Belta Caste, undergoing repair work post haste.
In the conference room inside the castle, the opinions of the generals and staff officers were completely divided into two between the fast warplan–immediately make Canaan surrender and seek to capture the Royal Capital, and the safe plan–capture the southern area while gunning for Canaan. The men bolstered by their successive victories strongly asserted that they ought to aim for the Royal Capital as soon as possible.
“I would like you all to remember what our great cause is. To liberate the Royal Capital from the hands of the despotic should have been our mission. Then, why do we have to go a roundabout way, I’m having a hard time understanding.”
“That’s right. While we are twiddling our thumbs, the people are suffering. It’s also obvious that the enemy has already caved in. All the more so because the Empire has also declared war. This detour road where we go out of our way to make the Kingdom’s south fall is not necessary.”
Altura had not yet revealed her own opinion. Until she heard every member’s views, she would not give her judgement. Her decision was just that important. The lives of all the Liberation Army’s soldiers were at stake.
When Altura sent her gaze towards Diener, he lightly coughed and began speaking. 𝑖𝓃𝓃r𝒆𝘢d.＆nbsp;c𝘰m
“……I, think we ought not be impatient. Time is on our side. The more we wait, the more advantageous it is for us, and the more disadvantage it is for the Kingdom’s Army. Also, the harsh winter will set in soon. Canaan is not so weak that it can fall in a short timeframe.”
There were people who showed bitter expressions hearing Diener’s opinion. They were people belonging to an opposition faction, who didn’t think well of Diener’s rise to prominence. They were long serving members of the Salvador faction, who had accompanied Altura ever since she raised an army. The reinforcements who came from the Empire were also included in this faction.
Or, they were of the Belta faction, surrendered soldiers who midway through had approved of her motives and assembled.
Those closest to Altura were of course mainly the people of the Salvador faction. But, going by just numbers, they were exceeded by the Belta faction, and so their opinions couldn’t be ignored.
Altura sought a delicate guidance. When she leaned any which way, that would birth dissatisfaction. It would accumulate and accumulate, and then explode, just like the current Kingdom.
“Oh my oh my, I would not have expected such words from Sir Diener who excels in ingenuity. In the battle a few days ago, the one who sent 5,000 troops in pursuit to Canaan, wasn’t it you? They were repelled without accomplishing anything. I won’t let you say that you’ve forgotten all the blood you’ve spilled”
Criticized Ghamzeh, a staff officer of the Belta faction, and other members agreed.
“That is what happens soldiers are moved without thinking. Sure, it was you, Sir Diener, who felled Belta. That was due to your skill. But, the ones who accomplished it were the officers and men of the Liberation Army, and especially the militiamen who risked their lives participating. I would be worried if you were to forget that it was by the efforts of everyone with alike ideals.”
“……Then, does Staff Officer Ghamzeh have a plan for felling Canaan?”
“Of course. I have already put arrangements in order for its capture. I have considerable ties with the feudal lords of the Royal Capital region. We have exchanged messages saying that they will absolutely revolt as soon as we Liberation Army invade the Royal Capital region.”
Ghamzeh took out secret messages from his breast pocket. On many letters, the names of feudal lords of the area past the Canaan Area were written down. He had leveraged the connections from when he was affiliated with the Kingdom’s Army and put this plan to action.
What the feudal lords were seeking was guarantee of security. This had been easy work for Ghamzeh. Afterwards, he would monopolize achievements in the Belta faction, and had to make a foothold to seize power after gaining control of the Royal Capital. A puppet regime of the Empire was a very real threat. At this rate, the Empire would take advantage of the civil war and act as they pleased. This was a fear that the people formerly of the Kingdom’s Army had.
The one who brought about this fear, was Tactician Diener. He was a suspicious character close to Prince Alan dispatched from the Empire, and his birthplace was unknown. He was a thorn in the side for the Belta faction, and they were vigilantly waiting, like a beast hunting its prey, waiting for a timing to overthrow him. He hadn’t shown many mistakes before, but the pursuit defeat a few days ago was their long awaited chance they were sure.
“Sir Ghamzeh. I believe I asked about the capturing of Canaan. Capturing the Royal Capital should be a conversation for later.”
“Now don’t be so flustered Sir Diener, as I will explain in detail hereon. Of my subordinates there are many who know of this area’s geography in detail. ……Please take a look at this.”
Ghamzeh started to explain while indicating with his finger on the spread out map.
“If we are to go for a frontal attack, we will have to control this main, connecting road to the Royal Capital. However, this road is tightly surrounded by steep mountains. A level castle though it may be, there is also Roshanak Stronghold. If they were to take battle formation in this mountainous region, they would be difficult to assault, wouldn’t you all say?”
“True, our opponents can fight while making the best of natural, strategic positions, while on the other hand, we will have to constantly fight on level ground.”
Altura nodded. Diener was silently listening.
“Exactly. If we decide to recklessly attack, we will suffer terrible losses of troops. ……Here, let us change the conversation for a moment please. Beyond this mountainous region of Canaan are three fortresses. The first is our target, Royal Capital Blanca. Southeast of there is Sayeh Fortress. And then soon to be completed is Cyrus Fortress to the southwest.”
He pointed out the places one by one. From Belta, the closest one was Cyrus Fortress in the southeast.
Once they traversed the road, to the west would be Cyrus and to the east would be Sayeh. Then right between them was Royal Capital Blanca which could be seen. This three-pronged defense, assuming they traversed Canaan, would be the Kingdom’s final bastion.
“It will become a troublesome enemy for us for how close it is to completion huh.”
Behrouz observed while rubbing his white facial hair. While in the middle of capturing one, they would undeniably be attacked from behind. To deal with that, as much as they hated to, they would have to divide their forces.
“Still, I conclude that it is not dangerous as of now. As it is near-completion, guards still have not been stationed. The only ones there are citizens gathered as laborers, inspectors, and a small number of guards. ……Then for us, we are in luck, for we have the guidance of the stars.”
While talking about the information gotten from his spies, Ghamzeh proudly tapped the map.
Diener prompted him to continue.
“And this good fortune is?”
“In the Canaan mountains, there exists a pass that only the local people know. Naturally, it is not on maps. Strangers were also not notified of it. Past this shortcut, is the back of this Cyrus Fortress.”
From their planned site of capture, he showed an area further west. It was a steep, mountainous area called Golbahar Ridge. Ghamzeh was saying to cross this ridge, expropriate Cyrus, and drive a lynchpin into the Royal Capital Area.
“However, is this not dangerous? You will not be able to able to avoid annihilation if you find yourselves isolated. That does not seem to me a place easy to send reinforcements.”
Altura showed her concern, and Ghamzeh shook his head saying there was no need for anxiety.
“It is for that reason that I have schemed with the feudal lords around Cyrus. The people who have the spirit will absolutely cooperate with us. I want to borrow 3,000 light infantry as an advance unit and 5,000 for a rear guard. With just that many, we can defend to the end. It will soon be the advent of winter, and if it snows, it will be impossible for a large army to march. During that time, we will pressure Canaan from the front and back.”
“Diener, what do you think?”
“……If this succeeds, Canaan will probably fall without any effort. We will be able to cut off their supply line. As a consequence of Canaan being barren, it will be extremely difficult for domestic production. The supply from the Kingdom is their lifeline. But, the probability is 50-50 I’d say?”
Diener showed misgivings, but Ghamzeh blew it off. He had made preliminary preparations up to here. Though he of his own judgement laid the groundwork with the feudal lords, he had poured in not a negligible amount of funds. He would not pull back after all he had done. He kneeled, lowered his head, and appealed to his own resolution. It wasn’t a lie that he had done it for the Liberation Army’s victory.
“Princess Altura. Dangers necessarily exist in any plan. But, the Liberation Army would not have come this far if they feared danger. I beg of you, please give me the order. Surely, I will surely bring you success!”
After brooding for a while, Altura gave her decision.
“……Understood. Ghamzeh, I leave the command of the operation to you. However, we will concurrently go to capture the southern area. Diener. You go hasten the plans for the Kingdom’s south. Behrouz. You will take the soldiers and go with Diener.”
The Liberation Army had decided on their policy.
As the First Division, 30,000 would deploy to the front of Canaan and set up camp. They would tie-down the opponent’s defense forces. They would refrain from attacking, and just confronting was their goal to the very end.
As the Second Division, 30,000 would cut off Canaan’s supply line, aiming for the Kingdom’s Army to perish on their own. If the enemy were to retreat, they would carry out the suppression of Canaan.
Diener and Behrouz were sent for the capture of the Kingdom’s South. It was decided that Altura would take overall command from Belta Castle.
Diener released his agents given secret orders into the Kingdom. If his doubts were correct, they were the insurance. Even if he was worrying for nothing, there wouldn’t be a problem. In the rotten Kingdom, there would definitely be people who would make use of the false information they would sow. The Kingdom had already become an ground ripe for secret activities. Soon, an honest tree would wither. All that would remain would be rotten plants. It would be a simple matter to mow them away.
Kingdom Army controlled Canaan Territory. Roshanak Stronghold Campsite.
While surrounding a bonfire, everyone was having a meal, drinking alcohol, healing their fatigue, and amusing themselves with conversation. There were few pleasures for soldiers. In this kind of remote place, there were no other amusements.
Having earned spectacular war gains and having saved allied soldiers, Schera’s Cavalry was received as heroes.
The soldiers of Schera’s unit were very popular, and were being asked, “What kind of person is Schera?”, and, “Are the rumors of her prowess true?”
“So, is it true? About y’all and Sir Schera. Isn’t that Death God thing just a fable? As far as I can see from far away, she ain’t no different from the village girls around here.”
The guard crossed his arms while groaning quizzically. That they had great activity was certain, he thought, but it was to what degree that he was uncertain of. They had broken through Belta’s encirclement, and then beat up the pursuit unit black-and-blue. Just what kind of Hero was that!? He wanted to laugh. This wasn’t some fairytale.
“Major Schera, no, maybe Lieutenant Colonel? The rumors are pretty much on the dot. She is only about 18 though. If you just saw her fight once, you won’t ever again say it’s a lie.”
A man from Schera’s Cavalry said as he poured more alcohol. Ten men around him, overjoyed, crowded around and listened attentively.
“According to guys that survived, you guys also fought fiercely they say. Maybe you get inspired when Sir Schera leads you? As if right? Hahaha!”
“You guys even got rewarded! Ain’t I jealous, cause we’re pretty useless hah.”
“Maybe I’ll try petitioning to change commanders too, since then I can get some achievements and get promoted!”
Everyone joked around while laughing. The man from Schera’s Cavalry, while gazing at the bonfire, plainly said,
“……How do I even describe it. When I’m under that flag, fighting together with the Lt. Col., I don’t feel scared anymore. I really don’t fear dying anymore. Even I think it’s kind of strange.”
“That’s just you being hyped up. Like there’d be anyone not scared of dying.”
“Now that you say that, I guess. I get excited fighting, but I definitely am scared of dying.”
“Death doesn’t exist for Schera’s Cavalry. We… will never die. Even if we lose our flesh, always under the black flag’s crow, we will be eternally be together with the Lt. Col. That’s why Schera’s Cavalry will nOt be defeated. We wiLl never bE deFeaTeD.”
Everyone while speechless stared at the man who had continued the conversation with blank eyes. As if like reciting from scripture, the man was convinced of the righteousness of his faith. In his eyes shone a fanatical light.
The man snapped back to reality, and looked around his surroundings. He lightly laughed, and gulped down his drink.
“……Whaat? Just speaking figuratively. We fight with that kind of enthusiasm. The Lt. Col. always fights at the vanguard for us. Following her is the least we can do.”
“Oh, okay. How reliable.”
“Well, let’s drink. If you don’t drink when you can, you’re going to regret it.”
“Y, yeah! C’mon, drink, drink!”
After that, everyone continued to drink in silence. Like trying to smother the fear of death. Like trying frantically to avert their eyes from it. It, being the black flag fluttering high above the stronghold. Its white crow–they prayed that it wouldn’t swoop down to their own backs. If they were possessed by it, they would surely become like that:
—-The man of Schera’s cavalry, was happily gazing at the flag.
Roshanak Stronghold, Officer Dining Room
Schera was invited to a meal by Yalder. Though Belta may have fallen, for individual military gains, she had earned merit that no other could match. Yalder was in an extremely good humor, and was drinking alcohol while heartily laughing.
“Major Schera. No, Lieutenant Colonel! I wasn’t wrong to have recommended you!”
“Thank you very much, Your Excellency.”
“Ah–, don’t worry about the formalities. Don’t hold back; eat, eat. I heard from Sidamo that you like eating more than anything. Isn’t that right, Staff Officer Sidamo!”
“Sir-, you are not mistaken.”
Having made it back from Belta, Sidamo nodded. He had some wounds, but not to the degree that he couldn’t move. He had once again taken his place as Yalder’s aide, and was working as a Staff Officer.
Schera looked at Sidamo with a sidelong glance and returned to eating again afterwards. Some kind of grilled fish that she didn’t know of, rabbit meat, mushrooms, wild plants, fruit. Maybe they could be called blessings of the mountains? Though the ground may be barren, the mountains by themselves would have these harvests.
“Mm, mm! At the dawn of the Third Army’s revival eventually, I plan on having the Lt. Col. be the force’s keystone. We will absolutely take back the pride of the fallen Steel Division at the next battle. Got it, Sidamo!?”
“Sir-, I, Sidamo, will expend all my power.”
“Good to hear! Well then, you should slowly enjoy yourselves. Eat as much as you like; I won’t mind. I will be going first. If something comes up, don’t hold back and come look for me.”
Schera saluted while eating, and Yalder departed after a stifled laugh. His former manner of haughtiness was becoming more subdued.
Sidamo, thinking that this was a good trend, nodded to himself. As long as he didn’t have his arrogance, Yalder was a peerless commander. Though if he didn’t have it, without any special connection to nobility, Yalder would not have been entrusted as the commander of the Third Army.
“Well then, Lt. Col. I will also excuse myself. You’ve done well living and making it back. Your instructions have not changed. If you’re going to die, die outside. Dying inside a fort is a waste of the cavalry.”
“I understand, Staff Officer Sidamo.”
“……Don’t worry about that thing with Vander. We will make him accept punishment for turning traitor someday. This will not be your duty. Though you probably understand without me telling you.”
“I will massacre the rebel army. He will be killed by my hands invariably.”
“A death sentence from the Death God huh? Hmph, I wish I could let that guy hear it.”
Sidamo snorted and left.
Schera strongly stabbed the fork into the lump of rabbit meat, and violently bit some off. It tasted of rich blood.
The main body of the First Army lead by Field Marshal Sharov took up their new post at Roshanak Fortress. Sharov immediately called the generals and opened a war council. He had sent out the scouts that had come with him here and was getting a general picture. Losing Belta was a serious setback, but he would not cry over spilled milk. Now, they had to defend Canaan to the last and absolutely prevent an invasion of the Royal Capital.
“……We have lost the Belta Area, but we still will not permit an invasion towards the Royal Capital. I have heard that the Fifth Army in the northwest is putting up a good fight against their opponents, the Empire. If they continue at this rate, they probably won’t fall before winter. Once winter comes, the ones to die will be the Empire lot.”
The Imperial Army was struggling in the northwest fortress area. Unexpectedly, the Kingdom’s soldiers were maintaining discipline. If the Fifth Army had faced off against the Liberation Army, the northwest region would have probably easily fallen. But, to the residents of the northwest area, The Imperial Army was an absolutely irreconcilable arch-enemy. There was a long hated of mutually killing and being killed. After all this time, compromise was unimaginable. The people took the initiative, and got to their feet to fight with the soldiers of the Empire. As shitty as the Kingdom was, it was more preferable than surrendering to the Empire, they thought. If placed under the Empire’s control, it was clear that they would suffer unsparing oppression. Old, young, men, and women–everyone realized that this was a grim hour, and they all wielded swords and rose up.
They met the Empire’s main force at the forts, and disrupted the enemy’s supply train with commando units lurking everywhere. The Imperial Army, having commando units of the Kingdom with homefield advantage as their adversaries, were at a loss. Repeating these raids at the most unexpected of places and at the most unexpected of moments, the citizens voluntarily lended their aid. Who was military and who was civilian could no longer be distinguished. If they were defeated, the reign would become even more distressing.
Also, winter would soon come. Supplies would become a trouble, and marches would not go well. The plan to blitz the fortress area and aim for the Royal Capital was already at a standstill. But for their honor, they could not withdraw. They would draw both sides into a nothing but wasteful war of attrition.
Starting the war in autumn was the cause of all the Empire’s problems. They had taken the area lightly, thinking that if they displayed military force, the area would immediately capitulate.
“We have obtained intelligence that the enemy is moving their soldiers to capture Canaan. So that we can deal with them whenever, we have to put our preparations in order.”
“No, instead, how about we launch an assault on Belta? If the enemy is drunk on their victory and show an opening.”
Proposed Lieutenant General Barbora, but Sharov rejected it.
“Leave out the nonsense. If we suffer a crushing defeat next time, that would affect the life and death of the Kingdom. We must be prudent when moving the army. Refrain yourself from rash speech and conduct.”
“S-Sir-! I beg your pardon!”
After glaring at Barbora, Sharov turned his gaze to Yalder, concerning his duty of defending Roshanak.
“Your Excellency Field Marshal, I, Yalder, had blundered at Antigua, and have no reputation nor honor. Nevertheless, I would like a chance to wipe out this disgrace. In the next battle, please appoint me to the vanguard! I will slay the rebel army without fail, I will show you-!!”
Appealed Yalder while flushing red. Being a warden of Roshanak was not a joking matter. He would be the head of the army and defender of Canaan. For Yalder, that was a role he wanted to undertake no matter what.
“Yalder. Until we arrived, you’ve done well protecting Roshanak Stronghold. You are acknowledged as far as that goes. —-But, it seems you have not listened to my directive.”
“W, what would that be?”
“‘Do not act rashly and avoid excessive ardor.’ That should have been my order. Yalder. You were imprisoned by what was in front of you eyes; how would you take responsibility if the fortress fell!? If the enemy had sent in a detached force, what would have become of Roshanak!? You would have repeated the same blunder as with Antigua!!”
Rebuked Sharov, who was unusually indignant. Yalder sputtered while he objected.
“Our allies on the retreat were being pursued by the enemy! What was wrong with helping them!!? I could not just abandon them-!!”
“……Yalder. You, it seems you haven’t reflected. If you’re here, the defense of Canaan will be in jeopardy. That Roshanak has been safe was nothing more than luck.”
“Your Excellency Sharov-!!”
Seeing that, Barbora snickered. He had been troubled that Yalder had been reinstated and given the meritorious duty of defending Roshanak. He couldn’t stop inwardly laughing at a reprimand that he hadn’t expected of Sharov. He wanted to clap his hands. That urge would probably be taken to the extreme in this next instant:
“Yalder, you are demoted to Lieutenant General. Take the soldiers of Belta and return to the Royal Capital as you are. Your punishment will be designated later on. Here is a written notification of your demotion. Pass this on to Staff Officer Sidamo afterwards. Open your eyes, and drive this into your head.”
Sharov cold-heartedly told Yalder while showing him an envelope. Yalder’s face had gone pale, and he had been listening in a daze.
“Y, your Excellency. P, please reconsider. I beg of you, please, one more chance!”
“Annoying. The order has been given. Someone, take Yalder outside. It seems he’s too tired and unsteady on his legs.”
Instructed Sharov, and Barbora approached with a smile.
“General Yalder, I mean, Mr. Yalder. This is not a place for you. It would be great if you could just hurry on back to the Royal Capital.”
“B-Barbora! You bastard-!”
“Guards! Accompany Sir Yalder back to his room! The Lieutenant General is a little tired!”
Yalder decided to struggle, but he was subdued by the guards that came running, and was carried out by force. Seeing him gone, Sharov let out a small sigh.
“……Well then, let’s carry on the war council.”
Having received a report from Katarina, Schera was nodding her head disinterestedly. Schera’s Cavalry which had been of the Fourth Army would be sent back to the Royal Capital. His Excellency the former General Yalder was completely disheartened and seemed likely to commit suicide. Sidamo had said that these days, he didn’t even have that normal energy of his. Having his ups and downs, the former General also had his various troubles it seemed.
‘Take preparations for battle,’ Schera murmured in a small voice. She was probably thinking about something.
Considering it was Schera, what she would do would not change, so she didn’t particularly care. Katarina also seemed to be thinking about something, but she didn’t decide to speak of it.
“Second Lieutenant Katarina. Got candy?”
“Sir-, please take this.”
Katarina took out a candy from a bottle and presented it. Schera pinched it up and threw it in an arc into her mouth. Schera had a dubious expression, because it tasted of salt.
“……Second Lieutenant Katarina. What is this, I wonder?”
“A hard candy with added salt. I have heard that the good parts of sweet and salty mix well. It is an excellent item where you can take in salt and sugar at the same time.”
“Oh. So, have you tried it?”
“No, of course I have not. I had bought this for you, Lt. Col. It was quite a high-class item, sold in the town of Canaan.”
“I’ll give all of them to you. It’ll be a present from me. Make sure to eat all of it.”
“S, sir. Thank you very much.”
Katarina pushed up her glasses.
While watching that, Schera crushed the candy that had a complicated taste. The last bits were extremely salty.
The Royal Capital Blanca–Schera had not once been there. Surely, it would probably be an amazingly lively place. She had heard that there would be many treats. While imagining them, Schera began to doze off little by little.
Katarina moved her to the bed. Everyone was tired. They had always been fighting together. On a day like this, they should leisurely rest.
—-Roshanak garrison, a mixed unit of the Third and Fourth Armies, under Lieutenant General Yalder were ordered to return to the Royal Capital.
Afterwards, they would be named Yalder’s United Legion.* They numbered 7,000.
*ヤルダー混成師団 Not technically correct, but United Legion sounds more badass.
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