3. Chapter 3
The devastated Liberitoa Trade Federation retreated far beyond its claimed borders and rebuilt its position around the rivers.
A dry moat and embankment made from earth-type magic, the items from the magic bag and carriages formed a fort that could be called an overnight castle, and the Liberitoa Commercial Federation, which not had enough manpower, and the Highserk Empire, which preferred the status quo, continued the war reluctantly.
On such a deadlocked frontline, the prisoners of war were released as the Liberitoa side paid the ransom.
The release of aristocrats and high-ranking military personnel was as expected by Walm, but even commoner soldiers were paid by the Liberitoa Trade Federation.
Fortunately, a great aristocrat who owned a labyrinth issued a large magic silver coin in a lump sum. For that reason, Walm was guarding the prisoner exchange area with the other members of Duwei’s squad.
“Perhaps, I was born in the wrong country.”
When Walm murmured so, he was hit in his flank.
It was Jose, his comrade.
“Oi oi, you’re lucky you’re in this squad, if it’s under other commanders, you’ll get sink into the river, you know?”
Many ferryboats make a round trip in the river, and prisoners of war were carried across the river. Many archers and soldiers, who could use magic, were stationed on the opposite river bank to guard against surprise attacks.
There was even a large ballista stationed.
Hmm, I wonder from where did they bring that?
Seeing that, Walm had no choice but to be amazed
The Highserk Empire, on the other hand, also had a type of troops that could attack the opposite bank. If the one on the opposite was a regular army, the one on Walm’s side was just a bunch of bandits wearing the equipment of the regular army.
If you were going to war as a soldier, you might want to choose the Highserk Empire side, but if you were going to spend time as a citizen, the Liberitoa Trade Federation might be better. However, as natural, you didn’t know how the people live in other countries. There was no point in comparing it.
POWs (Prisoners of war) passed by Walm’s side.
You could guess based on the clothes and skin condition that these people must be high-ranking people who could pay the ransom individually.
On the opposite bank, human dramas such as those who were scolded, and those who hugged each other were unfolding. Being shown endlessly a boring threepenny opera played in front of him, Walm felt as if he had heartburn. Even his colleague, Jose, was also desperately holding his yawn.
Walm, who couldn’t afford to look away and abandon his mission, returned his eyes to the line of people. Next were those with low status. There were 200 prisoners of war, and there were endless lines waiting for the ferry.
As Walm looked around the prisoners, the one who dug the grave the other day passed by. The moment their eyes met, the guy hurriedly diverted his eyes.
Unlike that time, there was no blood in the armor, and the spear and sword that were dirty after using it, were clean. He was afraid.
The POWs were frightened and didn’t have any meal. Even though they bothered to cook and make something digestible, it seemed the prisoners thought it contained poison. At that time, Walm said, “Do you think we would take such a confusing and time-consuming method?”. As you might know, rather than using poison which might be also hard to keep, wouldn’t it better to just stick a sword――
That said, they did leave an empty grave to bury the one who might die because of serious injuries and couldn’t pass the night. But, the POWs weren’t convinced by that explanation.
The Battalion Commander’s order where the prisoners had to dig a lot of graves to exhaust their energy, to prevent the rebellion of the prisoners, was backfired.
After seeing off the last soldier, the prisoner exchange ended without incident. And so, the farewell party was finally over.
Walm hoped that the stalemate would continue.
But, the battle between the Highserk Empire, which wanted to maintain its territory across the river, and the Liberitoa Trade Federation, which wanted to push their territory back to its claimed border, would likely continue.
As the set-up of the camp for the border progressed, the troops were pulled out one after another, and the battalion to which Walm belonged was the first.
Since the movement of 2000 personnel puts a burden on logistics, some of the platoons and companies would need to change the road as they go to the designated place.
Several platoons and squads were tasked as they move from the Southeastern Liberitoa Trade Federation to the annexed former Kanoa Kingdom territory in the northwest, where territorial disputes had not concluded. Duwei’s Squad was one of them.
Walm was ordered to subdue the goblins that nested near the water source. Even though not as accustomed to killing humans, Walm was accustomed to killing monsters too.
On the battlefield, there were many corpses that monsters like. For them, it was like a buffet dinner. Repelling the persistently disturbing guests over and over again, was a familiar task for Walm.
If the corpses were to be left unattended, they would turn into a ghoul or undead. You might need to take their life not only once or twice to put them to rest in peace. But, as you had killed them once, it might be easier for your nerves when you ended up killing them again.
In most countries, subduing monsters and exploring labyrinths were often adventurers’ jobs, but in some countries, such as the Highserk Empire, rejected the adventurer system itself.
The Highserk Empire, which could be said to have more troops than the other department, couldn’t afford to let the soldier rest. Thanks to that, Walm was made to be an adventurer too.
It was as if the army was dispatched to exterminate the pests just because they were in the field.
But as one would expect, a specialized unit would be dispatched if a high-ranking monster were to appear, but if we were talking about a group of low-threat goblins, they would be cleaned by the surrounding squad or platoon.
Some villagers who weren’t even trained might be expected to subdue a small number of goblins, even orcs. Walm also had a hard time, several times in his youth in the village, devoting himself to repelling the goblins and orcs.
According to information from the nearby village, more than 50 goblins were witnessed at first, and a few were exterminated by the villagers, but one day, a man and a woman working in the river were attacked and taken away.
After that, the goblins that got to taste humans began to appear around the village, and the damage to livestock increased. Since further damage was expected as the number of goblins increased, it was then decided to dispatch the army there.
Led by Commander Duwei, the squad left the village and was heading to the forest.
The forest was roughly flat land, although there might be slight ups and downs. Unlike the demon territory where powerful monsters were subdued, only low-ranking monsters like this one were there.
Walm kept moving forward, but when he saw the Squad Commander suddenly stopped, not only him but the other stopped too.
“Hoi, listen carefully, in about half an hour, it’ll be their nest. The footprints and animal trails are increasing. Don’t let your guard down.”
The Squad Commander, Commander Duwei was said to be attentive in a fight, surpassing even the Platoon Commander in combat techniques, but it was also easy to see why such a veteran wasn’t selected as the Platoon Commander.
Commander Duwei was basically, an optimist, on the good side he could afford anything, and on the bad side, he was a little be crude. Walm was convinced that it must be difficult for such a person to be a Platoon Commander or above, who might be needed to do some paper works inside a building and demonstrate his true value.
More than that, Commander Duwei himself hated the position of a Platoon Commander itself as you were expected to do complicated works.
The members carefully moved forward following the path made by the one in front of them, and slowly getting rid of the branches that got caught in the sword and their armor.
A cloth was wrapped around the place where the metal might easily rub another thing. Walm was no exception. The cloth he used belonged to a soldier who he fought in the battle the other day and no longer needed it.
Although Walm was reluctant to strip dead human’s clothes, now if he thought it was necessary for him, he would do or take anything.
As they were progressing deep into the forest, the distance between the dense vegetation was also increasing.
The members were crawling on the ground, but then everyone’s eyes were directed to one point.
What they saw was a short humanoid as tall as a child. The teeth were prominent canines and the ears were pointier than human’. The skin was green with noticeable breakouts and irregularities. There was no doubt, it was a goblin that Walm was accustomed to.
Primitive stone spears, clubs, or farm tools that might have been stolen were usually in its hand. One more thing that Walm learned from experience, intelligent monsters were troublesome when they were in a group.
How should I kill it…
Right when Walm thought so, he was chosen by Squad Commander Duwei.
With a gesture, Walm was ordered to kill. He nodded slowly, left the formation, and moved to the side of the goblins, while maintaining his posture.
Walm chose carefully where to put his feet, dodging twigs and fallen leaves. As the distance got closer, his breath got thinner and thinner.
After lightly moistening his dry lips, Walm squeezed the back of the spear’s handle and pierced the throat at once.
The goblin pierced by the spear died instantly without raising any voice. While supporting the goblin that was about to collapse with a spear, he placed it on the ground and dragged it. A companion joined and hid the corpse in the shade of a tree.
The Squad Commander tapped Walm’s shoulder.
“Good job. That was a good skill you’d shown.”
After that, the squad arrived at the destination without encountering any of them.
The goblin’s nest was several tens of meters from the goblin sentry. It was a small cliff where the branches and soil were used to build the dwellings and the cliff caves were also nesting. If you looked at it, it would be hard to think of it as a naturally formed object, so it must be an artificial cave.
Walm, who kept his posture low, slowly put his eyes through the gaps between the vegetation to look at them.
30 goblins could be seen within the visible range. Bones were scattered near the fire. Livestock such as buffalo and goats could be seen. Also, wild boars, a kind of monster, were mixed in. Lastly, human skulls were there too.
It must be the kidnapped villager’s…
Walm wasn’t surprised by what he saw since it was one of the end routes for humans kidnapped by demons. Violated, killed, and eaten… that was their basic behavior.
“Willart, do it.”
The Squad Commander ordered one of his men. There was no prior interaction, but everyone, including Walm, could understand what was going to happen.
Willart went forward without a reply. He was a quiet person with a hobby of shaving his whole body when he had free time. But, he was a talented man in the squad and was respected by the others.
Willart concentrated his mana on his hand, and soon a fireball cane out. He was the only ‘Magic User’ in the squad, and was relied on in a wide range of fields, from combat to cooking.
A fireball struck in the center of the nest caused an explosion. The bones were scattered by the blast, and so were the goblins. Even the goblins around had been seriously burned.
The goblins were stiffened at the sudden event. The other members of the squad, on the other hand, understood what to do, and for Walm it was like fireworks starting a feast.
The members of the squad closed the gap at once without raising their voices, and used their weapons to kill their prey.
Walm was no exception to that example. He pierced the absent-minded goblin’s abdomen twice with a spear and crushed its fallen head with his feet.
One of the goblins who was going back and forth didn’t know whether to flee or to resist, turned its back unprotected. And, the spear went straight through from the back to the abdomen.
Goblin, a monster with high vitality even though it was categorized in the lowest rank. Even if you left wounds that normally would make humans stop moving, the goblin would still be able to crawl trying to escape. If it escaped, it might gain wisdom and become a troublesome opponent in the future. So, Walm had no intention of missing any of them.
Walm hold the spear with the other hand and swung it down toward its neck. After a moment of convulsions, the goblin stopped moving.
As the smoke started to clear up, a shadow appeared on the edge of Walm’s field of vision. It was a goblin with a club slamming the corpse on the ground.
Walm slashed the spear in a horizontal direction, cut its both eyes, and caused the goblin to flutter, writhing in pain. Walm stabbed and killed a goblin who wielded a club in an unreasonable manner, who might become a troublesome thing.
The other squad members also killed about the same number.
Commander Duwei used his skill《Strike》to bounce three goblins at the same time. One of the goblins got its body split into two, and some had their heads blown away.
The rest of the goblins were overflowing from the cave, but as soon as they came out, they became prey to blades and blunt weapons.
“Reinus, Tibird, Danfan, take half and clean up the leftover on the outside. The others come with me. The spear won’t be useful. Use your sword. Willart, gives us some light.”
Walm was selected as the cave rush group’s member. The command for the one left at the outside was entrusted to the so-called ‘three idiots’ who had a lot of combat experience.
Due to the narrow cave, the spears were stabbed at the outside ground and the group advanced through the cave with a longsword and a round shield in hand.
As Commander Duwei went deep into the cave without any worries, Willart who was right behind him, used magic 《Torch》, and the inside of the cave was illuminated with flames.
It was the goblins who were surprised. The goblins, accustomed to the darkness, swing their weapons, but what waiting for them was a storm-like attack by Commander Duwei.
In the end, what Walm had to do was to kill the goblins hiding in the dents and pretending to be dead… although they would die for real―― by the longsword in his hand. At the back, there was an open space about the size of a classroom.
Due to poor ventilation, the odor soon went into Walm’s nasal passage.
Walm wanted to raise his voice to complain but he couldn’t do it, since there were goblins left and also their leader.
Their leader, an adult human-sized goblin――the hobgoblin bravely raised a rusty sword which it might have picked up somewhere. No matter how brave the hobgoblin was, Walm couldn’t help but feel bad for the monster.
After all, the opponent was Squad Commander Duwei.
Despite its size, the time it took for the hobgoblin to be slashed was about the same as other goblins.
The hobgoblin fell into the ground and blood was flowing, was stabbed once again just in case, but as expected, it had died.
While Walm was scrutinizing for any other omissions, he caught a shadow behind the pile of straw, which looked like the hobgoblin’s bed.
It was… not a goblin, but a woman, who was there. Scratches were engraved on her whole body, the ones on the shoulders and back were particularly severe.
Walm guessed as to why she survived despite the other man having been eaten. It was because goblins could use the belly of other organisms to breed.
“Are you alive? I came to help.”
Walm called on her who didn’t move. What he got was just a short response.
It took Walm times to chew the words that were thrown. He called again and shook the girl’s shoulders, but the response was the same. He looked around, but no one spoke.
“Ple-ase, k-kill me.”
Only Commander Duwei, who nodded slowly. Walm’s instinct and heart were trying hard to stop him from killing another human, but at the same time, the “reason” in his mind was working hard too.
The limbs that had been crushed to be a goblin birthing bag would of course not heal naturally, but even with ordinary recovery magic, it wouldn’t heal.
I guess, the wounds carved on the whole body won’t heal nor the mind either…
If I go back to the village, could I live like a normal person again?
―― Walm wanted someone to do it for him, but either way, someone had to do it. If Walm wouldn’t do it, someone in the squad would be in his place to suffer.
And so, Walm decided.
When Walm hit the tip of his sword against the girl’s skin, she groaned in a low voice. The tip of the sword entered through the gap between the ribs and reached the heart all at once.
Walm stared at her who had completely stopped moving. Ironically, his face remained calm. It was the first time he had killed a woman. Even though the woman was at the death door, and should be grateful to him instead―― he couldn’t help but look down at the dirty sword and her who had stopped breathing again and again. Before he knew it, Commander Duwei was standing beside him.
“I’ll do it. It’s a hindrance if you keep standing there. Go outside, have a drink, and take a break.”
What was offered was an expensive distilled liquor in a hip flask.
“It’s the one I got from the Liberitoa’s people. It doesn’t suit my taste.”
Walm never thought such a word would come out from Commander Duwei’s mouth, as he always drank anything like water.
Walm staggered out and sat down with his back at the base of the big tree.
The unrefined fighting-loving three idiots didn’t say anything to Walm, perhaps because they had noticed something wrong with him.
Walm put his hand on the chin strap, removed the helmet, and rolled it on the ground. The chain rang as if to protest. The scalp exposed to the outside air felt comfortable. While stroking the stuffy and itchy head, he opened the lid of the hip flask and brought it to his mouth.
The smell of alcohol went into his nose, and his throat and stomach became hot at once. But soon, the taste disappeared, leaving a faint sweet lingering taste on his tongue.
The time was still early in the morning. Contrary to his heart which was cloudy, the blue sky beyond the trees was cloudless.
After spitting one swear word, Walm once again gulped the liquor.
TN: Here, an image of the character design of Walm
Walm (Character Design 1)
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