Translator: Silver Editor: Namorax
The forest path wasn’t that wide; there was a ravine to the left, and the thick-rooted trees were set at an incline making it difficult to see beyond the thicket.
On such a road a large, black, four horse carriage was advancing at a brisk pace.
The carriage had a rather frugal design, but the eyes of a craftsman would have been able to see the finer details of the carriage and judge it to belong to a noble.
Horse-backed knights surrounded the large, black carriage as it traveled along. In combination with the soldiers following behind, there was a total of fifty people protecting the carriage.
Each of them was wearing matching sets of equipment and skillfully advanced without any wasteful movements.
Parallel to the carriage was a horse more excellent than the rest, and the rider was adorned in a prominent set of armor.
The young man, who had neatly combed back hair and a square jaw, was carefully surveying the surrounding area.
This man was a member of one of the seven dukes families of Rhoden, the legitimate heir of the Frivetran family, Lendl Do Frivetran. And he was currently commander of the black carriage’s guards.
Considering the noble riding in the carriage, even such an amount of guards could be considered too little. However, if their numbers were any greater speed would’ve had to have been sacrificed, and since time was of the essence there was no choice but to use fewer people on this expedition.
The purpose of this journey was to get the occupant of the carriage to a secret rendezvous in the Rinburuto Arch Dukedom, so the major towns controlled by lords had to be avoided. Therefore, a different path than the faster highway had been chosen.
On such a path one had to be vigilant of unexpected monster and bandit attacks, so the fifty men present were selected as the best of the best.
Despite that, Lord Lendil wasn’t careless in his duties and had everyone maintain their current speed since the last day and a half.
Inside the carriage, a young lady was gazing out of the window at the forest and the gray clouds overhead while letting out a sigh.
This sixteen-year-old girl still had a youthful appearance despite being the second princess of the Rhoden kingdom, yet she carried a ladylike atmosphere.
Juliana tried to calmed herself down by playing with a lock of her dark blonde hair. Her maid, who was ready in waiting with a basket of confectioneries, called out to the princess.
“Juliana-sama, would you like something to eat in order to calm your nerves? Are you perhaps a little anxious about this visit to Rinburuto?”
Juliana’s childhood friend and personal maid, Feruna, offered a genuine smile as the princess shook her in refusal with a troubled expression.
“Even though this latest visit has been kept secret, I can’t shake this uneasy feeling. Our current speed and distance from our destination should prevent any pursuers from catching us, but……”
While the two were talking, the sky outside the carriage darkened to the point where rainfall seemed to be imminent. A vague feeling of unease swirled within her chest, as she looked up at the sky before shutting her eyes once her view started to blur.
At that moment, in front of the carriage── screams and shout resounded as the frontline was fired upon.
Besides the carriage, Lendi immediately took command of the unit and ordered them to to be on high alert as the group was reorganized.
The unit acted as one under their leader’s commands and took up a tighter defensive formation with determination in their hearts.
Lendi took the front most position and glared at the enemies in front of them.
Even after leaving the capital in secret, and traveling at breakneck speeds, an ambush had been set up in advance. There were only a small number of reasons that could explain this situation.
Lendi felt irritation at himself because this happened, but now was not the time to let such thoughts cloud his mind.
At a glance it was clear that the attackers weren’t simple bandits, so they must have been sent by either the first or second prince factions. Multiple 【Flame Bullets】from the fire school of magic were simultaneously cast to attack the unit.
The was no way that simple thieves would be in possession of more than one person capable of using magic.
“The enemies are magicians! Stop their chants! Knights with mithril shields step forward!”
A group of knights readied their shields as they stepped forward while the rearguard began to notch their arrows. All of a sudden something made its way through the unit and managed to hit a member of the rearguard that had been pulling back an arrow.
Screams and unrest ran through the soldiers at the sudden surprise attack, so Lendi tried to rebuild morale with a thundering cry.
Fortunately, the arrow was shot from the depths of the forest, so it had been fired at a vertical incline and only managed to hit a soldier on the end of the row.
Almost a hundred people appeared from the depths of the forest. While they had the appearance of thieves, their movements were those of trained mercenaries.
“Units 1-3 fall back into a tighter defensive formation! Don’t let any scoundrels approach!! Everyone else form a line in front of the carriage! Protect it by any means!!”
The units started splitting as commanded.
They were at a numerical disadvantage, and due to the threat of powerful magic attacks, the only viable strategy was a forward charge to get the carriage through the blockade.
However, the movements of some of the soldier were duller than usual, causing a delay in the formation’s construction.
While the guards struggled to form into two squads, the mercenary leader in the rear twisted his lips into an amused sneer.
“Fire the arrows once more!”
When the man gave his order, men with bows simultaneously notched their arrows.
As the arrows were fired, the knights and soldiers formed a shield defensive formation around the carriage preventing any fatal wound from being inflicted.
However, the soldiers that received the volley and suffered injuries had clearly lost some mobility and it was certain that the formation would crumble without perfect cooperation.
“Shave away the defenses!! Our goal is the princess’s life!!!”
At the man’s second order, the hundred bandit-like men gave a high-spirited shout as they broke into a dead run. The guards desperately tried to maintain formation as they collided with the mercenaries on this small forest path.
As the movements of the guard grew duller, they started to fall one after another and they no longer looked like the elites that had been selected to guard the princess.
“Cox-sama, are the poor movements of the guards your doing?”
The leader of the mercenaries was called out by a stump of a man that was dressed in the grubs of a priest. At the divested state of the guardsmen, the little man floated a smile unbefitting clergymen as his associate answered his question.
“Bishop Borane, the secret lies within this ”
The little clergyman called Bishop Borane had raven colored hair atop his head, a stubby beard, sharp eyes, and a vulgar smile more fitting for a thief than a priest.
But, the sword at his waist and the pristine leather armor wrapped around his body were articles that bandits could never possess.
Bishop Borane received an arrow that the man had held out.
The man name was Cox Carlo De Brutus.
He was heir to the Brutus Dukedom of the Rhoden’s several Duke families and was following the strategy his father, a member of the first prince’s faction, had outlined to him.
The arrow which had been handed to him appeared to be an ordinary arrow to bishop Borane, so he glanced at Cox in order to hear his purpose.
“You see, the arrowheads are dipped in poison. However, the Giant Basilisk poison used is a rather hard commodity to come by. While it can’t deliver instantaneous death, it ensures that even the movement of elite soldiers will be dulled.”
When Cox revealed the secret, Barone’s expression reflected genuine amusement.
“Haha! Cox-sama seems to be well prepared.”
“These only became available a few days ago. Since there was little time only a small number could be prepared, so once we return I’ll be sure to prepare more.
As the two chatted and laughed, they focused their attention on the collapse of the defensive formation and the man desperately trying to get the get the carriage to move forward.
Lendl, the commander of the guards of said carriage, glanced at the collapsed figures of his men and could only curse the current situation.
The reason being that he never imagined that the rear of the defensive formation would collapse.
The enemy magicians from a while ago now used the opportunity to push the mithril-shielded knights back. However, the magicians fell back as the ambush squad of nearly 50 men closed in.
In no time at all the rear had completely collapsed, leaving the guards little time to act.
“All remaining knights, prepare your 『Explosive magic crystals 』!!”
The knights that had been blocking the magicians’ assault and the ones that had been fighting off the enemies on the front-line sheathed their weapons and pulled a sphere from a pouch on their waists.
When the enemy saw this strange behavior their eyes bulged as they tried to rush the presumably retreating group, resulting in the path being blocked up and preventing them from seeing beyond the backs of those in front of them.
“Bayataroo!! Withdraw!! Withdraw!!”
That holler was raised as the enemy tried to back paddle when they saw what Lendl was holding in their direction.
『Explode. Slay thine enemies─』
At Lendl’s command, the knights grasped the sphere in their hands and simultaneously spoke the activation phrase for the magic tools.
Then they proceeded to throw the spheres in an arc causing them to land right if front of the enemy’s main formation. A moment later an earsplitting sound and explosion rocked the area and blew away a few enemies.
The front of the formation fell apart, leaving the magicians defenseless as Lendl took the opportunity to ride his horse through the opening.
“Breakthrough at one point! Position yourselves in front of the carriage!! Follow my lead!!!”
When Lendl gave the order, he gripped his horse’s neck and lead the battle charge.
Even with the enemy firing 【Fire Bullets】and 【Rock Bullets】, he skillfully plunged into the enemy forces with a mithril shield and a sword in hand.
While cutting down his opponents from atop his horse, the knights behind him followed suit.
When a hole began to form in the enemy line a 【Fire Bullet】struck the ground in front of Lendl’s horse causing it to scream and fall, throwing Lendl off in the process.
The knight behind Lendl’s falling horse quickly moved out of the way, as the enemies descended on the fallen beast and thrust their swords into its stomach and throat.
Lendl tried to rise after he’d been thrown off, but his broken leg prevented him from standing.
A man that held a short spear in front of the struggling Lendl offered him a vulgar smile as he thrust his spear into Lendl’s stomach.
While coughing up blood, Lendl desperately tried to maintain concussions as he held his hand over his wound and looked back at the carriage that held the master he should be protecting. His eyes reflected only death, as a large thief-pretender forcefully threw the carriage door open.
The man that opened the door had a bloody sword in hand, and was trying to take a swing at the maid that rushed from the carriage with a dagger in hand. Panicked, the man blocked it with his left arm.
The dagger deeply penetrated the man’s left arm, and in his anger he hit the maid using his full strength.
The maid Feruna’s body and face suffered the full blunt of the man’s assault causing her to fall down on the spot unable to move.
The man pulled out the dagger that had been stuck in his arm and forcibly stabbed his sword into Feruna’s chest.
Her consciousness quickly faded away as blood began to pool inside the carriage. The man proceeded to kick the maid out of the way.
At the death of her childhood friend and maid, Juliana didn’t care that her luxurious dress was soiled when she tried to cradle Feruna’s body.
However, she was impaled by the man when he stabbed the sword still covered in Feruna’s blood into Juliana’s chest.
Juliana’s expression was one of confusion, her eyes continued to bulge while the sword sunk deeper into her chest.
Her face took on a teary eyed and agonized expression, her voice refused to leave her lips and only blood managed to come out.
Before long, her limbs lost all of their strength and she hung on the wall of the carriage, a haziness began to seep into the princess’s mind and the passion reflected in her eyes started to flicker out.
After the man glanced at his handiwork, he pulled the sword from the girl’s chest and wiped the blood off with the princess’s dress before sheathing it. He then carefully removed a necklace that hung from the princess’s neck.
He exited the carriage with the necklace as if it were something important.
As the guard’s last resistance began to be snuffed out, this situation was reaching its conclusion.
Coming from behind, Cox observed the last few survivor of the guard detail before issuing orders.
“Alright start acting like bandits! The valuables you take will be added to your reward!”
At his order, the soldiers dressed as bandits let out joyous shouts as they began to strip the guards of all of their valuables and weapons.
While looking at the soldiers with a bit of envy, Cox addressed the small man standing next to him, who appeared to be restless for some reason.
“Bishop Borane, is everything alright?”
“I-Is that so? No, I’ll take you word on it……”
As Bishop Borane was watching the men prepare to search for loot, a joyful expression appeared on his face. Standing next to the bishop, he could only mutter silently “How vulgar” to himself.
“Cox-sama, the keepsake of her highness Juliana.”
While Cox was speaking with such venom, the large man responsible for killing the princess approached and quietly spoke up.
The man respectfully knelt down when he presented the necklace that he had taken from the princess’s neck a few moments ago.
“Tiresome. The princess was such disappointing being…… However, to bring along magic explosive crystals. The damages to our side were considerably heavier thanks to that.”
Upon receiving the necklace from his subordinate, Cox’s lips twisted into an amused smile.
The necklace was one of the two items that the late queen sent to her daughters. At the center was a large jewel entwined in a golden flower and the band was studded with smaller gems.
The necklace was carefully wrapped in a silken cloth and put in his breast pocket. However, just as Cox was about to give the signal to withdraw.
A death cry rang out in the general area where the soldiers collected their war trophies.
When Cox turned in the direction of the screams, he saw a group of large white wolves jumping out of the forest, and his terrified subordinates scattering in all directions.
No, the sight before him was that of humans becoming the prey.
The wolves growled excessively, giving the surrounding men a close up view of their fangs before they went in for a bite.
Although they were over two meters tall, the wolves were rather agile, and their fangs and strong jaws would be the end of any soldier that acted carelessly.
The magicians tried to fight back using magic, but the wolves detected the danger and before long nearly all the magicians had been torn to shreds.
Those who tried to fight them off with swords found that the wolves’ bodies dispersed when they were fatally injured before the soldiers heads were torn off from behind.
The people that sent Juliana’s group to hell a little while ago were now dragged into a hell of their own, and Cox could only stare in shock.
The large man beside Cox spoke the name of hell’s messengers in utter amazement.
Hearing the monsters’ name cause Cox mind to start back up and he started to give out orders.
“All troops withdraw!!! Regroup at the rendezvous site!!! Heavy knight units, raise your shields and toss away all other supplies!! Release the horse as decoys!!”
The soldiers that heard the orders retreated as fast as possible.
The heavy knight unit dismounted and removed their luggage from their horses. After whipping the sides of the horses, the knights took out a shield from their bags. To increase the speed of the retreat, the small number of people with large shields joined into a defensive formation.
Since time was precious and he still needed to survive Cox gave the order to retreat again and again.
“Shit! How many of them are there?!!
One of the soldiers who had managed to survive until now was attacked by fifteen Haunting Wolves, but it was unknown how many were actually real.
“I’ve heard that Haunting Wolves can control two or three illusions at the same time. Perhaps they can make five or more though……”
Cox let out a curse as a nearby subordinate gave his thoughts on the matter.
Holding up shields while retreating, the few that managed to escape the death god’s grasp were forming into large groups reminiscent of their actual military units. The joyful expressions they had while hunting for treasures were absent now.
As for the haunting wolves, they left the bodies around the carriage alone since they weren’t showing any signs of life.
Before long, the site could no longer be recognized as a place where an ambush took place. Once they withdrew from the forest, the tension finally broke, causing the soldiers to collapse one after another.
Cox sighed as fatigue finally overtook him and the tension he had been feeling lessened. He turned to look at the remnants of his troops.
However, he could only curse and sigh again at the fact that the battle with the guards and the attack of the haunting wolves had cost him more than half of his men.