“We didn’t see the behemoth anywhere.”
Viviane frowned upon hearing Medrauta’s words. She had been sequestered in the treeline during much of the battle, standing on a roughly constructed wooden platform behind the shield wall and the formation of soldiers braced behind them. Although she had a wide view of the battlefield, she couldn’t see very far as she was preoccupied with the need to supply supporting fire for the troops.
Occupied only with what was occurring within the immediate vicinity of the front line, Viviane had spent a few free moments attempting to spot the behemoth and aim a well-placed shot at the beast, but it hadn’t reared its enormous head at all. Originally, she assumed that the titanic monster was simply nestled much further back in the witchspawn army’s rear, but with Medrauta’s latest report, she knew that simply wasn’t the case.
“But... Why?” Viviane asked, lacking a better question. “The creature didn’t appear to have any issues with mobility. If anything, it was moving quicker than its much smaller counterparts as it advanced with great strides. All the witchspawn should have been advancing toward our position, no?”
“Did you want us to fight the behemoth on the first day?” Eris asked, her tone surprisingly sharp. The blonde-haired knight was tremendously tired after having been forced to cover the length of the front line alone. Though Viviane’s bandaged fingers had caught her eye, it was that very reason which displeased Eris. As someone who had also taken part in the battle, Viviane should have been thankful that the behemoth had been absent, not pondering why it hadn’t descended upon them yet.
But those were the thoughts of a battle-weary junior knight. The five senior knights sprawled across the ground inside the command tent eyed Eris with criticizing glares, silently spurning her acidic tone. They knew she was young and tired, but they were older than she and exhausted, and they found Eris’ lack of appreciation for Viviane’s tactical acumen quite worrying.
“Eris. Please do mind your tone.” Scarlet said as she watched Medrauta bristle. “I understand that we have all had a rather exhausting day today, but Lady Viviane is only looking out for our well-being. The absence of the behemoth today means that it may show up tomorrow or appear in an unexpected location. Surely you understand that we must prepare in advance for such circumstances, yes?”
Eris nodded, her cheeks flushing slightly as she realized her error. Despite her experience serving Scarlet during the Avimorne duchy’s civil war, she hadn’t spent much time in the command tent or the presence of tacticians nor had she properly served a noble during her time at the Imperial Academy. This left her ignorant to much of the foresight that the senior knights and even Medrauta had developed, but fortunately for her, she was a quick learner.
Eris bowed, dipping her head toward both Scarlet and Viviane in apology. “I’m sorry, Lady Viviane.”
Viviane shook her head, offering Eris an almost luminous smile that managed to restore some of the energy she’d lost in the heated battle that concluded just thirty minutes ago. “It’s quite alright, Dame Eris. After all, you haven’t had anything to eat yet have you? And I know exactly how ravenous knights can be after a battle.”
Eris grinned, glad to see that the noblewoman wasn’t keen on holding a grudge. She flicked her gaze toward Medrauta. “Something tells me you’ve got a lot to do with that.”
“Maybe a little.” Medrauta returned the smile. She rubbed her tummy, realizing that she’d been pumped so full of adrenaline that she’d completely forgotten to pick up some food after returning from the front lines. Instead, she’d opted to make a beeline for Viviane, giving her lady a tight embrace immediately once the battle ended. She then followed her to the command tent, not even stopping outside the quartermaster’s tent to pick up some rations.
It was rather unlike Medrauta. Even during her time at the academy, the cafeteria had always been her first stop after a match or a duel. When she was assisting Baron Dietrich’s forces with Viviane, the quartermaster’s tent had been the first place she visited after returning to camp. However, she found herself missing Viviane’s presence and touch quite severely on this moonlit night. Even now, she couldn’t feel the usual pangs of hunger that plagued her stomach after a lengthy fight.
“Shall we take a break and grab a quick bite to eat?” Viviane suggested. “We will have to discuss the moving of the battle lines during the night, so I imagine this discussion will last for at least an hour more. It will also allow Captain Vale to join us as he should finish his meal soon.”
The five senior knights nodded in response, Medrauta and Eris following suit after a brief delay. When Viviane, Scarlet, and the knights arrived at the quartermaster’s tent, they found it busier than expected. Although none of them were strangers to war at this point, the volume of men and women lined up in front of the tent was simply staggering. The only people who weren’t surprised were Eris and Scarlet, the Avimorne duchy’s civil war having more than familiarized them with such sights.
Although the revolution in the Revelo duchy could also be called a civil war, the scale of its engagements and battle lines were simply incomparable to what happened in the Avimorne duchy. While Medrauta and Viviane spearheaded Baron Dietrich’s forces and cut a straight path toward Revelo Castle, the internal conflict within the Avimorne duchy’s territory was far less clear-cut. Instead, the entire dukedom had practically been divided in half by the war, and its front line had stretched from border to border.
“How long do you think we’ll have to wait?” Medrauta asked, her tone slightly impatient. Now that the adrenaline was almost completely flushed from her system and her need for Viviane’s presence was being sated, Medrauta was quickly becoming aware of the intermittent pangs of hunger that shot through her stomach. At first, they were like the pricking of tiny needles, but they slowly grew to resemble arrows instead.
“Not too long, hopefully.” Viviane said, peering at the front of the line. It was moving swiftly, but there were still around seventy or so soldiers ahead of them, and though she could technically cut to the front, it felt highly improper to do so when the soldiers were equally or even more exhausted. The fact that even Scarlet remained quietly in the line spoke volumes of the proper conduct and etiquette in this situation.
After a considerable amount of time spent waiting in line, they finally reached the front. Medrauta held her bowl out eagerly, only to be rewarded with a healthy scoop of strange slop that resembled oatmeal, but smelled nothing like it. This was accompanied by a piece of bread that was nearly rock hard. The silver-haired knight frowned, staring at the rations she was given.
“What? Somethin’ wrong!?” The quartermaster snapped.
“No, it’s just... Did something happen at the garrison?” Medrauta asked. “I don’t remember the food being this bad.”
“If you don’t like it, don’t eat it. NEXT!” The quartermaster shouted, completely dismissing Medrauta’s presence despite the knight’s lingering stare.
Forced to take the dubious oatmeal and practically petrified bread with her to one of the nearby tables, Medrauta sat on a nearby fallen log with a sigh, setting the bowl and bread on her lap. At the very least, it can’t be worse than the crap Charlotte cooks up...
She was soon joined by Viviane who sat next to her, a beautiful smile on her face despite being handed the same terrible rations. Medrauta stared at the bowl of slop on Viviane’s lap with a concerned frown, wondering if it was really safe to let her lady eat the unappetizing gray sludge. After all, she’d only ever seen Viviane eating proper noble’s dishes or standard issue field rations at worst. The knight had no idea whether Viviane’s stomach could even handle something like this.
“Uh, Vivi...” Medrauta began, not sure how to broach the subject seeing as Viviane seemed to have absolutely no problem with the food she was given. In fact, she was even about to dig in right before Medrauta interrupted her. “Are you sure about eating that? I mean, did they give you the wrong thing or something?”
“No...? Why do you ask?” Viviane tilted her head in confusion.
“They know you’re Duchess Castellia, right? Even when we were marching to Revelo Castle, you were dining with the baron at the noble’s camp. It was always super fancy food.”
“Ah. That.” Viviane grinned, understanding her knight’s intentions. “Don’t worry, Medrauta. I don’t intend to ask for the impossible. That was a special situation, but we simply don’t have a supply line giving us proper food yet. It’ll probably take a few more days before the supply unit they dispatched catches up to us.”
Though that meant the suspicious-looking oatmeal and rock-hard bread would be the only source of nourishment for the next few days, Medrauta still found herself wanting Viviane to eat something else.
“...Right. M-Maybe I could go hunting for us or something.” Medrauta suggested. She had no idea how she’d manage to find edible game within the hour, but she was sure she could manage it if she tried.
Viviane shook her head, laughing. “It’s quite alright, Medrauta! This is just something I’ll have to get used to, you know? We’ve still got a ways to go before we reach the second shield tower, and then there’s the Spire after that... Besides, they gave Lady Scarlet the same thing too.”
“W-What!?” Medrauta’s disappointment now turned into incredulity, hardly believing her ears. “Lady Scarlet? There’s no way she’ll be able to down even a single spoonful of this! Those refined tastebuds of hers would explode the moment she tried!”
At that, Viviane had no choice but to burst out laughing. She nodded emphatically, grinning at Medrauta all the while. “You’re right about that! You should have seen the face she made when the quartermaster filled up her oatmeal!”
Medrauta shook her head in disbelief, returning Viviane’s smile. “Speaking of which, where’d she go? Don’t tell me she fainted after that.”
“Nearly. She said there was absolutely no way she’d sit on a log and ruin her dress, so she went off with Eris to fetch a chair and a table from one of the tents. I imagine they’ll be joining us soon.”
Medrauta nodded, casting her gaze around the camp briefly. “Looks like they’re on their way now. By the way, you’ll have an easier time with that if you dip it in the oatmeal first,” she gestured to the piece of bread that Viviane was desperately trying to bite through.
“O-Oh... I suppose I should’ve thought of that.” Viviane grinned sheepishly.
Joined by Scarlet and Eris at last, the four of them together had a surprisingly pleasant conversation over an unsurprisingly terrible meal. As strange as the oatmeal smelled, it didn’t taste too different from the regular fare, though that certainly wasn’t enough to stem the tirade of complaints flowing from Scarlet’s lips.
Retiring to bed with a full stomach, Medrauta laid next to Viviane, falling asleep as she gazed at her lady’s beautiful visage. That night, Viviane slept deeply and dreamt vividly.
Perhaps a little too vividly.