金金金Noel received the status of a leader of ten when she came under military employ. Because it seemed that at that rate she would permanently receive the uniform which she had initially borrowed from Cynthia. Noel happily went to show it off to Mirut and the other villagers as it had already become one of her precious treasures.
金金金Mirut and the villagers, meanwhile, had found they had become temporary soldiers until the rebellion was crushed. As it had been decidedly too dangerous to head back to the village for the moment, it was thought that they could earn their keep in the army. Their lives would be at risk, but they could accumulate some wealth, though that would be cheap compensation for their lives if they died.
金金金The meeting to plan for the rebel army’s destruction by the southern Coimbra military was still underway, so the soldiers were frantically rushing to and fro. Men reorganised to retake Rockbell, and with their commander already chosen, they proceeded to notify those he would lead.
金金金On another note, Noel and the volunteer soldiers were temporarily placed under Cynthia. Not a single person questioned why she had accepted a young girl with minimal training, and of little fame. Leaving aside that she was a small fry as a leader of ten, although she was of the lowest caste of officers, she still had to be treated appropriately. The greatest of the troubles bundled with the volunteers was that it would be difficult to properly command a group whose war potential was unknown. Cynthia too worried how to handle them, but for the moment she would simply give them assignments with relatively low levels of risk. As expected, they couldn’t suddenly become the kind of people who could be readily deployed on the front lines.
“Basically, I’m taking you all in now. I, Noel, Leader of Ten, or should I say captain, will.”
金金金Noel was reclining self-importantly in her uniform. Her gestures were like the average commander of one thousand. Sitting, Mirut and the others raised their gazes to her with stupefied expressions.
“I did hear you joined the army, but why are you suddenly in charge of ten? Isn’t that strange?”
“It’s the reward from the viceroy.”
“Sorry, but I don’t get it.”
“Well, that’s why I’m an officer. Don’t be rude to your superior, if you understand, reply.”
金金金Ignoring her position under Cynthia, Noel spouted whatever she pleased.
“We’re suddenly told to honour you, eh? Don’t ask for the impossible. Aren’t you the most disrespectful one here?”
金金金The villagers agreed with Mirut’s words.
“The most important thing is how you became an officer. It’s weird for a commoner woman who isn’t even a knight to suddenly be promoted.”
“That’s why I’m only in charge of ten, but even though you said all those things just now, it still leaves me ten times greater than you. Hey, isn’t that amazing?”
“I don’t think so at all. Sir Cynthia is somehow dignified, you just… aren’t.”
“I can’t lack that much dignity.”
“No matter how much you dress up in uniforms, with that attitude, and your tone of voice, you totally do.”
金金金Noel stopped reclining and looked disappointed.
“If it’s like that, stop saying stupid things, and obediently go to sir Cynthia. That way your talk with her will finish sooner.”
金金金Noel knew her combat strength best of all, but leading a group into battle was probably impossible for her. She had recently been a simple hunter together with them not too long ago after all. Although it would only be for a short while, they would be entrusting their lives to her, and so they wished for a more reliable commanding officer; preferably someone with lots of combat experience like Ned or Geb from the Red Circle Army.
“Cynthia, as a commander of one hundred, is busy preparing for mobilization so there is really no time to care for us new recruits. She’s rushing all over the place you know.”
“Then it would be better if we were on standby until she is free. We’re just here to pad the numbers, and you’re only a leader of ten in name right?”
“Yup, so you won’t listen to my words no matter what?
“Sorry, but that’s how it is. We can vaguely comply, so you should vaguely do it too. Just so long as nobody dies.”
金金金Mirut had responded while yawning. Although he had left the rebellion, he had no real reason to fight for Coimbra. He trained pitifully because he planned on quitting as soon as possible regardless of what happened. If he was rewarded for properly going through the motions, all the better. His true profession was that of the hunter.
“It’s as you say Mirut.”
“Ah, I thought it would probably turn out like this. That’s why I brought along a treasure just in case.”
金金金As she spoke, Noel tied back her hair, and put on her glasses. Her sudden eccentricity most likely greatly bewildered Mirut and the villagers. A short time later, after she had changed her facial expression, she highhandedly snapped her hands onto her hips.
“I really didn’t want to do this, but there was no other way.”
“On this continent, every military in existence, without exception, has distinctions of class. Talking back to your superior is not allowed. Carve that into your unworthy skulls!”
“S-suddenly putting on glasses, what are you saying? Did you hit your head somewhere?”
金金金Noel had begun to speak in overbearing military tones similar to Cynthia’s. With a manner of speaking like a young officer, her words immediately struck the listeners. It was like she and Cynthia were a pair. Despite her being a young woman, she had that same mysterious indefinable something as Cynthia. Something they did not have themselves. It was probably along the lines of dignity or impact. Whatever it was, Noel was radiating it.
“Is this way of speaking better? Now is the time for correction. Those who still say they don’t understand, be sure to memorize it. Those who still don’t get it after that are truly beyond saving. That is what the former me was taught. One final confirmation, is this manner of speaking good?”
金金金Smiling, Noel took up the iron hammer from her belt. Commanding the situation, she beat out the seconds rhythmically in the palm of her hand. The hammer had a red stain, but it was already too late for them to ask what it was. Mirut and the others who had seen it crash down upon the enemy soldiers had their faces unconsciously stiffen in dread. Noel played with it lightly, but the iron mass had the power to destroy a heavy wooden door. If it were to hit a skull, it would crack it open like a nut. There was no mistaking it for those who were witnesses. Mirut straightened his back and corrected his speech.
“M-my apologies, Captain Noel.”
“Very well. I ought to explain the military regulations that we will be following. If you break regulation, regardless of your being new recruits, punishment will be dealt. You are not going to be able to pass it off with some cowardly ‘because I’m just a villager’ nonsense. Do you understand?”
“Too quiet! When you acknowledge orders you are to all salute. ‘My insufficient mind has comprehended your words,’ is what your speech, and body-language must express.”
金金金Back straight, Mirut saluted as he had seen Noel do before. The others too, hurriedly stood and saluted. After that, she scowled at them with a tremendous glare.
“All right, so from now on we’ll continue together. You will only be in the army for a short time, but it only takes one instant to die. The time after a death is painful and pointless, so it is best to do what we can when we can.”
金金金Noel removed her glasses, gently smiled, and gave them all a friendly salute.
“That went surprisingly well. As expected of Cynthia’s methods. It had an outstanding effect on the new recruits.”
“W-was that all just acting?”
“Yup, all that was just me mimicking your sharp eyes and proud speech. Well, when you aren’t flapping away in nervousness. So, was I close?”
“Ah, yeah. You looked like a real officer. Ah, that is, it was like you were a different person.”
金金金That kind of performance was not an easy thing. She had a genuine murderous intent when threatening them to follow all orders if they valued their lives. For example, in a real battle, Mirut would probably obey his orders to thrust deep into enemy lines. He knew disobedience meant death, so compliance was only natural. The image of what had happened before was still engraved in his memories, and so he worried over using respectful language. He could not say that he wouldn’t suddenly change.
“That’s great. You can see how much smarter I become when I put on my glasses right? I’ll put them on any time I need to act important.”
金金金Noel wrapped her glasses in a cloth and politely placed them in her pocket, and with practiced hands, untied her hair.
“If at that time they were to oppose you, what were you going to do?”
“Of course I would wallop them. If they don’t understand words, that way is the fastest. That is how education works right?”
金金金Her mouth arched into a ferocious smile. Even though she did not have her glasses on, an aura identical to the one she had before poured out of the redheaded girl in an instant. Seeing that, Mirut and the villagers wholeheartedly made their decision. For the time they were in the military, they would not oppose Noel. She squared up with her subordinates, and instead of a salute, she flourished her hammer imposingly. If they really thought about it, she had already slain several Baharan soldiers, so she was different from them, who had not yet killed a single man.
“Um, okay, you should abide by the following rules. It is an extremely important thing for soldiers after all. Failure will result in the death penalty, so be sure to take it to heart.”
金金金Noel took the paper which had the military regulations written on it and began to explain them. She was told to tell them the military regulations, and methods for saluting that Cynthia had taught her. Many things were written down in detail, but Noel only explained three: obey orders, do not try to flee, do not betray companions. All were obvious things, but in combat they were difficult to uphold; especially the second one about running away. When faced with an inferior position, with a tendency to become indecisive, humans would place themselves first and flee when faced from imminent disaster. It would cause formations to collapse, leading to a mass rout. Consequently, to keep the morale high, the commanders had to maintain a brave, composed front. This was the same thing that had been forcefully beaten into Noel. She was not reading the paper, but going from memory.
“This is a secret, but it is fine if you inadvertently break and run. Sitting and waiting for death is stupid.”
“Is it alright to say that?”
“In the final moments, think about it yourselves; about when you can, or cannot follow orders; about whether you fight, or don’t fight. Whether you live is a separate matter though.”
“That is what I did. I decided it that day.”
金金金After she spoke, Noel smiled. No matter how fun a time was, that day, that place’s memory, would darken Noel’s mood for it called to mind the faces of those she lost. Her surfacing thoughts were never of their smiles, but of abandoned rotting corpses in a hole, the gooey sensation she had come unstuck from, the stench that pierced her nose, and the cold rain. In those times, she looked to the brilliant sun, shining down from the heavens. Noel could not do without the sun for it was her greatest treasure. Though there were things she could never grasp with her hands, she could see them as much as she liked. That much was enough for her.
“That is basically the end. Well, our job isn’t to wave swords, but your own time is a separate matter.”
“What exactly does that mean?”
金金金One of the villagers had begun to use respectful language. They had completely learned how to behave as subordinates. If not that, their fear would set in.
“It is important to deliver messages between the different corps. Captain Cynthia will teach you all sorts of things later. I’m looking forward to that.”
“I-it’s that then. I thought that they’d surely just abruptly have us stand at the front.”
“Even if they sent useless ones to the front, you’d only just add to the number of corpses you know,” Noel said her harsh words with a smile.
金金金If that was their duty, then the chances of death were much lower. Mirut and the others let out a relieved breath. After all, they didn’t want to die, and none of them had ever killed a man before. Mirut prayed from the bottom of his heart that they could continue in that way until the rebellion ended. He wondered what it felt like to kill other people. Although the idea had come abruptly, it was not something he could ask Noel, for at the very least, if she hadn’t done it, then he and his fellow villagers would have died. He was an idiot for worrying over such things.
“Come to think of it, you’ve finally started using respectful language. Honestly, it doesn’t suit you at all. See, your faces have been all strained since earlier.”
金金金Noel poked her cheeks, and Mirut twisted his body whilst making a face of displeasure.
“Didn’t you tell us to? Furthermore, shouldn’t you need to properly call sir Cynthia ‘captain’ as well?”
“Yup, when I called her that in public, she got angry, you know. If someone disrespects a superior, the truth is, on top of punishment, that person will also be sent to an isolation cell.”
金金金She didn’t worry about it herself, but the other officers had warned Cynthia with unpleasant faces. As it was not good to cause trouble for friends, Noel had put on an act. Mimicking others and abiding by the rules was one of her strong points.
“Well, it will just have to be put up with while in the military, uh, captain Noel.”
金金金Having to be so formal with a girl of the same generation created an unpleasant feeling. However, it was troubling to suddenly change again, so Mirut steeled himself to do it as much as he could.
“Yup, that’s the way.”
金金金Speaking briefly, she told them it was time to take a break, and sat. In that way she lay, eyes closed with happy thoughts as she soaked in the sunlight. There wasn’t likely another in the military’s employ who was so carefree. It made one wonder if she was important, or an idiot. Thinking such things, Mirut too lowered himself so that his back was on the ground, and then he began to ask something that he had been curious about for a while. If he evaded the chance, he might have never again been able to find another one.
“Already tired of respect, eh?”
“Just for now. I’ll use it properly later.”
“Why did you join the army? If you’re a regular you won’t be able to return to the village even after the rebellion has died down. If you aren’t good, you might just die.”
金金金At Mirut’s question, Noel opened her eyes to the sun, and reached out to it with her hand.
“It’s because I made a promise with Cynthia and the young prince.”
金金金She would search for happiness with Cynthia, and had arranged that when Elgar became great, he would share his happiness with her too. She didn’t particularly hate the village, but she felt that the happiness she so longed for was beyond her grasp when she was there.
“As I thought, spending your whole life in such a declining village is disagreeable right?”
金金金Mirut plucked out a nearby weed and held it in his mouth. The others too, quieted and listened to the conversation.
“Not really, you and Cal live there so I wouldn’t hate it at all you know. Living in the village was really fun, but…”
“If I was alone, I think it might have been fine, but I’m not alone. I absolutely have to find enough happiness for everyone. If I can’t do that, at least try until the very end. So…”
金金金Noel cut herself off.
“Can you really find it here?”
“I don’t know. What I do know is that I am a little better at fighting than most. I’ll gain many companions, never stop winning, and become great. I think this is the best way from what I’ve heard. I’m just an impaired, foolish piece of trash, so I can’t think of anything else.”
金金金Noel self-depreciated with a carefree expression. Mirut couldn’t tell if it was what she truly thought.
“You do know that you might die, right?”
“It can’t be helped. I guess that’s just the way the world works.”
“You know, out of all of us, you were the one to become promoted. You surely aren’t an impaired idiot.”
“Is that so?”
“Give me guarantee. I’m properly asking you Captain Noel! Our lives depend on it you know.”
金金金Mirut patted her shoulder as if to cheer her on. Her body was small, but her muscles were like a monster’s, and tense. After Mirut’s voice died down, the other villagers joined in too, raising their voices with ‘that’s right, that’s right,’ and other such things. Their spirits unbroken, after hearing the conversation the young ones became worked up. They didn’t really have any loyalty to Coimbra, and they were still afraid of dying, but as though they had been enchanted, they could not release their gazes from Noel. In that moment she shone frightfully bright in their minds.
“Of course! I’ll work hard so you won’t die pointlessly, okay!”
金金金Nodding strongly, Noel stood. The light of the sun shone strongly on her back. Mirut, who had watched Noel’s face the whole time, without thinking, held up his hand to block the light. In that instant, he saw some dark shadows behind Noel. It was not simply one or two, it was some dozens, no, it could have even been hundreds. He saw their bodies tremble with pleasure. Without thinking, he shut his eyes, and the instant he opened them again, the black shadows had all disappeared.
金金金Was that my imagination just now?
金金金I’m not alone. Noel’s words chillingly rang through his head. The other villagers were still entranced as before, and Mirut wondered why the thin cold sheet of trepidation had enveloped him.
金金金Noel and the others had received drums, gongs, and trumpets from the military warehouse, and headed to the harbour. They had initially practiced on the parade ground, but as that had bothered the other units, they were told to go somewhere else. It was that they were so bad, their morale dropped, causing trouble for Cynthia.
“This certainly is bad. Yes, it is completely so bad that it hurts my ears with its unpleasantness. It might be able to demoralise the enemy.”
金金金Cynthia voiced her honest opinion.
“It isn’t sub-par, it’s hopeless. No matter how many times I try, I just can’t remember the right amount of strength to use.”
金金金Mirut’s shoulders drooped as he clutched his drumsticks.
“That’s obvious. March, attack, stalemate, retreat, withdraw; if these things are not conveyed to the soldiers, there is no significance. In summary, that stupid way of doing it is meaningless.”
金金金Cynthia poked Noel’s face, who complained about the pain with her eyes. While she was at it, Noel emitted a piteous sound, a trumpet in her mouth. It was popular in the navy, but for soldiers who fought on land, it wasn’t used much. Though it could be played, skill and experience were necessary, which was the cause of the current situation. Horns and drums were the mainstream signaling devices.
“How about you stop using the trumpet, and obediently switch over to percussion? You’ve already figured out the basics of it, and there is no real point in being stubborn.”
金金金Cynthia attempted persuasion, but Noel shook her head. Noel had become interested in the trumpet which seemed to hold some nebulous history. It also looked good. She stored up breath in her cheeks, and with full force made a honk, but as expected, it was bad.
“Well, I can understand the appeal of that trumpet, but it is an ornament after all.”
金金金Ignoring the honk that came from beside her, Cynthia continued with her talk.
“To tell the truth, I saw it in an old biography, but it seems to have belonged to an old Coimbra military or naval band. They marched to a plethora of elegant tunes. I’m sure it was a magnificent thing.”
金金金It was a story from before the unification of the continent, from the Coimbra which had been overflowing with money, and was a bastion of high culture. Many musicians and artists had gathered, and that steady flow had affected the military. In stately uniforms, to musical accompaniment, the marching soldiers created a sight enough to overwhelm any spectators. Noel bit onto Cynthia’s story.
“That sounds super fun. Hey, did everyone walk as they sang?”
“Yes. The people forgot their fear of soldiers, morale skyrocketed, and it seems like they wanted to face an enemy. With a heroic tune, they all stepped in perfect order. In a battle they believed they would defeat their enemy; such were their aims.”
“Oh, how amazing; did it work out?”
“No, unfortunately they completely failed. They were ambushed in the middle of a performance and saw a terrible encounter. Furthermore, it was only a small number of enemies that they faced. No fewer than half of the soldiers held instruments, and as they had neglected preparations, of course that was how it went. Since then, army bands have gone out of fashion.”
金金金It was the one disgrace during Coimbra’s golden age. The other kingdom’s military writings cited it as an example of failure, and it was an anecdote that had been well recorded. It became the proof to the saying: ‘They have money, but no men.’ That was not the only history of Coimbra’s weak soldiery, and there were many other examples of the weakness which was often laughed at.
“It still sounds fun. I really want to see it. I bet it looked magnificent. Hey Cynthia, don’t you think?”
“I don’t think that there is enough leisure time for a musical performance mid battle. There surely wouldn’t be time for it under a hail of arrows. Sorry, but I don’t want to try it at all. As long as it doesn’t get in the way of what you are doing, you can do as you please.”
“I get it. Hey, Mirut, you want to right? Let’s have a parade sometime together.”
“Sir Cynthia, please refrain from assisting Leader of Ten, Noel’s superfluous ideas. We should not earnestly attempt such foolish things.”
“Right, sorry. She’s an idiot, so she would seriously try it.”
“Even though I can hear you…”
金金金Noel honked her trumpet yet again in protest.
金金金She and the others continued in that way for no less than half of a day, hard at practice. Cynthia had to take care of her own duties, and so she had gone back. Tooting away, Noel looked out over the harbour as the scent of the waves tickled her nose. Occasionally, things like trade ships or fishing boats would depart, and each time she honked triumphantly. Although she was of little skill, the light tune lightened her mood more than expected. It illuminated that after all, music was as fun as she had expected. Those who had once thought to introduce the old military and naval bands must have thought so too. Mirut and the others came back from the direction of the market that now lacked its former prosperity. Their arms had grown weary and so they had said they would take a break. From what she could see they had bought food and clothing with their stipend.
“You’re still at it? Why don’t you just stop being ridiculous and give it up?”
“I won’t give up yet. Is that food?”
“Yes, I also bought some things for the captain.”
金金金Mirut pushed the trumpet aside. Inside the bag was some deep fried fish.
金金金Plucking one from the bag, she tasted it. It was very salty. With that feeling, she blew into her trumpet. A good sound, much better than before came out.
“And here, this is a souvenir. In celebration of being promoted to being a leader of ten, and also as a bit of an apology.”
“Apology? Did you do something bad?”
“Ah, it’s nothing. Anyway, please accept it. It is a problem of my own emotions after all.”
金金金Saying that, Mirut unveiled a cute fish-embroidered accessory case and handed it over.
“What happened that you are so silent? You don’t like it?”
“No, not at all! I was just thinking that my treasures sure had multiplied. I thought I might be a little happy.”
金金金Noel flashed her white teeth, and smiled in a good mood from the bottom of her heart. Even though it had only been the picture book and the curious spear until then, her treasures had grown such that she could no longer hold them all in both hands. The dreadful hammer that hung from her belt, the uniform and glasses she received from Cynthia, the case she had received from Mirut, and finally, the trumpet; all were hers.
“See, you brought your glasses right? I thought you might be able to put them in there. It can soften impacts when you put it in your pocket.”
“I see, that’s true. Thanks!”
金金金She quickly placed her glasses in it. It was just big enough and they fit completely inside. The fish embroidery gave off a good impression. Its eyes were smiling, and it was a truly wonderful thing. That was what Noel thought.
“Ahem, well then, Mirut, and all of you, as thanks I will put my feelings into music for you here.”
“That doesn’t make me particularly happy though…”
“Here I go!”
金金金A slightly happy feeling was produced now that she blew well. Most important was the occasion, and her preparedness when she closed her eyes, and adjusted her breathing. The tune from a departing boat could be heard, and Noel too began to play the trumpet. It was both light and loud; her trumpet resounded. What came out was the sound of returning waves, and the departing trumpet played a melody reminding them of the ocean. Though the only ones to hear it were Mirut and the others, after so much time, their drums and gongs finally kept in time.
金金金Lured in by Noel’s performance, their breaths became one. It was glorious enough that it might have received Cynthia’s approval. As great waves became one with the sea, the harbour which had become desolate regained its liveliness for a fleeting moment. Coimbra’s harbour brought to the city, resounding over the water, the songs of departing ships. Men and ships came and went; merchants took their goods to the performance in the city which was no longer busy. The fisherman, and the merchants who were in the marketplace, for a short while, felt they could hear the city’s former glory. Noel who had finally tired, ended her performance, and Mirut and the others also stayed their hands. At that same moment, applause arose from the surroundings. Their numbers were not large, but those who applauded did so with full force, and it rang out from the bottom of their hearts which were filled with a profound satisfaction.
“Noel’s Army Band’s first performance was a great success, eh?”
“Since when were we a band? Erm, when did we become one?”
“Just now. I named it: Noel’s Army Band.”
金金金With a proud face, Noel gave a thumbs up. Her choice had resulted in a great success, and she lightly twirled her trumpet. Everyone had the power to find fun in both performing, and listening to music. It was almost a curious kind of magic.
“Hey, let’s start up a serious army band one day, okay?”
“I’ll get to the bottom of Coimbra’s disgrace, so isn’t stopping a good way?”
“I’ll hoist a magnificent flag, and march to the trumpet. It will definitely be fun. We’ll fight together under the same banner, through life or death. That is how companions are.”
金金金What Noel had described was a flag of her beloved sun. It was not the military flag of the Horsheido empire. That flag was nothing more than a sham; a total forgery. What Noel desired, was the real sun. To properly display the sun’s for was difficult. At a glance it appeared to be a simple circle, but there was more to it than that. It was a ball of light, not a circle. She did not know how one could adequately convey a ball of light. She thought of the outline, but if it was just an outline that would be unsatisfactory. It wasn’t good enough at all. The Horsheido army’s battle flag bore the sun’s rays in a cruciform pattern, but it was in vain. That flag was painted red, and for her own, orange would be good, but a red to match her hair would also be nice.
“W-well, it can be a bit fun I guess.”
“I know, right? So, at that time Mirut, and you all too, should join in.”
“I am going to leave the army when the rebellion ends. It is unfortunate that my job involves killing.”
“It is regrettable.”
“W-we will follow you!”
金金金The young ones from the village continued on with ‘me too, me too,’ for some time as she saw them step forward.
“Success! Then let’s make a magnificent army band and show it to Mirut!”
“Okay, I’ll enjoy myself too you know. Hey, has this also become a promise?”
金金金Mirut looked to Noel with hopeful eyes for affirmation, but Noel tilted her head, not understanding. It was her principle to never promise something she could not fulfill, for if she did not follow through, she could not find happiness.
“Yup, I’m not alone so I might be overdoing my promises, but hang in there, okay.”
“I see, well, please don’t forget. Hey, shouldn’t we head back about now? Let’s surprise sir Cynthia with the fruits of our labours.”
“It’s a good enough time. All right, then, a trumpet for the charge! Noel company, commence assault!”
金金金Noel, rapidly playing the trumpet, suddenly broke out into a run. Mirut and the villagers rushed forwards, unbroken.