Episode 20. The Greatest Rider (3)

It seemed that the 24th Regiment heavy cavalry would head to Fort Mangsk at full speed, but it was not the case. Despite the fact that they would be supplied at the fort, the riders marched at a pace similar to ordinary infantry.

Curious, Kim Seon-Hyeok asked Clark why their progress was so slow.

“Training’s one thing, but this is real. There’s a possibility that we could be sent on an operation as soon as we arrive, so we don’t want to overwork our horses beforehand. Besides, it’s unlikely that those Sastein bastards will be quietly waiting for us across the border.”

Frederick alternated deploying two groups of scout cavalry in case of a potential ambush. As a result, the already slow march became even slower.

“The front is clear!”

“No signs of the enemy in the southwest.”

Kim Seon-Hyeok’s mouth was dry as he watched the scout cavalry hurrying in and out of their group, and he couldn’t help but fiddle with the cap of his canteen. Clark shook his head as he looked at him.

“I’m sure your throat is burning and you’re full of anxiety right now. But keep this in mind. This is nothing compared to an actual battle. Don’t waste your energy already.”

“Even if you say that, there’s nothing I can do about it, is there?”

Kim Seon-Hyeok pouted at the unhelpful words of encouragement. Clark just laughed, realizing that the retort meant the foreigner wasn’t completely out of his wits.

“Oh?”

After a while, black shadows began to dot the horizon. Without realizing it, Kim Seon-Hyeok clutched his spear and tightened his muscles, but Hansen, who had been behind him, shoved the back of his head.

“They’re refugees. Relax.”

“Ah…”

As the border territories fell into chaos, the civilians, sensitive to danger, had begun to flee for their lives.

“Go and ask if they know anything about the border situation.”

At Frederick’s command, one of the riders rode quickly towards the group of refugees and soon returned.

“Apparently it’s worse than we expected. It doesn’t seem like a battle will happen immediately, but there are many reports about enemy cavalry with red-plumed helmets within our borders.”

“Sasteins. None of our soldiers would use such unsightly helmets.”

After receiving the report, Frederick added another group of scout cavalry and instructed them to expand their search radius. At his command, the first group left towards the enemy, leaving behind a cloud of dust. The frightened gazes of the refugees brushed past them as they departed.

“So this is what war is really like…”

Kim Seon-Hyeok felt like he would hyperventilate as he saw their frightened, gloomy eyes. The world, with its stats and skills, had started to feel like a game, but it once again felt like reality.

“Focus. The real war hasn’t even started yet.”

At those words, Kim Seon-Hyeok slapped his cheeks with and regained his composure. Soon, they would have to charge into the battlefield. If he was this afraid already, there would be no dealing with the events yet to come.

“Orders from the front. Keep in formation in case of a battle, and have your weapons on hand. If we’re fumbling to get ready later, we’ll just become arrow fodder for the Sasteins.”

At the quietly delivered command, the riders grabbed their weapons from the transport carts and mounted their horses. Kim Seon-Hyeok steeled himself over and over again as he heard the clinging of metal.

“Ugh. My whole body feels numb.”

Fortunately, there were no unexpected events on the first day of the march, but Kim Seon-Hyeok wasn’t in good shape after being tense the entire day. His body felt heavy, and he suffered from nightmares when he finally fell asleep.

“Hang in there. It’ll take four days at most.”

“Wouldn’t it be better to get there sooner?”

Kim Seon-Hyeok felt it was inefficient to spend four days on what should be a two-day journey, and Clark nodded in agreement.

“Maybe, but our commander is that person over there.”

In other words, he was saying that they had to follow their orders. Kim Seon-Hyeok just sighed, knowing Clark’s point was impossible to refute.

For someone known as the wild boar of the battlefield, Frederick was sure being cautious. It seemed as though his concerns about having a blemish on his resume as he prepared for a promotion had won over his hasty nature. Nonetheless, the company commander’s character shone through little by little, as the group showed signs of speeding up a bit.

But even that only lasted a moment.

“What the hell is that?”

Kim Seon-Hyeok squinted at the horse approaching in a cloud of dust, and he realized it was one of the scouts. Next to that familiar figure was a single rider who was dressed lightly.

“What is it?”

The rider, upon arriving in front of the main army, saluted while reciting the words of the Kingdom of Adenburg.

“Forward! My name is Owenson – 27th Regiment, 2nd light infantry division, captain of the 3rd platoon.”

“So? Why is a rider from the 27th here?”

Normally, Frederick would have accepted the rider’s greetings, considering he was a member of a different unit. However, his response now was chilly.

It was because of the faint scent of blood coming from the rider.

“Reporting. The 27th Regiment was ambushed by the enemy and is currently making a temporary retreat to regroup the troops. My commander sent me to inform you of the danger.”

“Damn…”

His sense of foreboding had not been wrong. Owenson reported that the 27th was in retreat and that they had suffered considerable losses.

“The enemy forces consist of one company. Given their colors and tactics, they are definitely part of the Sastein cavalry.”

“Those bastards!”

“What are the border guards doing?”

Voices could be heard here and there. With a stiff expression, Company Commander Frederick raised a hand to settle the riders down and continue receiving the report.

“When and where did the battle take place?”

“Yesterday afternoon. We first encountered the enemy’s patrols about five hours southwest of here, and engaged in full battle two hours later. The battle continued into nightfall. It was decided that our forces could not recover from the damage inflicted, and we are retreating to our garrison.”

A five-hour ride. That meant they were practically next to one another. As soon as the captain finished speaking, the equipment remaining on the carts was distributed to the riders, and battle preparations were soon complete.

“Then there’s a good chance those bastards are currently watching us from somewhere.”

“Most likely. It would be in line with their tactics.”

The captains of the 1st and 2nd platoons agreed with the company commander.

“Damn. This is why I suggested we all move together from the beginning. Telling us to split into three separate forces and then bait the enemy in to destroy them – what the hell were they even thinking?”

The strategy had been uncharacteristically cautious, and it turned out that Frederick had been given those orders from his superiors. However, considering the plan seemed flawed even to a novice like Kim Seon-Hyeok, it seemed as though the strategist was not particularly competent.

“This is going to be a disaster…”

He didn’t want to say anything ominous if possible, but the reality was that soldiers under incompetent commanders were destined to suffer. It was a universal fact, both in the other world and in this new one.

If there was a difference, it was that the price to pay for ineptitude was much harsher in this world. In the other world, it had just meant that they would endure a bit more physically. Here, their lives were at stake.

“Understood. I commend your regiment’s fighting spirit and am sorry to hear the unfortunate results. Thank you for your consideration in coming here in this time of confusion.”

“Not at all, sir. My commander hopes that your regiment, the most famous within the kingdom, fares better in repelling those damned Sasteins.”

“His wishes will come true.”

Owenson of the 27th Regiment rode off following his report.

***

Now, the hundred or so heavy cavalry from the 24th Regiment were left with two options. The first was to increase their pace and reach Fort Mangsk as quickly as possible to avoid any losses from a potential ambush. The alternative was to maintain the current speed in anticipation of a confrontation.

It was not an easy decision. Company Commander Frederick asked Clark for his opinion, understanding that it was he who was the de facto leader of the riders.

“Considering that the 27th Regiment has already been defeated, it is obvious that they will target us as well. If we speed up in this situation, there is a chance that we could be attacked while our horses are exhausted.”

“I agree. It might have been better if we had maintained a faster pace from the beginning – it’s a shame that so much time was wasted planning in a war room.”

Since they were in agreement, all that was left was to do their best. The heavy cavalry, now fully equipped, seemed so thoroughly prepared that they could attack at a moment’s notice. Frederick seemed pleased at the state of his riders.

“Recall the scouts. Now that we know the enemy is targeting us, there’s no need to divide our forces and weaken our battle strength.”

A messenger departed at his command, and he soon returned with the scout cavalry. However, not everyone returned.

“It seems like the 8th group has already been hit.”

Half of the scouting group had been lost. The enraged riders wanted to immediately find and crush the Sastein bastards, but Frederick and the other commanding officers remained calm.

“No matter how good the Sastein cavalry are at guerrilla warfare, it’ll be difficult to maintain this for a long time within an enemy’s borders. They will have to show themselves soon.”

Frederick’s predictions proved to be correct.

As the sun began to set, the enemies appeared.

“Are those the Sastein?”

Kim Seon-Hyeok stretched his neck, which had become stiff with tension, and looked towards the enemy in the distance.

Their iron armor, which was primarily designed to cover vital areas, did not seem particularly heavy, and the bow and spear tied to their saddles were indicative of how they fought.

If the Adenburg heavy cavalry were analogous to medieval knights from the other world, then the enemy could be considered similar to a heavier armed version of Mongol horsemen.

“All cavalry! In charging formation! 3rd platoon in front! 1st and 2nd provide support!”

There was no time to relax and observe the enemy’s appearance. Frederick gave his commands before Kim Seon-Hyeok could even pull himself together, and the cavalry quickly began to move and get into formation.

And so, Kim Seon-Hyeok found himself at the vanguard in his first real battle. Frederick momentarily showed concern that the foreigner was taking the lead, but he acquiesced once the other riders showed their support.

“I’ll cut you down first if you show any fear or hesitation.”

Kim Seon-Hyeok scowled after hearing Frederick’s warning.

The vicious Sastein cavalry would be coming at him from the front, and Frederick threatened from the rear. He was truly caught between a rock and a hard place.

At that moment, the enemy began to move.

“No matter what, don’t let them flank us!”

The hundred heavy cavalry of the 24th Regiment stormed out to battle, and Kim Seon-Hyeok also spurred his horse forward. His heart raced.

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