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The heavy spear infantry regiments that suddenly received a zoan' a.s.sault at the flanks of their dense formation fell into chaos.
To begin with, the dense formation was specialised for attacking the front. Moreover the spears in Holmea are longer than those in other countries and a device to support the spear with a leather strap hanging from the shoulder to allow handling the long spear with one hand has been invented. The device, which exhibits a big effect if fellow dense formations clash against each other, turns instead into a huge weak point when an enemy is permitted to draw close.
Trying to turn the spears towards the zoan, who are rushing in from the flank, the spectacle of the spear bearers accidentally hitting their comrades with their spearhandles or entangling their spears took place everywhere. As the spears were already long even under normal circ.u.mstances, that chaos was a natural outcome once they tried to change their direction without following any directions from a commander while inside a close formation that might be called overcrowded.
Of course the soldiers had swords as spare weapons hanging at their waists, but the number of soldiers, who were able to keep their calm to the degree of throwing away their spears and drawing their swords in front of the a.s.saulting enemies, are very few. The majority of the other soldiers attempt using their spears, resulting in their bodies and spears crashing into each other. Having lost their composure, the soldiers try to wield their spears forcibly despite all that and push down their allies, with whom they collided, with their spears or struggle with their entangled spears, increasing the chaos all the more.
The zoan, who charged in at that point, drilled into the dense formation's flanks just like a hot knife cutting into cheese.
In a flash corpses of heavy spear infantrymen pile up and screams of death agony reverberate all over alongside sprays of blood.
Moreover, that commotion also spread to the heavy spear infantrymen in the front rows.
The turmoil causes the spearheads, which were lining up orderly until then, to become disordered and produces cracks in the wall made out of shields.
Having seen that as good chance, Souma yells, “Now's the time!”
Upon his order, the dwarves threw their spears all at once. The spears dove into the largely opened gaps between the shields and caused many injuries and deaths among the soldiers. Moreover, adding stone throwing by the dinosaurians and volley firing by the elves into the mix, the heavy spear infantrymen in the front rows collapsed with clattering sounds one after the other.
Seeing their comrades, who were in the front of them, successively falling after being pierced by spears, hit by stones and penetrated by arrows, the soldiers become scared and withdraw to the rear, trying to get as much distance from the enemy as possible. However, once they do something like that in a dense formation which is already overcrowded even without that, they immediately b.u.mp into the bodies of their allies.
And not only that; the dense formation, which was under attack by zoan from the left and right side, concentrated its efforts into trying to retreat from the front, left and right. They fell into a tragic situation where the people in the central area of the formation got crushed to death by their retreating comrades.
While being partly in a stupor due to that spectacle, Marius voiced out what he thought,
“No f.u.c.king way! Is something like that even possible!?”
Something like losing control of himself and shouting in front of General Darius, whom he respects, is a mistake he normally would never commit.
However, it wasn't unreasonable either.
“Why is that happening!? How come that our army with its numerical superiority has been surrounded by the small force of rebels!?”
The formation of dwarves and dinosaurians attacking from the front and the zoan charging in from left and right was truly nothing else but an encirclement.
Yet, usually it's the big force that surrounds the small force.
However, in front of their eyes the big force of the heavy spear infantry regiments has been encircled by the small force of rebels.
“I-I have never seen or heard about something like this! This sort of stuff hasn't been described in any kind of military science and history books! Your Excellency!?”
The battle situation unfolding right now in front of Marius' eyes is a very improbable, reckless tactic, going by the common strategy knowledge he had learned so far. You might even call it a suicidal act. But, in reality the heavy spear infantry regiments have been completely herded together. Marius felt an impact as if his own legs had given in with a tremble.
“Messenger Marius! I don't remember having asked for your opinion! Know your own standing!”
No matter how close they might be, on the battlefield their ranks are merely those of a general and a messenger. Those outcries just now were a disgraceful behavior and it wouldn't be strange to call them insolent. Darius relaxed his tone towards Marius, who was covering his face that had lost all its color due to the excessive shame.
“It's natural for unforeseen incidents to happen on the battlefield. However, a general must not get fl.u.s.tered in front of the soldiers.”
Darius roared at the panicked Marius, however, even he himself felt shocked due to the state of the battlefield that looked as if it would ridicule all the knowledge he obtained in books and the experience he had fostered on the battlefields until now.
Saying that it overturned the common practice of battle is simple. But, something like overthrowing the acc.u.mulation of one's own rules obtained through many battles, which are serving as foundation of one's military practices, is nothing simple.
However, the rebels are right now truly about to overturn those common practices with a do-or-die spirit and the resolve to deliberately do the reckless.
“What's that r.e.t.a.r.d Kadomos doing…!”
Darius muttered the name of his trusted commissioned officer to whom he gave command over the heavy spear infantry regiments.
If it's the Kadomos whom Darius knows, he should immediately see through the rebels' encirclement as thin, skin-like layer that will be torn by nothing more than a little poke. Anywhere's fine! As long as he concentrates his military forces and breaks apart the the encirclement, the enemy can be split into parts. Moreover, he should have noticed that we can annihilate those splinter groups by surrounding them with our forces afterwards.
However, the fact that this hasn't happened until now made Darius understand that Kadomos had died.
Darius tightly grasps his fists loaded with his rage and regret.
But, it's not like that would change the battle progress for the better. While swallowing down the anger and despair over having lost a trusted commissioned officer, Darius tries to regain the flow of the battle.
“Prepare messengers and the large dru-!”
At that point Darius suddenly hesitates to continue.
He was puzzled what order he should pas on to the heavy spear infantry regiments right now.
If Kadomos is alive, there's no need to say anything.
If I'm going out of my way to give instructions, it should be “Attack.” With just that much Kadomos will likely take the very best measures after reading the situation.
However, if Kadomos isn't alive anymore, the one currently leading the heavy spear infantry regiments is Judius.
It's definitely not like he's inferior to Kadomos in his qualities as regimental commander, but in Darius' eyes he's still quite inexperienced.
It would be fine if he found a weak spot in the encirclement and focused his forces there, but if he were unable to accomplish that and tried to recklessly break through, it's very likely that the losses would become much higher instead.
Attack or defend?
“Your Excellency! What kind of orders should we communicate!?”
Being urged on like that, Darius announces his decision while squeezing out his voice.
“Order them with the drums to “Defend.” They have to hold out by all means until I arrive…!”
“You b.a.s.t.a.r.ds, line up the shields without panicking! Keep up the formation!”
While listening to the drum sounds signalling “Defend” in the far distance, Regimental Commander Judius continued to shout himself hoa.r.s.e atop his mount.
As soon as the soldiers are about to disturb the ranks, he reprimands them, trying to somehow maintain the formation.
“Calm down! Units at the flanks, abandon your spears, draw your swords and fight back against the zoan! Central units, keep up the dense formation!”
However, as Darius had said, Judius was inexperienced.
His qualities might be sufficient, but he lacked the experience to make use of them.
If Kadomos had been present in his stead, he probably wouldn't have limited it to shouting about fight back against the zoan and maintaining the dense formation.
If it had been Kadomos, he would surely have given the soldiers their desired hope.
He would have probably inspired the soldiers by weaving together wishful thinking and truth into phrases such as “Even if they are surrounding us, the enemy will fall apart soon due to their small numbers” or “Darius' unit will arrive very soon as reinforcement.”
However, Judius didn't do anything besides scolding the soldiers who are about to run away soon.
But, blaming only Judius for that is heartless.
“You wimps! Tightly hold onto the reins of your own units!”
The addressees at whom Judius barked are the captains who had been entrusted with platoons. All of them were young n.o.bles with this battle being their first campaign. With their first battle having developed into a melee, there's no way for them to properly control their own units. And not only that, there are even some who look as if they are about to resign from their command by running away.
Seeing their own captains preparing to flee, the soldiers' anxiety was stirred up, whether they wanted for that to happen or not, causing the captains to lose control over their unit all the more while being pushed back by the rebels even further. It was a vicious cycle.
In addition to Judius having to take over for Kadomos in command after his unexpected death, he's also forced to cover for those young n.o.bles. Either way, Judius didn't have the time to carefully consider the feelings of the soldiers as he was doing his best to solve the problems at hand.
Even now Judius hurled orders with at the top of his voice after discovering a unit that seemed to be on the verge of collapsing, but in the eyes of the zoan, he stood out quite obviously. Due to the zoan rushing towards Judius to take his head, the soldiers were almost pushed down, unable to mount a decent resistance. Judius, who kicked the a.r.s.es of those soldiers and somehow forced the zoan back, spit out in disgust,
“Compared to the bloodcurdling spirit of the zoan, our soldiers have cold feet. Just what is going on here!”
And the biggest reason for the punitive force to be overwhelmed so much is the difference in drive between the fighting parties.
This battle was seen as set victory by the soldiers of the punitive force.
After all, in addition to having such a difference in military forces, the one leading the army is General Darius, a general extolled as the best in Holmea, making it difficult to spot any reasons for a loss.
Hence many soldiers pondered all the time throughout the battle how to use the reward they would receive after the battle was over or thought about the welcome of the residents they would receive in the liberated city of Bolnis. From the outset they underestimated this battle.
On the contrary, the group around Souma was well aware of the fact that it would spell their doom if they lost this battle. All of those partic.i.p.ating in this battle threw themselves into the fights with the resolve to die.
This difference manifested itself in the actual battle in a distinct shape, which even Judius could apparently sense.
But, Souma began to become impatient.
Even Souma knew that an encirclement of the heavy spear infantry regiments was something very dangerous on top of having to somehow manage to keep a balance that might as well be called a miracle.
Despite this, as they haven't collapsed until now, the heavy spear infantry regiments are more tenacious than expected. Even the zoan who keep pushing now will likely reach the limits of their willpower and stamina in due time.
No, even before that, the unit led by Darius will return. Once that happens, the zoan, who are surrounding the heavy spear infantry regiments will be attacked from outside, and it will be our side next that's caught in a pincer attack from outside and inside.
For the sake of that not occurring, we must hold back Darius' unit for now. Just for a little bit will be plenty.
And then Souma, who was pondering how he should restrain Darius from now on, suddenly remembers. There are people inside our camp that are capable of accomplishing that.
Souma ran to the rear of the encampment and raised a loud voice towards the towering trees on the mountain's slope.
“Pipi! There's a change of schedule! Please obstruct the rear unit!”
No sooner than a high-pitched female voice could be heard from up in the trees, leaves and branches are scattered and something takes flight from atop the tree.
It was eight girls looking still very young.
However, they are no humans. Both arms are big bird wings that flutter as they are filled by the wind. Below their knees they have bird feet with talons growing out. Large tail feathers peeked out through the b.u.t.t part of their unique dresses which had a bold slit from their flanks to their b.u.t.tocks.
They are harpyians, one of the seven races living on this Seldeas Continent.
Those eight harpyian girls appearing in front of Souma was right after his “Proclamation of Iron.”
“I'm called Pipi Totto Gigi! I was very deeply moved by your words! By all means, please allow us harpyians to become your subordinates!”
Once their representative said that in a clear voice, the harpyians all at once kneeled down on one knee and bowed their heads while trying to lay down their big wings on the ground.
However, Souma was caught by surprise.
That's because the eight harpyians kneeling in front of him were all girls younger than Souma himself.
The girl, who was at the very front representing the harpyians, was at the age of a middle school student, no matter how you looked at it. She was a little girl where it wouldn't be weird even if she were an elementary school student.
Once she spread her big wings sparkling in cobalt blue, it looked as if the span length was more than four melt, but her height is at most reaching up to Souma's chest even if she stands erect.
Also, probably because she has somewhat big eyes in comparison to her whole face, she looks quite young. Hence her eyes with a strong will dwelling within give off a cheeky impression.
In addition to this, her hair has the same cobalt blue color as her wings which is impossible for a human. She even owns unusual, frizzy hair that seems to have a sense of touch.
“Anime hair and an ahoge1!? From what anime did they pop out!?”
Souma couldn't help spurting that out unintentionally.
As a matter of fact the head hair of harpyians consists of a variation of feathers.
Bird feathers have a hard rachis in their center. Plumage called barb grows from there, forming a feather. This is no different for harpyians either.
However, only the feathers on their heads have a thin and soft rachis. Those feathers are lying on top of each other while pliantly hanging down. From a distance they really look like human hair.
But, it doesn't change the fact that these are basically feathers. Unlike hair that has its color set by just the pigments contained within, the structure of the feathers' surface creates its colors through the interference and reflection of light, becoming multi-colored and beautiful to the degree of being incomparable to human hair. Also, what Souma considered to be a “Ahoge” is probably a remain of ornamental, bird of paradise-like feathers.
As might be expected, Souma felt reluctant to recruit girls that are younger than himself to fight for him, and thus hesitated to give an answer.
“Are you maybe having a misunderstanding here?”
Guessing Souma's doubts, the harpyian girl asked alongside a bitter smile.
“Humans and others often misunderstand, but even looking like this I'm a fully-fledged adult.”
“…! Eh? Eeeeh!?”
Once the surprised Souma looks at Shyemul searching for help, she told him after giving a preface of “Which reminds me…”
“Harpyians seem to look like children in the eyes of humans.”
I'd like you to tell me such things sooner, Souma thought.
“Umm… Miss, Gigi?”
Wondering whether the last part might be the name of the person just like with the zoan, he asked that, but the girl shakes her head.
“No, Gigi is my grandfather's name. Totto is my father's name, and Pipi is my name. Formally I'm called Pipi, daughter of Totto who is the son of Gigi!”
“So it's Miss Pipi then. — Umm, it's a nice name.”
In reality Souma wanted to say that it's a cute name, but he decided to use the safe way of calling it “nice name.”
“Yes! I'm named after Lady Pipi, a great female warrior, who was called 《Wild Eagle of Fresh Blood》 after decapitating many commanders in the battles against the humans in the far distant past. It's a name given to me by my grandfather!”
Far from being a cute name, it seems to be the name of the 《Wild Eagle of Fresh Blood》. Due to that Souma welcomed Pipi and the other harpyians even while having a slightly cramped expression.
However, Souma didn't reveal those harpyians in the battle until up to this point. That's not because he preserved them as trump cards. It's merely owed to him being unsure about the best way to use them.
He heard from the girls that throwing stones from high in the sky is the harpyians' strong point, but it was questionable just how much effect that would have with a mere eight people. On the contrary, if they were to fly above the enemy, they might become hindrances for arrow and stone-throwing attacks instead.
Because of that Souma had no other option but to keep them on standby in their role of messenger for the sake of everyone cooperating with each other and as relief at the time when they would charge with everyone after the heavy spear infantry regiments' dense formation fell apart.
However, currently there's no one except them who is capable of holding back Darius' unit.
Also Pipi and the other harpyians, who took off after receiving Souma's instruction, were delighted that the time for them being useful has come at last.
They knew that Souma was racking his brain about the best method to use them because of their low numbers. For that reason they didn't complain and grumble at all, but in the end they felt ashamed as they couldn't do anything but only watch the other races' hard fighting.
It's easy to imagine just how much Souma's order cheered up the harpyians who finally gained the opportunity to be useful.
Pipi's group, which flew up to above Darius' unit in one go, skillfully grasped stones from within a basket they held with one leg with the other leg while circling on the spot and started to throw these at the humans below.
The soldiers moved about in confusion due to the stones raining down irregularly from above their heads.
Among them there were some who tried to shoot down the harpyians with arrows, but as they were in the middle of changing their formation in order to head out as reinforcement to the heavy spear infantry regiments, that was p.r.o.ne to fail. If they stopped at a bad point, it would disturb the ranks instead.
The punitive force's soldiers couldn't do anything besides looking up at the harpyians' stone throwing from far above them, where their own attacks won't reach, without any usable means to counter.
Suddenly Darius' roaring pours down on those fl.u.s.tered soldiers.
“Don't panic! It's only pebbles that are falling down! That's nothing you have to be afraid of!”
Just as Darius says, the stones dropped by the harpyians had at most a size allowing the harpyians to grasp them with one foot. No matter from how high above they drop those, the stones aren't capable of causing a single b.u.mp from atop the helmets.
This is the reason why the harpyians couldn't keep up with the humans even while possessing the overwhelming advantage of air superiority.
The harpyians' bodies are specialized for flight.
Their bodies being small to the extent of Souma misunderstanding them as children is for the sake of lowering their weight by downsizing their bodies. Also, except for their pectoral muscles to sustain their wings, their muscles are weak and slender to an astonishing degree.
Furthermore, compared to the other races, they possess only a little amount of bones. This is because they consolidated several bones into one, lowering the total number of bones, to make their bodies as light as possible. In addition to that, the bones themselves are hollow inside, making them remarkably lighter in comparison to other animals. In order to make up for the shortfall of their bones' strength, a coa.r.s.e, sponge-like bone tissue inside the hollow area supports the bones that have turned into braces, but even so that doesn't change the fact that their bones break easier than those of other races.
Thanks to these bodies that might be called feeble, the harpyians were treated as a kind of pet, rather than as slaves, for the sake of admiring their beautiful wings.
After all they can't be used for labor with their physical strength being inferior to human children. On the other hand, seeing as they get injured easily if treated roughly, they are unusable as s.e.x slaves, although one might say that their appearance resembles that of humans closely, because they will die due to bone fractures throughout their entire body if they are mounted.
Even so, the flight ability of the harpyians – they gained in exchange for those weak bodies – was something that required all their effort to just allow their own bodies to float.
During battle harpyians prefer dropping stones and throwing arrows from above while capitalizing on that flight ability. However, the harpyians' flight has harsh limitations in regards to load. It had the big shortcoming of them being unable to fly if they held onto too many stones and throwing arrows.
One of the conditions for a great commander according to the famous, former imperial general Inkdiaz is “Fort.i.tude allowing one to bear with the harpyians' stone throwing and archery until they run out of ammunition.” If you turn that around, the harpyians' stone throwing doesn't last long and only requires bearing with it patiently.
“Something like harpyians aren't worth any fear!”
Darius drew the sword at his waist and successively cut down the pillars supporting the arrow-protection roof that covered the chariot alongside a small yell. And then he adopts a daunting pose atop the chariot that had lost its overhead protection.
The soldiers' disorder quickly calmed down due to Darius who showed through his own actions that the harpyians' stone throwing isn't anything to be scared of.
This caused Pipi and the other harpyians to get fl.u.s.tered.
They had deliberately chosen to bring along pebbles they can carry in big numbers instead of big stones possessing a strong penetration force.
While they were already limited to throwing the stones they brought along, they would furthermore become unable to continue for a longer time if they used big stones since they were no more than a mere eight harpyians. If it was something allowing them to kill a great number of enemies such as bombs or fire jars light enough that they could fly while carrying those, for example, it would be a different story, but on top of such things not being at hand, they chose to at least increase the numbers of stones they can throw. However, this time that choice backfired on them instead.
One of the harpyians, who noticed that their stone throwing had lost all of its effectiveness, shouts towards Pipi,
“I will directly hit that commander with a stone!”
Pill calls out to her trying to stop her, but that harpyian flew up in the sky once and then swooped down in one go towards Darius from there.
Although the harpyians' feet can be moved as skillfully as human hands, the stone throwing from high up in the sky suffers from accuracy problems after all. To hit a specific human with a stone, they have to swoop down at their target like this and throw the stone at the last moment.
Detecting her with his sharp eyesight, Darius laughs slightly through his nose.
“Lend a bow to me.”
Darius drew the bow, he received from one of his guards, to the limit and released the arrow towards the harpyian descending his way. The harpyian receives the arrow with her chest without any time to avoid it, and plummets to the ground while spinning. After crashing, she got surrounded by the soldiers in the vicinity and was cut into pieces.
The soldiers raise cheers at the archery skill of Darius.
“Now then, don't worry about the harpyians! Hurry and put the ranks in order! We are heading out to reinforce our allies!”
The harpyians had already lost any means to stop Darius' unit.
To begin with, they were prepared for not being able to restrain the enemy for long as the number of stones thrown is too low, no matter how many pebbles they might have brought along, but for them to be rendered helpless at such an early stage was unforeseen.
Unable to return for a throwing stones replenishment at this point, Pipi's group couldn't do anything besides circling above Darius' group in order to at least distract the enemy's attention while biting their lips in frustration.
Translation Notes:I think this has already set itself as English word. Basically it's describing the odd kink growing out on top of the head. A good example for it would be Filo from Tate no Yuusha Report broken chapters