Battle of West Lafressange
Editor: MythosIX, Darkdhaos, Rockgollem, Teddy Miao, AMetroid, Ice Phantom
“Ah, there you are.”
Yoosh, Franziska grabbed onto a branch and climbed up.
Her skirt was turned up, revealing her thighs.
The white skin was dyed red under the shine of the setting sun.
“I am back, big bro!”
Gilbert saw his sister, but he didn’t answer. Leaning on one of the thicker branches, he looked into the distance.
Franziska came to his side and shook the branch.
“What an annoying girl.”
“What’s wrong with that!? Be happier to see your cute sister come back.”
“... Is there a cute sister here?”
“Me! That’s me! Your cute sister is me!”
Franziska didn’t seem to hear this complaint, and started humming.
She looked in the direction Gilbert was staring at.
She shaded her eyes from the dazzling sunset.
“Hmm~~ what are you looking at, big bro?”
“Nothing… I just have an ominous feeling about that place.”
“Huh? The west? Aren’t Oswald and the Second Prince fighting in the east?”
“Some of our allies are dangerous, but it’s a different kind of feeling.”
“The west, where the Second Army is located?”
“Now… Not anymore.”
Gilbert hid the unease in his heart and glanced at Franziska.
“Hyaa, the gaze that will even make a knight afraid, how lewd~~”
“Shut up idiot. The Fourth Princess you wound with your arrow is here. The Imperial 4th Army absorbed the Second Army, and numbers 16,000… That ‘Black Knight’ is there too.”
Franziska puffed her cheeks.
“Sigh… Really? Wasn’t she in the north east garrison unit? What is she doing here in the west?”
“Not just that, they even defeated the ‘Queen’s Navy’.”
“So what!? It has nothing to do with me!”
“According to intel, that strategist named Regis d’Auric was the acting Fleet Admiral. The man rumoured to have taken Fort Volks, who Oswald is wary about.”
“That’s why I was tasked to stop him.”
Franziska’s eyes started to waver.
She took on a mission earlier to attach Fort Volks along with the Varden Grand Duchy in order to stall the unit of the Fourth Princess.
But she didn’t even manage to delay her for a single night.
“Because of your failure, the operation to pursue the Imperial Seventh Army during the battle of Lafressange was hindered, and the supply ships were sunk. This made the war even harder. Because the High Britania forces were advancing too fast, the resupply of ammunition couldn’t keep up… We are the only supply unit left. If we can’t take the capital Versailles, this war would be our defeat.”
Franziska looked scared and broke out in cold sweat.
Gilbert sighed again.
“Sigh… If I knew he was such a dangerous fellow, I would have attacked Fort Volks personally. So Jessica’s intelligence isn’t that accurate after all.”
“Wouldn’t big sis feel pitiful if you say that?”
“In this world, only the winner will survive. It has nothing to do with effort or the position one is in. If you don’t want to die, then produce results. If you fail again, I will abandon you even if you are my sister.”
“Ugh… No problem! I will definitely win next time!”
“I hope so.”
Gilbert turned to the west once more.
Franziska wiped away her cold sweat in relief.
A shout could be heard from under the tree.
“Big bro ~~ Sis~~ Time for dinner—!”
A shrill female voice.
A ten years old child waved at the tree top. She was the third sister, Martina.
Looking down from the tall tree, she looked really small…
It’s because she was still young. She only reached Gilbert’s waist in height.
Franziska patted her face.
“Hey~~ That’s our Martina!”
“... She’s not strong enough yet… That’s why I make her help out in making food. But letting her accumulate experience by coming to the battlefield isn’t rushing her.”
“Erm— big bro? I’m saying that Martina is really cute!”
“I don’t care about boring stuff.”
“This is really important right!?”
Gilbert stretched his back and jumped from the tree branch.
The sound of the wind filled her ears.
The reactionary force almost knocked Franziska down.
“Hyaa! Wait for me big bro!”
Even if her body was as light as a cat, she couldn’t jump off from a tree this tall like that. Using her hands and feet, she slid down the tree nimbly.
Martina hugged Gilbert who just leapt off the tree.
Martina hung off Gilbert’s body as if she was climbing a tree.
It didn’t bother Gilbert, and he left her be as he walked towards the camp.
The High Britania supply unit numbered about 10,000. Of that, 5,000 of them were escorts from the regular army, and 300 were the elites of ‘Renard Pendu’.
The members of the mercenary gathered immediately.
“Chief, please sit here!” “Ah, Chief, this way!” “Wait, it’s our turn this time right!?” “Hey, don’t squeeze in, I will kill you!?” “Fufu, want to have a go!?”
The Mercenary Group ‘Renard Pendu’ always had such an atmosphere, it was a gang of ruffians after all.
“Annoying… I should disband the Mercenary Group.”
The world turned silent for an instant.
But only for an instant.
“Hahahaha!” Everyone burst out laughing.
“Chief! This way! We have delicious grilled meat! It’s deer! Freshly caught deer!”
“Listen, this is my story…”
Normally, it was troublesome to make individual fires, so they would make one big bonfire. However, you couldn't really cook on it, so it was hard to make anything elaborate.
But they occupied an enemy campsite today.
This was a great stove, with lumps of meat grilling on it and a huge pot of soup besides it. A truly sumptuous dinner.
Because the incident that happened several days ago gave the soldiers heavy psychological pressure, Gilbert thought it was necessary to relieve them of their stress, so he used this chance to take out the wine from the supplies.
That incident was—
The soldiers in the unit saw the naval battle in Chaineboule harbour.
Gilbert thought the victory of High Britannia was a foregone conclusion, but he made preparation to leave with the supplies if things went wrong.
As the soldiers watched… A Britannian warship was blown to smithereens by an explosion so powerful that they had never seen it before.
The other warships lost their will to fight and surrendered one after another.
This dealt a major psychological blow to Gilbert and his subordinates.
Unlike spears and arrows, humans couldn’t do anything about an explosion akin to a volcano eruption.
Time and wine were necessary to wipe away the fear.
At this time— the scouts saw the enemy units that were making camp. They were as timid as a mouse, fleeing in a panic before even fighting.
There wasn’t any reason to not use this campsite.
After drinking some beer, both the regular soldiers and the transport personnel relaxed themselves.
The mercenaries were much happier than before because of this good luck. Specifically speaking, their yells were about 30% louder.
Or rather, they were getting too excited.
Even though he thought it was too noisy, Gilbert still found an empty seat and sat down.
Martina leaned onto his right shoulder.
Soon, a large bowl full of meat was served.
At this moment, Franziska walked over quietly.
“Wait! Big bro’s side belongs to me!”
Squeezing out the person beside Gilbert, she hogged Gilbert’s left.
“How annoying… Your body temperature is too high, give me some space.”
Franziska and Martina said at the same time:
In the end, it didn’t matter where he sat. The mercenaries gathered around Gilbert with bowls filled with food, and talked with him without restrain.
“Listen to me chief! I got news from my hometown, my child has been born!”
“... That’s a cause for celebration, cheers!”
The mercenaries cheered and drank.
“Chief! My mother passed away! Can she go to heaven if I request the church to say a prayer for her?”
“Don’t worry about that. If she goes to hell, she would get to meet you, and you can be as filial as you like. Well, let’s cheers in the hope she goes to heaven anyway.”
Everyone clinked glasses in high spirits again.
“Chief! My wife just gave birth in my hometown too!”
“... Oh, cheers!”
“Speaking of which, I haven’t been home for two years.”
“I see… Isn’t it great the baby doesn’t look like you? Cheers!”
The men who seemed to be drowning in self loathe kept drinking.
Gilbert looked around him.
“By the way, where’s Jessica?”
“She’s praying again right?”
Franziska looked towards the large tent that was far away from the rowdy crowd.
That was the tent of the oldest of his little sisters, Jessica.
She was a ‘mage’.
She could bestow powers with chants, heal wounds, divine the future and control the weather— at least that’s how the mercenary group saw her.
She treated the mercenary group as her family too, but she disliked the crowds, and wouldn’t attend the occasional group dinner.
“What a helpless bunch…”
The gradually setting sun dyed the west of the hill in reddish blue, and the sky looked as if it was burning. Looking up at the dark part of the sky, the stars were visible.
Imperial Year 851 3rd June, Night—
The clattering of horse hooves could be heard in the dark.
Standing tall on the grass plain and kicking up dust, knights in black armour charged towards the enemy.
They were the Black Knight Corps of the Belgarian Fourth Imperial Army.
Leading the Corps were Jerome Jean de Beilschmidt, and his lance ‘Le Cheveu D’une Dame’.
Just as the name the ‘Black Knight’ implies, everyone wore black Armure de plaque (full plate armor) and rode on black horses.
Even the horses had armour that protected them from arrows and bullets.
In this era, horses were extravagant things.
Especially trained war horses, they were something most soldiers couldn’t obtain even if they worked their entire life, that’s how valuable they were.
That’s why attacking horses was rarely seen during melee combat.
Many soldiers didn’t care about the objective of the war, if they could defeat the opposing rider and seize his horse, they would obtain a fortune that could change their entire life.
No matter how powerful the enemy rider was, they were nothing in the mind of the soldiers who were thinking about nothing but the treasures they could seize. The armour on the horses was there to protect them from stray arrows and bullets.
The High Britannian had powerful rifles, it wasn’t clear how effective the equipment would be…
A guide who knew the local terrain well and had great night vision led the way with a piece of white cloth draped around him.
He lifted a hand to send a signal.
The enemy camp was nearby.
Under the starlight, the bonfire swerving in the wind was in plain sight.
“Hmmp… I will show you our strength!”
The sound of hooves erupted, and the High Britannian army noticed the enemy charging.
The sound of the new rifles could be heard from the camp.
It was still far. However, some of the shots hit, and the unlucky ones fell off their horses.
Cavalry was overwhelmingly faster than infantry, but it was meaningless if the opponent had superior firepower. That’s how good the enemy’s rifles were.
When they were within range, Jerome gave the order.
In place of the bugle call to signal a charge, Kruger who was besides him fired off his loaded musket.
The Belgarian muskets were frontloaded, and took a lot of time to reload. After getting a shot off, it would be placed into a basket hanging from the horse immediately, and another musket would be taken out to fire.
The Second Imperial Army had plenty of muskets, so it was possible to perform such a tactic with these muskets.
They lost one hundred cavalry in the battle of Lafressange last time.
But even if they were sitting on the shaky back of a horse, with each rider armed with four muskets, they could still achieve some results.
Not just bullets, flaming arrows were also sent flying at them.
Even so, the horses wouldn’t be spooked…
Bang! The surroundings lit up suddenly.
Fire spread on the ground.
Jerome clicked his tongue.
“They spilled oil here!”
This was probably the instruction of the Mercenary King Gilbert.
The High Britannian army didn’t have much battle experience. The sinister plan of spilling oil around the campsite and igniting it with fire arrows could only be done by seasoned veterans.
The quantity wasn’t much, just enough to illuminate the surrounding… But that’s where the problem was.
“General! Our position is exposed!”
There wasn’t any meaning in the night raid anymore.
After receiving the order, Abidal Evra and his subordinates sounded the bugles.
The cavalry stopped their charge immediately, but didn’t turn back hastily. The leading units turned to the right, the ones bearing shields on the left faced the enemy, then fell back.
In preparations for this moment, they had already conserved the stamina of the horses earlier.
They pulled away from the enemy as swiftly as the wind.
The sound of the High Britannian gunfire grew distant.
Jerome pulled the reins and the horse slowed. Abidal Evra approached him at this moment.
“How many wounded.”
Right now, Jerome was the commander of the Fourth Imperial Army Black Knight Corps. But many of his subordinates addressed him as ‘general’ out of habit.
Because they address the present general as princess, there was no confusion.
Jerome passed down the instructions:
“Don’t need to push yourself, it’s fine to go slow. Those who aren’t wounded hurry back to base and prepare for the next attack.”
Just at the edge of his vision—
A white figure appeared in the hills cloaked in darkness.
Jerome signalled, warning those behind him not to run into each other. Amidst the neighs of the horses, Abidal Evra used his bugle to order the knights to slow down.
The Black Knight Corps slowed down and trotted past the wagon.
The wagon was ferrying plenty of buckets filled with water.
It was the pioneers.
Jerome could vaguely see them saluting in the dark.
He returned the salute, even though the gesture might not be seen.
“... Will this method really work?”
Abidal Evra muttered softly.
“Who knows. But if we assault them without any plans, even the cavalries would need to have the resolve to take heavy losses. Even though it is night and the range is far, some men were still hit…”
During the battle of Lafressange, they launched an assault at the rear of the enemy formation and still lost a hundred men. The danger of charging at the High Britanian new rifle formation head on was obvious.
Jerome spurred his horse on.
“Seems that the way battles will be fought is going to change.”
Abidal Evra answered in a trembling voice.
Before the debut of the new rifles, the cavalry that roamed the battlefield was nearly an invincible existence.
With speed unmatched by others and clad in armour impervious to blades and arrows, on horseback, one could easily stab at the enemy with a lance.
No matter how great an infantry unit was, it was common to see the tides turn when the cavalry was committed to the battlefield.
But now, infantries without expensive horses or armour, and with minimal training could defeat a rider with a pull of the trigger.
Even though it was night, the hail of bullets kept them from closing in. Just a little bit of oil and fire arrows could drive the cover of darkness away.
— Can they really defeat the supply unit?
Not just Jerome, many of the knights probably bore the same doubt.
That might be so, but the operations had begun.
They were already doing what they could.
After a 30 minutes trek, they reached the base camp.
It was actually not that far away from the enemy base.
Even though the battle plan necessitated it, it was a bold move to set up camp here.
A bonfire lit up the campsite. As heavy armour infantry secured the borders, the horses were placed in the center for rest, and the muskets were reloaded.
There were plenty of barrels here. After the empty wagon returned, barrels were loaded up before they set off again.
After Jerome’s Black Knights’ returned, they rushed the soldiers tending to the horses and reloaded the guns, trying to ready their horses and muskets for the next assault.
A man alighted from a white carriage decorated with extravagant glass.
And approached slowly. He was the strategist behind the battle plan—Regis.
“... Thank you for your hard work.”
“Hmmp, I only made a trip to peek at the enemy. Leaving the horse aside, I’m not tired at all.”
“That’s great… There’s still quite a bit of time before dawn, I am worried about not being able to keep the harassment attacks up.”
“Is there any meaning in doing this?”
Jerome glanced at the pile of barrels.
Regis scratched his head.
“Part of this was dependent on the weather, so it’s hard to say… But if the weather maintains until morning, it should be able to work.”
“If it really works, that will really be magical.”
“Even if you say that… this is actually just natural sciences.”
“Hmmp… Speaking of magic… I heard the Mercenary King has a ‘mage’ subordinate too.”
“Ah, I heard such rumours before. It is said that Gilbert’s younger sister Jessica had the ability to bestow power, heal injuries and predict the future.”
“What do you think?”
“It’s a big world, so there are all kind of mysteries. Maybe someone like that does exist, just like mythology.”
He seemed really happy to say that.
Jerome reached out and ruffled Regis’ black and green hair.
“We are fighting soldiers bestowed with magical powers!? Do you understand what this means!?”
“Isn’t there any countermeasures!?”
“Ahh, actually, there’s no need to put that into consideration.”
“What do you mean?”
Jerome let go of the hand that was grabbing Regis’ hair.
Regis tidied his hair troublingly. It wasn’t very messy, but he seemed really conscious about being neat.
“... Ahh, really… If I don’t tidy my hair and clothes, Altina will be angry again.”
“Ahh… How mean…”
“Why is the princess so strict about your appearance?”
“Maybe she’s worried that the soldiers will feel uneasy if the strategist is too unkempt.”
“If you know that, you should learn to use a sword.”
“Hahaha… I couldn’t even cut an onion with a sword, it would be meaningless if the soldiers learned this.”
“You are saying that so shamelessly! You are a soldier too, at least take part in the morning training!”
“... You are right… If I have enough time to sleep at night, I will consider it.”
Regis was so busy because he was a strategist in the midst of war. However, Jerome dismissing all the admin officers in the past also played a part.
We lack manpower. From the scale of the Fourth Army, at least two hundred admin officers would be needed.
Speaking of which, the number of female admin officers had increased. Auguste’s maid named Lilim had exemplary performance, so she was entrusted with a lot of tasks.
“You said earlier that there is no need to worry about the mage, why is that?”
“... Even if the sister of the Mercenary King is a mage, she won’t be able to see through my plans. When we fought the High Britannians in Chaineboule city, the Mercenary King was already there.”
“Yes, that’s true.”
“In that case, her spells are limited… For example, something to the effect of praying in a church. As mercenaries are not recognized by the church, she is actually just an idol to calm the spirits of the troops.”
Mercenaries were poor and couldn’t donate to the church.
If life was hard, they will even moonlight as robbers.
To the mercenaries, the church only existed for kings, nobles, farmers and merchants.
In order to provide his subordinates with spiritual guidance, it wasn’t too farfetched for the Mercenary King Gilbert to hail his sister as a mage.
“I see… Indeed, there isn’t any need to worry about this.”
“... In order to soothe the fears of the soldiers if anything unexpected happens, such a strategy is necessary. It was dangerous for a group be paranoid.”
“Hmmp! If a soldier shows cowardice on the battlefield, I will bring his head back to the Empire.”
“N-No, don’t do that! There are less than a thousand soldiers from Beilschmidt Border Regiment. If you say that, you will frighten the new soldiers!”
“Tch, how boring!”
Jerome fell into deep thought—
Before he was renowned as a hero, Jerome was a baron with 500 cavalry and 1000 infantry.
When he was transferred to the north borders to command Sierck Fortress, he built the Beilschmidt Border Regiment, and had 3000 men under his command.
In the three years after, be it the number of troops, scale of battle and budget, none of that increased significantly.
It was the same after Marie Quatre Argentina de Belgaria came, she didn’t bring about any major changes.
Everything started after the weak youth before him— Regis arrived.
Subduing the barbarians in the forest, taking Fort Volks as the new base, and used the ransom for the prisoners of war to increase the soldier count to 6000.
And after the battle with High Britania, he negotiated with the Field Marshal Latreille and founded the Fourth Army.
After absorbing the Second Army, the scale of the forces now numbered 16,000.
The forces weren't completely under his control, but the forces still increased by leaps and bounds…
In just half a year, their forces increased by more than 5 times.
Jerome said slowly:
“Well, we have a wizard here too. Let’s tell the troops that to calm them down.”
Regis replied cautiously:
“.... Erm, really… That’s not how it is.”
“Hmmp… To achieve victory, I will use anything available, that’s all to it.”
“... Erm, erm...”
As they were still discussing about this, the sound of hooves came from the darkness.
Another unit had returned.
Formed with the knights of the Second Army as its core and reinforced by mercenaries. The Crescent Knight Corps, named after its crescent emblem.
Their footsteps sounded heavy.
From the glow of the bonfire, it appeared that many of them were hurt.
A lot of medics rushed over in order to attend to the wounded, and the campsite turned rowdy.
The Crescent Knights conducted a night raid just like the Black Knights, armed with four muskets just like them, and pulled back after firing their shots. But the casualties they suffered were much more serious than the Black Knights.
“I did expect that casualties might be that serious… As expected, the battle is hard.”
“The enemy spilled oil around their base. They then lit it up with fire arrows, illuminating the area and exposing our position.”
“Ah, I see… So they used such a trick.”
“We fell into their trap.”
“... That’s right. We sent scouts in advance, but the opponent also disguised their action of spilling oil, pretending to be throwing out rubbish as they did so… It can’t be discerned from a distance.”
“Did they predict that there would be a night raid?”
“... After they seized the site, they set up camp there. It is a place surrounded by hills and hard to defend. It can be seen as a trap. I considered that they would be on their guard because of the terrain, that’s why I asked you all to retreat immediately after firing.”
“There are plenty of fools who refuse to listen to advice. They probably are eager to seize merits. That’s the reason why the Second army were defeated in the first battle.”
The Belgaria Empire was strong.
As such, they needed brave generals more than cautious officers.
And from now on, this trend will also change. Even though Jerome didn’t want to accept this…
“... It can’t be helped, I will have a good talk with Benjamin later. It is about time for the Black Knights to move out.”
“What about the spilled oil?”
“Ahh, just fire at the ground with flame arrows some distance away. You can ignite the oil before hand. Then strike a while later, after the oil has burned out.”
Regis proposed a tactic matter of factly. Did he come up with it in such a short time? —Jerome sighed in his heart.
No, this was probably in the content of a book he happened to have read.
Even if this wasn’t so, he wouldn’t utter such compliments. Jerome wasn’t someone like that.
“Ah, also… The enemy should have noticed our long distance harassment strategy. They might set up ambushes near their base.”
“So we just need to be alert about this right?”
“That’s true, scouts are already observing them. If they set up ambushes, we should hear the news.”
As he said that, Regis took out a map.
Turning towards the bonfire, the map in his hands was illuminated.
He marked some spots on the preplanned route.
“... Point A here and point B here have scouts. The lantern they are hanging is still lit, meaning there are no ambushes. If the light goes out, that means there is an ambush.”
“So you even prepared this.”
For a moment like this, the prepared light signal could only be seen in one direction. It was definitely dangerous to lit a light in a night battle. The Knight Corps needed the resolve to risk their life just to draw near.
Jerome returned to his unit.
He rushed back in order to issue his orders as soon as possible.
“We are moving out! Abidal Evra, your team will bring fire arrows! Kruger’s unit bring muskets! Hurry it up! Don’t give the enemy the chance to catch their breath!”
The members of the Black Knights answered in unison:
Gilbert was shifting crates.
He could move three crates that couldn’t be moved by one person alone.
The mercenaries rushed over in a panic.
“Chief?! Just give the word, we will help…”
“If you have the time to talk about that, then move the other crates. Place food and clothes around the gunpowder crates. If a stray bullet or something hit this, it will explode.”
The mercenaries started carrying the boxes in a hurry.
Franziska walked over with a rifle in hand.
“Big bro, the oil had been spilled!”
“Oh… But the enemy ain’t fools, it probably won’t be of much use.”
“They probably know about shooting flame arrows from a distance to burn off the oil. But that’s why we prepared torches.”
They used this tactic before, and Franziska was already used to it.
This was something Gilbert and his brothers in arms learned on the battlefield.
War was a teacher.
Compared the brightness of burning oil, the torches weren’t bright enough to satisfy the condition to fire at targets.
But the enemy won’t be able to advance if the flames were still burning, so it could buy some time.
“There is still four hours until sunrise, the enemy is probably scheming to wear us out.”
“How about setting off now?”
“No. If we travel through the night and don’t catch up with sleep in the morning, we will collapse from exhaustion. There’s no need to discuss anything further.”
Even if they could set off in the morning, it would be impossible to not rest at all.
He expected a night raid, but not a nonstop harassment tactic like this.
The enemy didn’t want to engage in a shoot out.
The Belgaria Empire’s cavalry were strong.
Maybe they were waiting for the chance for an all out charge.
“As expected, he is a stubborn foe.”
“The fourth Princess… Or rather, that strategist.”
“Regis huh? I think I saw him before.”
“What kind of guy is he?”
“A weak fellow who looked as if he will fall from just a shove.”
“... Is such a guy really a soldier?”
“Who knows? The Princess is good though. Well, I am better! Duke Balzac is a powerful adversary!”
“I heard the current head is weak?”
“He is strong, but he doesn’t want to kill people! I don’t understand.”
“I see… Maybe he is a guy like me who hates to kill.”
“Eh? Big bro?”
“What, you think I am a happy mass murderer?”
Franziska opened her eyes wide.
Gilbert piled the crate he was carrying around the gunpowder crates.
The mercenaries and regulars worked together to shift the provisions and clothes.
After they were done, it would not explode unless a direct hit was scored.
He sweated a lot.
“Phew… I hate killing people. But killing others is better than dying. I'm not a religious person at all.”
“Well, that’s true.”
Gilbert surveyed the campsite.
Gilbert caught sight of a figure moving in the darkness. That was probably a scout of the Belgarians.
The corner of Gilbert’s lips rose.
“... Well then, let the killing begin.”
Franziska answered happily.
Gilbert returned to the base in light attire. His hard working sister tagged along to help.
And took the trident he had always used in his hand.
The familiar feeling didn’t change.
There was still four hours until the break of dawn…
In accordance to Gilbert’s command, about a thousand men left the base with rifles and torches. Instead of an ambush, it was more like an invitation to the enemy.
They made no effort to conceal themselves, and were attracting the attention of the enemy prominently.
They took up formation to the west of the camp.
After the unit set off and eliminated the Belgarian scouts—
Gilbert also left the base with twenty of his underlings.
The Black Knights headed for the camp in the dark once again.
The vegetation was thick in the hilly region, and their vision was blocked from time to time.
Starlight couldn’t penetrate through the branches and devilish shadows seemed to be lurking everywhere.
Jerome frowned and recalled the map in his mind.
— There should be a signal here.
He searched for light from a lantern.
There wasn’t anything.
He could see the camp fire in the distance.
Pulling on his reins, Jerome slowed his horse down.
The knights behind him started watching the surroundings, looking for any ambushes. This was part of their training.
Jerome felt something was off.
A bad feeling.
He didn’t see anything, but using his instincts, Jerome pulled on the reins and changed the strides of the horse.
The horse then moved beautifully, leaping high as if its body weight was gone.
Did the horse see it too? Or was it instinct just like Jerome?
In any case, he successfully avoided something at his feet.
Like Jerome, the horses behind also jumped.
But some of the soldiers were slow to react.
One of the horses behind didn’t lift its hooves in time. It then fell forward. Something could be seen, and was obvious to any who saw it.
A rope was laid out!
The large warhorses tripped and threw the knight wearing heavy armour to the front.
The sound of metal colliding rang out.
Followed by a muffled groan.
Even if they succeeded in avoiding the rope, there were many soldiers who stepped on their brethren on the ground and fell.
They inspected the area before the battle, so there shouldn’t have been any traps.
Or did they set up these traps in the short period of time after the first night raid?
— Had they see through our actions?
Or was it a spy?
The one planning the battle was Regis, and he only told Jerome the content before he set off.
The only ones who knew were him and Jerome.
No, the scouts responsible for surveillance should also know.
If the lantern was out, it meant there were ambushes.
Could it be…
“The scouts were taken out?”
If so, the opponent who was capable of setting up this trap won’t be satisfied with just tripping a few riders over.
Jerome stopped the noise behind him and listened for the enemy.
— Back left!?
Sound of many sets of footsteps.
Turning back, the enemy hiding in the shadow of the trees and tugging on the black tripping ropes dashed out.
For the element of surprise, the enemy didn’t ride horses. But they were faster than hunting hounds.
Jerome pulled the reins with his left hand to change the direction the horse was facing. Holding the lance with his right hand, he faced to the left, reacting speedily.
And the enemy should be some distance away…
One of his foes closed in with unbelievable speed and thrust his trident.
“Haha— ! So you are the Black Knight!?”
“... Tch! The Mercenary King!?”
The blade of the trident pressed forth dangerously.
It knocked Jerome’s ‘Le Cheveu D’une Dame’ loose.
He estimated that there was no time to grab it with his right hand, so he held the lance with his left hand and barely defended the blow.
The Mercenary King smiled in the darkness.
“Amazing! You actually blocked that!”
“Sneak attack like an unscrupulous rat. Mercenary King? More like Mercenary rat!”
“I don’t care about that! I didn’t come up with it!”
The enemy was just Gilbert and fifteen of his subordinates.
The ones who fended off the knight who came to reinforce Jerome were probably the men from the ‘Renard Pendu’ Mercenary group.
Jerome turned and charged at the Mercenary King.
“Fu… I always wanted to fight you. Let me see if you are as powerful as the legend says! Yahhh—”
Changing his grip, Jerome thrust the lance with his right hand.
Jerome, the famed ‘Black Knight’ thrust his lance consecutively.
Be it the young knights of Varden Grand Duchy or the commander of the White Wolves Knights, none of them could withstand his attacks.
But not only did Gilbert dodge them, he even counter attacked.
Jerome’s eyes widen.
— He can spare the effort to counter attack!?
Jerome twisted his body to evade the trident strike at his chest.
A screeching sound accompanied the sparks flying off the black armour.
But he wasn’t just taking a beating one sidedly.
Jerome thrust a second time.
The blade of the dark lance flew towards his adversary’s throat—
Gilbert parried the blade with a shake of his left hand.
The lance glazed the shoulder and was deflected skywards.
He actually fended it off.
Gilbert’s eyes glowed.
“As expected of the Black Knight! You avoided my trident’s strike! This has never happened before!”
“Hmmp… You are the first one to live under my lance. Instead of a mercenary, you are closer to an acrobat.”
“How long can you keep your composure? It won’t be so slow next time!”
Gilbert’s trident thrust was riposte by Jerome’s lance.
Gilbert retracted his trident with haste and fended off the counterattack. He stabbed at the thigh this time.
— I will give you the leg!
Jerome didn’t defend his leg and went for the opponent’s head.
When both weapons were about to hit—
Gilbert leapt out of the way.
And laughed heartily.
“Hahaha! You really are a dark knight! Zero hesitation in exchanging your leg for the opponent’s head!”
“Hmmp… I admit this level of sacrifice is necessary in order to stab you.”
“Haha, I understand… Black Knight, it’s been fun clashing with you! But the terms offered by High Britania isn’t good enough.”
Mercenaries fought for money, and will increase the price according to the ability of the opponent.
Jerome steadied his breathing.
“Compensation worthy of your life huh. I will negotiate with your employer by using your coffin!”
“Alright… Time for the tide to subside.”
Gilbert lifted one hand to signal, and the mercenaries of ‘Renard Pendu’ fighting the other knights started to pull back.
After that, Gilbert then turned and retreated.
When Gilbert withdrew some distance away, one of the knights charged forth.
“Trying to run!?”
It was Captain Kruger.
He thrust his lance out.
“Hey! Do not pursue!”
Jerome tried to stop him, but Kruger didn’t seem to hear.
“If he escapes unscathed after attacking the general, it would tarnish the name of the Black Knights!”
His lance was blocked by Gilbert.
But Kruger used the slight advantage in range and attacked again with a turn skillfully.
Gilbert gritted his teeth.
“... No choice… Black Knight, you actually sent your subordinate to help you.”
It wasn’t clear what he meant.
Sound of rifle reports rung out from the forest.
Kruger who was pursuing the enemy fell off the horse just like that.
The Black Knights drew their muskets out to retaliate.
Numerous shots could be heard.
But the ‘Renard Pendu’ mercenaries led by Gilbert were already gone, covered by the woods.
Jerome jumped off his horse and rushed to Kruger’s side.
He flipped Kruger over.
Kruger’s eyes were losing their light.
Blood spew from his mouth.
“... Ugh… General…”
Three bullet holes could be seen on the armure de plaque’s thick breastplate.
It probably hit his organs.
What a well planned trap—
Capture the scouts and interrogate them for intelligence. Pull the tripwire to isolate the leading elements, and then attack the commander directly. If they fail to capture him, the snipers in the forest will fire when the enemy stops.
— That was the ambush of the Mercenary King.
If Kruger didn’t charge ahead, Jerome might have been the one to be hit.
Jerome gritted his teeth and carried Kruger on his shoulder.
“Stop kidding me! If you sleep in a place like this, I will leave you behind! Kruger, don’t sleep, I order you!”
“... I… can’t… see… anything…”
“Pull yourself together!”
“... I… want to be… just like the general…”
Those were his last words.
Jerome stood still.
The Black Knights suffered some losses, but they still completed their mission successfully.
After dealing a major blow to the enemy’s special forces, they retreated before reaching the enemy camp. As expected, the enemy only opened fire in close proximity to their camp.
They then returned to base—
Now was the time to mourn their lost brethren.
Chaplains gave the last rites to the corpses covered in cloth and placed them side by side.
Regis leaned against a crate as he watched this scene.
No one complained about the battle plan. However, he still wondered about the lives that were lost because of his command. Regis’ felt as if there was lead in his stomach.
He sighed plenty of times.
The Crescent Knights prepared to move out after resting for a moment.
Benjamin rode alongside his brother Jestin.
Regis already advised them about the mistake of getting too close to the enemy base which resulted in serious losses, they probably won’t do that again.
There weren’t any generals that could replace them, so he could only hope that they would change their ways.
The neighing of the horses, clanking of the armour, sound of muskets being loaded and the sighs of the troops…
The scouts moved out ahead of the Crescent Knights on carriages.
According to Jerome’s report— the first wave of scouts had probably been captured, and the route of travel had most likely been leaked.
Scouts hiding in the dark forest were discovered that easily.
As expected of the Mercenary group ‘Renard Pendu’...
The task had become more dangerous. But it was impossible for the units to move out without scouts. Assigning replacement scouts was necessary.
Regis felt frustrated.
The casualty count was more serious than expected…
He didn’t expect such losses from both the scouts and the cavalry.
— Even though he was aware that the knowledge and measures in books couldn’t be transferred so easily into real life battles.
The one who came up with a plan that would definitely result in casualties was Regis.
Regis felt chilly.
After seeing off the replacement scouts, Regis felt ten years older.
His frail body was as heavy as lead. He couldn’t lift a finger, and breathing was difficult.
Only his heart was beating abnormally fast, he could even feel his pulse clearly.
The weather wasn’t hot but he kept sweating, wetting his eyelashes and soaking his back.
We have taken huge losses…
Will this plan really work?
Is it worth betting everything on it?
Isn’t there a more stable plan that will have fewer losses?
Am I wrong?
“You don’t look well! What happened Regis? Hungry?”
These sudden words surprised him.
It was Altina in light armour. She offered the potato in her right hand.
“It’s a critical time, so you can’t sleep, but at least eat something alright? It will be bad if you faint from hunger.”
“... Ah… I don’t feel like eating.”
“If you fall, who will take over command?”
There’s Altina and Jerome— But wouldn’t that mean he was giving up his responsibility if he said that? Regis thought.
“You are right, I will have some.”
Altina smiled brilliantly.
Regis took the potato.
“Hot! Hot! This is too hot!”
“Of course. It’s freshly baked potato! It tastes better if you eat it hot right?”
Regis tossed the hot potato between his left and right hand, trying to cool it down without burning his hands.
“W-Why are you fine when you hold such a hot potato?”
“Why are you so weak? Normally, after food like potato is cooked, you will put it into the soup with your hands right?”
There is a stove here, there should be plenty of ways to prepare food, why are you only using it to bake them?
“... I always used to read when I ate since I was young. As I had a book in my hands…I would place things like potatoes in a bowl and eat them slowly.”
He would dirty the books if he used his hands, so he always ate with a fork. He still did this whenever he ate alone.
“Wouldn’t it turn cold?”
“... Burning my tongue and lips would be worse.”
“Eating them hot is the most delicious right!? Regis is so strange!”
Altina laughed happily.
Regis could only smile wryly.
— Ah, I smiled.
His heart felt heavy and stuffy earlier, but he felt more relaxed now.
Altina came over and sat on the crate.
They sat side by side.
They were so close that their shoulders would touch if they moved just a little. The bonfire illuminated her profile— Regis felt a little nervous.
She was four years younger than him and just fifteen years of age, so why was she so beautiful?
Regis averted his gaze.
She was the fourth princess of the Belgarian Empire, the commander he was serving. He had to make their status and relationship clear.
“Altina, are you ready? There is still some time before day break.”
“I’m probably too excited and can’t sleep.”
“... It’s the eve of the decisive battle after all.”
“Hey Regis, are you worried about something? Your face doesn’t look good.”
“... I am worried about the battle of course.”
“I don’t mean that… Hmm, I won’t ask if you don’t want to talk about it.”
Altina changed a little too— Regis thought.
In the beginning, she was a kind person with a strong sense of justice.
And right now, Regis could feel empathy from her.
Her personality was straightforward, but she became more prudent. She had really grown.
If not, she would pester Regis like a child even if he was busy.
He took a bite out of the potato in his hand.
As expected, It was still hot.
He chewed as he sorted out his thoughts.
“... Things I’m worried about… Because of me, a lot of people died… That feels really heavy.”
“That can’t be helped, it’s a war after all. Many lives are lost, be it for the winner or loser, plenty of innocent people died. No matter how kind, how hardworking and how much a person loved another, they still killed in cold blood.”
“Ah, I understand that.”
“That’s why, I want to be the Empress to eliminate wars. After I become the Empress, I will create a nation that will live in harmony with others.”
“For example, the Kingdom of High Britania. If we had better relations with them, there wouldn’t be any wars.”
“Here’s what I think… the Belgaria Empire has been at war with its neighbours all this while. If there is a sudden call for peace… It will earn the wrath of other countries instead.”
“... What a realistic topic… And it had been proven by history. There are differences between each individual, even more so for nations. ‘Men won’t forget about a grudge’ — Just like the buildings that survived a fire, the fire might seem to be out, but there might still be hot spots, and will they will flare up when the chance arises. Examples of war breaking out again between nations in a ceasefire are a dime a dozen.”
“Then, is it impossible to eliminate war?”
“... If peace lasts long enough, for example our grandchildren or great grandchildren, then it might be possible… People will all die one day. We might not be able to eliminate grudges, but our descendents can’t inherit grudges. If peace can last indefinitely— the grudges might then be buried in history.”
“What if the fathers tell their son and grandson that ‘the Belgaria Empire is the enemy’, and educate them that way?”
“... Education is important. But grudges are a type of emotion, and education is information. Even with such prejudice, if they grow up in a peaceful environment, they won’t hate the Belgaria Empire that seriously.”
“Is that so…”
“There are differences between people, but the stand a country takes tends to lean towards the attitude of the majority. War won’t break out even if a minority have a cause for hatred. Even if the countries are trying to get the best for their national interest… There is still a lot of room for negotiation.”
Altina nodded seriously.
Even if two groups were on opposing factions, they should talk it out instead of resolving it through war.
That was her objective.
“If war keeps going on, the grudges from both sides would continue.”
“Ah, we need to start the change somewhere… If we can’t do it, the nation will perish… No, the nations that don’t choose peace will perish. If we keep waging war, there will be a day when we will lose.”
“I, want to change this country. And create a nation where no one will have to die because of war.”
“To accomplish this, we have to overcome the danger before us.”
“... I understand.”
“Regis, I know it’s painful to think about it this way… But instead of those who have passed on, we should think about those still living.”
As if he just woke up from a dream, Regis looked around him.
He imagined the mourning figures of the soldiers dying and joining their brethrens. He realized that no matter how knowledgeable one was, it had nothing to do with their emotions.
Regis took a deep breath.
The weight of fatigue and guilt that was suppressing his thoughts became slightly lighter.
“... Thank you, I’m fine now.”
“Is that so? I don’t know what happened, but it’s great to see Regis becoming energetic.”
“... Well I am absorbed in self reproach, the damage might be growing bigger.”
“Because of the Mercenary King?”
“... The possibility is high. I sent out a lot of scouts, so it couldn’t be helped if there are more sacrifices… After that, the Black Knights were ambushed and we lost about ten riders, including one captain.”
Altina nodded silently.
From the body language of her subordinates, it wasn’t hard to imagine that there were many casualties.
“Despite all that, is the battle operation going smoothly?”
“... It’s going smoothly… I learned from the local soldiers that the wind and temperature are ideal. We are moving according to plan… The actions of the enemy are still within expectation.”
There were 16,000 men in the Fourth Imperial Army, but the ones harassing the enemy were just the 400 men from the two Knights Corps. The ones preparing food, tending to the wounded, caring for the horses and preparing the muskets were 2,000 men.
The objective of the Knights Corps attack was to stall the enemy army in place, leaving them unable to move.
They still needed to travel 50Li (222km), and couldn’t set off without proper preparations as they still needed to transport the supplies.
With the night raids occupying them, they could only focus on the base defences and couldn’t spread out their forces to guard the surroundings.
That’s why we are giving up on our defenses, only allocating the minimum security forces and assigning the other troops to perform a certain task.
Altina looked to the east.
The sky was still dark with stars, just what was she looking at?
There were still a couple of hours before dawn…
The Black Knights and Crescent Knights gathered together and made preparations for the assault.
The plan to stop the enemy from leaving was completed.
Soon, the sky will lit up.
Regis looked towards the flag in the basecamp.
The wind was weak.
But the drooping flag seemed exceptionally beautiful.
A man walked to him over the grass.
And made a sloppy salute.
“It seems to be working, Mr Strategist.”
“... Ah, Mr Ferdinand, thank you for your hard work.”
The one who came was the captain of the pioneers— Ferdinand Stuttgart.
Although his fatigue was apparent after working through the night, he had a satisfied expression.
“The temperature is higher this morning and the wind is weak. It’s great that it keeps evaporating!”
“... Yes, it’s very ideal.”
“A massive project and committing 12,000 men. If it works, this will be something we can boast about to even our grandchildren. Thank you very much, Mr Strategist.”
“No such thing… I should be thanking you, the plan can’t be executed without Ferdinand… It was the same with the attack on Fort Volks, you have been a big help.”
When they were attacking Fort Volks, work men with excellent arm strength were needed to dig the tunnel.
After taking the Fort, the pioneers were tasked with refurbishing the Fort, and the results in fending off the attack by Varden Grand Duchy were fantastic.
“Originally, pioneers will just perform menial task like making stoves and setting up tents. At the most, we will just build bridges.”
“Well, that’s normal.”
“It was a surprise when we dug tunnels and fired off explosives in the attack of the fort… But that was nothing compared to the job this time.”
“It was written in the books, but such a large scale project has never been done before, I still feel uneasy about it… But we finally made it work.”
“It’s turning white.”
“This isn’t the place or season for strong winds, the plan is a success!”
“... In the capital, the outside would sometimes be foggy when I open the windows. But this is a significant difference, as it’s the first time I’ve see something like this.”
The sunlight illuminated the surroundings.
But with their vision obscured by a white foggy world, they couldn’t see the clearing even with the bonfire.
It turned foggy.
After one night, a lot of water was splashed in the vicinity, and the water level of the lake had dropped significantly.
There are many types of naturally occurring fogs—
Including radiation fog.
During the night, the heat from the ground escape into the atmosphere, a phenomenon known as radiation cooling.
This radiation phenomenon will cool the surface of the ground drastically.
The air contains a certain amount of moisture (water in gaseous state), and with the drop in temperature, its concentration would increase.
When the temperature drops to a certain level, the saturated water vapor would condense into water droplets.
The tiny amount of water droplets in the air forms the fog.
Fog tends to form on land without wind, and in valleys and basins. This gave rise to the terms, inland fog, valley fog and basin fog.
And the hills of West Lafressange was an inland basin, and the wind was very weak right now.
It hadn’t rained these past few days, so it was hard for fog to form. However, by splashing large amounts of water onto the ground, it will fulfil the conditions for fog to arise.
That’s why this place was chosen for the battle.
By the way, such phenomenons was known as fog when close to the ground, and clouds when up in the sky.
The small floating droplets will combine with the droplets around them to form even larger droplets, before finally falling from the sky in the form of rain.
All these phenomenons were written in academic books after research by scientists.
There were some reports on small scale experiments to create man made fog.
If the enemy couldn’t see, then the range advantage of the new rifles would be negated. They might still be powerful, but they were nothing to be afraid of if they couldn’t hit.
Even if the supply unit set off now, it couldn’t leave this hilly region faster than the cavalry.
The darkness could be repelled by bonfires, such as by spilling oil onto the ground and lighting it with fire arrows.
But it wasn’t easy to get rid of the fog.
Regis narrowed his eyes as he watched this white foggy world.
“... Well then… time to end this.”