Chapter 3 – Story 58: Royal Wrath

 


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The small fort Garaff was situated between Holmea’s westernmost city, Luoma, and the bridgepoint of the Conte. During normal times it was manned by 200 people as one of many border posts.

However, after the revolting slaves of Bolnis had begun to make suspicious moves, five times that number – a thousand soldiers – was crammed into the fort in preparation for any unforeseen circumstances.

Yet, even more people than that had gathered at Fort Garaff at present. Those new arrivals were the subjugation force which officially consisted of 30,000 men (although it was 20,000 in reality). They had come to put down the revolting slaves after they occupied the bridgepoint.

Of course, there was no way for Fort Garaff, which had been overflowing with people even before their arrival, to house all of those 20,000 soldiers of the subjugation army. As such, most of them had to set up camp outside the fort.

“I doubt it’s necessary for me to mention it to the lords and commanders present here, but our goal is the eradication of the slaves who rose in rebellion against our glorious fatherland!”

One especially big tent had been built among the many tents surrounding the fort. And the one raising his voice inside was Hiakis, the actual commander of Holmea’s strongest army corps, the 「Black Wall」. Currently a war council featuring all key figures of the subjugation force, such as the lords who had joined the expedition and the officers of the 「Black Wall」, was being held inside the tent with Prince Alexius presiding over it.

“I think you have already heard how the revolting slaves repelled our soldiers by startling them with a bogus fortress. Afterwards, they took up camp in front of the bridgepoint, carried in materials which they quarried in the mountains upstream, and have steadily advanced the construction of a real fortress.”

As soon as Hiakis made a break after bringing everyone up to date, Alexius asked, “How many rebels have gathered at that fortress of theirs?”

“I shall answer you, Your Highness! The total number of enemies ranges between 7,000 to 8,000. However, their fortress is not large enough to accommodate all of them. No matter how much they squeeze together in there, it can hold a thousand men at most. According to our scouts, the majority of the slaves have lined up in front of the fortress.”

Alexius became surprised at that piece of news, “Hoh, that is certainly unexpected…”

The prince had thought that the slaves would use their fortress as bulwark to hold back the momentum of his subjugation force. And although he had predicted that the slaves would deploy their main force on the other side of the river as rear guard to lead a war of attrition by attacking the subjugation force after it broke through the fortress, the slaves had actually deployed in front of the fortress instead.

“The enemy’s main force taking up position in front of the fortress means that the slaves wish to take us on directly?”

“Yes, I believe it is just as you say, Your Highness.”

Alexius laughed out loud upon Hiakis’s consent, “What fools they are! It looks like they got cocky after they managed to defeat a bigger force once in the past.”

After laughing scornfully for a while, Alexius asked Hiakis, “So tell me, Hiakis, how are we going to deal with those cocky bugs?”

“Of course. I plan to divide our army into five divisions. ――The first division will consist of an archer battalion and a light infantry battalion.”

Hiakis placed a figure on the map which had been spread out on a huge table set up in the center of the tent.

“The second division will consist of a heavy-armored lancer regiment with the 『Black Wall』 forming its core. The third and fourth divisions will gather the lords, who kindly participate in this expedition, chariots, and light infantry units.”

Next he placed the biggest figure behind the first figure he had put down on the map, and flanked it with two figures on either side.

“And we will deploy the fifth division at the very rear.”

Lastly, he placed a single figure on the map in a location that was somewhat further behind the piece indicating the fourth division.

“The First Division will initially take the front. They will disturb the enemy lines with their archers and spear-throwers. Then the Second Division will advance in a close formation to smash the enemy. The Third and Fourth Divisions will protect the flanks of the Second Division. We’ll completely rout the enemy in one swipe once both divisions start attacking as soon as they find a chance to do so.

And, I’d like you, Your Highness, to please take command over the whole army from the rear as part of the Fifth Division. In case of some unexpected, bad situation, I’d be delighted if you could handle it by leading the Fifth Division into battle.”

Alexius nodded deeply at that, full of satisfaction.

 

 

 

 

Hiakis’s proposal followed a boring strategy that adhered to common, established theories. However, this sort of frontal attack, which allowed his army to chop down the enemy straight from the front, took advantage of their overwhelming numerical superiority, making it possible for his army to display its strength much better than any risky attempt at being innovative with original strategies.

While believing that no one would fault Hiakis here, Alexius still followed military custom and asked the present lords and commanders whether anyone had an objection.

“May I, Your Highness?”

However, contrary to the prince’s expectation, one of the present lords raised a hand and requested permission to speak.

While feeling faintly disgruntled over things not proceeding as he wished, Alexius retrieved the name of that lord from the depths of his memory.

“Baron Kantbias, was it? ――Go ahead. If you have anything to add, speak up.”

The lord in question was Baron Kantbias who had been the first to inform the royal palace of the attack on Copper Mine Marven. Moreover, the baron had joined the subjugation before any other lord.

After stating his thanks for having received the prince’s permission to speak, Baron Kantbias quickly got down to business, “Just as Sir Hiakis mentioned, I have also heard that the revolting slaves stopped at the bridgepoint and built a fortress there. In such a case, the battle will take place around here, if we continue moving our troops forward without any changes.”

The baron pointed on the plain indicated on the map to be situated in front of the bridge, “The bridge and its surrounding area features flatland with no undulations whatsoever. As there are no forests or mountains to be found anywhere nearby, it is ideal for the deployment of a big army as it perfectly allows to exhibit the force of numbers, I’d say.”

At that point, Baron Kantbias looked at Alexius. In response the prince nodded his agreement.

After that short pause, Baron Kantbias continued slowly as if weighing each of his words, “Do you not believe this to be strange?”

Alexius faintly furrowed his eyebrows at that.

“No matter how you look at it, this is not the area where you would face an army that excels you in numbers. Rather, it’s a terrain you would use to crush a smaller force with the might of numbers. Putting aside a situation where they got cornered and thus couldn’t choose their battlefield, there exists virtually no reason for the revolting slaves, who moved their soldiers long before us, to pick this particular place. So why would they do it anyway?”

In his mind Alexius scoffed at the slaves, wondering whether they actually possessed the intellectual capability to think so far. But, before he could put this thought into words, Hiakis indicated his approval by saying, “Certainly, it is strange to say the least,” and thus the prince lost his opportunity to voice his mockery.

“…I see. So you’re saying the revolting slaves are acting based on some sort of plan?”

“That is correct, Your Highness.”

A hushed commotion occurred among the lords inside the tent upon the exchange between Alexius and Baron Kantbias. Those lords had joined the subjugation army despite the still-existing risk of having their territories attacked by raid units of the revolting slaves because they had judged that the subjugation would succeed for sure this time. However, they couldn’t help feeling shaken in their belief since they had heard on their way here that the slaves had been acting with the intent of winning against their army.

Although he felt displeased about the lords, who started to get cold feet this late in the game, and Baron Kantbias who had triggered all of it, Alexius pointed at the map.

“However, just as you said, the bridgepoint and its surrounding area is a plain. I don’t see how they could use some sort of elaborate trick here. Assuming the slaves truly tried to use some scheme, they should have advanced up to Fort Garaff a while ago as this area comes with forests and valleys, don’t you think?” Alexius explained with a relaxed tone so as to calm the shaken lords at the same time. “And yet, you’re saying this 『Divine Son of Destruction』 still is plotting something?”

All eyes focused on Baron Kantbias. After remaining silent for some time while being on the receiving end of those scrutinizing gazes, the baron answered, “I cannot tell.”

“What do you mean by that?”

Even while wincing as Alexius’s response was filled with irritation, Baron Kantbias continued, “Because of my lacking ability, I cannot tell what that fiend might be planning. ――However, not only did he repel the subjugation force five years ago, but just the other day, a few of his elite forces invaded deep into Holmea’s realm, attacking Marven in the process. Personally I find it hard to believe that the 『Divine Son of Destruction』, who managed to achieve all of this, would choose this location for a decisive battle without any sort of ulterior motive.”

Baron Kantbias frantically appealed to not only Prince Alexius, but all the lords and commanders present in the tent.

“It is said that war comes with truths and falsehoods. Falsehood weakens your defenses. Truth fortifies your defenses. If you fail at attacking the falsehoods while avoiding the truths, the enemy will pretend the truths to be false and the falsehoods to be true. It is the same for our side as well. This is the reason why war is said to be full of wiles and tricks.

Moreover, falsehoods are deceptions. They stand for strategies and plans. In contrast to that, truth stands for the actual military forces and movements.

If we calmly compare ourselves with the enemy, it is an obvious truth that our military forces excel those of the revolting slaves by a significant measure. In such case, we ought to watch out whether they are going to use a plan ― a 『Falsehood』. And the 『Divine Son of Destruction』 is the very definition of an extraordinary strategist who loves to employ 『Falsehoods』. I’m sure he’s going to face us with some sort of terrifying strategy.”

His whole statement threw cold water on their whole operation although they were finally at the stage whether they’d soon subjugate the slaves. And as a matter of fact, the few lords, who had decided to actually join the campaign, became disturbed, starting to uneasily look at each other.

Seeing this whole situation, the prince only barely managed to click his tongue at them while asking, “Then what are you telling us to do instead, Baron?”

“I know it is presumptuous of me, but please allow me to make the following suggestion: we should not go along with the opponent’s invitation here. Using the advantage of having a large army, we should divide our forces into several groups, and encircle the bridgepoint from a distance. If we keep applying pressure on them day and night, they will certainly give up at some point and attack us from their side or retreat altogether.”

The present lords and commanders nodded their agreement at Baron Kantbias’s suggestion. However, one man didn’t join them ― Prince Alexius. After all, the upcoming subjugation of the revolting slaves was a means for Alexius to rid himself of General Darius’s curse.

The battles, which he had commanded as general of Holmea up until now, had all eventually ended in victory. However, no matter how many military achievements he accumulated and no matter how many victories he obtained, Darius’s exploits always towered above his.

However, the enemy this time was a foe who had defeated Darius. Alexius was certain that everyone would have no choice but to approve of him as being superior to Darius, if he managed to overcome such a foe. He would be able to finally erase the shadow of Darius which had haunted him for many, many years.

As such, this was a battle that offered Alexius a once-in-a-lifetime chance. And it awakened a strong desire in him to adorn himself with a great victory on the spectacular stage of having a showdown of armies on a flat plain.

Trying to change Alexius’s mind whose face clearly showed that he didn’t feel like going along with his proposal, the baron further added, “Your Highness, please consider it carefully. Battle is not just about clashing army against army. Is it not a king’s way of fighting to overwhelm an enemy by using dignity?”

For Baron Kantbias, this was a statement intended to drive home his point. However, it ended up becoming an unforeseen, verbal gaffe.

“…! What did you say just now…!?” Alexius jumped up from his chair, wrath seething out of his whole body.

 

 


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