Dragon's Breath

“My, I never thought it would come to this, Bogan.
What I said before wasn't a lie though.”

Mirskronia and Bernaich divide the north and the capital.
At the boundary between the two mountains was a space that, even after being widened, was less than 30 ken (30.4 m) wide.
As a road It was easy to pass through, but at its narrowest point, it was a narrow passage of about 10 ken (18.18 m).
Of course, such a road exists everywhere.
In fact, as a road, it could be said to be very wide.
However the problem is that there's no alternative route on this road.

Mirskronia and Bernaich, on the left and right are steep and high mountains.
To go around, one would have to go far east or west, so if ones want to go north, they have no choice but to go through here.
And even if the road were wide enough to simply pass through, the narrow space between the steep cliffs would severely impede the army's movement, making it a natural strategic point where a small force could easily hold off a large one.

This was the most important base of operations during the war against the northern barbarians several hundred years ago.
After the northern part of the country was conquered, it became a mere highway, but now that the war has begun, it has regained its former appearance.

The land, which had eaten and devoured tens of thousands of flesh and blood, was now stained red.
It brought only screams and death, swallowed up many heroes.
It's as if it's an ancient dragon that burns cities, destroys nations, and brings death like a natural disaster.

—-This is the Dragon's Maw.
And at the place that was said to be inside it's fangs.

“As expected of the mighty Christand.
The quality of my soldiers is somewhat poor comparatively.
Though the battle started with 20,000 and 30,000, seems I cannot be so optimistic.”

After the first battle, the road turned red with blood, corpses, and twilight.

Laughing in the Dragon's Maw is a handsome young man riding a black horse, wearing red mantle and black iron armor adorned with elegant gold ornaments.
His voice is clear, refreshing, and yet somehow powerful.
A man endowed with the qualities of royalty and absoluteness, with a mere word he makes his presence known to all around him.

When he expanded the eastern part of the kingdom and conquered a part of the empire, he wore black armor and wielded a long battle-axe at the front line, and as a royalty himself, he was responsible for countless head counts.
The dreadfulness of his martial prowess is feared by allies and foes alike, and for this reason, on the battlefield he was called thus.

—-The Black Lion.

Gildanstein Kalnaros Vel Sarcarinea Alberan.
This man, who unquestionably would be known as a hero if he were born in a war-torn world, is now standing proudly in battlefield.

Opposite him is the matchless and famous general Bogan Argalitte Vezrinea Christand.
The countless scars on his austere, unadorned steel armor are a testament to his military prowess.
The hero who survived the hell of the front line, devoured the lives of his enemies and subordinates, and rose to the rank of general with only his body and brains shows not a shred of weakness against such an opponent.

“It's futile bloodshed.
Surely, it's not your cup of tea, Bogan.
I have only one word for you.”

Gildanstein declares as if it were a matter of course.
He is royalty, the Absolute.
He is the one who ruled over everything in the kingdom.

“—-Surrender to me.
I will not treat you badly, and I will only see this rudeness as an amusing sideshow.”

He did not correct his words.
There's no lie in the words Gildanstein told Bogan before, and he's also not lying now.

“It is no longer possible to discuss that, Your Highness Royal Prince.
When it comes down to it, there's no longer other way to settle this other than bloodshed.”

“But you don't think I killed my brother, do you? That's the work of Kreschenta, who you protected.
All you must do is hand that over.

It was words that is too generous, and a concession.

“As expected, Even I didn't think she'd go this far either.
It's not like Kreschenta, who has done everything so skillfully, to do something like this.
Did something happen with your adopted daughter—-“

Bogan shook his head.

“I am very pleased that you have thought of me so highly.
At the very least, on the battlefield Your Highness Royal Prince is a general I respected.”

It's the truth.
Gildanstein's skill on the battlefield was magnificent, and the sight that he himself swung the blade on the front line is dependable.
His love of killing is a vice in peacetime, but on the battlefield that's just how it is.
As a general, Gildanstein's reputation is high, and his behavior is worthy of respect.

“However, I am already the blade of Her Royal Highness the Princess.
Even if I were to surrender here, Your Highness Royal Prince will not be able to obtain the General Christand that His Highness wants.
A general who has lost trust and confidence is worthless.
…As the sword of Her Royal Highness, I have taken up the sword and thus have come face to face with you.
Then we must decide the matter not with words, but with the blade.
Wouldn't you understand, Your Royal Highness?”

“Kuku, indeed.
I don't need you without your backbones.”

Gildanstein said amusedly and stared at Bogan.

“Then, how about we decide the winner right here with the blade, Bogan?”

“Your Royal Highness must be joking.
I am no match for His Royal Highness.”

“I see, it's a pity.
Before I lose you, I wanted to have a match with you once.”

Gildanstein turned his horse and turned his back.

“This is the path you have chosen.
Don't hold it against me, will you?”

“Naturally, death on the battlefield is a warrior's honor.
No matter what the outcome, there is no resentment.
And that goes for both of us.”

“I see.
I wish you fortune.
…At least you were a warrior worthy of that.”

“…Thank you.”

From then on, the battle was fierce.
In order to win the battle in the center, the Dragon's Maw where the road is narrowing—-both sides are fighting for the center, which is less than a mere 1 ri (3.927 km) wide.
Once the bottleneck was seized and stabilized, the rest of the battle could be fought in a single push.
This is because the farther one moves toward either end of the Dragon's Maw, the wider the path becomes.

Be that as it may, that is also why it is called the Dragon's Maw.
That is to say, the wider the path becomes, the greater the military superiority of the side being pushed in becomes.
The more they cut into the enemy's territory, the greater the damage will be at an accelerated rate.
However both sides had reasons why they needed to do so.

The Christand feared an increase in Gildanstein's troops, the capital had more ample human resources compared to the north.
Gildanstein, too, was afraid that the nobles in the royal capital would lean toward the princess, which he couldn't even know long as he left the capital vacant.
Gildanstein has been pulling out the nobles of his own faction to manage them as his subordinates in this war.
Naturally, the nobles of the royal capital are dominated by the princess faction, and even though Gildanstein, who was originally inferior, has the military power of military command, it is not a good idea to spend time on it.
The current situation is that they do not know how things will turn out, and there are too many uncertainties.

And to the east there is Nozan Verreich——the former commander of the 1st Army Corps of Christand.
Against him, who will clearly become enemies, Gildanstein need to show that he's vigilant against them, and leave some troops behind.

Neither side knows which way Hilkintos in the west or Garhka in the south will turn, and both Bogan and Gildanstein wanted to settle things before they picked a side.
That is the one thing Bogan and Gildanstein agree on.

But of course, neither of them thought the battle would be decided by a simple push.
They recognized each other and highly valued each other's abilities.

They penetrated their forces into the steep mountains, and even in the midst of this, they crossed blades of knowledge and strategy.

Christand's excelled in the quality of its commanders at all levels.
At one point, Bogan's blade was at his opponent's throat, but Gildanstein himself destroyed the detouring troops, brought them to a standstill.
Then next time, the royal prince himself lead the breakthrough in the mountains, putting the Christand's in a tight spot for a time.

Knowing that his side was inferior in terms of the quality of his troops and commanders, Gildanstein used himself as a pawn.
Without revealing his whereabouts, he sets up body doubles and moves around freely.
Gildanstein, who is blessed with great talent and decisiveness, is a formidable enemy.

It's been almost two months since they arrived here.
Even after the mountains turned red, the battle continued without a conclusion.
Selene was sending reserve personnel as replenishment soldiers one after another, and the same was true on the Gildanstein side.
As they were repeatedly cut down and replenished, none of their attacks was decisive.

But here came a presence that roused the Christand's soldiers.

The sun is high in the sky.
The golden hair shimmering in red, and an elegant white dress that is out of place on the battlefield.
The smile on her face is that of a saint full of compassion, and she glances at the soldiers on her left and right.
The two beautiful maiden of Christand's, one in gold and the other in silver armor, on either side, it was like a scene from a fairytale, and the thousands of soldiers behind them formed a horizontal line instead of a marching column, marching in orderly fashion as if to honor them.
A short distance from the encampment, she split off from the soldiers and approached the gate of the camp with only the two beautiful maiden and two maids.

Repeated life-threatening battles.
Among them, there were some who were exhausted and showed tears.
They, without saying anything kneeled, then a horse runs from behind approaching the princesses.

Bogan rode up to the princess, dismounted, dropped to his knees, and bowed his head.

“Thank you for welcoming us.
General Christand, please raise your head.”


Bogan stood uproudly, put his hands on his chest maintaining the salute.

“I've heard of your bravery.
And I ask all of you too, please stand.
I have not come here to see all of you as royalty.”

The soldiers looked at each other and stood up one by one and follow Bogan.
There was something sweet about her clear voice that seemed to cling to the inside of their ears.

“Because I have came to line up with my compatriots who share the same purpose.”

Selene, who had been standing diagonally behind her, stepped forward, drew her sword, and pointed it at the sky.
At the same moment, Krische also drew her sword against the soldiers behind her.
The soldiers who had formed a horizontal line drew their swords in unison, creating a myriad of metallic noises——and a roar of cheers that almost reverberates in the air.

Vibrations that could even cause the earth to reverberate.
It engulfed the soldiers in the encampment as well, inviting them into a deliberate frenzy—making the Dragon's Maw tremble.

It was a kind of performance.
Forming a horizontal line from the front, putting on airs, and cheering with the determined signals and movements.
The choice of a horse instead of a carriage was also part of the performance, so that the princess could be persuasive in saying that she herself was in the same position as the soldiers present.
By deliberately throwing out her authority, she shortened the distance between them.

The royal family is rarely seen in front of the people.
It was said that commoners would be afraid to even peek at their visage, and it was normal to cover their face with a veil, but this time she showed her true face to the soldiers for the purpose of raising morale.
Kreschenta is beautiful, and the benefits of doing so are great.
As was the case with Bogan's speech the other day, the meaning of fighting for a beautiful princess is depicted in many heroic tales, and it is a goal that is easily accepted by the soldiers.
This is the reason why she does not wear a veil even at the fort.

Bogan and Selene had exchanged letters the other day and decided on this event to restore the morale of the soldiers, who were showing signs of exhaustion after two months of battle.
Selene had set up the best soldiers in the front rows of the horizontal line to look good, and Bogan had informed the witty non-commissioned officer that the princess was coming.
It can be said that the controlled enthusiasm produced sufficient results for the soldiers who did not know about it.

Krische hates armor, it's heavy.”

Krische had Bery take off the armor she's not used to wearing as soon as she arrived at the tent she was given and removed the straight sword from her left hip and put on his usual curved sword on her back hip.
And when Bery strokes her head, she sticks his head out just a little.
Bery quietly puts their lips together and smiled.

“Fufu, then shall we go?”


Then they went out and enter Bogan's tent, the various corps commanders are already there.

While thinking they're a little late, Krische sat down in a chairand Bery makes her a cup of sweet tea.
The appearance of Bery pouring tea as if snuggling to Krische from diagonally behind was beautiful, and her appearance of pouring honey and milk was indifferent but it's full of affection.
When Cliche thanked her, she gave a slight smile, and when it's finished, she straightened posture behind Krische to her right and kept her eyes down.

Her gesture was so vivid and beautiful that some of them forgot why they had gathered there and looked at her.
Kreschenta felt a twinge of frustration inside at the obvious change in Bery's atmosphere from the other day, but she said nothing, as she had to behave as a princess.

These days, Bery was no longer flustered by Krische kisses, but rather smiled happily at them.
In fact, she even seems to be trying to make Krische want to kiss her by stroking her cheeks, bringing her face closer, and gazing into her eyes.
She was originally sweet, but she became sweet.
Krische was delighted with Bery's change, and her habit of kissing and being pampered got even worse.
It's like a dog that jumps up and down, wagging its tail when given food.

After seeing Krische, Kreschenta put away her displeasure and remained silent thoughtfully stirring the hot tea Arne had brewed with a spoon.
It was a hot tea that should be called harassment with good intentions.
Kreschenta has a cat tongue.
She was only cooling her tea while pretending to be thoughtful.

Selene almost laughed at the sight of Kreschenta but held it in.
She also noticed that the Bery become sweeter toward Krische, but to her it's nothing new.
She was curious, but she was fine with that as long as it didn't lead to any strange rumors.

Now that Krische's here, everyone looked at Bogan.
All the important people were gathered here.

Each of them had already greeted Kreschenta.

“It looks like everything is ready.
Let's start the meeting.
—-To Her Royal Highness.”

Bogan stood up, as was customary, and the others followed his lead.
Then he places his hand on his chest and salutes, and Kreschenta nods while still seated.

“Please take a seat.”


There was some etiquette when the royal family was present at these meetings.

“General Kristand is the highest-ranking person in this place.
I leave everything to you.
So please speak freely.”

When everyone is seated, Kreschenta told Bogan.

Military rank and aristocratic rank are a bit complicated.
Therefore, especially when the royalty is present, it was customary to have all authority entrusted to them unless the royalty's the one who took command.
It would be disrespectful to talk about the future while disregarding the royalty, and if the royalty gave their opinion on, no matter how absurd the content was, it would be impossible to say no.

For this reason, it is necessary for the royalty to delegate authority to the commander who's there, and only then can the commander judge the situation and have the power to reject even the opinions of the royalty.
This is a necessary step for the army to function as an organization.

First of all, a report on the current situation from the 2nd corps commander.”

“Yes sir.
The 2nd Corps currently has 3,800 members who are able to fight.
The number of those who can return is estimated to be about 200.
Morale is high with no supply problems.
That is all.”

Kolkis-Agrand, a big, gallant man, answered.
As expected in front of the princess, his volume is slightly lower than usual.
The 2nd Corps, fighting in the center of the battle, is always forcing the enemy to bleed heavily, thanks in part to the valiant fight of the corps leader Kolkis.
Although they were losing some men, they were also inflicting heavy losses on their opponents, and could be said to have a comparative advantage.

“3rd Corps, there are 2,800 combat-capable soldiers.
There are 100 people who can return.
Supply is going smoothly, but it's hard to say that morale has improved since the other day.”

The third corps commander Terrius Melchikos, a man with eagle nose and somewhat resembled Dagra, reported.
The Third Corps, which had been breached by Gildanstein the other day, is heavily worn out.
Although it was good that the breakthrough was derailed by cooperation with Bogan's reinforcements, but some were demoralized by Gildanstein's ferocious attack.

“The 4th Corps has 4,300 combat-capable soldiers.
The number of those who can return is ……less than 100.
Supply is fine, morale is the same as usual, but seems a little fatigued.”

Morbidly thin.
The bony man is Eluga Faren.
He is not the type of man to inspire his men with his sword, but he is an intelligent general who excels at tactical command, even among those in the Christand army.
Although he was forced to withdraw due to Gildanstein's own counterattack, he once came close to Gildanstein's throat in a night attack.
As a result, the wear and tear of his men was low, and the morale of his men was high, but the 4th Corps suffered from some fatigue.

“The main camp is 1500.
No losses.

“Yes, sir.
The number of men I brought with me is 8,500.
Two thousand of them are archers, with hunters as the core.”

“Ohh, Two thousand.”

Terrius, the commander of the third corps, nodded his head in admiration.

“It is probably thanks to spreading the recruitment notice even to the villages.
The men who could ride were left behind due to a lack of training, as stated in my letter.”

“Ah, that's fine.”

Unlike infantrymen, who form a line and perform relatively simple movements, cavalrymen are completely different in the abilities required.
The use of expensive and costly horses requires abilities that cannot be met in a month of training at most.
It won't be a problem for the battle in the Dragon's Maw, especially since it was not a place where cavalry could make the most of their abilities.

“I would like some archers for the Third Corps.
Since there's also the loss to consider.”

“Ah, understood.
We'll do the allocation later.”

Bogan said so and pointed at the map on the table.
It depicted the area around Dragon's Maw.
The maps themselves are numerous and of good quality, as they are the subject of many anecdotes.

“The Third Corps is stationed in Mirskronia to the west, and the Fourth Corps in Bernaich to the east.
Both will be repairing and occupying the ruins of the fort on the mountain ridge.
In the center is the 2nd Corps, which is in the middle of a standoff at the narrow passage.
Overall, we can say we have the upper hand.
The reason I asked you all to gather here is to discuss tactical developments from this point on.”

Bogan folded his arms and rubbed his eyes.
The enemy was in front of him, and he had been pushing and pushed for nearly two months.
Naturally, Bogan is also very tired.

“His Highness is proceeding with caution.
He withdraws where he should withdraw, conserve his forces, and shave off our force.
It is a contest of endurance……but time is to the enemy's advantage.”

If they take their time, the uncertain element —— they don't even know how the surroundings will move.
It was the same for both sides, but the pure difference in population number is significant.
It was certain that there was more room left for conscription in the royal capital.

“I want to achieve decisive results.
The first objective is His Highness Royal Prince, but the second objective is to gaining total control of the Dragon's maw.
I believe that we will have the advantage in a decisive battle on the plains around the royal capital area.
At this time, we can focus on the second objective.
Any opinions?”

First and second objective.
On the battlefield, objectives should be unified, and there must always be a priority.
If two objectives exist at the same time, it will inevitably create confusion on the battlefield.
And the confusion will divide the army, creating a situation they will be defeated individually.
For this reason, in Christand it was established, that the order of priority of objectives should always be clear.

Defeating Gildanstein is naturally the most important objective in itself to end this civil war, but it would be difficult under the current circumstances.
If it is considered difficult in the current situation, priority is given to creating a situation that will make it easier, and another objective is prioritized over the primary objective by taking a temporary step back.
That is what it meant to narrow down the objective.

“Yes, I have an opinion if you only consider the second objective.”

And it was Krische who answered.
It was a difficult problem that had been on everyone's mind.
On the other hand, a roar runs through as Krische declared so easily.

“……Let's hear it”

Bogan gasped, too, but relief and anticipation swirled in his chest.
The restructuring of the First Corps was, of course, what Bogan expected and awaited.
Selene, who supplied Bogan with reinforcements that could withstand actual battles and gathered 8,500 soldiers on the side, showed more than enough success, and even though he was her father, her skills surprised him.
But what Bogan expected more than that was the young silver-haired girl in front of him.

Her strategy that had toyed with Sarshenka's.
The memory of that day is still fresh in Bogan's mind, and he was sure that she would be able to produce a decisive result in this situation.

“The day after tomorrow, let's launch a general offensive.”

“General offensive?”

The Third Corps will descend the mountain tomorrow and withdraw——we will use Bernaich in the east.”

You mean to handover the mountain?”

'Yes', Krische nodded.
It's not like she come up with it just now.
On the way to the royal capital the other day, she had a simple thought when she passed by it in the carriage.
What should she do to conquers the Dragon's Maw?

She drank the sweet tea, quenched her thirst, and ——

“That's right.
……We should surrender it to the enemy and burn the whole mountain.”

——She smiled innocently like a little girl, while saying that.

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