How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom: Volume 9 (Premium), page 1part #9 of Realist Hero Series
Prologue: Tora and Tiger
Beneath the high sky on a warm, clear day, the winter was drawing near.
The Dabicon River shone in the sunlight as a procession of troops belonging to the Kingdom of Friedonia moved east along it. They marched at a confident pace, but not hurrying.
The demon wave was a phenomenon in which a great number of monsters were flowing out of the Demon Lord’s Domain in the north.
Our forces from the Kingdom of Friedonia were coming to aid the Union of Eastern Nations, which was being struck by the demon wave.
Just the other day, we had gone to one of the areas of intense fighting, the Kingdom of Lastania. Working with local forces, we had succeeded in eliminating a swarm of monsters. We were now heading toward the other area that had seen intense fighting, the Duchy of Chima.
Having received a report in the Kingdom of Lastania that they were facing a crisis situation, I had sent the Wyvern Cavalry and Dratroopers ahead and placed a heavy focus on speed as we hurried to have the troops march. But then word came that the forces of the Union of Eastern Nations had gathered in the Duchy of Chima, and it was unlikely to fall immediately, so we were now proceeding at a normal marching pace so as not to break ranks.
As the one who was, for official purposes, leading this force (though the one taking actual command was Ludwin), I had joined the procession on horseback.
There were sturdy carriages for the higher-up, but being in a carriage the whole time would have made my shoulders stiff, so I was riding a horse so that I could move around.
Naden was sitting in front of me as I held the reins. “Wow, who knew you could ride a horse?”
I had mostly been riding Naden in her ryuu form lately, but I couldn’t match pace with the army that way, so we were riding a horse together this time.
I felt embarrassed when she complimented me on my skill with a horse, so I scratched at my cheek. “My teacher, Owen, taught me well.”
“Hmm, this is kind of new. Normally, I’m the one giving you a ride, but now you’re giving me one. This is nice, too, in its own way.” Naden leaned back against me.
When Naden’s head got closer to mine, her glossy, black hair gave off a pleasant scent. I rested my chin between Naden’s two antlers. When I moved my chin around a little in that position, Naden let out a sigh in weird voice. “Ahhhhh...”
While I was playing with Naden, a horse approached from behind.
“You look like you’re having fun,” said the horse’s rider.
This was a blue-haired beauty who was the sole person wearing a marine uniform in this military procession: our Prima Lorelei, Juna.
“I’m a little jealous that you get to have a leisurely ride with His Majesty,” she went on.
“I’ll trade places with you later,” Naden said.
“Hee hee! Please do. If I ride, maybe I should be the one in back.”
While listening to Juna talk cheerfully, I smiled wryly. “I was sure you’d be going back with Excel.”
Excel had done a great service for us in the Kingdom of Lastania, and then been stubbornly resistant to return home afterward. Having foreseen that, my prime minister, Hakuya, had sent Excel’s granddaughter, Juna, to come collect her.
I had expected her to go back to Parnam with Excel, but now she was accompanying us instead.
Juna gave me a charming smile. “If Roroa has returned to the castle, there’s no reason I should have to, too. I will be staying with you from here on, sire.”
I smiled. “That’s reassuring for me, but... Excel’s going to get miffed about it.”
In fact, Excel was probably complaining, And here I am, going home quietly! right this moment.
Juna gave me with a very nice smile. “It will do Grandmother some good. She’s always playing around too much, despite her old age.”
“There’s a line I’d be too scared to say myself,” I confessed. “Especially the part about her age.”
“Ahaha! You do get it!” Naden, whose age was as much of an unknown as Excel’s, laughed.
While we were talking about that, Aisha came up on a horse. “Your Majesty, a message for you from Sir Ludwin. There is a request from a nearby town saying, ‘We are surrounded by monsters and would like to ask for help.’”
“Again?” I sighed.
The effects of the demon wave were spread along the Dabicon River, which served as the border with the Demon Lord’s Domain. In short, there was fighting all over.
Even if most places weren’t facing a crisis on the same scale as the Kingdom of Lastania or the Duchy of Chima, there were obviously going to be places that couldn’t slay all of the monsters on their own.
There was an endless stream of requests from such places, and as we were here in response to a request from the Empire to provide aid, we had to respond to each one.
“How many?” I asked.
“Around a hundred,” Aisha reported. “If we send out the wyvern cavalry, they can scatter them instantly.”
“We’ll have to send Hal and his men again, I guess... Okay. Tell him he has my permission.”
“Yes, sir. Understood.”
Aisha’s horse raced to the front of the procession. When there was a request for aid, we deployed a unit with high mobility, like the wyvern cavalry or regular cavalry, and had them rejoin this main force when the enemy were defeated. This was another reason we couldn’t pick up our marching speed too much.
“I knew it would be, but monster slaying is tiresome work,” I commented.
“Unlike war, it doesn’t end when you break the enemy’s main force,” Juna agreed.
“That’s right.” I nodded. “It’s a pain, but we can’t leave them be. We have to nip trouble in the bud as much as possible.”
“Yes. I think you’re right.”
“If Ruby gets tired, let’s go, too,” Naden put in. “I’ll drop some lightning on them and scatter them.”
“Yeah,” I said, looking up to watch a unit of wyvern cavalry flying off into the eastern sky. “I’m counting on you.”
◇ ◇ ◇
Meanwhile, as Souma and his party were heading to the Duchy of Chima...
In the area around Wedan, the capital of the Duchy of Chima, an intense battle was being fought again today.
The strategy being used in the Duchy of Chima during this demon wave was essentially the same as the one used by Julius in the Kingdom of Lastania. The armed forces abandoned all the places that would be difficult to hold, concentrating their forces in Wedan and preparing for a siege.
However, the Duchy of Chima had two things the Kingdom of Lastania did not: the solid Wedan Castle, and reinforcements from the Union of Eastern Nations that they had gained through skillful diplomacy.
In order to use these two things effectively, Duke Chima had deliberately allowed the monsters to approach Wedan Castle, and worked with the reinforcements from the union to meet them there. The back-and-forth battle between the monsters and the united forces of the Union of Eastern Nations was ongoing.
There were eyes watching the battle which continued on today, from a distance.
From atop a tall tree in among the trees on a hill that overlooked the field of battle, there stood a great man clad in black armor and wearing a black tiger mask.
This was the leader of the Kingdom of Friedonia’s clandestine operatives, the Black Cats.
Hm... The union’s forces are doing a good job defending against the monsters. With eyes shining beneath the mask, Kagetora observed the battlefield.
Faced with an untold thousands of monsters, the ragtag forces of the union seeme
They are putting up a good fight, he reflected. However, with each force fighting as it pleases, they lack efficiency. If the king of some country were to lead an alliance, and organize this force, they could surely reduce the number of casualties...
Then he shook his head.
But considering how the union’s combined force was formed, it would be impossible.
If someone could be credited with the creation of this force from the Union of Eastern Nations, it would likely be Duke Chima with his request for reinforcements. However, the Duchy of Chima was a small country, and no matter how capable they were at diplomacy, they did not have the power to take the head of a coalition and unify the forces of each country under their command.
Meanwhile, if the country with the most forces were to try and take command, the other countries that were trying to distinguish themselves and win the reward of one of the Chima siblings would push back against it.
Because of that, each country was paying with not-insignificant losses as each fought as they pleased in order to win acclaim.
It was a style of fighting that brought massive damage to the enemy, but also to one’s allies as well. If they continued like this, there would inevitably be places where their forces collapsed... or so he had thought.
But it has yet to happen...
In contrast to Kagetora’s expectations, the forces of the union had not collapsed anywhere. That was because anywhere that it seemed there might be a collapse, those people would jump in.
If you squinted at the battlefield, there was something there, jumping around like fleas. Not just one or two of them. There were more than a thousand of them traversing the battleground freely, literally jumping around from place to place. When those people reached a point that looked ready to collapse, the tides of battle were instantly reversed, and the forces that were close to breaking recovered. He had seen it happen several times on the battlefield in front of him.
Kagetora felt a sudden presence behind him.
“Master Kagetora.” One of the members of the Black Cats, wearing the black mask and outfit of a ninja, landed on a branch behind him. “We have determined their identity.”
“Let’s hear it.” Kagetora had ordered the Black Cats to investigate the ones jumping around that battlefield.
The Black Cat reported his findings. “The ones who are jumping around the battlefield are leaping cavalry from the nomadic state of Malmkhitan, from the steppes to the east of here.”
“Malmkhitan... That’s not a name I’ve heard.”
“Their country was only just formed before the creation of the Union of Eastern Nations, so there has been little chance for talk of them to spread.”
Then the operative began to explain the events leading to the formation of the steppe state of Malmkhitan.
On the formation of the steppe nation of Malmkhitan in the Union of Eastern Nations...
The area where Malmkhitan would eventually form was originally populated by many small nomadic tribes. Before the formation of the Union of Eastern Nations, these tribes warred with each other at times, formed blood ties through marriage, and went through a series of destructions and unifications.
Whenever an enemy tribe was destroyed, it was not completely annihilated, but instead absorbed into the conquering tribe in its weakened state, allowing the population of the steppes to be maintained without too much of a decline.
The many small tribes often warred, but they had a strong sense of being a common steppe people, and so whenever outsiders invaded, the tribes would unite to eliminate the external threat.
Meanwhile, those tribes on the edge of the steppe traded with outside countries, invited in skilled people, and traded in slaves. This brought in foreign blood, but they worked to ensure it did not become too prominent. It was a region that had a closed-off mentality that placed value on steppe traditions, while also embracing and absorbing events from the outside world.
The people of this region were of diverse races. The human, dwarven, and beastmen races were all represented, but because many tribes had died out or were integrated, the majority of people were a mixture of human and beastman blood.
The most common people looked human, aside from beast ears or tails, or they had small wings growing from their backs. The latter might make one think of angels, but the feathers were more often black or brown, so they looked more like crow tengu.
When these steppe tribes saw the nations of the north fall after the appearance of the Demon Lord’s Domain and the southward advance of the monsters, they felt a sense of crisis.
The existence of a foreign threat greater than any before gave birth to an unprecedented sense that the steppe tribes must unite as one. And as they experienced events similar to the demon wave that would come four years later, that sense was suddenly heightened, so all the tribes of the steppes were united.
The largest and most powerful of the steppe tribes, the Haan, was at the center. And the head of the Haan was Raiga Haan. So, with all of the tribes that supported him, Raiga eliminated any tribes opposed to unification and founded the steppe state of Malmkhitan.
However, Malmkhitan could not prepare to face the threat of the demon wave alone. So it acceded to the Union of Eastern Nations, which formed to prepare for the threat of the Demon Lord’s Domain, becoming a medium-sized state inside the union.
And then Raiga, the overlord of the steppes, finally ran out of luck. He suddenly passed away that winter.
He was forty at the time of his death. It was said to be death by illness or poison, but the rumor that he was poisoned spread especially widely.
Perhaps the rumor was perpetrated by a remnant of one of the lesser tribes he’d destroyed in unifying the steppe, or perhaps the assassination had happened because of another chief’s jealousy of Raiga having become their overlord. The truth was unclear. Raiga had been beloved by many of the steppe people, but he had also made many enemies.
And thus, Raiga was succeeded by his twenty-two-year-old son.
Kagetora listened quietly as the Black Cat operative relayed the story of Malmkhitan’s founding. When he had heard it all, he asked a question.
“I understand what this Malmkhitan country is. But what are those leaping cavalry you mentioned?”
“The leaping cavalry are a powerful type of cavalry used by Malmkhitan,” said the operative. “They’re not horses, but a type of goat-like, cow-like creature... a massive horned riding beast known as a ‘temsbock.’ These temsbocks are raised in Malmkhitan, and they have the strength to leap up a castle wall in three bounds.”
“Hm... Then those temsbocks are the things jumping around the battlefield?” Kagetora let out a groan of admiration. “They are cavalry, but like wyvern cavalry, they fly through the skies of the battlefield. Their ability to suddenly appear and disappear must be incredibly confusing for the enemy. I can see they would be a difficult type of soldier to deal with.”
“Yes, sir,” said the operative. “The fact is, countries that have invaded the steppe in the past, despite an overwhelming numerical advantage, have been beaten badly by the leaping cavalry.”
It’s not hard to see why... thought Kagetora. When he saw how the leaping cavalry was traveling across the battlefield freely, butchering monsters, it was very convincing. I must report to the master that this is not a country to be taken lightly.
Having determined that, Kagetora turned to ask the Black Cat operative another question. “And what is the name of this son that succeeded—Ah!”
Kagetora suddenly drew the tachi Souma had given him. While the operative was still shocked at him suddenly drawing his weapon, Kagetora swung the blade. When he did...
...his Tachi cut down an arrow that came at them suddenly.
“Wha?! Where did that come from?!” The operative panicked, apparently anticipating a surprise attack when he saw the sever
Unlike the worried operative, Kagetora exhaled, returning his sword to its sheath. Looking to the battlefield, he let out a sigh of admiration. “To think they could reach this far from there...”
“From there?! You can’t be serious!”
The operative looked where Kagetora was looking, and his eyes went wide.
Kagetora’s eyes were on the distant battlefield. Did he mean to say someone on the battlefield had sensed their presence several kilometers away and then managed to get an arrow, even one with its range extended by magic, to reach them?
If someone like that existed, that person was the greater monster here.
“Now, what was the son’s name?” Kagetora asked.
The operative came to his senses and hurriedly replied. “H-His son’s name is Fuuga Haan. I have heard he is a hero with a rare physique and strength unrivaled on the steppe, who fights with a long-handled weapon with a curved blade. I also heard that Fuuga’s mount is not a temsbock, but a flying tiger, or something like that.”
“A flying tiger... I see...”
Kagetora turned a stern eye on the battlefield.
If so, that must be it...
It was on the battlefield near Wedan, where man and monster endlessly fought to the death.
In the middle of the unceasing shouts and sounds of fighting, a young man in his early twenties held a great bow that no ordinary person could even draw.
He stood at least a hundred and ninety centimeters tall, and his tanned limbs were thick with muscle. He had short, bluish-black hair, and a majestic face. The young man who wore silver armor over his red leather clothes, and a bowl-shaped silver helm on his head had small white wings on his back.
He drew attention himself, but his mount did, too.
It was a white tiger so great that people looked up at it.
While its master drew his bow, that tiger batted away incoming monsters with its paws. It was like a cat playing with a ball, but the fact that these monsters were larger than a grown man made the sight frightening.
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