“Ultimately, I believe that we should leave the city and assault the punitive force.”
Everyone exchanged glances due to Souma’s remark.
Just the other day, Souma said the exact same thing. The ambush that was devised from this ended in failure. And yet, he’s repeating that they should leave the city once again for another assault. They don’t understand his true intentions behind this.
All of them stayed silent and while surveying their faces, Souma said,
“Of course I don’t think that my opinion is absolute. If you have doubts or have come up with, umm… another good idea, speak up and don’t hold back.”
After being urged on by this, there’s no way for them to stay silent.
First, Garam, who actually saw the punitive force and experienced the difference in combat power firsthand, makes an objection.
“To me it seems very unreasonable to attack such a large army outside the city…”
“I agree with him”, Zurgu says. “Is there any need to push for leaving the city in order to attack them? I think it would be better to lay waste to various places inside the country as we had planned at first.”
As the two great zoan warriors voiced an opinion contradictory to Souma’s in unison, even the other zoan raise their voices in agreement.
“Can’t we throw this country into chaos by attacking fortresses and cities all over the place?”
“I think that’s a great idea; it capitalizes on our mobility as zoan.”
However, Souma denied that.
“I think that we can’t use that move anymore. — The punitive force has already approached very close to this city. Even if we devastate the distant rear at this point in time, the punitive force will come to take back this city before pulling back. It’d be impossible to hold the city with the main force, the zoan, absent.”
Souma made a pause in his speech at this point, and then, after looking at the faces of all everyone present, declared next,
“And, if this city is taken back, it spells our defeat!”
“What’s wrong? Is it unexpected that the rebels would try to leave the city and attack us?”
Marius, who had surprise and doubt show on his face due to Darius’ words, becomes flustered and covers up the lower half of his face with his palm in order to hide his embarrassment.
“Please excuse me for my great blunder, Your Excellency.”
No matter how close their personal relation might be, they possess the positions of supreme commander and a messenger within the military. Marius demonstrated his apology by bowing his head.
In reaction that, Darius lightly raises one hand as if telling him to not mind it.
“Hmm. It’s just the right way to kill some time. — Marius, if it’s you, how do you think the rebels will move?”
Sometimes Darius just throws questions like this at the young commissioned officers. Marius released the tension in his body, thought it over for a bit and returned an answer in order to get away from Darius’ playing around.
“Let’s see. — If I was the leader of the rebels, I would cause disturbances in our rear using the zoan.”
The concrete details of what Marius said next was about circumventing the punitive force and attacking the villages and fortresses in the rear. This is mostly the same as the plan Souma came up with before.
“Certainly, that would be a threat. — I judge that the leader of the rebels won’t do that.”
“Why might that be so?”
“By now, we only have a little ways left until Bolnis. Even if the zoan try to head to our rear, I will take Bolnis first. Once I do that, it will be the end for the rebels. The enemy isn’t someone who doesn’t know that.”
Just as Darius says, there’s only a short distance left until Bolnis. While it may be true that they didn’t run into the zoan so far, it’d be inconceivable for them to go back without achieving any kind of result either. After they recover the city of Bolnis first, they would head out to subjugate the zoan who went around the army to attack the rear.
Even Marius understood that, but he didn’t comprehend why that’s related to the zoan’s defeat.
“But, to begin with the zoan are a race that wandered the plains. There would be no problem even if we were to get back the city they assaulted, would there?”
Rather, Marius thought that the city of Bolnis had turned into a pair of shackles for the zoan. For the zoan who pride themselves on short-distance mobility equal to that of a horse, them not establishing a specific base of operations and instead rampaging within Holmea with random guerilla attacks is far more frightening.
“That’d be true, if this time’s rebellion was for the sake of the zoan’s retribution when it comes to the invasion of the plains.”
Due to Marius’ question, Darius chuckles as if he just remembered something funny.
“The rebel leader, who is leading the zoan, apparently made a grand speech.”
Even Marius had heard of the speech the rebel leader made in the city of Bolnis.
“If it’s that, I have heard about it as well. They say he was talking about creating a country of different races or such…”
“In that case, it applies all the more!”
Darius strongly asserted.
“If it was only the zoan, it would probably be feasible for them to go around pillaging cities and villages without building a base of operations. However, there are also dwarves and dinosaurians among them. Putting aside if it’s for a short period of time, but continuously fighting and moving while not having a base where they can rest would let guys like them run out of stamina. If the dwarves and dinosaurians drop out due to this, the country of different races advertised by the rebel leader would lose all of its meaning.”
Darius laughs scornfully with a “Humph.”
“If a group loses its objective, they are no more than a group of bandits. If it’s a simple group of bandits, they might cause a lot of damage to a few villages, but they aren’t formidable opponents.”
What is truly fearsome is a group that resolutely acts towards a common goal, even if there might be only a few of them. And, the rebels, who are currently occupying Bolnis, are precisely such a dreadful group.
What made Darius, who was at first unsure whether the rebels are mere bandits, consider them as a power that could potentially oppose Holmea with a real objective, is the attack at the river.
For Darius having the two companies led by Borgus lay an ambush was, so to say, a test case.
If the rebels were solely consumed by their rage for having been forced into slavery and their hatred for the invasion of the plains, they would have charged at the punitive force recklessly. Even if they had the intellect to somewhat think it over, they would have either returned to their plains or invaded Holmea in their search for their next prey, after pillaging Bolnis to the limit.
However, if the rebels really intended to create their own country, they would stage a surprise attack aiming for the time when the punitive force was crossing the river, which was the sole good opportunity to make an offensive move against the punitive force, in order to protect the city of Bolnis that has become their base, Darius judged.
And, that is what turned into reality.
“If the rebel leader plans to create a country like he says, he won’t be able to discard the dwarves and dinosaurians. And, above all else, he can’t abandon the city that will become a cornerstone in the creation of that country.”
“Not only are the enemies no simple bandits, but they are a fearsome, hostile force.” While saying that, Darius’ tone trembled with delight.
“But, can’t they simply get a new base as a substitute for Bolnis?”
In Marius’ eyes, Bolnis is already in a precarious state as well. It would be much better for them to obtain a village or city as a new base without insisting on Bolnis, he thought.
However, even that is denied by Darius.
“I heard that the number of zoan that attacked Bolnis numbered fewer than a thousand. If you bear in mind the zoan’s circumstances that they had to absolutely take the city, it’s very likely that this is even the biggest force that they can muster at this point in time.”
Darius feels sad even though he knows that he’s the main cause for the zoan’s decline, who were thought to have had several tens of thousands warriors in the past.
“The zoan, who were called the supreme rulers of the plains, are probably unskilled at siege battles. On top of that, it’s impossible for them to take a city that possesses a sturdy wall with less than a thousand warriors. With that, they had to open the city’s gates from inside by inciting the slaves. — No, they wouldn’t have been able to capture the city without doing that.
However, the slave revolt taking part in the the fall of Bolnis is already well-know in cities all over Holmea. They won’t be able to use the same move in another city.”
As a matter of fact, the monitoring of the sub-race’s slaves had become more severe in Luoma, the city closest to Bolnis.
“However, what’s even more important than that is that the rebel leader definitely can’t abandon Bolnis if he really plans to raise a country.”
Marius tilts his head slightly to the side in confusion due to that.
“Why is that so?”
“It would be best if you looked at the map. The Solbiant Plains are surrounded by steep mountains except for the south. Those are equal to a protective wall. The city of Bolnis is located on this southern portion of the plains. In short, it serves as a gate to the Solbiant Plains.
If we take control of Bolnis, the zoan won’t be able to leave the plains after returning to them. In reverse, if the rebels hold onto Bolnis, we won’t be able to make a move on the plains. In other words, controlling Bolnis is equal to controlling the plains’ fate.”
Darius spread his arms widely.
“The Solbiant Plains are massive. If we can reclaim them, they will transform into a granary capable of providing food for a million soldiers. Moreover, being surrounded by a wall of mountains, the granary wouldn’t be able to be endangered by enemy forces, making their value immeasurable.
The Solbiant Plains is truly a region that can become a cornerstone of the country.
If I were about to create a country, I would try to get my hands on the Solbiant Plains. Even more so, as the plains are their ancestor’s soil for the zoan. They want to regain them.
That’s yet another reason why the rebels won’t give up on the city of Bolnis.”
Marius readily agreed with Darius’ words. Now that he mentions it, there’s probably no other region as suitable for creating a new country as the Solbiant Plains.
Even if you ignore that, possessing the city of Bolnis would be safe as well.
The Ocean State Jeboa lies west of Bolnis.
This country developed through trading as an important relay point of maritime transportation in the Baness Bay. This makes the merchant guild’s authority strong. It’s a well-known fact that the merchant guild is running a puppet government, despite having crowned a king for the time being. The merchant guild holds the true power behind the state, but also has no interest in anything besides making money. So far they haven’t shown any ambition regarding expanding their territory.
If it’s Jeboa, then there’s no worry that they would invade even if the defense of Bolnis’ west was lacking, for argument’s sake. They would probably only have all their military forces guard the border with Holmea.
‘The more I think about it, the more obvious it becomes that there’s no city as convenient for the rebels as Bolnis, he assessed.
“Then, what about holing up in Bolnis?”
If it’s such a convenient city, the rebels will likely try to defend it by all means possible. In that case, wouldn’t it be smarter to hole up while accepting one’s disadvantage? Marius thought.
However, Darius laughed that away with a booming voice.
“If we could get them to do that, it would be easier for me as well though.”
Those inside the room were unable to speak up right away due to the value of Bolnis that Souma explained.
“… Certainly, if you say that this city has this much value, the enemy will very likely head directly here, won’t they?”
Once Garam says so with a frustrated look, Zurgu scratches his head.
“If it’s like this, we don’t want to send out any warriors, even if it’s only a handful of them. It’s even worse when we can’t expect any real effect from disturbing their rear. Rather, that being the case, it would be yet better to strike the rear guard of the punitive force while disregarding the losses among our warriors.”
It’s an opponent that has planted a trap against our side’s surprise attack. I think it’s very likely that the supply unit transporting the army’s goods has an impregnable defense added to it. It’s obvious that we would have the tables turned on us even if we attacked that place.
Due to Garam looking at him with reproach, probably due to his willingness to sacrifice warriors pointlessly, Zurgu smiles bitterly and shrugs his shoulders as if saying “There’s no way that we would really do that, is there?”
“Though, I still think it’s absurd to leave the city and stage an attack…”
Due to Banuka’s remark that lacks in confidence, Garam and Zurgu growl without speaking up.
“Isn’t it, after all, the best plan to seclude ourselves in this city and wait for the enemy’s momentum to abate?”
Dvalin had the conceit that the city won’t be taken that easily even if was surrounded by an army of 10,000 soldiers. On the contrary, he got all worked up that the punitive force would even get annihilated if they tried to attack unskillfully.
“No, I think that is for sure the worst possible option.”
However, Souma calls the idea of holing-up a bad plan.
“If it were me, I would do following— I would have the army line up at a place where arrows can’t reach and call out to the city’s people, telling them 『We came to help you. Come on, let’s fight together. Open the gates.』”
Souma’s group soothed the city’s residents as much as possible following Marchronis advice, but obtaining their support isn’t that simple. Souma and the others are still aggressors who suddenly attacked their city. Even them currently staying obedient without rebelling is due to their fear of Souma’s group. The residents are basically just locking themselves up within their homes and waiting for the storm to pass.
If the punitive force advocated the liberation of the city at this point, the residents would likely welcome them with open arms.
“It’s not worth it to fear the humans of this city! Such a trash-like bunch can be easily driven away by my people just glaring at them!”
Jahangil boasted to make up for Dvalin, who was at a loss for words. But Souma shook his head at him, who is roughly breathing through his nose.
“Even if we suppress them with fear, that’s only a temporary measure. The more they are suppressed, the larger the anger among the residents piles up.
If this city has 10,000 residents, half of them are men. If you exclude the elderly and children among them, one third of the men can fight. Only that many are more than 1,500 people. However, if they all at once stage an uprising in the whole city, even the women and children, who originally can’t fight, will join in and their numbers will likely grow to a few thousand people. There will be several thousand enemies within the city while we have to also deal with the 7,000 soldiers of the punitive force outside the city. To me it doesn’t look like we would have any chance of success there.”
Even Jahangil couldn’t object this and only groaned with a mortified look.
In exchange, Garam offers his opinion,
“Then, wouldn’t it be for the best to retreat to the plains and set up plans for the next attack?”
He could understand that they won’t be able to hole themselves in the city, as explained by Souma.
However, just because of that there should be no necessity to expose ourselves to danger by unreasonably attacking the punitive force. It will hurt to lose the city that we took at great pains, but temporarily pulling back here and waiting for a good chance is yet another move, he thought.
But, even that is denied by Souma once again.
“I believe that will just delay the inevitable.”
“Isn’t it very likely that the zoan will retreat to the plains in the end?”
As expected, Marius couldn’t believe that the rebels would elect to leave the city and attempt an attack on them, as Darius had said.
Certainly, if you consider the rebels’ objective, it appears unlikely that they will abandon Bolnis. But as long as they defend the Solbiant Plains, even if they lost Bolnis, it seems obvious that the rebels will achieve their goal of creating a country. In that scenario, there’s the option of retreating to the plains without insisting on defending Bolnis, he thought.
“Surely, I suppose that might be the smartest choice.”
The zoan will probably bring it into a war of attrition by defending to the bitter end after they retreat to the plains.
Capitalising on their locational advantage that is the huge Solbiant Plains, they would work their bodies to the bones by launching tenacious attacks against Holmea’s supply lines, which would be stretched thin for the sake of invading the plains. If supplies such as rations are delayed, that would accordingly cause the soldiers’ morale to plummet and they would even become unable to fight normally.
In order to counter this strategy, we would have to slowly expand our sphere of influence within the plains through the construction of several forts, which would act as bases for us within the plains.
But, to carry it out, it would require Holmea to invest a huge amount of money and manpower as well as time in the decades. It would likely produce a large delay in Holmea’s plains reclamation plan.
And it would be fine for the zoan to once again patiently wait for an opportunity to invade the region outside the plains.
“However, I believe that method to be no more than an extension of the inevitable.”
The crux of the problem is the differences in fertility between the zoan and Holmea due to the sizes of their populations.
The zoan clans, who would have been driven out of the plains by then, would eventually have lost most of their power. That’s obvious from the fact that the zoan didn’t even field 1,000 warriors when they assaulted Bolnis, even though they assembled more than 20,000 warriors in the great battle between the zoan and Holmea in the Solbiant Plains thirty years ago.
There’s nothing they could do about the widening of the difference between Holmea, which would imprison the zoan in the plains through Bolnis, and the zoan who would have to continue fighting against Holmea while maintaining their lives as hunters. Once the difference became conclusive, the zoan will face their annihilation and the plains will be completely and thoroughly owned by Holmea.
“With that being the case, I believe that the rebel leader will deliberately come out to attack, aware of the dangers.”