* * *
Within the castle of Tochern, the fief lord’s office.
Instead of the fief lord that didn’t perform his duties, several large and armed men and a lily-like slender man stood there.
With serious expressions, their gazes moved back and forth on the map in their midst.
“Since werewolves habitually move around in groups, wouldn’t it be easy to catch them if the knights and soldiers drove them towards a single location and the wizards used magic consecutively?”
At Count Jive’s suggestion, Baron nodded with a doubtful expression.
“The number of monsters totals at over dozens, so is rounding them all up be possible at one go?”
“There are around thirty knights, and there’s around three hundred soldiers, so it seems to be possible?”
“Excluding those that are injured and those that will soon become injured, it might be difficult.”
“What do you mean, those that will soon become injured. Sir Baron, your words are quite humourless.”
“Werewolves are much faster and stronger than everyone here thinks. You should be glad that when confronting the monsters, more than half of the soldiers’ necks aren’t bitten, much less successfully managing to thwart them.”
“Are you insulting me? What a terrible thing to say to those that came to assist you.”
Count Jive’s face twisted like he was offended.
“If it’s impossible to eradicate them all at once, why don’t we divide them?”
Just then, Daniel pointed to one side of the map and spoke with a cheerful voice.
“I don’t know exactly how many werewolves are there, but if we split the military forces into three and approach them, they’ll have to divide into three groups to chase us.”
He split the horses of their troops into three and placed them before each of the castle’s gates.
“Gates are present on all sides of Tochern Castle, so if we allocate troops to any three of those gates, the monsters would come swarming. Then, the wizards that are waiting on the castle wall can let out their magic randomly.”
“Oh, that seems quite decent.”
After listening to Daniel’s strategy, Count Jive stroked his chin like he was fascinated.
“What do you say, Duke?”
“Everyone is being extremely naive.”
“Don’t get me wrong. It was a sincere compliment.”
The Duke, Leonhart, continued speaking while leaning an arm on the handle of the sword that fastened to his waist.
“The werewolves that attacked this place aren’t the type that’ll act like typical monsters and move according to their commonly known habits.”
Most werewolves were nocturnal.
They definitely wouldn’t be active at sunrise.
That was because their natural enemies, the humans, were active during that time.
Although they were called monsters, they were similar to animals in that they possessed a certain fear of humans.
It was rare for them to attack humans, unless they were provoked first.
However, regardless of day and night, the werewolves surrounding this place eyed the opportunity for human meat covetously.
It was as though humans were the best kind of prey.
“They are too intelligent. They definitely wouldn’t hurt humans that were in a group, but amazingly enough, in a situation where someone is separated or injured alone, they’ll attack.”
“But we were attacked by werewolves on our way here. It seems that they’ll still pounce even if you’re in a group…”
“It’s a strategy to gauge combat capability.”
When they were just monsters, what kind of strategy can they get up to?
As the count frowned, Leonhart let out a bitter laugh.
“We were also attacked on the first day we arrived. There were exactly two of them that pounced then.”
“You are free to form opinions on whether there’s a connection or not. However, you’ll change your mind once you’ve personally gone through it.”
Leonhart pointed at the black stones that indicated the monsters’ location and continued.
The black stones were placed quite a distance away from the castle.
“And these b*stards will never approach the castle.”
This was because they were aware that while many humans were present in the castle, there were also many weapons that could threaten their lives.
“As such, don’t even think about a ‘defend the castle’ battle.”
“No, then how the hell are we supposed to catch them?”
When Count Jive asked dumbfoundedly, the duke replied briefly.
“Pursue and kill them, continuously.”
The arid voice, from which emotion couldn’t be detected, was oozing with bloodthirstiness.
“…This isn’t a subjugation, but a hunt.”
“That’s right. It’s just that, the side that’s being hunted has yet to be specified.”
Baron continued after Daniel’s murmur.
On the other hand, worry filled Count Jive’s face.
He didn’t expect that the situation would be so grave.
It was truly difficult to go up against monsters which won’t be deceived by human strategy.
“First of all, the situation is as such, so inform everyone about it. The sun will set soon, so let’s set tomorrow as the subjugation day.”
The night was an advantageous time for the monsters.
As they were more likely to be preyed on than be predators, so it would be better to allow the soldiers to rest well, and begin moving in earnest tomorrow.
“The food and supplies that were brought along are to be distributed to the territory’s citizens first, and we will use what remains. Understood?”
With a light nod to his subordinates, Leonhart left the office.
Although there was an impure gaze following him, perhaps because he had been dealing with the monsters for days and night without end.
Unfortunately, the duke had become insensitive to the hostility of his own kind, and didn’t notice the glances at that moment.
* * *
At the stable located in a corner of Tochern Castle
Instead of horses, soldiers from Esbaden were seated around bonfires there.
As the castle was neglected due to the subjugation, it didn’t even have a small accommodation for soldiers to reside in.
A stew made of hard bread and cheese was boiling atop the bonfire.
With the ladle, a soldier scooped up a bowl and approached the person seated in the furthermost corner.
He was dressed rather oddly, with narrow pants under a long tunic that came down to his knees, and a thin chain of unknown purpose was attached to his tightly-fastened sash.
His entire face was covered with a head scarf, making his appearance, save for the yellow eyes that shone brightly in the dark, unknown.
“Have some too. I don’t know when we’ll be able to eat something like this again.”
“Right, we don’t know when the subjugation will end.”
“The provisions that we’ve toiled to bring here have been taken away by the people here. We were only given this much, which a passing dog would laugh at, when we have to exert ourselves.”
“Wasn’t it the Duke’s order? You shouldn’t say that.”
“That’s funny. I serve not the Duke, but Count Jive though? D*mn it, if only I wasn’t dragged to this place.”
“I don’t know if we can go back alive. Anyways, we’ll just be used as shields.”
“It’s my first time seeing a monster, don’t you usually die of poison?”
“Whether you die from poison or from bite wounds, aren’t they the same?”
Each soldier sighed and grumbled.
The complaints consisted of distrust of their superiors, their despair towards the situation, and also included cursing towards the monsters that brought them here.
“Hey, what are you doing, not accepting this? My arm is about to fall off, man.”
Meanwhile, the person whose face was concealed with a headscarf, gently pushed away the bowl that was held out to him and rose from his seat.
He took the bow and quiver of arrows that were laying next to him and left the stable.
“What’s this, humiliating others.”
“Leave him be. He seems to be a guard that Lord Daniel brought separately.”
“Yes, I also saw it. He got rid of the werewolf we saw during the day.”
“What are you talking about? Wasn’t Lord Daniel the one that finished it? I saw him burn it with fire magic.”
“No, before that, that one shot an arrow first. Otherwise, Lord Daniel wouldn’t even be able to use magic, and might’ve been wounded?”
“Is that so? Why didn’t I see it?”
“It was very quick. I was also confused for a moment about what happened.”
Before they knew it, the soldiers began to infer the true identity of the suspicious man that had disappeared without a word.
Just like that, Tochern Castle was filled with lively voices of humans after a long while.
* * *
Daniel looked at the person who knocked on his door late at night, and pressed a hand to his forehead.
With a headscarf wrapped around his head, a small stature dressed in clothes suitable for concealing himself, with a bow and a quiver of arrows slung on behind his back.
He looked at both ends of the corridor, and quickly closed the door after allowing the visitor in.
“I must admit, I’ve never been so nervous in my entire life. Right now, it’s not too late, so just go back.”
Daniel sighed as he looked at the person that was standing in the middle of the room.
The visitor, no, the one called Madam slowly pulled down the headscarf that was covering her face.
At the same time, silver hair poured out like a waterfall and a familiar face appeared.
She was Dooha Yel Bashal, no, the Duchess of Esbaden.
Daniel watched her stare at him silently, and nodded his head like he was trying to assuage her.
“There is soundproofing magic around the room, so you can speak comfortably.”
“Such magic exists? Magic is quite a handy thing.”
“It’s because magic was created for the sake of human convenience. So, Madam, are you really certain that you don’t want to return? If you want to, I’ll use teleportation magic immediately…”
“Do you think I’ll go back just because I heard something like that?”
“Of course I know you won’t, but.”
Daniel asked with a worried face.
“Why in the world did you follow along? Do you not trust me?”
He was well aware of why had the Duchess appointed him as the leader of the support troops.
It was a cautionary move against Nate’s unannounced deployment of soldiers.
“I trust Daniel. I trust you, that’s why I asked Sir Nate to send you as the person in charge of the support troops.”
Dooha leaned against the wall and quietly opened his mouth.
“Daniel, does your father trust you?”
Daniel couldn’t easily respond.
Nate was someone that cared greatly for his son.
The terrifying thing was that he was someone that would stoop to anything to place Daniel in the position of the next Duke.
But did he trust Daniel enough to share both the means and the methods?
When he was aware of the fact that his son hates him very much?
“Not everything will be shared, even if there’s a loving relationship. Even in a parent and child’s relationship, there are times when the other’s true intentions are unknown.”
Dooha folded her arms and looked at him.
“I think Sir Nate has hatched a sinister plot that even Daniel is unaware about.”
* * *
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