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Volume 3: Chapter 212 – Tactician (2/3)
Strategy is deception.
Carlion believed that, which is why he moved his soldiers in a way that surmounted his enemies expectations and tried to close the distance to the castle walls as fast as he could.
The main force was made up of the mixed army, the forces of the Red King, Saldin’s cavalry, and the guest general, Wyatt’s, platoon. They advanced while clearing the fences and traps along the way.
The forces of the mixed army and the Red King approached the fortress from both sides, while Saldin moved straight toward it.
Brandika wryly smiled when Carlion asked him to become a decoy, but he still accepted his role.
“In that case, I’ll give you the best decoy you can ask for,” Brandika laughed as he positioned his army in the center and exposed himself. “King Brandika of Attibel is here!”
Brandika looked imposing as he sat atop his hipparion steed and he raised Valdis (Long Double-Edged Battle Axe), while announcing his presence and calling for flags to be raised on both of his sides.
“What a troublesome person…”
Carlion laughed from atop a small hill when he saw Brandika’s antics, but immediately after stiffened. Death was already a familiar companion to him. It was there beside him, just standing, always there, ready to take something important from him at a moment’s notice.
But that was precisely why he needed to enjoy what little time he had left, as it was simply too long for a man to spend his life suffering.
To Brandika and Carlion, stealing a country and fighting on the battlefield was a sort of game to acknowledge each other.
“That’s right, Carlion. That’s exactly right!”
Seeing that neither had changed since the day they met, Brandika and Carlion laughed to themselves, even though they were far away from each other and in the middle of a battlefield.
The mixed army and the Red King drew a curve like a sickle cutting grass as they approached the fortress. Saldin’s cavalry slipped through the rain of arrows descending from both sides.
“Raise your shields and cover each other to defend against the arrows! Vanguards, advanced forward and let the enemy know you know no fear!” Brandika raised his voice and gave orders.
Since he was the decoy, he decided he would enjoy it to the fullest.
The soldiers in the vanguard raised their voices in response and advanced fearlessly despite the descending arrows. As the army directly under the clan leader, if their activities were to be acknowledged, honor was sure to await them. After all, the king possessed absolute authority and wasn’t a noble. As such, the king didn’t have a family backing him and was currently sharpening his fangs.
If they could just get the king’s attention, honor and glory was as good as theirs.
Thanks to all the resources they had at their disposable, owing to being such a large army, the decoy plan was successful.
Most of the arrows shooting from the fortress focused on Brandika’s forces. Moreover, by spreading themselves toward the front of the fortress, they were able to defend against the arrows.
The mixed army and Saldin’s cavalry took advantage of that opening to destroy the defenses of the enemy while approaching the fortress.
Brandika advanced while clearing out the fences, pit falls, and abatis, but one time, the arrows suddenly stopped.
At that, the soldiers glared suspiciously at the enemy camp, but then in the next moment, they heard the screams of the cavalry that had gone ahead. When they turned toward the cavalry, they saw the arrows coming for them.
“Arrows are coming!”
As soon as they saw the cavalry ahead fall, the soldiers behind were ordered to turn around.
Arrows of death covered the sky as they descended onto the soldiers furthest in front, penetrating shields and armor alike as they left the soldiers covered in their kind.
“Don’t falter! Keep going!”
But the clan leaders subservient to the Red King continued to push on. For as long as Brandika had his army positioned in the center, there was no such thing as defeat, but the mixed army was different, as their situation could be said to be complicated.
The mixed army was originally a gathering of clans.
It was fine when Pena and Elrain were waging war against each other, and it would’ve been fine if one side won, but Pena wasn’t at war. King Raksha had merely ordered them from the capital to protect the border region, but then the Red King and the elders started fighting. And then before they knew it, they were suddenly incorporated into the army of the Red King.
Despite not fighting, apparently, a victor had already been concluded. Or at least, that’s how the situation felt to them.
If they were actually truly incorporated into the forces of the Red King, then the morale of the army might have remained high, but as it stands, the Red King was only commanding them through proxy of the authority that Pena had over them.
The thing is that as far as Brandika and Carlion were concerned, they already had enough strength. As such, they weren’t particularly interested in taking in the mixed army. If anything, what they wanted now was a bunch of fodders that they could safely throw away.
If the battlefield were a brawl, then strategy was knowing where to hit your enemy to make them fall. The mixed army was a perfect way to test the waters.
And the mixed army itself knew that, which is why morale within the army was at an all time low.
Be that as it may, Pale had no intention of going easy on them.
She would crush any and all who stood in her way if it meant the destruction of the Red King.
“After me, three volleys!”
Pale drew her beloved bow, and as she ascertained the flow of the wind, let loose an arrow.
The arrow breezed through the air and descended into the head of the uninspired mixed army, penetrating a shield and an armor, and then the very body of a soldier itself, before finally ending its journey as it stuck itself into the ground.
But it wasn’t over just yet, for right behind that arrow was a cloud of arrows that covered the sky.
Pale watched hell unfold with her especially sharp hunter eyes, then without so much as lifting a brow, moved on to the next target.
After taking the wind out of both sides and the center, Pale followed with another attack, not giving the enemy even the slightest chance to pick themselves back up.
“Ready the catapults. The target is the middle army,” Pale said.
Pale calmed her heart that was burning with vengeance with a breath, then quietly, as if to remind herself, she thought loudly repeatedly within her mind the plan needed to defeat the enemy.
“All units prepare,” Pale ordered. “Fire.”
In a flash, giant stones flew through the air with a weight far beyond that of arrows. Their target was none other than the cavalry at the middle. Shirak only had five catapults, but the fact they were even able to bring them here was because of the Leon Heart Clan.
The catapults were powerful but inaccurate. When the stones landed on the ground, it was clear as day that all of them missed their target. Still, that was more than enough to strike fear into the hearts of the nearby cavalry.
Saldin could tell that his subordinates were scared, so he raised his voice and scolded them.
“You think these large stones could actually hit us!? Don’t cower! Onwards!”
Saldin took the lead as he said that, and his subordinates stifled their fear as they followed from behind.
“Arrows! Turn to the left!!”
Pale shot more arrows, but Saldin read the trajectory of her attack and guided his cavalry away.
“Like hell that’ll hit, you dimwits!”
The arrows descended with great precision, as if to block Saldin’s path, but the arrows still failed to catch Saldin and his men.
There were more area now without traps, so the cavalry had more space to move around in. The volley of arrows were certainly scary, but it wasn’t hard to guess where they would be landing.
So long as the soldiers could move freely, it wasn’t easy to get hit by the arrows. That was especially true for the cavalry. After morale returned to Saldin’s cavalry, he pulled back and returned to his position near the center of the cavalry. Although he enjoyed leading the charge, he had to prioritize giving orders. That was the advice Carlion had given him, so he left the head to a subordinate and assumed his leader role.
“…Arms at the ready.”
Despite failing to catch the enemy, Pale continued the attacks.
Again the arrows missed, but now, the cavalry was gradually closing in. If they could just secure a path for a charge and confirm that there were no traps left, then they would be able to easily attack them.
Currently, there were no traps in the path the cavalry had taken, and that path was gradually being expanded, allowing the enemy to have one foot in Shirak.
“What, a retreat!?”
But then Saldin saw a flag from the main force that signalled for a retreat.
“Just a little bit more and we would have them— No, that’s not it! I know! Carlion!”
Saldin gritted his teeth as he gave the order to retreat. Immediately after, he found out that Carlion’s call was correct, for a portion of the cavalry up ahead suddenly became disordered.
The reason Pale had continued attacking despite not hitting them was so that she could lure them to a trap. Although each attack did little, each attack brought Saldin and his men ever closer to Pale’s trap. Pale’s lips relaxed a little as she took another arrow from her quiver.
“The enemy can’t move. Aim well.”
Pale kept her voice as calm as she could as she drew her bow toward the trapped cavalry. In the next instant, the arrow weaved through the air and shot through the back of a soldier on horseback.
The middle guard and the rear guard of the cavalry had no choice but to abandon the vanguard and turn around.
Saldin moved the cavalry outside the range of the arrows, but the sound of the wind reached his ears, and he knew that the catapults have been fired once again.
They had to turn around from Shirak in order to retreat. As such, their flanks were currently exposed. Pale mercilessly attacked that opening.
Several of the rocks mowed down the soldiers on horseback, and those that were hit directly were utterly crushed.
Somehow someway, Saldin was able to escape the range of the arrows. And although they’d lost 10% of their strength in just one clash, his cavalry was still in good health.
When the people in Shirak saw the Red King running, they all cried out in cheers.
Amidst the cries and tumult, Pale watched the enemy and muttered to herself, “In just one strike, they managed to clear so much.”
Similarly, from atop the distant enemy camp, Carlion watched the fortress and smiled. “Not bad.”
He was the one who called for the retreat of the entire army.
Right now, Shirak showed no signs of falling, but neither Carlion nor Pale appeared worried.
“—But that’s not enough to make this fortress fall.”
“—But that’s not enough to keep that fortress from falling.”
And in some sense of irony, both tacticians believed that they would win in the next battle.