There were no strong winds outside, and as the dark night spread out before us in silence, white snow fell and piled up.
After the date had changed, although there were still several hours before the sun rose, we devoted approximately two hours to covert operations within the Royal Castle just like the other day.
Just like we did last time, those who excelled at covert operations, such as the Ninja Kobolds and the goblins from my generation with small builds, slipped into the Royal Castle under the cover of darkness. Their work was simple, with the aim of gradually reducing the Nobles Faction's private soldiers by having them disappear while they were patrolling.
Of course, I didn't do such troublesome and roundabout work. I was in the secret basement mass-producing clones, which can be treated as expendable troops. If I were to keep creating Black Skeletons and Black Ogres, I might be able to easily crush the Strong Grandson to death with an overwhelming number of them.
Since I can supply myself with magic by using 【Absorb Magic】 to absorb it from the darkness, my internal magic supply is nearly endless, unless I act very rashly. In the first place, it's been proven that I'm able to prepare approximately 5,000 black skeletons using just my internal magic supply.
I'm not worried about materials either, since I can easily secure water for my clones.
I was cooperating with Kanami-chan, who has the 【Intermediate Summoning: Undead】 ability, in order to summon several Black Skeleton Commanders. They're a higher ranking species of Black Skeleton, whose summoning restrictions are lifted by consuming one of its kind. If I were to do this alone, a moderate amount of time would be necessary, but it is feasible enough to prepare more than 10,000 soldiers through synthesis with her help.
The black skeletons that the Commanders summon are an uncertain factor, since their attributes deteriorate across the board when compared with the ones I have summoned. I also have to take into account that, since most of them are undead, even if I were to prepare 10,000 soldiers, most of them would quickly disappear once the sun starts to rise.
However, despite all of that, they still adequately satisfy the standards necessary for them to be treated as expendable troops. It's not necessary for us to pay too much attention to this weakness though, since it's still several hours before the sun rises.
For that reason alone, it's very easy to pulverize the opponent with an overwhelming number of forces.
Since 【Fire】, 【Holy Light】 and 【Blunt Force】 from blunt weapons are all well known weaknesses of monsters of the skeleton variety, they're likely to be dealt with immediately, so the number of skeletons alone will be helpful.
Even if they were to adopt measures to oppose them, if 10,000 Black Skeleton ranked monsters were to launch a surprise attack from the inside, there aren't any fortresses that would not fall.
That's why, since the core of the enemy, the Strong Grandson and Sly Old Fox, have gathered in one place, I have no doubt that this is the perfect opportunity to launch an attack on them.
Although most of the main force, such as Minokichi-kun, Supesei-san, Asue-chan and Gurufu-chan aren't here, our forces are still above a certain level. We can replenish them by mass-summoning more troops, as well.
That's why I chose a strategy that slowly erodes their forces from the inside, since it's almost always a combination of strategy and the current situation that allows one to obtain victory.
The main reason this method was selected is because it suited what my employer, the Tomboy Princess, wanted.
The pretext for this is――
『I want you to keep the damage to the castle to a minimum. Since it's a symbol of the Kingdom, I want you to do as much as you can to avoid defiling it with blood, as well as destroying it with your absurd power. When it comes to the Strong Grandson, it won't end with just a simple assassination, you know. You don't need to take them directly head-on, but it's necessary to make it known ,both on the inside and the outside, that their troops suffered a crushing defeat.』
――or so I was told.
I certainly understand what she's getting at, but that's difficult for us.
It's necessary for her to display far and wide that she possesses the military power to force the nobles that rebelled to yield, but it cannot be done in such a way that will cause her to be treated with contempt.
Since they have gained control of the Royal Castle and nearly all members of the royal family, it might be possible for them to have an impact on the future of the Sternbild Kingdom's administration. For that reason, even if we assassinated the top members of the Nobles Faction that caused the coup d'etat, it's very likely that those who remain will not give up yet and will begin to act recklessly.
If that happens, it will inevitably become troublesome.
Once they've been delivered a crushing defeat, it'll be necessary to clearly determine the outcome. Otherwise, after the civil war ends and we leave, the nobles will end up having more power than they currently do and a coup d'etat will be more likely to occur again.
Most importantly, their reckless actions will influence the Sternbild Kingdom's territories and cause quite a bit of unrest. There would be an increase in the occurrence of thieves and barbarians as well, possibly coming from other countries. On top of all of that, allies of other nations might use this opportunity to create chaos so that neighboring countries, such as the Kirika Empire and so on, can attempt to use various pretexts to divide and rule the Sternbild Kingdom.
Since the very young, cute and scheming Princess intends to become the Kingdom's ruler, she wants to avoid this.
These are my employer's intentions, so it can't be helped.
The Tomboy Princess thoroughly surrounded the exterior of the Royal Capital with the powerful forces of the Duke's family, which are mostly made up of many 【Infantry】, 【Cavalry】 which ride beasts such as war horses, and so on. There were various branches of service in his army, and they numbered approximately 5,000 in total. While his forces were threatening and putting pressure on the rebels from the outside, we were poking around inside as we worked hard to reduce their forces and create distrust amongst them.
I'll be surprised if their morale doesn't fall after this, but if it doesn't happen, I will have no choice but to recognize the leadership ability of the Strong Grandson and his allies.
Well, since the current situation is progressing without any problems, I don't think any mistakes will be made.
Currently, the Royal Castle is packed with a maximum of around 3,000 of the Strong Grandson's troops. Although there are many more forces prepared and on standby in the territories of the Nobles, this is how many exist within the castle.
There are always around 300 of the most elite of them guarding the key people within the 【Nobles Faction】, such as the Strong Grandson and Sly Old Fox.
Even the weakest of these 300 possess at least three battle system 【Jobs】, so their overall combat ability is quite high. This makes them at least equal to the Rusty Iron Knight when he led his forces into the vast forest that was our birthplace, with only the influential people being stronger than him.
Many of these people carry the 【Divine Protection of a Demigod】, though there are a few that carry the 【Divine Protection of a God】, as well.
If I were to say more, some are almost 【Heroes】 and 【Great Heroes】 and may possibly be 【Legendary Heroes in the Making】. To speak badly of them, 【Heroes】 and 【Great Heroes】 are chosen because of their superior abilities and the fact that a 【God】 is fond of their personality, so those who don't have strong willpower fail to become one.
Thanks to the results of this talented group's habitual training, they've become one huge group that won't have their coordinated movements disturbed. For this reason, it can't be helped that it will be a tough fight.
If I don't use group members that are stronger than Black Skeletons against them, there's a high possibility that I won't be able to kill them.
If I pressure them with an overwhelming amount of skeletons, something along the lines of 100 or 1,000 per individual, it shouldn't be impossible to crush them by attacking relentlessly without giving them time to coordinate their attacks. I'll need to be careful though, since there will be a pointless increase in damage if we simply take a brute force approach.
Well, I'm thankful that their movements will be easy to read, since they aren't likely to stray far from the Strong Grandson and his allies.
Although the roughly 2,700 remaining soldiers have all reached at least a certain level thanks to their daily training, they don't seem to be as strong as the rest.
We can reduce the damage if I put pressure on them with at least two Black Skeletons per person, while at the same time easily killing their weaker members.
It would be nice for us to defeat them head-on using a difference in our number of forces, but we won't waste such a plan here.
Of course, the enemy's weapons, coordination, topography and affinity may make for some difficult fights, but I think it's alright to conclude that they shouldn't be a threat unless there's a large incident.
Even if it's not possible to kill them with my Black Skeletons, I can disregard the damage to the Royal Castle and, as a last resort, use my 【Human Bomb】 ability at the same time as my skeletons to change humans or humanoid monsters into bombs in order to win the battle.
It makes me shiver when I put myself in my opponent's shoes since, among other things, I could turn groups of Black Skeletons into bombs and have them explode with a high probability of killing the people within a diameter of several meters.
Although the Black Skeletons alone may make it troublesome for the enemy, when they think the skeletons have been defeated they will suddenly create an explosion that is difficult for them successfully defend against. On top of that, there will be a higher number of black bones that are sent flying at the time of the explosion. The damage from this should not be taken lightly.
The black bones that had exploded and scattered would disappear a short time later, and if they are plugging up someone's wounds when they do so, the possibility of the person dying from blood loss if they aren't quickly treated increases. This isn't any consolation, though.
Even though I would carry out this plan myself, I most likely wouldn't see the results as anything but tragic.
Of course, even though the bombs are capable of randomly exploding as long as the conditions are met, when I take into consideration the risk and return of using this tactic, I still wouldn't hesitate to do so.
For that reason, it's certainly not the the enemy forces' 300 elite soldiers that I need to be the most wary of.
The Rock Hero, who has a long military record and has survived many battlefields, is lending them his assistance in order to return a favor that he received from the dead Minister personally. However, I can say with confidence that he is the most troublesome of the two, since he thinks that I'm the criminal that killed the Minister. Still, if I look at the whole picture, the Water Hero is quite an uncertain factor in the war, since he is fighting for the sake of his family that's being held hostage.
Well, perhaps I should say that he's dangerous, instead.
The Water Hero was originally a farmer just like Avenger. His family appears to have been cultivating an inferior plot of land, and it was difficult for them to grow crops. For that reason, there was not a surplus for his family and he appears to have lived a considerably poor life since childhood. Despite this, his family and their neighbors cooperated with one another and they were somehow able to survive.
However, when the Water Hero was ten years old, the Lord that governs the land collected more taxes than usual, which caused poverty to accelerate as he took advantage of his position to fill his own pockets with money.
The Water Hero that was always poor, his family, and the villagers who survived by cooperating with one another were in a troubled state over what to eat that day. When times were at their worst, they would chew on the roots of the withered grass in order to survive.
However, one day he received the 【Divine Protection of a God】, which caused his life to improve just like Avenger's had. After some time passed, he went to attend a school in the Royal Capital.
As a result of his vigorous work every day so that he could support his family, he graduated with very good grades. He entered the military after that and officially became the 【Hero of Quivering Water】 shortly afterwards. Then, using his own influence, he killed the Lord that had tormented him and his family with his own hands.
When he did so, he made sure to torment the Lord with a small taste of the suffering that they had gone through by slowly cutting the tips of his hands and feet off, while only giving him the bare minimum amount of food and water necessary to survive. I heard that the Water Hero put the Lord through a lot of torture, keeping him on the border between life and death.
To sum it up in a few words, the Water Hero has a fairly extreme nature, which doesn't match his ordinary appearance. I realize that I'm repeating this, but the reason the Water Hero serves the country is so that he can support his family.
Therefore, he has no loyalty at all for the country and the royal family. Instead, he might even feel hatred towards them and as a result, probably wouldn't have a problem killing them.
Typical of personalities like the Water Hero's, he will struggle to the death for the sake of saving his precious family. For that reason, I guess it's not very hard to imagine him coming to kill the Tomboy Princess.
This is because one of the opponent's victory conditions is her death.
By the way, given that the Water Hero's specialty is widespread attacks that make use of vibrating water, I'm certain that he would completely eradicate the Black Skeletons if he acted violently in the places where they had gathered together unskillfully.
If I'm not stingy with my abilities for the time being and I pair up with Kanami, I'm confident that we could completely defeat both of the 【Hero】's parties, even if we fought them at the same time. However, the fight will definitely drag on if we do that, and there's no way of knowing what would happen on the battlefield.
There's no way it would feel good if we were tripped up by an unexpected occurrence, though.
For the time being, it's been decided that the only people holding these guys back are the two of us. Since that's the case, I'll set this matter aside for now and focus on adapting to the circumstances we find ourselves in.
With the exception of the Heroes, the Strong Grandson and his allies most likely have a trump card, though I can't describe it since I have yet to confirm its existence.
I'm not sure why I thought they had one, but if the Heroes alone are normally enough, then it's probably safe to say that the probability of that being the case is low.
As long as an unexpected wild card doesn't appear, I think that things should progress more or less as I planned, but it's hard to say what will actually happen in the end.
If they do have a trump card, I think we'll probably still be able to pull it off with the same tactic we're using for the others, but I'm going to be cautious about it so that this doesn't result in a loss for us.
I don't think we'll make progress very easily, but it's for the best if they don't have anything like that.
Well, that should give a rough idea of the enemy's war potential and their current status, anyway.
Now, about work. For the time being, since the Strong Grandson and his allies understood that the morale of the soldiers and nobles would be affected if the assassinations continued, they began to adopt various countermeasures against them.
The soldiers patrolling the Royal Castle at night had assembled into groups of three, according to the instructions that they had previously been given. The standard group was three people, but they assembled into groups of five when there were cowardly nobles with them, and there were sporadic instances of ten soldiers grouping together in order to go around with large families, as well.
In addition, the last time we were here, the heavy security that was spread around the Royal Castle was wearing protective gear that was close to cloth armor, which had a gaudy appearance that emphasized that it was ornamental. However, they would die with that sort of armor, so their gear was upgraded and they were now wearing metal body armor, hand and wrist guards, and so on.
As one would expect, since it would make them sluggish during these times, people aren't equipping the troublesome metal armor from head to toe just to work. Instead, they appear to have substituted the missing pieces with accessories such as earrings and rings, which are magic items that possess abilities that increase a person's defensive capabilities.
Suspended at the soldier's waist are a longsword and dagger, and in one hand they held a magic item which had a shape similar to a compass combined with a lantern, which plays a role similar to a motion sensor and also emits light.
According to the Boy Knight, this magic item appears to be called a "Beacompass." It's quite an expensive item, but its performance is guaranteed. As for the Beacompass' characteristics, it doesn't just detect moving things, but it also appears to react to the life force of creatures. It's only effective in a 180 degree arc in front of the item though, since it excludes the item's owner and people that are behind them from being counted as enemy targets when it searches.
For that reason, it's very difficult to conceal oneself from it.
Nevertheless, even though their body was wrapped in a substantial amount of equipment, they were staring intensely at the Beacompass' needle with bloodshot eyes every time there was the slightest movement of the needle point. They would then let out a sigh of relief the moment they understood that it was just the wind causing the tree leaves to move. However, the hand that they always had on their sword's hilt was trembling slightly out of fear.
They looked just like people that were in a situation where they were being hunted, though this actually was the case.
This is because a decisive opening is created when they depend on a magic item to search for their enemy instead of their own senses.
In response to this, I put a group of six people on the enemy's standard groups of three.
Although the Beacompass is an excellent item for detecting moving objects and living things, the item's structure makes it difficult for its needle to move up and down. This is because it's normally enough for it to simply detect horizontal movement.
For that reason, in the thin shadows that occurred in the corners of the passage's high ceiling, there were people wearing armor called 【Black Bone Living Mail】, which is created by weaving together durable cloth and the bodies of three Black Skeletons with 【Bone Union】. When they use the armor's eight spider-like legs that had grown on its back to cling to the ceiling, the reaction from the Beacompass becomes very weak.
Once we knew of this weak point, it was a simple matter to make use of surprise attacks to hunt them without making a single sound.
Having said that, if a soldier had used their own senses to search for the enemy, they should have been able to hear the small noises that the rubbing of the bone armor made as it moved, as well as the breathing of the goblins.
However, because they were only relying on the Beacompass, their ability to search for the enemy had been reduced. I have to say I've had just about enough of challenging people whose awareness hasn't increased at all.
Nevertheless, with our people acting in groups of six, they weren't able to hunt the same number of targets in the same amount of time as before. This can't be helped though, since the enemy's true colors have yet to be seen.
For that reason, from our work this time, approximately thirty six private soldiers from the Royal Castle quietly disappeared from this world. There were six nobles who had private residences in the Royal Capital that were killed in their homes with the same poison that killed the Minister, as well.
Just like before, the poisoned nobles were not major people like the Strong Grandson, people that depended on reading the situation themselves, people that joined in because of the decree of the leaders of families that are affiliated with the Nobles Faction, or people that reluctantly joined because of a friendly invitation or something along those lines. Instead, they were people that had been added to the lower ranks for various reasons.
Incidentally, there was advanced notice of the next murder written on the carpet that was spread over the floor where the bodies of the nobles had fallen, on the luxurious clothes that they were wearing, or on the walls where there were traces of blood because they had been leaned on. These notices, which were written in dark red paint that was a mix of the noble's blood and a special material, said, "Who on earth will become the next sack of poison?"
The notices stood out even if it was dark because the special material that was mixed into the paint made it shine mysteriously. As time passed their blood dripped and formed tracks, creating an even more bizarre atmosphere.
It was a scene that caused the maids and butlers to scream when they saw it.
The mood that said they feared the criminal that wrote the notices was beneficial, as well.
At that point, the night ended as the sun began to rise. Shortly before sunrise, there began to be active movement within the Royal Castle and the Nobles District.
These noises included the footsteps of knights busily going to and coming from the Royal Castle and the royal guards that were mainly following them, the low-pitched sound of military officers boldly issuing orders to their subordinates, the small tones of the tableware resounding as maids carried breakfast to their masters, and the working noise of a great number of soldiers and wagons transporting goods.
All of these sounds were related to preparations with regards to the Tomboy Princess' approaching army.
However, the Strong Grandson's preparations appeared to be advancing somewhat on schedule, since they were almost fully completed yesterday.
The orders handed down from the top were accepted without issue, so there was little confusion.
Thanks to their speedy preparations, it can be said that they were almost finished the arrangements for the upcoming battle. Normally, it would have taken a bit more time to finish these preparations.
By the way, with regards to the previously mentioned preparations, the reason a significant number of forces were able to be assembled in a short time is because the Strong Grandson and his allies' forces, which had been left behind in the nobles' territories, had tamed Wyverns and Griffins deliver written instructions to them via airmail.
Once they are ready, the number of soldiers alone will slightly exceed that of the Tomboy Princess' army. Furthermore, the combined armies of the nobles are rounded out by the two Heroes that are supporting them.
Therefore, regarding their fear of being assassinated, almost the entire enemy side was filled with an atmosphere that said that there was no reason that they couldn't win.
During this time, information spread saying that more nobles had been assassinated.
My report reached the Strong Grandson and Sly Old Fox first, who issued a gag order with the hope that it would prevent morale from dropping. However, since the actual truth was circulated anyway, the information had spread quickly.
It looks like they came to the conclusion that it was a bad idea to conceal any further information that came here about nobles being assassinated. However, concerning the advanced notice written in blood, it was suppressed to the point that it was only vaguely circulated. It wasn't entirely hidden, but it was superbly regulated so that a fair number of people didn't know about it, even though they could have found out if they tried to do so.
Although the information didn't remain hidden, troop morale didn't drop much.
It would have caused troop morale to drop either way, but it still seems to be better than all of the members knowing everything from the very beginning. The reason I say this is that people would think that those who didn't gather information were lacking in ability, since they would have learned about the notices if they had done so.
With the gag order issued, my plans were thrown off and I had to change them, since I was in a situation where I was trying to find a suitable time to circulate the information.
Anyway, since the atmosphere around the Nobles Faction was heavy, which was more or less in accordance with my objectives, that's all I'll say about that.
I wanted to bring the truth up in the rebellion at a fatal moment, but if it creates distrust among them in any way, it should be enough.
As expected of the Strong Grandson and his allies, since they were able to grasp the situation, it seems that they were able to come up with countermeasures somehow or another. However, I'm ready to outwit them every time this happens because of the information gathering abilities of my clones.
It looks like their preparations will be finished today.
The Strong Grandson and his allies are being cautious of us and won't attack the Tomboy Princess' army from the cover of the Royal Capital's walls. Instead, they appear to have decided to crush them head-on at the plains that are exactly midway between her army and the capital.
They aren't using any sort of plan, but instead chose to use pure strength to defeat them.
The Tomboy Princess' forces will almost certainly be defeated if they do this.
Since not only do the Nobles Faction have superior numbers, but also higher quality soldiers because of the existence of the Heroes, the Tomboy Princess' army would not be able to win in a direct confrontation with them.
Even if they make good use of strategy and tactics, I don't know what will happen to the forces that encounter one of the Heroes, which would be the Water Hero and his party in this case.
It may be possible for them to avoid defeat somehow, but it would be better to not expect much.
In the first place, since we should think about recapturing the Royal Castle before anything else, I don't have much interest in what happens to them.
Well, it should be alright, since I took out some insurance on the Tomboy Princess's army.
Even if they are defeated, they shouldn't be completely destroyed.
【World Psalms [Legend of the Black Eclipse Demon], Chapter 4 【Encouragement of a Kingdom's Revolution】, Verse 6 【Final Castle Crawl (Lulu Iera)】 has been completed. The following hidden conditions were cleared: ≪Castle's Night of Terror≫ and ≪Creeping Malice≫】
- It should be noted that not all of the lines are precisely accurate, because it's important to make the information flow, etc. On top of that, there were some ridiculously difficult lines in this day (because of author grammar, among other things)...so it's possible that not everything is accurate, though I did consult with those I know who know the language when it was necessary to do so. ^^
- Changed Gurukufu to Gurufu (グル腐), because "Kufu" is a combination of two potential names, and her name is Fu...so...Gurufu. Will retroactively change the name soon if someone else doesn't do so before me. ^^
- There's a line that mentions something about "scooping up with water from the feet" literally...but figuratively it means to be "tripped up by an unexpected event," so that's what I went with...it makes a lot more sense this way, too...since it's not meant to be literal anyway. ^^
- The line about the Royal Castle's guard upgrading their armor was a freaking NIGHTMARE, because the grammar was horrible. I had a native speaker look at it and he was like: ...good freaking god, that's awful. ...so...I'm not sure it's entirely accurate, because I had to turn it into something that MADE SENSE.
- There's a line mentioning the notice saying "Who on earth will become the next sack of poison?" - I think it's MEANT to be like this and not worded in any other way...so as to instill as much fear as possible instead of just saying: "Who will be the next target?"...that's why I left it like this. ^^