said, only smoke was visible without a single trace of flames blazing up. Darius thought that the goal is to either use it as smokescreen or as method to stop the advance, just like Kadomos did.
Even while thinking that, the march music played by the drums and fifes slowed down and so did the advance of the heavy spear infantry regiments.
That’s a steady judgement and command befitting Kadomos, Darius smiled faintly. Deciding that there wouldn’t be any issues if he kept leaving it to Kadomos, Darius turned his attention towards the surprise attack unit that might appear.
“Don’t be negligent on your watch of the surroundings! There might be an enemy attack at the worst possible time!”
While ordering so, Darius let his look wander towards the surroundings of the battlefield once again.
His appearance closely resembled that of a ferocious old lion searching for its hidden game.
The ambush troops led by Banuka were concealed inside the thickets located slightly away from the mountain foot that had turned into a battlefield, towards the plains.
The zoan, who hunted in the plains, are used to waiting for their prey as they hide in the bushes. Continuing to bate their breath and staying quiet in one place since the punitive force arrived hasn’t been very difficult for them.
However, that’s only limited to talking about waiting.
Because Banuka and his troops were able to oversee the entire battlefield from their separated location, they could clearly perceive the difference in numbers between them and the punitive force. With only that much, they definitely couldn’t stay calm once they considered how much danger their brethren are in.
And, above all, their respected divine child of the great God of Beasts, Shyemul, was over there as well.
Banuka gnashed his teeth due to his worthlessness of being unable to do anything but simply wait.
“Young master, please calm down. Impatience is taboo.”
After being chided by his clanmate next to him, Banuka realized that he had unconsciously half-risen to his feet.
Rushing here and ending up discovered by the enemy would mean losing everything. Banuka intentionally took a deep breath and calmed his own heart.
Soon after that the long-awaited time came at last.
“Young master! Smoke is rising from the encampment!”
That was exactly the signal they had waited for.
Banuka turned around and addressed his clanmates.
“Everybody, let’s go!”
After confirming that all of them returned powerful nods, Banuka went down on all four and was about to start running. However, he felt a weight as if his waist was being pulled. The feeling of confusion due to the sensation different from the usual one when he runs across the ground lasted only an instant.
“Divine Child. This Banuka shall come for you right now!”
Banuka, who muttered that under his breath, started to run and kicked up a cloud of dust alongside his clanmates.
The cloud of dust caused by Banuka and the others was immediately discovered by the soldiers watching the surroundings, and the information was delivered to Darius in a flash.
“Your Excellency! A cloud of dust is rising in the direction of the plains!”
Darius reflexively hit the armrest of his chair with his hands due to that report.
“As expected, they came, huh!?”
Once he looked in the direction indicated by the soldier, he could see a huge dust cloud rising up. Darius guessed from the size of the dust cloud and its way of rising the scale and type of unit below it.
A cloud of dust rising up high and straight upwards is proof cavalry or chariots moving at high speed. There's no doubt that the cause are the zoan. And going by the scale of the cloud, there numbers can be estimated to be around 200 to 300.
It’s a safe bet of that being the eagerly awaited surprise attack unit.
Concluding so, Darius got up from his chair on the chariot and swung his arm forward.
“I command the unit under my direct control! Turn around towards the enemy surprise attack unit! Bring the heavy spear infantry to the forefront and have them join up in ranks! Line up your shields in case the enemy charges, so that you can defend against this!”
According to his commands, Darius’ unit started to move.
The unit under Darius' direct control was a battalion of approximately 500 soldiers consisting of Darius’ private army, the elite unit of Holmea’s army. In addition, there are two companies of common soldiers led by Borgus. While the number of soldiers was only that much, it was the same unit that was thoroughly thrown into action when the zoan surprise attack happened before. They smoothly reset their formation into one to counter surprise attacks.
In front the heavy spear infantry lined up with their huge shields at the ready. Then came the spear infantry with their spears ready. And even further, archers lined up behind those two.
It was a sound setup that had the archers first shoot their arrows while the attacking zoan would be held back using the line of shields and spears.
Darius gazed at the battalion’s condition that had reset its formation while imposingly standing on top of the chariot which was slowly changing its direction, but being concerned about the situation at the enemy camp, he looked behind over his shoulder.
What he saw then was the infantry battalion incessantly attacking from the west while the heavy spear infantry regiments were about to finally reach the enemy camp. Before long the enemy camp will probably be bitten and torn apart from the west and south. No matter how much the rebels might try to resist, they've essentially reached the end of the road.
Darius, who was convinced of his victory, sat down on the chariot’s seat.
It happened at that moment.
Some black shadow passed by in a corner of Darius’ view.
Darius, who felt strangely bothered by that for some reason, completely turned around in the direction of the enemy camp and strained his eyes.
And, making sure of the true identity of that black shadow, Darius voiced it out for no particular reason,
“… A bird, huh?”