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507 Galahad’s Nightmare
Although it paled in comparison to Fort Galahad, as a castle, Alsace Fortress was quite large. In the Galahad War, the army easily reached 100, 000 count—including Daedalus’ slaves.
Since it’s a place where everyone would gather, maybe the size is to be expected?
From a distance, I could already tell that the main enclosure was at least twice as large as the ancient castle of Ischia.
Both the castle and the tower were quite different from the rugged Spada style, which pursued simplicity and robustness. The quadrangular, pyramid-shaped, roof on the high defensive tower was distinctive—somewhat similar to a church steeple. I had to wonder if it was a traditional Sinclair architectural style.
However, even if there was some degree of design, the fact that it was made of solid stone as a whole remained the same. The villagers might get the impression that the enormous, gray building was inorganic and cold in normal times, but now it had the look of reliability that guaranteed safety.
Even I expected for such a giant fortress to hold out against the Gluttony Octo.
Nevertheless, to return to such a place—full of memories—part of me was in a dilemma.
“It might be impossible to destroy this bridge with a single water magic.”
While crossing the bridge to enter the fortress, I muttered to myself inside the helm. Even Ursula, who was walking beside me, couldn’t hear it.
Alsace Village was akin to a sandbank-like terrain sandwiched between rivers on the East and West sides. Hence why, I chose that place to stand our grounds against the crusaders. Besides, regardless of the fact that a fortress had been built in place of the previous village, the topography itself wouldn’t change.
According to what I had heard, the only route to enter the fortress was the same East-West bridge as in Alsace Village. One would enter from the Daedalus side, before exiting from the Sparda’s side.
Even though the place where the bridge expanded was the same, there was a huge difference in size and construction. The shabby, wooden bridge that once killed off the foolish, heavy-armored, knights had now been transformed into a solid stone structure. Even if a line of heavy dragon carriages were to pass by, I doubted that the bridge would even flinch.
After crossing such a huge bridge, I was greeted by a tall, thick, gate and ramparts that seemed sturdy enough to fend off absolutely anything.
I couldn’t help but think if there was a wall that was cemented with stone and iron like that, the defense of Alsace would’ve been an easy victory. Towards those days, in which we had to desperately protect ourselves with hastily constructed wooden fences and barbed wire, I felt terribly nostalgic.
“Now, none of that remains…”
Once I entered the castle through the open gate along with the villagers, there was nothing but a rugged fortress square as far as the eye could see. None of it matched the scenery of the village in my memory. I found it difficult to believe that this place was Alsace.
Judging from the location of the river and the bridge, the ruins of the Adventurer’s Guild of the Alsace Village, which was our fort… should be around there.
As of the present, a thick and enormous defensive tower stood in its place near the castle wall.
I have to stop.
After all, to keep looking for the remnants of the Alsace Village was in bad taste.
Instead of suppressing the sentimental feelings that welled up, I decided to calmly analyze the construction of the fortress.
Although the Alsace Fortress was large in scale, it only consisted of the main enclosure. There was only an inner castle and a castle wall built along the river. The castle wall itself enclosed almost all the ruins of the Alsace Village, while the rivers on both sides were used as natural water moats.
Even so, to build a fortress of that size in just two or three months after the fall of Alsace was no mean feat. Even though magic was used in the construction of the castle, what an astonishing speed. Sinclair’s ability to build bases may have reached a considerable level after years of wars and aggression.
Considering that enemy nations were visiting, the lack of the second and third enclosures made it a somewhat unsettling fortress. However, the invasion from the Sparda side was out of the question in the first place. As such, the fortress could be said to be both effective and sufficient.
If Sparda were to decide to launch a battle to liberate Daedalus in an attempt to win the Galahad War, it’d be best to aim while the defenses were not yet fully solidified.
…Come to think of it, I had never experienced a siege battle where the enemy castle was attacked after it had fortified its defense. Well, I’d probably experience it someday. At the same time, I’d like to avoid the situation where I’d have to face an impregnable fortress head-on as much as possible.
“Hey, it’s Kuroe!”
As I stared blankly at my surroundings like a tourist, someone called me.
When I turned around, Cliff and a few of his men could be seen approaching.
“What’s wrong, Cliff?”
“Kuroe, you’ve decided to visit us!”
After the escape from the supply base, I felt that the man had become quite amicable.
From Cliff’s standpoint, both me and Ursula could be considered his benefactors. Judging from the military strength of the 203rd Colony, it’d have been impossible for them to escape without the two of us.
Even so, considering that as a knight, Cliff cared about someone like me, who concealed his face and looked like a dubious adventurer, I thought that he was quite dignified—or rather, a man of kindness. Even more so considering that he was more than a commoner but less than an aristocrat. But of course, that’d change once he learned of my true identity.
“I’d like to commend you for arriving so early, but would you join the military council?”
“Huh, you’d like me to join?”
“More than anyone else, you’ve slaughtered those wretched devilfish monsters. Rather, wouldn’t it be strange to not hear from you.”
In other words, I was asked to report about the monster, along with my actual battle experience.
At the 203rd Colony, not many had fought the octopuses. Amongst them, Ursula and I were the only two who had defeated the 10m class ones.
…But, to tell Ursula to speak in front of a high-ranking crusader, wouldn’t that be cruel? Although, if she was smart, then she might be able to organize the information more accurately than I could and deliver a wonderful presentation on measures against Gluttony Octo.
“Also, there won’t be any drawbacks. If you directly spoke to them about how active you were, you’ll surely be rewarded. Of course, I’ll also back it up.”
I wasn’t interested in the reward, but since I was pretending to be an adventurer, it’d be expected for me to accept Cliff’s offer.
Is it what they call accepting good intentions?
However, I had to absolutely conceal my identity. Should I properly turn down the offer?
Besides, it should be possible to prepare for the battle against the Gluttony Octo even without my report. Even Cliff was already aware that they were susceptible to fire. I had also explained about Gluttony Octo, one of the Trial monsters.
“I’m sorry, but I’ll have to refuse. I’d like to refrain from standing out too much.”
“Oh, don’t worry about that. I’ve already spoken to them. Therefore, even if you have your helmet on, no one’ll question you.”
Towards Cliff, who showed such a refreshing smile, I felt resentful.
Dammit, this guy’s doing something unnecessary…
Or rather, how did he get the crusaders to agree to something like that? Why would they invite a black knight of dubious nature to their council of war? What if it was their enemy?
“Also, from the state of the previous battle, it seems that the commander of the base, His Excellency Baron Herman, is interested in you.”
I already knew from Sariel that Baron Herman was a noble who had a close relationship with the general, Count Bergund, and was one of the executives who led the Third Army. In other words, that baron was in the Galahad War.
I’d like to think that my true identity hadn’t been revealed yet…
Now that things have become like this, it’d be better to meet and talk to him directly. Perhaps, even if I decline here, the next invitation would come. The other party might even approach me himself.
First and foremost, I wouldn’t be able to leave this fortress until Gluttony Octo had been defeated.
To put it simply, there was no escape.
“Alright, let’s go to the war council. But before that, give me a minute. I’d like to entrust Ursula to someone.”
“Understood. Then, we’ll start the preparation. Please come to the command room in an hour.”
Now then, let’s assume the worst and go.
It’s a nightmare.
The epitome of nightmare stood before him, donning a black armor.
Despite that, the man reminded himself that he was on a mission to prepare for the invasion of the Spada Knights at the Alsace Fortress. Thus, while suppressing his anxiety and fear, he continued to wear a frowning mask to desperately maintain his dignity as a noble.
As I thought, this man is…. There’s no doubt about it.
From the moment the man entered, he knew it at first glance.
Unbeknownst to others, his broad body, which had grown plump with age, trembled.
About an hour ago, a man appeared in the command room. His name was none other than Kuroe. Although he wore the full set of knight armor adopted by the crusaders, it was obvious that he was no knight.
Indeed, it was black.
A heavy knight’s full-body armor, polished to a white silver to symbolize the majesty of a white god, was painted in pitch black like the darkness of the night.
…What a crude taste, such an improbably coloring.
It wouldn’t be strange for the man to be chided for being disrespectful.
However, whether it was white, black, or rainbow—it was definitely heavy knight armor. An impregnable defense that fully covered the entire body. An alloy of silver, steel, and mithril that left no room for the enemy to take advantage of, covered him from tip to toe.
Therefore, the man’s face was entirely hidden beneath the thick helm, disallowing anyone to see.
However, Herman knew who that man was.
He could also vividly picture the real face of the terrifying devil that was on the other side of the helm.
“—I see, I understand. You’ve gathered so much information against an unknown monster. You’ve worked hard, Cliff.”
“Haha, thank you very much, Your Excellency Baron Herman!”
The battle report on the monster “Gluttony Octo” by both the Black Knight Kuroe and the platoon leader of the heavy knight unit, Cliff, was already coming to an end.
Such an unbelievable report it was.
Apparently, there was an enormous group of monsters flying across the sky under the cover of white fog. The number itself reached that of 10.000. Not only that, there were several gigantic individuals over 10 meters inside. In particular, the mountain-like existence at the end of the report sounded like a joke—a hallucination due to fear.
However, the fact that the village West of the 201st Colony was entirely wiped out attested to its existence.
Some of the officers gathered there may be skeptical, but Herman decided to believe the report for the time being. Taking into consideration the monster’s vulnerability to fire and the effectiveness of wind barrier to dispel the fog, Herman decided to come up with some countermeasures.
Nevertheless, the current Alsace Fortress, which was in charge of the Third Army, had limited combat power. As such, they couldn’t exactly be optimistic about interception.
However, Herman now faced a more pressing danger.
A black nightmare that was far more frightening than a mysterious octopus monster was right before him.
“Then, you may return.”
After dismissing them from the room, Cliff bowed without hesitation. Kuroe, who stood beside him, bowed and followed after him.
Herman made up his mind.
It was as big a decision as when he had a duel with his brother over his wife more than 30 years ago.
“—Wait, I’d like for Kuroe to remain for a bit.”
As the black knight halted, so was Herman’s heart.
Any moment now, a jet-black blade would rupture his chest. Then, the blade would explode without any traces.
“I, it’s not a big deal. I’d like to personally express my gratitude to Kuroe, who saved many people and my soldiers from the predicament—”
—He was so nervous that he couldn’t understand what he was saying.
Even so, as an aristocrat, Herman delivered the line he had prepared in advance without flinching. Furthermore, he had already laid the groundwork for the officers and escorts soldiers that were present. He was prepared.
Just go with the flow.
“—That’s basically it, but ah, let’s have the others leave their seats. Forgive me, but could everyone leave?”
The officers who were attending the military council quickly left the room as if they were following orders.
Due to the incomprehensible dismissal, Cliff’s expression was split between suspicion and confusion. He was right in sensing that something was amiss. Even so, as a knight, he had to keep his mouth shut.
Just like that, only two people were left in the command room. Herman, who sat dignifiedly on the top seat, and Kuroe, who stood like an immovable, ancient statue before the door.
Kuroe didn’t say anything.
Despite this, it was as if Herman was crushed by the silent pressure.
Neither on the battlefield nor at Sinclair’s court, where he had been invited only twice, had he ever felt so unnerved.
Well, it couldn’t be helped.
After all, Herman was presently standing before a naked, hungry dragon.
Depending on the dragon’s mood, his life could easily be forfeit.
Under normal circumstances, it’d be impossible for him to be in such a situation.
Nevertheless, he believed that by risking his life, it’d be in the best interests of not only himself, but his soldiers.
“To avoid any misunderstanding, let me say this first. We’ll not harm you. We’ll never be hostile to you. Also, no matter where you disappear, we won’t look for you.”
“…What are you talking about?”
When he wasn’t greeted with a black flame sword, Herman stroked his chest in relief.
“I know of your true identity. Hence, I said those.”
“What do you mean?”
Kuroe’s reply was cold and blunt—yet suffice. He showed that he’d listen for the time being.
“I don’t want to die. I don’t want my soldiers to die, either. You probably don’t want to die, either. No, you probably won’t die. Even so, I want to avoid as many troubles as I can.”
“Is it because you don’t want to have an unnecessary fight in a situation where a horde of monsters is approaching?”
“You’re quick to understand.”
He was grateful.
To be honest, Herman didn’t know what kind of race the demons—or even the Spadas, were. However, without a rough understanding of the culture and values, it’d be difficult for people to negotiate.
Fortunately, just from Kuroe’s short answer, Herman could infer that he was a reasonable person.
“I’d like to cooperate with you to handle this matter. Officially, I’ll treat you as an adventurer. I don’t know your true identity. Even if someone in the army were to discover your true identity, I’ll put them under gag order.”
“…Are you going to betray the crusaders?”
“We’re defeated—! Isn’t it God who betrayed us—!?”
Even though they went out of their way to invade Pandora after giving oracles twice, the result was like this. As such, it was only natural for him to slight God. Much less if it was a noble like him, who prioritized the profit of the territory rather than the faith.
“If you were to wage a war as you pleased, it’s on you if you lose.”
He soon realized that he had made a mistake.
No, even if he didn’t, there wasn’t anyone senseless enough as to not sense the sign of anger which emanated from the man, which had reached the realm of murderous intent.
“Wait, wait! I have no intention of fighting Sparda anymore! My only wish is to safely return to my territory with the soldiers I led!”
It’d be meaningless to discuss the pros and cons of war against people from enemy countries, especially in a situation where one’s life was in the hands of an opponent. Appealing for the legitimacy of a fight was equivalent to suicide.
“The Baron Herman family will withdraw from the Pandora expedition. I no longer have any obligation to serve the crusaders. After the death of Count Bergund, I’ve been forced to take responsibility for this defeat.”
Considering his position, there was no limit to the amount of resentment he could receive. He truly felt like he had been pulled out of the bad lottery.
If only Count Bergund hasn’t gone berserk—
—but… wasn’t Kuroe the root cause? Had he not killed Count Bergund’s beloved daughter—
—Although, even if he did say that, Kuroe would reply with an extremely fair counterargument, saying. “It’s your fault for starting the war.”
“We don’t want to die in a place like this. We don’t want to be killed by monsters, or by you. That’s why, let’s cooperate. Because neither the obligation to the crusaders nor the belief in God can be exchanged for life.”
He was being mostly sincere.
As a noble, it’d be a bad idea to offer a sincere opinion during negotiations, but the other party was a demonic man who had doubted him. In these cases, the best thing to do was to appeal honestly as a human being.
“Please, won’t you lend us your strength!?”
“I don’t trust you.”
From his point of view, they were hateful invaders.
Even if he was attacked by a monster and pleaded for his help, it’d be strange for him to listen.
Not to mention, it was unclear why he helped the villagers evacuate in the first place.
“You don’t have to trust me. You may kill me whenever you feel like it, but keep in mind that you won’t be able to escape in peace after slaughtering this fort.”
The power dynamic between them was clear.
Therefore, there was no need for him to doubt.
If he didn’t like it, he could kill Herman. The man before him was capable of carrying out purely violent intentions that were otherwise banned from humans.
“…Alright. I’d also like to avoid unnecessary conflicts.”
“Thank you for your help.”
Thus, Kuroe made his declaration of cooperation. Herman felt like a huge weight had been lifted from his shoulders. With that, he wouldn’t be killed suddenly.
“—However, there are some conditions.”
“Just say it. I’ll try my utmost to comply with your wishes.”
“Don’t get in my way.”
He was worried that Kuroe would demand him to hand over the command of the entire army. However, he was little taken aback at what couldn’t even be called a condition.
“Of course, if necessary, I’ll even help you.”
“Next, I’d like to participate in the military council. After all, if we don’t come up with a suitable strategy, we’ll be in trouble.”
“Alright, I’ll have your seat ready.”
At present, Kuroe was the one with the most knowledge pertaining to the Gluttony Octo. Not only that, he had a lot of combat experience. Surely, his opinion would prove to be of value.
“Once this battle is over, let us go.”
“That’s fine. Whether you go back to Spada or infiltrate Daedalus, we won’t interfere.”
For Kuroe to wish to disappear on his own accord—it was akin to a blessing.
Although, Herman never intended to betray him, so there was no need for that.
Even if they were to successfully defeat the Gluttony Octo, it wouldn’t be without suffering a certain amount of damage. If they were to attempt to pursue Kuroe in such a state, they’d be annihilated. Not only that, he might return to take revenge.
By letting Kuroe escape, no matter how much damage the crusaders may suffer in the future, it was no longer his concern. Besides, if that was what Kuroe wanted, then he may continue to wage war upon this continent as he saw fit.
“Wait, did you say ‘us’…?”
“I have a companion.”
“No way, is that companion—”
“—Do not pry.”
“O, of course! Sorry!”
Herman had an inkling as to whom that companion was. But apparently, it was a sensitive subject. For Herman, who had been bitten by a venomous snake after poking a bush when he was a child, avoiding that kind of crisis was top priority—
—even if Kuroe’s companion was a saint who symbolized the crusaders… Yes, even if she was an apostle, it had nothing to do with Herman. Although, what a true saint she was—to give herself to the devil for greater good…
“A, anyway, I’ll put a gag order regarding your companion, as well.”
“Good, I’ll conceal her face as much as possible.”
I don’t know anything.
In the final battle of Galahad, the 7th Apostle—Sariel, who had descended, went missing after a duel with a certain demon. Ever since then, despite having many eye witnesses, the rumors were decided to be a made-up story with no roots or leaves.
“Is there anything else? If you wish, I’ll prepare a hefty reward for you, and if it’s a weapon or equipment that you desire, you’re free to make use of whatever we have here. I’m grateful for your cooperation.”
At the very least, it could be said that there was no one stronger than Kuroe in the Alsace fortress. Although his knights were by no means weak soldiers, none of them had outstanding strength or special abilities.
Herman used to dream of having a knight with superman strength. Ironically, Kruoe was close to that ideal. An existence that could be a trump card even in a pinch.
Therefore, it was only natural to give him generous support in terms of equipment. It wasn’t just to curry favor with him.
“I see, then that’s enough—and one last thing…”
Please don’t be unreasonable.
Herman waited for Kuroe’s words while praying to God.
“The mountain-size Gluttony Octo—I’ll kill it myself.”
In this way, the cooperation with Kuroe was successfully established with mutual consent.
After the peculiar-looking black knight left, Herman let out a deep sigh. He felt like he had narrowly escaped death.
“As expected, what a ridiculous berserker…”
That was right.
Amidst an isolated battlefield, a lone man made his way into the enemy camp and captured Reinfeldt, the daughter of Count Bergund.
Furthermore, after the death of the count, the 7th Apostle, Sariel, descended to help the crusaders amidst their retreat. Facing against the strongest man of the crusaders, that man wasn’t the slightest bit afraid.
Since he was withdrawing, Herman couldn’t witness the battle’s conclusion. But when the man himself appeared before him like that, he inadvertently understood—
—that man defeated the apostle.
“Ah… how did things become like this… I want to go home, I want to go home quickly…”
Not only that, Kuroe especially declared that the gigantic boss monster was his prey. He was nothing but a battle-crazed maniac who was hungry for battle.
Herman, who had taken in such a terrifying man under his wings, could only lament his unfortunate circumstances.
A true nightmare.
After the recent battle, the crusaders gave the man a nickname—