Klink, klink, klink, klink.
A repetitive metallic clanking noise echoed throughout a crude hut.
An enormous lizard sat in the dimly lit room. No, that wasn’t right—it was impossible for a lizard to sit cross-legged.
It was a lizardman.
A singular lizardman closed his eyes and motionlessly sat still.
In front of it stood a single man.
He had tanned skin and wore a turban on his head, and he was approximately 30 years old. His golden pupils glittered in the room, which was otherwise bereft of any light.
Klink, klink, klink, klink.
The object in his hands gave rise to a metallic clanking.
The man pressed a needle more akin to a thick spike onto the lizardman’s scale-covered upper arm. Using a small mallet held in his other hand, he delicately hammered the head of the needle.
The needle pierced through the scales, etching a black smear therein.
The innumerable sketches he had already drawn in the same fashion delineated an intricate pattern on the lizardman’s upper arm.
He was drawing tattoos.
He was the Crest Master.
Basing his operations in the lizardmen colony, he was the perpetrator producing the enhanced lizardmen that tormented the kingdom. His skin was likewise carved with strangely shaped tattoos here and there.
While the Crest Master was immersed in his work—
the sound of footsteps resounded behind him.
“—Quite the effort you’re making.”
Without so much as looking back, the Crest Master spoke.
The elderly man who was once with Lucard stood behind him, clad in robes and a hood pulled over his eyes.
“I’m making an effort? That’s rich coming from the person who forced me into this. It’s klink klink klink every damned day—no matter how much I like tattoos, I’m gettin’ pretty fed up with it.”
“Unfortunately, we don’t have a choice but to have you do your best.”
“Hah! I’m well aware! At least listen to my complaints, old geezer!”
Although he rambled on incessantly, the Crest Master never stopped moving his hands, nor did they waver in the slightest.
Precisely because he was aware of that—
The robed elderly man spoke to him without reservation.
“How’s the war progressing?”
“I handed over the first battle to ’em—I matched them against the lizards without much tattoos to see how it’d go. They can’t win against those knights at that level of tattoos.”
“Next, I threw in the mid-level guys. They ain’t too bad themselves. Looks to me like they’d make for good competition at that level.”
“I see. So then how’d the third match go?”
“It was a bloodbath.”
The Crest Master laughed evilly from the depths of his throat.
“I sent in the elite squad. There aren’t many of ’em, but they’re my masterpieces. They won’t be stopped by some half-assed knights.”
“Excellent, excellent. Truly wonderful.”
The elderly man let out a stifled laugh.
“Those of the kingdom are bugs that shall be crushed in due course. I couldn’t be more grateful if they died for me here. Kill as much of them as possible.”
Then, the elderly man continued.
“It looks like our victory is assured in this war.”
The Crest Master’s voice wavered with a hint of anxiety.
The elderly man quickly caught on.
“Is there something bothering you?”
“…No, I only have the bits and pieces, but—the lizardmen are telling me there’s an ‘extraordinarily powerful enemy who shoots white arrows.'”
“Extraordinarily powerful white arrows?”
The elderly man tilted his head in puzzlement.
“What’s that mean?”
“Who knows. I thought it was Magic Arrow when I heard white arrow, but… there’s that extraordinarily strong part…”
The Crest Master racked his brain.
He made a reasonable deduction. While it’s true that the power of a spell increases based on the ability of the spell caster, it’s common sense that a powerful spell caster would use an offensive spell stronger than Magic Arrow.
Magic Arrow was only used by beginners.
There was no way it was strong.
“…I don’t quite understand.”
“Well, there’s probably gonna be a report today as well. I’ll just wait for that.”
The Crest Master’s hand, which had been constantly at work, came to a sudden stop. It wasn’t because there was a problem.
After taking a few steps back, the Crest Master intently stared at the tattoos he carved.
Then, he broadly grinned.
“Fwofwofwofwo. Excellent, excellent. Simply splendid.”
The elderly man’s presence and voice faded away.
The Crest Master called out to him without so much as turning around.
“You headin’ back, geezer?”
“You’ve told me the situation. Once this battle is over, you drop by to the sanctuary this time. I’ll have you tell me the details there.”
At the same time he finished speaking, the elderly man’s presence disappeared.
The Crest Master didn’t check if he left. His gaze fixed on the lizardman, he approached with his needle and mallet in hand once more.
Klink, klink, klink, klink.
Then, as if nothing had ever happened, he began carving a new tattoo onto the lizardman’s chest.
The day the third battle ended—
Alencia was at his wits’ end.
Crumpled written reports were scattered around his desk, which he hurled in a rage.
Today’s battle ended in crushing defeat.
“Lord Alencia, leave it to the great Govilbalfesse!”
The hero of the second battle triumphantly departed to the battlefield after saying that.
Alencia’s scheme brilliantly fell apart.
“Lord Govilbalfesse, killed in action.”
Alencia always controlled his emotions and facial expression perfectly, but his feelings ended up showing in his behavior.
He thought it was some sort of mistake.
However, it wasn’t in the slightest. Having lost their leader, the Govilbalfesse Squad lost their chain of command and were trampled by the lizardmen.
The squad that strenuously brought home victory was abruptly annihilated.
…T-That dumbass! If you’re gonna lose, at least do it with grace! You were the vanguard. If you end up falling apart, then…!
The fighting spirit of each squad hit rock bottom in the blink of an eye. The slight advantage brought from the second battle, where high troop morale had been maintained—
was instantly shifted to that of disadvantage.
That wasn’t all.
“Frightfully powerful lizardmen were mixed into their forces! W-We didn’t stand a chance!”
There were even reports like that.
There appeared to be lizardmen carved with abnormal tattoos. Both their physical strength and endurance were overwhelming, and they instantly turned the tables on the knights, no matter how many knights fought them at once.
“I haven’t heard of lizardmen like that—!”
Alencia gnashed his teeth together.
This was most likely the enemy’s trump card.
Alencia had thought this was mere lizard hunting, but he finally had a change of mind.
This wasn’t something as simple as that.
Shit… To think that some shitty, unwinnable mission like this would be shoved onto me…!
I should retreat.
Alencia’s intelligent brain concluded like so. Fortunately, the casualties from today’s battle weren’t that immense. A mixture of extremely low troop morale and exceedingly strong enemies caused the battle to end quickly.
All he had to do was bring back the new information and rebuild the army.
“…No… that won’t do…”
Alencia slammed his desk.
That would be failure.
He couldn’t bring back such a thing. If he did that, then Alencia’s name would nosedive, and he would lose the king’s favor in an instant.
The man who lost to mere lizards.
That dishonor would follow him around for the rest of his life.
“…I need a middle-ground… Isn’t there anything… anything…”
At the end of constant deliberation—
Alencia finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel.
“That’s it… I have one card to play… There’s still a way to win—”
His lips contorted into a grin. Alencia’s eyes shined with a dangerous glint.
Today’s first chapter. I’ll take a bit of a break to work on the poll, then I’ll release the second later today. See you then.