12. Zabine’s Instigation
In front of the unexpected situation, the first thing that came to Valliere’s mind was her older sister’s words.
「”You never know what will happen on the battlefield. Information obtained in advance can be inconsistent, and just a few hours later it can be all wrong…”」
Words about what attitude to take on the battlefield.
Those words were right.
Valliere was aware of this now.
Second Princess Valliere grudgingly accepted the reality.
Then she heard the words of Faust, who was her counselor.
“The first campaign is a failure. With 20 people of mine, 15 members of the Royal Guard, a total of 37 people including me and Valliere-sama, it’s impossible to kill more than 100 people. Please make a decision to give up the pursuit.”
A failure of the first campaign.
That would be bad.
Faust would be taken away, though, he didn’t know it himself.
If Valliere failed her first campaign, Faust would be dismissed as her counselor.
He would be taken away from her.
And would be put under her older sister Anastasia.
That was what her mother had told her.
Her heart was beating loudly.
Is this my end?
「That’s right, it’s over. A fitting ending for an ordinary person.」
Valliere felt she heard a whispering voice in her heart.
Faust, her counselor, was against the pursuit.
And she knew his opinion was right.
Once again, Valliere felt her heart whispering to her.
If she decided not to organize a pursuit, Faust, who was her counselor, would be taken away by her older sister, and she would be ridiculed by the people and nobles who knew nothing of the circumstances, saying she had fled cowardly from the bandits.
Looking down and biting her lip, she imagined herself walking through the royal palace.
But, what can I say?
Other than, “I have no other choice”?
What am I supposed to do?
Waste the lives of the guards following me, and also Faust?
I can’t do that.
――Felling as if she had reached her limit, Valliere smiled as if mocking herself.
Valliere decided to withdraw.
Let’s leave this small mansion in this small village and run back to the royal capital.
And then, as the Second Princess of the Kingdom of Anhalt, as an unusable spare, I shall shut myself up in a monastery when my older sister takes over the throne.
Valliere thought so and stepped out of the room.
With a worried expression on her face, she left the room, followed by Zabine.
When she got out of the governor’s mansion――the surviving residents of the small village had gathered there.
“Oh, Lady Knight, please. Please, bring my husband back from Caroline, from those fiends.”
“No, please bring my son back! He’s only ten years old, please!”
“Move! I want to make a request… Move!”
Pleas were thrown at Valliere and her guards.
It was the plea of those who had been robbed of their small happiness in a small village.
Women, young and old, bowed before her and asked to bring back the men of their village.
But Valliere couldn’t respond.
She simply couldn’t.
And at this moment, when she was already afraid of the future, a timid figure, wearing only a thin layer of “brave” skin, was about to appear and replace her.
I, can’t do that.
Don’t count on me.
Ahh, I want to hold my head and curl up.
Someone, please help…
The governor and Faust came out of the mansion and tried to stop the commotion.
“Can’t you stop it? Just stop it! Hey…”
A desperate cry of the governor.
Faust looked at the women in silence and pity.
And finally, Zabine, following behind Valliere, stood in front of them and shouted.
“Stop making a rattling noise! You dead people!!!”
It was a powerful cry that resounded to the depths of people’s hearts.
In fact, it reached Valliere’s heart as well.
That words suit me.
In her heart, Valliere mocked herself.
“Dead people…? What do you mean by dead people?”
One of the women who had been crying out to Valliere raised her voice.
“Dead people are dead people. What else can I say?”
Replied Zabine with a puzzled look.
What was Zabine trying to say?
Even Valliere didn’t know either.
“You all, why are you still pretending to be alive? Why aren’t you dead, like the corpses lying over there?”
Zabine pointed his finger at one of the corpses lying around the village.
It was a corpse of someone who had been beaten all over the body and had the head decapitated, revealing its pathetic figure.
“That woman ――she resisted until the very end not to have her son taken away.”
“If you know that, then why! Why are you guys not resisting?! Why are you living in shame?!!”
Zabine was furious.
It was the first time Valliere had seen Zabine so angry.
“Don’t cling! Don’t cling to Her Highness!! Don’t cling to the feet of my master, Her Highness!!”
Zabine’s cry sounded like a screech.
And her words seemed to strike Valliere to the core of her heart.
“You all are dead people! Dead people who didn’t resist until the end, don’t you filth dare cling to Her Highness!”
“What kind of crime have we committed ――the army, shouldn’t they protect us?!!”
Screamed by one of the women.
Her word was correct.
Valliere and the others had come here to protect them.
“We will protect you! Her Highness will definitely rescue the kidnapped men and boys!! No, she wanted to rescue them!!”
Valliere’s face involuntarily changed into a surprised expression.
She wanted to stop Zabine, so she pulled Faust’s hand.
Please stop Zabine.
However, Faust didn’t respond and kept listening to Zabine’s words.
“But it’s not enough! Our army, it’s embarrassing to say this, but lack in strength!!”
What was Zabine trying to say?
Valliere could no longer judge.
“Aaah… at least if there were militia who would lend their strength to our army. If only there were those who had the courage to rescue their husbands and their sons. We could have gone to rescue them now…”
Said Zabine, pointing her finger somewhere.
What she pointed at was those who had been beaten severely all over their body and decapitated as they were lying around the village.
Right. The pathetic corpses.
“…If only, not only you dead people left! If only brave women like them were still alive!”
Zabine said everything she wanted to say.
So, she took a deep breath and ended her speech.
――The women, were of course, outraged.
“We, are not dead people! But, how could we fight back? We have no weapons or anything…”
Zabine, as if she had somehow expected it, resumed speaking.
“Hmmph!… There are farming tools. If you hit their head with a hoe, they die. If you stab their stomach with a pitchfork, they die. In fact, some of you tried to resist once, didn’t you?”
Zabine pointed to the pitchfork that the headless corpse was still clutching.
The tip of the pitchfork was smeared with the dried blood of the enemies.
Right. Some resisted.
Until the last moment before they died, they summoned their strength.
“You are all dead people! You have lost your husband and son, just get old and die already!! What, now and when you get old, nothing will change!”
To Zabine’s words, the women showed even more indignation.
“Are you kidding… are you kidding me?!! Why didn’t you help us?! Why didn’t you come sooner?! If only the army had come sooner, by now they…!!”
“Hmm? I can’t hear the words of the dead. I want to hear more proper words. Of the living. The cries of women who want their sons and husbands back.”
Zabine added more fuel.
I’m begging you, please stop.
Valliere thought so, but the word “dead people” came back to her.
But Valliere, who had given up, was like the dead people, unable to say a single word.
And then a woman, who had clung to her until now, murmured resolutely.
“I’ll do it.”
The woman had determined eyes.
“If you say that we were useless! If you say we can only get them back with our own hands! Without you telling us, we will do it!”
The woman cried and screamed.
“Right now!! I’m going after that woman, Caroline, that fiend!! Kill her, and get my son back!!”
Zabine then replied.
“Very good. Super good. Looks like there was actually one alive. I wonder if I missed more?”
Zabine looked around and spoke provocative words that stirred people’s hearts.
Then voices were heard.
They were the cries of women in a small village who had been robbed of their little happiness.
“I’ll do it!!”
“I’m not afraid of that stained blue blood bastard! I’ll kill her!!”
“Take me! Take me right in front of Caroline!! Please!!”
Zabine then turned to Faust, who had been silent since a while ago.
“Lord Polidoro, please reconsider. I have gathered the militia.”
“Zabine-dono, you…… I was just waiting to see what you would do, but you are like a demon. You want them, who’ve been living their life peacefully here, to go to the deadly land?”
“If anything, the people of this village have no future. Unless they get their husbands and sons back.”
Answered Zabine coldly.
While scratching his head, Faust muttered, “Right.”
“It’s impossible to bring them regardless of age. No matter how many of these dead soldiers, militia are willing to go, only about 40 of them will be able to follow the march to pursue Caroline.”
“Even so, 40 dead soldiers who no longer fear death will be added to our force. In terms of strength, we shouldn’t be that bad. Especially if Lord Polidoro is there.”
“You overestimate me, the Knight of Wrath, too much.”
Replied Faust with a wry smile.
Then he pointed out the problems.
“But, we don’t have enough commanders. A commander to lead these 40 dead soldiers.”
“I will command! My dominant arm is still safe!! Please give me a chance to clear my name!!!”
The governor screamed as if she was filled with the heat of Zabine’s words.
Faust’s eyes widened at these words.
But, he immediately addressed the following problems.
“Then, next. In this battle――the eldest daughter of the neighboring town ruler, who is the biggest cause of the turmoil, will have to pay us a large amount of apology money as war expenses. I hate knights who can’t even clean up their own shit so much. They’re disgusting. No mercy for them.”
“That, I’ll do something with my power.”
Of course, out of Valliere’s mouth came a statement from the position of the Second Princess.
When Faust saw her, his eyes widened in surprise.
The truth was that she spoke without thinking. Maybe she was also affected by Zabine’s fever.
“Then, there’s nothing left for me to say. We’re running out of time. Now, let’s gather up the remaining rations in the village, and equip the militia with weapons――farming tools are fine. Then, let’s continue our march.”
With a wry smile, Faust gave up on the withdrawal plan.
And once again――the march for the first campaign, continued.
Their target was Caroline, who was fleeing to Willendorf territory.
“Defect to Willendorf.”
Caroline had prepared men and boys to dedicate to Willendorf.
As for goods, there were goods she had taken with her when she ran away from her former home.
“Defect to Willendorf.”
Murmured Caroline again.
There’s no problem for me to defect to Willendorf with an army of 100 men.
What? I’m smart, and I’m an experienced soldier who has a lot of combat experience—in place of that older sister of mine, I’ve completed the military service ordered by the royal capital.
Willendorf will accept me.
Strength is everything in Willendorf, so…
The only problem is, that I lost the family succession dispute.
In the carriage, Caroline stomped hard.
In the violently shaking carriage, no one would notice the vibration.
No one would notice the vibration in her heart either.
“I thought I could win. Was I wrong?”
Instead of my older sister, I’ve been doing military service with the squires.
Instead of my older sister, I’ve been empathetic to the people of the territory and did the governing work.
They pushed me to do that.
In place of that incompetent sister who couldn’t even manage the territory and do military service.
But, I was defeated.
The eldest daughter and the second daughter.
The wall of the succession dispute was too high.
Most of the vassals of the territory sided with Caroline’s older sister, who was useless.
The retainers wanted to treat her as a puppet.
And they didn’t want to set a precedent that the second daughter could inherit the family estate.
As a result, even if she succeeded in cornering her older sister, the forces behind her older sister pushed her back and forced her to run away from the territory.
And on the run, she met a group of bandits and struck up a conversation with them.
「“Do you want to join us? If you follow me, I’ll let you feel good. What do I mean? There’s a village nearby that’s perfect for a raid. It’ll be easy if we all go together…”」
She was given an invitation by the bandits.
「“You guys follow me. You’re all just bandits.”」
With one blow from Caroline’s halberd, she decapitated the leader of the bandits.
And so, she added bandits to her followers.
“… Defect to Willendorf.”
Again, Caroline muttered.
The men and boys she had captured in a raid on a small village under the direct control of the royal family were ready to be handed over to Willendorf.
She couldn’t turn back now.
If they were caught, her group would be hanged.
There’s enough food left.
We also still have the things that were stolen from the mansion.
That’s enough to make a comeback.
I can’t die here yet
I can’t die in a place like this.
I’ve a responsibility to the squire and the people who still follow me without complaining about me who has fallen like this,
They still follow me.
To return their loyalty, I…
“……Defect to, Willendorf. I’ll then become blue blood again. I’ll become a knight there. Absolutely. Otherwise…”
I feel sorry for the squire and the people who decided to follow me.
Caroline muttered in a voice that sounded like she was vomiting blood.
Not knowing that there were people chasing their backs.
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