Forest at Night
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“…Wake up. Wake up.” (Carol)
I woke up with a whisper in my ear. Carol, who was snuggling, was trying to wake me up with her face close in the poncho.
Carol’s face was illuminated by the moonlight. It seemed that it was still night.
“…What’s wrong?” (Yuri)
I wanted to rub my eyes, but I was afraid to move.
“I smell something.” (Carol)
Speaking of smell, my body was quite dirty, so the smell should be terrible.
“It smells like a bonfire, or something burnt…” (Carol)
That was it. The drowsiness suddenly disappeared.
I used my nose to smell. However, I couldn’t notice the smell, other than the body smell of a lady.
“I don’t smell it. I’ll take this off at once.” (Yuri)
When I took off the poncho, I stood up, left Carol and used my nose again.
‘As expected, I can’t smell it. However, Carol’s senses for the past few days was very sharp. It couldn’t be said that she made a mistake.’
“Do you smell it now?” (Yuri)
“No. But I did a while ago.” (Carol)
‘If so, the wind direction may have changed a little. Aside from wildfires, if it smells like a bonfire, there is a possibility that it would deviate even if the wind direction changed a little.’
“When did you smell it? Just a while ago?” (Yuri)
“Yes. That’s right.” (Carol)
I immediately licked my thumb with my tongue. I checked the wind direction. Even if it deviated a little, if the other side was burning a fire, it might be possible to find it by going upwind.
“Well then.” (Yuri)
‘I’m going to check for a bit. Something in my heart tingled when I tried to say it, so I stopped saying it.’
‘The wind was blowing from the direction I was walking with Carol on my back today. If the enemy is chasing my footsteps, going there silently will result in double footsteps in the reverse order.’
‘Intuitively, I thought it was bad. If the enemy resumes pursuit tomorrow morning and sees the double footprints continuing to the camp, they naturally think ‘the target was watching us last night’. If I do so, they would find out that I am in a nearby palace. Then, the vigilance will increase.’
‘Of course, if it’s about two people, I would choose to ambush and get rid of them at night. If they are sleeping, I can kill them without any resistance. Then, there won’t be any footprints. However, in some cases, there is a possibility about fifty people are gathering and sleeping.’
‘In that case, it’s impossible for me to kill them alone. Then, I will give a hint to the enemy. In this situation, one mistake can be fatal. However, I have no other options but to see it.’
“I’m going to look. Wait for a bit.” (Yuri)
When I squinted my eyes, my eyes were still working as it was in the night, probably thanks to the moon phase that came after the new moon. I could see my feet.
I jumped lightly and put my foot on the protruded root of a tree. I repeated it five to six times, without leaving a footprint about ten meters.
After that, I started going upwind.
When I walked about 200 meters, the smell of the bonfire became so strong that I could clearly smell it in my nose. It seemed that it wasn’t a mistake.
I walked a little less than 100 meters, and saw the light. When I look at the light, I couldn’t see the darkness, so I proceeded with caution. As I approached very close, I hid in the shadow of a tree and listened carefully.
Many people were lying down in an open space. When I counted quickly, there were twelve people. As expected, they were the Kuran soldiers.
One sentinel was standing, the other was on a bonfire. The rest were lying around the fire. Each of them was in a sleeping bag shaped like an envelope.
I grasped the bow I brought again.
The sentinel was wearing armor, but it was a half-armor that looked like the chest and belly covered with sheet metal. In addition, since he was showing his back, he could be defeated by shooting with a bow.
However, the other person, who was up and was at the bonfire, wore so-called plate armor of full body armor.
It wasn’t made by the wonderful decoration and technique that the royal noble wore, but rather it was made by cutting and pasting a thin gold plate with a snip. Moreover, it looked like it rusted in some places.
But there was no doubt that the armor still covered the whole body.
‘Well, when thinking normally, I wonder if he is the commander of the unit. It would be different if I used a decent strong bow and a steel arrowhead, but with the short bow I have and a half-blunt arrowhead, it seems unlikely that it could penetrate the armor. Of course, if he takes off the helmet, that may be possible, but I don’t have the skill to aim for his head.’
‘It would be possible to confuse the commander by killing him, but that would be nine out of ten chances. Actually, even if I aim at the head, it would be ten percent of chance to hit his head. Of course, it’s right to try even with a ten percent probability when there is no risk. However, it’s actually full of risk.’
‘I’m confident that I could escape, but if I do it, I would give information to the enemy. Information that I am in the immediate vicinity, and they are already catching up. It isn’t wise to touch these guys now. I shouldn’t do anything from the beginning if it’s going to bring unnecessary trouble to myself.’
I pulled out my face. Then, in the dim light, I took out the clock and watched the time using the light of the bonfire that reached slightly.
It was 9 PM. It was a good time to sleep after eating. But in this situation, it was unlikely that everyone, including the sentry, would sleep.
‘Shall I go back?’
I left the place without making a sound, just like when I came.
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After walking for a while, I sighed loudly.
I was dizzy even though I wasn’t anemic.
‘I feel like my stomach is tightened. They are just where I went in the daytime. I thought I could still walk for a moment and spend the night here. It’s a place where they can overlook. In other words, they were clearly following my feet. And even if I can make a night attack at the right time, I can’t annihilate them.’
‘Another condition is added. With Carol on my back, I’m slower than them, and they will definitely catch up tomorrow, or even if I’m lucky, the morning after tomorrow. Then, it’s over.’
‘That’s it. It’s difficult. However, I can’t die. I used to think that it would be a good idea to die in remorse if I couldn’t help it, but now, I can’t do it.’
‘My life and death overlapped with that of Carol. I can’t die and I can’t lose. However, I lose. We have already been hard pressed. There’s no way to carry Carol on my back without stepping on the soil.’
‘I can barely walk with her on my back, and I can’t move while leaping on the roots of a tree like I did earlier. So, it’s not possible to erase the footprint when there are two of us.’
When my consciousness came to an end, I felt like I heard the footsteps of death. The pulse of the heart became faster, the breathing became rough, the nerves were disturbed, and the hands began to tremble.
‘No. I can’t think of that. I can’t be afraid. I can’t give up and throw everything.’
‘There is a possibility at any time. There is no encirclement without a hole.’
‘It’s something that humans do. Like me, the other person is also a person who makes mistakes. It’s not fighting a god-like being who never makes mistakes. There is always an option to overturn the situation.’
‘The question is, do I have the ability to discover it. And am I capable of doing it? Above all, I can’t give up just because there is a small possibility. When I was alone, I always gave up.’
‘My life wasn’t worth the effort. It was something that could be easily abandoned and given up at any time. However, now it’s tied to Carol’s fate.’
Even if there’s no possibility, there’s no choice but to do it. That is until my heart is torn.’
When I got back to Carol, I saw a slight movement.
“It’s me.” (Yuri)
When I said that, I felt the tension had eased. She probably thought it was an enemy.
“How was it?” (Carol)
“Aah, I was there. There were twelve people camping on the very road we took today.” (Yuri)
“…Is that so?” (Carol)
It was a plain reply.
“Then, it’s over. Tomorrow, it will…” (Carol)
“Nothing is over yet. Nothing.” (Yuri)
“Really? Is there any plan?” (Carol)
“Yes. I thought about it while I was coming back.” (Yuri)
“Can you tell me?” (Carol)
‘Should I tell her? Well, it’s probably fine. If I don’t tell her at all, she’ll be worried. Anxiety is a serious problem. In this case, you may be pessimistic and develop to a level where it can strangle your neck. It’s not a matter of reassuring a child who is away from home.’
“Yeah… Simply put, I realized that we were being cornered because of our weaknesses. We’re slow.” (Yuri)
“…Yeah, you’re right.” (Carol)
She thought that it was her fault. Her voice was somehow fragile.
“Before fighting the enemy, we need to sort out that point at once. If we expose our weaknesses and fight them, it’s natural to lose.” (Yuri)
“And when I think about it, I realize that the enemy has the same weaknesses. That’s for sure.” (Yuri)
“Is that so?” (Carol)
“Yes. Therefore, I’m going to eliminate this weakness and exploit the opponent’s weakness. I’ll do what the other side dislikes.” (Yuri)
‘? What do you mean by that?’
“You’re leaving me to fight them.” (Carol)
‘Aah. This girl is very sharp. Since the crash, I’m not only carrying her on my back, but I’ve been fighting desperately.’
“Let me tell you this. It’s all thanks to your nose. Discovering the enemy from here insanely helps. It’s like I was saved because of you. I’m not saying it as a mere consolation, alright.” (Yuri)
‘Without today’s discovery, we would be caught up by tomorrow. Then, it would be over.’
“It’s fine.” (Carol)
“What is fine?” (Yuri)
“…It’s because I’m a burden.” (Carol)
‘Burden, is it?’
“I do what I want to do. It’s not something you have to worry about.” (Yuri)
“That’s not it. It’s my fault.” (Carol)
“I told you many times. It wasn’t.” (Yuri)
“No… Uhuhuu *sniff*…” (Carol)
‘Something is wrong.’
“*Sniff* *sniff*…” (Carol)
‘It’s a tearful voice. Are you crying?’
Then, I started to hear the sound of her doing something. It looked faint, but it seemed that she was hitting her leg.
“Oi, stop it. What is wrong with you?” (Yuri)
I said it without understanding her reason.
“If this leg… moves…” (Carol)
“You’re injured, so it can’t be helped. Oii.” (Yuri)
I crouched and grabbed Carol’s arm in the dark. I thought it would be a problem if we were exposed. Then, Carol relaxed without resisting.
“If this leg moves… we could have fought together…” (Carol)
Carol said as if she was trying to squeeze her voice.
‘I understand that feeling. It would be painful for me if the position was reversed. If I couldn’t demonstrate the fighting techniques I had learned so far, I would only be protected by Carol.’
‘However, I don’t feel that Carol is a burden. If she was a waste that didn’t feel worth protecting, she would have been a burden. However, in reality, I don’t feel that way now.’
“That’s right, but… I don’t think it’s bad.” (Yuri)
“…What is it?” (Carol)
“I’m risking my life, but it feels good to give my life to protect you. I’m surprised myself.” (Yuri)
‘I hope this will make you feel better. Well, it would be nice if she could feel relieved.’
“Anyhow, I’ll talk about it later. I have a lot of work to do tonight. We need to move from here immediately.” (Yuri)
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