Romelia Senki Volume 1 Chapter 2 part 7

 
The fact that the Prince had multiple awakenings during our travels could be attributed to the “divine blessing” having the power to induce it. But testing that would be too dangerous a gamble.
 
“Al, many people have died from reckless actions while trying to force an awakening. And there are no healers in Karulus Fortress. A serious injury would be fatal.”
 
Rather than the “blessing”, it was probably the Saint’s healing powers that enabled the Prince to awaken after intense battles. The Saint’s divine power to save lives even from grievous wounds is likely what led to the phenomenon. Attempting to awaken without healers present would be too risky.
 
“Oh right, after delivering the three-legged head to the village, let’s head south to other villages.”
 
“More demon beasts? What’s our next opponent?” Al asked about the enemy’s intelligence after I stated our next course of action.
 
“Villagers mentioned some mid-sized bear-like demon beasts appearing. Although villagers went to slay it, none returned.”
 
I recalled the information from the petition sent by the village. With all the villagers killed, there was almost no eyewitness information.
 
“Judging by the tracks left on the mountain, there don’t seem to be many, probably one to five heads.”
 
Despite the lack of intelligence being concerning, if the number was small, we could surround and take them down. There was also the method of blowing them away with explosive magic stones like this time.
 
“I see, oh man, we’re swamped.” Al complained while returning to the soldiers to help bury the three-legged beast.
 
Despite being arrogant, Al is talented, and there are others like Gran, Ragan, Otto and Cale. If we can train them properly, we can form a powerful army. The faint hope I previously held now felt more tangible.
 
With this, we may be able to confront the Demon Army. Gripping my fist at the real sense of progress. I walked silently on the mountain path catching my breath.
 

 
The situation was extremely dire. Up until a few days ago, I had not imagined things would turn out like this.
 
Now, we were fleeing through the mountains, escaping here and there. Looking back, the soldiers walked wearily, over half injured without proper treatment.
 
We lost the horses and carriages, and were running low on water and food. Hunger, thirst and fatigue slowed our marching pace. But we had to move quickly.
 
Anxiety and fatigue dulled thinking. But sensing it was about time, I stopped walking.
 
“Short break, take five.” I stopped and ordered the soldiers to sit where they were.
 
Having walked the whole time, my feet were also at their limit, but I couldn’t sit in front of the soldiers. Hiding my fatigue, I used my eyes to check with the rearmost soldier that no one had dropped out.
 
The last soldier nodded to signal no one had fallen behind.
 
“Cale, sorry to ask when you’re so tired, but can you climb that tree?” I assigned Cale a task and the youth I addressed gently nodded before slowly climbing the nearby tree, seemingly more sluggish than usual due to exhaustion.
 
Upon reaching the top, Cale scanned the surroundings.
 
“I see them!” Cale pointed in the direction we came from. The grim reapers pursuing us were a five-man Demon Army scout team.
 
We came to this mountain in search of information about demonic bears appearing.
 
I had been too careless and swallowed the information wholesale.
 
If I had scrutinized the received intelligence, I would have realized there was no evidence it was bear demons.
 
In hindsight, there had been occasions I could have recognized it as false information.
 
If bear demons appeared, they would often slash tree trunks and such to mark their territory. But there were no such signs. We charged in without noticing those clues.
 
Then when we arrived at the reported demon sighting, it wasn’t bear demons, but Demon Army soldiers covered in lizard-like scales.
 
There were only five, but they were all seasoned veterans.
 
Through repeated invasions, the Demon Army was comprised of soldiers who endured battle after battle. And the scout troops skilled at infiltrating enemy lines to gather intelligence on terrain and defenses were elite forces specially trained for it. Compared to our former greenhorn troops, the training disparity was too vast.
 
Despite being shocked to suddenly clash with the Demon Army, the soldiers acted according to their training. But the spear formation they assembled was easily broken through, and many were injured.
 
Using up all the explosive magic stones, I barely managed to lead the soldiers in escape to the deep mountains.
 
The Demon Army was strong, and it was a miracle no one died. Perhaps the “divine blessing” was at play, but the crisis wasn’t over.
 
Maintaining proper distance, the Demon scout team doggedly tailed our retreat.
 
It seems they intend to kill us all and conceal their presence. With just five of them, they believe they can wipe us out.
 
Indeed, the difference in fighting strength had reached that extent. If caught, we had no way to resist.
 
“Cale, what’s the Demon Army’s distance?” I asked Cale in the tree.
 
“Two kilometers back.” Hearing they were just two kilometers away, the weary soldiers hurriedly stood up, no doubt unable to forget the horror of the earlier battle. They understood getting caught meant death. But now was not the time to panic.
 
“Stay calm, they revealed themselves to deliberately unsettle us.”
 
The scout team skilled at covert operations wouldn’t be somewhere visible from just a glance upward.
 
“They’re waiting for us to become disordered in our hurry and break formation.”
 
I took out my pocket watch, a longtime companion from my travels with the Prince, which I always kept on me.
 
“March for one hour, rest for five minutes. Maintaining this pace, we can keep going the longest.”
 
That was the advice of an experienced soldier I met while traveling. He often said marching was a soldier’s job.
 
Moreover, it wasn’t critical they were visible now. When out of sight was most dangerous.
 
“Rest well for now. At this pace, we won’t be caught immediately.”
 
I calmed and reinvigorated the soldiers. The problem was nightfall. They would likely strike when darkness fell. Some measure had to be taken before then.
 
As I pondered what to do, I inadvertently met eyes with Ray.

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Despite being uninjured, Ray’s face was so ghastly it made one wonder if he was already dead. He was probably blaming himself.
 
During the earlier battle, Ray had inadvertently dropped his spear, slightly disrupting the formation. The enemy exploited that opening to throw the formation into disarray.
 
While it was a failure born of impatience, it wasn’t worth blaming. The formation would have collapsed regardless. Attributing it to Ray was merely results-oriented. And yet, despite essentially causing the collapse, Ray seemed to feel responsible for escaping unharmed himself. Even now, he wore the air of a dead man walking.
 
I should say something, but anything could backfire on his current state. Moreover, now wasn’t the time to address him alone.
 
Shifting my gaze, I saw Al leaning against a tree trunk, gasping for breath.
 
Blood soaked through the cloth wrapped around him, and his face was white as paper. Of everyone, Al was most seriously wounded. The fact he wasn’t dead yet was inconceivable.
 
“Are you alright? Let me see the wound.” I picked up cloth to stanch bleeding. The injury was severe. While the bleeding had stopped for now, it could restart if we kept marching.
 
I attempted first aid with medicinal herbs gathered on our march.
 
“Is that medicine?” Seeing the herbs I took out, Al asked, likely unable to maintain consciousness without speaking.
 
“Yes, I learned about them from my past travels. To help the Prince you said abandoned me.” I threw his words when we first met back at him. Al frowned, but I’ll take it as pain from the injury.
 
When we first started traveling, I worked hard too. Unable to fight, I did everything else possible. Quality medicinal herbs didn’t reach the market, so I had to procure or gather them directly. To aid the Prince, I strived to learn about herbs. But after the Saint joined us, those skills went unused.
 
“Hey, leave me behind, I’ll only slow you down. If you keep dragging me along, everyone will die.”
 
Hearing Al’s words, the soldiers lowered their heads. Everyone understood clearly. If we had to match our pace to the severely wounded Al, our march would be delayed. And the risk of total annihilation would increase.
 
From an efficiency standpoint, abandoning him would be optimal. But efficiency isn’t always right.
 
“I won’t do that. I won’t abandon a comrade who fought alongside me. If you die, that’s when I die too.”
 
Al showed a surprised expression.
 
Some of the soldiers hearing me speak were so moved they had tears in their eyes.
 
Though I felt bad for moving the soldiers, what I just said was of course a lie. I’m not that noble of a person.
 
If needed, I would sacrifice a comrade for the greater benefit. What I said now was for Al and the soldiers around to hear.
 
To capture their hearts, this kind of performance was necessary. I’m pushing them to their limits. I need them to feel I’m someone willing to stake my life.
 
“But…at this rate…”
 
Al tried to continue speaking but I cut him off.
 
“Enough. Don’t talk, eat this first.”
 
I stuffed the medicinal herbs in Al’s mouth.
 
“Mmph, what’s this? So bitter.”
 
“These herbs have a pain relief effect. Don’t spit them out, swallow them.”
 
I explained the medicinal effects. Though the actual pain relief wasn’t that great. Just that it came with a numbingly bitter effect. If that could cure his loose lips, nothing would be better.
 
After treating Al’s wounds, who had reluctantly swallowed the bitter leaves, I stood and looked at the soldiers.
 
Thanks to the earlier lie, the soldiers’ eyes had come alive again. At any rate, no one wanted to flee. There might be a way.


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