Chapter 387: Central Plains Unification War ⑫ Continued Steps
I inhale deeply, my mind still muddled by a languid feeling throughout my body.
As the air flows into my lungs, a dusty and faint sour smell fills my nose.
It isn’t a particularly pleasant scent, but the cloth touching my body is smooth and comfortable.
My entire body relaxes, happy to enjoy dozing off a little more.
Except, when I exhale, a variety of scenes revive, the memory of Sekrit losing her left hand being the most prominent.
I let out a sudden grunt and wake up.
At the same time, I heard a loud clank.
Although my eyes are open, perhaps due to the long slumber, I can’t see anything.
I shake my aching head twice, then three times before closing and reopening my eyes.
It seems I’ve been resting in a tent.
There is only a tiny table beside the bed I’m sleeping in, so the inside of the small tent appears large.
The time of day must be evening as an intense ray of red light is shining through the entrance of the tent.
「I dropped down from the bridge…… then I swam…… then Brynhildr dragged me…… and then I blew a fart. That’s all I remember.」
I guess that’s when I lost consciousness.
It doesn’t look like I’ve died and Brynhildr was kind enough to take me all the way to headquarters.
When I tried to get out of bed, pain surges throughout my body.
Then I noticed that my entire body is wrapped with bandages, and in addition, every part of my body is screaming in pain.
「What else did you expect, idiot?」
A beautiful voice comes from between me and the tent.
Brynhildr is glaring at me.
「Oh Brynhildr, I’ve really troubled you, haven’t I?」
「You said it. Why do I have to haul a big oaf like you as I run?」
That would surely have been a hilarious sight.
「Anyways, there’s no use talking about it after all that’s done. So, how’s your body feeling, do you think you’ll die?」
When I rotate my arm, I feel muscle pain…… no, this might be a torn muscle.
Rubbing my rib area, I feel a dull pain from the fracture of bones, as well as the arrow wound and sword injury, which still hurt even though they’re been sealed.
My red and blistering skin must be from being burned by oil. Since I jumped in water directly after, the damage wasn’t as bad as it could have been.
If I can still feel pain, I should be fine.
Not feeling anything would worry me.
「Mm, you’re a real handful. I wanted so badly to drink half your blood as payment, but it looked like you would die if a single gulp was taken, so I decided to spare you.」
Brynhildr moves slowly toward the entrance of the tent while her eyes remain on me.
She’s acting somewhat unnaturally, especially with both her hands behind her back.
「What!? Stop glancing and go to sleep so you can accumulate more blood!!」
The moment she yelled, something spills out from a pot she’s holding.
It’s one I’ve seen before.
My eyes slowly adjust, clearing up my vision, and allowing me to see a towel sitting on top of the futon.
No wonder my face feels refreshed, she’s been wiping it for me.
Knowing she sat beside me all the time makes my love for her want to explode.
「So noisy! Go to sleepー!」
My attempt to get up was met with a moist towel thrown directly in my face.
In the next instant, Brynhildr disappeared, probably gone out of the tent.
A young girl tossing a towel at me out of embarrassment…… what a charming act.
If only she didn’t throw it with her vampire strength.
「I thought my neck was going to snap.」
Thinking it’s a good idea to listen to her and rest in bed, an image crosses my mind――
Jumping up, I rush out of the tent without delay.
Brynhildr isn’t around anymore.
Despite it being evening, her dislike for sunlight led her to hide somewhere, though now is not the time to worry about that.
「Sekrit, where are you!?」
She was still alive before I lost consciousness.
However, her major injury to her arm was left untreated and she fell in the water on top of that.
There is no guarantee that she was saved.
I don’t know how much time has elapsed since then, but I can’t relax without knowing what happened to her.
For now, I’ll grab the kitchen maid who stiffened up from my loud bellow.
Even though I feel a breeze hitting my body and something swinging between my legs, there are more important issues at hand.
「Do you know Sekrit!? She’s a dark-skinned beauty who suffered a major injury to her arm.」
「S-so big…… alright, I understand―――― I mean, an injured woman?」
The girl had turned her back to face me and slipped a hand under her skirt, only to pause and stare blankly at me once my question registered in her brain.
「Yeah, she lost her arm.」
Please, don’t tell me she’s been buried.
「With so many injured people, a kitchen aid like me wouldn’t know specifics…… I think you can ask somebody who has a mark on their arm, they’re in charge of medical treatment……」
I forget to thank her and run off in a hurry. I’ll make it up to her later.
「It was as big as a log…… so something of that size exists…… uu, I’m feeling hot.」
「Hey, do you know where my Sekrit is?」
Like she suggested, I found a young soldier with a symbol on his arm.
「H-huge…… huh, Lord Hardlett!?」
For some reason, the man turned around and seemed surprised to see me.
「Sekrit…… right, that brown-skinned girl.」
I grab the soldier by the collar.
「Yeah, where is she?」
If he tells me she’s dead, I might go crazy and violate this guy.
「She should be in the tent for sick and wounded soldiers, number three――」
I let go of the soldier, practically throwing him aside and run off to where he mentioned.
「That thing is as big as a log…… it’s the reason he’s able to walk naked with such confidence.」
「Third one…… here?」
I fling open the flap of the tent with enough force to tear it.
Unlike my tent, the size of this tent is extremely large, with plenty of tables scattered around and just as many military doctors and nurses caring for patients. To that extent, an according number of injured are in the tent, with those unable to be placed on a bed lined up on the floor instead.
「Sekrit, are you in here?!!」
My loud shout causes some of the injured soldiers to cry out.
「Uwaaaah! It’s an orc! We’re under attack by an arc!」
「Someone do something!」
I name myself to prevent further confusion and calm those who became agitated so I can peacefully search for Sekrit.
「Lord Hardlett……? Sekrit-san is in the bed at the back. By the way, why are you naked?」
「I had a pressing matter to attend to. I’d appreciate if you don’t question me about it.」
A female nurse hands me a blanket.
The truth is that I simply forgot.
Now that I’ve heard Sekrit is alive, my heart has settled down somewhat and I’m able to clearly see my surroundings.
She sneaks a peek at my crotch when she passes me the blanket, takes another peek when she pretends to bow, and peeks one last time as she tends to a wounded soldier.
If I press up against the girl’s butt from behind, I’m pretty sure she’ll let me fuck her.
Now is not the time though, I should be focusing on Sekrit.
Sekrit is lying face down on the bed, with the blanket covering her up to her head.
Her face is buried in the pillow and her shoulder is rising and falling in a steady rhythm like she’s sleeping soundly.
I heave a long and deep sigh of relief.
「She’s alive, thank goodness.」
After I said that, I place my hand on her shoulder.
「……there might be room to argue that.」
Sekrit replies in a muffled voice as she moves slowly.
She turns around without leaving the covers.
Peering out from the darkness within the blanket are two glowing red eyes.
I knew instantly what they meant.
Sekrit couldn’t be saved. Brynhildr turned her lifeless body into a vampire.
I embrace her blanket-wrapped body.
「I see…… so that’s what happened.」
I don’t hold any grudges against Brynhildr.
Sekrit lost her life so this result is better than her body becoming ash.
The drawback is that Sekrit can no longer walk under the light of the sun.
「I was the one who killed you.」
It wasn’t Erich’s fault or her own fault for being unlucky.
Sekrit took a bolt in my place and I couldn’t see through her poor health conditions post injury.
Everything is my fault.
I feel trembling from under the blanket.
「I know you liked playing in the water and now you can’t do it…… the Leviathan 3 is unfinished, right?」
That elicited an especially noticeable reaction.
She must be quite frustrated. I can at least let her direct that anger at me.
I take out my penis and stick it in front of opening in the blanket cocoon.
「Go ahead and bite down! Bite down with all your anger behind it! You can suck up lots of blood!」
「Are you serious? ……I heard she was Lord Hardlett’s woman, but still.」
「They do that kind of play?」
「Is it possible to bite down there and suck blood?」
「Argh, you idiot, it was just a little joke! Do you have no shame!?」
Sekrit pops out from the blanket.
A sliver of light is still shining into the tent and she doesn’t appear to be suffering.
「So you let that small girl bite you all the time? That explains why your dick has all those bumps」
I grab Sekrit’s face and inspect her eyes.
「These eyes of yours……」
「They were red to begin with. ……let go, they’re going to dry out.」
Now that I think about it, weren’t her eyes always violet?
「……just to make sure.」
I open Sekrit’s mouth to confirm if she had the distinct fangs of a vampire.
「Hagogh…… you’re gonna break my jaw!!」
I release her after she kicks me in the groin.
「Geez, stop with the unsavory joke. I thought my heart was going to jump out of my chest. ……also, an injured person should be resting.」
I hold down the grumbling Sekrit’s leg and cover her again with the blanket out of consideration.
She’s wearing the plain sleepwear that all sick and injured soldiers wear…… what separated her from the others is that bottom part of her left sleeve from below the elbow is hanging loosely.
Sekrit obediently sits on the bed after fussing around for a while and starts talking.
Apparently, three days have already passed since then.
「I woke up after sleeping for a whole day. Only my left arm was cut off.」
She snorts, as if trying to play off the severity of her injury.
She also told me about the many times she visited to see my sleeping face.
「At that point, you looked terrible. You had wounds all over your body, your skin was burnt, and you looked like a scary creature. It was thanks to that monster’s care that your condition improved.」
Sekrit jokes, asking how I made such a friend.
That was when a bewildered voice interrupts from behind me.
「Pardon me, I’ve brought food…… would it be better if I came later?」
「Leave it there.」
Before I could say anything, Sekrit sweeps her bedside table clean.
A cup, a cloth, blood-soaked bandages all get flung to the soldier adjacent to her, who complains at the unwanted junk falling into his lap, however after one glance from Sekrit, he turns the opposite direction and pipes down.
「You did something, didn’t you?」
「Like I know.」
On the table, there was soup, bread, different kinds of meat and vegetables generously heaped on a tray.
It didn’t seem like a single person’s portion, although Sekrit starts eating ferociously.
「The wound aside, I’m lacking blood. Right now, I have to eat as much as I can.」
She grabs a sausage with her hand and takes a big bite, then follows up by stuffing her mouth with bread.
Next, she sticks a spoon into the bowl of soup.
The vessel doesn’t stay still, so she’s having trouble scooping the liquid.
Annoyed, she uses more force and ends up spilling the contents of the bowl.
「Give it to me.」
I take the spoon from her hand.
「Your assistance is unnecessary. I can eat by myself.」
「Large chunks of potatoes are in here. It’s hot, so be careful.」
I ignore her and carry the spoon to her lips.
「Give me the bowl. I can drink directly from the―― mgh.」
「There’s also some soft beef. I’m sure it’s tasty.」
Continuing to ignore her, my hand inserts the spoon into her mouth mid-sentence.
「It’s because I didn’t pay close attention to you. Forgive me.」
「Idiot. Are you going to treat me like a child―― mogh.」
I push bread smeared with a healthy helping of butter into her mouth.
「I was the one who didn’t express my condition. Everything that happened was a result of reaping what I sowed―― mugh.」
I slip a slice of boiled carrot into her mouth.
At that point, a nasty grin forms on Sekrit’s face and her attitude about not wanting to be cared for flips.
「That’s right. I can’t return to the battlefield now that my arm is gone.」
She can’t use her specialty of dual-wielding and her balance as a one-armed person will be off.
Standing on the battlefield in that state is suicidal.
I bring the rest of the sausage to her gloomy face.
「While you’re away fighting wars, I’ll have to endure living alone in a mansion surrounded by enemies.」
「……I’ll try to persuade the others so that won’t happen.」
I offer her gloomier face a grilled mushroom.
「If I’m ever attacked in an alley at night, it’s over for me. I won’t be able to resist and my body will easily be held down――」
Unable to hold back any longer, after shoving a bean of some kind into her mouth, I pull her head into my chest and hug her tightly.
「I’ll always protect you from now on. I’ll act as your left arm so that you won’t experience any painful times.」
The more I hug her, the more Sekrit’s body shakes and I can feel her temperature start to rise.
She must be squirming because she’s embarrassed. I won’t let her go.
「Rely on me for everything. If you’re inclined to do so, you can become my wife and remain by my side forever.」
I can tell her body temperature just drastically increased.
She’s reacting positively. I’m guessing she’s panicking from such a sudden request because she is perspiring rather profusely.
She’s genuinely struggling, but I’m not going to let go for mere embarrassment since this is an important conversation.
「My apologies, Hardlett-sama?」
A voice calls out to me from behind.
The girl who brought the food is looking at me with a troubled expression.
「The last thing Hardlett-sama put in her mouth…… it was an extra spicy chili pepper meant for seasoning.」
I release Sekrit from my arms.
「AAaaaaaah!! Water! I need water!」
Sekrit pushes away from me, kicks the soldier beside her, steals the pitcher of water and chugs the fluid.
Then, a familiar voice, mixed with a sigh, comments.
「Don’t be causing a ruckus in the injured soldiers tent.」
Everyone, including the injured soldiers, all salute as soon as the person finishes his sentence.
「Eri…… I mean, Lord Radhalde.」
I correct myself, remembering that I’m in a public setting.
「I heard you finally woke up. I thought I would explain the state of war…… among other things.」
Erich sends me a signal with his eyes.
From his expression, he must be concerned about leaving me behind during his retreat.
He just doesn’t, as the person with the highest authority, want to do anything in front of the other soldiers to disrupt the level of command he has.
「Shall we go elsewhere?」
As I begin to stand up, Erich’s female adjutant quickly moves to support me.
「I’m honored to touch such a pretty lady, but I’m fine.」
The pain isn’t enough to hinder me from walking.
「I’d rather you take care of Sekrit.」
「Ngh, ngh, ngh.」
When I smile sheepishly at Sekrit, she glares back harshly, still trying to cleanse her palate.
We relocate to a tent without any soldiers.
「You slept for three days. Let’s start with the state of war.」
A map is rolled out in front of me.
Sekrit is breathing through her mouth, going “fuu, fuu” and trying to cool herself.
「After the retreat from Arkland, we successfully dealt the enemy a hard blow with an ambush as they were pursuing us. It was enough for them to stop chasing as well as withdraw the troops which attacked the logistics base, Roksta.」
So they were able to survive the predicament.
「The enemy retreated further south of Arkland…… they probably saw the destroyed gates of Arkland and though the city was an unsuitable defense. At the same time, advancing to the south of Arkland has become harder for us since we lost our logistics base. The battle will turn into a staring contest for a while……well, because Arkland wasn’t captured, my head remains connected to my body.」
Fumu fumu, so we’ll be locked in a stalemate too.
From this point on, we talk about the main issue.
「You’re honest to a fault. Your face is clearly showing your discontent.」
「That’s because I didn’t try to hide it.」
Erich begins his excuse with an uneasy expression.
「The activation of the plan depended on the enemy. If they didn’t come full force at us, we would have swung and missed.」
「So that’s why you didn’t say anything……?」
If that’s the case, couldn’t he have notified the messenger to act right at the point when the enemy started to pursue?
「The enemy had multiple mobile units. In that melee, if the messenger was captured and the trap was seen through, that would increase the possibility of Goldonia’s fall.」
Erich apologizes by lowering his head.
I understand the logic, yet I can’t accept the explanation.
There’s the displeasure of being treated like a sacrificial pawn and if Erich told me about his intentions beforehand, Sekrit’s arm might still――
I shake my head when my thinking shifts in that particular direction.
What happened to her happened because I didn’t allocate enough care for her. Laying the blame on Erich doesn’t change anything.
Let’s be angry at the losses that the poor trio suffered instead.
……I don’t feel any emotion welling up.
「But in this fight we were able to halt the enemy’s steady advance. For the next while, we’ll be in a stalemate…… and time is on our side as the side with the locational advantage.」
I think what Erich did was dishonorable, but I know it was the most optimal as a commander.
My reasoning and emotions are clashing and I don’t know what to do.
What should I do at a time like this?
Argh, I’ll copy what Celia does.
I puff up my cheeks with air and silently pout at Erich.
「「That’s disgusting, so stop that.」」
Not only Erich, Sekrit also stares disapprovingly at me.
So it was impossible for me after all.
「……I’ll get over it.」
I’m unhappy, but raging against Erich won’t reverse what’s been done.
If punching him would cause Sekrit’s arm to regrow, I would, but that’s not possible.
「How kind. Now let’s see if this guy will respond with the same kindness.」
Sekrit says softly enough that only I can hear her.
Seeing her sarcastic nature unchanged after losing an arm makes me feel relieved.
「I’m sorry…… it really helps that you understand.」
I decided in my head to feel satisfied even though I don’t actually feel fully satisfied.
「Before you woke up, I went to make an excuse to the other feudal lords. The atmosphere was just terrible.」
「I’d expect that.」
Who wouldn’t be outraged after literally being cut off as a part of a plan?
「Some said they would appeal to the king directly and withdrew their troops without authorization. I’ve even told them what a suicidal act that would be.」
That is where it doesn’t concern me.
Although it might be time for me to withdraw as well.
I took part in this battle on my own, but I can’t exactly fight with wounds all over my body.
Chance of loss is 100%.
「It wouldn’t be a problem if permission is granted.」
Erich sighs and shakes his head.
「The east and here will be in stalemate for some time. There’s no need to rush. Besides…… your injuries can’t withstand a journey, right? You should rest a little longer before returning.」
「Returning to Rafen shouldn’t be an issue.」
When I stand up energetically, the pain in my stomach aches.
The hole in my back also seems to open up.
「You can make anything unreasonable work out, can’t you.」
Sekrit snorts and stands up when Erich directs his gaze to her.
As soon as she does so, her body tilts to the right. Her center of gravity is off without one of her arms.
She doesn’t stick out a hand to grab a table to stabilize herself and just falls over.
「Understood. I’ll rest some more.」
I answer after catching the falling Sekrit.
「I’ll compensate you generously for this after the fight. I will at least offer a small advance payment.」
Erich snaps his fingers and a single woman walks into the tent while twisting her body.
She’s clearly a prostitute, one of high quality.
「I’m a member of the transport corps…… well, I came exclusively for you. I will be your personal nurse until your wounds heal.」
The pretty lady exhales sweetly and pokes my chest with her index finger.
「I’ll have to try my best, since I have no experience being a nurse, especially toward your lower half.」
If Erich is using such a shallow and straightforward tactic, he must not have many options.
How strange, my left hand is fondling the woman’s breast.
「Tch, unnecessary to say the least.」
Sekrit glares at Erich, who has already went outside after being called.
「What, the enemy landed in Stura!? Don’t be stupid, there’s no way South Yuguria has ships on the North Teries river! You say a fleet of 50 ships has appeared!?」
What an unsettling exchange.
「B-by order of the king, you are to abandon Arkland and return to the capital……」
「If we do that, all our defense plans will fall apart…… but if the enemy really has control of Magrado……」
Sekrit and I strain our ears.
「Things have become interesting.」
「It’s not interesting. Now it’s unnecessarily more difficult to go home.」
「That stuff is too complicated for me. If you feel like doing it, feel free to get on top of me, kay~」
This information would soon spread to the entire army and the soldiers could not hide their unrest.
That would lead to the rest of the feudal lords coming up with any reason to pull their troops out of the battle without waiting for orders, despite Erich’s anger.
The only remaining feudal lords would be the Starving Dog unit, an extremely small group close to Erich, and me.