The warrior bunnies were an odd race beyond the Gate, Waver surmised inwardly, but outwardly maintained his poker face. He was in the middle of a group of tribal Amazonian-like women wearing war paint with traditional light warrior garbs on their persons. In the place of battle kilts were fitted leotards made of some sort of durable leather monster hide beneath woven tassets. He'd seen the apparel stop an arrow dead in its tracks, but it likely wouldn't hold up against anything larger and heavier such as a javelin or spear let alone magecraft.
In any case, Waver was letting his analytical mind run wild for the sole reason of feigning calm. He'd never been the most composed as far as general magi go considering his insecurities the first time he had boldly stolen from his teacher and then participated in a war above his threshold. However, that didn't mean he hadn't matured.
He just learned to hide it.
There was just something about the way he was being stared at that was unnerving him. The bunny ears over his head drooped and flattened in contrast to the wave of other bunny ears around him excitedly waving or fastened straight up. Every word, every action, and every nuanced gesture felt stifling.
"H-His ears are down. Doesn't that mean that he's…" Gulp.
"Aweee, he's being submissive. I-I can't take it any longer…" Panted breaths.
"But he's a rabbit raised outside the tribe; he may not know anything."
"…Does it matter?"
"A-All of us? H-He'll die."
The muted whispers around Waver continued unabated, filtering directly into an enhanced sense of hearing by proxy of his new bunny ears. However, he couldn't quite understand what was being said simply because the dialect that the Warrior bunnies were using was different from what he had attuned his translation spell towards.
He'd need to make minor modifications, but for the time being he was making due by adjusting the spell in a small bounded field around him. Hence, the reason he was able to maintain a straight face within the ambient chattering of those farther away.
In comparison, Tyuule was having about enough. She knew her race's tendencies and sheer proliferation rates, but this wasn't the time.
"Enough! Let him speak!" Tyuule shouted, glaring at every single bunny possessing a lost-in-thought expression. "The bunnies in here are the crème-of-the-crop of the kingdom. Where's your dignity?! Our sisters are dying!"
The hushed whispers gradually abated as Waver nodded in approval.
Shame was a well-practiced method of silencing a crowd.
He may not have understood the whole context of the what was going on, but he had full translation of what Tyuule and those nearest to her were saying regardless.
"Mr. Waver, I apologize for the unseemly display," Tyuule inclined her head, pursing her lips.
"Hmph, if I was bothered or rattled about such things, then my reputation would be for nothing," Waver grimaced, opening his lighter and moving to light a smoke, only to realize he had run out of smokes. Dammit. He capped his lighter and maintained an aloof demeanor. He'd spent the better most part of his older years in the Clock Tower practicing to 'put on airs' against other Lords. He wouldn't break out of character to embarrass himself like his past self would.
"Y-You're serious, Mr. Waver?" One of the warrior bunnies next to Tyuule squeaked out. "You were fine with what they were saying?"
Waver put away his lighter into the pocket sleeve of his dress shirt and casually raised a brow. "Would I be standing here if I wasn't?"
[Is he serious? Snu Snu? All of us?]
[He said he could take it. How manly.]
"M-My apologies you're right," the woman beside Tyuule backed down immediately, utterly red-faced while the Queen's expression itself carried a flicker of admiration.
To be rather frank and crass, outside the literal implication of Waver's 'stamina,' male Warrior Bunnies were rather sheltered due to their rarity.
For a male warrior bunny like Waver to willingly step into a war zone, it showed that he valued the lives of his people rather than just his own. It was warming, worthy of commendation, appreciation even.
More than that though, Waver called himself a strategist.
As precious citizens of the warrior bunnies, Male bunnies led protected lives and didn't contribute physical labour due to their often 'incapacitated' states (Waver's unintended boast made him far more favourable to everyone. Moving on-). If there was one thing that was true however, the insightfulness of their post-clarity was rivaled by none, and it was their strategies that allowed the bunnies to last this long against the Empire. A pity that their post-clarity was rather limited.
Judging Waver by the bags under his eyes coupled with his serious, alert, and intelligent profile…he may have achieved the legendary state of the male warrior bunnies spoken of by the elders.
Thus, his confidence to step into a battle zone as a strategist was reasonable for perhaps, he'd achieved it.
The Super Post Clarity State.
"I-I never thought it was real…" Someone near Tyuule whispered. "I-Is this coincidence, no maybe it's deliverance!"
If male warrior bunnies in 'post-clarity' were geniuses in intellect for short bursts, then what did it mean to achieve the level beyond that?
-A bunny sage overflowing with wisdom and keen insight.
Tyuule herself however was still doubtful as she frowned. Actions would speak louder than any impression.
Unknowingly, the intensity of everyone stares heightened to an extreme.
Expectations were all but worn on open sleeves, a shudder traveling down Waver's back, his bunny ears trembling...in anticipation!
'Dammit, there's something seriously wrong here!'
Waver swallowed, a bead of sweat travelling down his brow. The eyes of the Warrior Bunnies were practically beaming at him.
'Focus,' he reminded himself. 'You know what you're here for, though it was honestly easier than expected.'
In fact, Waver had been prepared for an uphill battle where the limits of his diplomacy and persuasive prowess may have been put to the test. However, the degree of trust the bunnies were placing on a complete stranger seemed woefully naïve by his measure.
If the situation wasn't directly beneficial to him, then he may have taken the liberty to lecture these overly trusting fools about heinous nature of the world.
What Waver failed to realize was that if he didn't have bunny ears, there would have been no chance for things to play out as they were, but fate was rather fickle.
"What's the situation?" Waver got right to the point, working past the stifling pressure around him.
Tyuule nodded solemnly, walking Waver over to the War Council she'd been holding with her army generals.
Waver glanced around and noted several other Warrior Bunnies who appeared far more serious than the one's prior whom he'd somehow left dazed. A good change, really. He felt like he was being stared at by voracious predators in the other tent.
"This is Ryuli, that's Lia, and that's Areli." Tyuule pointed out to each new person, all nodding stiffly to Waver. Two appeared put off with him, the other carefully neutral. Their doubt of him was blatantly obvious, and frankly speaking, it was the same for Tyuule who was sceptical.
However, their ideas had run out, and Waver was practically a gamble they had no choice but to try.
"Ryuli, Lia, and Areli are the head commanders of the army under me, and each employ a company of ten battalion leaders consisting of a dozen elite warriors," Tyuule explained, slumping her shoulders. "The rest of the Warrior Bunnies here are volunteers or conscripted militia numbering around three- no. Two hundred and dropping at this point after we were forced to retreat to another defensive line."
"Which in summary means you only have less than 200 untrained warriors, 120 elites, 10 sub commanders, and 3 overseeing generals," Waver hummed in thought, glancing at the rough map on a table before him detailing the present fortifications and defences of the Warrior Bunnies. If this last defensive failed, the Empire would march and siege the capital of the Warrior Bunnies. "What of the Empire's numbers?"
Ryuil and Lia remained silent at the question while Areli went as far as to scoff.
Tyuule pinched the bridge of her nose, but she knew the temperament of her generals better than anyone.
"We're up against two Legions belonging to Empire Prince Zorzal," Tyuule was the one to answer. "Each Legion consists of 4000 to 6000 humans."
"An overwhelming disparity, then," Waver commented, earning Ryuli and Lia's glares. Areli was already sneering.
"One of our warriors is enough to kill ten of theirs, easy. The Queen, myself, Ryuli, and Lia could take on a hundred or more each." Areli crossed her arms and huffed.
Waver shifted his eyes flatly towards Areli, unperturbed by her attitude. "And that means your present force is roughly equivalent to a single Empire Legion. What a shame, they have two."
Areli ground her teeth, but had nothing to say in rebuttal, instead glaring at Waver and refusing to back down.
"The intellect of you male bunnies are over inflated. Our strategies and our own wits work just as well!" Areli looked to Tyuule imploringly. "My Queen, give us permission to charge. With our strength we can route them and prevent the Empire Legions from joining. We attack the first legion, isolate them, then take on the other after the first!"
Waver raised a brow. "This battle is fought on flat plains adjacent to a valley of steep cliffsides. How do you intend to prevent a pincer with this stratagem?"
"Oh, shut up! You male bunnies are too weak to even do anything useful other than bed-warming anyway," Areli turned back to Tyuule. "My Queen, what he says that we can't do, he knows nothing off! Look at him! Does he seem like a warrior? Would he even have the proper considerations?!"
"Enough." Tyuule voice was piercing in the ensuing silence. "Mr. Waver came here of his own volition for our people which makes him more deserving of a chance. If nothing else, do you not at least admire his bravery? You know what our male warrior bunnies are renowned for, and he came with the confidence to ask me to hand over military control."
"I gave it to him."
Ryuli, Lia, and Areli's features locked at Tyuule admission, doubt, anxiety, and disbelief clouding their expressions before everyone grudgingly turned to hear Waver out.
This was Waver's moment and he knew it. Stepping forward, he asserted the airs of Lord El-Melloi.
"How long until the battle breaks out at this defensive line? And who ordered this barricade to be built here?" Waver asked, pointing at specific markings on the map before him.
"At the current pace of the war, in a couple hours at most," Ryuli replied in monotone and knit brows. "As for who had it built, it was Areli."
"Break it down and recall the stationed warriors there," he said firmly.
"No! We can't do-"
"You're incompetent, and I don't have the time to explain why," Waver cut Areli off in a clipped no-nonsense tone. Her strategic positioning of the barricade had no considerations for a siege of any kind. It wasn't large enough to farm sustainable crops, nor was it located near any replenishable resources. Once surrounded and sieged, it was doomed.
"Why you fucking bas-"
"Do as he said and send the order down."
"My Queen!" Areli pursed her lips, aggrieved before turning her resentment on Waver who was too focused to even notice or care.
"Using the materials from the breakdown of the barricade, clear a circular path here and here," Waver pointed, and Tyuule nodded and had someone instruct messengers to relay commands.
Now came the important part.
Sucking in a breath, Waver marked several obscure points on the map before him with an ink quill provided on the table.
"Listen carefully, I need you all to set up this formation specifically as I describe it before the Empire legions arrival…"
Tyuule couldn't wrap her mind around what she was seeing once Waver's arrangements were completed, but his lack of concern against the Empire forces was reassuring in a way.
Ryuli, Lia, and Areli were left behind to oversee troop movements in the military camps and help relay Waver's orders as proxies to Tyuule's words. Waver and Tyuule on the other hand went to oversee Waver's orchestrations.
Areli's former defensive fortification was torn down to the bare minimum and practically emptied of all personnel who were told to gather and wait by Waver's side.
At first, Waver had entertained the notion of using his magecraft, but it was impractical in this instance against numerous foes. He didn't have the capacity for his magecraft to affect the sheer scope of the Empire's troops in the first place, but in any case, decent strategy goes a long way. Although his physical attributes weren't the greatest, he was far from lacking when it came to being well read.
Besides, defeating the Empire's troops on his own went counter to Reines's current goals. Waver for one would rather have Reines forge friendly relations than risk another member of the Clock Tower use their own methods.
'Just in time,' Waver thought absently as Warrior Bunny scouts relayed to him the arrival of the Zorzal's First Legion.
At present, Waver had left Areli's entire fortification empty aside from hay dummies propped up as bunny warriors in the interior. Attached to the base of each dummy were ropes which the warrior bunnies pulled and toppled the dummies after a volley of Empire arrows came whistling at them.
Further inside the barricade were pieces of gold, silverware, and war chests. The dummies set around were only really there for the sole purpose of misleading the enemy to be complacent at their 'Victory.'
From a distance away atop a small hill, Waver shook his head at the raucous cheers carried in the breeze.
"Humans are creatures of greed," he sighed, hands clasped behind his back while assessing the First Legion's actions. "For the sake of looting at what's clearly an empty base, they rush head-over-heals over each other to lay first claim to the spoils."
Tyuule and the other Warrior Bunnies around her watched Waver's very words occur in real-time.
Pushing and shoving, a majority of the First Legion's troops ended up crowding so densely within the barricade that their chests were practically pressed together. Gold and silver coins rained down from where fighting had broken out near the war chests, hands scrambling to pocket as much fool's metal as possible.
"It's about time," Waver turned his back on the sight, nodding towards a dazed Warrior bunny holding a small torch in one hand, and rolled thread fuse on the other.
"Burn it," Waver instructed decisively.
The echo of anguished screams suddenly reverberated for a fleeting few moments before silence returned to the scene; the scent of charred flesh wafting through the wind along with acrid smoke trails drifting into the horizon.
"T-There must have been at least a thousand of them…"
"With their loses, it's only natural."
Tyuule felt her mouth dry at the show of charisma and wits- The Command of a Strategist.
Was this truly the Super Post Clarity State?
Tyuule pursed her lips, but couldn't mask the approval bleeding through her demeanor. The heated whispers of the Warrior Bunnies near her were even left largely ignored, a majority of her attention fully focused on Waver and his side profile.
Waver possessed a stern sort of handsomeness that had its own type of appeal. His self-assurance, and most importantly, his results to back it up, were more of a moral danger for Tyuule than anything else. Low would she be to become the worst Queen in history if she lost herself to baser urges at this crucial moment at the sight of the most capable male Warrior Bunny she'd ever seen. Worse…she wasn't the only one looking at the same man, only that her thoughts were more implicit than explicit.
"Lord Waver, what should we do next?"
Tyuule couldn't help but show a smidgen of vigilance and displeasure at Waver's new title.
The other bunnies were already starting to put Waver on a pedestal, granted his insights so far were flawless.
"Hit and run," Waver answered idly. "Warrior Bunnies outmatch humans by ten-to-one if I were to take prior estimates at face value. If so, we should be more than capable of constantly harassing the enemy in small groups while saving our casualties, and grinding away at their numbers and morale. We'll therefore force the First Legion to join up with the second for safety and recuperation."
"By then, we'll only be facing a single enemy troop rather than two," Tyuule focused on the result of the action, almost breathless in her excitement. All that was left was one crucial point. "B-But what's to stop them from marching on the capital of the Kingdom and forcing a confrontation?" She asked critically.
"It's exactly what you would do as someone sensible, yes?"
Tyuule mutedly nodded her head, hands balling into fists before she crossed her arms. If she possessed greater numbers and a strategic advantage, rather then continue to be pestered by guerilla forces and lose the initiative, she'd order an attack.
"Let me ask you a question," Waver shifted the subject, leading Tyuule to try and follow his tail of thought. "Do the Empire forces consider you an apt leader? Someone just as sensible as them if not more?"
"Well, I'd like to believe so." Tyuule said confidently. "I fought the legions for years in their campaign, and only now are they reaching my Kingdom's capital. Where other beastmen clans have fallen, the Warrior Bunnies have stood under my lead."
"Precisely," Waver absently opened and closed the cap his lighter, shifting his eyes to glance into Tyuule's own. "Now back to your prior question. What would it seem like to these legion commanders if a formidable leader such as yourself suddenly dropped the defensive and shifted to guerilla tactics, leaving the capital open?"
Silence and a click.
"…a trap," the words were uttered in wonderment, Tyuule's mouth clacking shut at the sheer audacity and confidence of the scheme.
"Just as long as the notion of a trap exists, it's guaranteed that the legions will group up and fortify before meeting it head on. The initiative and pacing of this war will blow in our favour."
If the Empire called their bluff, it was over, but if the generals leading the legions weren't fools and didn't believe Tyuulea fool, then they'd convince themselves to not march on the capital.
Tyuule swallowed audibly, her perception of Waver undergoing another revolution.
Legendary Post-Clarity State or not, it didn't change one fact.
Light shined over Tyuule features, brightening them as the dark clouds hanging over her shoulders unknowingly began to disperse at Waver's deductions. She felt her heart hammering in her chest, hope igniting her fervor. Should they repel the Legion's attacks, what was there to fear with a Warrior Bunny like Waver now in their ranks?
"You heard Lord Waver. Hit and Run, get to it!" Tyuule bellowed to her fellow Warriors who saluted and dashed off at blinding speeds.
The few that remained were part of Tyuule's honour guard tasked with her protection.
"Should we head over?" Tyuule asked Waver, utterly stunning him when she pointed to another part of the miniature map Waver had in hand. The thing was, she was pointing far, far away from their current position. "It's better for a strategist to oversee things as they go."
"H-Head over?" Waver sounded baffled. The location was on the other side of the battlefield with no equipment or transportation in sight. "How?"
"Uhm, we run? It's not that hard," one of Tyuule's honour guard spoke up reverently to an unresponsive Waver.
"Lord Waver?" One of the bunnies called out in concern.
"He does seem quite skinny, doesn't he?" Another Warrior Bunny took the opportunity to approach Waver and poke at his thighs and cope a feel on his biceps. "No wait, he may seem like a stick, but the muscles he does have feel toned. I don't get it. He must be used to running with his lithe build, so the problem shouldn't be about stamina."
'Dammit, that's exactly what the problem is!' Besides, it felt like he was being picked on.
Waver's brow twitched at the comment, recalling the days of yonder where the best he'd done was dodge and run in the face of incoming mysteries and magic until he devised a means to win. In fact, it could be argued that his main strategy in the face of confrontation was run and dodge until he could get a grasp at what he was facing…
"My stamina isn't up to question." He pulled his arm back self-consciously from the shameless bunny still clinging to it and feeling him up. So what if his muscles couldn't compare to his King's who's physique practically dwarfed his. The bunny didn't have to look so expectantly at him as if he could just suddenly bulk up. Regardless…
"You're expecting too much from me," he grumbled.
Augmentation magecraft was one thing, but often it wasn't as convenient as the Reinforcement magecraft Emiya was proficient in. Granted, no sane magus would have ever bothered experimenting with the concept of ascertaining their body's capacity at the cost of overdoing it and exploding. Runes and sigils instead were a far more common approach to achieve super-human physical feats, but often they had to be inscribed or administered beforehand. Needless to say, Waver hadn't expected any kind of long exertion after stepping through the Gate.
"Maybe Lord Waver wishes to not exhaust himself and preserve his mental strength?"
"Ooh? Is that what's happening? Should I carry him?"
"And why's it got to be you? I'm way more capable!"
Waver felt the shivers again. The way he was being stared at was only growing worse by the second, and yet it came to an abrupt halt when he felt arms cradle him and lift him off of his feet…bridal style.
"Milady, that's not fair!"
"Focus!" Tyuule snapped. "You're my honour guard. Act like it!"
"A-As expected of the Queen. Even in the presence of an exceptionally rare male warrior bunny, she's maintaining her calm," the other bunnies whispered admirably and got their selves together.
Waver on the other hand had a wholly different impression.
The way Tyuule was hugging him seemed far too intimate even for his standards, but this was also a different world, so he couldn't say shit just yet.
"Is this hold more comfortable?" Tyuule shifted to let Waver lean closer to her bosom, her cheeks flushing red, yet her features remained forcefully neutral whenever her honour guard glanced her way. Needless to say, when they weren't, it was a whole different kind of expression.
Waver spoke not a word, and focused instead on the map in his hands while Tyuule and the others dashed off with him in tow.
Wind whipped across Waver's face, causing him to squint his eyes just to keep them open, but Tyuule and the others appeared unaffected. Tyuule even had the leisure of discussing the formation of arrangements he'd ordered beforehand.
"Lord Waver, excuse my lack of comprehension, but your plans seem to aim at herding the enemy towards a certain direction? However, you've also planned to spread our forces too thin with no feasible way of allowing us to set an ambush on them."
"That's because we're not." Waver replied flatly. "I had no such intentions to begin with."
"Then what's the point?"
"To set the stage."
'Set the stage?' The words echoed in Tyuule's mind before the very Warrior Bunny who first escorted Waver to them spoke up with a single point.
"Your Majesty, the other five reinforcement members are in that position."
'Other five members. That's right, Waver didn't come alone.'
Were they also Warrior Bunnies?
Tyuule couldn't help but entertain the thought.
The tides of the war were rapidly changing.
Thanks for reading!
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