Chapter 14: Morning Sun (IV)
You can feel those enemies scattering as you hear those bursts now and then.
It ain’t just ’cause they ain’t trained well. It’s more like a sure thing, especially among top-notch forces.
When ambushed, a good officer figures out the enemy’s numbers by how often they attack.
By checking the gaps between gunshots, it’s pretty clear the enemy’s only a small group.
All that makes sense up to this point. But the issue is, those gunshots ain’t coming from just one direction in this forest.
Bang from the east. Shift the troops over there and suddenly, there are only a few scattered bodies in that spot.
When the troops scatter in the confusion, bam, again from the west.
By now, it’s clear what the commanding officer’s up to. “They’re sending out a few troops to push us in.”
A smart assessment, unless the opponent is just a small unit’s commander.
Feeling the tension and rage in the forest air, slowly raising the pistol. Up ahead, three soldiers with torches scanning around.
It’s a gesture that could be fear or anger, can’t tell from this far.
Ivan breathed out slowly, half-held his breath, firmly squeezed the trigger, aimed at the enemy, calculated the distance, raised it a few notches up.
Smooth like water, almost like an ‘instinctive’ move.
All that took just 0.3 seconds.
His wide, bright blue eyes rapidly scanned the surroundings. Gaps between the soldiers, their heights, and the distance from him were all calculated.
After calculating, he focused on the one farthest away.
At the gunshot, the gun drops, and he grabs the axe. No need to confirm the kills, they’re telling you themselves.
“Damn! Inoff got hit!”
“Where are they? Show yourself, damn it!!”
Swiftly leaping over the trees, the torches they’re holding make it easy to spot them.
Starting a fire in the woods is too revealing. Even without those torches, the forest would be too dark to see anything, but whose fault is that?
They shouldn’t have picked this day.
Ambushing at night is seriously hard. It needs a top-notch commander and perfectly trained troops.
Even those types would hesitate in a surprise ambush in a foreign forest at night. Maybe about one-third would bail after the operation started.
“Looks like the enemy’s got about 50 in total.”
Judging from how the enemy’s spread out and the units’ size, Ivan guessed while gripping the axe, still embedded from the soldier he hit.
Scared guy. But the one hit by the axe didn’t even get to scream.
Seems like he had good training. Raising the gun as soon as Ivan showed up proves that.
Ivan bent down, the guy’s trembling finger creeping on the trigger.
No need to aim at this range, and the man’s too rattled for it. He’s about to shoot in a panic.
But that ain’t gonna happen.
“Damn it! Die!!”
The guy tensed his thigh, veins popping on his palm.
But in that moment, Ivan, already so close, swung the axe.
Right shoulder and neck shattered in a single blow. Literally ‘shattered.’
A forceful strike, quickly turning for another blow, and another.
Three axe hits in a blink. No one here could talk anymore.
Ivan relaxed his shoulders, pushed the axe back in.
He aimed the gun held by the nameless soldier to the sky, hung a thin thread on the trigger, and hooked it on a nearby tree.
If the gun’s snug in the dead guy’s arms and fixed, the job here’s done.
Someone will come to check upon hearing the shots.
When they touch the body, the loaded gun will fire, and the command will likely screw up Ivan’s position in the chaos.
The delay in getting info to command, the limited sight in this dark forest, the fear of this strange place, the messed-up info, and our own forces slowly dwindling.
Even the smart enemies are easy to fool.
Ivan thought while quickly moving through the trees.
So, something’s off.
The enemy’s way too good for this to be some kind of tutorial round.
“Diane August was an NPC assisting Isabelle’s tutorial and then disappearing.”
In this mess, if it wasn’t him, could Isabelle alone survive and escape this forest?
Considering their strong weapons, well-trained troops, and a good command on the enemy’s side.
That’s a level of risk a kid just turning twenty couldn’t handle.
“Why…? Isn’t wiping out the enemy a tutorial condition?”
Sometimes it is. A game where you learn the controls while dodging a powerful enemy.
But how? And where?
Thinking about the remaining way to Frechenkaya, the chances of an inexperienced kid, not even knowing where to go, getting out of the forest safe would be close to 0%.
Even in all this chaos, Ivan kept moving.
No harm in thinking about the situation once the chaos ends.
“Captain, it happened again. This time, all three were axed.”
“Hmm. What’s this….”
The man scratched his chin and grunted.
Feels like dealing with a tiger.
In a methodical way, starting with the weak, squeezing the group’s neck is the hunting strategy.
The response was simple: group the troops.
But, he can’t do that. His target was the ‘Hero’s Daughter’.
“Shouldn’t we gather the boys now…?”
“Nah. That’s exactly what the enemy wants.”
The enemy’s a minority. It’s obvious.
They wouldn’t go through all this trouble if they were more than us.
Let’s suppose an elite, highly specialized, small strike force is scattered throughout the forest.
Gunshots again. This time from the west.
This time from up north.
The shots were getting closer to where they were.
“They know our position already.”
“They know this is our base! You fool! Can’t you see?”
“Oh, right. Yeah, I see, I see, but… why don’t they attack us directly after hitting the base? Wouldn’t it be easier to pick off the confused troops one by one?”
Why are these enemies making it so complicated?
After two gunshots from different directions, a realization hit the man.
“Give me your gun.”
“Huh? Oh, okay!”
He grabbed the man’s gun and fired into the air. Bang!
The man froze for a moment and then spoke out.
“It’s just one person.”
“But Captain, the direction of the shots…!”
“Damn it, it’s a trickery!!”
The man slammed the gun in his hand.
“That was our gunfire! That guy killed our guys and played with the timing! It’s a simple trap even a kid could pull off, and we fell for it!”
He threw the remains of the gun and drew a knife.
“After the first shot, that guy probably watched our response. Did he have a way to see where we’d come from?! We reacted too fast. Damn it!”
Regular soldiers usually seek cover when they hear gunfire.
But this wasn’t a regular spot. Their captain had a way to spot gunfire.
As soon as they heard the shots, they estimated the direction and sent a team. That was the mistake.
“Why not just attack us head-on?! Are they not confident or stalling for time in a tough spot? Why would someone trained like that entertain such thoughts, huh?”
“Uh, maybe… they’re alone…?”
“Yeah! Damn it. The gunshots were a lure from the start! Gather the crew! Damn it, I didn’t want to face the Hero’s Daughter directly…”
The scars on the man’s face twisted.
“The Hero’s Daughter: Even if she’s only a partially trained warrior, a tiger’s cub remains a tiger.”
He remembers the hero. That unbelievably powerful figure.
No matter how young, never underestimate. The Hero was just a lad in his thirties back then.
The man sighed and stepped forward.
“I’ll face that woman myself. Get the boys and handle the nuisance in the forest.”
“Are you the Hero’s Daughter?”
Isabelle stood under the moon, facing a man emerging from the woods.
Behind her, people gathered in fear.
Around a campfire, people shivered in the cold, looking at her.
Isabelle shook her head, closed her eyes, took a deep breath, turned the heavy sheathed sword, and held it firmly.
She opened her eyes. Moonlight made the man’s silhouette clearer.
Fighting for one’s life, let alone carrying another life into battle, was a first.
But it was fine. It was ‘just’ the right thing to do.
“Maximilian and Marie’s daughter.”
Not the Hero’s daughter, but someone’s daughter.
With that meaning.
The man before her laughed heartily.
The horns above his head reached for the sky.
A demon. Isabelle swallowed hard. It was her first time facing a demon too.
The man nodded and gripped the sword.
“I’m Icarus. Former commander of the 6th Imperial Guards. Leader of this operation.”
“I’m Isabelle, affiliated with Tylesse. A knight.”
The night wind howled. The forest shook. Bang, gunshots echoed far off.
The two charged towards each other.