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Chapter 143

By capturing the direction based on distance traveled and surrounding terrain, recalculating it with factors such as sunrise, sunset, and constellations, you can relatively accurately determine your current position.

Even if possessing a map with a wide margin of error, it is nevertheless a military map. Despite its inaccurate scale, it boasts the maximum amount of information that can be displayed on the surface.

Thus, Ivan could calculate both his current position and the maximum marching distance to where Taurus could be seen within two days.

Along the infiltration route, ten villages lay within the marching range in a radial pattern. Among them, five villages would likely have been plundered.

“Vertmon must have fallen.”

Without any prior preparation, the invasion from a region far from the front line was not something the local militia could respond to.

Ivan was walking through the burnt village.

– Thud. Again.

One charred corpse was crushed underfoot. It was a cleanly broken femur. Female, and at least adult-sized.

A long shadow stretched over him. A structure blocking the setting sun was watching him. He turned his head.

There were bone piles.

“Direct guardsman from Tumor?”

The footprints around were from adult Tauruses. Among Tauruses and orcs, only the Tumor guardsmen engaged in such “inefficient activities” as this.

While other magical creatures like necromancers or demons might sometimes perform magical rituals, Tauruses did not.

These foolish tribes saw humans as food.

Therefore, it is abnormal to pile up bodies and burn them, with some bodies grotesquely hung on poles. This was a ritual for Tumor.

“A high-ranking mage capable of overseeing rituals is leading this group.”

The level of threat they posed needed to be escalated. At least a battalion-level commander would lead an elite unit of at least a thousand troops to conduct the invasion.

Passing through villages with no survivors, Ivan once again unfolded the map in his mind.

Red dots, originating from the Bernini Mountains, were gradually spreading out radially. Like the black plague contaminating the blue meadows.

“Moramdong, Leudmiyu, and Demongmor could still be classified as safe areas.”

He stretched his legs and chewed on a nutrition bar. He visualized the territories still in the early stages of invasion and considered where the survivors in these territories might flee.

Moramdong, the nearest, was a small territory of about four villages. Leudmiyu might have a somewhat fortified stronghold. The vast plains stretching from Demongmor lacked a proper defense line.

If they were to withstand the rotation with the demon army, at least this side’s forces would need to be equal in strength. Tauruses lacked the mobility of cavalry.

In that case…

“Moramdong alone won’t be enough. At least four territories need to come together.”

Assuming he’s not there, to hold back the current Taurus forces with the troops from nearby territories alone, at least four small regional territories the size of Vertmon would need to come together.

Once those territories were gathered and the minimum military strength was secured, what would the Counts attempt to do to stop the demons in front of the gathered lords?

“Gathering under the name of Etarique and restraining the Counts.”

With that, Guillaume’s plan to be revered as a hero who saved the country and aimed for Saint Mathilde would collapse.

The demons would fight him, and Ivan would head towards the crisis-stricken Saint Mathilde, rallying the forces of the gathered lords.

All Guillaume could do then was to resist these lords with his own troops. That would be the end of his masquerade. From that moment on, he would be nothing more than a rebel.

In noble politics, legitimacy is crucial.

If Guillaume, who lost his legitimacy, attempts a rotation, that moment will be his last.

Dispersing scattered troops requires much time and effort.

But cutting off enemy leadership from among concentrated forces is a familiar task. Would Guillaume’s camp be any more difficult to penetrate than the royal palace of Dragon General?

Ivan stretched his tongue and relaxed his body. Just as he felt the nutrition bar melting in his mouth, he kicked off and started running.

*

Consisting of several hamlets and a few trading villages, the small territory of Vertmon collapsed before noon on the day after Taurus’s invasion began.

Only a few survivors, including Lord de Noar, managed to escape Vertmon. They barely retained about fifty citizens, including five knights.

“Where in the world… What on earth is happening…!”

“Wasn’t there a story that Duke Etarique had retreated to the Bernini Mountains? If you want support, shouldn’t we go there…?”

“What’s the point of us running separately!”

Lord de Noar shouted at his attendant and immediately regretted it. One of the few vassals who had stayed by his side. Even at this moment when the territory was lost, just the fact that he hadn’t left him alone deserved recognition.

Lord de Noar took a deep breath and looked around.

With only a few gasols, five knights, and barely fifty retained citizens, it meant that the thousands of residents of the territory had all fallen into the jaws of the demons.

They wouldn’t all have been wiped out. It had only been barely a day since the invasion began.

But Lord de Noar wished they were all dead already. Living under the dominion of demons without protection was more horrifying than dying.

“Oh, Lord.”

He drew a sigh and spoke.

“After entrusting ourselves to Moramdong, we must request support from Duke Etarique and Saint Mathilde. If we just retreat on our own now, who will protect us?”

“Your Grace, but leading the retreat with the citizens… would take time…”

“To throw away the citizens to buy time for a retreat? And then? Can we still be nobles afterward? Do you really think so?”

Is there a future for a rural lord who lost his citizens and fiefs, without even a position as an administrative noble? None. The noble council of Saint Mathilde would distribute the reconquered territories among the nobles and then discard him.

Perhaps the legitimacy of nobility has been forsaken….

The baron clenched his teeth and nodded. Could he handle such a future? Even if it was just for a day, he had to live as a noble and die like one. That’s the way for the family to survive.

“If we leave the road and move, we can delay their pursuit as much as possible. They’re not familiar with the geography of this land.”

“But eventually, they will catch up.”

“Even in this state, we can buy ourselves a couple of hours. We’ll manage to enter Moramdong’s territory in time. I entrust my family to you.”

He hadn’t even prepared armor or proper weapons. He was just dressed in a worn-out attire with only a single sword and a light tunic.

But he was a noble who had survived the previous war. He was a knight who had survived by directly confronting Tumor’s front lines. Since long before the appearance of hero parties until now.

Wasn’t the time he had spent in peace too short to say that he had grown accustomed to it? He still prided himself on being in active service.

He scanned the few knights. They were all soldiers who had rushed into battle with him on the same front line. Even now, facing the twilight hours, they were still people who remembered war.

“Now, shouldn’t we all live like nobles, even if it’s just for a day?”

“I would like to live as a noble for at least another year, Your Excellency.”

“Then we must strive harder.”

As the baron chuckled, the knights burst into laughter. The six elderly men, with their pitiful appearance, but sharpened their spears and headed towards the rear of the citizens’ group.

“We will buy time here. After that, do not stop until you reach Moramdong. Warn Baron Serth in Moramdong and request mobilization orders from nearby territories.”

“But will those lords listen to us? It’s fortunate enough if they go along with it without just standing by!”

“In that case, this country will collapse at the hands of just a small band of demons.”

The baron chuckled self-deprecatingly. Where had those men gone, who had fought directly against tens of thousands of demon legions and still protected their homeland, and now only faced inland invasion with such a small number?

Had the eastern front collapsed? Without even sending reinforcements? Then was this country surely doomed to end like this?

Perhaps nearby grand lords would easily repel the demons who had invaded his territory by now. But the fact that they had failed in the initial evacuation, that the demons had pushed this far, and that no one had realized it from the eastern front to this distant land…

What state would the territories beyond the Bernini Mountains be in? If they were only in the vanguard, if the legions of the eastern front had collapsed, what would happen to this country in this situation?

Despair weighed heavily on his mind. Perhaps the knights who had served in this position across the board were realizing the same thing.

“It’s too early to give up.”

A strange voice was heard from beyond the bushes. The knights immediately aimed their swords and assumed defensive positions.

Whoever it was, a stranger guest is always threatening, especially in such vulnerable circumstances.

Soon, a man emerged from the bushes. He had a worn-out appearance similar to theirs, clothes torn as if snagged by branches, and his body covered in dried bloodstains as if barely clotted.

He looked nothing short of a thief. Lord de Noar narrowed his eyes and spoke.

“Who are you? We’re not in a situation to welcome visitors right now.”

“Ivan Petrovich Yermov.”

The man brushed through the bushes and climbed onto the road. He held a bulky bundle made roughly from a cloak.

Ignoring the sticky blood seeping from it, Lord de Noar growled.

“You’re not from this land. What business does a noble of Krasilov have here?”

“To kill demons.”

Ivan’s voice was calm. It was more like he had come to finish the usual tasks he always did than to perform some particularly remarkable mission.

“Do you have ample time?”

“What?”

“I asked if you have ample time to doubt, to demand proof, to wait until you’re convinced. You seemed in a hurry.”

“Just because you appeared out of nowhere doesn’t mean we should take the word of an intruder lightly.”

“It’s the testimony of Duke Etarique.”

Ivan roughly tossed the bundle made from a cloak in front of the baron.

The knights, who had intended to show a sharp response to his rudeness, paused as they looked between the cloak lying on the ground.

Inside were five severed heads of Taurus. Heads of fierce bulls, still fresh with blood, tongues lolling out.

The sharp fangs belonged to carnivorous animals. The knights with combat experience did not doubt the authenticity of those at that moment.

“Baron, your summons may not persuade nearby lords, but if it’s the word of Duke Etarique, it’s different.”

“Evidence… There’s no evidence to convince those nobles. That it’s the word of Duke Etarique is the evidence.”

“Hang your neck. If it’s false, accept execution for forging the Duke’s command.”

“What?!”

“Do you have more to lose?”

Ivan glanced over the knights once and then turned to the marquis.

“Whether nearby lords gather to repel the demons or not, or whether we fall like this, ultimately, isn’t there nothing more to lose?”

“Isn’t your word too lofty to guarantee, given the Duke’s reputation?”

“I don’t guarantee.”

Ivan tossed his blood-stained sword aside. Its teeth were broken. He picked it up carelessly. This was the appearance. Weapons, after all, had to be meticulously maintained.

“Instead, prove it. Don’t risk your lives to buy time here. It’s not enough even if you gamble at a more valuable place. Let all the nearby territories know about Duke Etarique’s testimony. The Duke is still fighting in the Bernini Mountains even at this moment.”

“So the front line has been pushed back to Bernini too…!”

“Now leave. Gather your army under the Duke’s name and come back. Make sure to secure Moramdong as a front line within five days.”

Ivan accepted a sword from the foremost knight and turned around. The knight who handed over the sword looked at his own hand with a dazed expression.

It was taken away before he could react. He didn’t even realize the approaching hand. Just that alone could gauge the opponent’s skill, so the knight looked at Ivan’s back with a somewhat subdued gaze.

Ivan inspected the sword once and spoke softly.

“You’ve maintained it well.”

“It’s a time when there’s still much to use it for.”

“Excellent.”

The knight suddenly asked Ivan.

“Do you have a reason to risk your life? You’re from Krasilov, aren’t you?”

“Do demons differentiate humans by nationality?”

Ivan chuckled and sheathed his sword at his waist.

“Or perhaps it was a returning hero who saved humans by distinguishing them by nationality.”

“You speak as if you’re about to become a hero.”

“That’s not possible.”

But I can follow along.

Ivan struggled to swallow his words. He remembered the last words of Jill Ber. Even then, and in that era, wasn’t there no enemy that wasn’t a hero party?

He still couldn’t think that way. It wasn’t about inferiority complex; it was simply objective self-objectification. Inferiority complex was an emotion that people like Jill Ber had.

He would save these people. For his own purposes. Not out of regard for the existence of Tyles or the lives of the villagers.

Only for his own purposes. To restrain the Counts and eliminate one of them. It was purely for political reasons.

So he couldn’t boast of being a member of a hero party himself. The heroes and their companions tried to save anyone they could for no reason other than their mere presence.

Normal people couldn’t follow those lunatics. Because there was a civilian life for civilians. Therefore, Ivan was content with the role of a bystander.

Therefore, although Ivan considered himself an objective modern person rather than a hero party member, he temporarily entertained his friend’s nonsense.

Anyway, isn’t he selling his friend’s name?

“I am grateful for your dedication.”

With an impressed expression, the baron bowed his head, and Ivan stopped his steps again.

“Oh. Just one more thing.”

“Speak.”

“Where does your loyalty lie?”

“Of course, it’s toward my lord and this country. For the great millennial royal family of glorious Tylesse.”

Without hesitation, the baron answered Ivan’s question.

That’s enough. He thought.

That was the end of the conversation. The baron cajoled the citizens and left the road.

Alone, Ivan resumed his steps and thought.

“I should arrive within half a day since I didn’t erase the traces.”

He had prepared the road by mixing the traces of fleeing villagers with the scattered bodies of the few Taursus trackers.

Now they would rush in. Towards where he was.

Can he face alone about a hundred well-trained Taursus, including at least a centurion?

He can. He’s done it before.

Instead of confronting them head-on, if he engages in delaying tactics and slowly wears them down, he has faced twice their number.

Then what if he faces the gathered Taursus, who are forming a blockade and attacking?

He can. He’s seen it done.

Even when Jill Ber was in a state far from full recovery, even in the situation where he had just received the basic knight training.

Can he do something even a young boy has seen done once?

If he’s seen it at least once, he’s never had difficulty imitating it. The training he received was for such purposes.

Ivan checked his weapons and lit a fire in a suitable place. He rummaged through wet branches to make enough smoke rise.

He roasted nutrition bars over the fire and chewed them coldly. With cold eyes, he scanned the horizon connecting with the forest.


30 Years Have Passed Since the Prologue

30 Years Have Passed Since the Prologue

프롤로그에서 30년이 흘렀다
Score 7.8
Status: Ongoing Type: Author: Released: 2023 Native Language: Korean
I got transmigrated into a game I’ve never seen before. I thought it was a top-notch RPG and spent 30 years on it. I retired as a war hero and planned to spend my remaining time leisurely. But it turns out, it was an academy story?

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