Episode 114. He who Rules the Heavens Rules the Battlefield (2)

“Our forces are doing well on all fronts.”

Once the Knights of the Blue Wolves and the Royal Mages joined the front lines, the Noctein momentum reached its peak. Whenever the flag embroidered with the blue wolf flew on the battlefield, the Adenburg forces fled without a fight. As a result, the Nocteins were able to recover almost 70 percent of the eastern territories they had previously lost.

“At this rate, I think we can push their forces back to Fort Kalstein within the next four days.”

As usual, the deputy’s report was optimistic, and the war situation was indeed in their favor. Nonetheless, the expression on the face of Robain Amritzer Rochstart, one of the Noctein senior knights, was not pleasant.

“How many enemy casualties so far?”

“Our knights have slain approximately a regiment’s worth of enemy infantry, and the mages have dealt similar damage. In addition, our allied forces have destroyed eight enemy infantry companies, and even the enemy cavalry has suffered significant losses.”

“That’s not enough. Not enough.”

“The damage we’ve inflicted is similar to the losses we’ve suffered since the start of the war. And yet that’s not enough?”

The deputy could not understand Knight Rochstart’s words. The gains made by their forces in the past fifteen days was amazing, not insufficient.

“Our knights and mages are on the front lines. And yet, the enemy is still holding strong.”

“Our troops have had over 20 victories in the past fifteen days. And we’ve also recovered this much of our lost territory…”

“Do you still not understand what I’m saying?”

Knight Rochstart frowned at the deputy’s report. He was in a foul mood, and the tension was palpable.

“We fought 20 times and won all 20 times. By this point, it wouldn’t be strange for us to have annihilated all of the Adenburg forces in our kingdom. But tell me, what is the current situation like?”

The leader pointed at a number of points on the spread-out map.

“There are still more enemy forces in these eastern territories than allied soldiers. Do you understand what that means?”

The deputy’s face paled, as if he finally realized something.

“The enemy’s acting like they’re broken and fleeing, but in reality, they’ve suffered much smaller losses than we anticipated.”

In essence, even the seemingly disorderly retreat was all as intended. If that had not been the case, the enemy regiments and units could not have returned to the front lines, flags flying proudly, within days of fleeing in abject chaos.

“It can’t me…”

“You’re correct. The enemy is trying to draw us in.”

“Then shouldn’t we tell all of our forces to control how quickly we advance?”

The deputy showed even more caution, knowing that their opponent was Wittenfeld Royen Mangsk, the Fox of Mangsk. However, Knight Rochstart, despite expressing pessimism about the situation, smiled instead.

“No. We’ll want to pick up the pace. Tell all forces to focus on the offensive.”

The Noctein army did not have much time. News of their participation had likely spread to the enemy, and thus, it was likely that the elite Adenburg knights would be moving at full speed to the front lines.

“We make it to Fort Kalstein before that damned Fox of Mangsk expects us there.”

Leader Rochstart drew his finger in a line across the map. Figures of horses were knocked over and dropped to the floor where his finger passed.

“All that’s left to do is crush the annoying infantry and cavalry.”

The reason knights and mages were terrifying to ordinary people was that concepts of front lines and borders did not act as a deterrent to then. And at this moment, Knight Rochstart declared that he would strike Fort Kalstein, going straight across the front lines as if there was nothing preventing him from taking the center of the enemy.

“Four days is too long. Our forces will dine in Kalstein in two days at the latest.”

***

Found them.

It was not difficult locating the knights. Considering that the Adenburg knights had not yet taken to the battlefield, the Noctein knights had no equal in this war. As such, they proudly announced their presence.

Seon-Hyeok was able to find the knights in their unusually conspicuous armor soon after flying into the wilderness. He wanted to approach a bit closer, but he was aware that any misstep on his part would result in his detection.

He was forced to be satisfied after checking on their numbers from a distance.

“Hm.”

However, the Noctein knights he saw seemed to be in a hurry. They were fully armed and forming lines on their horses, as if preparing to ride off immediately.

“Where are they going?”

Seon-Hyeok frowned as he saw them leave their camp. Considering there were battles taking place everywhere, it was difficult to gauge their final destination.

Should I watch them a bit longer?

He planned to notify his allies as soon as he identified their target.

Whether or not the Adenburg infantry could shake off the knights on their horses, being prepared would ensure comparatively fewer losses.

The Noctein knights moved about, unaware there was an enemy unit spying on their every last movement.

30 robed figures joined in with the 100 heavily-armored knights. After them were three companies of Noctein cavalry in their unique uniforms. The enemy forces, now having increased from 100 to 400, quickly began to move. Seon-Hyeok chased after them, but after extrapolating from their direction, he soon realized their final destination and flew on ahead.

“Atiya. Keep an eye on them.”

‘Leave it to me.’

“Don’t get too close. We just need to know their location.”

Just in case, he gave a few words of advice before quickly heading towards the allied camp on Redvern.

The wyvern’s sudden appearance caused a disturbance among the Adenburg soldiers, but they belatedly cheered, realizing it was the prestigious Drake Knight.

“The enemy knights are coming this way.”

The fanfare did not last. The soldiers were immediately stunned to silence by the news that the overwhelmingly powerful knights were headed in their direction.

“All forces! Prepare to retreat!”

It would not be possible to hold off the knights by remaining in place. In addition, since Commander Mangsk ordered all forces to avoid head-on combat and conserve manpower, they had no reason to hesitate.

“Abandon the barracks and everything else. Take only your weapons and essential food rations!”

“Infantry company, retreat!”

The infantry commander quickly prepared for retreat, and Seon-Hyeok kept an eye on the Noctein movements until the company left the barracks.

“That was a close call.”

The Noctein knights arrived at the barracks soon after the infantry company departed. Upon noticing the empty garrison, they looked around for a while before getting back on their horses. They began to move once again without further delay.

“Damn it.”

Unfortunately, the knights decided to move in the direction that the allied infantry retreated to. Seon-Hyeok agonized over the situation, knowing that if left alone, the infantry would be overrun and exterminated.

The Nocteins did not yet know that he was successful in taming Redvern. If he made a surprise attack now, the careless enemies would be taken aback. However, that would be the extent of his impact.

Without Aria Eisen, he could not inflict significant damage on the enemy. There was a limit to attacking the enemy with his spirits, and he could not recklessly engage in physical combat without preparing. In the worst case scenario, his enemies might even learn of Redvern’s existence.

There were far too many risks and variables involved in this situation, where the best possible outcome would be slightly delaying the enemy knights.

Even so, he did not have to think for long.

Seon-Hyeok was not one to let his allies die for the potential of a greater payoff later. He decided to save the soldiers, even if he had to take on some personal risk.

“If we’re destined to die running, I would rather stand and die here.”

Receiving news that the knights were hot on their trail, the infantry commander spoke with a resigned expression. It was evident he had hoped that with some luck, the knights would have moved in a different direction.

“I’ll buy you some time.”

“It’s too dangerous!”

The Drake Knight’s prestige was unquestionably great, but any talk of his invincibility in battle was old news. So long as there were knights on the battlefield, none of the soldiers expected him to be the invincible harbinger of victory.

“I’d rather pick volunteers and divide our forces in half. If half of our infantry remains to buy time, the other half should be able to live.”

The infantry commander was a junior level officer whose name was not even widely known. Even so, he seemed willing to sacrifice himself at any time.

Seon-Hyeok smiled in pride, seeing the soldiers already scrambling to be the ones to remain.

Just as the infantry of the 22nd Regiment had previously decided to stand and fight desperately for the civilians, these infantry consisted of true soldiers willing to sacrifice themselves when the time came. The Western Army, painstakingly developed for many years under Commander Mangsk’s guidance, was truly a force worth taking risks for and protecting.

My decision isn’t wrong.

Seon-Hyeok felt relieved. With this display of devotion, he was able to completely shake off the little hesitation that had remained.

“Even if you stay, you won’t be able to buy much time. Stop saying nonsense and get moving right now. You don’t have much time.”

Dividing four companies’ worth of infantry in half to stop the enemy knights was a fool’s errand, one that would result in their annihilation before they could buy any reasonable amount of time. Once the first group was wiped out, the other half would be destined to fall soon after.

“But!”

“It’s an order.”

Seon-Hyeok sent the infantry away, aware of the knights’ imminent approach. With that, he led Redvern in the opposite direction.

***

Captain Rochstart was not at all disappointed when he saw the empty garrison. His target was Fort Kalstein and Commander Mangsk’s head, not some insignificant infantry. Minor accomplishments, like the annihilation of an enemy infantry company, would pale in comparison to the honor of taking the head of the enemy commander-in-chief.

“I’m already looking forward to seeing the startled look on the Fox of Mangsk’s face.”

Wittenfeld Royen Mangsk, the commander responsible for guarding the border for many years as Adenburg’s Shield, was undeniably a competent leader. Regardless of the small defeats he suffered, he was a veteran who adeptly protected the border and maintained the front lines. However, the Fox of Mangsk had a fatal weakness.

“The front lines don’t matter in this war.”

No matter how thoroughly the commander prepared, it would be meaningless in front of knights and mages. With a single display of powerful magic or sword energy, walls would collapse, and the gatekeeper would be forced to surrender his head.

“By the time the Fox of Mangsk realizes that, he’ll have already lost his head.”

Even the most competent of commanders would not be able to decide on a battlefield to fight against such superhuman beings. That was a privilege only given to others like them, and until the enemy knights showed themselves on the front lines, there would be no other superhuman beings on the eastern front.

Fort Kalstein was the battlefield designated by the senior knight, Robain Amritzer Rochstart.

However, contrary to Knight Rochstart’s expectations, there was one other superhuman being present on the eastern front. That person was none other than the Drake Knight, the Spear of Adenburg and the holder of Gradus 50.

“Shall we get started?”

Seon-Hyeok watched the movements of the knights as they kicked up the dust on the ground before slowly guiding Redvern behind them.

“Atiya. I’ll leave it to you.”

‘Yes, master.’

As soon as Atiya rose into the air, even the intermittent sounds of Redvern’s wings beating in the air disappeared.

In this world of perfect silence, Seon-Hyeok pulled out the dragon rider’s lance tied to Redvern’s saddle. With a few deep breaths, he tucked the lance under his arm and lowered his posture.

“Let’s go, Redvern.”

The wind spirit made sure even that quiet whisper disappeared into the wind, but the wyvern seemed to have heard the command. Redvern folded its wings and began to descend.

There was only one chance.

This was the only time the enemy knights would not be wary of an assault from the skies.

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