「A-a black Greed-Gore...」
Seeing the huge monster that split the earth open as it appeared, Wilhart trembles in fear with a terrified expression on his face as he utters its name.
Sitting on top of the horse he was given as the general, his brain processed the monster’s appearance and immediately found a match with his knowledge Rank 5 monsters. Naturally, his body began shaking.
Its species, shape and its known attributes are all different, but his fear of Rank 5 Monsters has been burned into his mind.
He realizes that the rifle he is holding, the one that he is so proud of – that he has thoroughly practised with, becoming familiar with it to the point that he could truly be proud of his skill – is now just a useless stick.
But even as he trembles in fear, the situation deteriorates further. It is as if some evil god has decided to drop them into deeper horror.
The monster’s second roar is terrifying enough to pierce one’s body and strike fear directly into the soul. As if being summoned by an evil call, monsters begin to pour out of the forest.
This sight is such that Will and all of the other students are plunged into an abyss of despair.
They have at least some experience fighting monsters. But that only makes this phenomenon of monsters of different races grouping together and advancing on them as a single army even more difficult to comprehend.
「H-hyii... It’s hopeless...」
As Will’s eyes are filled with tears and these pathetic words come from his mouth –
「Get a hold of yourself, Will!」
Accompanying this brave, lovely voice is an attack that digs into his side.
As he looks towards where the attack came from, he sees his friend Simon, who has shoved the stock of his rifle into him with all his might.
「Hurry up and give the retreat order, or it’ll be too late!」
Will is not so slow-minded as to ask, “What are you talking about?”
He processes the meaning and intention of Simon’s words in an instant, and begins to show the results of his training.
「Retreat! All forces, retreat! We must fall back to the fortress!」
Before he knows it, he is shouting these words loudly.
All of the laughing and boastful talk that he does with his obnoxiously loud voice is paying off in this critical moment; his voice carries well and the order to immediately retreat reaches the group.
Turning his horse around, he faces the direction of the Iskia Fortress and leads the retreat.
Being unable to see the Greed-Gore and its army of monsters when he turns his back towards them, Will retains some sense of calm in his mind.
「To me, my knights! We will lead the group, and be at the front of the retreat back to Iskia Fortress!」
The knights, or rather, the knight cadets under Will’s direct command have already drawn their weapons in preparation for battle. They understand his orders immediately and begin moving.
Among them is Eddy, the knight cadet who called out to Will on the fortress walls yesterday, and beside him is the green-haired girl with glasses that Kurono rescued from the bandits in Fauren.
Including those two, the majority of the two hundred and fifty students are on foot. Therefore, the ones who are mounted like Will cannot retreat at full speed.
The retreat begins at a slow pace.
Fortunately, Will and the knights under his direct command are near the back of the column of students, and they are able to quickly get to the front to act as the vanguard.
「Don’t break formation! Prepare your mobility skills* and Speed Boosts, we’re going to descend the hill all at once before we get surrounded!」
Desperately remembering the orders he learned in class that must be given in a retreat, Will shouts out instructions one after another in rapid succession.
In this state of emergency, even the teachers who are not supposed to participate in battle have started moving, but they know that Will’s orders are appropriate in this situation, so they do not need to voice out their own instructions.
As if they already know the best course of action, the teachers move to take up the role of the rear guard without being told. They are certainly going to have to fight a hellish battle in that role.
Will is relieved that the harshest role for the retreat is being taken on by the teachers. But he also feels pain in his heart as he realizes that there is no way to escape this situation without casualties.
The reason he is prepared for the fact that there has to be sacrifices is because he previously experienced it the time he was chased by Wrath-Pun in the Galahad mountain range.
The thought of having to sacrifice some people does not affect the actions and judgment of the current Wilhart, who previously made the choice to sacrifice the most important person to him outside of his own family.
With that said, he has not experienced any battles where he actually had to sacrifice anyone. But such a battle is about to begin now. The bodyguard-maid who was supposed to throw away her own life for him is still next to him, carrying out her duty.
「Simon, sworn friend of my soul. Thanks to thy counsel, I have returned to my senses. I thank you from the bottom of my heart; your assessment of the situation was excellent.」
From on top of his horse, Will directs his words of thanks at Simon, trying to hide his embarrassment.
「Onii-san’s retreat order was quick, too. I was just following his example.」
When they had heard about the arrival of the heavy knight squad behind Alzas village, the one who gave the immediate order to retreat was Kurono. The only ones who know this other than Kurono himself are the three of them here.
Despite the outcome, Simon understands that Kurono’s decision to give that order was correct.
This is a similarly terrible situation where they are being attacked by an overwhelming enemy force.
「More importantly, Will, is your rifle loaded?」
「Fuhaha, of course!」
「You’re not allowed to put your finger on the trigger yet!」
「... I know.」
Will is in high spirits, and Simon warns him of this possible accident.
His finger should not be on the trigger unless he is shooting. It could cause an accidental discharge, which is especially dangerous in situations where there are a lot of allies nearby.
Furthermore, an accidental discharge is even more likely to occur when riding on horseback.
「The Centaurs and Windwolves are fast; they’ll make it just in time to cut us off!」
The reason Simon mentioned Will’s gun, in other words, his weapon for fighting, is because he had a feeling that they would not be able to avoid battle.
「It’s the critical moment, isn’t it.」
「The wall of enemies is not so thick that we can’t break through, it’s alright!」
The monsters with fast movement have broken off from the swarm of monsters that appeared from the forests to go ahead and block their path.
As Simon said, the Centaurs armed with spears and bows are charging through the hills that are their home ground.
The black, fluffy Silent Sheep are running alongside them, keeping up with their speed. They’re sheep, but they’re still monsters.
The Windwolves that the Goblins are riding are lagging behind. But the ones that are moving without riders are putting their wolf-like running speed and their Wind-type Characteristic Ability to use, making their way through the hills like the wind.
The Dortoths are well-known for their ability to charge forward and are quite fast, but they do not seem to have the sense to go around the hills, so they are struggling to climb over them.
Whether the retreating students will run into them or not is likely dependent on their luck.
Fortunately, the bird monsters in the sky and the Salamander that possesses tremendous firepower are just flying around, and do not seem to be directly headed this way.
「Prepare our long-ranged attacks! First group, ready your Blasts, second group, ready the Sagitas and bows! Concentrate our attacks at the front!」
The distance between the students descending the hill and the monsters moving to cut them off is growing shorter.
Will is wearing a tense, strained expression. Even Simon, who is experienced in battle, knows that he is not a strong fighter, and is desperately trying not to show his anxiety on his face.
「Eei, Seria! Don’t suddenly call out to me in a tense moment like this!」
Will replies to his bodyguard, Seria, who is riding next to him with a calm expression. His voice sounds impatient, rather than angry.
「I apologize. However, there is one thing I must warn you about.」
「What is it?」
「You are aware of the Characteristic Ability of Silent Sheep, are you not?」
「Fuhaha, that is information that was on the front page of the book in the guild at Iskia Village, there is no way that I do not –」
Will begins to talk with his usual confident voice, but in the next moment, his face turns pale.
The reason why the Silent Sheep are called silent.
And, assuming the monsters have some degree of intelligence, the reason why the Centaurs have gone out of their way to bring them to battle.
As he remembers, it is already too late.
「What is the Characteristic Ability of Silent Sheep?」
Simon, who is not particularly knowledgeable about monsters, asks Will this question.
「Now I understand... Eei, we can’t turn back now –」
Will’s expression quickly changes from resignation to determination and raises his voice to give the order to commence the long-ranged attacks.
「First group, fiiiiiire!」
At his signal, the Mage-class students finish the last words of their incantation to unleash their attacks.
But the Silent Sheep closing in on them are faster to open their mouths.
As this strangely calming cry fills the air, the students release their completed long-ranged attacks.
Etcetera, etcetera. The low-level and intermediate-level Blasts, each with their own individual properties, are cast –
「What, it’s not coming out?!」
Half of them end up misfiring.
Most of attacks that are successfully fired either miss or fail to explode.
As a result, only a few of the mixed cavalry of Centaurs and Windwolves charging into battle are blown away. They continue to charge with full force.
The Goblins that have fallen off the backs of Windwolves are trampled by the Centaurs.
「The cry of the Silent Sheep has a Silencing effect! Everyone but the Mages who don’t need an incantation or have a way to counter it, fall back!」
That is Will’s answer to Simon’s question.
Silence is one of the magical Status Effects* that can be inflicted.
Silence is divided into two kinds. The first is an effect that prevents any speaking; the other nullifies the sound of incantations and counters their effects.
The one inflicted by the Silent Sheep is the latter; in other words, because the last parts of the incantations were Silenced, most of the magical attacks cast ended up misfiring.
This is a critical Status Effect for those of the Mage class; however, there have been methods used to counter it since ancient times. But the number of students that would be capable of using these methods right at this moment is questionable.
Therefore, most of the Mage-class fighters have been rendered useless by the presence of the Silent Sheep.
On the other hand, the Centaurs who fight with physical attacks without using any magic are completely unaffected in this Silence-filled battlefield.
「Second group, even if it’s only the archers! The ones at the front, prepare for the Centaurs’ charge!」
Physical long-ranged attackers include not only archers but also himself, since he is wielding a gun, so Will raises his rifle as he gives these desperate orders.
Breaking through these sparse attacks, the charging monsters are getting closer.
There are already Centaurs with bows raised and arrows nocked, and some have begun to fire.
Their accuracy is low, but it is enough to make the students who are not used to battle tremble with fear.
It seems to Will that the battle is clearly taking a turn for the worse.
It is unlikely that the second group of ranged attackers alone can stop the monsters that are charging in.
His morale is crushed by the Silence nullifying their initial attack, and he is very anxious about engaging in close combat.
Will he be able to keep the first ranged attack squad out of harm’s way? No, to be more honest, he is more worried about whether he will be able to fire his rifle properly as he has practised in the face of a Centaur raising its spear at him.
He has a hard time fighting a single Goblin, a Rank 1 monster. Fighting a large Rank 2 monster in close-quarter combat... The thought alone is enough to make him wet himself.
Once they enter the melee, which will be in less than a minute, the situation may fall apart beyond repair.
「There’s no other choice... I... I... have to do it.」
He wonders whether his rifle’s sight is shaking because of his horse’s movement.
He cannot help but feel that it is because the hand that is holding the grip, the shoulder against which the stock is resting, and his back that is supposed to be in an upright position, are all trembling.
The Centaurs charge directly onward, showing no signs of fear. Will gets the feeling that his eyes have met with the purple eyes of the grim-looking face of the Centaur through his rifle’s sight.
「– You can do it, Will. This is where you say, “I* am the glorious Second Prince of Spada”, right?」
Right next to him, holding up his own rifle, his friend speaks to him.
「Fu... Kuku... Fuhaha...」
Strangely enough, his trembling has stopped.
「FAAHAHAHA! Yes, indeed, I am the glorious Second Prince of Spada, Wilhart Tristan Spaaaaaaaaaada! Monsters, you shall perish in the face of the true power of my『Buster Rifle!』」
As his body is filled with a strange, uplifting feeling coming from his heart, from the depths of his soul, Will puts his finger on the trigger.
「Second group, ready your weapons!」
As he inhales deeply before shouting the order to attack, ready to fire his own self-named “bullet of destruction” –
「... Step aside, Will.」
A small, calm voice reaches his ears.
He looks up to see a white shadow flying lightly over him.
It is a Unicorn that leapt high into the air, momentarily resembling a Pegasus. And the person riding it is –
Nero’s crimson-red eyes do not give even a single glance towards his childhood friend, the Second Prince; they are fixed on the enemies that are closing in from the front.
His eyes are filled with deadly intent, and his already-drawn sword is in his right hand, prepared to carry out that intent.
「– Instant Flash.」
To Will, who has no knowledge of battle techniques like swordsmanship or martial arts, it looks as if Nero is just swinging his sword sideways.
But its blade releases a blinding light, which becomes a white light that flies forward, cutting through the air.
If one were to use the Wind magic attack『Air Sagita』and made it larger and brighter, it may appear something like this.
The slashing attack resembles a straight line made of light. It passes through the Centaurs like an illusion, cutting all of them in half.
It makes no difference whether the human half of their bodies are naked, covered in Silent Sheep wool or wearing metal armor that they undoubtedly robbed from adventurers. The attack effortlessly cuts through their chests.
It is as if they ran through a steel wire suspended in the air at full speed – the far side of where the attack landed is now a sea of blood.
「Don’t be so reckless, Will, it makes me nervous just watching.」
With the Centaurs that he cut down so mercilessly in the background, Nero leaps lightly from his Unicorn in mid-air.
Nero lands in front of Will, wearing a fearless smile on his face.
「Yeah, you’re weak, baka-aniki*, so make sure you stand back!」
His younger sister Charlotte has suddenly appeared, waving the red wand in her hand,『Crimson Bolt. 』
「Line Force Blast!」
She has already finished her incantation. As she speaks the name of her spell, a roaring thunder is released and a wide streak of lightning passes over the Centaurs’ corpses, striking down the Goblin-Windwolf cavalry.
「Well, that’s how it is.『Wing Road』will open the escape path, so follow us without falling behind.」
As Nero swings his red cape* around and looks once more at the enemies ahead, two more people appear on either side of him. Both are members of the Four Great Noble Houses of Spada: Kai Est Galbraith and Safiel Maya Hydra.
「You saved us, Nero. I’ll leave it in your hands.」
Will has mixed feelings about Nero’s timing, but his chest drops in relief at the arrival of his most dependable ally.
「Yeah, leave it to us.」
Nero answers without even looking back at him. With his best friend Kai as his partner on the front lines, and the Undead Wrath-Pun with a metal arm created by Safiel, he faces the wall of gathering monsters and begins the attack.