The generals, including former Lunan retainers like Ahmur, had set up camp near the Sunkwoll border and were waiting for their enemy .
They had more than enough soldiers to aggressively try and take the capital, but everyone in the army’s line of command, including the generals, unanimously decided to take a more passive approach——to wait and fight by using the lay of the land to their advantage instead of charging forward .
Ahmur thought that there was no helping it .
After all, Sunkwoll had him . Ralphus had been a rather formidable opponent too, but that man was far worse……after all, most of the Lunan generals present had been defeated by him multiple times previously . In fact, they had never once managed to emerge victorious against him . And, as dishonorable as it was, Ahmur was one of those defeated generals .
In any event, generals were holding a war council inside a manor they had seized, but every one of their faces were overcast . They had received a report from a scout just the other day that read, “High General Rain has departed from the capital with an army of 10,000 . He is currently making his way up north in our direction . ”
When they had received the report, Ahmur and the other generals had exchanged looks and whispered……It’s him, he’s coming .
Commanders and soldiers alike had desperately hoped that it would be someone else instead, but, unfortunately, he would be the one to intercept them……Rain .
“Our preparations are perfect . ”
There was only one youth who was enthusiastic and was talking elatedly even now .
He was standing at the center of the circle with his hands raised, as if he was their liege or something, and was gesturing animatedly as he proceeded to continue with his opinion .
“We have twice as many soldiers as does our enemy, and we have more than enough provisions to last…… But what about the enemy? They’ll probably be exhausted by the time they arrive . And they probably wouldn’t have been able to properly secure transportation routes for their provisions and supplies either . We have the advantage in this war . Let’s stall the enemy here for as long as we can, seize our chance and chase after them when they retreat, and destroy them . I’m certain we will win,”
he said with vigor before looking to the rest of the group .
The generals quietly exchanged looks . Ahmur could tell what his colleages where thinking with just one glance . No one said it out loud because they didn’t want to be criticized for being a coward, but everyone, without exception, was thinking the same thing .
‘Perhaps what you say could be true if this was anyone else we were talking about . But our enemy right now in Rain . ’
The youth who had just finished his speech was apparently a distant relative of Werner’s, one of the generals present, wife’s, but he was still little more than a stranger .
The youth had a personal grudge against Sunkwoll and Ahmur acknowledged that he had a very good head on his shoulders, but it was still too risky to leave the army’s fate in his hands . Ahmur had no choice but to speak up in a heavy voice as silence fell upon them .
“……Young man . ”
“My name is Joshua, General Ahmur . ”
The blond-haired blue-eyed Joshua bowed courteously from the waist .
“Joshua, then . I understand what you are trying to say . I can see why Werner recommended you . ”
Ahmur started by praising the youth before he hardened his expression . He continued,
“We will take your opinion into account . But we will continue the rest of this war council amongst ourselves —I am sorry, but I’ll have to ask that you leave us . ”
A faint……a very faint light of disappointment crossed Joshua’s mien, but it quickly transformed into a smile .
“I understand, General Ahmur . ”
His tone was extremely deferential .
His quick change of attitude was worthy of praise, but the fact that he had not been able to completely hide his discontent was probably a sign of his youth……the boy was apparently still in his teens .
In any event, Joshua bowed to Ahmur and the other generals and bowed once again to Werner, who had recommended him for his current position, before leaving the room without another word .
Ahmur turned to Werner once Joshua’s footsteps had gotten far enough away .
“……Sir Werner . Is he truly worthy of our trust?”
Werner looked unhappy and threw a quick glance at the door before replying,
“He hates Sunkwoll without a doubt . I’ve told you about it before . He was once offered a position in the kingdom, but he was chased out of the palace because he was admonished by the princess . But the fact still remains that Sunkwoll has acknowledged his abilities . His talent must be genuine if even our enemy recognized it . ”
“……Is there any chance he could be an enemy spy?”
asked one of the other generals .
“I’ve looked into it, and I don’t think there is . That fact that he was driven out of Sunkwoll because he was formally admonished appears to be true . Of course, he still shouldn’t be given free reign until we know he’s an ally for certain . ……Fay seems to have taken quite a liking to him, but I haven’t let my guard down yet . ”
Then, Werner frowned for some reason .
Incidentally, Fay was his wife’s name —the person who had strongly recommended Joshua .
Judging by his reaction, it almost looked like his wife had asked him to support Joshua in tears . Perhaps the young man had prepared well in advance and had won over Werner’s wife . ……In more ways than one .
After all, Joshua was good-looking enough to warrant Ahmur’s groundless suspicions .
“Well, whatever . ”
Ahmur shook his head clear of any stray thoughts . He continued,
“In any event, we have no choice to fight if we want to rebuild our country……though the fact that we’re in a precarious situation will remain the same even if we win this war . ”
Garrett, who was well-known for his hot temper even among his fellow generals, opened his eyes wide, perhaps because Ahmur had said something unnecessary .
“I can hardly believe those words were said by someone as honored for his military fame as you, Sir Ahmur . I care not about that young whelp’s stratagems, but it’s troubling to hear you be so weak-willed before the fighting’s even begun!”
Garrett was one of the few generals who hadn’t suffered a defeat at Rain’s hands because he had just so happened to have never clashed against Rain directly . Which was apparently why he hadn’t lost his will to fight quite yet .
But who knew if he’d still be able to keep up his morale after he had fought a battle against Rain?
Ahmur chose not to put his cynicism to words and lowered his head instead .
“My apologies . ……I only meant to lament over the fact that we have so many borrowed soldiers in our army . ”
Even Garrett could not find it in himself to speak out against what Ahmur had said . Garrett’s unit was still composed mostly from his former subordinates, but the other generals’ units, including Ahmur’s, had a very high ratio of borrowed soldiers mixed into them .
……In other words, the large kingdom of Zarmine had kindly lent them their soldiers .
A secret messenger had found them once they had taken to the field and said, “It’ll be helpful for us if you can keep Sunkwoll in check too, so why don’t we lend you some soldiers?” —they had jumped at the deal, but Ahmur was not alone in his inability to put down his guard .
Zarmine had promised to give them back the land that had once been Lunan after they had defeated Sunkwoll——but no one knew for sure if Zarmine would keep her promises .
Everyone present more or less doubted Zarmine’s true intentions .
The army personally accompanied by Shelfa, the ruling monarch, but actually lead by Rain proceeded toward the Lunan army by the hour .
One soldier was roaming around Lunan’s camp at night just a day or two before the enemy army was scheduled to arrive .
He looked like a foot soldier, based on the cheap leather armor he was wearing, but the incredibly morose look on his face made it obvious as to who he really was .
In other words, he was Gunther Valoa, who had infiltrated the enemy ranks on Rain’s orders .
He made his way to General Garrett’s base after secretly finishing up a job . He then approached the large tent that Garrett was sleeping in .
He melted into the night, walked up to the soldiers standing guard at the entrance, and quietly chanted a rune . Then, he walked boldly past the guards, who were standing stock still without so much as blinking, and inside the general’s tent once he had rendered them unconscious with magic .
He was immediately greeted with a hearty snore .
Gunther had Garrett fall into a deeper slumber by having the latter smell a drug that had been made from the petals of an Ashimaru flower, and then he began looking around the tent until he found a provisional table and walked up to it .
He moved at leisure with the ever-sullen look on his face, and, lo and behold, he diligently began preparing for a feast . He placed simple dishes and wine for two on the table . It almost seemed as if he was expecting a guest .
Garrett wouldn’t wake for at least another hour, so no one would hinder Gunther’s work .
Gunther glared down sourly at the cups and dishes and moved them around ever so slightly with his personal brand of extraordinary care as he set the table . He did not allow the glasses or wine bottles to be off by even a millimeter as he arranged them to his tastes .
Still, Gunther finished shortly enough and left promptly . He quickly put some distance between himself and the tent . Then, he turned around to whisper yet another rune and waved his hands at the guards who were still standing as straight as dolls .
The effect was immediate, and the soldiers blinked as if they had just woken up . A dubious look crossed their faces for a moment, but disappeared shortly thereafter .
Gunther nodded and began walking slowly around the outskirts of Garrett’s camp……as if he was searching for something, or someone .
Incidentally, Joshua was on the usual night stroll .
He had come here as a volunteer strategist, but this was still his maiden battle and he was not accustomed to camping for long stretches of time . He had spent several sleepless nights before he had finally thought of taking a walk around camp before going to bed . The others would simply think that he was taking the lead and doing rounds if he walked at the same time every evening, and Joshua would be able to fall asleep after tiring himself out . He could kill two birds with one stone this way .
……That being said, not every general trusted him quite yet .
And so, he had no choice but to limit his walks to roaming about General Werner’s, whom he was currently relying upon, encirclement .
In any event, Joshua was walking diligently when he suddenly stopped in his tracks near Garrett’s camp .
He had seen someone weaving through the darkness as he avoided the bonfires that had been set up at each camp . Joshua immediately crouched down and hid himself behind a nearby water barrel .
Joshua was one to be cautious, so he naturally had his sword with him . He kept his hand on the hilt of his longsword and stared at the shadow for a moment . He waited patiently as the shadow drew closer while confirming his surroundings .
Joshua timed himself and quickly leapt out from behind the barrel . Promptly, he yelled,
“Who goes there?!”
He’d hit the jackpot .
The shadow neither stopped nor tried to explain himself, but suddenly turned tail and tried to flee instead . Joshua had a bit of confidence in his swordplay, so he cut the shadow off and drew his blade . Seeing little other choice, his opponent drew his own sword as well .
Joshua was fearless and was intoxicated by the sudden fortune of being able to raise more merits .
He peered through the darkness and into the face of the foolish spy who had failed his mission .
He was taken by surprise for a moment .
“You —no, you bastard! You’re the guy who was with the princess in the audience chamber!”
He heard a blade rend through the air like a gust of wind in the lieu of a reply . It had been terrifyingly fast, and even Joshua, who had confidence in his skills, had only just managed to block it .
Metal screeched as sparks scattered and lit up Gunther’s face for a second .
He looked astringent, as if he had accidentally stepped on a hairy bug with his bare feet, and he looked as frighteningly morose as he had been the last time Joshua had seen him .
His eyes seemed to be saying, You’re the one person in the world I never wanted to see!
“H-hah! You messed up, spy! Now that I’ve spotted y——whoa!”
Gunther suddenly stepped forward, and the ominous and reddish tip of his blade abruptly closed in on Joshua’s throat . Joshua turned his body as he broke out into a cold sweat . Then, his enemy instantly turned his wrist with brilliant dexterity and attacked again . Joshua somehow managed to deflect it with his longsword, but the blow had been so powerful that it left his hands numb .
They quickly exchanged places and squared off against each other yet again .
Joshua lunged forward while his enemy’s footwork was so elegant he could have been dancing .
Unlike his opponent, who was still as calm and relaxed as ever, Joshua was already in deep distress . He didn’t want to admit it, but Joshua was already beginning to panic .
——This guy’s bad news!
He had wanted to distinguish himself by capturing the spy on his own, but he could end up dead at this rate . He had thought this when he had first met Gunther too, but Gunther was extremely strong!
“Sir Joshua, was it? You must be rather misfortunate . ”
Joshua’s enemy spoke as if he had seen right through him as he continued,
“I hadn’t planned for this, but I suppose I shall kill you while I’m already here . A tad late, but do prepare yourself . ”
He sounded like it was the most tedious chore in the world .
“And I ask that you do not leave a will behind, since no one is here to accept it anyway . ”
Gunther swung up his sword .
His blade with pitch-black, and yet the magic sword glowed with a faint red light .
Coupled together with the morose look on his face, the impact was more than enough to make Joshua’s blood run cold .
And so, Joshua instantly came to a decision .
Shit, fuck this guy! He’s going to kill me since he’s already here?! I’m not stupid enough to risk my life just to earn some points! I need to do anything I can to survive .
Joshua pretended to ready his sword before he shouted at the top of his lungs .
“It’s a crook —there’s someone suspicious here!”
Even his enemy could not help but frown for a moment when he yelled . It looked like he was caught between deciding if he should flee or if he should cut down Joshua first .
Joshua took advantage of that opening .
He jumped into his enemy’s range and slashed his sword diagonally .
Gunther jumped back, but his chest was rent because he hadn’t been able to dodge completely . Judging by the resistance Joshua felt, however, he had unfortunately only managed to cut through Gunther’s leather armor .
He called out in a hurry as Gunther made his surprisingly quick escape . Obviously, Gunther didn’t look back .
“Ugh, where are the guards?!”
Joshua stopped himself from throwing his sword on the ground .
Something had fallen on the ground where he had jumped to just earlier . It had been sliced in two because of his slash, but……was this a secret missive?
Several dozen minutes later, Joshua, who had read the missive in advance, hurried to Werner and handed the missive over to him .
Werner believed what Joshua told him because he had secretly investigated the matter himself and had learned that several other soldiers had seen Gunther escape .
The secret missive was brief and simply said, “We’ll trust you to hold up your end of our agreement . ” The problem lay in the fact that Gunther had been wandering around Garrett’s camp with the missive . Werner had never met the man, which naturally meant that Gunther had been planning to meet up with Garrett .
All the other generals save for Garrett gathered immediately and paid Garrett a surprise visit . They obviously meant to interrogate him about the matter as quickly as possible .
Garrett had been getting out of bed with a frown on his face that suggested he had a headache, and he was surprised by his colleagues’ sudden visit .
……It was only natural that he was surprised, since his colleagues had come when he had been expecting someone else .
After all, he had prepared a small feast inside his tent . It was a modest meal, of course, but he had undeniably been waiting for someone to visit him late into the night . Perhaps he had planned to hold a private conversation .
This obviously coincided too perfectly with the fact that Gunther had been sighted earlier .
……Or at the very least, that was what Joshua, who had been the one to confront Gunther, thought .
“Ask the guards —I don’t know anything! I don’t remember any of this! I never prepared this feast!”
Garrett yelled as the blood drained from his face, but no one took his words at face value .
But no —Ahmur alone wondered, “Could this be Rain’s schemes?” but it was too late for him to try and defend Garrett .
A military official from Zarmine was also on the scene .
Joshua was far too clever for his own good, and he had reported the incident to the Zarmine official as well .
Garrett’s unit was immediately restrained at the military official’s demand . Commanders and soldiers were restrained alike, on account of the fact that there was no telling how many traitors were in their midst .
It had therefore become impossible to keep the incident a secret from the soldiers, and news of Garrett’s betrayal spread all throughout the entire army . The Lunan army was distressed as a result . Though it was the generals who experienced the most distress .
——And then, a very plausible rumor began circulating .
What if Garrett was innocent and had simply been framed? The situation could still be salvaged if it was the enemy general, Rain, who had framed him .
No one knew where the rumors had originated from, but those who whispered them took it a step further . ……This war’s too risky . We have a real traitor in our midst . Something will happen when the real fighting begins . We’ll charge at the enemy, and someone will stab us in the backs……or so the rumors said .
Nobody laughed it off as mere nonsense, and everyone who heard the rumor grew pale and began looking around at the people around them .
The generals were similarly flustered, but Ahmur alone lamented at the situation and began wondering if Rain had planted spies within the army’s ranks . He could not help but be suspicious that the groundless rumors had been spread intentionally .
He immediately tried to figure out who had started the rumors, but everyone knew about them by now and it was impossible to track them down to their source .
And more importantly, Ahmur had found himself cornered in a very delicate situation . He had returned to his own tent once night had fallen on the ruckus, only to find a neatly folded-up letter waiting next to his pillow .
He quickly checked its contents, which had been written in superbly terrible handwriting .
[Is cooperating with Zarmine to do battle with us really the best way to revive your country? Haven’t you wondered if you might be dancing right into the palm of their hands? I know your character, so I won’t tell you to betray your comrades . But at least think about it . ]
That was all the letter said . Ahmur had no idea when it had been delivered —he really shouldn’t let his guard down .
……It had been written by Rain .
Ahmur didn’t know what Rain’s handwriting looked like, but his instincts led him to the truth .
His instincts had led him to the truth, but……he furrowed his brows and contemplated in silence for a moment before deciding to keep this missive a secret .
The entire army would be jumping at shadows now that Garrett had just been restrained . His own position would be put in peril if he reported back about this .
Besides……the letter was short, but what Rain had pointed out resonated with Ahmur’s heart .
After all, the current Lunan army did not have a core commander . Normally, they would have fought under the banner of a surviving member of Lunan’s royal family, but they were not doing even that . It was the one thing that Zarmine had refused to let them do when they lent the Lunan army soldiers . The Zarmine army had taken the former royal family of Lunan hostage and confined them in the palace at Rheagur, and they did not seem to have any intentions of ever releasing their hostages .
And there was no guarantee that Zarmine would keep her promise even if the Lunan army did emerge victorious against Sunkwoll so long as they still had the hostages under their control .
Perhaps Zarmine simply planned on using the Lunan army and throwing them away when they were done . Nothing could be better for them than for the former forces of Lunan to clash against Sunkwoll and destroy each other .
Ahmur had always been apprehensive, but his doubts finally solidified now that Rain had pointed them out .
——And so, Ahmur, the pillar of the Lunan army, began to grow hesitant .
Dark clouds hung over the Lunan army before they battled against their enemy .
The enemy troops had finally arrived two days after the incident with Garrett and were currently deployed before the Lunan army . They were about ten-thousand strong, just as the scouts had reported, and the Lunan army was over twice their size in terms of numbers alone .
……Though the Lunan army consisted of frightened and defeated soldiers and borrowed forces .
The Lunan army had taken up a winged formation, and the Sunkwoll army quickly formed into their own formation .
Ahmur, who was at the forefront of the Lunan army’s left wing, saw the standard of a white phoenix against a black backdrop flying next to the Sunkwoll royal family’s flag and frowned .
He hadn’t known about the change in banner, but——there was no way that he wouldn’t immediately recognize the one man dressed in all-black garb nearby .
It was normal to be armored when fighting in an army, so the black-clad man stood out like an eyesore .
……It really is him .
Ahmur shook his head and surveyed his deflated troops . Soldiers and generals alike were frozen in fear as they stared back at Rain . There were many who harbored bad memories regarding the man .
“It’s Rain……he’s here……that terrifying man…”
Their whispers were spreading like wildfire .
Only Joshua was in a good cheer, and Ahmur could hear him yelling from afar .
“There is nothing to fear! No one would be stupid enough to charge at our stronghold with such a small force . Especially if the enemy’s the scheming type! If we hold out until the enemy retreats and pursue them, then we will emerge victorious without fail!”
……Damned fool .
Ahmur’s frown finally deepened .
You have no idea what kind of man Rain is .