~~Hills to the West of Beilanea~~
In the forefront of the march, Irene stopped her advance. She stood on top of the horse she was riding, because of her short stature, and focused. She seemed to have observed some abnormal activity in the distance.
The Squad leaders were permitted to ride horses but Blazer, Bruce and Betty chose not to do so.
Asley, who was part of Gaston’s Squad as the sole assistant, had also been permitted to ride but he chose to walk alongside Pochi instead.
Members of the subjugation party, all three hundred something, were either adventurers or students.
They may not have been trained by the Nation’s higher institutions, but they maintained their formation fairly well.
It was in part thanks to Gaston’s and Irene’s charisma, the students’ trust in each other, and Warren’s unifying force as the Student Council President. Additionally, adventurers in the Beilanean territory were generally high-quality and the University did indeed train its students well.
Irene had not spotted any Ogres yet. She directed her horse to a vantage point on top of a nearby hill, intending to get a better view of the surroundings. She scanned the vicinity, but once again, she did not detect anything.
Lowering her alertness, Irene heaved a sigh and eased her horse’s reins. Then, as she readjusted herself on the saddle, an enraged roar entered her ears.
Immediately, Irene stood up once again and turned in the direction of the source.
The trees of the Forest of Deep-Rooted Sins shook violently in all directions as if they were all being shaken down.
She looked at one particular place, where trees seemed to have been blown apart by some sort of blunt force.
“…There they are.”
Irene muttered to herself.
She promptly descended the hill and ran back to her Squad.
“Full force ahead! We’ll be launching a preemptive strike!”
The adventurers screamed in unison.
Blazer and Bruce also expressed their acknowledgement and advanced.
Warren, Billy and Betty followed them.
“Hmm, so we’ve found them. Judging from the roars… the enemy’s numbers should be about the same as us… or a bit more than that.”
Gaston said, seeming refreshed. Asley and Pochi by his side, on the other hand, tensed up their expressions.
“What is it?”
“I wanna go home already!”
“Fwahaha, you think I’ll let you go, young man? At least observe how that granny fights and learn a thing or two.”
Gaston pointed in Irene’s direction with his chin.
There, the three frontline squads had already completed their preparations for battle.
“We’ll shoot the big spells as soon as we see them! Close combatants, wait until the wave is over before engaging!”
“Pick off the Ogres as their ranks are disrupted by the Archmage’s attack!”
“Leave the left flank to us! Vanguard! Get ready to strike!”
Irene, Blazer and Bruce issued their orders, all in an encouraging tone.
Right then, the trees 200 meters ahead collapsed… which was to say, they collapsed out of the way as the army of Ogres emerged from the forest.
(Anna: Spare the trees, please. They’re innocent.)
Their roars were even more monstrous and intense compared to before. Even the students way at the back were trembling with fear.
But among them, one student, fully clad in black, stood tall with an overwhelming presence — Warren. He kept perfectly calm as he gathered and processed the information from his surroundings.
“A 5:3:1 ratio for the regular Ogres, Fighters and Imperial Ogres respectively. Doesn’t seem like a Queen or King has appeared yet.”
The regular Ogres were the ones dressed like stereotypical foot soldiers, armored lightly and wielded blunt wooden weapons.
In comparison, the Ogre Fighters had slightly better armor and wielded iron weapons. The Imperial Ogres were fully equipped with iron plate armor and wielded pole weapons that were custom-made to match their height.
“We’ll provide support to Miss Irene! Everyone, follow my lead!”
Support magic from Warren’s Squad was cast over Irene’s whole Squad in short order.
As the vanguard of Squad 1 spread out to the sides, the Ogres started attacking.
Eleventh Day of the Fifth Month, Thirty-four Past Eleven, West of Beilanea, the humans and the Ogres have commenced the engagement in the Forest of Deep-Rooted Sins.
“Hmph, Meteor Wind!”
As the Ogres split in three directions, blades of wind descended upon them from the sky like a meteor shower.
The Ogres screamed.
The Ogres Fighters pushed on, using those regular Ogres as a shield to tough out the incoming attack.
They grabbed the regular Ogres and held them overhead, blocking the spell. This showed that this army of Ogres wasn’t all about brute force.
And of course, the Imperial Ogres were unfazed, swiping away the attacks with their spears as if it was child’s play.
“The big spell did decrease their numbers but looks like I put in too little power… Though that slowed the rest down well enough.”
“All right, let’s go!!”
Bruce and his Squad 3 deployed their front liners, backed by support magic from Billy’s Squad. Blazer’s Squad 2 then followed suit.
The two Squads of warriors pressed onwards as if they were competing with each other.
The Ogres were pushed back as their ranks were disrupted by the adventurers’ classical tactics, be it by trading blows head-on, overpowering with numbers or throwing them off with swift movements and striking from blind spots.
Bruce did not focus on finishing off every single Ogre. He and his Squad prioritized on pushing forward.
They distracted the advancing Ogres with feints, parries or crippling strikes. The Squad that followed behind them would take care of the rest.
His objective now was to merge with Blazer’s squad.
He believed that if they were to be in a merged formation, they would gain an advantage in the battle.
And while Blazer was not informed of that idea, he did understand the intention behind Bruce’s movement pattern. He focused his Squad’s strength to push onward, trusting the Squad behind him for support.
The leader of the Silver Special Force (name arbitrarily decided among the three Silvers) led the charge with a fierce war cry.
Forward, forward, forward. To the strongest monsters at the end of the line. Such grit and competency to charge on without hesitation had always been one of Blazer’s and Bruce’s prevalent traits.
When they intended to linkup, two Ogre Fighters appeared before them.
Bruce kept up his momentum and snuck between the legs of one of them. And as he passed, he made use of his honed techniques to cut their legs, thus immobilizing them.
“Oh-ho, that young man is quite impressive… Looks like his rank isn’t just for show.”
Billy, while observing the situation from afar, praised Bruce’s display of skill.
“Heh, pretty good for a boy his age… I totally get why Asley praised him. Looks like he’ll be able to hold the line for quite long.”
Irene said as she drew another Spell Circle.
The following Squad, led by Blazer, entered the fray like a conflagration. In contrast to Bruce’s hammy energy and brutish movements, his Squad’s advance was calm and steady.
With a logical fighting style that left spare stamina for later, they neared the center of the battle without being struck by a single Ogre.
“Yes, sir, the Silver… those two guys are quite amazing.”
“Blazer! Bruce! Hang in there!”
The two of them grinned, perhaps because Pochi’s cheering actually reached their ears.
And at almost the same time, as they pushed their way through to the center, a gigantic Ogre, one of the Imperial Ogres, appeared behind them.
The duo synced their attacks so perfectly that one would think they were swinging at each other when observing from afar.
As the other signalled, one ducked down, the other jumped up, and their blows met with the black spear coming behind them.
Their vigorous swings overwhelmed the Imperial Ogre’s attack. Knocking the enemy back, the two fixed their sights forward as they stood their ground and watched out for each other.
“Hah hah hah… We got this.”
“Huff huff… Yeah, more or less.”
“It’s just getting started. Don’t die on me!”
“Heh, look who you’re saying that to!”
The Imperial Ogre stood up after being knocked away. Although it had not been injured, it dropped its weapon because of the numbness in its hands.
The duo did not let this chance slip by. They immediately charged at the enemy, with their respective Squads close behind them. This could be considered as another one of their contributions as the vanguard.
Among the squads, a good number of members had been scared of the initial clash. But with the two leaders pressing on without any hesitation, morale rose greatly among the hopeful young warriors.
This didn’t mean they were more powerful than usual but those who had been holding themselves back were now stepping forward, this was important for a battle.
At the very least, the duo was carrying out their task as Squad leaders splendidly.
As the battle went on, another roar resounded from the entrance of the Ogres’ hill.
It was louder and more brutish than the last. So powerful that tremors could be felt under the warriors’ feet.
Gaston, ascertaining the silhouettes from several hundred meters away, guessed their identity.
“The main force is entering the fray. Perhaps the rear will need to move too…”
“What about the main force, sir?”
“Observe the situation for now– the number of regular Ogres is decreasing, isn’t it? It’s because they sent out a fraction of their force as the advance party. The Ogre Fighters and Imperial Ogres, on the other hand, are slowly increasing in number. The three initial divisions of their force aren’t going to last forever too. In which case…”
Gaston spread his hand outward.
“Billy and Betty, forward! Warren, spread to the sides, but make sure to hold formation!”
His orders echoed through the land, reaching the three leaders’ ears.
The Squads pushed through the enemy ranks, with Bruce’s Squad 3 and Billy Squad 4 from the left, Blazer’s Squad 2 and Betty’s Squad 5 from the right.
Irene and Squad 1 charged right in the middle, aiming far ahead. Behind them, Warren’s Squad 6 spread their formation to provide frontal defense for Gaston’s Squad 8.
“Dallas! Gather up the injured! Irene!”
That was all Gaston needed to say to issue his desired order to Irene.
“Those who can walk, retreat to Squad 8! Those who can’t, wait to be recovered by Dallas’ Squad! Squad 1, open a path in the center! Make way for Squad 7!”
As if upholding a commandment, Squad 1 split to the sides, opening a path for Dallas’ Squad 7 to run ahead.
The latter proceeded to search for the injured within the ranks of Squads 2 and 3 as they slowly pressed onward.
“This is amazing, Master! Blazer and Bruce have been pushing quite well which made it so easy to recover the injured!”
“Yeah. This tactic may not work well against human enemies, but against monsters such as Ogres, it’s quite effective.”
In addition to the adventurers who had fallen behind, the Squad carried the wounded and injured back through the opening of Squad 1.
Dallas stayed behind as his Squad’s rearguard and Irene unleashed another big spell to damage the Ogres’ ranks.
The adventurers’ stopped their feet. Or rather, they had been forced to stop.
The roar was dreadful. It was as if it directly squeezed the adventurers’ hearts. Even Blazer and Bruce were immobilized.
A group of several dozen Imperial Ogres emerged, mowing down the trees. In response, the frontliners started taking steps back.
That was not the issue, however. The issue was what was amidst the Ogres, as if being escorted or protected.
Before long, an Ogre with a female body appeared. It did not look much different from the Imperial Ogres, but it had features distinguishing it from the others. For instance, its armor was of a darker shade.
It was an Ogre Queen, a formidable S-ranked enemy.
Behind it, another set of footsteps could be felt as it shook the earth, further inducing fear within the warriors.
Another Ogre showed its gigantic body, its height almost the same as the surrounding trees.
“Hmph, you’ve finally shown yourself… Damned beast…”
Gaston shot a sharp glare at the Ogre King.