The fact that Zarmine had sent her army to invade Fanooj was not only known to the countries in the North but all throughout the continent.
King Fernando immediately sent out envoys from Fanooj’s capital, Vanheim, when he received the report.
“Why have you sent your armies without a formal declaration of war?! Do you have another objective? Explain yourselves!”
He had meant to grill answers out of them.
It took some time for the envoys to make the round trip, but they were, technically, returned a reply. The contents of the letter they were returned, however, were extraordinarily brief, and all it said was, “Surrender if you wish to avoid unnecessary bloodshed.”
Fernando was still a young king in his late thirties, and he was energetic and enthusiastic —an apt temperament for the ruler a kingdom of warriors. He had black hair and black eyes, just like the commoners in the region, but he had inherited his white skin and a height that let him tower above the crowd from his ancestors. Moreover, he was just as belligerent as his appearance implied. Obviously, he was not the type of man to tremble on his throne just because Zarmine, a powerful country, was invading.
Instead, he threw the letter down to the floor as soon as he had finished reading it and began stomping on it over and over. He continued stomping it until the paper was shredded to the point that not a trace of its original form could be seen.
Once his mood had settled, he made a resolute declaration before his senior statesmen gathered in the hall.
“I have never before received such an insult in the twenty years I have sat on the throne!”
He pulled the longsword at his waist free from its sheath.
Then, he turned to his knights and civil officials.
“Our forefathers were once warriors of foreign lands. They came to this continent because they crossed the ocean in search of a new world! And now, three hundred years’ worth of hardships later, our kingdom is known as “the kingdom of valiant warriors in the North”! And yet, they want us to surrender?!”
He raised his longsword high into the air a beat later and continued,
“I will not have them misjudge us. We will not surrender! I don’t care who these daemons think they are, but we will show them that we will not yield so readily!”
Everyone equipped with a blade drew it on the spot and cheered their king. They were not afraid of Leygur, a daemon, because they were not aware of the daemon’s last invasion long ago, and morale was high.
They were determined to let their swords do the talking if words would not get through, and they all began preparing to confront Zarmine head-on.
——Incidentally, Fanooj had been visited by envoys from countries other than the insolent envoys from Zarmine.
They were envoys from Gardstein and Leyfan, nations on friendly terms with Fanooj, and envoys from several of the smaller countries to the west.
Fernando had uncharacteristically fallen into contemplation with an astringent look on his face once he had read their letters. Then, after a period of lengthy consideration, he opted not to reply to their proposals.
The knight orders under Fernando’s command were quick to move now that they had determined to go to war.
Unlike most other countries, the king of Fanooj wielded overwhelming authority. Every knight and soldier in the realm fell under his direct command and knew no other master, and he could order them as he pleased without having to consult his civil or military officials. There existed no rear vassals like there were in Sunkwoll.
An assembly of knight orders formed the core of the Fanooj army. Tribe leaders had each created their own order three hundred years ago when their ancestors had crossed the ocean and fist stepped foot on this land.
The number of knight orders that existed had since increased, of course, and the more renown orders were led by captains and their commanding officers, but all of them were considered as a part of the king’s private army. Thus, the king’s orders were carried out swiftly.
They finished preparing for war in the blink of an eye, and an army of nine thousand cavalry and twenty thousand foot soldiers were dispatched from Ardenn, the royal castle, and headed west. They had decided to be assertive in battle instead of holding their castle defensively, and the force of their drive drew a distinct line between them and the other smaller kingdoms neighboring them who were terrified of Zarmine.
Still, while Fernando and his knights most certainly weren’t afraid of their enemies, they did still have a problem that was like a thorn in their side.
That being——Zarmine lay to Fanooj’s west, but she shared her eastern border with Baja and Teseto.
The problem lay with Teseto, an emergent country, whose middle-aged king, Karion, was a coward at heart who would readily agree to depend on a stronger nation for his own survival. Or so at least Fernando, who had met the man just twice before, firmly believed.
Teseto had been very obviously trying to butter up to Fanooj before Zarmine had suddenly expanded her sphere of influence. Teseto would send over envoys to Fanooj for a courtesy call every year before Fanooj even requested for them.
But Teseto had apparently had a slight change in policy as of late and there were whispers suggesting that she was now trying curry favor with Zarmine instead. That alone would not have been a cause for alarm, but secret messengers had evidently been frequenting Teseto during the last six months.
Teseto was not in an urgent crisis like Fanooj was, and it was doubtful that she would surrender before the fighting even began, but Fernando could not deny that he was still worried.
If King Karion had forged an alliance with Leygur, then it was entirely possible that the Teseto army would attack from the east and catch Fanooj in a pincer attack while Fanooj’s main army was away from the capital and the castle was undefended.
Fernando doubted it would happen, since Karion was both an anxious and cowardly king, but he was still a little worried it might.
But his apprehensions vanished entirely soon enough.
King Karion had dispatched an envoy just before Fernando left his capital, and the envoy’s letter had conveyed as follows:
“This incident pains my heart as well. Naturally, we as a country cannot simply remain silent and peaceful. I pray from the bottom of my heart that you will be victorious in war, King Fernando. ——Thusly, I would be happy to offer my assistance in the form of army provisions or any other requests you may have……”
The letter continued with Karion’s repetitive wishes that Fernando would emerge victorious. It almost seemed like Karion was pleading with him desperately.
“That’s Karion the Coward for you. He chose to send his letter at the last second possible so we can’t actually ask him for anything important,”
Fernando determined once he had finished reading the letter. Well, he hadn’t actually been expecting much, considering Karion’s personality and position. Even a fool could tell you that Teseto would be next if Fanooj were to fall.
Karion could not dispatch soldiers because he was afraid of how Zarmine might react to that, so he had simply decided to cheer Fanooj on with his words —Fernando was certain of this.
“Hmph. Is he planning to tremble on his throne and await his fate while brazenly cheering us on? The coward lives up to the rumors. But he needn’t worry —I wasn’t planning on relying on him to begin with!”
Fernando burst out into laughter before forgetting about Teseto and King Karion completely.
Then, he triumphantly set out for the battlefield.
The knights of Fanooj, led by King Fernando, did not see the Zarmine army yet when then arrived at their western border.
It was only natural, considering where Zarmine’s capital, Riagur, was located and Zarmine’s ridiculously vast territory. It would take a little longer for the enemy to reach Fanooj. Normally, an army in Fanooj’s position would have stopped at the border and constructed a sturdy base before the enemy arrived.
But Fernando was overflowing with vigor and did not opt to take the “waiting strategy”. It was normal to wait for the enemy at one’s border, but that made him feel like he was acting afraid of his enemy and it did not amuse him at all. Besides, he figured that Zarmine would either lay a siege or ambush them at the border, and it was better to stubbornly press on and wage war offensively if he wanted to outwit them!
It was truly in his character to think this way, and Fernando led his unit and invaded Zarmine’s lands first. He broke through the border and prepared to intercept the enemy before they even arrived.
They were racing through the wilderness, dotted with small woods and lakes, by the next day. It was only then that Fernando finally caught sight of Zarmine’s vanguard.
He sent out a scout, who came back and nervously reported,
“Reporting to His Majesty the King! The enemy’s main army consists of twenty thousand cavalry and fifteen thousand foot soldiers, for a total of thirty-five thousand men! They are roughly five kilometers away and are currently marching. Our armies are bound to clash soon!”
Fernando thanked the scout, surveyed his knights, and began laughing heartily.
“Hahaha! I guess even Zarmine doesn’t have an infinite supply of soldiers. Looks like they’re feeling the effects of their defeat at Sunkwoll’s hands a few months back —they have much fewer soldiers than I’d expected. A five thousand-man difference is hardly any difference at all!”
The actual difference was closer to six or even seven thousand soldiers, and Zarmine had the overwhelming advantage in cavalry. It was an obviously large difference in power, but Fernando and his knights paid no heed to such trivial matters.
Fernando galvanized his retainer knights.
“Take as many heads as you can. Do your best, all of you!”
he commanded fiercely.
Then, he singled out two knights in particular and loudly shouted,
“Beltran, Steve! We haven’t been blessed with war as of late, but it’s finally your chance to shine. Show me the power of the three guardian knights!
“Yessir! We will live up to your expectations without fail!”
The two knights singled out by their liege bowed reverently from their horses. There were only two of them, despite being called the three guardian knights, but only they and Fernando, their king, knew why this was so.
The two bowing knights were rather slender and effeminate, especially considering that they were Fernando’s subordinates, and they still looked like they were only in their twenties.
Though Fernando knew best that their looks belied their ages.
They were at a place called the “Remooj Wastelands,” and the westernmost border of the Nashido Desert was immediately south of them. Zarmine’s main army finally appeared from the other side of the undulating hills filling the wastelands.
Zarmin’s generals and soldiers alike were donned in black armor, which made them stand out quite a bit. The soldiers stretched out endlessly, as if they meant to slowly dye the earth itself black —the Dark Army was coming.
The Zarmine army had, of course, noticed the Fanooj army a long time ago, and they were slowly coming to a stop. If everything played out by the books, the two large armies would first begin shooting arrows at each other before slowly crashing into each other.
Fernando, who was wearing the same silver armor he had worn to his maiden battle, thought, ‘This is a great opportunity!’
He could not see any of the rumored daemons —perhaps they were quite far back in the rear. He couldn’t even see Leygur’s banner.
“Lazy bastard. Are you simply watching from afar because you trust in your greater numbers?! It’ll spell trouble if you underestimate war!”
he shouted as he thrust his pike into the air. He continued,
“The time is now, you lot! Let’s give our foreign visitors a warm welcome!”
Then, he immediately charged straight into the enemy lines.
“Oh, look! His Majesty is cutting through the vanguard! Everyone, to the King! May your house be shamed for generations if you fall behind!”
The entire army replied as one.
The war cry struck the enemy lines like thunder and even stopped them in their tracks, though only for a moment.
The sea of silver armor rushed toward the black torrent that had paused its flow. A smaller throng of foot soldiers also began attacking from the side.
This was no different from the norm for Fernando, but his tactics went beyond his opponent’s, the Zarmine Army’s, understanding of common sense.
“These guys are finally getting desperate! They’re all charging to their deaths!”
That was what everyone, even their commanders, thought.
To tell the truth, King Fernando and his men were truly terrifying as they charged while roaring ferociously. The Fanooj army was filled with tough-looking men, and all their faces were currently over 80% filled with brutality.
The Zarmine army was finally preparing their archer unit to fire arrows, but the entire army, including the archers, was shaken. Unrest passed through them like a giant wave, and the sea of black armor drew back ever so slightly.
Still, some of the archers tried to shoot back at their enemy and released a volley of arrows. But their internal unrest had affected their aim, and they might as well have been shooting with their eyes closed.
The Fanooj army was unyielding, as was appropriate for a group of warriors. No one stopped their horses despite the shower of arrows falling on them like rain, not even Fernando. They leaned down against their saddle and simply pressed on even if their allies fell besides them and the arrows grazed their arms. As a result, they broke past the archers’ range in the blink of an eye.
Then, they broke into the Zarmine army’s lines before they even had the chance to organize them.
Fernando roared with laughter as the panicked army swung around their lances and tried to fight back.
“Is this truly the power of a strong nation that’s aiming to rule the world?! Zarmine is nothing to fear! Cut them down, you lot —every last one of them!”
The Fanooj army attacked with the force of a surging wave and quickly tore through the enemy’s first line and made their way to the second.
One of the Zarmine army’s knight captains saw this and yelled loudly as he thrust his pike at Fernando.
“You impudent thing! You’re just some king of a small-fry nation, and Zarmine will——”
Someone slipped in between them as they exchanged words. He was a slender youth wearing pitiful excuse of leather armor with disheveled black hair. He drew quite a bit of attention to himself, as he was glowing faintly horse and all.
He brandished his pike, which glowed with a snow-white light, and his enemy’s lance snapped in half. Then, he immediately followed up and sent his enemy’s head flying without much difficulty.
Fernando broke into a grin when he saw the youth attacking so brilliantly that the enemy knight commander never had the chance to retreat.
“Steve! You’re here!”
“Yessir! My brother will be joining us shortly.”
A single horseman came galloping by the liege and knight and glowered at the disturbed enemy army as soon as the words had left Steve’s mouth.
“I am Beltran, one of the three guardian knights of Fanooj! If you have any named generals, then I will take them on!”
he shouted as he began haphazardly mowing down enemy knights with his pike.
He was glowing just as his older brother was, and he sent a wave of unrest ripping through the enemy lines.
“The three guardian knights who protect Fanooj!? That’s them?!”
“I am what I claim to be! Now come —if you think you can block my blade, that is!”
Then, Beltran went on a rampage against the already-reeling enemy frontlines. He left behind severed enemy arms, fountains of blood, and even flying heads in his wake.
King Fernando and Steve, who had been left behind, exchanged wry smiles.
“We should go as well. Beltran will end up stealing the spotlight at this rate.”
“Understood. ……That little brother of mine has quite the big attitude for someone who got here late.”
They exchanged one last smile before they rushed into the enemy frontlines, where Zarmine knights were running around in disarray. Yet more Fanooj knights came rushing in behind him.
Steve and Beltran, the guardian knights, fought with superhuman strength. They simply pushed onward and onward without even bothering to avoid any trivial attacks that came their way. No lance nor sword that fell toward them were able to leave behind a single wound on their bodies.
Fernando and the rest of the Fanooj army were rampaging behind them, further driving the wedge in the Zarmine army’s lines.
And Fanooj foot soldiers were also attacking the Zarmine army’s flank just in case —it would be impossible for Zarmine to reorganize her ranks at this rate.
“No! We can’t stop them!”
one of the knight captains screamed, prompting the entire Zarmine army to get ready to run.
Their first three lines had been ripped to shreds by the knights of Fanooj, and they had been pushed into their rear lines. The first battle in the war looked like it would end in Zarmine’s defeat. Unrest spread to the rear of the Zarmine’s army as they watched their allies get routed, and terror spread through their ranks.
The Zarmine army began retreating and stampeded toward the west.
“Hahaha! Who’s the weakling now?!”
Fernando laughed from the pit of his stomach, his imminent victory lifting his mood. He continued,
“Hmph. I wish Gazaram could have seen this battle too. Where did he go after throwing his manor away……?”
Fernando shook his head when he realized what he had just whispered. For now, he had to focus on the battle in front of him.
He raised his voice and commanded,
“All right! Everyone, chase them down! Make it so that they’ll never even think about invading our lands ever again!”
With great pride in their imminent victory, the Fanooj army immediate marched in pursuit without even a moment’s rest.
They rushed west after the retreating black figures of their enemy.
The Fanooj army was fairly deep in enemy territory by the time the sun was beginning to set.
The armies had first clashed in enemy territory to begin with, but now the cavalry had broken from the rest of the army and had left the supply unit and foot soldiers behind them.
Their enemy, the Zarmine army, was fleeing excellently. They urged their horses faster just as the Fanooj army was about to catch up to them, and they slowed down, as if they were tired, when the Fanooj army was getting too far away. ……In other words, the enemy knights were always right before the Fanooj army’s eyes, giving them no choice but to continue chasing. They had actually caught up to the rearmost enemy unit at times and had taken several heads.
Which was why it was only natural that King Fernando did not withdraw his order to pursue.
It was only when the Fanooj army was beginning to tire that Steve, one of the three guardian knights, advised,
“Let us stop the army here and regroup with the units we’ve left behind, Your Majesty. Something is strange about the way the enemy is retreating. They might still have something left up their sleeve.”
The glow that had once covered his entire being had vanished, and Steve now looked like any other knight. Fernando stopped his horse, looked back at his faithful retainer, and reluctantly nodded.
“Hmm? It’s unfortunate that we let a complete victory slip through our fingers, but your counsel is correct. I haven’t decided whether we’ll withdraw quite yet, but we should reorganize our army for now.”
But that was precisely when fate decided to bare its fangs at Fanooj.
Fernando furrowed his brows when he saw a messenger riding toward them while stirring up a cloud of dust behind his wake.
“What now? What happened?”
Fernando asked in a hurry as the knight urged his horse closer.
“A report, sire! King Karion of Teseto has broken through our easter border and is marching toward our capital, Vanheim! Ardenn (Fanooj’s royal castle) sent us a request for your return just now!”
Fernando raged. He continued,
“Damn you, Karion! Was that letter from before only meant to make me lower my guard?!”
Or so Fernando cursed, but there was nothing else that could be done at this point. Now that he thought about it, Zarmine’s picturesque retreat had likely been made to pull Fernando away from his kingdom and give Teseto the chance to attack.
In other words, Teseto was in cahoots with Zarmine!
Quickly, Steve proposed,
“We must return safely home if we are to teach that damned Karion of Teseto a lesson. We no longer have the time to organize our army. We must turn around and return at once. It should be fine if we accommodate for more soldiers on our way back.”
“Right. Then we should start moving at once——”
But Beltran, who had been cutting through the fleeing enemy army’s frontlines, returned in a hurry just as Fernando was about to issue a new set of orders.
“Your Majesty King Fernando, Lord Brother!”
His prior composure was nowhere to be heard in his voice as he called out to them.
“What’s happened, Beltran?!”
“Please look over there! —the Zarmine army is…!”
Fernando and Steve looked over into the distance, wondering what Beltran was talking about.
——And the found out immediately.
The enemy army, which had been routing until then, had suddenly stopped their flight and was turning their horses around one after another. Their morale was returning quickly.
“What……? Why are they trying to counterattack now of all……times…?”
Fernando’s voice trailed off and faded away.
It was because the three of them —no, because every last knight of Fanooj there with them could hear the ground rumbling. And it was clearly coming from the direction in which the Zarmine army had been fleeing.
“Is this……the sound of horses? And there’s so many of them.”
They discovered the source of the noise quickly enough.
Fernando groaned bitterly as the sight of a new army pushing through the soldiers came plainly into view.
The new army was marching as if they meant to cover the earth itself and was garbed in pitch-black armor —they were obviously Zarmine reinforcements. They marched quietly and orderly as they dyed the green hills black.
They enemy had been planning a two-pronged assault from the very beginning, which would make this new army the enemy’s rear guard.
Normally, armies focused their troops in one spot because of the sheer amount of time it took to convene their forces together otherwise. So there was usually no point in nonchalantly sending in the rear guard if the first army was defeated in their clash against the enemy.
But Fernando had completely fallen for the enemy’s trap. He had fallen into this predicament because he had pursued the enemy relentlessly instead of being content with his initial victory.
If Teseto’s invasion and this two-pronged assault were both a part of the same plan, then it meant that the enemy had accurately predicted how Fernando would react.
“……Damn you, you impudent bastards.”
“Please look at that flag over there, Your Majesty!”
Fernando and Steve looked to where Beltran was pointing only to find a large flag, a cut larger than the rest, flying in the mix of the enemy generals’ flags.
It bore the design of a giant magic sword piercing through the continent of Murgenia —it was none other than Leygur’s insignia.
Its design depicted Leygur’s ambitions for world conquest.
“That bastard Leygur’s here?!”
Quickly, Steve said,
“More importantly, Your Majesty, we need to retreat. We must retreat now, if only to teach them a lesson later!”
Fernando groaned, but he was no fool. He understood that there was nothing to be gained from continuing to fight in this situation, that he had no choice but to withdraw.
“Alright, listen up everyone! We will withdraw back to our homeland. The enemy army is large, so we’ll still be able to shake them off if we leave immediately! I know you must be tired, but we must make haste!”
Naturally, no one voiced any objections.
But the enemy trap was craftier than they had anticipated.
They were retreating quickly when Fernando and the others saw a cloud of dust over to the east, where they had come from. They could hear the sounds of battle as they grew closer.
Before Fernando could say anything, Beltran said,
“No……is the unit that was behind us under attack?”
The three of them exchanged looks, but they could not think up of any other possibilities. There was no way that Teseto’s army had already made it all the way here, so it must have been reinforcements from Zarmine.
“But still! Where was the enemy hiding?!”
“……We passed several small stretches of woods along our pursuit. Perhaps the enemy had stationed small units of soldiers in them from the very beginning? They planned to cut us off from behind once we began chasing them,”
Steve’s face was already filled with resolve as he replied. It was only natural, as it would mean that Fanooj had already deep inside the land of death if he was right on his money.
“An inverted wedge formation……and we jumped right inside of it.”
Fernando spurred his horse forward as he looked to his allies on either side of him. They were all looking back at him with resolve etched into their faces.
He squeezed out his voice.
“There is nothing else we can do!”
But he did not wallow in his despair forever and issued his knights their next command. He continued,
“All men, forward! We will rescue our allies in the unit behind us, and we will break through the enemy’s encirclement at all costs! I refuse to give up until the bitter end!”
The voices that responded to his call had yet to lose their strength.Please download our sponsor's game to support us!