Her First Campaign  

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※Told from Loretta Culgetto’s perspective.

“Hyaah…!”

After slashing down an undead skeleton, my eyes raced searching for the next.
They seemed to be pouring out nonstop from a ghost ship stationed at Euclid’s coastline.

“Loretta, behind you!”
“!?”

Snapping my focus in the direction the voice directed, I saw a zombie that almost managed to catch me unaware and cut it in two.

“You shouldn’t let your guard down, Loretta.”
“You’re right.
Thanks, Pipi.”

Even as she spoke, she used her wind magic to boost my physical abilities.
With this I could keep going.

When the ghost ship appeared, a magic fog surrounded Euclid placing the city in peril.
Since Pipi and I were in the area, we decided to walk on the beach to check the waters.
That was when we came across the undead.

At first we thought we had just run across a couple of stray undead, but for some reason they continued to appear one after another.
Amidst our confusion, armed adventurers and men from the town came to our aid.
According to them, Euclid was currently under the threat of the ghost ship.
With Dor-sama taking command of the situation, the town had managed to avoid falling to panic, but if the undead continued to spawn, it was only a matter of time.

While Claire-sama stormed the ghost ship, the source of the trouble, we were tasked with containing the undead at the shore.
Pipi and I worked together with a number of adventurers to repel the horde of skeletons, zombies, and bat-like monsters.

“Whoo, you ladies sure can get it done.”
“Really nice.
If you were adventurers I bet you’d be at least B rank by now.”
“… Thanks.”
“Why thank you.”

Even among commoners, adventurers were at the bottom of the chain, known to be a collection of unruly misfits.
Though armed, commoners were something that I should be protecting.
To be fighting alongside them went against my pride as a noble.

That said, the undead vastly outnumbered us.
I definitely wouldn’t lose in a one-on-one situation, but considering the numbers I needed their help.

And, in addition―

“Group A, Group B, circle around to the east and flank them with the groups in the west.”
“I’m casting a big spell over the area, get down!”
“It’s our time! Keep the pressure up!”

It frustrated me to admit, but average commoners aside, the adventurers were used to combat.
Their way of fighting was muddier than what I had learned from House Cugletto’s tactics, or even that of the army, but it was a very practical style.

“What’s that, it’s just thrashing the undead around!”
“Heard it’s the familiar of one of them nobles charging the ship.”
“In the water it’s become bigger than a boulder!”

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“Ain’t seen a familiar before, but they’re pretty reliable, oy.”

They even had the luxury to chit chat.

(It’s not as though they’re strong, or that my allies are weak… I’m the weak one―!)

Up until now I had participated in Undead Hunts numerous times.
As House Cugletto’s daughter, and as the one expected to become Bauer’s first female soldier, I thought that I had already set foot on the battlefield.

―This whole time, I had been protected.

(The only daughter hailing from a family line of distinguished soldiers… The kingdom’s first female soldier… None of that meant anything!)

The times I had accompanied my family or the army to battle, I stood as an officer.
I took command of the troops and borrowed their power to fight.
But now, forced to stand on the frontlines for myself, everything was so different.
Until now, I had only seen the battlefield in terms of numbers.
But when fighting on the front lines, people got injured and lives were at stake.
These individuals had families, things to protect, and a home to return to.
I had been blind to all of that.

The truth which I never should have turned away from now weighed on me heavily, dulling my blade and slowing my senses.

“Little lady, watch out!”
“!?”

Before I could realize it, I had charged past the front lines into enemy territory.
I found myself in the thick of the horde.

“Kh…!”
“Air cutter!”

Before I even got the chance to swing my blade, a concentrated crescent of wind cut a path toward me.
Despite the poor footing, I scrambled across the sand and rejoined our front lines.

“You really saved me, Pipi.”
“If you space out like that, you’re going to end up much more than just injured!”

The one who gave me that grim reprimand was Pipi.
Unlike me, who had undergone military training, she actually wasn’t all that suited for combat.
And yet, despite that, she had adapted to our current situation much better than I had.
I was the only one floating out of place.

“Little lady, the one with the freckles! You’re a noble ain’t ya.”
“I am, but what’s that got to do with anything?”
“Go on and head to the rear.”
“!? Are you mocking me!?”

When an older bearded adventurer said that to me, I unwittingly lost my composure.

“Nah, you’ve got it wrong.
But you gotta have the right person for the right task.
You look like the type to take command, yeah? Us adventurers know how to rumble, watch out for ourselves, but the more of us there are the messier it gets.
We need someone to take charge.”
“… You want to leave that to me?”
“No one here’s experienced a big fight like this.
Is this your first too?”
“… No, it’s not.”

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I had experience leading a squad of five hundred during last year’s Undead Hunt.
In comparison, the adventurers and commoners gathered here numbered at most one hundred.
To break it down, there were about twenty adventurers and the rest were armed commoners.

“It’s all up to you, then.
Do whatever you need and work us to our best.”
“… Understood.”
“Good.
Hey, little lady over there, accompany the freckled lady as her guard.”
“Will do.”
“Well then lads, we won’t let ‘em take even one step into the town, you hear me!”
“““YEAH!”””

The adventurers gave a reassuring roar as one of them guided Pipi and I to the back lines.
I was brought to a rocky part of the shore, which was slightly elevated from the rest of the beach allowing me to take in the general situation.

“I’ve already prepared a channel for telepathy, can you do this?”
“Yes.”
“Okay, it’s all up to you.”

The adventurer that guided us gave me a rough slap on the back forcing a cough.
Regaining my composure, I calmly observed the chaos across the beach.

“Loretta…”
“It’s fine, leave it to me.”

The hesitation that once plagued me cleared.
I had again found my place, as an officer.
I must be the cold hearted officer who perceives the battlescape in numbers.

Commit myself to it.
Be calm.
Emotions will not bring us victory.

Taking a deep breath in, my commanding voice echoed across the battlefield.

“Troops to the left, advance ten meters! Those in the center fall back ten meters! Fan out and surround the undead!”

 ◆◇◆◇◆

Soon enough, the ghost ship disappeared leaving the stranded undead to be mopped up.
The battle had been decided.
We had won.

“You did it Loretta! You’ve won…! Loretta?”

Pushing a perplexed Pipi aside, I ran toward a gap in the rocky shore that exposed the ocean and expelled the contents of my stomach.

“Haah… Haah… Hgh…”
“Loretta…”

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Pipi, who had followed behind me, gently rubbed my back.
She didn’t say anything.
She already understood.

(I let people who weren’t soldiers die… By my command…)

Soldiers sign up of their own volition fully knowing what the consequences could be.
They had resolve, the resolve to follow orders, the resolve to die in the worst case.

But the people here today were different.
Adventurers had perhaps chosen this path of their own volition, but whether or not they had the resolve to die likely depended on the individual.
Not to mention the commoners, they were just the victims of the situation.
Some of those people had died… All because of me.
That was a difficult truth for me to bear.

“… Hey, freckled lady.
From the looks of it you’ve been holding it back, huh.”

The same adventurer who told me to take command in the back called out to me now.

“… -ied?”
“… Hm?”
“… How many… Died?”
“… Why do you wanna know?”

The adventurer responded to my question with another one.

“For my own sake.
I need to know the result of the battle I took command of.”
“… Loretta…”
“Even if knowing will only bring you regrets?”
“That is the sin that those who take command must bear.”

Those who died would never return.
I knew it was impossible to take responsibility in the truest sense.
That’s why, like I said, I needed to know for my own sake.

“Eleven.
Considering the numbers we fought, things went about as well as they could have.”
“… Eleven people…”

Each of them had families, a place, a life… To return to.
I had taken those futures from them.

“So there’re nobles like you out there too, huh.”
“…?”
“Most nobles don’t give a damn what happens to us common folk.
I thought they all just saw us as pawns on a board.”
“… There may be some nobles like that.”

But I couldn’t bring myself to think that way.

“I’m sure the fellas who died today can rest easy knowing they died for someone like you.”

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“That’s not how…”
“It is.
Having a commander that shares the pain is huge.
Especially if that commander can keep ‘er steady when it counts.”

With those words, the adventurer took out a small glass bin from one of his pockets.

“It’s booze.
A tribute to the fellas who passed.”

Removing the lid, the adventurer flipped the bin upside down sending the contents out to sea.

“… Could you wait… just a second?”
“Pipi?”

Pipi promptly left the area, returning in a few minutes with her violin in hand.

“Pipi, the salt will damage your violin.”
“Just for a bit, it’ll be fine.”

With that, Pipi put her bow against the strings and began playing.

“A requiem, huh.
That’s more than they could ever ask for.”

In contrast to his words, the adventurer looked happy.

“Freckled lady, what’s your name?”
“Loretta.
Loretta Cugletto.”
“Well I’ll be.
The esteemed daughter of the Cuglettos? No wonder you’re a fine commander.”
“Stop it.”
“I mean it.
I’ll remember it, the time you commanded your first true campaign.”

This wasn’t the first time that I had commanded troops, but I understood what he was trying to say.

(… That’s right, this was my first campaign.)

What it meant to fight.
What it meant to command an army.

―And, what it meant to lead people to their deaths.

(I won’t forget it.
Absolutely not.)

The undead disappeared, their cores fading to leave countless magic gems scattered across the coast.
During that time, only the sound of Pipi’s requiem reverberated on and on.

Translator Note: ;~; I’m really glad SSCC gave me the opportunity for Inori-sensei to dive deeper into Pipi and Loretta’s stories.

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