A shout echoed all around Neia as a stone flew. It seemed to sweep away the anxiety in her heart.
The thrown stone hit the demihumans, who were still hesitating. While it was a long way from being fatal, it would seem that it had done a certain amount of damage.
“Hey, you guys! Hurry up and attack the demihumans! Forget about the kids they’re holding hostage!”
Neia recognized the militiaman who was shouting.
He was the father of the boy that the Sorcerer King had killed when they had liberated the first prison camp.
Neia was surprised to find him here.
“If they get past us, the women and children will suffer worse than they did before we saved them! If you still love your children, then throw those rocks as hard as you can!”
His voice seemed to banish all their doubts, and it was shortly followed by a volley of several rocks. While they flew on weird paths and there was no telling where they were aimed at, the fact was that they had been hurled out.
By the time Neia drew her bow again, a hail of stones descended on the demihumans.
Many of those stones hit the front-running demihumans, the ones using children as meatshields. Rather, it would be more accurate to say that they hit the children tied to those demihumans, than the demihumans themselves.
The children cried and wailed in a heart-rending way. Even so, the rocks smashed mercilessly down on those pitiful children. They were the most tragic sacrifice of all, caught between the savagery of both sides.
Neia prioritized aiming for those children.
This was a sign of respect for the sacrifices which had to be made in order to save the most people.
Neia leaned out to find her next target, and then she felt something tearing through the air as it approached her, but all she saw was a burst of light.
Is this a magic attack from the enemy?
Neia froze for a moment. At the same time, she felt a thunk from her belly. It felt like something had struck her lightly there.
Startled, she stumbled a step back and then she heard a clattering from her feet. She looked closely and saw something that looked less like a lance than a gigantic arrow — in other words, a ballista bolt.
Its tip looked like it had been hammered into a right angle by a hammer.
Neia hurriedly ducked back behind the wall. After that, she heard a scraping sound as something huge struck the city walls.
Cold sweat ran down her back.
Neia unconsciously stroked the part of her where she had felt the impact.
She thought of how the Sorcerer King had thrown his sword earlier, and it had been deflected by the field of light from Buser’s armor. That would explain what had taken place just now.
It would seem she had been saved by Buser’s armor, which the Sorcerer King had lent her. In other words, Neia’s life had been saved in the nick of time.
Is that some kind of protection from ranged attacks? My chest, shoulders and belly are protected by the armor, but what about other places? Does that ability have to be activated? No, more importantly, how many more times can I use it? Or is it a one-shot kind of thing?
Without the armor that the Sorcerer King had lent her, Neia would have been impaled through her abdomen.
That fact sent shudders through her body.
“Huh… huh… huh. Come on, come on, me!”
Neia had not entered the radius of 「Under Divine Flag」. She had felt that it was unnecessary because she had the crown which the Sorcerer King had lent her. That was why she could feel the fear of death like this. However, there were no tears in Neia’s eyes — instead, she gripped her bow before revealing herself.
She had resolved herself to continue fighting, even if it meant taking the children’s lives. She could not allow herself to lose the will to fight after taking a measly little ballista bolt.
This was to keep the children they could not save from suffering any further. At the same time, it was also to slay the demihumans who had dragged them into battle. The arrow she loosed embodied both these things.
The intention to attack without regard for the children spread from her portion of the wall, until everyone was throwing rocks at the demihumans.
Neia even saw the paladins throwing rocks.
“Bastards! You bastards!”
“Ahh, dammit, those demihumans…”
“I’m sorry! I’m sorry!’
“I’m sorry… please forgive me…”
Although those cries of remorse echoed up and down the line, they did not stop throwing their rocks for a moment.
This was the attack made by those people who had accepted that “some blood has to be shed to save the highest number of lives.”
However, the enemy’s numbers were far too overwhelming. By the time they had struck down the front row — the ones who were using children as shields — the demihumans had already reached the vicinity of the walls, and they began deploying their ladders one after the other.
While the technologically-backward demihumans could only make battering rams and assault ladders in terms of siege weapons, the truth was that there was no perfect countermeasure against both of those. Several men tried to push the ladders away with long staves or let the angels destroy them, but there were far too many who were at a loss for what to do.
“How about the firebombs? Get the priests to assist with their spells!”
“This is bad! They’ve got a ladder up over there! I’ll be going over, take care of this side for me!”
“Throw those rocks!”
There was a big commotion on top of the walls. The defenders were throwing rocks or stabbing with longspears to repel the demihumans who were clambering up the ladders, but the ladders went up one after the other, and it became difficult to deal with all of them.
Several demihumans nimbly avoided the spear thrusts from the militiamen, instead grasping the spears and pulling their wielders off the wall. Then there were those demihumans like the Armatts and the Bladers, who had natural armor on par with steel plates. They ignored spears and rushed all the way up.
While the paladins had been trained in combat and could deal with these heavily-protected demihumans, the number of demihumans on top of the walls grew and grew. If any gap appeared in the defensive lines, it would be filled almost immediately.
After stiffening her resolve, Neia leaned out from behind a battlement and shot a climbing demihuman from the side.
It was not Neia’s skill so much as the weapon she wielded which killed the demihumans in one shot. She could slay the resilient Armatts and Bladers because she possessed the Ultimate Shootingstar Super.
与其说是凭借宁亚自己的技术，不如说是靠手中借来的武器将亚人一击射杀。能够干掉坚硬的铁鼠人和刀铠虫是因为有终极超级流星[Ultimate Shootingstay Super]在的缘故。
Neia’s body was clearly visible as she leaned out, and she was hit several times by stones spat by Stone Eaters. Although those stones could put dents in metal plates. Neia was protected by Buser’s armor. Still, she would probably be bruised and she might have suffered a fracture or two.
Though she was sweating heavily, she did not stop firing on the demihumans for a moment.
I can still do this… I only have enough mana to use the necklace of healing which His Majesty lent me once, so I need to save it!
As she continued taking shot after shot, part of her mind tried to estimate how long she could hold out. After all, Neia’s single use of recovery magic was her trump card.
She pulled an arrow from her quiver, nocked it to her bow, took aim at a demihuman’s head or heart and then loosed it. She repeated that sequence countless times.
A rock hit her hard enough to knock the arrow from her hand.
Neia hurriedly ducked behind a battlement.
She had dropped her arrow because the Stone Eater’s attack had rocked Neia’s entire body, but that was not the only reason.
Paladins were sword-users. As a squire, she had trained with swords, so even if she knew the fundamentals of archery, she had not spent much time practicing with bows. This lack of practice made her arms cramp up and her fingers ache.
If she could not use a bow, then she would only be getting in the way. It was far too soon for her to use her trump card now, but she had no other way to restore her ability to fight.
“Item activation:「Heavy Recover」!”
The mana drained from Neia’s body, and it made her feel a little dizzy. She would not be able to do this a second time.
At the same time, all the pain in her body vanished, be it the cramps in her arms or her aching fingers.
“I can do this!”
Neia leaned out again and continued shooting.
Fortunately, Jaldabaoth’s forces possessed some degree of leadership. Otherwise, the ballistas would have fired on Neia to kill her without hesitation, but since they were being led, they did not shoot for fear of hitting their friendlies.
Neia focused on shooting, and eventually the hand that reached down to her quiver came up empty.
She looked down in panic and saw that she was out of arrows.
Just then, a scream came from the militiamen.
There was a very strong-looking demihuman standing in front of a ladder. While it was no different from the Stone Eaters who had fired rocks at Neia, its physique was excellent. Though it was no match for Buser, it still radiated the aura of a powerful being.
It held a crude-looking greatsword in its right hand, which resembled a meat cleaver. The other held a helmet that seemed to contain something. It was the head of the paladin which commanded this area.
“The great Jajan-sama of the Lagon Tribe has taken the head of the enemy commander! Now, you dogs, kill them! Kill all the humans!”
The situation immediately turned grim.
Paladins were few in number, and a death from among those small numbers meant that the defensive strength of this area would plummet. That was not the only thing.
There was a tremendous disparity in fighting strength between a militiaman and a paladin, even if the latter were not part of a hand-picked elite. There was no way the militiamen could win against a demihuman that could kill one of those paladins.
As the militiamen froze in fear, the demihumans scaled the ladder behind the Stone Eater from just now — Jajan. They burst forth like water from a broken dam, one becoming two, and two becoming four. It was like mitosis.
Demihumans began to fill the top of the wall, and in turn, the number of militiamen began to diminish.
Demihumans and militiamen. THe difference in their individual abilities was plain to see.
She looked around in panic.
Arrows. She could not do anything without arrows.
She cast her eyes around like a traveller in a desert searching for an oasis, and then she saw a thoroughly exhausted soldier leaning against a battlement. There was a quiver with arrows beside him.
That’s it! I’ll take the arrows from the casualty and send him back to the rear.
But Neia sucked in a breath as she ran over. The man who looked like an archer was missing half his face. He was clearly dead.
He had probably taken a direct hit from a Stone Eater. His brains were oozing out, his glassy eye stared out into nothing, and his fate might very soon be Neia’s as well.
She looked more closely, and found several similar corpses. Her usually-sensitive nose finally picked up the thick scent of gore in the air. No, her nose was fine, her brain simply had not gotten the message,
As the oatmeal porridge rose in her throat, Neia forced herself to swallow it back down with all her might. She barely succeeded, but there was no telling if it was because she had been lucky, or because she had become resistant to this after watching the “live eating performance” earlier.
(TL note: the term here is 踊り食い, or eating live and twitching seafood)
Neia clenched her teeth and transferred the arrows remaining in the nameless archer’s quiver to her own. Restocking her empty quiver felt like she was restoring her own fighting spirit.
I can still fight. There’s still things I can do….
After quickly finishing up her work, Neia put the archer’s hands together and closed his remaining eye. There was no time to spare on doing that, but she could not stop herself from doing it.
“I’ll fight for your sake too, until the very end…”
As Neia turned and rose, she no longer muttered to herself.
Her spirit flared to a peak it had never reached before, and her senses were incredibly keen. She felt like she was a part of the bow which she held.
The top of the wall was now a chaotic melee. Given Neia’s skills, it seemed almost impossible to snipe Jajan — who was holding up the head of the paladin — given the sheer numbers of friends and foes between them. However–
I still have these gauntlets! And the Ultimate Shootingstar Super His Majesty lent me! — I can do this!
She loosed her arrow as she filled herself with that powerful conviction.
By the time Jajan noticed the whistling in the air, it was too late.
The arrow pierced his head, and Jajan fell limply to the ground.
“Jajan of the Lagon Tribe has fallen by the hand of Neia Baraja!”
Although she shouted those words, she was not answered by a cheer. That was only to be expected. There was no time for a long hurrah in the middle of a life-and-death battle. Neia blushed a little as she realised that, but she had managed to shake the demihumans. She could feel the pressure on them easing off.
This had not been a complete defeat.
Neia took up her arrow again, then turned to face a suitable demihuman before sending an arrow his way. She shot the demihuman through the head and he fell from the wall.
Neia reached for another arrow. She was doing it like it was nothing, like it could not be helped. Was she a master archer like her father now?
Neia’s bowmanship had rapidly improved during the course of this battle. That was how she had managed to kill Jajan, though the latter had been wounded during the battle with the paladin.
Amidst the chaos of war, Neia sought new prey to bring down.
–Why aren’t they targeting me, as an archer?
That question was answered as her next arrow pierced another demihuman skull.
“Don’t approach that human carelessly! She’s wearing the Grand King’s armor!”
“The Grand King?”
“Grand King Buser? Grand King Buser’s armor?”
Neia’s sensitive ears caught the chatter between the demihumans.
“No doubt about it! That’s Buser’s armor!”
“Don’t tell me that human brought down…”
Ah! Is that it!? When the Sorcerer King said it would protect me, was he not referring to the armor’s ability to protect against ranged attacks but the reputation of defeating Buser!?
The Grand King Buser’s name was well known throughout the demihuman forces. Therefore, the demihumans who had mounted the wall were under the false impression that they were fighting the warrior who had defeated Buser. The fact that Neia had killed a leader-class demihuman in one shot only added to that.
That was why they refused to advance against her, even though they knew Neia was an archer.
I have to hand it to the Sorcerer King, did he take this into account as well?
In all likelihood, few demihumans would chase her now even if she turned tail and ran. They would probably prioritize holding their ground over chasing a strong foe, even if they were making a mistake. Therefore, Neia’s life was probably in no great danger. The Sorcerer King’s advice to “flee to the east gate” suddenly reached her mind, but she could not do it after all.
Anyone like that would never have come here in the first place.
Neia loosed another arrow, and killed another demihuman.
“Uoooh! That… that glare again…”
Glare… well, I am looking at them…
“It’s the eyes of someone who kills like it’s second nature! That, that human sow, she’s something else!”
Probably… a sow…
“Look at that bow! It’s amazing! It’s not just her skills!”
“The Mad-Eyed Archer!”
“What, what’s with that name? Do you know that human?”
“Does that human sow have a nickname?”
“I once heard there was a human archer with a devil’s face and amazing skills… could that be it!?”
That was Dad!
“The Mad-Eyed Archer! The archer who killed Buser!”
For some reason, the phrase “Mad-Eyed Archer” spread through the demihuman ranks like a wave. They’ve already decided it! As that thought ran through her mind, Neia no longer had any opportunity to correct them.
As Neia loosed her arrows, the militiamen began moving.
“–Everyone, hold the line! Don’t let the demihumans near that girl!”
“Ohh! Form ranks! Remember your training!”
“I’m moving up!”
About 20 militiamen were planning to use themselves as shields for her.
“Just kill those bastards for us! We’ll protect you!”
The sound of flapping wings came from the enemy encampment.
Neia pivoted and pointed her arrow at the source of the sound.
Her eyes were filled with the sight of winged demihumans rising from the enemy formation. There were many of them.
While it seemed as though bypassing the wall should have been their objective, several of them dove from the flock and descended on Neia.
She had long since abandoned the thought of who to aim at. In this silent, pure white world where all she could see were her enemies, Neia calmly loosed an arrow at each and every one of her enemies. Her trance of unhesitating speed was inhuman in its mechanical precision.
After downing the winged demihumans heading at her, Neia exhaled lightly. She could hear again after being released from that state of hyperfocus.
To the side–
She wanted to dodge, but a torrent of pain came from her left arm.
Her arm had been torn apart by an Armatt’s claws from the side.
Despite her cry of pain, Neia still made to pull out another arrow, but then she thought that she might not be able to properly brace her bow. In that case, perhaps drawing her sword might be better.
Her hesitation was a huge weakness, and the savage-looking Armatt raised its arm, preparing to follow up on its previous attack with a strike to the face.
She wanted to backstep, but her opponent was a superior fighter and managed to close the distance to her, so she could not evade it.
Intense pain filled her face. While she had managed to turn her head and thus avoided having her eyes shredded, the claws had ripped through her left cheek and opened a wound that allowed access to the interior of her mouth.
Fresh blood filled her mouth, and the taste of blood spread over her tongue. In addition, she could feel her warm blood oozing from her cheek, the sensation spreading down her neck and chest.
Neia had no time to draw her sword, and so she slammed Ultimate Shootingstar Super into the Armatt’s face.
The Armatt had probably not expected her to do that with the bow, so it tried to back up to avoid the attack.
Since she could not move her left arm well to brace her bow, Neia drew her sword with her right arm.
Neia stabbed with a charge like she was pouring her life into it. The Armatt immediately countered with razor-sharp claws, but a nearby militiaman had wounded its leg and its aim was off. The claw missed her ear by a fraction of an inch, but her own steel blade sank into the Armatt’s throat.
She glanced down to the Armatt as it collapsed and then surveyed the situation.
While she had been focusing on loosing arrows, her militiamen blockers had been almost completely wiped out. The demihumans had reached Neia, and there were only five more men remaining, all pressed close to the wall.
The nearest reinforcements were fighting on the other side of the demihumans who had scaled the ladders, and they would be hard-pressed to help her over here. Frankly speaking, they seemed to be engaged in melee, so they would not have the free time to come help her.
There were over 30 demihumans in Neia’s sector, and there were only six people on her side.
Neia glared at the demihumans, and they backed off a little, easing the pressure on them.
“My apologies, Baraja-sama!”
The militiamen who had been pressed to the wall took a defensive formation in front of Neia.
“We won’t let those bastards past us, even if it’s the last thing we do!”
The person who said this looked like a cowardly man in his 40s, with an unhealthy, protruding gut. However, his face was flushed with what seemed like the excitement of battle, and his body was covered in so much blood that one could not tell if it was his or the enemy’s. Even so, he refused to kneel, standing tall with an indomitable spirit.
He certainly looked like a reliable warrior.
“Thank you very much!” Neia said as she spat out a mouthful of fresh blood which had pooled there. Then, she continued — “I’ll leave this to you!”
He was not the only one who was like this. None of the militiamen’s fallen bodies showed any sign that they had attempted to leave the perimeter they had formed around Neia. What else could she do except place her faith in them?
The man’s eyes went to Neia’s left arm, and his face stiffened.
“You can see the bone…”
“Please don’t say that, it hurts a lot when you point it out.”
“Ah, ahhh, sorry.”
Once one reached a certain degree of skill as a paladin, they would be able to use low-tier recovery spells. However, Neia was only a squire, so she could not do so. There were no paladins or priests by Neia’s side, and her mana had not yet recovered enough to use the magic item again. It would probably be best to abandon the thought of using her left arm in this battle.
Neia glared at the demihumans, but just moving her eyeballs made the wound on her face ache.
The pain made her gaze that much more ominous, and as the demihumans felt it, they went on their guard.
“Baraja-sama, you kept shooting them down with your bow, so now there’s nobody left like that guy who charged in just now. That’s how we managed to survive.”
If the demihumans before Neia’s eyes rushed them all at once, the militiamen would probably be routed in an instant. However, they were all wary of Neia the archer, so they could not move together. In truth, she could understand their caution once she heard what the demihumans were saying.
“The Mad-Eyed Archer… she’s nothing much using a sword?”
“Don’t get careless, she’s just pretending she can’t use a sword to throw her opponents off.”
“Really? You’re a real smart guy.”
“Should we get the Snakemen over and kill her from a distance with spears?”
Neia mocked them in her heart. It would seem that she had gained quite an undeserved reputation thanks to the power of the magic bow she had borrowed.”
“…Is there hope for me?”
Neia asked herself that question quietly enough that the demihumans could not hear, and then she laughed.
“…If it’s the bow… the bow I borrowed from His Majesty, the Ultimate Shootingstar Super, shooting wouldn’t be a problem, but…”
The man tried saying the name Ultimate Shootingstar Super, and then he laughed sadly.
“Really… so it’s very bad, huh. Say, Baraja-sama… jump down from the wall and flee. You should live on.”
“Aiieee! For-forgive me. It’s only natural for you to be angry at such foolish words. But, but, while I don’t know what sort of hell you lived through, you’re around my daughter’s age… I think, but letting a girl like that die is just…”
I wasn’t angry, I was just looking normally at you. The thought crossed her mind, but this was a common thing by now and Neia did not take offense at it.
The man was speaking the truth. It would be wiser to fall back for the time being and heal her wounds until she could use her bow, rather than swing a sword she was not used to.
–What’ll happen to them if I do that? I know very well. I can’t help them even if I stay and fight. I’ll just die for nothing. But…
Neia swept the bow in her left hand down and to the side.
I need to return this weapon. There’s many reasons why I should run. But, but, what will His Majesty’s enemies think if I run away while I’m wielding a weapon that He lent me? In that case–
“How could I run!?” she bellowed. “How could I, as one who holds a weapon borrowed from His Majesty, turn and run!?”
She tightly gripped the sword in her right hand.
Repaying good unto good was only natural for a human being.
The people of this country — specifically, the head of their paladins — were not the sort to do that, but she wanted to show the Sorcerer King that not everyone in this country was like that.
Neia charged in with a battlecry that sounded like a wail. Since she could not use her bow, the militiamen would die for nothing protecting her. In that case, she ought to take advantage of the demihuman’s mistaken fear of her power and attack while they could not bring their might to bear.
The enemy had probably not expected Neia to charge so many enemies, and they moved slowly enough that even Neia’s meager swordsmanship was enough to cut them up.
The remaining militiamen behind Neia followed her lead.
Neia swung her sword.
It bounced off, and the demihumans swung at her open body, only to have their attacks deflected by Buser’s army.
Neia thrust her sword.
She stabbed a demihuman’s body, and when she pulled it out, its organs followed. Before that demihuman hit the ground, another demihuman’s claws struck at Neia’s face. The wound on her left cheek was followed by one on her right, and the blood which flowed out got into her eyes.
An intense pain filled her legs.
A demihuman drove his dagger deep into flesh.
One of the militiamen fell.
Two more militiamen went down.
One demihuman collapsed.
All the militiamen were dead.
There were nothing but enemies in front of her and to her sides.
Her breathing was ragged, and her heartbeat irritated her.
The parts of her body which had been struck by the enemy blazed hot, and every time she moved them, waves of seizing pain filled Neia with agony.
Neia was afraid.
She was going to die, and the thought of that frightened her.
She had been prepared to die here.
The enemy outnumbered them several times to one, and they were better individual fighters as well.
The enemy had all the disadvantages, and the only advantage her side had was their defensive position.
That being the case, it would be stranger if she did not die.
Even so, looking death in the eye was terrifying.
The word “east gate” — said by the person she deeply respected — echoed through her mind. Though she was prepared to die, she still wanted to live.
Neia had once thought about what would happen when people died.
What would the moment of her extinction be like?
Her soul would return to the great river, where the gods would judge her, and those who did good as described in the scriptures would go to a land of eternal rest, while the wicked would be delivered into a land of torment.
Still, even if she had accumulated good deeds throughout her life with the aim of reaching her eternal rest, she was still afraid to face the end of her life.
She swung her sword.
That powerless strike could not possibly slay a foe in one hit.
Anyone attacking even when surrounded, would take vicious counterattacks from the enemy.
Swords pierced Neia’s armor, and she was covered in wounds.
Neia was still alive thank to the armor which the Sorcerer King had lent her. She would have died long ago without it. Indeed, she would have become a corpse like the countless dead militiamen and civilians who had been scattered throughout the city like they had been carelessly thrown away.
I must be in really bad shape…
Neia laughed at herself for being able to think about such inappropriate things even as she was this close to the afterlife..
Her feet slipped due to the force of her swing. Her left thigh seized up and her right thigh was injured and could not hold her upright.
She lost her balance and fell. She leaned against the battlement, but it was all she could do not to collapse.
The world was turning white and cloudy, and she could hear a distant, wheezing panting.
It was an annoying sound. She wondered who was making it, and realised that it was herself.
She was at her limit
Neia was going to die.
“Just a bit more and the Mad-Eyed Archer will be dead!”
“Ahhh! All together now!”
The voices of the demihumans came from far away.
This is… a real pain…
Neia could no longer tell what the demihumans were saying. However, they were probably not singing her praises. As her thought processes failed one after the other, a part of her mind thought only of things like that.
She was simply waving the sword in her hand to keep them away — her attacks were meant to keep the enemy at bay.
I’m… so scared… but everyone… is waiting for me…
In that white and cloudy world, she saw the smiles of her mother, her father, and her friends from her home village.
Who… are they… ahh… Bu-chan… Mo-chan.. Dan-nee…? I’m… scared… Your… Majesty…”
Her lungs and her heart and her arms and her brain wanted to rest.
Neia could no longer resist that temptation, but still, she had not broken yet. Why was that?
She was afraid of death. She was filled with her squire’s conviction to fight to the very end.
Apart from that — she wanted to achieve results that were worthy of the wargear she had borrowed.
The demihumans’ weapons thrust out at once, stabbing into Neia’s body.
And after that, Neia Baraja died.