An Incident To the North
Though we didn’t discover anything no matter how hard we looked, neither Fran nor Urushi could quite calm down. Both the catkin and the wolf had better senses than me. I trusted their instincts and deduced that *something* had gone awry.
“Whaddya say we try taking to the sky instead? Might be easier to figure out what’s wrong that way.”
With Fran on his back, Urushi kicked off the ground and rapidly ascended. The three of us then used the artificial vantage point to examine our surroundings. Or at least we tried. The skies were overcast; clouds blocked out both the moons and the stars. It was far too dark for us to make out any significant detail.
“Don’t see anything.” Unlike me, Fran could see in the dark, so she was at least able to scour our surroundings.
“What about you, Urushi?”
For some odd reason, the wolf seemed adamant about tracking down the cause of his unease. Urushi continued to look around even though he was blinded by the night. He stayed on guard and even tried sniffing around, but he still couldn’t find anything, as he had no idea what he was supposed to be sniffing for.
And that was when it happened. A single sliver of moonlight momentarily shot through the clouds and allowed me to catch sight of something.
“I think I just saw something move over there…”
“Er, my bad. It was to the north.”
It happened several kilometers away from us. At a glance, it looked to be somewhere near the most barren part of the forest. There wasn’t anything obstructing my line of sight. I would’ve been able to see everything if it was still day, or if there weren’t as many clouds. But alas, we had no choice but to work under the existing sub-optimal conditions.
The distance made it so not even Fran could see anything, despite having night vision.
“Could you get us a bit closer, Urushi?”
Urushi sped through the sky. He moved us straight north with all the precision of a compass. The moon peeked through the clouds for another second about halfway through Urushi’s journey.
“Yup, clear as day.”
Though I only caught a glimpse of it, I was confident in what I just witnessed. A large group of monsters was slowly marching straight south. The group’s scale was entirely blown out of proportion. It was far more than just a single nest or pack’s worth. There were so many that the wasteland itself had been obscured from view. There were only monster, monsters, and more monsters as far as the eye could see. It was a veritable army.
I didn’t know its final destination, but at this rate, it was going to collide with Schwartzekatze.
“Shit! We need to get closer and make sure of what we saw!”
“What and why?”
“I don’t know, but either way, we’ve got one hell of a situation on our hands!”
It took Urushi another five minutes to get right above the horde. We were now at close enough a distance for us to see them with the naked eye, even without the moon’s aid. I didn’t need to count to know that the army was at least ten thousand heads strong.
Their march was rigid and steady. It was clear that they were being controlled. I didn’t know the extent to which the monsters were being manipulated, but at the very least, whoever was responsible for them had enough of a grasp on them to keep them silent as they moved.
“It’d be pretty hard for us to take all these out with just us.”
“But villagers can’t fight.”
“Yeah, I know. Honestly, something like this calls for an army, if anything.”
“First things first, we need to get back to the village and have all the villagers evacuate.”
“Got it. First, preemptive strike?”
“Let’s not. There’s too many of them. We can’t check to see how strong each one is, and there might be something too strong for us to handle mixed in with all the trash mobs.”
We would end up having to run if there really was anything that strong. The only place to retreat to is the village, and leading a strong monster there would be a disaster and a half in and of itself.
“I know you want to fight, but we should probably wait until we’ve at least emptied out Schwartzekatze first.”
“Alright Urushi, head back to the village! Full speed ahead!”
“Hurry!” added Fran.
Our first stop was the chief’s house. Urushi barked and howled to grab his attention as we approached.
“Chief! Open! Now!” Fran jumped off Urushi’s back and began knocking on the door the moment he landed.
“W-What is the matter, Princess?” The wolf had succeeded in waking him, so he answered the door immediately, rubbing his tired eyes as he did.
“W-What kind of emergency…?”
“Horde of monsters. Headed for village.”
“W-What!? Enough for even you to be this panicked, milady!?”
“Nn. In wasteland right now. Huge group. Need army.”
“W-What!? They’re just to the north!? I’ll go wake up the guards right away!”
“Evacuation. Need to start soon.”
“What’s all the noise, chief?” A few of the black catkin, awoken by Urushi’s voice, joined us right before the chief set off, so he immediately roped them in and got them to help. The process went far more painlessly than it would have anywhere else. All the black catkin trusted Fran, so they immediately believed the warning the moment they heard that she was its source.
“Listen well! The Princess has found a huge army of monsters marching right for us! There are so many of them that they fill the entire wasteland!”
“S-Seriously…? What the heck!?” A couple catkin began to panic, but the chief stopped them before they totally lost their minds.
“Stay calm, don’t lose your cool! They’re close, but they’re not on our gates just yet. We’ve got enough time to organise an evacuation so long as everyone does their part! Wake everyone up and have them get ready to leave! Split up so you can wake everyone up as quickly as possible.”
“Sure thing, chief!”
“Thank you. I’ll go wake the guards in the meantime.”
The black catkin moved quickly. According to them, they were quite used to this. Running away was the one thing they excelled at.
Many lived as wanderers before settling down in Schwartzekatze. They polished their ability to escape by running from the monsters and bandits they encountered on their travels. In fact, evacuation drills were apparently a part of everyday life in Schwartzekatze. They’d hold training roughly once a year.
“Where are we supposed to evacuate to?” One black catkin voiced.
This time, however, was a bit different. Normally, evacuation was simple because all the black catkin had to do was find another nearby village. But this time, they didn’t really know where to go. Schwartzekatze was among the sturdiest of the villages in its vicinity. No nearby settlement had walls large enough to withstand over ten thousand monsters.
“We’ll probably need to head to Greengoat,” answered the chief.
The villagers were good at escaping, but that didn’t mean they could outpace monsters. They needed to get all their stuff ready to go right away so they could get as early a head start as possible. But still, many doubted they would be able to make it all the way.
The chief’s reply to their concerns was calm and rational. “It doesn’t matter, we’ve got to make sure the information propagates. We’ll have to scatter and send people all over. We’ll both warn the other nearby villages and have our people head to Greengoat to tell the army what’s happened.”
“Nn,” agreed Fran.
Though the battle had yet to start, it had already devolved into a race against the clock.
Editor’s Note: Hey guys! Joker here. Another chapter of Sword-bro down. Seems like there’s some machinations happening behind the scenes. Could be interesting to see how Master, Fran, and Urushi handle this. Wonder who, or what, could be behind it. Have to say, I’m going to miss the relaxing mini-arc we had in the village, but I guess plot has to happen sooner or later. No rest for the wicked, or rather, the Web/Light novel protag. Haha. Well, I’ll leave it here for now. See y’all in the next chapter!