There were large movements in the demihuman camp — upon receiving that report, Neia knew that the time had come.
There was no doubt about it; this was a prelude to an attack.
Neia ran through the city, clad in the gear she had borrowed from the Sorcerer King.
She knew that the people she was running past were staring at her with eyes wide.
Their line of sight was drawn to the beauty of the bow she had borrowed from the Sorcerer King, and then they looked at the armor previously worn by the ex-ruler of the city, the Grand King Buser, and they were filled with shock. Neia’s acute hearing picked out people asking a question through the noise of the crowd: “Who is that warrior?” It was answered by “It’s the Sorcerer King’s squire” or “The woman from the Sorcerous Kingdom.”
I’m not from the Sorcerous Kingdom…
It bothered her every time she heard false rumours like that. Part of her wanted to know, yet did not want to know how the rumors had wrongly depicted her. However, she would need to clearly and firmly deny any rumors which might inconvenience the Sorcerer King.
Still, the Sorcerer King’s squire…
Just as a brief surge of joy filled Neia and she was about to smile, a quiet groan came from one of the people she passed.
Even if he does resemble Father…
That thought passed through Neia’s mind as she arrived at the wall adjoining the west gate, where she had been assigned. That was also where practically all the demihuman forces were gathered.
Close to 80% of all the paladins, priests, soldiers and able-bodied men in the city had been stationed at the west gate or in its vicinity. The remaining 20% were assigned to the east gate, while the women, children, old folks and other non-combatants were keeping watch from the north and south city walls.
Remedios Custodio commanded the west gate. Gustav Montagnes commanded the east gate. Caspond Bessarez was the nominal supreme commander. Of course, the supreme commander stayed within the headquarters in the center of the city and did not venture out.
She could see the west gate at last.
The Sorcerer King had demolished the east gate’s portcullis, but the west gate’s portcullis was still intact. However, many demihumans were stronger than human beings. They could probably wreck it easily with logs.
Neia clenched her hand into a fist before it could tremble.
If they broke through this point and made their way inside, it would be very difficult to deal with the demihumans once they began spreading through the city. In other words, the city would be lost.
Given the circumstances, Neia could not run. She would probably fight and die in combat against a vast swarm of demihumans.
Neia brought her trembling hands to her mouth, and then bit down.
Don’t be afraid! If you’re scared, you’ll miss a target you could have hit!
The magic item she borrowed from the Sorcerer King could defend against magical mental attacks, but it could not suppress the fear born of her own heart. Even so, she would probably have been even more frightened if she had not worn it.
As she felt the pain spreading from her fingers, Neia entered a tower on what seemed to be the left side of the city and ran up the stairs to the top of the wall. Neia had been assigned to the Sorcerer King’s side, and so she was apparently the last to show up — of course, her superior officers had granted her special dispensation so she would not be censured for being late — and the other people who were supposed to be here were already present.
As Neia prepared to rush off to her station, the paladin commanding the left flank of the western wall stopped her.
“The Sorcerer King — His Majesty seems to be missing.”
For a moment, Neia looked at the paladin in surprise. She had already reported to her superiors that the Sorcerer King had no intention of taking part in this battle.
Yet, they were still asking her this question — did that mean they had not informed them about it?
However, Neia immediately sensed that this was different. This man held onto a sliver of hope, and he must have been wondering if the Sorcerer King would change his mind and show up.
Neia looked upon the demihuman army that was sprawled outside the city. There were well over 30’000 demihumans there, but the pressure of looking directly at them made them feel more numerous than they actually were.
Neia could understand why anyone would wish for the aid of the overwhelmingly powerful Sorcerer King in the face of such odds. That was because Neia had once felt the same way too. However–
“Yes. The Sorcerer King is not here. That’s because this is our — the Holy Kingdom’s battle.”
The paladin could not answer her.
Neia slipped past him and ran to her post–
“–Hold on! Squire Neia Baraja!”
Neia stopped and stood at attention.
“Stand by here for the time being.”
Neia looked around. This place was close to the exit of the tower which led to the top of the city wall. The flow of human traffic here was vast. Would she not be inconveniencing people by standing here? In addition, this place was far from Neia’s assigned position, which was close to the center.
“May, may I ask the reason for this? Is there something you need me to do?”
“No, no, it’s not like we need you to do anything, it’s actually a little troublesome. …Squire Baraja. Just stay put here. Do you understand!?”
She had no idea what was going on, but there must have been some reason for it. There was no reason to keep a trained soldier here for no reason when the fighting might break out at any moment.
Was my assignment changed? Is it so that I can focus on sniping the enemy commanders? …The bow I borrowed from the Sorcerer King looks amazing even at a glance, so does that mean they’re using me as a trump card?”
“I understand. How long will I be waiting? Where shall I wait?”
“Ah, um, well, just until the enemy moves in. As for where, anywhere is fine.”
“Huh? I need to wait until a busy time like that?”
It was indeed weird. Just as a sense of wrongness began to fill Neia, several men who looked like they came from the militia carried a huge pot up the stairs. This was probably a meal for the defenders standing by on the walls. They were sweating far more than the cold weather warranted, and it was clear that these men had come back and forth many times. It was only to be expected, given that they were feeding several hundred men.
Neia leaned against the wall to give them room to pass, and the men walked unhurriedly past her. However, one of them lifted their head a little and noticed Neia’s face.
“Huh? Aren’t you the Sorcerer King’s squire — ah, no, would that be you, ma’am?”
“Ah, no need to be so formal… er, forgive me. Yes. I have been assigned the duty of serving as the Sorcerer King’s squire.”
Perhaps they had heard Neia speak with the man, but the other pot-bearers stopped and looked at Neia in surprise. It was probably for the same reason as the man from just now.
She was slightly embarrassed to be known as the Sorcerer King’s squire, but at the same time she felt very proud of herself.
The men did not know how Neia felt, and they worriedly asked:
“I say, ah, actually, there’s something I’d like to ask the Sorcerer King–”
“–Hold on! No, could I please ask you to wait? She’s very busy. Would you mind carrying on with your work?”
Suddenly, the paladin stepped between Neia and the men, as though to hide her.
That was a strange stance to take. It looked as though he did not want her to speak with those men–
Was that the reason for the order just now? He doesn’t want me to talk to them… why is that? Is it because they were going to ask a question about the Sorcerer King?
She did not know why he was doing this, but gaining answers would be simple enough.
“I don’t mind. Could you let me through?”
Since the paladin did not want her to speak, then she would just have to address them directly.
“Are you trying to keep people from asking about the Sorcerer King!?”
Neia answered as loudly as the shout which had been directed at her.
In truth, it was quite shameless to keep borrowing the Sorcerer King’s reputation like this, but she had to make sure the Holy Kingdom was not doing anything which might negatively impact the Sorcerer King. She did not want her home country to disgrace itself.
Neia gently addressed the man who had asked her the question earlier. Of course, she knew that it was probably going to frighten him, even if she felt her tone was gentle.
“I will answer to the best of my ability if your question is related to the great Sorcerer King. That said, I am not of the Sorcerous Kingdom, so I regret to say there are many things I do not know either.”
“Eh!? But you — aren’t you from the Sorcerous Kingdom, ma’am?”
“Eh!? No, no, it’s not like that. I’m a paladin squire from this country.”
“Well, yes? So you don’t need to be all formal with me…”
The crowd burst into a commotion. Perhaps it was because the paladin had shouted at her just now, but at some point the militiamen on the walls had started looking her way.
While matters had taken quite an embarrassing turn, she could not look bad now that she had invoked the name of the Sorcerer King. Neia puffed up her chest proudly, determined to let all the soldiers present hear her. It would seem the paladin had resigned himself to the fact that he could not keep this a secret, and so he stood aside to glare angrily at Neia.
“Then, first off… That armor of yours looked like something that the boss of those goat-headed monsters wore. Were you the one who defeated it?”
“No, not at all. The one who wore this armor was the Grand King Buser, and the Sorcerer King put him into the grave with a single spell.”
Ohhh, the crowd enthused.
She could hear snatches of conversation from the crowd: “He actually beat that–!” “I can’t believe he used only one spell” “Did he really take down a whole city by himself… he actually defeated so many demihumans…” “He’s super strong… I think I’m falling for him…” “He’s not like the undead I know at all…” and so on.
Even though they were whispering into each others’ ears or muttering to themselves, Neia’s keen ears could clearly hear them.
Of course, it made her very happy to know that others felt the same way about the great man she so admired. This was particularly true for those people who maintained that opinion despite knowing that he was undead.
His Majesty’s efforts were not in vain, there are people out there who get it…
“Then, then, ah, will His Majesty be lending us a helping hand this time round?”
The ruckus fell silent in an instant, and that reaction told Neia that this question was a critical one.
“…His Majesty will not be taking part in this battle. This is because it is a battle that we, as citizens of the Holy Kingdom, are fighting to save our nation, and not another country’s war. In addition, His Majesty needs to conserve mana for when he faces Jaldabaoth.”
The men’s faces turned downcast as they heard her reply. Neia prepared herself for a rebuke–
“Well, that makes sense… normally, the king of another country wouldn’t come over by himself. Heaven will punish us if we’re not grateful to him despite all he’s done for us.”
“Yeah. Also, she said that he’s saving up his mana to defeat Jaldabaoth.”
“…That king is very calm and perceptive, but even so he’s a man who’ll choose a method that saves more people… no, he’s undead. In that case, there must be a reason why he won’t take part in this battle. I mean, I saw it back then.”
“Ahh, I saw it too. After all, we’re the ones who value this country the most. –Then I’ll be the one to protect my wife!”
“What are you talking about?”
“We came from the prison camps before this city was liberated–”
She could hear voices of goodwill from all around her.
Of course, there were some who were unhappy that the Sorcerer King was not coming to help. However, they were outnumbered by the people who could understand the Sorcerer King’s considerations, and it gave Neia quite the underwear crisis.
“May I return to my post now?”
Neia addressed her question to the paladin. She now understood why he did not want her to go to her post earlier. In that case, there ought to be no problems in letting her head there now.
The paladin did not hide how he felt as he told Neia to “Go” with a bitter look on his face.
Neia walked past the soldiers who were loudly discussing the Sorcerer King and arrived at the place she had been assigned to. She then intently studied the enemy encampment.
It was a vast army. It boasted enough manpower to devour everyone here in one gulp. It was the enemy which would be attacking them.
She felt like she was going to throw up again.
How many times had her father felt like this when he was manning the fortress line?
Neia looked up at the sky, which was as overcast as her heart.
The demihuman army made their move during the day.
Neia picked up the pace as she ate her oatmeal porridge.
Said porridge was made of oat grains boiled with milk and served in a wooden bowl. Thanks to the winter air outside, it was cold by the time it reached Neia’s hands and frankly speaking, it was awful. However, if she did not eat her body would not be able to endure the extended exertion it would have to go through afterwards, and there would be no more food waiting for her. In addition, while there was supposed to be a relief shift for her, Neia had the feeling that she would not be successfully relieved, and that she would not have the chance to have a proper meal later on. That was her assumption from the large portion they had been given for lunch.
She rammed the thick rod into her mouth, fighting the urge to gag as she gulped down the clumpy white stuff. The sheer amount she had to swallow bloated her belly, but the knowledge that this horrible stuff might be her last meal filled her with despair.
At the battlements overlooking the demihuman army, Neia curled herself up on a cotton mat. Her grey-colored coat would be her only defense against the winter cold from now on. The militiamen had started eating at the same time as her but they had not yet finished.
Everyone was frowning. Clearly nobody was happy with the taste. That could not be helped.
However, their tense expressions were not due to the oatmeal porridge. Their eyes were not looking at the food they held, but the demihumans making their advance.
There was no way anyone could be happy — or hopeful — when looking upon those overwhelming number.
Then there were those who had once been prisoners. Their taste of demihuman rule had engraved an intense fear into them. They were under so much stress that they were unable to eat.
What would the Sorcerer King do?
Would he give a grand, spirited speech to heighten their will to fight? Or would he laugh it off?
Neia had no idea what heroic actions he would take. Still, even if she knew, she could not emulate him. After all, she was completely different from the Sorcerer King, who was a heroic monarch.
Also, it would probably cause problems if Neia said something like “relax and don’t worry” to them. After all, appropriate tension was what drove things forward.
Their hearts might be gloomy, but there was no sign that they had given in to despair, nor were there any signs that they wanted to flee. They had something about them, something that soldiers who had prepared themselves to meet their fate would possess.
The reason for that was apparently due to something that one of the militiamen — who had been one of the first to be freed from the prison camps — had said about the Sorcerer King. It spread through the soldiers stationed at the walls like wildfire.
Lives were not equally important.
They were unhappy when they heard he had killed a hostage whom the demihumans were holding. It was a ruthless act that was very characteristic of the undead. However, the people who had been there strenuously insisted that it was not the case. They spoke of how that incomparably powerful Sorcerer King had said, “even I would become the victim in the face of someone stronger than me”.
Neia remembered those words too. Back then, he had seemed extremely human, even radiating a tragic stoicism which felt like determination and resolve personified. It was a powerful promise to protect those things which were important to him and it had a persuasive power to it which could not be put into words.
And then, they thought about what would happen to the people dear to them if they were defeated here.
Their fighting spirit was strengthened by a powerful sense of purpose, which said “I don’t want to let my loved ones share my own hellish experience”.
Had His Majesty considered that things might end up like this all that time ago?
If he had not said those words to stiffen the people’s resolve, their forces might have lost their morale in the face of the overwhelming army before them, and they might even have dissolved into a rout.
Neia had only seen the Holy Queen once. She had almost no idea of her abilities or her character. Still, she was certain the Sorcerer King was superior to her as a ruler in both aspects. Or rather, the Sorcerer King was probably the sort of sovereign who was known as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the highest grade of monarch, even among other kings.
“And here I used to feel that the people of the Sorcerous Kingdom… well, being ruled by the undead was a sad thing…”
However, they might be very lucky now that she thought about it. Those words caught in Neia’s throat, did a loop and refused to leave her mouth. After all, it would not be good if the people around her heard them. Just then–
“Confirmed enemy advance! All hands prepare for battle!”
A great shout came from afar.
Everyone gulped down their oatmeal porridge and went to their fighting stations.
If an army which was over 10’000 strong made its move, the air would shudder, to the point where it might even shake the walls of the city. It felt like the oncoming pressure would squash them flat.
In truth, Neia’s acute hearing had picked up the earthshaking clamor of an advancing army, and despondent wails rose up from the militiamen.
Morale was falling fast.
Still, there was nothing Neia could do, and she was not in a position to do anything either. Neia’s sole job was to fill everyone who entered her range with arrows.
Ever since this city had been taken back, she had spent every waking moment practicing her archery when she had not been performing her duties as a squire. She mused that it was thanks to that practice that she had mastered the special characteristics of Ultimate Shootingstar Super, and she was now able to use it properly.
Still, why are the demihumans attacking now? Attacking at night would be better for them… do they have something in mind? If the Sorcerer King were here, I could ask him about this…
The absence of the magic caster who had walked beside or in front of her for the past month made her feel like there was something important missing from her heart.
No. I need to stand on my own two feet. I can’t rely on His Majesty for everything… Although I’m not sure exactly what the demihumans are planning, there ought to be a reason for launching their attack in broad daylight. In that case, it would be best not to be careless.
As Neia observed the demihumans from the battlements, the frontline of demihumans drew her attention.
There was an Ogre standing three meters tall in the front rank. That demihuman carried a massive weapon.
It was some kind of ranged weapon that was protected by a wooden shield. It was a ballista. Although it seemed just right for the demihuman due to the latter’s massive size, the fact was that they could be used as siege weapons.
Many Ogres carried these weapons, which ought to have been fixed in position before use, and they stood in a row.
Had they scavenged them from a city and remodelled them for upright shooting?
The drums thundered, and the ballistas were prepared to fire.
–The city walls began to shake. In some places, the battlements even began to collapse. They would be lucky not to take any casualties given the circumstances, and luck was with them for now.
A massive bolt shattered the battlements. It was not so much a bolt as a javelin. A thick javelin that was easily as tall as Neia raced through the air and embedded itself in the walls. At this point, the only word for it was “siege weapon”. Surely nobody could take a hit from it and survive.
The Ogres looked like they were preparing for a second volley.
Neia stared at them.
The Ogres were far, far away.
It was probably possible for a bow of this draw to hit them at that range. However, its penetrating power would drop drastically, and the fact was that she could not practice long-range shooting like this within the city limits. She did not know the range to them, and she was not confident that she could shoot through the ballistas’ shields and kill their wielders.
That being the case, all they could do was open the gates and fight a pitched battle to kill the ballista team, but that would be an extremely foolish move.
In other words, all they could do was keep taking this one-sided assault.
We have to pull back… but if we do, we can’t stop the enemy advance. What kind of plan does the brass have?
Although the enemy was only shooting so far, the enemy would move to take the walls if the men retreated. And if the enemy seized the walls, then the city was all but lost.
They would take control of the stairs leading down from the walls and force the soldiers around it back to open the gates in order to let the main body of their forces into the city. All they needed to do was force that sequence of events through by dint of sheer power. There was nothing they could do about it. Even Remedios would not be able to handle being surrounded and pounded in a melee.
In that case, all they could do was sacrifice the temple and flee the city from the east. However, that would probably lead to the situation they had discussed in a previous strategy meeting — they would be harried along the plains, or they would be mauled by the army arrayed against their southern forces.
What would the paladin commanding the west gate decide?
Would he fall back, or would he fight to the end?
As Neia contemplated the matter, a second volley came from the enemy.
The walls shook again as the lance-sized projectiles struck it. The trembling felt more intense than the last time, and at the same time she heard an unrecognizable sound.
Anyone who glanced at its source would witness a horrific sight.
One of the ballista bolts had shot clean through a wall and impaled a militiaman hiding behind it. Blood bubbled out of his mouth. Several seconds later, the man collapsed like a puppet whose strings had been cut. The bolt had nailed him to the wall like an insect specimen, and his arms and legs dangled limply downwards.
Screams broke out from around her as the men saw the hideous corpse which had suddenly appeared among them.
Neia grabbed the necklace which the Sorcerer King had lent her, and bit her lip.
That was a fatal wound. No amount of healing magic could cure that.
The death of one soldier did not greatly affect their fighting strength. However, the fear generated by his gruesome death infected the surroundings. The thought that they might be next and that there was nowhere safe for them triggered the survival instincts of the men, and their bodies trembled.
“「Under Divine Flag」!”
Someone cast a spell.
The terror coursing through the militiamen was suppressed in a moment. This was the result of using magic to improve their resistance to fear. While the divine spell 「Lion’s Heart」provided complete immunity to fear, it was only effective on a single target. In contrast, 「Under Divine Flag」affected everyone in a sphere around the caster.
That was why the paladins stood among the militiamen.
“Don’t be afraid!” The paladin who had cast the spell shouted, “Take up your weapons to free those who have gone through the same pain as you!”
Spells or certain special abilities could briefly panic people, but the fear they felt now came from their own hearts. Under the effects of the fear-suppressing spell, the fire blazed anew in the militiamen’s eyes.
Still, that was simply covering up the actual problem. The important thing was whether they could do anything about the present situation, where they were subjected to a one-sided attack from the enemy. Otherwise, the only thing that would come of it would be more dead and wounded. However, Neia could not come up with any good ideas.
“Take cover! The enemy doesn’t have unlimited ammunition! They couldn’t have brought so much with them!”
I see, Neia thought. Most of their resources ought to be going to the south in order to provision the army standing off against the southern forces, so was that why they thought that they would not have brought enough ammunition for their weapons here? Still, even a captive craftsman could make a lot of those bolts in a short time, although the crossbows were a different matter. This was a gamble.
–The third wave came.
The ogres were not used to archery, and many of them missed their shots. Even so, many of the battlements crumbled under the third volley, and there were many casualties among the militiamen.
The massive, lance-like bolts could pierce a man and the man behind him as well.
「Under Divine Flag」was a spell that was centered on the paladin who had cast it, which meant that its effect were strongest when many people were bunched up within its effective radius. However, that only led to more casualties.
The sound of flapping came through the air before the enemy could fire a fourth time. Winged angels flew through the sky and passed over the heads of Neia and the others.
While they were angels of the lowest order, they headed straight for the demihumans. They had burning brands in their right hands and they held pitchers with cloth sticking out of their mouths in their left hands. Those pitchers clearly contained oil or powerful spirits.
In other words, they were carrying explosive throwing weapons — firebombs.
Of course, the flames produced by those weapons would not harm fire-resistant opponents in the slightest, or demihumans with thick hides and trained, brawny bodies. They might not even have an effect at all.
On the other hand, there were also those demihumans who could not deal with fire, and damaging the ballistas would also stop the enemy attack.
The angels filled the sky above the ballista-wielding Ogres and lit their pitchers. However, they did not even have the time to cast them down.
There was a flapping sound as demihumans took to the sky. They were Pteropuses. Their hands were shaped into leathery wings, and their arms remained still as they rose straight into the air like they were riding the wind. That was probably the effect of some kind of magical power.
A white weblike substance flew out at the same time, entangling the angels. It had probably been produced by a special ability of the Spidans.
The angels looked like butterflies caught in a spiderweb, and they plunged to the ground since they were unable to move freely. They were swallowed up by the demihuman hordes, and it was needless to say what happened to them after that.
However, the angels had not sacrificed themselves in vain.
Several firebombs hit the ground, and roaring flames spread all around.
Neia judged that this was the best chance she would get, and drew her bow.
Until now, it had been impossible to aim directly at the Ogres due to the shields mounted on their ballistas. Even if she took aim at their unshielded legs instead, it would be nearly impossible to kill them in one hit.
Her father would have been able to shoot out an Ogre’s eye with just a slight gap. However, Neia’s skills were not as honed as his. Perhaps it was because they feared the flames or they were afraid for their ballistas, but the Ogres raised their ballistas and pointed their shields upwards. Their attention was focused on the fire, and they did not pay any attention to her.
If she missed this chance, she would probably not get another.
She drew her bow to its limit, and then loosed her arrow.
The magic item she had borrowed from the Sorcerer King aided Neia in bringing forth a result that approached what her father could do.
The arrow flew on a startlingly straight path, and struck an Ogre’s head.
Neia did not aim for the sturdy skull, but a squishy eyeball. While some monsters’ eyeballs were protected by a protective membrane, she judged that it would be easier to strike a fatal blow there than by targeting the skull.
However — things did not go as smoothly as planned.
Her arrow sank into the vicinity of the Ogre’s jaw.
The stricken Ogre howled loudly, shuddering from the pain.
The Ogre dropped its ballista, and it clutched its face — the part where it had been shot. Then, it shakily turned its back on Neia before falling back. While she had not dealt it a mortal blow, she had at least broken its will to fight.
If the demihuman army had healing units, it would probably be able to return to the frontlines soon.
This was all Neia could accomplish, even with the aid of the powerful magic items the Sorcerer King had lent her.
Neia clicked her tongue and immediately took cover, and then she pressed herself to the city side of the wall and began to move. The militiamen looked at her in surprise for suddenly leaving her post, and she addressed them in harsh tones.
“–Get out of here! They’re going to counterattack this location!”
It was not because they had heard Neia’s shout, but several of the ballistas discharged their projectiles in her direction. Even if most of the bolts had gone awry, some of them had landed in Neia’s vicinity, and they had wrecked the nearby wall.
If Neia’s luck had been any worse, she might well have been impaled by those bolts.
She peeked at the demihumans again. The chaos from the angel and fire attack was being steadily contained, and the Ogres raised their ballistas again. It would seem news of being hit by an arrow had spread throughout the enemy army. In that case, they would probably not make the mistake of lowering their shields again. Therefore — would she gamble on being able to emulate her father’s skill by a stroke of luck, hitting them even if she could only strike their bodies? Or would she shrink up like a turtle and wait for the time to deal a fatal blow?
Amidst her confusion, the bow she had borrowed from the Sorcerer King caught the sun’s light and gleamed with an eyecatching radiance.
Yes. She had managed to borrow such incredibly potent items, and she had to return them no matter the cost. Therefore, she ought not to take risks.
They can’t have that many special bolts!
It would seem the demihumans were volleying an endless hail of lance-sized bolts at them. However, their crude manufacture meant that very often, they flew towards places with nothing to hit, and some of them even fell into the city streets without striking anything.
She could not return fire, so all she could do was hunker down and wait for the enemy attack to stop.
Neia’s body was spattered with fragments of the destroyed city walls. Some unlucky militiamen were hit and died on the spot, but most of the others simply prayed in silence for the enemy attack to stop, since they could not do anything else.
Soon, she heard a mighty doom, the beat of a massive drum. The same sound repeated itself four times. In the distance, the same sound came from what should have been the left wing of the enemy’s formation.
…They’re communicating battle information with the number of drumbeats. It looks like the right and left wings are using that to coordinate their operations. If I could enter the enemy camp and steal one of those drums, then beat wildly on it, that ought to disrupt the enemy’s cohesion — that said, it would be impossible.
The enemy ought to know the importance of their drums. Therefore, they would be heavily guarded. In that case, who could charge into their camp?
Perhaps an adventurer could use 「Invisibility」or 「Silence」and other spells to cause chaos among the enemy and then sneak in.
There’s no point hoping for the impossible…
Still, there was no doubt that the enemy was changing tack. Neia — and many militiamen — nervously rose up to peek at the enemy’s movements.
After that, their hearts were profoundly shaken.
It was a feeling which combined shock, fear, and furious anger.
The army arrayed on the other side of the wall was advancing at last. The left and right wings of the Demihuman Alliance forces advanced in parallel. The center detachment approached the city gate in a layered formation.
The demihumans advanced with earthshaking steps, as though they wanted to hunt down and kill Neia and the others.
And then there was another unit — a very small one — which seemed to be flanking the city. Were they planning to scale the walls, or was this a feint?
In any case, the enemy had already launched the second wave of their attack. From now on, it would not be a one-sided struggle, but a mutual struggle of savage bloodshed.
However, that was not where the problem lay. After all, they had been waiting a long time for this, though they could not take joy in the fact that the time had come at last.
What angered the militiamen was the advance of the left and right wings. Their foremost units were composed of many different species. While they lacked a sense of unity, they had two things in common.
One was that they were all carrying siege ladders.
In other words, their unit was meant to scale the walls and break into the city. That also implied that this was Neia’s objective.
The other thing was that they had human children bound to their bodies.
Some of them were crying and wailing, while others hung limp. All of them were naked, and all of them were alive.
Neia bit her lip hard.
But at the same time, Neia’s heart was surprisingly calm.
She watched the demihuman tide pressing down on them from a darkened nook in the walls. Neia then slid an arrow out of her quiver and began to draw her bow.
Even if the enemy pioneers had entered her shooting range, she had to hold on.
It was still to early.
She took several deep breaths, focused herself, then turned as fast as she could and drew her bowstring taut.
She had only a moment to aim, and there was only one point where she could aim.
–There it is!
She released her arrow.
Without any hesitation, the arrow pierced the human shield — the chest of a child — and the demihuman behind it in a single shot.
Perhaps even that powerful shot would have been hard-pressed to bring down an Ogre and its ridiculous stamina. However, the demihuman she had just hit did not seem to possess such unreasonable vitality.
Neia paid no heed to the demihuman she had downed and drew another arrow.
She had killed a person, the child bound in front of the demihuman.
Her hands would not stop shaking. All she could see was blackness, and her heart was trembling.
Even if she knew this would happen and had prepared herself for it, this was ho she had reacted.
Her old habit led her to reach for the scabbard of her sword, but her fingers touched the bowstring instead.
It was as though her bow was chiding her, telling her that now was not the time for that sort of thing.
A faint lamp lighted up in Neia’s frozen heart. It spread like wildfire, and dispersed the chill winds blowing through her soul.
She stopped shaking, and her vision was no longer narrowed. What filled her heart was a sense of justice that could not be put into words.
Ahh, to think it would have such a great effect.
Neia reconfirmed that what the Sorcerer King said had been correct.
The demihuman pioneers that Neia had attacked was visibly slowing down. That was because they had been shaken to discover that their human shields were not effective.
Therefore, she had to shout.
Neia opened her eyes, and shouted at the staring militiamen.
“What are you standing there for? Hurry up and throw your stones down! We can’t save those hostages!”
Yes. Neia and the others could not save the hostages. And then, they had already seen what the enemy would do to hostages that had lost their value. Therefore, what she needed to do was…
She fired another arrow to speed the demihumans on their way to the afterlife.
Neia used her practiced vision and saw that her shot had pierced a boy through his forehead. She did not know if it was because she had been aiming for an Armatt or because the boy’s skull had lessened the impact, but this arrow had not been immediately fatal. However, the enemy’s front line was in chaos. That was only to be expected. Both humans and demihumans would slow their pace when things did not proceed as planned.
However, all she could see of the enemy lines stretched from one edge of her vision to the other.
Neia had only had an effect on the region where she had shot. Everywhere else, things were continuing as though nothing had happened.
It looked like a small dent in a long, long line.
“Hurry up and throw the stones!”
Neia shouted at them once more.
If they did not throw their stones, everything Neia had done would have been for nothing.
That was something even more unforgivable than taking the lives of children who had futures ahead of them.
The enemy was attacking on the left, right and center at the same time. A head-on clash with an enemy that outnumbered them several times to one result in them being crushed under the sheer weight of numbers. However, if even one of the enemy elements slowed down, it would relieve the pressure on them.
If the enemy reached the walls, they would climb up while using the children as shields. If they managed to make it up the walls, the militiamen would not be able to resist the demihumans. What she had to do now was see how much fighting strength she could shave off the enemy before they came into contact.
It’s very difficult for militiamen to kill children. Therefore, there has to be someone who’s willing to set an example, even if they get their hands dirty!
Neia fixed her eyes on a paladin in the distance.
You should have realized that when you took the prison camps and this city! You ought to have known that the Sorcerer King did the right thing! And you ought to know that nobody else could do this! And you certainly should have known that it’s pointless to agonize over lives you can’t save! What you should be doing is devoting all your strength to save the lives which can be saved!
Neia fired another arrow.
Just like before, her shot killed a girl and the demihuman that she had been tied to.