4. Chapter 4
Six days after the Goblin subjugation requested by the village, Duwei’s squad arrived at the annexed former Kanoa Kingdom.
When you saw the villages in the annexed land, you could see the scars left by the war five year ago.
Further to the northwest and you would reach a city adjacent to the Myard territory called, ‘Sarria’.
Beyond the defense wall of the city, there was river and moat. And now, Sarria City was used as a fort by Highserk Empire.
Sarria City which was also connected to the other places in Highserk Empire by tributaries, could be said as an ideal location for replenishing supplies and troops for the battle against Myard. One army unit, at least about the size of a battalion was always stationed to this area.
In this invasion, battalions were gathering from all directions. In total, 9 battalions, about 18,000 troops, were gathering there for the annexation of Myard.
Sarria was the last city of Kanoa Kingdom to surrender to Highserk Empire, but even after five years, the walls and stone bridges were still left with traces of destruction by magic and stone.
After going through the castle gate and entering the city, you could see the main street was lined with shops and private houses.
Many of the items sold in there were more expensive than the other places in Highserk territory, especially groceries. When Walm was a farmer, this kind of price wasn’t something that he could afford.
Many of the citizens walking on the road were thin, you couldn’t even say that they had a standard proportion. The only exception was the army stationed there by the Highserk Empire.
After reaching Fort Sarria, what was waiting for Duwei’s squad, who was resting at the training ground, was….
“The whole corps hasn’t gathered as planned yet. Rejoice, today is free time.”
“Huft! Free time is the best”
“Are you going to drink first? Or straight, a woman?”
“Isn’t it okay to have both at the same time?”
Reinus, Tibird, and Danfan. The three idiots disappeared into the back alley right after they heard it. Seeing that, Commander Duwei grumbled while holding his temples in his hand.
“Oi, it’s not over yet. Seriously… well, I guess it’s okay to leave them alone for now?”
Consider the limited time, they might be right to be faithful to their own desires.
After all, their empire was repeatedly colliding with multiple neighboring countries, large and small. The word “peacetime” had long been forgotten by Walm.
As for military service, he had been stranded on the battlefield, playing deadly battles for survival, and spending his time in training grounds and movement during non-combat period.
And they just had been given a free time? And for such an army, it sounded like an unbelievable story. Even, Walm thought it was a new kind of training.
Showing fear of things that normal humans would be happy to have, Walm asked terrifyingly. The squad leader replied with a stern look as he had found something strange.
“Yeah, do you hate it?”
“N-No, that’s not the case …”
“Of course, right. You can do whatever you want like them. Alcohol, cigarettes, or women. It’ll be a big and long battle. Live without regrets. But, keep strict on the meeting time. Be in the formation at sunrise. If you’re late, you’ll be whipped.”
As soon as the squad leader clapped his hand, the rest of the members scattered like birds, disappearing into the city in all direction. All that was left was the squad leader, Jose, and Walm.
“So, what are you gonna do Walm?”
“Ah, uh, hmm… what should I do…”
When asked by Jose, Walm didn’t know what to do with the short-lived free time he just got.
After all, Walm grew up in the countryside, never leaving the village until he was drafted into military service.
In the first place, when he was in the countryside, except for tinkering with soil, he was collecting wild plants and hunting monsters in the forest. The opportunity to do something freely had long disappeared.
To be suddenly ordered, “Do whatever you want”, of course Walm couldn’t help but to get confused.
“How can you have no desires.”
“I’m going to have a drink with Commander Duwei. He’s been there once, so he’s the perfect guide for a tavern. And more than that, it’s with an inn. What about coming with us, Walm?”
As the rescue boat was coming, Walm accepted it, and so he followed them without pondering anything.
They went off the main street into the back alley.
From locals to soldiers looking for the store, to beggars, they passed with various kind of people.
In a corner of the back alley, there was a woman standing, saying…
“How about tonight?”
It was a thin teenage girl. You could almost see the bones of her body, which should be rounded, peculiar to a normal woman.
The girl was randomly calling out to the passing soldiers.
Then, she came to Walm…
“How about tonight?”
“No, I don’t need it”
The other two didn’t seem to be enthusiastic either.
Rejected by Walm and all the other members, the girl bit her cheeks and turned her face to the ground.
“Buy something with this”
Walm gave some bronze coins, knowing that it wasn’t an act that could be said as the solution. Even so, the girl smiled a little and thanked Walm.
It was the money that I stole from the corpse. I’m sure the coins will be more pleased to disappear in her stomach than to disappear in the soldier’s liquor and cigarettes.
After that, she disappeared into the back alley without showing any happy expressions.
“Feeding them again? Walm, keep it moderately, okay?”
Jose, who was behind Walm, called out to him. Walm frowned at the vulgar words.
“She was smart, so it’s all good, but if she was too happy, you would’ve been surrounded with a lot of beggars by now.”
Walm looked around and he could see people and children who lost their limbs because of war, were begging for money. And the truth, he wouldn’t be able to give the same to everyone.
“…Yeah, right. I’ll be careful next time.”
Perhaps he was satisfied with the reply, Jose nodded satisfiedly.
“I’m not saying it’s useless, and if anything, it’s better to give it for something in return. Well, even me, I’ll be reluctant to do it in the back alleys or in front of other guys.”
As Walm followed Jose’s line of sight, he saw other soldiers disappearing in the back alley. When he focused his ear to listen, he could hear a sweet voice leaked from the darkness, the gaps between the house. And somehow, he felt that there were voices of the three idiots mixed there.
“That’s not a prostitute. The area where the brothels are located, is far from here. Since many soldiers gathered for this war, amateurs start to prostitute themselves because they want some living expenses. Well, if they got found out, there’ll be disputes.”
Red-light district, it was something made of complex concessions. And, in every world, many people would do radical actions to protect existing businesses.
The squad leader continued to go deep into the alley without dealing with those peoples. In the first place, he looked scary, and only one being called out was Walm.
“But even though you’ve killed so many on the battlefield, you’re ignorant in a strange place huh, Walm. You’re not a priest, nor a knight who values chivalry, so it’s a little bit meaningless action. No matter how far we go, we’re just soldiers.”
Jose was like Walm, he was drafted. But his background was kind of rare. He was the fourth son of a merchant. There might have been another way to live, like to be a servant of another merchant, but he said that earning money on the battlefield was the surest way to have a wagon or shop.
Even so, Jose adapted to survive the battlefield and had already changed his way of thinking. On the other hand, Walm still couldn’t get rid the way of thinking from his previous life, nor could he throw it away.
As he listened to Jose without denying or affirming it, the squad leader muttered lonely.
“Originally, this place, which formerly belonged to Kanoa Kingdom was a fertile land. It became like this because of war.”
“I see, so it wasn’t originally like this?”
Jose, who seemed to have an interest in this topic, asked the squad leader.
“Five years ago, Kanoa interfered at the Highserk Empire which kept increasing its border. We somehow managed to win the war and even hold down a village. You see, they used the beans I usually eat, to feed their livestock.”
With that said, the squad leader took out a pouch from his bag. The contents were beans that Walm ate many times during the march. Walm had eaten it many times as the squad leader used it as an ingredient for the hot pot.
“And now, it became like this. The former Kanoa nobleman, Grand Duke Myard, abandoned the Kanoa Kingdom and went to the neighboring country, Ferrius Kingdom. But, the army dispatched from Ferrius and the runaway soldiers took livestock from the other territories of Kanoa Kingdom, mowed the paddy fields in the area, burned down the fields. The Highserk Empire which lacked troops postponed the invasion until now. “
“Ahh, no way. It’s terrible.”
Jose shook his head and seemed tired of it.
Scorched earth tactics would be effective for troops that rely on enemy territory for food, even in a world where the logistics was circulating by magic bags, horses and beasts stronger than in the normal world. And, Highserk Empire was having a hard time to support itself.
“Grand Duke Myard gave up on his territory once, Ferrius Kingdom provided food support, albeit a little, and finally he planned to bring back the Kanoa kingdom. But, the grudge of the former citizens of Kanoa Kingdom against Grand Duke Myard and Ferrius Kingdom is heavier than that directed at the Highserk Empire. Well, when you got betrayed by the one you trusted the most, anyone will get angry, right?”
“I was worried that a battalion consisting of the former citizens of Kanoa Kingdom would also participate in this war, but it seems, it’ll be okay.”
And so, Walm was able to deepening his knowledge of the Kanoa Kingdom.
As they were talking more about this, they finally arrived at the tavern.
It was a two-story building with a bar on the first floor and an inn on the second floor. The outer wall was soiled with soot that might have come out during cooking, and the entrance door was engraved with small scratches as if it had been smashed before.
As they pushed the door in, the brass doorbell that signaled a customer had entered the store, modestly echoed inside.
At the table near the counter, there were five Highserk soldiers, and in the back, there were men, perhaps regulars, dressed in neatly decorated and well-tailored clothes.
Walm decided that those people might be the merchants in the city, judging from their appearance.
Together with Commander Duwei, they went to sit at the table, away from the two groups.
“Today, it’s my treat. You see, two newcomers survived their first battle. It’s been a while since Walm.”
Hearing that, Jose whistled happily, while Walm was smiling complacently.
The squad leader raised his hand and turned his gaze, and the host came from the back of the counter.
“Give us three ales and a bottle of wine, also are there any dishes that can be made immediately?”
For a moment, the host showed a thoughtful gesture and answered.
“We can serve the soup with hard-baked bread, buffalo, onions and beans as soon as we warmed it, also there are enough catfishes for three people.”
“Give me both for the three people. The catfish should be fried.”
The host nodded and disappeared into the kitchen. Perhaps the other guests had been served, soup and bread were brought along with the ale earlier than Walm had expected.
“Following the Liberitoa’s border, may we be victorious against Myard!”
The squad leader raised the mug.
Walm didn’t hesitate to hit the mug vigorously.
After a rumbling sound, they drank the contents all at once.
It was a kind of custom, but for soldiers living in the war, they must toast exaggeratedly when they had a drink.
Walm was taught that if soldiers didn’t do that, it meant they were unreliable.
The host poured more ale into the mug while carefully confirming whether or not they wanted anything else.
Walm cut the bread into bite-sized pieces, soaked them in soup and threw them into his mouth. The umami that overflowed from the buffalo meat, the rich flavor of onions and beans spread in his mouth.
He stabbed the ingredients sunk in the soup with a fork and brought it to his mouth. The hard meat of the buffalo was also properly softened. The beans also boiled moderately, and when he chewed lightly, he could feel the texture of the meat, onion and beans were balancing each other.
“I thought I was tired of bean soup, but with the ingredients and the skill of the cook, it turned better than I expected.”
As Walm was praising the food, Jose was nodding in favor of it.
“Well, usually there were many half-cooked things inside.”
Fried catfish line up on the table after they finished the soup. The catfish fillet was cut into three pieces, but since it was one whole fish for each person, Walm reached out, thinking that it would be quite satisfying to eat.
He brought it into the mouth with a fork. After the texture of the crust, the taste of catfish spread on the tongue. Because it was a white meat, the light taste of it mixed well with the crust, he felt as if he could continue to eat as much as he wanted.
“Fried catfish, is the best”
Having to eat only baked food or boiled food was a pain for Walm, who grew up in a rich food culture in his previous life. Especially, where he could enjoy it in an environment where he didn’t have to think about night attacks or morning runs.
“When was the last time we had fish? Was it before the dispatch to the Liberitoa’s border? Well, that was also a river fish, but yeah, catfish is better.”
The squad leader who was in a good mood immediately drank the ale and began to reach out the bottle of wine.
“More, eat and drink more”
As prompted, Walm drank the remaining ale, and wine was poured into the empty mug. It had a strong acidity, but was suitable for resetting the oil taste in mouth.
The sun hadn’t set yet, but there was nothing to stop them from drinking liquor.
Forgetting everything, Walm continued to enjoy the food and drink in front of him.
TN: Here, an image of the character design of Jose and Squad Commander Duwei