DK – Chapter 55-56: In the Kingless Land II

…That journey took 2 and a half days. 

After passing two nights camping, we arrived at the Zakuroa lands where, even though it is already the fourth month, there’s still snow remaining. 

It is really cold. 3 days ago we were in a dry region, so that makes it even worse.

Maybe it should have been better to take our time going north to acclimate first. Flying to such a cold land in one go might make Zephyr catch a cold with the environment changing so drastically. 

It really feels as if the seasons made a turn. From spring back to winter.

See Mia there? She is making balls with the snow and throwing them like crazy at Zephyr. 

Zephyr is melting the snow balls flying at him by exhaling slight fire from his nose. What a novel snow battle. Feels like there’s no rule at all.

But it does feel like a rough mercenary kind of game which is good. Onii-chan does get excited at those kind of ruleless games, you know? 

“…The children are energetic.” (Riel)

Riel says this with a somewhat adult tone. Ah, it is not the same light dress she has, she is wearing pants. Were her thighs cold? If she had told me, I could have warmed them up.

“…Don’t go directing perverted gazes at me so early in the morning.” (Riel)

“Hm? Sorry about that.” (Solje)

“Stupid man.” (Riel)

After giving a harsh evaluation of my intelligence, the tsundere mutters ‘cold cold’ as she sits in front of the campfire. Jean in wolf mode was close to it.

“Ara, Jean. You were here. I was about to step on you.” (Riel)

“Eh? …Ah, s-sorry. I will move. I will move, ok?” (Jean)

“You don’t have to.” (Riel)

“…O-Ok.” (Jean)

It looks like the power hierarchy has been established in the crew here; Riel, Mia, Jean. Yeah, there’s no doubt Jean is at the bottom.

Fumu, I didn’t plan for it to turn out this way. Did I nurtur the young blood in the wrong way?

Jean Redwood probably worships me. Last night, when we were sleeping in the same tent, he was staring intently at me.

It was scary. What would I have done if he began wanking while looking at me?

…I’m joking. There was nothing like that happening. He is an assman after all. He is all about that female rear! I think!

Well, I don’t dislike that he admires me, but that lack of confidence and his strong dependence… I would like it if he were a bit more independent. Like a lonewolf. 

Right now he is laying on his back with his stomach showing and rolling around. Aah, wolf, don’t you feel like becoming a bit more of a wild young man?

You do admire me, right? I am somewhat wild, you know? You even have fangs and fur, so can you at least be wilder than me?

“Achoo!!” (Jean)

“Oh, Jean, a cold? I will strengthen the fire.” (Riel)

“T-Thanks, Riel-san. Aah, it really is cold here…!” (Jean)

“…This is difficult.” (Solje)

“…Indeed.” 

“Hm? Oh, Loroka.” (Solje)

Loroka came out from the tent for females, and maybe noticed the pains I am facing with the young blood?

No, that’s not it. She apparently was reading all night last night the documents that were filled up with the information of Zakuroa.

There were bags under her eyes.

It goes the same for me, but these ones are because I was bothered by the gaze of Jean and couldn’t sleep. Mine isn’t that serious of a reason.

Aah, I feel bad.

I want to apologize to her.

I had you work so hard, and yet, here I am, using my brain worrying about something as insignificant as the communication between my subordinates.

“…Captain, were you thinking last night?” (Loroka)

Of course, I was already properly thinking about business, too. I do want my everyday life to be humorous, but I am mostly a workaholic, you know.

“…Yeah, rather than calling it a plan, it is more like a policy.” (Solje)

“Policy?” (Loroka)

“Yeah. I am thinking of going the steady route by heading to the Blood and Iron Alliance.” (Solje)

“I see, so you are meeting Vashiri Nova.” (Loroka)

“What do you think?” (Solje)

“I think it is the better option. I believe he will agree with our intentions.” (Loroka)

“Right. The problem is the Trade Alliance’s Julian Laichi.” (Solje)

“…We received information from the Queen through the owl messenger, but…I heard that Representative Laichi has even dined together with General Zack Claine of the Empire’s fifth division.” (Loroka)

“I see, the Rock Fortress Claine, huh.” (Solje)

Rock Fortress is the formation General Claine is specialized in. Its trait is that it arranges the files close to each other. There’s no speed in its march, but there’s no openings to hit. Meaning that he is strong with defense formations. It is truly plain, but…he is not the type of General to lose in battle. 

Even if he gets cornered, he would retreat to reduce the damage to a minimum. He is that kind of problematic man. I don’t know if his strategy correlates to his personality, but he is apparently a gentle person, and possesses the length and capacity to wait patiently for negotiations. If he were to be depicted as a character in a fairytale, he would definitely be the turtle.

…It is a bad analysis result. There wasn’t any information about him having a low boiling point, being lustful, or anything like that from her Majesty. 

Because of their advantage in numbers, he prefers the steady strategies. Compared to the seventh division from before, a number of 30,000 isn’t that much, but that makes it an even more problematic opponent.

The military power of the Iron Blood Alliance -according to the documents- is 7,000. The Trade Alliance is 400 internal security and 600 mercenaries. 

Even when putting them together, it is 8,000.

Not that heartening against 30,000. 

The Ludo Kingdom is pretty far, so we can’t expect reinforcements from them. At most, they could bring about 500 cavalry. The Behemoth of General Gyarigan, judging from its size, I would say isn’t suited for long distance travels.

500; if they are all elites, then it is indeed a reliable number. But it would still be a heavy difference. Doesn’t change the fact we are at a disadvantage to a breaking degree. 

Moreover, there’s no knowing when those 1,000 will be turning against us. Different from last time, the weakness in unity is on our side. The smell of a losing war is pungent. 

Well, I say ‘our side’, but it is not as if Zakuroa and Ludo have formed an alliance yet. But even if we did, the simulation is not giving favorable results.

I see.

That’s why I…no, that’s why a dragon knight was dispatched.

We have an advantage that the Empire doesn’t have -a dragon.

If we add Zephyr and I into the previous equation, the tides could change heavily. It won’t be a one-sided defeat. 

If the army creates a chance, I could at least manage to take the head of Claine with Zephyr.

Or…

In the worst case, it is possible to ‘emigrate’ both representatives to Ludo. Abandon their country and friends, and run away. If I were to prepare that escape route for them…the logical thinker Julian Laichi might join our battle?

Having the head escape sounds terrible, but if we manage to do that, even if Zakuroa were to fall under the Empire, it could serve as a trigger for a rebellion. Maybe Queen Claris plans on creating an emigration government for Zakuroa in Ludo?

…I do think she has at least thought of the possibility, but there’s no way she hopes for that kind of result that would only make things worse as time goes on.

Claine is apparently a cautious man, so as long as Ludo manages to completely form an alliance with the East and West Zakuroa, he might hesitate in his attack.

There’s the possibility…but what next?

Claine would request reinforcements from headquarters, increase their forces, and attack Zakuroa. 

It would only buy time.

…Right.

“In the end, I feel like it is currently the ‘best option’.” (Solje)

“Yes.” (Loroka)

The answer I spoke after a lot of thinking and puzzling. Loroka-sensei already understood the meaning of those words.

That’s right, the confrontation between the West and East Zakuroa?

…It sounds bad, but maybe this is an act?

Nova and Laichi are ‘fighting’, so they are managing to hold off Claine who doesn’t like pointless battles. Anti-Imperialism side and Pro-Imperialism side. No matter which side gets cleared, Zakuroa is done for after all.

“…It is exactly because both sides are at odds that the fifth division is being held in place. They maintain the status quo. I feel like this situation in itself is their best option.” (Loroka)

“Then, what’s the reason for throwing a dragon knight into the equation?” (Solje)

Even if I join, it won’t tilt the current situation to the Ludo Kingdom’s side, right?

“…It must be because she has hopes for you, Captain.” (Loroka)

“What? …I can’t think of anything.” (Solje)

“…Build the strength that can fight against the Empire in this Zakuroa…no, in this northern lands, isn’t that what she said?” (Loroka)

Loroka looks straight at my right eye as she said this. What is she trying to say?

…Is there a way to ‘build’ something like that in this land? I am not that intelligent, my adjutant. I want an explanation.

“What do you mean, Loroka? Do you know something I don’t?” (Solje)

“…Captain, actually, I…” (Loroka)

“AAAAAAAAHHHHH!!” 

Loroka was about to say something, but was interrupted by Jean’s scream. The conversation was splendidly cut. Cleanly in two. Loroka and I look at each other and sigh.

  • Chapter 56

“C-Captain, this is terrible!!” (Jean)

A panicking dog comes to where Loroka and I are. I was annoyed, so I felt like kicking him away, but I resist it. Bullying a dog would disqualify me as a person.

“…What’s the matter?” (Solje)

“M-Monsters!! The smell of monsters!!” (Jean)

Those words raised the tension of the Banjar Mercenaries. Everyone grabbed their weapons and Zephyr raised his head that was sunk into the snow. 

“…It is true. I caught the smell just now.” (Zephyr)

His sense of smell is better than that of Zephyr’s?! That’s a beastkin for ya. Well done, Jean.

“And so, where? Which one is closer?!” (Solje)

“There! Over there, Captain!! It is about 4km from here!!” (Jean)

“…4km.” (Solje)

I am impressed that you could tell with that distance. Should I praise him for that? …Or should I be scolding him for being so scared even when they are so far away?

“…Captain?” (Jean)

The dog tilts his head and looks up at me.

“N-No, it is nothing. 4km, huh. Yeah, I’m impressed you could tell.” (Solje)

“Y-Yes! Thank you very much!!” (Jean)

In the end, I praised him. Jean might be the type that grows from praise, you know? …I hope that’s the case.

“…Doje, the monsters are attacking someone.” (Zephyr)

“What?!” (Solje)

“T-That’s right. That’s why I was so hurried!!” (Jean)

“So that was it. In that case, let’s go!!” (Solje)

Riel, Mia, and I jumped onto Zephyr and Loroka called her unicorn with a finger whistle. Jean shouted ‘please follow me’ and disappeared into the forest at astounding speed.

“…If you run that fast, we won’t be able to see you.” (Solje)

“It is okay. I can follow the tasty smell.” (Zephyr)

“Then we can rest assured!! Go, Zephyr!!” (Riel)

“Yes, Maje!!” (Zephyr)

Zephyr flies up into the sky.

…I am glad I have capable subordinates. 

‘Delicious smell’, I don’t know how to take those words. But, right, this is not the time to be worrying about that. 

A dragon knight must protect the people!!

“Zephyr, follow Jean!!” (Solje)

“Yes!!” (Zephyr)

Dancing in the sky with his wings, Zephyr adjusts the angle. The wind mixed with clouds hit our bodies. Riel was saying ‘Cold!’. This is bad. If her fingers are cold, the accuracy of her shots might decrease. We gotta buy some actual equipment that protects us against the cold.

Jean was showing his specialty as a beastkin.

As a wolf that has the intelligence of a person, he was running while easily trampling on the piled up snow and was running like the wind. 

I take off my eyepatch and release the eye of Ares. I can see mana from the body of Jean. Is he being blessed by the land? 

Just like how an elf received mana from the forest…he is also loved by this forest and being given strength? He was originally a guy who shut in a forest after all… No, it might be because there’s something close to him in this homeland of his.

Right, there might be some connection to him in this forest area related to the beastkin. Once there’s the time, it might be good to explore the place.

But right now…!

“There it is!! I can see it!!” (Zephyr)

“I can see it too!!” (Riel)

“Riel! Can you move your fingers?!” (Solje)

“It is okay. Once it is a battle, my blood burns!” (Riel)

“Sounds great!!” (Solje)

Those white monsters are attacking that carriage!

Those are…skeletons!!

The monsters that were sung about in the songs of my old man about him defeating a mountain of them. They are not as big in size as the ones depicted in it, but there’s about 40 to 50.

Around that amount were coming out from underground, and were attacking several carriages that seem to be their objective.

“Zephyr! Descend!” (Solje)

“Got it!” (Zephyr)

“Riel, provide cover with your arrows! Mia, we are charging together!!” (Solje)

“Leave it to me!! SIIIING, ZEPHYYYYR!!” (Mia)

Zephyr sings and charges towards the skeleton crowd. Smashing several skeletons in his path, he does a fire breath!!

This red storm that melts snow burns the cursed corpses while blowing them away!

“I will cover you! Run!” (Riel)

The elf arrow destroys the cranium of a skeleton that was attacking the merchants. Nice arms. Looks like her cold fingers have been warmed up by the heat of battle!!

…About the skeletons…once their head is destroyed, even an arrow can defeat them. Hm? Any other way of dealing with them?

……YOU DO THIS!!

“Uoraaaaaaaaaaah!!” (Solje)

I unsheathe my dragon longsword as I jump down the back of Zephyr! The slash clad in destructive power breaks the skeleton bastards!! 

“Gyuhiiii!!” 

I can hear the wind stirring from the bones of those guys. This is the air of a curse covering them. The bones of the skeletons were stuffed with some wicked stuff. 

I head to my next target. Yeah, because there are a lot! 

Shit!! We didn’t make it in time!! There’s several who have been killed!! 

Even though the skeletons have no stomach, they are using their decayed teeth to indulge in their meat! They are swarming the corpses of the merchants they killed and desperately tried to eat their flesh.

What a horrible curse.

They are cursed with ‘Hunger’. That’s why they are eating away at meat! But that’s pointless. They have no throat and no place to store it. The meat they tear apart simply comes out from the opening in their jaws…

Even though they can’t eat, they are desperately indulging!! 

Stop it. Even if you are hungry, kill, and eat, you can’t fill yourself up…! 

Damn it. Even though you were once people, you have fallen to such pitiful extent!! 

That’s right. 

Skeletons were once people. People died, their bones cursed, and turned in that way. The one who cursed them? Isn’t it obvious? One of the Gods of the Spirit World that threaten the world…a Zeruaga. 

There’s several Pillars. There might even be some who are trying to come to this world somewhere right at this moment. The one that’s said to have been killed a long time ago by Ares and the Dragon Knight Princess is also one Pillar.

I don’t know what is it they are trying to accomplish, but with their overwhelming magic power, they destroy the logic of this world. That action of theirs is even called the corrosion of the world. It is a problematic thing.

At any rate, they have a terrible personality. According to history, they have appeared several times in the world and made a mess of society. Looking back at it, it is as if they enjoy toying with our world. 

There might even be no meaning to it. Maybe it works the same as our sexual desire and appetite -finding happiness in the plain fact that they are making a mess of the world.

These skeletons are people that have fallen to the attacks of a Zeruaga at some point in time and were cursed. Even if a Zeruaga were to disappear from this world, there are many instances where their curses remain. 

That must be how these skeletons came to be…

A curse that we couldn’t get rid of even when we eliminated the Zeruaga from our world. There’s times when it would leak out from the depths of the earth. And if that cursed wind were to waft unto a cemetery or something like that…skeletons are born.

It is because of those kind of things that I would like to recommend the cremation of bodies like how Garuna did it. But it is not like I can just complain about the funeral of others. 

But I just can’t bear looking at it. Even though they are corpses, seeing how they are being gorge in such a manner!! 

The moment I was about to deal with those skeletons out of pure disgust rather than to save the survivors, a voice clad in spirit cut through the air of the battlefield.

“Haaaaah!!” 

Byakuya had caught up. The female mercenary riding this white unicorn controlled her spear skillfully and destroys the skeletons that were eating the corpses. Loroka Sharnel’s fluid horseback spearmanship exterminated the cursed skeleton bastards! 

“Captain, leave the back to us! Please head to where Mia and Jean are to rescue the people!” (Loroka)

“Got it!” (Solje)

I run. That’s right, Mia and Jean were already dealing with the skeletons attacking the carriages. They have the merchants at their backs to protect them! Jean did a body blow as if released like an arrow to destroy the skeletons. 

“Grrrrr!!”

He is getting excited from destroying skeletons. That’s right, you are strong to begin with. Don’t think, just go wild as your body dictates. You are strong just by doing that, Jean!! 

“Here I go~!!” (Mia)

Mia released a combo of attacks with her mithril claws, cutting the hand of a skeleton that tried to grab her, and then kicking its opened jaw from below, smashing it!! 

It must be the power of the metal that is stuffed at the bottom of her boots. It is compensating for her lack of weight. 

“Ahahahahaha!!” (Mia)

The black eyes of Mia released a charm that gave me goosebumps. 

Those are the eyes of a mercenary that finds joy in eliminating the enemy! That’s right, nice, Mia!! That’s what makes a child of the Strauss family. That’s how my little sister should be!! 

If you show me such battle technique, I will end up getting pumped up too!!

My legs turn into a storm as they kick about the snow in the way.

“Uoooooooh!!” (Solje)

Skeletons aren’t particularly fast, on top of that, this is a place with piled up snow! Their movements are being limited. Even with rough movements wide movements like spinning around my dragon longsword can cut them down without letting a single one escape!

“Gyuaaaaah!” 

“Gashaaaa!!” 

“Hmph, these weaklings!! I am finishing you off in one go!!” (Solje)

After crushing four skeletons with pure brute strength using my arms, I cast fire in my dragon longsword!!

I get excited while looking at the fire dancing on the blade of the sword.

Today’s dragon fire is doing hella fine as well! It is swirling around the blade and rampaging as if crazy!! Let’s go, Ares!! This is the special attack that combines my sword and your fire!!

“Magic Sword!! [Burst Sapper]!!” (Solje)

*BOOOM!!*

I hit the ground with the dragon longsword clad in raging fire! There’s an earthquake in my eardrums!! That’s how much they were shaken as the ground splits!! 

The blast clad in magic power sweeps through the battlefield.

6 skeletons were blown away by that red destruction!!

It is nice destructive power. The trembling air transmitted to the forest trees and the snow accumulated on their branches fell. I should be allowed to praise myself for this delightful scape, right? This kind of destructive power is moving. 

But I feel like it is way too overkill. It was unnecessary power for enemies like this. It was such a rough attack that there were some who weren’t defeated by it. 

Well, the reddish brown dog and the black cat teamwork dealt with the damaged skeletons from both sides. 

On top of that, Riel consecutively pierced the skeletons and Loroka’s spear and the hoofs of Byakuya were driven onto them.

Zephyr used his tail like a whip and goes around destroying the skeletons. That’s right, it would be better to not use your fangs against these guys. 

There’s no need to ingest this disgusting things as calcium. You should chew healthier bones. 

And so, I am way too free now. Our fighting force is too excessive. Everyone is way too competent. There’s already no one around to play with. So lonely…

“J-Just who in the world are you guys…?” 

A scared voice was thrown at my back. Ah, a survivor. He does have a decently deep wound in his arm, but it is not fatal. He is trembling. 

The fear that he is feeling right now is not towards the skeletons. It is towards us who arrived together with a dragon. 

My magic eye can read his heart. 

A purple color is flowing out from his heart. Suspicion and anxiety. They are thinking I am a friend of those monsters. They might even be thinking…I am a kind of Zeruaga, a familiar of them -a Devil.

There’s no need to be scared of me. I am a kind of knight. I won’t eat the weak unless it is on the battlefield.

“…I am a dragon knight.” (Solje)

I wonder if that will go through? These ancient words that are on the verge of disappearing from history. 

Hey, old man, if you are also a resident of the Zakuroa Region which was in an alliance with Garuna, you must have at least heard about it before, right? …The songs of us Strauss.

“Dragon knight…could it be from Garuna?” 

Kukuku, as expected of a middle-aged man. So you do remember our songs. 

It makes me smile. I really do love recalling the old days.

“That’s right. The last dragon knight of Garuna…Solje Strauss!!” (Solje)

“I-I see…so they weren’t wiped out—ugh!” 

“Oi, don’t move around too much. You are missing a bit of meat from your shoulder. Stay still. The skeletons will be exterminated in just a bit more. When we are done with that, we will treat you.” (Solje)

“T-That sounds nice, but…one of us…our company president got kidnapped!” 

“What?!” (Solje)

I was surprised in two ways. The tragedy that a person was kidnapped by skeletons, and that a monster with not a fragment of intelligence like a skeleton managed to do such an act as kidnapping.

Eating away on the meat in front of them is their basic pattern. Drag them somewhere? They shouldn’t have that intelligence, but…but maybe… Yeah, there might have been a different skeleton. ‘There’s always exceptions to everything’, the wise words of my first adjutant, Gandalla-san.

Yeah, the problem is that a survivor was kidnapped. If they are still alive, we have to rescue them. If they are dead, we shall avenge you.

“Where is that person?” (Solje)

“O-Over there. They were dragged deep into the forest by a skeleton that was bigger than the rest.” 

“…Inside the forest, huh.” (Solje)

Damn it. It is dense in trees. With the size of Zephyr, it would be impossible to traverse with him. In that case…!

“Jean! This place is fine. Chase the scent of the enemy!!” (Solje)

“Grrrrr!!” 

The wolf answered with that and begins to run into the forest.

Next would be legs!!

“Loroka!!” (Solje)

“Yes!!” (Loroka)

Byakuya runs to my side. I jump to the back of Loroka.

“Riel, Mia, Zephyr!! I leave this place to you guys!!” (Solje)

“Got it! Go quickly!!” (Riel)

That’s my Maje. She gets it!

“Loroka, Byakuya, follow Jean!! He can find the enemy for sure!!” (Solje)

“Yes! Leave it to us!!” (Loroka)

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