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Youjo Senki, Volumen 3, Capitulo 6


Chapter VI The Southern Campaign


SEPTEMBER 22, UNIFIED YEAR 1925, THE SOUTHERN CONTINENT

“We’ll take out all enemy artillery. Major von Degurechaff, what about your unit?”

“Huh? Reconnect me!”

“Give me HQ! We’ve got signal jamming, 1105! Request a bypass!”

The improvised field command post is in an uproar over the signal interruption.

On the southern front where the fighting has rapidly escalated, everyone has lost their cool.

…Well, that’s how it was on the Rhine. It’d be strange if you were composed on the battlefield. And here is Tanya, her days in the southern lands no different from her days in the west.

She already knows to try patching through HQ on the wired line when the wireless won’t connect.

She has experienced practically every type of combat communications problem possible in both trench and high-maneuver warfare. She’s versed in the countermeasures, so she doesn’t panic at this degree of trouble. She promptly proceeds through the checklist of actions that need to be taken. The radio operators immediately open a wired line to HQ.

Their efficiency is praiseworthy.

Despite the brief command chain disruption, they cope without hesitating.

But after a brief exchange, their faces go pale.

“It’s not jamming! There isn’t any noise! We have clear connections with units in the area! The issue is mechanical trouble on the 44th’s side!”

Ahh, damn it.

She curses in her head because she knows what that would have meant on the Rhine lines. The same surely goes for anyone baptized on that front.

“Keep calling! Shortwave is fine. Inspect our equipment one more time, just in case! Hurry!”

She wants to pin her hopes on a slim possibility, but she doesn’t expect anything.

Sometimes it’s better to be a pessimist and expect the worst on the battlefield rather than get your hopes up. Hope is important, but if you rely on that morphine in battle, you’ll be ruined.

I suppose you could say it’s going as expected? One of the radio operators promptly checks out the machine, but it’s fine. The machines are all operating normally. They insist that if everything here is fine, it means the 44th Mage Battalion is having mechanical trouble.

If that’s true, it’s not good.

This is a high-maneuver battle in the Barbad Desert. If they can’t contact the command post of Kampfgruppe Seven, the vanguard of the left flank, it will cause more than confusion in the chain of command.

What is going on? The officers are getting frustrated, but they have the self-control to not let it show on their faces.

It’s axiomatic that if officers get needlessly shaken in front of their soldiers, confusion will rapidly increase. Even the greenest officer, Second Lieutenant Grantz, knows that.

“We’ve established contact! On the shortwave!”

“The pass code matches!”

For a moment, relief drifts through the improvised field command post.

Tanya can’t help but have a sober opinion about that. I guess the younger officers and less experienced guys can’t help but think positively?

It’s not easy for a logical, economically minded person to form the habit of expecting the worst, either.

It’s even true in financial deals that aren’t life or death. The logic of behavioral economics brilliantly reveals that when you apply it to bubbles and crises. It must be hard to optimistically prepare for the worst on a battlefield for these guys who don’t have enough experience, Tanya grumbles in her mind.

“Major von Leinburg has been killed in action!”

It’s the worst news, but it doesn’t have to be a catastrophe, so she is relieved in her own way.

She takes a discreet glance around the command post and sees that the old-timers understand the situation well and are working their brains to get things under control. It doesn’t seem like things will descend into a damaging panic.

Not bad.

When she was criticized and sent to the south for trying to take matters into her own hands and nearly resisting orders, the silver lining was that she was able to bring her battalion. Thanks to that, the time she has to spend on education is halved.

No, if she delegates part of it to her subordinates, she can halve it again.

In other words, rather than having to educate everyone at her own expense, she can get away with bearing only 25 percent of the burden of time and effort. Now that’s what you call efficient.

Anyhow, any outstanding organization is constantly being maintained so its gears don’t rust. Humans are the guts of an organization. And naturally, an army incorporates fatalities into the planning and maintenance of its organization.

In other words, things are arranged so that the death of a single Kampfgruppe commander, no matter how great a soldier he was, won’t disturb the logic of the military organization. An army that is an aggregate of countless people who can substitute for one another is a terribly expensive but extremely resilient organization.

“HQ is calling Kampfgruppe Seven over a wide area!”

They lost contact with Major von Leinburg. Though it came in via shortwave, the report from the friendly unit is that he was killed.

Unless people really have their heads in the clouds, command is transferred to the next officer in line as soon as possible to minimize the impact to the chain. And in the Empire, where they’re used to wars, command succession is rare but not unheard of.

Sadly, in this war, however, so many high-ranking leaders have fallen that command succession is becoming normalized.

“As of this moment, command of Kampfgruppe Seven falls to Major von Degurechaff. They say to get to work on reorganizing the lines immediately!”

“Degurechaff, roger. You can tell HQ.”

The delivery of the notification was skillful enough to suggest it was well-practiced, and Tanya shouts her assent. She wants to yell about how she’s being overworked, but she just barely manages to deny herself and refrain.

As the deputy commander of Kampfgruppe Seven, her duty under these circumstances is to make the best judgment possible.

As long as it’s her duty, avoiding it is against her contract.

Premodern barbarians may have committed such injustices, but as a cultured citizen with a modern education, she absolutely cannot. So to carry out her duty, she pulls out a map that shows what vague enemy information they have and starts to get a handle on the situation.

Then just as she leans over to mark the place where Major von Leinburg and his unit were attacked…

…something grazes her back.

Her body reacts before her brain has time to think. She instantaneously covers her head and hits the ground.

Guided essentially by experience, she crawls along the earth on alert for another shot. Right after that, something rips a hole through the tent, and she hears the awful sound of whatever it was ricocheting off a building outside.

Judging from the direction, it came from extremely close to the Commonwealth-Republican Army’s defensive position.

“They’ve got snipers out! Shit, 40 mm anti-magic sniper rounds!”

Someone shouts a warning, and people sluggishly start to respond, but it’s too late. I’m so impatient I want to scream at them that a civilian security company would respond faster.

They don’t even have to check the damage to know what kind of ordnance is being used any mage is familiar with it.

The 40 mm anti-matériel rifle. It’s the most powerful non-magic gun.

More often pointed at mages than matériel, it’s popularly known as the anti-magic rifle. It’s a natural enemy of any mage.

By comparison, getting shot at with shells with heavy metal casings that can almost nullify interference formulas isn’t scary at all.

You can take several direct hits from most heavy machine guns, and in the worst case, your defensive shell will block them.

But these 40 mm rounds hardly meet any resistance ripping through protective films and can pierce defensive shells, too.

Apparently, the Commonwealth is quite proud of them. Like they resign themselves to hunting mages instead of the traditional foxes or something. They probably supplied the Republic with these guns, too.

Damn that country. If nothing else, they always take sports and war seriously. Well, I’ll just consider us lucky we’re not being used for duck-hunting practice.

“Suppressive fire! Pin the enemy down!”

We have perimeter defense to prevent just these sorts of hazards from getting anywhere near us. The fact that it isn’t functioning in the slightest pisses me off. Some of us are working diligently, so what is everyone else doing?

Their inaction makes her want to clench the sand in her fists and scream as she lies on the ground. She can’t stand it. Their performance is so terrible, she wants to shout her voice raw, inquiring what the hell the people around her are doing.

Though a 40 mm is small enough for a person to carry, it’s not the sort of thing you can hide. This is such a screwup that if these weren’t second-string troops, she would consider it willful laziness. She suppresses her emotions and keeps herself from clicking her tongue, but her anger won’t subside.

If they had been properly on guard, the enemy couldn’t possibly have gotten this close. We can’t be getting sniped at so easily normally it would never be allowed.

On top of that, I can’t believe I’m the one who nearly got shot. They almost took my head off.

It’s terrifying to think my logical ideas, which have the potential to contribute to anthropological economics, could be ended with savage violence…

My human capital investments nearly defaulted.

If she weren’t so short, I would have been in trouble. Tanya realizes she is thankful for her height for the first time in a while.

If she had been just a little bit taller, she would have taken a direct hit to the head when she bent over. She isn’t sure whether to feel happy or sad, but given that she’s alive, she opts for happy.

In any case, what she immediately thinks of are the basic steps to countering snipers. The classic way is to thoroughly bombard the suspected hiding place. Not that the Imperial Army’s supply lines are sturdy enough to allow for such extravagant shell use. But lamentably, if not doing it puts me in danger, it must be done. After all, if we were in trenches, we could sweep through area by area, but this is a desert. Here, the enemies can hide in the shadows of sand dunes, so it would take an awful lot of time and effort to find them.

“Blow up the entire area to get the snipers!”

In that case, in order to keep myself safe, unhesitatingly attacking the whole area is the correct choice. You may not be able to use that tactic in the city, but in the desert, there’s no need for scruples.

“What was our direct support doing?! Get rid of them now!”

Just then, her aide-de-camp Weiss gains temporary control. He takes the lead on eliminating the snipers by sending the response team as reinforcements.

Thanks to that, Tanya can focus on patching up the chain of command, which she’s grateful for.

Yeah, no matter the era, an exceptional vice commander will always come in handy. He’s so brilliant that if I were in Personnel, I’d be advocating for his promotion.

Anyhow, having left the odd jobs up to her subordinate, Tanya has to get cracking on her own prioritized list of tasks.

She can’t just wait around for orders and intel to come in. If she doesn’t get an understanding of the situation and decide what to do about it soon, they could suffer losses. That makes even Tanya nervous, but she can’t let the people around her see that.

Luckily, the radio operator and the apparatus are safe. They had contact.

She should handle things calmly, with the usual smile.

Just like negotiating, this situation can benefit from putting up a brave front.

“This is Major von Degurechaff. I’ve assumed command. Report your status.” She laughs as she warmly informs the radio operator, “I nearly just met the same fate as your boss.”

The reply comes back filled with the same humor.

If she can smile, then they can smile back, I guess.

That’s a good sign. If it were a stiff, nervous newbie who had survived, she would have lost hope.

It’s always easier to do your job when you have a partner, or competitor in a negotiation, who you can trust. That’s gotta be true not just in business but everywhere.

“44th Battalion to CP. Captain Carlos here, I’ve taken over command.”

She also appreciates that he asks if she’s injured. A commander can’t let any complaints slip out under these circumstances, so even if you’re hurt, all you can do is deal. Man, even the lower-ranking officers in the Imperial Army have guts. Ahh, Tanya adds in her head, suddenly feeling relaxed, this is fun. After all, if anyone goes into hysterics, the only thing to do is “accidentally” shoot them, so nothing helps more than having tough officers.

The fact that he’s not in total panic, even though his commander was just blown away, is worthy of special mention. Of course, even corporate life would have been fun with this sort of subordinate.

Thinking back on all the trouble and confusion training successors entailed, I feel like there’s a lot companies could learn from the army. I should write a book about this for corporate managers.

A business book about administration strategy based on military strategy sure would have been useful; the needs are definitely there.

“Captain Carlos, this is Major von Degurechaff. Your reception’s bad. Can you improve it?”

The trouble is the grainy signal. She has a connection but via shortwave, and on a battlefield, the quality is outrageously bad.

“My apologies. This is the best I can do. An enemy sniper took out all the machines.”

“I guess this is what we have to work with, then. Well, let’s get down to business.”




The trip south on the boat was quite pleasant. Maybe it was because their ride was a converted Reichspost cargo ship. For a ship to transport troops, it was remarkably comfortable.

Come to think of it, the good treatment probably relaxed them too much.

But there was nothing to be done about that. Having just enjoyed the officer mess lunch of which the navy was so proud, Grantz and the others felt they had gotten a proper meal for the first time in a long while. Even the battalion commander was pleased enough to give it passing marks.

That said, it’s her fault that we’re here in the first place.

…She had attempted to exceed her authority right before the cease-fire. Normally, that was the kind of spark that could cause major problems.

After all, it was an outrage more like resisting orders than overstepping her authority. The operation was rejected by the normal procedure, and then her appeal was rejected. All that was fine. But once she grabbed the base commander’s lapels and essentially threatened him, there was no way to cover it up.

They had been just about to sortie after she shook off even his efforts to stop her. Yes, their sincere, conscientious battalion commander did that. It was enough to make First Lieutenant Weiss, her longtime aide-de-camp, wonder under his breath if she would get court-martialed. For a while, it kept seeming like her summons would arrive.

But ironically, the arrival of an external threat blew all those issues away.

The intervention of the Commonwealth…

Nominally, the Republic had asked the Commonwealth to mediate peace negotiations.

But then the negotiators offered the same terms that were rejected in the “notice” they sent before with the assumption they would be rejected again.

As such, anyone could see they had no intention of mediating peace talks. The terms were too biased. There was even a one-sided “final notice.”

Of course, the Empire spurned the Commonwealth’s ultimatum. As everyone expected, it was flatly rejected at once.

But what the Empire didn’t expect was the Republican government’s declaration of total resistance. The Empire had been negotiating for peace with the Republic under the assumption of a conditional surrender. Instead, General de Lugo, leading the escaped remnants of the army, declared resistance as vice minister of Defense and began claiming that he and his supporters were the true Republican government.

Officially, of course, the government was in the capital occupied by the Empire, but the troops and most of the colonies sided with de Lugo.

Contrary to their beliefs that he was a Commonwealth puppet, de Lugo proclaimed the Free Republic. He mustered the colonies on the southern continent and called for continuing the war against the Empire.

And the Republican forces stationed on the politically tumultuous southern continent were too heavily equipped to be called regional patrol units. The mages stationed there with an eye on countering the Commonwealth or the Kingdom of Ildoa posed no small threat.

It went without saying that the Imperial Army General Staff was at wit’s end.

The Free Republic, which allied itself with the Commonwealth, was capable of mobilizing all of that against the Empire. The trick was to leave more than a certain number of troops on the mainland while taking care of the situation on the southern continent; faced with such a challenge, the higher-ups apparently decided that they needed Grantz’s battalion commander, even though she had a tendency to take matters into her own hands.

They did cancel all her pending decorations applications from the Rhine front, though. She couldn’t be completely defended. On the other hand, that was as far as their ire went.

When it came to the commander, that treatment did seem par for the course.

But as a result, people ended up conscious of how valuable it was to have a strong mage force. Grantz and the others were surprised and delighted by the much-improved pay they ended up getting.

The one problem was that despite the raise, in the desert-covered southern lands, there wasn’t really a way to spend their salary anyway.

The southern continent was famous for its harsh climate, so they could accept their fate to some extent, but they couldn’t help but want to whine about how badly they longed for an ice-cold beer.

Other than that, they were on board with the strategy of striking the Commonwealth and Republican colonies to take away their ability to continue fighting.

Cracking down is a fine strategy.

Both Lieutenant Weiss and the commander basically agreed on that point.

The issue was the quality of the troops who were deployed to the south. They were undoubtedly second-string units. The reserves and replenishments that had been scraped together were severely lacking in training.

They were so bad they made even Grantz, who had been treated like a chick still wearing its eggshell on the Rhine front, seem like a fully prepared soldier. Surely that was why they saw value in using a unit baptized in iron on the Rhine.

The gossipy old-timers placed bets on when General von Romel, the corps commander, would explode. Incidentally, the most popular wager was that he had already lost his temper.

That was how it was. The battalion was more than welcome due to all the veterans.

One look at the transport ship was enough to see how wholeheartedly Commander von Romel welcomed them. He clearly expects a lot from us. And having things expected of you isn’t a bad thing.

…I want to punch my past self for thinking that.

Magic Second Lieutenant Warren Grantz mentally gave his past self a light wallop and then moved to focus on the situation before him.

The mission was simple.

It was a mission to counter snipers. In this limitless rolling desert zone with no shortages of hiding places, they had to find camouflaged snipers. The enemy was smart; they wouldn’t be found so easily. So Grantz and his units’ only option was to blow the whole area sky-high using explosion formulas, but that method caused its own problems. No one had any idea how they could confirm whether they got them or not.

“HQ to all units. I say again, HQ to all units.”

On top of that, the desert dust put even their durable infantry rifles out of commission. The other machines were hopeless. Computation orbs did all right, but the bullets for holding formulas required frequent inspections on this battlefield. No matter how reliable the newest Type 97 Assault Computation Orb was, if the critical magic bullets weren’t stable, it was nearly impossible to function.

But the higher-ups didn’t take that into consideration. Or rather, they couldn’t. After all, Commander von Romel was going to wage his maneuver battles no matter how crazy the environment was.

The announcement came in and said there were no changes in their orders.

“Close the flanks! I say again, close the flanks!”

It was maneuver warfare the moment they landed.

Everyone was for attacking the enemy while they were off their guard, thinking it would take some time for them to get their supply lines and other logistics together.

“Fairy 01 to Kampfgruppe Seven. It’s just as we heard. We’re pushing the lines forward.”

“Cerberus 01 to Kampfgruppe Three. We’re following Kampfgruppe Seven. Be ready to support the breakthrough!”

The problem lay with the doctrine of swinging around the back to encircle and annihilate while the center pinned the enemy down. The guys on the sea side had it a little better, but no one could stand being ordered to perform an outflanking maneuver in the sand.

A long-distance march in the desert, with barely any landmarks…

And they did it at combat speed. Just the thought of Kampfgruppen Seven and Three’s level of training made them want to go back to the mainland or the beaches at Brest.

“Prepare for formation flying! Stay in position!”

“Check the beacon. You report directly to the battalion commander!”

Formation flying orders…

They followed the orders from CP and checked their receivers.

Sure enough. The one putting out the guiding beacon was the battalion commander. Apparently, Major von Degurechaff was flying in the lead.

The guys from the Kampfgruppen were merely surprised, but what she was doing must have been really hard.

She’s commanding combat while leading the flight. Her brain must have superhuman processing power. I would get caught up navigating and be worthless as a commander.

Though such thoughts were running through his mind, Grantz prepared himself with practiced motions. This was his first highly mobile battle in the desert, but the basics were the same as always.

He hadn’t been at it for very long, but through repetition he had mastered taking an unsentimental view and prepping efficiently.

“If you don’t wanna go blind, check your goggles!”

At the same time, as a young officer he was abundantly flexible and adaptable. He was one of the first people to understand why Major von Degurechaff brought out bigger aviation goggles for desert combat.

Lots of people complained about the big, heavy new goggles, but Grantz made sure his subordinates wore them.

They could mitigate the light to some degree and provided protection against sand. He understood instinctively that they were required gear for fighting in the harsh environment on the southern continent.

“Fairy 01 to Kampfgruppe Seven. Begin the advance!”

“All right, let’s get going!”

Thus equipped, they would fight a war. It didn’t matter where or what the environment was like that was the will of both Second Lieutenant Grantz’s country and the other countries.

So the soldiers had to do it.








THE SAME DAY, FREE REPUBLIC PROVISIONAL NATIONAL DEFENSE MEETING

The side making gains in battle surely celebrates. Meanwhile the side suffering the losses finds the situation intolerable.

Having drained his tea with a sigh, General de Lugo was looking up at the ceiling with a fed-up expression on his face. A nasty blame game was raging before him with no end in sight. He glanced at the participants before lowering his eyes to the documents on the table.

Just getting one combat report together had required so much effort. Drafting the report of a single encounter had taken a lot out of him. He picked up the papers. Rather than conveying the course of the battle against the Imperial Army, most of the reports were made up primarily of criticism of colleagues and self-praise.

It seemed like the colonial troops still took honor, courage, and chivalry very seriously and thought it was their duty to devote most of the pages of their reports to those topics. It was a truly unfortunate, outdated state of affairs.

He scoffed in secret, thinking that a meeting for the sake of a meeting was a great way to put it. They were liable to destroy themselves before they managed to take back the fatherland. The discontent of the troops who had followed him from the mainland was also near the breaking point.

…But. No, now I can actually act.

It was because he saw the opportunity that de Lugo was patiently going along with this farce. He needed to hold out for the right timing.

“Let’s consider an operation to retake Turus.” Having decided the time was ripe, the supreme commander ignored the tumult in the room and made his declaration.

Before the escape, de Lugo had been a major general. It was an awfully high rank for his age, but there were many who had reached it before him.

And in fact, he was the youngest general in the room, and it was quicker to count him rank-wise from the bottom. Normally, he was one of the generals who should have yielded to more senior officers.

Yet, he sat at the head of the table due purely to duty. He was vice minister of both defense and the armed forces. It was because of his authority to take command of the army in case of emergency that he was able to lead the Republican forces now.

“Are our forces concentrated?”

“I beg your pardon, General de Lugo, but what did you just say?”

Of course, though he had the authority, that was only on paper.

Even though the generals dispatched to the colonial defense forces had fallen off the promotion track, they were still de Lugo’s seniors.

They weren’t about to submissively listen to a general far younger than them who had graduated from the academy far more recently.

Not to mention, de Lugo mentally added, viewing the situation objectively, these generals who got sent to the colonial armies probably don’t think there is anything interesting about someone who stayed on the track at Central.

De Lugo knew better than anyone that although they were nominally gathered to take back the fatherland, the situation inside the Free Republic was rather chaotic. In spite of this, it was lucky the colonial army accepted his command at least organizationally.

Well, one could also say that rather than agreeing to him leading, the colonial commanders had no other moves to make and just didn’t object. Still, de Lugo was the most competent among them. And he was blessed in that he had home country units he could rely on.

While some of the troops he had brought with him were lacking in actual combat experience, some who been on the Rhine lines, and others had been in the middle of getting their equipment upgraded at Central, so overall they were quite powerful.

And since the command structure had been built around de Lugo from the beginning, the forces were cohesive and well disciplined.

Even if there were some supply issues, the troops that escaped from the homeland were still the ones best equipped. They were better off than the soldiers who had been in the colonies for a long time. That in itself spoke to the standards of the colonial forces. Above all, it was clear that the elite mages from home were a notch above the troops they joined up with.

But de Lugo mentally cautioned himself.

That’s as far as it goes.

They were relying on the colonial army for their connection to the administration and logistical support. On top of that, even if they were only sent here to be kept on payroll and nothing else, there were far more generals in the colonial forces than in the mainland troops he had brought.

As a result, their relationship had been awkward, and rather than engaging in combat as an organization, they were more or less acting independently.

“They are, but I oppose.”

More than anything, de Lugo’s position was vague. Just the order to concentrate the troops meant getting hit with a lot of red tape and bargaining. He faced opposition from the passive, do-nothing colonial bureaucrats.

Even if he said something in a meeting, the other generals coolly argued back and that was it. “Our ‘outdated’ values are an expression of our chivalrous spirit upholding honor and self-respect,” they would say with straight faces.

But de Lugo knew that ultimately, they were just resisting him going over their heads; that was the real issue.

And even today, they were opposing the advance of the army he had gathered to take back Turus. It was always like that, like pouring new wine into old wineskins.

The units were supposed to support the Commonwealth defense, but when the Commonwealth requested reinforcements, he shamefully had to tell them they didn’t have the fuel. Maybe we just don’t get along, but that was an idiotic mistake.

When the chief of logistics calmly informed him they didn’t know where to get fuel, de Lugo had to push the boundaries of his patience. He wanted to scream back at him, How many years have you guys been governing this colony?!

On top of that, unbelievably, some of the units had been assigned to protect the generals’ own interests. This was what they got for taking idiots who thought of colonial service as leisure time and leaving them to their own devices. The generals had interests in so many colonial assets that the troops could no longer move freely.

So de Lugo made a decision.

If your wineskin is old, the only thing to do is get a new one.

“Sorry, are you all opposed?”

And besides, once an order comes down you don’t get to oppose it. Where do you guys get the nerve to resist? He had been thinking it for some time but kept talking himself down until today.

“Yes, it’s vital that we defend key locations.”

“We can’t agree to this sort of operation.”

The colonial generals were completely caught up in their own interests. Really, he would like to have the military police expose them, even personally, but a war was on, and the enemy was right up ahead. His top priority was to cut inept generals from the chain of command. Under the circumstances, he didn’t even care if that meant some golden parachutes.

Of course, once he resolved to carry out a reshuffle, he prepared carefully. The units they commanded were already under his control de facto. He had nipped in the bud the possibility of a military resistance. The NCOs and lower-ranking commissioned officers were the first he turned.

Now he simply had to replace the command structure of the gathered colonial army. Regardless of the generals, there were actually lots of great noncommissioned officers and soldiers of lower rank in the colonies. Colonial service was a one- to two-year rotation, and the fact that he could expect most of them to follow orders from Central was no small boon.

Additionally, de Lugo had a tight hold on the reins to the escaped units. Now that he was sure he could do the reshuffle and unify the command chain, there was no reason to hesitate any longer.

All I need to do is dismiss these guys. Keeping his voice matter-of-fact, de Lugo proceeded with the plan he envisioned.

“I believe I’ve grasped the situation. If you’re that strongly against it, then I have no choice.”

“General de Lugo, do you mean to say that you understand?”

“Yes. It’s too bad, but it would probably be difficult to command in an operation you so oppose. I would never want to pressure you to do such a thing.”

Things would end quickly. By the time most generals realized something was up, he had to be ready. Which is why de Lugo then played his trump card: control over personnel.

“I’ve found other more suitable positions for all of you. You can go as you are, so please serve in the government office as councilors.”

Councilor in the colonial government on the southern continent was, frankly, a sinecure to warm up the window seats at the government office. It was usually given to people missing in action until they were found, unless they were declared dead.

It was a clear statement that your presence or lack thereof didn’t matter. To put it another way, it was an appointment that assumed your absence. Of course, that meant it completely removed all your real power which was only natural since it was a post a person missing in action was meant to fill. No one expects someone MIA to get any work done.

““General de Lugo?!””

The generals kicked up a fuss once they finally realized what was happening, but de Lugo had zero intention of lending them an ear.

He already had written appointments for all of them. The vital mid-ranking officers in control of the units in the field were all backing him. He had exercised his power over personnel and forced through the reshuffle precisely because he could solve the problem without it evolving into an obnoxious fight.

“Your orders have been arranged. Now then, if you’ll excuse me, I have an operation to lead. It may not mean much, but I hope you find success in your new endeavors.”

Leaving them with that in a voice that said the decision was final, he stood roughly and laid a hand on the door to leave. With no mind to listen to the jumble of distressed shouts behind him, he felt refreshed. I sure told them.

He wouldn’t let them wreak havoc in the army anymore. No, he wouldn’t let anyone get in his way. After leaving the former commanders in their uproar, de Lugo proceeded straight to another room where others were on standby.

“Gentlemen, sorry to keep you waiting. Let’s get this operation going.”

It was the combat commanders who stood and saluted him. The ones from home plus the ones from the colonies made up his staff. This was the entirety of the Republican Army, the Free Republican Army. In order to carry out organized combat, they chose de Lugo.

And he knew that was why he was able to unify the command chain so rapidly.

“Okay, what’s our status?”

It may have been cornered, but the Republic still just barely counted as a major power. Trying to make a comeback in the colonies, it had more than a little talent in its ranks. In its staff, in its general, and in its seasoned soldiers, it had retained the framework of an army.

Its officers with combat experience could hold their own when it came to analyzing the necessary data and planning operations.

It wouldn’t be at all difficult to slaughter the Empire’s two divisions if they clashed properly. And de Lugo knew how important it was to think of a plan for clashing in that way. The enemy general Romel had taken out the Commonwealth forces in surprisingly mobile battles before they could even assemble.

So there was a common understanding that a decentralized advance to engage would be reckless.

And since logistically it was hard to move a concentrated army in the desert, supplies were also a major limiting factor. The problem of where to get water could never be ignored when moving a large army around. Water had to be prioritized over everything else in the desert. Running short even once could turn into a supply crisis. Soldiers without oil simply have to walk, but soldiers without water die of thirst.

The imperial forces, on the other hand only one corps could probably advance all together. They did have to deal with the water issue, but since they had fewer people, it made things easier. Surely, that had to be the case.

Naturally, de Lugo could expect that if they advanced separately, the imperial troops would destroy them all.

“Everything’s going according to plan. The Imperial Army is on the move.”

That was why he had made so much noise about retaking their lost land. He had serious doubts whether those generals could maintain confidentiality, so he had emphasized it. To create the illusion they were making that move, he gathered a lot of supplies and simultaneously took a look at the various routes.

The imperial forces were far from incompetent. Surely, they understood the Republicans wanted to capture their base. According to intelligence de Lugo had received via the Commonwealth, they were already building defensive lines in Turus.

The status showed that the enemy thought exactly what de Lugo wanted them to think.

“Well, then!”

But… He grinned.

Every person present responded with a scheming look. This situation was exactly what they were gunning for.

General von Romel was exceptional. Any officer who saw his war records would admit it. He was the top authority on maneuver warfare of his generation, and de Lugo praised him for it despite being his enemy.

After all, everyone understood the difficulties involved in a mobile battle in the desert. How hard it would be to pull off a timely split-up advance in the sand where you were liable to lose track of your own position!

Just his ability to quickly move troops in an organized way through the desert was worthy of admiration. That said so much for his organizational efficiency it made de Lugo sick. If their opponent was this militarily adept, wrangling with them head-on was too much of a risk.

Naturally, the enemy general would understand that though the city was at the mouth of a bay, it would be impossible to defend if surrounded. But even a child would know not to take on all the Republican troops on the southern continent with a single corps. In other words, it would be simple for anyone to recognize the need to resolve this situation.

They could probably also recognize that the competent soldiers of the imperial military would have some ideas about how to do that, if not many. For instance, withdrawal. If the enemy didn’t feel the need to defend the base to their deaths, they could retreat to Ildoan territory.

But. De Lugo smiled inwardly. The Imperial Army didn’t have any choices. As an expeditionary force, even if they wanted to retreat, they would absolutely need to secure port facilities. And the only port facilities they could use at the time were those in Turus.

They did still have the option of retreating to the Kingdom of Ildoa…but it was probably safe to consider that one politically unacceptable.

In that case, anyone could understand the conclusion that striking units before they concentrated was the only move the Imperial Army could make. It was a textbook scenario, and for that reason, de Lugo could also guess how the imperial officers would handle it. They would take all the fighting power they could and secure local numerical superiority to strike the Republican units that were probably advancing separately. With that, they would achieve a mobile defense.

That had to be the best answer available to Romel.

Since he knew that, de Lugo had no need to send his individual units out to get destroyed. On the contrary. He would lure the enemy out of their nest, overwhelm them with a large force, and crush them.

“Yes, the report is that they’ve sortied.”

And the notification he was waiting for had already come in. The Commonwealth Intelligence had volunteered to do recon, and they had a handle on the situation in Turus.

“The Imperial Army has left Turus.” They received the report in almost real time. At that point, the Imperial Army was doing just what the Free Republican Army wanted it to.

They think they’re going to surprise us and attack while we’re advancing all split up. It’s a truly by-the-book method of coping with this situation. We’ve cornered them so badly, they have no other options left.

All we have to do now is destroy them.

“Ahh, now there will have been a point to fighting these dopes.”

In order to lure them out, the Republicans had intentionally leaked their strategic objectives all over the place. They even performed highway maintenance to throw their enemy off track. Well actually, de Lugo had the field engineers devoted to building a minefield, so the infantry were the ones “working” on the highway, but still.

At any rate, their deception was paying off.

The Empire has crawled out of its nest. All we have to do now is hit them while they’re blithely on their way to carry out their “sneak attack.” For a short distance, the supply lines will manage even if we concentrate our forces. Even if the imperial forces notice us concentrating and retreat, I don’t mind one bit.

At that point, the Republicans could carry out their decentralized advance unobstructed.

“All right, gentlemen. Let’s get ready.”

Finally.

It was how they all felt.

Finally, we can strike back at the Empire. They were elated.

The imperial forces intended to take them by surprise, so they prioritized speed over enemy spotting as they approached. The plan was to draw them into a minefield and hit them with a fierce attack.

The imperial forces may be elite, but we’ll catch them in a cross fire from our light, quick units and thoroughly obliterate them with our heavy units. That was how everyone felt as they formed up.

Now the day to achieve those results had come. In terms of numbers, the Republicans were sure they had the upper hand.

And when they fought them head-on, they wouldn’t necessarily be inferior then, either. Sure, their opponents were seasoned old-timers, but in this instance, numbers meant everything. Technically, they were both major powers. If one side overwhelmed the other with numbers, the winner would be decided.

“We strike back!”

“““Yes, sir!”””

And so, Republican morale was high. They were about to launch into their long-awaited counterattack. We’re gonna scare the living daylights out of the Empire!









OCTOBER 6, UNIFIED YEAR 1925, TURUS NAVAL BASE OUTSKIRTS

“Good grief. At this rate, I’m not going to even have any tea for teatime.”

After somehow managing to escape the blazing Turus Naval Base, trading with the nomadic tribes had been going brilliantly.

He thought he was getting along with them pretty well. The intelligence exchange was actually worthwhile, too. It was with the nomads’ help that he had been able to observe Turus Naval Base and get a handle on the Imperial Army’s movements.

But John did have one irresolvable complaint about his work right now: an absence of tea, which was a life-or-death matter for a civilized gentleman. The nomads enjoyed their own infusions, but it wasn’t the tea John loved. And when he tried, with no expectations, to request some from the home country, they heartlessly told him to procure it on the ground. Humans are weak creatures and hope even when they know things won’t turn out, so the indifferent response upset him.

Thus the man recalled his home country’s cold response and lamented dramatically. Well, there was the fact that John was in the desert and clad in the local costume, too.

He led a caravan, mingling with the nomads, clumping along atop a camel. He fit right in, and at a glance, you wouldn’t even notice him.

He was lucky he had managed to take on some officers who were familiar with the desert to some degree. Well, that was a silver lining, anyway. They would be able to keep doing business with some of the tribes, which would allow them to keep their intelligence net up.

His message had reached the Republican side fine, so John could finally take a break.

“…Whatever else happens, it seems like the reconnaissance will work out.”

Things were so calm he found time to complain. One could say his situation wasn’t too shabby.

“Dear guest, you will keep our terms, yes?”

“Of course, you have my word. I’ve got more confidential funds than I know what to do with.”

But a gentleman through and through, John lamented, Even though I’m sorely lacking tea, they say to rejoice that I have money? He wasn’t so lacking in elegance or John Bull spirit that he could be happy about that.

Sometimes he sadly wondered if the twits in Whitehall were too tainted by the ideas of the city. It really made him want to cry. Would that bunch in Whitehall honestly tell me to drink money instead of tea? He really wanted them to send him some or do something, at least.

He was of a mind to demand more attention to the welfare of agents working abroad. They don’t understand the suffering people go through one whit. Those pseudo-gentlemen who knew nothing about actual working conditions were such a pain.

But that was precisely why he needed to focus on the job before him, so he brought his attention back to the present.

“So that’s the situation. I’d like it if we could keep a good relationship.”

John had plenty of opinions, but he was an outstanding agent. He was maintaining observation and communication nets using the nomadic tribes. At the same time, he was providing weapons to some of them to support guerrilla activity. He had also contracted to receive any imperial prisoners they took and made an agreement for Commonwealth prisoners as well.

At any rate, John had built the network necessary to confront the Empire. It went without saying that it was an extraordinary amount of work.

John feigned calm atop the one-humped camel. He had made it through countless tricky situations. Once he even got caught up in a nomad conflict and roused his old bones to take up a rifle.

John was a fine fox hunter, but he had had enough of the camel-mounted cavalry attackers so much so that if he had a chance, he wanted to bring a submachine gun, or actually the new model of the imperial-made assault rifles would be good.

“The supplies we get from you help us, too.”

This was one of the tribes’ chiefs. About their dealings, he was positive. He welcomed the opportunity to acquire live ammunition to unify the tribes in the area. After all, since heavy arms, explosives, and the like were mainly acquired from abroad, securing a stable way to get them before the other tribes was a big deal.

But unlike John, they hadn’t sworn alliance to any nation.

“But if you want to see what we can do, shouldn’t you be sending in soldiers, too?”

…Which meant they often offered terms that people like John could never swallow.

The relationship between the nomad tribes and the Commonwealth had to be kept secret. If word got out that he was embedded in a tribe, he wouldn’t be able to infiltrate places as part of their caravans like he did now.

More than anything, clandestine activities had to be kept clandestine. For example, he absolutely couldn’t leave any record that he was working with the tribes behind the scenes in ways that could lead to an anti-Republic war in the Republican colonies.

John’s hardship would continue, so he made a wish. Please let the Free Republican Army do their job properly.







OCTOBER 12, UNIFIED YEAR 1925, IMPERIAL ARMY CAMP

“General von Romel, I’d like to make a suggestion.”

Even when the veil of night is about to fall, breaks are an unattainable luxury for members of the Imperial Army General Staff. The air fleet has turned in their final reconnaissance reports for the day, but the work of analyzing them with insufficient lighting and equipment awaits the staffers on the ground.

Still, just as everyone is thinking it will be a quiet night, Major von Degurechaff shows up, and the first thing out of her mouth is that she has a suggestion to make. Naturally, it’s especially surprising that a field officer would come to offer opinions at this time of day.

What could it be? they wonder.

That said, almost no one finds it suspicious. Degurechaff’s tone is not tense at all but utterly businesslike. And it’s not so uncommon for someone to suggest something to the commander.

Well, the time of day is somewhat odd…but it fits with the Imperial Army tradition of taking action.

So there are no reproachful glares saying, How rude. But it is strange enough that almost everyone looks over in spite of themselves, out of curiosity. What in the world is this field officer worried about?

To Tanya, though, that right there is what she wants to bring up. The indecisive gazes of the officers and their hesitation is exactly what makes her anxious. In this situation, under these circumstances, the faces of the staffers don’t seem worried at all.

She has to say something.

“What is it?”

Well, it’s wonderful to have a boss who will at least listen to you. A boss who increases incentives for his subordinates creates the best military environment. It’s so much easier to work with someone like this.

Tanya’s mood lightens as she senses that they will be able to get along and respect each other’s interests. That’s why she feels that they should step in to cover for each other, if necessary.

“I’d like permission to scout ahead of the main forces.”

Naturally, it’s a plan that serves both of their interests, although it conceals her true intentions. Tanya doesn’t want to do anything dangerous. Hence her desire to move cautiously.

The military would be in trouble if there was a miscalculation, right? And if that happened, the mages, by their nature, are the branch that would be worked extra hard doing recon-in-force and pursuit battles, essentially extinguishing the fire when it broke out.

Tanya is not the type to spare efforts now if she can reduce risk in the future.

“That could reveal our sneak-attack plan. What’s your intent?”

“I believe our knowledge of enemy movements is insufficient.”

Naturally, her outward expression of these sentiments is fully armed with logic. Armies are rational to a point. Oftentimes, they don’t make sense, but they can’t ignore reason completely. (That’s only natural. Arguing some theory that bends physical laws won’t help them defeat their enemies.)

“We’ve sent out reconnaissance units, though.”

“We’re currently dependent on the air force units in Turus.” Tanya understands their current dilemma, how difficult it is to perform recon while advancing, so she drives her point home before he can tell her that’s why they’re relying on the air force. “And we knew this, but air force units are limited by their navigation apparatus capabilities; it’s difficult for them to perform night reconnaissance.”

True, at a glance, it makes sense to send the air force to scout ahead of the advancing ground army. Certainly, it would be nearly impossible for the average foot soldier to scout ahead in a desert with no landmarks.

On that point, a reconnaissance aircraft, endowed with a navigation machine, does have the advantage. But at night, aircraft run into a lot of problems. Aerial photography capabilities are extremely limited at night, and it’s not uncommon to simply not be able to get any.

Of course, she knows that General von Romel and the staffers are doing their very best.

The army is focusing on advancing quickly and efficiently in order to strike the enemy forces before they can concentrate. Due to time limitations, they haven’t done anywhere near enough recon. The imperial military isn’t stupid enough to not worry about that, which is why aircraft were arranged, and they are handling the situation with cooperative efforts between the air and the ground. That’s an important, respectable achievement, and Tanya acknowledges that.

Still, no matter how great their efforts, there are too many technical limitations for aircraft to do reconnaissance of the ground at night. And the chance for accidents would be too great if they sent them up anyway. They can’t ignore the risk that the enemy could get a clue about their movements from a crashed plane.

“And even without that, our intel is incomplete.”

Disregarding those issues, Tanya is forced to point out, per her obligations as an officer, that the trickier problem is their limited field of vision.

Air units have conducted reconnaissance of the vicinity. But the problems with that are fuel and territory under enemy air forces. No matter how faithfully, no matter how earnestly they carry out their missions, there are still limitations, right? It has to be said.

And the air force reports they’ve gone to such lengths to get only one side of the situation. As a staffer, too, she has to point out that if they rely on the air too much, they run the risk of biased data or outright misunderstandings.

“Given these concerns, I firmly believe we should take precautions.”

In short, even if it’s only her outward-facing argument, those issues can’t be ignored so easily. And her suggestion is in the commander’s interest as well. Tanya is proud she can offer a win-win proposal.

“…All right. Permission granted.”

“You have my gratitude. I’ll take my battalion out immediately.”

She thanks him and exits the tent. She promptly calls up her battalion. Since First Lieutenant Weiss was on standby for rapid response, he answers in one ring.

Splendid. Satisfied with his performance, she alerts him they will be sortieing. After additionally ordering careful preparations, she races across the sand back to her own tent.

Long-range night reconnaissance. And in a desert, to boot. They need to double-check their navigation instruments. They have to be ready for the possibility of a sandstorm cutting off communications. They make all the preparations a unit operating solo can in the unique climate and environment of a desert.

Upon reaching her tent, Tanya takes a look at the navigation chart with the help of her adjutant, Second Lieutenant Serebryakov, and consults with Weiss to plan where they should search for the enemy. Considering the possibility of unforeseen encounters with recon forces, they split into companies. A total of four companies will fan out to form a line, and after searching, they will return to a designated meeting point. An orthodox method, but given the situation, it should be useful.

In order to resist the Republican forces during their decentralized advance, locating them is essential.

If she locates the enemy ahead of time under the pretext of officer reconnaissance, she decreases their risk of an encounter battle. She’s definitely not opposed to doing work behind the scenes to minimize danger in advance. It pleases her to do a reliable, thorough job.

More than anything she stifles a laugh, thinking back at how hard they got worked on the Rhine front I’m just glad it’s not recon-in-force.

Recon-in-force meant they had to go forward while getting shot at, whereas regular reconnaissance means all they have to do is bring back intelligence. Even if they have to be prepared to get shot at, it’s a lot more relaxing to fly when that isn’t the assumption.

Of course, she hasn’t forgotten that they’re on a battlefield where all risks apply. In a recon mission, there’s always the danger that the enemy will pursue, and she understands that. But right now, they haven’t received any reports of enemy contact in the entire area.

In that case, this should be a pretty enjoyable flight, and there’s also the option of discovering and striking small command posts.

Being safe is unconditionally wonderful. And getting results while safe is even more wonderful. The other important point is that in the opposite situation that is, if risks suddenly escalate past a tolerable level all the battalion needs to do is turn around and break away.

Thus, that night, Tanya ascends into the sky in a relatively relaxed state of mind.

Of course, even a desert gets terribly cold in the dark, but it’s quiet and calm, so the journey is a leisurely night flight. As someone with experience on the Rhine lines and in the north, and given the lack of nighttime scrambles and large-scale enemy units coming to attack, she finds the job a simple matter of flying through the tranquil sky.

That said, while at first she is glad for a smooth flight, as time goes on and they get farther out, a sense of unease gradually begins to grate on her.

It’s too quiet.

“…We could come into contact with an enemy patrol or commando units anytime now. Keep an extra sharp watch on the ground.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“All units, keep your guard up against the sky and the ground alike. We’re already close to the projected enemy location. Look out for patrols or commandos. Pay special attention to the dunes. Don’t miss any light sources.”

It’s entirely possible that the enemy is alert to the possibility of a search.

Conducting a decentralized advance in secret is a logical move. That means we have to be extra thorough.

But we fly and fly and meet no enemy. No matter how far we go, we don’t even spot any other life-forms besides us, much less the enemy.

“Fairy 01 to Fairy Battalion members.”

Normally, an empty battlefield is a welcome state of affairs. There aren’t very many people who want to cause trouble for themselves. So normally, we should be happy the enemy is nowhere to be found.

Still, there are a number, albeit a small number, of significant exceptions. For example, it’s no good if there is nothing in a space or territory where there is supposed to be something. That’s not nothing here, but something missing.

“Commanders, report in.”

“Company Two, no contact. We haven’t spotted anything.”

“Company Three, nothing besides us out here.”

“Company Four, contact negative.”

So the lack of an expected occurrence is a sign of a gravely worrisome situation.

“…That’s weird.”

This is a bit absurd.

The enemy isn’t here. They’re supposed to be here, but they’re not. If they were missing from one position that would be one thing, but if they’re missing from every position, you start to feel like you’re chasing phantoms.

It’s as if their decentralized advance is a sandy illusion.

…An illusion?

That’s a hypothesis.

But what if that hypothesis is reality?

The plan is to take out each individual group of enemies approaching in a decentralized way. I see; they’ll be too much to handle if they’re concentrated, but if they’re split into three, we’re able to overwhelm them both quantitatively and qualitatively.

So General von Romel didn’t make a mistake in having us go out to destroy them before they’re able to surround Turus Naval Base.

At least, not if the enemy is actually conducting a decentralized advance.

But they must not be. Our intention was to attack the split-up enemy before they concentrated, but the way things are going, there’s a good chance they’re actually concentrated now. They could even already be in battle formation.

Now then, our HQ still hasn’t been able to locate them. If, under these circumstances, we get attacked by an enemy force twice our size, what will happen? Clearly, we’ll end up on the bad side of Lanchester’s law. If the enemy is divided, we can win, but if they’re concentrated, we won’t be able to handle them.

“Connect me to HQ! It’s urgent! Hurry, it’s an emergency!” We thought we would make fun of them for advancing split up. Instead, they got us. No, perhaps the Imperial Army was arrogant. Full of regret, she raises her voice. “The Imperial Army was too conceited!”

How could we underestimate the enemy’s intelligence? What an error. The mistake of following precedent because we stopped thinking indicates inflexible reasoning and a lack of innovation. When we deployed to the south, we thought about facing a colonial army in an unconsciously biased way, and it’s taking its toll.

This is a trap. This has to be a trap laid by the Republican Army.

“They tricked us! The enemy isn’t here!”

Where are they? That’s obvious.

They must have fulfilled the rule of force concentration. They made efficient uses of the resources they had. They’re probably sneering at our naive predictions this very minute.

Because the concentrated enemy forces are surely committed to the main battlefield.

“Battalion commander to all companies. As of this moment, abort your missions. Gather up immediately. I say again, gather up immediately!”

As a commander engaged in a reconnaissance mission, Tanya knows exactly what this means. That’s why she gave the order to contact headquarters right away.

“You haven’t gotten HQ yet?!”

But the apparatus picks up noise… The area around their headquarters is already under heavy jamming, so their signals are blocked.

But just barely. They just barely manage to get a spotty connection. Tanya orders Serebryakov to explain the situation and tries to come up with countermeasures.

“…What are we going to do now?”

The problem is how to take care of things.

Reality is that the enemy field army is gathered together. We can’t expect interdiction missions like obstructing traffic or severing their supply lines to take effect before the forces attack.

And if their forces are concentrated, a simple comparison of fighting power shows we’re overwhelmed. Considering the progress of the battle, our options for supporting the main forces are limited, too.

After all, our corps have already advanced, lured by the honey of destroying the divided enemy troops. Armies can’t stop very easily once they’ve started. Even if HQ decided to retreat, the enemy wouldn’t let that stop them they’d follow close in pursuit. If that happened, the communication lines would be severed before the main imperial forces could even build resistance lines, and the southern front would go down in history as a major defeat.

Even if they retreat to Turus Naval Base, without command of the sea, it will only be a matter of time before they have to surrender.

Now, the important thing here is how I can run away without harming my military record.

Beneath her disgruntled face, Major Tanya von Degurechaff is deep in thought. If she doesn’t want the Imperial Army to lose, she can’t deny the possibility of going back to support the others. So for a moment, she seriously considers the idea, but she concludes it’s impossible. At this point, an imperial victory is out of the question.

We’re up against an overwhelmingly superior foe. If we can’t take them out, there’s no chance of winning.

And considering we’re in a desert, the option of holing up in the temporary defensive position set up by the field engineer team and waiting for the situation to change is hopeless. In a desert, water is precious. Probably as precious as gasoline. Maybe if we were near a water source, it would be different, but at any other position in the field, a couple days’ siege is enough to have us writhing in thirst. So defending a fixed point where there is no water is too dangerous.

“Water, water. Without water, we can’t fight a war… Shit, this is why I hate the desert,” Tanya gripes, but she doesn’t stop thinking.

Currently, it’s impossible for the Imperial Army to face a large force in the desert. They don’t have enough water. But if they retreat, the enemy will follow them forever. Even if they confront them, if they can’t defeat them all, they’ll run out of water and die of dehydration.

It’d be a terrible irony to suffer from thirst at Turus Naval Base with a view of the sea. No thanks.

Under the circumstances, the measure they could take to contribute to an imperial victory might as well be going and dying in a fight against the huge enemy army. No way am I taking any suicidal missions like that.

“All right, in this case the only thing to do is strike the enemy’s water!”

So Tanya narrows down her choices to the realistic supporting move of striking the enemy’s supply lines, after all. There has to be some kind of military support, or all their friendly troops will be wiped out. And this should protect her military career, as well. But. She suddenly regrets this idea.

Her battalion can take pride in being one of the best, but it’s still just a single aerial mage battalion.

Regardless of their abilities, they will be hopelessly outnumbered. Even if they were going to support the troops’ withdrawal, it would be practically impossible by orthodox methods. And even the long-range penetration in de facto enemy airspace to strike their water transport lines is just unreasonable. And in terms of securing their own water, too, the imperial maps had almost no information about nearby oases. Should we bank on friendly contact with local nomads? If it doesn’t work out, I’ll be the one suffering from thirst. I’m definitely not interested in that, either.

“Think, think… What is the enemy’s logic?”

The enemy thinks they’ve tricked us, so what’s the next logical step?

In short, the Republic Army feigning a decentralized advance thinks the imperial troops are concentrated.

Oh? No, that’s it.

“I see. The main forces certainly are concentrated. So how about we use their logic against them?”

As she mumbles, she continues her train of thought. And what if the enemy falls into the same bias that the Imperial Army was trapped in until moments ago? They think they have all our units pinned down.

Naturally, she can expect that under that assumption, the enemy won’t be paying much attention to the possibility of a powerful combat unit coming at them from behind. In a sense, it’s a prospect stemming from a wish. But in this situation, her human psyche gives her hope.

“Good,” she crows, but even if that hypothesis is true, she is still distressed about what her role will be. Certainly, it might be possible to cause some temporary confusion by jabbing them in the back, but…

Can the battalion maintain that confusion? Not sure. Even if they can create a break in the encirclement, God only knows if they can keep it open. In other words, you can put as much faith in that plan as you can in that bastard Being X.

Actually, the more she thinks about it, the more dangerous it sounds. If they do manage to punch a hole, the army will no doubt order them to hold their ground to keep it open even an instant longer.

Maybe I should just run away? But there’s definitely a court-martial waiting for her if she does that. Fleeing before the enemy and, on top of that, abandoning the troops to do so… She’s sure no one would protect her like they did when she screwed up off the coast of Norden.

In that case, her fate would be getting sent to a silent firing squad, getting shot after being repatriated and court-martialed, or if she was lucky, a messenger would deliver a pistol and tell her to commit suicide. Not many options.

There aren’t many ways to explain away fleeing before the enemy. No, you can try to gloss it over, but for better or worse, a soldier is expected to fight bravely. Anyone who takes a hike when their allies are in a crisis is just like unlucky Admiral Byng.

No officer wants the same fate as Admiral Byng who “failed to do his utmost.” Tanya has seen with her own eyes that there are officers in the field who would rather fight a reckless battle.

Of course, she never dreamed she would be in this position herself. If she had official orders to leave, that would be a different story, but since it’s common military sense in the present situation to rescue the main forces, surely General von Romel would give such an order. That fact can’t be ignored.

So then I should fight under the given conditions. All I can do is fight and find a way out of this up ahead.

My top priorities are survival and self-preservation. Therefore, it’s essential that I don’t appear to have abandoned my fellow troops, so if possible, I’d like one result of my actions to be that they take as little damage as possible. Still, only as little as possible. If I can prove they took less damage because of me, then the reality that I helped save them will lessen the criticism I receive over my lack of motivation.

Okay, so how can I uphold my reputation while minimizing damage to the troops and also escaping to live another day? Looking back through history, you see there is nothing more horrible than a fighting retreat. And in that case, even if you manage to survive, you didn’t really defend what you were supposed to.

Under the circumstances, it’s too risky to ask the heavily encircled main forces to withdraw with minimal casualties. But there are examples in history where both conditions were met. For example, the Battle of Sekigahara. The results of the clash between eastern and western armies are famous, right? Betrayal, conspiracy, hesitation? In any case, there’s a lot to learn there.

The final days of the defeated army were utterly miserable. Most of their territory was either seized or the meager kokudaka from its rice yield was gobbled up. In the first place, many of them failed to leave the battlefield. But there was a nearly crazy bunch who, despite participating in the battle, not only managed to get their general out but also showed off their martial zeal.

Their name? The Oni-Shimazu.

…The Shimazu clan?

In other words, the logic is that if we ram through the enemy and then leave, we’re not fleeing before the enemy?

No, but… Tanya feels somewhat conflicted. Let’s be honest. She mentally complains that breaking through the enemy and making it back is mission impossible.

I’m not sure if the guys who can casually pull feats that warrant special mention in history think Kellerman’s charges are sane. This is a difficult era for a sensible person like me.

But if I must…

If I have no choice, that’s my duty.







EARLY IN THE MORNING OCTOBER 13, UNIFIED YEAR 1925, REPUBLICAN ARMY CAMP

“…It seems we’ve won.”

“Yes, General.”

The scene before their eyes was the Republic’s revenge on the Empire, something that most Republican soldiers had been dreaming of since the collapse of the Rhine front.

He had lured the enemy with false reports of a decentralized advance. Now he had them encircled with his concentrated forces and was about to annihilate them. They were going to do to the Empire exactly what had been done to them on the Rhine front, and the resulting pride invigorated not only the staff but the troops as well.

For General de Lugo, it was the first step in a counteroffensive for which he had prepared in every possible way. Of course, he was also relieved that the efforts he had put in so far were working.

It had taken a long time, but if they could defeat the Imperial Army here, they could reinforce their defense of the southern continent. They could take back Turus and turn it into a strong stepping-stone for a counteroffensive on the continent.

It was all finally within reach.

Which was why…

…the alarm going off grated so badly on his ears.

“M-mayday from the 228th Mage Company!”

What is going on? That was basically the look on the radio operator’s face as he delivered his report like a cry for help.

“The 12th Mage Battalion providing direct support for the right flank also requires urgent assistance! They say the enemy has almost broken through!”

The multiple dire reports from the right flank were added to the map with symbols showing the progress of the battle. Everyone looked at the new situation out of the corner of their eyes and fell silent. They knew it meant the mage units on the right flank were just barely holding out.

But they all hesitated. They could hardly believe it.

“Emergency alert from Division 7 Command! What seems to be a regiment-sized unit of enemy mages is attacking the right flank!”

“What?! We didn’t have them encircled?!”

Finally, the division headquarters had reported in about the enemy movements. The staff officers would have preferred a calmer notification, but unfortunately, such hopes were dashed.

The hoarsely delivered report from a high-ranking frontline officer said that they were being attacked by a regiment of enemy mages. It was such awful news that de Lugo wanted to shout, That’s not funny!

He thought he had them surrounded. Since the plan was to target the enemy flanks, the troops were trained specifically for counter–land attacks.

The job of stopping the pesky enemy mages was the mission of his own mages concentrated in the center.

Each flank also had enough mages to stop a battalion’s worth, just in case.

But if their opponent had a regiment… That could mean that almost none of the imperial mages on this battlefield had been surrounded.

“Of all the stupid! Then who are the mages in the center fighting?!”

But that’s not consistent with the intel we have! De Lugo fell silent and stared at the map their estimates of the enemy fighting force and the current actual scale of their mage units. There shouldn’t have been such a severe discrepancy between them.

It was true that his main mage force was engaged with what they believed was the main imperial mage force. He had just received a report that due to their numerical superiority, they were maintaining the upper hand.

So given the reports and the intel they had gotten ahead of time, there should be no way the enemy had mages to spare. But de Lugo pondered for just a moment.

If it were possible. Well, it couldn’t be, but… Do we only have numerical superiority because the enemy pulled a regiment of mages out of their forces?

But that would mean they basically have a brigade’s worth of mages in this battle. The possibility that our intel net missed that is greater than zero, but…I’m confident in our grasp on enemy movement.

The conclusion he had reached was that the Imperial Army had a regiment at most. That should have been all the enemy had. It shouldn’t have been possible for reserves to crawl out of the woodwork like this.

“Confirm if it’s really a regiment!”

So the composed part of his mind doubted whether it was really a regiment.

For example, maybe they were using some kind of deception to fool them into thinking the group was regiment sized.

Or the confusion could have caused a misunderstanding. But then what about all the reports from his units? He knew what they meant. Whether he could accept it or not was another problem.

“General de Lugo, we’ve already lost two companies!”

And most importantly…

The dazed looks on the staffers’ faces spoke volumes. De Lugo understood their disbelief and bewilderment quite well.

The fact that two companies had been taken down meant that there was an enemy force out there big enough to overwhelm them in an instant.

It would be different if they had put up resistance and been defeated. But if the enemy was stronger by the standard margin, the first message from a unit making contact would never be mayday.

“If the 12th Battalion is about to be breached, the enemy force must be at least twice the size of that.”

And on top of that, there was the report like a shriek from the battalion assigned as direct support. If they were almost broken as well, the delaying defense along the entire right flank wasn’t functioning as intended. Are you telling me there’s an enemy mage unit so powerful we can’t stop them even if we get support from the right flank division?

“Ngh. Send the mages from the center over as backup! At this rate, they’ll break the encirclement!”

De Lugo’s brain had fallen into worry on this outrageous turn of events, but Colonel Vianto’s shout rebooted it.

Vianto had recovered fastest of all the momentarily paralyzed staff officers.

Though they were behind, the others started to understand what needed to be done.

If the batteries on the right flank were hit, there would be no way to stop the enemy from leaving, so the right flank needed reinforcements.

…It was an utterly sensible plan.

But there was nothing sensible about their opponents. It happened the moment the unit was pulled and sent over.

“5th Mage Battalion to HQ! The enemy mages are rapidly approaching!”

The warning scream was from the mage unit directly supporting not the right flank but the center.

“Ridiculous! They’re not striking the batteries?!”

He had just sent the 2nd Mage Battalion and the newly pulled 1st Composite Mage Regiment over to the right flank.

But he was forced to realize, with utter loathing, that the enemy mages who had been running amok on the right flank had changed course.

The maneuver wasn’t even aiming to stop the reinforcements. For a moment, no one was sure where the enemy was headed.

It wasn’t a move to destroy the right flank’s encirclement, which had seemed to be on its last legs. No. And it wasn’t even a move to intercept the incoming backup.

It was a charge at the central Republican forces.

“They’re like devils…” The truth came out of Vianto’s mouth as a complaint.

Vianto was more familiar with mages than anyone else present, and he understood the enemy’s intentions. Or maybe it was more that he knew from experience what they would target next.

Striking the right flank was just one of their objectives. If the Republican Army had left them to their own devices, they would have broken through the right flank and left.

But what do they do if the Republican Army does the sensible thing and reinforces the right flank?

Simple.

They strike where units have just been removed: the center.

It wasn’t as if units would be taken from the left to go all the way on the right. To check enemy mages on the right, units would be taken from the center. Supposing the mages charged in a straight line, the noise and jamming would be such that their ability to detect enemies would be temporarily paralyzed.

Then if the Imperial Army moves based on the sign of reinforcements on the way?

That moment, Vianto instinctively understood the horrible truth, and his spine froze.

The mages were finally protecting the right flank. The exact instant they finished fanning out, they became useless. They couldn’t contribute a single thing at the decisive moment the center was being attacked. No, we made them useless!

The enemy maneuvers appeared to be the meanderings of a cornered group, but in fact they were more devilish than the devil, using tactics that were the height of cunning and extremely devious. The enemy mages were pulling off maneuvers Vianto wasn’t even sure were theoretically possible.

He thought he was well versed in the terrors of the imperial mages.

“General de Lugo, please fall back.”

“What?”

“The enemy is coming here! Damn it! They mean to re-create what they did on the Rhine front!”

They would take out the headquarters with a “surgical strike.”

Anyone would laugh it off as a bad dream, but the Empire executed it on the Rhine lines.

They broke through the Republican main lines, positions built to have incomparably tight defenses, and took out the fortresslike headquarters.

The panic that overtook the frontline units at the time was on a practically indescribable scale.

…And the current Republican Army didn’t have a substitute for de Lugo. It had just exchanged its old wineskin for a new one. It didn’t have another ready.

The Free Republican Army, as one could tell just from the name, had taken enormous efforts to achieve. So if the general at the head of the Republic fell now, of all times, continuing an organized resistance would be nearly impossible.

To the Imperial Army, even if its entire Southern Expeditionary Corps got wiped out, if they managed to take de Lugo with them, it would still be a victory.

No, it’ll be hard to take out the Imperial Army now. They’ll probably just get a little beat up.

And what will happen to our firepower and units if we send them out to face those mages?

At the very least, we won’t achieve our initial objectives.

“Men, protect the general. This is our final battle.”

The enemy broke through on the Rhine, but here Vianto couldn’t let it happen. He wouldn’t give the Imperial Army another headquarters.







THE SAME DAY, IMPERIAL ARMY CAMP

“Ha-ha-ha! Ha-ha-ha! Ha-ha! Ha-ha! Ha-ha-ha-ha!”

Hearing that laugh, the unlucky noncommissioned officers who were also in the armored vehicle grimaced.

Well, anyone has the right to grimace if their high-ranking commander bursts out laughing when they’re surrounded.

If he’s gone insane, this is going to suck. There was nothing terribly strange about their feelings.

Normally, Romel would have been considerate and held his laughter in. But for today, he just laughed and laughed, more than you would think a person could.

“Ah, this is truly amusing. Way to go, Major!”

Just this once, Romel couldn’t stop laughing. The scene before his eyes had made a tremendous impact that warranted the reaction.

He thought he could control her somewhat on a leash, but actually, she was much more effective when he let her go. She must have caught a whiff of something that’s why she wanted to go on recon so late!

He was grateful that she had seen through the enemy ruse and alerted him the Republicans were on their way before the main forces encountered them.

Thanks to that, he was able to prepare to face a superior enemy.

At the same time, if there were units outside the encirclement, you’d think they would aim to withdraw. But he felt stupid about thinking that when he saw what was happening.

“Is she is she retreating forward?! I have to laugh. Major von Degurechaff’s maneuvers are incredible!”

He had been puzzled when he heard the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion was engaging the enemy’s right flank. How much will it really do when their encirclement is almost complete? At that moment, he had resigned himself to losing the entire army.

He figured the 203rd Battalion’s efforts would only lengthen the time it would take to wipe them out and had even been considering ways to withdraw. If we do everything we can, maybe some units can escape, and if we’re lucky, maybe we can sow the seeds of a defensive line reorg.

So it took him a minute to understand that Degurechaff had broken off combat and charged straight into the center of the enemy formations. He didn’t realize it wasn’t a charge of resignation and self-sacrifice until the confusion in the center of the Free Republican Army gradually spread and enemy movements grew sluggish.

Directly after that, he finally got his answer as to her objective. Surprisingly, striking the right flank was a total diversion. Her real aim was the enemy’s main force that he was facing with his troops. And her even bigger ulterior motive was to attack enemy command directly. That was her plan.

“She turned this fight around using maneuvers and securing local superiority!”

She was just like a magician. To an ally, she’s surely an evil-crushing shield of White Silver. But to headquarters, she’s a mad dog indeed! Oh, she will achieve so much more off the leash.

This had to be a headache for a proud general. A proud general wouldn’t want to admit that someone of a lower rank, and a child, at that, was better than them at war, but who would?

“Ahh, so that’s why most generals can’t figure out what to do with her. No one likes a hunting dog who’s smarter than the hunter…”

She’s too talented to be a mere field officer. Any superior officer would have a hard time with her as a subordinate.

She might even be too much for me to handle.

I understand very well now why the General Staff, no, the Western Army Group, gave her the authority to act independently. She’s a frightfully competent hunting dog.

Thanks to her shaking off enemy reinforcements and ripping through their headquarters, the enemy was in a panic. The Imperial Army, supposedly surrounded by the remnants of the Republican Army, had managed to maintain an organized combat unit, and the situation was now such that it could make a breakthrough.

They were free to push forward or retreat.

And in fact, since the flanks couldn’t do much due to the confusion in the center, they could even resurrect their initial plan to take them all out.

We can do this. Romel smiled ferociously.

“Hit the enemy’s left flank! This is a mobile air battle! Hit their left flank and drive straight through their central forces!”

They would leave the disordered right flank alone for the moment.

And the connecting unit in the center had fallen into disarray following Degurechaff’s attack. Romel saw immediately that the left flank was what remained.

Though it was currently isolated from its chain of command, the left flank actually had the most organized fighting power left. He would attack it with not a moment to lose.

In order to do that, he needed all the military strength they had. What should I do? he started to wonder but realized he didn’t actually have enough troops to think that hard.

“The light division should defend our position! All the rest of you, get on the left flank! Crush that left flank!”

Having decided to leave the greenest of his light divisions to hold down their position, he would take the rest of his forces to clash with the left flank in an attempt to bring down the encirclement and take out their enemies.

If they did that, they would at least be able to secure a retreat. It would probably be possible to deal quite a blow if they hit them while they were already confused.

That he had been able to make such a judgment so quickly was a testament to Romel’s unusual talent.

At least, maintaining an orderly resistance while encircled was praiseworthy. Once he had a course of action, he moved quickly.

“Tell the major she can do whatever she wants.”

And then, no one knew if it was for better or worse, but he let go of the leash.

The Chihuahua on the other end was probably cute and lovable.

But on the battlefield, he needed the wild hunting dog. And she could wreak way more havoc on the enemy if she and her battalion didn’t conform to the norms.

That was how it seemed to him, so he did it to reach his goals.

“Huh? Are you sure, sir?”

“With that one, there’s nothing better than to let her do her thing. Hunting should be left up to the hunting dog, right?”

When commanding a corps the same size as his enemy’s, Romel himself had no intention of losing to anyone. He could probably even take on Degurechaff just fine. He was fairly confident of his ability to wage maneuver warfare on the operational level.

But he understood that when it came to running a battalion, he was inferior. Or perhaps more importantly, he had to accept that he would never be as good as her at sensing the time to fight.

The opportunity she seized with her brisk maneuvering was such a brief instant that though I could see it from afar, I couldn’t grasp it.

In any case, the more you try to control her, the more energy you waste. She and her battalion really are war’s hunting dogs. They’re cavalry officers of ancient times, the real deal. They know when, where, and how to go charging in.

They could take prey without you teaching them how. So rather than risk them forgetting how by training them, it was much more logical to let them run wild.

“More importantly, hurry up and get ready for a penetrating raid! Get on the Republican guns before they regain discipline!”

He could think about how to use Degurechaff and the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion later on. Now it was most important to take care of the immediate situation.

If we don’t crush the Republican artillery, we’ll be caught in a one-sided barrage. If I don’t seize this chance, I’ll be the most inept of the inepts. I have no interest in being mocked by history as an incompetent general who wasted the hard work of his fellow soldiers.

“Understood! Right away!”

Praise be to the skirmishers and their crisp movements.

Look how briskly they move, even under these trying circumstances. Those are veterans of the Rhine, all right. Even if their units are undermanned, they’re more useful since they don’t hesitate. A soldier who can move is better than one who can’t.

Once the light division acclimates, they’ll be a bit more helpful. I’m glad they’ve at least been learning some fighting techniques.

“Gather all the remaining gunners together! I don’t want to get caught ’round the back! As soon as you’re done attacking the artillery, blast the hell out of the enemies in the center. No limit this time on the amount of shells you can use! Just shoot like crazy!”

“If we’re trying to keep them in check, do we really need that many?”

“We can’t bring the artillery on the charge. Plus, the light division staying to hold our current position needs backup. Now, get going!”

But surely, they couldn’t be expected to defend on their own. They were liable to collapse if he left them surrounded and alone. That would affect all the units charging, too.

Speed was paramount in a maneuver battle. In order to minimize the time the most vulnerable unit would be exposed, he’d have to make soldiers run.

At that point, they really couldn’t take the artillery with them. Then the only thing to do was have them put their firepower on display once they had taken up their position. Artillery employed in a practical way can be useful for both offense and defense, no doubt about it. Firing, distracting, defending they do it all. If the troops left the guns as a trick up their sleeve, the defensive position could be defended while they fought the maneuver battle.

There was hope. Yes, a path had opened.

“It’s a race against time. Be quick! Gentlemen, move out! Put the armored unit out front!”

“Sorry, sir. Right away, sir.”

The existence of a light at the end of the tunnel reinvigorated HQ. It was a brilliant transformation, as if their monochrome world suddenly had color again. And he, Romel, was no exception. Though they were surrounded, Romel was in high spirits. Strangely enough, it seemed like things would work out somehow. With this operation and the tireless fighting of his subordinates, they would turn the tables and the feeling was… Man, this feels so great.

If the gods exist, they sure work in mysterious ways.

“Ha-ha-ha! I can’t make fun of the major. It does feel good to turn the tables. All right, let’s scare the living daylights out of ’em.”




“Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! What a surprise!”

“Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! Indeed!”

At Republican headquarters…

The normally tranquil albeit stuffy room was wrapped in an unusual atmosphere. The tense staffers were watching the two high-ranking officers in the middle of the room who had big, empty grins on their faces.

One was their commander, General de Lugo. The other was the officer regarded as the toughest, most experienced veteran of all of them, Colonel Vianto.

Their most senior commander and the veteran they were supposed to be able to rely on burst out laughing. On a battlefield, there is no greater fear. When the two people who should have been their core cracked up instead of coping with the crisis, the staffers wondered, Have they gone insane? with a shudder, and their faces all twitched.

So for a short while, the staffers were faced with the grave dilemma of whether or not to call a medical officer.

Paying no mind to the confusion around them, de Lugo and Vianto continued to laugh. What’s so funny? As some of the staffers watched very, very closely, they realized the laugh was almost their way of saying, Who cares? and that they, too, had no choice but to follow suit.

And after the laughter had run its course, they spat: “This reality is a goddamn joke.” That was their complaint against the absurd situation in which they found themselves.

They had been completely confident that their battle formation would lead to victory. It was a simple operation that required only sticking to theory: Apply pressure on the surrounded Imperial Army from three directions.

The Free Republican Army was structured in such a way that prebattle forecasts indicated it could win against the Imperial Army. Was… It had to be discussed in past tense.

“Did they  Did they seriously overturn our strategy with an operational-level power move? They’ve got some balls.”

Now their plans had been completely obliterated even though they hadn’t made any mistakes on the strategic level. As a result of tactical maneuvers performed during operations, their strategic advantage was overcome. Theoretically, that shouldn’t happen. But in reality, the situation they prepared for had been reversed.

After attacking the right flank, the enemy regiment essentially traded places with the reinforcements to assault the central forces.

The unit directly under Vianto was out intercepting, but surprisingly, the moment the enemies made contact, they began to retreat. Just like that, the Republicans couldn’t stop them with their elite group, but neither could they organize a united resistance.

If the enemy was coming at them on the offensive, some could pin them down and the main group could strike the rest of the imperial forces.

But if the enemy was retreating, they had to attack.

Naturally, that made the logic work in reverse. Still, they couldn’t just leave them be. They had to do something.

But in their situation, they didn’t have many options to choose from.

The disorder on the right flank was unbearable, and the left flank was in a furious battle against the main enemy force attempting their breakthrough. When the battle was going in such a direction, they couldn’t permit a regiment of mages to do as they pleased.

And then

They could hardly believe it.

The possibility had crossed everyone’s mind, but they had dismissed it as unfeasible.

“The enemy mages have broken into multiple groups?! They they’re pulling back around, and fast!”

They were all suddenly speechless.

Of all the

Is that even possible?

The scene was a vivid reminder of the gap in ability between the two sides.

““It’s like they’re playing tag with us.””

Just as the pair said, it happened the instant the intercepting unit hesitatingly gave pursuit. The imperial forces smashed through as if they had been waiting for the slightest disruption in the lines.

Since both sides were accelerating past each other, they should have been able to turn and fire, but they were going so fast it made combat difficult. Vianto’s mages attacked anyway and barely grazed the enemy, but the imperial mages nailed a handful of Republican mages.

“Agh, send out the reserve unit! Pincer the enemy with the intercepting unit!”

From a simple, bird’s-eye view of the shape of things, the charging imperial forces were surrounded by several mages. At a glance, their encirclement and annihilation was only a matter of time. There were almost no gaps to escape through, and the Republican mage units were numerically superior as they closed in.

But to someone actually in that fight, the situation looked totally different.

The enemy ripped right through the surrounding mages. As if laughing at the Republicans’ numerical advantage, the imperial mages abruptly overwhelmed them with firepower and mobility. It was like a bad dream.

Then, as if sneering at the Republic’s attempt to suppress them, they made a crazy beeline for de Lugo’s headquarters.

“It’s no good! They’re too fast!” someone cried.

They were, indeed, too fast. Before the reserves could get in the air, before the pursuing unit could catch up, they had reached their target.

They had charged all the way over there to eliminate a single person.

But Vianto, at least, had been secretly preparing for this possibility. I’m going to prevent a repeat of what happened on the Rhine front no matter what it takes!

“Hurry and get counter-mage defenses up! A direct hit is coming! Take shelter! HQ personnel, take shelter!”

Ignoring the uproar around them, Vianto started to shove de Lugo into a dugout. But when he sensed there wasn’t enough time, he didn’t hesitate. He promptly kicked de Lugo in and dove on top of him as a shield. The staffers who piled in immediately after him were lucky. Right as all of them knocked together in the dugout

“Ngh!”

Someone shouted a warning in a quaking voice, and everyone went prone by conditioned response. The moment they instinctively, almost in a trance, ducked their heads, partially opened their mouths, and covered their ears, their eardrums endured a roaring blast.

And what met their eyes when they looked up was the area HQ used to be, the aftermath of the mages’ flyby. In addition to a smattering of antipersonnel explosion formulas, they had attacked with grenades and fifty-kilo bombs.

As those in the dugout looked on, the imperial mages shook off the defending anti–air fire with ease and picked off pursuing Republican mages.

The dogged pursuit continued, yet despite the strenuous efforts of the defending mages, the enemy broke free as the Republican leaders watched from the dugout.

Most of the staffers were stupefied by that brief moment. The enemy attacked and left, and they hadn’t been able to do a thing.

So those are imperial mages. Those are the guys who raged across the Rhine front. The shock was so much that the vast majority of the staffers had frozen, but Vianto, one of the few exceptions, began taking stock of the damage.

The headquarters had taken direct hits with mage formulas and was destroyed. In that state, all its equipment had to be ruined. Their only choice was to use the backup command post. I sure am glad we made a backup.

“…Are you all right, General?”

“By the protection of the Holy Mother! A little later and we would have been in trouble! I never thought the day would come I’d be glad to have a subordinate who would kick me without hesitating!”

Most importantly, the general was alive.

Luckily, it should probably be said, de Lugo escaped with only bruises from when he dove, or rather was kicked, into the dugout. No one blamed Vianto for them, though, because he had averted catastrophe.

Still, even if their courage was feigned, they were calm enough to joke about it.

Vianto determined they had dodged the worst-case scenario. He remembered the crisis of defeat, the shock at hearing their headquarters on the Rhine had been blown away. They couldn’t let that happen again.

Still, when he noticed de Lugo had his eyes squeezed shut like he was praying, he wasn’t surprised he had been terrified himself.

After all, the Republican Army had nearly been decapitated again. On the Rhine, their response had been delayed because it was new to them, but this time they narrowly escaped making the same mistake.

It was probably due to protection from God. He thought of the future of the fatherland, the pride of the Republic that would be passed on. Their determination to maintain that radiant glory, even if it was just an afterglow, was just barely getting them through this crisis.

“What’s the damage?”

“Things are a mess, but we can still manage to call it minimal. Shall we withdraw?”

They could still fight. At least, they could still crush them in the next round.

This was the southern continent not the Empire’s home base but the territory of the Republic and the Commonwealth.

Our odds in a long fight aren’t bad. In that case, it’s probably best to conserve our troops and go back to wearing down the enemy.

With those thoughts, de Lugo decided to minimize their losses and withdraw.

Yes, this time they lost. He felt that. They got us. But as a strategist, he had already accepted it and put it behind him.

“Ahh, there’s nothing we can do about this… We retreat! We retreat and watch for our chance to make a comeback. Notify all units to withdraw. They’re absolutely not to chase any farther. We need to reposition ourselves.”

If a battle broke out, they wouldn’t be able to win anyway, so the answer was to not fight.

They would lure the enemy into a battle of attrition and grind them down. The fact that they had survived was already a turning point.

He and the Republic would not lose. All they had to do was be standing on their two feet at the end of the war. In short, that was what victory was to the Republic.




“Ha-ha-ha! Did you see them, Major? The looks on those numbskulls’ faces!”

“Ha-ha-ha! I understand how you feel, but you might want to watch what you say.”

In a truly rare occurrence, Major von Degurechaff is in a good mood.

She laughs gleefully from her belly, like a child of her age, as she leads the battalion. When they’re feeling good, even the most straitlaced person will crack a smile. Happily, the ability to feel genuinely joyful is the sign of a healthy mind.

“But they couldn’t even provide you a proper escort. For how proud of their good taste they are, the escargots are awfully tactless.”

“Eh, they’re just too slow. That can’t be helped.”

Of the Imperial Army’s officially adopted computation orbs, the Type 97 gets both superior altitude and speed. In fact, it leaves the others in the dust.

Eight thousand is considered the maximum combat altitude for existing orbs, but that’s practical for the Type 97. It’s such a high-performance orb that if you work extra hard, you can approach twelve.

Naturally, it’s the optimal type for the self-preservation-first tactic of hitting and running. With outstanding altitude, speed, and climb rate, the Elinium Type 97, known officially as an assault orb, boasts performance equal to its name.

The Type 95 is a hugely flawed machine, but the Type 97, I can use even Tanya is compelled to raise her hands to praise Elinium Arms. She appreciates the safety and peace of mind the Type 97 gives so much that it’s her trusty main orb.

Although when she’s really cornered, I have to ignore my myriad conflicts and tearfully relinquish that pillar of my being, the freedom of my mind. Life is really irreplaceable.

That said, I don’t have to face any extreme conflicts like that this time. You don’t have to be Tanya to be happy about getting through something without having to make any tough decisions.

“Well, it’s no wonder. Trends move fast in the Empire especially if you’re a Republican soldier holed up in the colonies.”

So even Tanya is in a jocular mood, though it’s not in her character. It’s so wonderful to be free of that curse that makes me sing songs praising God or whatever!

“In any case, let’s drink to the Elinium Type 97!”

Now and then, Elinium Arms does a decent job.

“Here, here. Thanks to this thing, that duck hunt was a hell of a lot easier.”

If you focus on the outline, it looks like my battalion had a tough fight. We can even boast that we gave the enemy a good run for their money basically on our own.

One battalion augmented, yes, but still one battalion punched through the encirclement trapping friendly forces!

With the enemy reinforcements at our mercy, we lured in the main forces and stopped them in their tracks!

Then we turned back to attack and even did an anti-surface strike!

If you add some rhetorical flourishes to our running around trying to escape and achieving zero actual war gains, that is what you get. Someone from the Imperial Japanese Army might have said something like, “My spirited unit delivered a bold blow to the enemy’s main forces unscathed as was our mission, and now we’re pulling back.”

I figured it would be bad to only avoid the enemy, so we did that anti-surface strike at the end in order to have some action to point to perfect.

Well, there were some newbie amateurs who seemed to think they were mages because they flew now and then, so I was able to rack up some points. Honestly, though, I’m not even sure if I should add them to my score.

It’s tricky because if you count little chicks only capable of flying, people think worse of you. The way the Empire assesses kills is quite strict, so even if you don’t mean to pad your count, it’s better to avoid anything that could look like you might be.

Even if I hunted these guys by the dozens, talking big about that when they don’t even compare to the enemies we faced on the Rhine will only make my colleagues ridicule me. I can’t stand it when they say stuff like, You want to brag about your hunting numbers that bad?

If I count them, I’m sure people will be talking about my back. How desperate for kills can you get? But then Tanya has an idea.

“We’ll have to mark down that this was a turkey shoot.”

“Yeah, you’re right. We can’t make misleading reports.”

That’s right. Didn’t they say the same thing in World War II? That a score against the Russkies on the eastern front was totally different from a score against the American or British on the western front.

“This enemy sure is persistent, though. It seems they’re still in pursuit.”

I don’t want to mess up my record, she thinks, but when she turns around to look, the enemies seem raring to go. She thinks for a minute, but who knows what these creeps will do if she lets them follow her home. What a pain.

What’s more, it seems like the units coming after us know what they’re doing.

It’s also aggravating that we can’t shake them off even though we’re nearing maximum acceleration. I would propose a law against stalkers, but such regulation wouldn’t apply on a battlefield anyhow, so I guess you just have to save yourself.

“All right, let’s play with them. Gentlemen, a tsurinobuse. Entertain our guests!”

I want to ambush these creeps so we can get away. We’re already in pseudo-Shimazu mode, so it’s not a bad idea to take a page from their book here.

They’re the ones who are pursuing us. I would much prefer the civilized method of having a peaceful conversation, Tanya grumbles in her head. Once the enemy charges at you, you’re left with no other option but to slaughter them, am I right?

“““Yaaargh! Let’s give them an avalanche of cuddles!”””

And her subordinates’ response to her order is just as lively as she expected.

The troops are thirsty for battle, which is great. That means she won’t have any trouble getting volunteers to play the terribly difficult yet fun role of the bait: numbskull imperial soldiers fleeing in a rout. Well, it just means they’re the nasty type who like teasing puppies.

“Fairy 01 to 02 and 05. You guys are the bait. Position yourselves in the rear. When those clowns attack, pretend to collapse into disarray and flee.”

First, she has two companies pretend to be the rear guard. The point is to get the enemy’s attention. An enemy that is raring to fight is often like an enraged bull charging at a red cape. Her subordinates aren’t red, but I’ve heard a bull will charge at anything waved in front of them.

So to borrow from that example, they’ll pretend they can’t stand up to the enemy’s attack and beat a disorderly retreat. She’ll have two companies be the waving cape and get chased while the other units pretend to flee before the enemy and get some distance.

Feigning that they’ve lost the will to fight, they’ll scatter to either side. Then all they have to do is wait at the optimal location and lure in those numbskulls who only know how to charge.

“The rest of you split up. After luring the enemy into airspace D-3, we’re going to attack from three sides.”

The moment the two bait companies lead the enemy into D-3, the rest of the units, who were supposedly fleeing in chaos, will come back around and launch an attack. Then they’ll all form a cone shape and cross their lines of fire, taking care not to hit one another.

The moment that formation comes together, the enemy will be like a rat in a trap.

“Okay, gentlemen. Time to give these goobs some learning!”

Tanya crows that they’ll teach them that being surrounded is just as terrible in the sky as it is on the ground. Sadly, whether or not they’ll be able to use what they learn is a matter for another dimension.

And when the imperial mages fire an improbable amount of formulas into that narrow airspace, the Republicans who so enthusiastically pursued them expire and fall one after the other. You don’t have to be Tanya to recognize this as a morale-boosting, extremely smooth victory.

Plus, Major Tanya von Degurechaff gets to pad her score, and it doesn’t even take that much effort. It’s a wonderful job that results in easy, dramatic gains.

“Ha-ha-ha-ha! I can’t stop laughing!”

Which is why, in a rare occurrence, she is able to be so cheerful she even cackles.

She nearly says, It would be great if it could stay this easy from now on, but she freezes when she realizes the implication of her words.

Yes, the words from now on.

…From now on?

This is what it means to be so happy you wrap back around to sad. Her thoughts stop for a moment, and then a terrifying premonition of the future sends chills down her spine. After regaining her composure, Tanya objectively recalls the situation she’s in. Then after thinking a moment, she shakes her head with an openly bitter expression on her face.

Certainly, we’re winning easily at present. Even just now they’ve downed Republican mages like it was a turkey shoot. But war isn’t usually like this.

Having it this easy will ruin you. Taking out enemy rabble certainly makes for a straightforward victory, but it would be a mistake to expect all battles to be like this.

Even before that, if we have such an advantage, shouldn’t we be taking action to end the war?

“…Hmm?”

Tanya suddenly wonders why they are still fighting and groans unconsciously. Without even noticing First Lieutenant Weiss’s questioning look, she sinks deep into thought as the unit returns to base. After mulling things over for a while, she is forced to acknowledge a shocking reality.

When they land back at their desert base, she drops off her gear and dismisses the troops. Sipping a cup of cold water from the tank with an absentminded expression, she looks out at the endless train of imperial military vehicles coming and going across the desert.

Supplies from the home country and transport trucks. All those things fight a desperate battle against the sand to assist in their victory. She isn’t sure who came up with the idea, but they’ve wisely used camels instead of horses to carry some of the cargo, which probably increases efficiency.

So their hard work is paying off. For now, things are fine.

Their only enemies are the Republican remnants, who are hardly a formidable threat, and the Commonwealth’s expeditionary forces. Regardless of numbers, the Imperial Army has them beat in terms of training, so any fight is a guaranteed turkey shoot.

Conversely, though, we’re wasting our vehicles on this pathetic enemy and putting serious strain on our supply lines.

…Certainly, in terms of General von Zettour’s idea of a purely political deployment to put pressure on the Republic and expand our influence on the Kingdom of Ildoa, a southern continent expeditionary force is one answer.

But that… The words are on the tip of her tongue, but she can’t get them out, and she sighs.

Both Lieutenant General von Rudersdorf’s plan to wipe out the Republican Army remnants and Lieutenant General von Zettour’s political plan are choices that assume the number of major players in the war doesn’t rise. They have made an expeditionary force a reality using every means possible despite the trying situation in the rear and the limited forces they could muster.

Tanya is compelled to worry. Considering the financial situation, perhaps this plan takes us too far out of our way on thin ice.

There should have been any number of ways to go. The High Seas Fleet could have taken a make-or-break attitude toward taking command of the sea from the Commonwealth, even if both navies ended up destroyed. They could have established a puppet government in the Republic and made peace.

But as far as Tanya can tell, the imperial fleet is resorting to the fleet-in-being strategy of avoiding military risks and conserving its strength. While she can’t deny that strategy has its logic, it’s definitely not one that will defeat their enemies.

Which is why she has ended up deployed to the inessential Republican colonies on the southern continent to pursue and destroy the remnants of the Republican Army. Even discounting the diplomatic thoughtfulness vis-à-vis the Kingdom of Ildoa, it’s still putting the cart before the horse.

The Empire might as well be idly radiating its superior fighting capabilities. In these separate small-scale battles, the imperial generals won’t lose. They’re dominating on the tactical level. The General Staff is successfully managing mobility and deployment on the operational level, whether maneuver warfare or breaking through encirclements, as well as supply issues.

Indeed, from a military standpoint, putting military and political pressure on the Republic remnants and the Commonwealth via the situation on the southern continent and planning to cooperate with Ildoa is not a grave error.

But that’s only from a purely military standpoint. Or… Tanya has second thoughts and revises her conclusion. Maybe the General Staff is proposing policies from only a military standpoint from the start, and the rest they leave up to the government, not wanting to step on the administration’s toes.

But if that’s the case, Tanya has to bury her head in her hands.



“…What good will it do to expand the front any more than this?”

What does the Empire possibly gain by taking former Republican colonies in a desert? Has the will to fight any enemy you find on the battlefield spread to the politicians in the rear, who are supposed to maintain their calm and think about strategy?

As she follows this train of thought, she trembles at her horrible vision of the future.

“Then…then how…? How are the politicians at home going to end the war?”

She murmured it to herself.

But that one sentiment gives her a dreadful chill, like a curse. Are the imperial politicians capable of ending the war?

We, the Imperial Army, are winning in the field. We also have the initiative. That’s why we’re enjoying such good times right now.

Yes, both politically and militarily, this is our finest hour.

…So if this really is our finest hour, then…?

What a waste, she laments. It’s our finest hour, but the Empire is still hemorrhaging its national power in a war that has no end in sight.




NOVEMBER 1, UNIFIED YEAR 1925, COMMONWEALTH
HOUSE OF COMMONS

“Subjects of the Commonwealth, today I inform you that the day approaches when the Empire, that dreadful military nation, brings its power to bear on us.”

The voice of the prime minister speaking to all the Commonwealth’s people over the radio conveyed their harsh reality.

“And unfortunately, I must also inform you that they mean to attack. But allow me to say this: I hope it will be of some small consolation that I promise you on behalf of the Commonwealth, it will be impossible for them to come by sea.”

Contrary to the content of his speech, however, his tone contained a hint of humor.

“But even our wooden walls, praised since long ago, would find the evil enemy we currently face a significant trial. War is no longer what it used to be.”

So he spoke, touching on the way war had changed.

“At this point, we must frankly acknowledge, without losing heart, that we are entering a terrible age.”

Everyone listening carefully understood that he meant it would be a hard fight.

“This war will be harsh, and it will demand lengthy endurance. We will probably have to fight until either we or our enemy collapse. And it will be a fight that takes every last bit of strength our fatherland has.”

Along with his predictions, he made a declaration.

“But I promise my beloved fatherland.”

Each and every word was crystal clear.

“Someday, we will destroy them.”

Someone in a pub shouted, “You bet we will!” and multiple people nodded in agreement.

“But for now, I simply hope that in the Commonwealth of a thousand years from today, our children’s grandchildren will read in a history book written by one of us that now, this moment, was the best of times for the Empire.”

That was the history it was their duty to create.

“For us, it is truly the worst of times; dismal, it should be said. At the same time, for the Empire, it is the best of times.”

He was even arrogantly confident that they would exist in perpetuity a thousand years later.

“Now then, ladies and gentlemen, a toast to our worst of times. And don’t we want our grandchildren to say it? Don’t we want them to say these times were the Empire’s best? To now, to our eternal fatherland’s worst of times cheers!”

(The Saga of Tanya the Evil, Volume 3: The Finest Hour, Fin)

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