The tremendous amount of smoke spewed into the air from the Dard mountain dyes the sky gray.
Ally and enemy soldiers alike stand side-by-side staring at the otherworldly scene like idiots with their mouths open.
「……the soldiers can’t fight like this.」
A man who appears to be the commander of the Vandolea army looks at me awkwardly.
「I guess not. Let’s have a ceasefire until it calms down.」
I reply while thinking about where I’ve seen this guy’s face before.
If we were to resume battle now, it would be like the military training of some unmotivated villagers.
The enemy commander’s gaze sharpens as he focuses on my face.
「Who would have thought I would meet you and exchange words with you again……」
「Umu, yeah. It’s been a while since then.」
I look over at Celia who is beside me.
Who was this guy again?
「He’s the commander of the first invading army. I believe he’s named Bejček…… you know, the one you took a prisoner of war from.」
「Oh, since that time. What a touching reunion.」
「…… I’m just some insignificant person.」
He’s acting all timid after I spent all that effort trying to remember him.
He’s so selfish.
Oh well, let’s change the topic.
「In any case, this is a first for me. This kind of stuff…… doesn’t seem like it happens a lot in Vandolea.」
「Of course not. I’ve never heard of fire and smoke blowing out from Dard even from legends! Whether it’s the fury of God or the resurrection of the Demon King…… your guess is as good as mine.」
「God’s fury huh, that’s a conventional way of saying it but it also sounds believable.」
The smoke endlessly billows up and only grows in size.
The south side of the Dard mountain is already covered with the ashy smoke and it’s hard to see past the dark clouds.
It feels like the ascending clouds of smoke would hide the whole sky.
「Anything could happen while our allies and enemies are jumbled together like this. Let’s split up for now.」
Bejček and I yell at all the soldiers who are staring blankly at the mountain, forcefully separating our armies to the north and south.
We try to get back into formation just in case but it isn’t working out too well.
I check on the condition of my allies during this brief ceasefire and they are distraught as expected.
The ones most affected are the bow cavalry and their commander Luna.
「T-the mountain is angry. When did we incur its wrath……」
Luna, who doesn’t usually show her emotions, is now hugging herself and trembling in fear.
I embrace her to reassure her but she doesn’t stop shaking.
Seeing no other option, I extend a finger to her crotch, but she clearly rejects me saying now is not the right time.
It makes me a little sad.
It can’t be helped, let’s think about what we should do next.
「What do you guys think we should do?」
Leopolt and Tristan go into thinking as to how to deal with this abnormal situation.
And the both of them reach completely differing conclusions.
「I believe we should march forward regardless of whether the unusual event dies down or the situation remains the same.」
「We should retreat for now. We have already achieved our goal of advancing to the south of Malt.」
Leopolt insists that we progress forward while Tristan wants to pull back.
「The enemy soldiers are just as distraught, which means it would be easy for us to take down the capital right now when all of Vandolea is affected by the anomaly. This isn’t an opportunity we should pass up.」
「It is not the right time to gamble when something unknown is happening. We should pull back to the south line of Malt and watch how everything plays out. Besides, we don’t have to worry about the enemy pursuing us.」
In the midst of all these strange and sudden events, should we pursue greater results rapidly or should we just hold onto our initial results, let me hear the conclusion after more discussion.
「「Well then, shall we ask Lord Hardlett what he thinks?」」
These guys just threw it back at me in the end.
Whose work do they think this belongs to?
「Making the final decision is a job which definitely belongs to Lord Hardlett.」
……fine, I get it.
「……then let’s retreat. We’ve already completed our objective.」
That’s a lie.
The real reason is not because we achieved our goal.
Tristan is obviously relieved, probably because he just wants to go home as soon as possible.
On the other hand, Leopolt’s expression doesn’t change and his only comment was “understood”.
I can tell though.
He’s probably sulking inside.
I call out to Leopolt right as he was about to make preparations for the army to retreat.
「Does it upset you that I chose to follow Tristan’s advice instead?」
「Making decisions is Lord Hardlett’s job. If that is the direction you chose, I can only obey.」
Fumu, I guess I should tell him the real reason.
「You see, I didn’t really choose Tristan’s suggestion. I was thinking of retreating from the start.」
Only Leopolt’s eyes turn toward me.
「And what was the reason for that thought?」
I smile and respond while folding up the collar of Leopolt’s military uniform.
「I had a bad feeling. That’s it.」
Ever since fire started coming out from the mountain, I get this strange chill running down my spine and I can’t stop thinking something bad is going to happen.
For the past little while and even now, I can’t stop shaking.
「……there’s no other reason except this gut feeling of yours?」
Leopolt asks while folding down his collar.
「Nothing except my instincts. Not happy with that answer?」
I flip up the collar of Leopolt’s uniform again.
He immediately adjusts it back and stays silent for a short moment.
「No, Lord Hardlett definitely has the devil’s luck if nothing else. I should obediently accept your judgement rather than follow the conclusion of making poor assumptions.」
「Sorry. ……wait a second.」
This guy, he just said the only thing I had going for me was luck, right?
「Pardon me, you also have brute strength. Now if you will excuse me, I will go make preparations.」
Leopolt takes his leave after that comment.
How dare he laugh at me internally while he remains expressionless on the surface.
A little while after the order was given, I felt something hit my back.
It was Pipi who came running to me.
「Chief! The mountain…… the mountain……」
So Pipi is scared of the unusual activity on the mountain just like Luna is?
I’ll just gently soothe her…….
「That’s not it! Something doesn’t look right with the smoke! It’s becoming shorter! It’s being sucked into the mountain!」
Smoke should be spread all over.
If it’s getting sucked in, there would have to be a giant God or something.
I concentrate my eyes towards the mountain but the thick black smoke surrounding the area makes it hard to see.
However, it does appear that some of the smoke isn’t ascending as high anymore.
「Don’t worry Pipi, we’ll be going back north soon.」
I hug her to set her mind at ease but the shouting continues.
「Aegir-sama, the smoke is crumbling the surface of the mountain!」
I look carefully and see that the rising smoke is breaking parts of the mountain’s surface instead of dispersing into the air and parts of the Dard mountain is being carried down.
「Dard mountain isn’t a small mountain, right!?」
This mountain isn’t just an ordinary mountain you can find anywhere even when viewed on the map.
The mountain straddling the Altair-Vandolea border boasts a considerable size.
It should be several thousand meters tall as well.
「B-but the smoke has already reached the halfway point!」
The chills I feel on my back get stronger.
The smoke rolls down at terrifying speed, yet it is still barely visible.
As expected there is still quite some distance until it will reach us, plus this is the plains so it shouldn’t go that far……
The confusion lasted for a second.
「Leopolt! Stop all preparations and have everyone retreat to the north!」
「Right…… should we go immediately?」
Have no intentions to discuss.
「Dispose of the tents and heavy objects, there’s no need to maintain ranks and it’s fine if you have to abandon equipment. All members will evacuate…… no, run away!!」
Leopolt looks briefly at the mountain though he doesn’t say anything else and repeats my order to the others.
Tristan, who normally complains all the time, similarly becomes a messenger and relays the instructions to our allies.
「Withdraw…… so we don’t need to maintain formation?」「Run freely…… what does that mean?」「Don’t tell me, did we lose?」
The soldiers mix with the different squads and start running north in a disjointed state.
They were told not to retreat in disorder during training so when they found me, all of them slowed down to ask me whether I was actually asking them to do so.
「What are you dilly-dallying for!? Run as fast as you can!!」
When I yelled at them, all of them quickly pick up the pace and sprints away.
I turn around to check the mountain and the clump of smoke has already reached the foot of the mountain.
That’s some scary speed.
「H-hey, the enemy is running away.」
「Why…… aren’t we in ceasefire?」
「No way, did we win?」
The enemy soldiers located slightly to the south are also confused.
Bejček’s face is saying he doesn’t know what is going on either.
I raise my spear and point it towards the mountain.
The enemy soldiers follow the direction my spearhead was pointing and realize the mass of smoke moving down the mountain. They soon start screaming and running just like we did.
「D-did we win…… uoooooooh, we won! Oww!!」
「You idiot! Run!!」
One of the enemy soldiers cheered without reading the atmosphere, then ends up getting whacked in the head and pulled along by the arm.
The ally soldiers did not know what they were running from at first, but ran faster when they realized the gradually approaching smoke and ended up in a full sprint.
「Chief! It will definitely come here!」
That isn’t smoke.
A gray colored wall is closing in on us.
The wall which has already slid down the mountain isn’t slowing down even on flat ground.
「It’s even faster than a horse…… what incredible speed!」
We’re running at full speed yet the wall is getting bigger and bigger.
The infantry scream as they are unable to run fast enough to escape it and end up climbing on the backs of the cavalry.
「Look at that!!」
Celia points to a farm village while on horseback.
The villagers of the nearby settlement were looking worriedly at the battlefield to determine what fate would await them.
「They’re getting swallowed……」
The entire village as well as the adjacent forest was swallowed by the gray wall in an instant.
Then, it left burning red flames in its trail.
「That smoke is hot enough to set things on fire……?」
That means the villagers are unfortunately all dead.
If we stood still and watched, we would probably have ended up with the same fate.
「If you clear your mind of all thoughts, fire would also……」
「Just be quiet!」
I grab Kroll as he mumbles some meaningless garbage and run with him.
We ran a considerable distance to the north but the wall still chases us.
It moves forward, burning all the forests, fields, and even small settlements along the way.
「That thing about God’s having a drink is nonsense. This is literally the breath of a demon.」
I look behind me and see a portion of the Vandolea soldiers who are stopping to hide behind some rocks.
「Idiots…… this isn’t just a gust of wind. This breeze is hot enough to set things on fire.」
Sure enough, dying cries can be heard as soon as the smoke flows into the rocky area.
Although it quickly becomes silent again.
When I finally had to pay attention to how close it got behind me, I hear a small scream.
Celia’s horse gets its leg caught in a hole and tumbles over.
The horse isn’t one to make such a mistake in normal circumstances but its legs might have tangled together due to the pressure coming from behind.
I quickly stop my horse.
Myla, who was running beside me, also stops.
「Lord Hardlett! If you stop now, it’ll catch up to you!!」
「You go first, I’ll be fine.」
I glare at Myla who was about to say something.
It might be the first time I look at a woman this way.
Myla nods with tears in her eyes and runs off.
Sorry, I know you’re worried about me.
But I can’t imagine leaving Celia behind.
「Move it, move!」
The large group of allies has already fled to the north.
I push my way through the panicking Vandolea soldiers and rush to Celia’s aid.
「Are you alright?」
「Y-yes…… but the horse……」
It doesn’t look like Celia herself suffered any major injuries but the horse’s leg is broken.
「We don’t have time. Get on.」
I pick up Celia and put her on the horse in front of me.
I glance behind me.
The smoke has already closed the distance because I stopped moving forward.
「Let’s go full speed Schwartz. I don’t care if you have to kick away those in front of you.」
To be honest, there is only a small chance we will be able to outrun the smoke considering how fast it moves.
But abandoning Celia was never a choice.
I’ll do as much as I can.
Schwartz neighs softly and runs like a black wind.
It feels like the Vandolea infantry and cavalry running in front are standing still.
There are no horses who can match this guy’s speed.
At this speed, we could probably reach the Federation in a single day.
「It’s catching up……」
The gray colored smoke is even faster.
I don’t have the effort to turn backwards, but I’m sure the smoke would be right in front of my eyes if I did.
I can already start hearing the screams of the Vandolea soldiers behind me.
The pond which passed before my eyes for an instant crosses my mind, but I reject the idea.
My instinct tells me it wouldn’t work.
I can only trust in Schwartz that he would be able to outrun the smoke.
Schwartz turns toward me while maintaining his speed.
His face looks horrible and foam is coming out from his mouth as he tries to tell me something with his eyes.
It felt like he was saying “heavy”.
「Celia, lend me a knife.」
Without waiting for a reply, I forcefully take the knife from her hip, cut the leather string tying the horse armor together with his mane and throw it away.
I remove my own armor and toss it away as well.
Seeing what I was doing, Celia follows suit and takes off her own armor as well as her clothes, leaving just her underwear on.
Several kilograms worth of armor lessen the weight on Schwartz’s back and he raises his speed one more level higher.
It felt like time stopped for all the surrounding soldiers as we zoomed past them.
「Still no good!?」
The flood of smoke doesn’t seem to recede.
It seems even faster than the accelerating Schwartz and there is almost no gap between us.
I can feel the hot air surrounding us.
Schwartz turns his head at me again.
Is it still too heavy?
「Throw me off! It’s because of me that Aegir-sama will die!」
Celia tries to jump off but I hold her down and rub her ass while I think.
The Dual Crater is light so that’s not the problem.
「Oh, it’s this……」
The dwarven spear easily weighs more than 30 kilograms.
I like it quite a bit and it’s also the proof of friendship between me and the dwarves…….
「It won’t mean anything if I become charcoal while hanging onto it.」
I throw the spear backwards.
Now I just have to leave everything to Schwartz.
I pat his black head lightly before hugging Celia and bringing our bodies low.
It feels like we got a little faster.
I continue to hear death throes around me and the heat gets stronger, then I feel fine sands hitting my body.
I don’t know if it caught up, but smoke wraps around in front of me and my field of vision goes black.
I don’t want to die before I get to meet Lucy.
Celia has finally grown up into a beautiful lady too, it’s such a waste for her to burn.
When I gently hug Celia, who clings to me in tears, the view in front of me suddenly clears up.
I turn back and see the flood of smoke stop moving, eventually breaking apart slowly.
「It looks like I still have a chance to meet Lucy.」
I let the sobbing Celia know we’re safe.
「Waah…… ueeeaaaah! I’m sorry…… for tripping…… and putting Aegir-sama in danger!!」
Celia obviously cries and hugs me.
Myla and Irijina also rush over in tears.
It doesn’t look like any of the soldiers behind me survived.
「Just in case, go a little further north before confirming the amount of losses.」
Leopolt doesn’t overreact to what happened.
You could at least show you care.
「The general should have been the first to escape. Please be careful next time.」
Don’t be like that, you’re making Celia cry more.
I survived, so it’s all good now.
Leopolt turns around after that brief comment and Tristan speaks to him.
「You breathed a big sigh of relief just now, didn’t you. You were actually worried, weren’t you.」
「The army will collapse if the general is defeated. It is a natural thing to worry about.」
「You wanted to go back for a second, didn’t you. It didn’t seem like your usual calm self.」
They’re talking with each other about something.
Ah, Leopolt just tripped Tristan.
Guys, don’t fight amongst yourselves.
From what I can see, my army hasn’t lost anybody.
Everybody managed to get away.
「I’m so sorry…… I’m so sorry…… hic.」
Now, I just have to comfort the crying Celia.
I sigh lightly and lament as I look at the land to the south which has become completely gray.
The Vandolea army and I head north for a while to confirm the current situation together.
Bejček agrees that it would be stupid if we fought each other using sticks and stones with our faces covered in ash after losing our armor and weapons.
「How was it?」
「Our troops suffered very few casualties. Only a few dozen tripped and were swallowed up. The vassal lords’ armies are pretty much unharmed too.」
It was probably a good idea that we made preparations to retreat even if it was barely too late.
I pull Schwartz’s charred tail as I listen to Leopolt’s report.
「On the other hand, Vandolea cannot distinguish who was killed in battle…… a third of their army is missing.」
「I see…… but they were further south than we were. They should be happy that 10,000 survived.」
Ah! His tail was pulled off.
…… oh, nevermind. Just the burnt hairs fell off. That scared me for a second there.
Ow, don’t bite my head Schwartz, that hurts.
「A scout was deployed to confirm the areas further away.」
It probably isn’t a very pleasant report.
「The smoke…… it’s probably better to call it a heated up mass of ash. That stuff was apparently leaking to all sides around the mountain. The damage it caused was massive, no it’s better to say it was a catastrophe.」
I nod as I listen to the report Leopolt gathered from the findings of all the scouts.
I’m reminded of the village that burned down.
「The towns and villages within range got burned down without exception and buried in ash. The Dard mountain is still spewing ash from the top as we speak. Large red flames can be seen near the peak as well.」
Leopolt and I can listen calmly but the same can’t be said for the Vandolea army.
It’s no wonder because the report was about how their own farming villages were completely wiped out.
「The areas near the mountain has thick ash and residual heat so investigations can’t be done yet, but there should not be any need.」
If the outer ring was as bad as what we saw, then there would be no point going further inside. There are probably no survivors.
「……what a mess. How could something like this happen……」
Bejček slumps his shoulders in exhaustion.
His soldiers also threw away their weapons and armor to make it easier to run away.
The appearance of him sitting down with ash plastered to one side of his face makes him look more like a ghost than a defeated soldier.
「The ash is being spread in a circular fashion around the mountain. It hasn’t been confirmed but it probably flowed not only to the Vandolea side but also to the Altair side.」
If so, then this would be an unprecedented catastrophe.
「Yes. There will be major fluctuations which will affect the existence of the southern nations.」
All the strategies we came up with might have become useless now.
「I guess we’ll go back.」
There was no need for lengthy discussion.
It doesn’t look like ceasefire negotiations or continuation of war will be possible with Vandolea.
The soldiers probably want to return north as soon as possible.
If I say to them that we’ll be crossing over the mountain of ash and resuming the invasion, some of them may want to run away.
「What are you guys going to do?」
I call out to Bejček.
「Vandola is far enough from the mountain…… the ash shouldn’t have covered it so we have to make our report. However……」
As I thought, this expedition is not an ordinary one.
「It might be unnecessary concern, but-」
Leopolt steps in front of Bejček.
「Vandolea as compared to Goldonia views your army as a group of deserters and our nation has told us they would not be intervening.」
Bejček was not shocked when he was told of this news.
「Deserters……huh? I thought it was something like that. We could never just return alive from the start.」
Bejček and the soldiers around him hang their heads and stare at the ground sadly.
You can’t blame then since they had no home to return to the moment they departed.
「Come to my territory. You won’t be free to do anything, however you will definitely be treated more favorably there than if you returned to your fatherland.」
Some of the soldiers lift their heads up.
Bejček’s head remains down though.
「The dishonor of betraying our fatherland…… hahaha, I guess it doesn’t matter now.」
He looks at the land buried in ash.
「My birthplace as well…… is located at the base of the Dard mountain. I tried my hardest not to disgrace my family but it’s all over now.」
Bejček turns around.
「Those who want to return to our country may go. With that said, it won’t be easy to return now…… you will have to make a huge detour to the east……」
「You will get a few days worth of food.」
Bejček adds at the end.
「Those who want to follow me to Goldonia can stay here. Lord Hardlett will probably not treat us poorly.」
The Vandolea soldiers murmur amongst themselves before 10% of the soldiers take food and head east while the other 90% remain.
It isn’t normal to run together with the enemy from fire spewing from the mountain after a deathmatch with them. What a strange twist of fate.
「I’ll think about your treatment after we get back. Your heads will be lopped off if you commit any wrongdoings, but you should be fine if you’re obedient.」
Something suddenly falls on my shoulder.
「Snow…… it’s still autumn though.」
This falling white stuff…… it should not be possible during autumn even when we’re so far south of the central plains.
When I try grabbing some of it and squeezing my hand, it gives off a foul smell without melting.
「Oh, it’s ash…… it doesn’t feel hot though.」
「It’s piling up more and more.」
As Myla said, the ash like snow is falling and accumulating on the ground, the river, and the fields.
We advance north despite the unceasing fall of ash.
The forest and river quickly become covered with the gray material.
I occasionally brush the pile of ash off my head as we march north to get out of this colorless world.
It was an incomplete war but it’s over.
The southern region is now permanently changed
「Oh yeah, Celia put on some clothes.」
「An idiot like me deserves to stay naked……」
Celia clings to me in her underwear.
It seems she’s still bothered about putting me in a near-death situation.
「You don’t have to worry about it so much since we got saved in the end. Hey, Christoph is going to see you at this rate.」
I pull her underwear to the side to tease her.
He’ll see your pretty white ass, you know.
「A fool like me deserves to be seen naked by Christoph and used as masturbation material.」
Celia keeps sulking while clinging to me.
I kick Christoph away when he tried to take a peek and cover Celia with a blanket.
She’s become so miserable.
What am I going to do with her.
Protagonist: Aegir Hardlett. 23 years old. Autumn.
Status: Goldonia Kingdom Margrave. Great Feudal Lord of Eastern Area. King of the Mountains. Friend of the Dwarves. Friend of the King of Aless.
Citizens: 163,000. Major Cities – Rafen: 24,000. Lintbloom: 4500.
Family: Nonna (the pretty Nonna), Carla (concubine), Mel (concubine), Miti (concubine), Maria (concubine)
Catherine (concubine, sexually frustrated ++), Kuu (lover), Ruu (lover), Mireille (lover), Leah (lover)
Casie (Suspect K), Rita (head maid), Yoguri (playwright), Pipi (lover), Alice (magical girl)
Marceline (lover), Daughters – Stephanie (lover), Bridget (sexually frustrated +++), Felicie (lover)
Sebastian (butler), Dorothea (lover, in the capital), Melissa (lover, left for the capital), Alma (left for the capital)
Children: Sue, Miu, Ekaterina, Amata, Anastasia (daughters); Antonio, Claude, Gilbard, Reiner, Bartolome (sons); Rose (foster daughter)
Non-humans: Lammy (snake lover), Mirumi (mermaid), ??? (strange plant)
Subordinates: Celia (depressed), Gido (escort unit), Kroll (mendicant monk), Irijina (commander), Luna (commander), Ruby
Myla (security officer), Polte (training supervisor), Gretel (domestic affairs trainee)
Leopolt (staff officer), Adolph (domestic affairs official), Tristan (staff officer B)
Claire & Laurie (official merchant), Schwartz (horse, burnt ), Lilian (actress)
Army: 14,200 men
Infantry: 7150 , Cavalry: 800, Archers: 950, Bow Cavalry: 3900 (Vassal lords army: 1400)
Cannons: 10, Large Cannons: 10 (abandoned cannons on the frontlines)
Vandolea Army?: 9000
Assets: 470 gold
Sexual Partners: 233, children who have been born: 48 + 555 fish