Episode 79. The Drake on the Battlefield (1)

Immediately upon hearing that the borders had been breached, Seon-Hyeok summoned the Drake Cavalry. The cavalry, which had been refraining from outdoor activities as the weather grew colder, gathered fully armed within the hour.

“Those Noctein bastards have invaded our lands.”

This would be his first time going to war as a company commander, and naturally, Seon-Hyeok looked at the cavalry with a nervous expression. In general, the senior cavalry’s expressions said that they knew this day would come, while the newer members’ faces were full of anxiety and anticipation.

“We’ll have to get to the front lines to learn more, but for now, it doesn’t seem as though the situation is particularly good.”

The situation on the front lines, as told by the messenger, was not enviable. Most of the troops stationed at Fort Mangsk were stranded there, forced to check the large number of enemy infantry gathered along the border, and only two cavalry companies had been dispatched. Those forces were insufficient to drive out the enemy cavalry that had already infiltrated their borders.

“The enemy forces are estimated at around five companies in size, and they mostly consist of relatively lightly armed light cavalry.”

Even up to this point, Seon-Hyeok assumed that the Western Army would be able to handle the invaders without issue. However, there was a problem.

“The enemy split their forces and sent them in all directions. As a result, there’s much more work to be done.”

The enemy cavalry had been divided to their minimum operating size of 20 riders, and these units were moving independently to ravage the villages near the border. In order to minimize the damages, the allied forces would need to station at least a well-trained infantry battalion in each village.

Even then, that kind of defense would be unable to protect the entire western portion of the kingdom. The independently operating light cavalry units could always regroup at any time, and any misstep could result in the stationed infantry battalions being devoured by the Nocteins. The Mangsk cavalry able to be dispatched faced the same threats, so they likewise were forced to be conservative with their movements and always be within support range of the infantry.

“In order to reverse the situation, the commander believes we will need a similarly sized cavalry force. Or...”

Seon-Hyeok took a pause and looked on at the members of the Drake Cavalry.

“We will need a group of knights with the combat ability to overwhelm at least three companies’ worth of light cavalry.”

A knight squadron, consisting of 20 average knights and 80 apprentice knights, would be able to handle not only the three cavalry companies but also all of the other enemy forces currently in their borders.

“However, as you know, we can’t expect the knights to participate in battle.”

Unfortunately, the kingdom had no intention of sending a group of knights into this war. It was an overly dangerous decision to send in a team of knights to simply reduce the damage inflicted upon the population. Aside from the possibility of needlessly losing important and valuable resources, there was the chance that such a provocation could result in the enemy also sending in their knights – resulting in an all-out war.

It was precisely this complicated calculation that had resulted in the formation of the Sastein cavalry. They lacked the swordsmanship to become knights, but they had been enough to overwhelm ordinary cavalry. In fact, much of the damage that the Adenburg Kingdom had suffered until recently was caused by these exceptional riders.

At one point, a number of nobles suggested that the Adenburg Kingdom likewise select apprentice knights to build a unit rivaling the Sasteins. They emphasized the need for elite cavalry that could operate freely without overly provoking the Noctein Kingdom. However, the royal family rejected those opinions. They opposed any and all plans, saying that it was unwise to waste valuable individuals always capable of developing into fully-fledged knights.

The Adenburg Kingdom’s approach of showing relatively more care for its people had ultimately limited it. 

But this was all in the past. The Sastein demons that had once tormented the kingdom no longer existed, thanks to the birth of a new cavalry in the previous war.

“The commander believes that we’re more than capable enough for this role.”

That new unit was the Drake Cavalry. They had lost many of their comrades, but it didn’t mean the glory of their past was reduced in any way. The veterans looked full of pride, recalling their shining accomplishments in battle, and the supporting forces slowly began to assimilate into this uplifting atmosphere.

“And I don’t think for a moment that the commander is incorrect in his judgment.”

The looks in the cavalry’s eyes changed at that statement. The hesitation and fear that had lingered until just a moment ago disappeared completely, replaced by a newfound fighting spirit.

“All that’s left now is to prove who we are.”

Seon-Hyeok observed the increasing military spirit and asked.

“What is the title that brought us here?”

“Sastein Slayer!”

Even until this moment, the response was restrained.

“What is the name that we need to defend?”

“Drake Cavalry!”

The heightened military spirit exploded in a fiery roar.

***

As soon as dawn broke, the Drake Cavalry left Rheinperle, carrying only the minimum amount of provisions on their horses.

“Oh!”

“Look at them shine!”

“They look so dependable!”

It was truly spectacular to see a line of cavalry dressed in shining iron armor over their dark blue uniforms leaving the village. Even among them, the most imposing figure was Kim Seon-Hyeok.

Growl.

At the front of the line was the golden drake, who growled, inspired by the fighting spirit of the cavalry. The drake’s presence was more overwhelming than that of the nearly 100 riders.

“Then I’ll leave the territory to you.”

“Please return safely. Don’t worry about the land.”

“Ugh. I’d come along if it wasn’t for Emma.”

Jonasson, Hansen, and Jackson were excluded from the current mission. In the event that an enemy unit approached Rheinperle, Seon-Hyeok would need capable individuals to defend the territory. The three skilled riders and the 50 soldiers, now well-rounded fighters through arduous training, wouldn’t lose one-sidedly against such an enemy.

“The infantry dispatched to the mines have also promised their close cooperation, so you shouldn’t worry about Rheinperle too much, my lord.”

The mage, Einst Jeneger, likewise wished them good luck on their mission.

“I hope you don’t get sick in these cold times.”

And finally, Seon-Hyeok was sent off by Antoine Montaigne.

***

The situation on the front lines grew increasingly desperate with each passing day. The enemy had completely taken advantage of the defenders, and the flow of the current war was clearly in favor of the attacking Nocteins. The sporadic battles on the exceptionally large front fatigued the allied forces.

The dispatched cavalry needed to overexert themselves and their horses chasing around the Noctein units, which were capable of organically uniting and scattering as needed, and the infantry scattered across the front were likewise quickly becoming exhausted.

“We have to give up the villages. At this rate, we’ll only lose the infantry in vain.”

“The riders’ horses are exhausted. If we push them any harder, they’ll collapse on their own.”

The leaders on the front lines suggested giving up on the villages and shrinking the battlefront, but the commander was adamant.

“Many of the civilians living on the border are family members of the soldiers. If we abandon them on the pretext of avoiding losses, none will want to ever fight for the Adenburg Kingdom.”

The goal of protecting one’s family was a great motivation in itself and a noble cause, but in cases like this, it also proved to be a limiting factor for the Western Army. The reason why the Nocteins expanded the front lines even at the risk of reducing their fighting power was, in part, because they recognized this flaw.

“The Drake Cavalry, led by Viscount Drachen, has arrived on the front lines.”

In the midst of all the negative messages about the state of the war, the commander was able to smile when he heard that the elite cavalry had finally arrived.

“Currently, the Drake Cavalry is rapidly advancing, with the 24th Regiment behind them. They have reported that they will destroy the nearest enemies first.”

“Notify all on the front lines that they have arrived. The soldiers will be pleased to hear of the reliable reinforcements.”

How incredible was it to have a cavalry capable of boosting allied morale just by participating in the war? 

The Mangsk commander intended to make full use of the soldiers’ renown.

“Spread the news everywhere so that the enemy finds out as well. If we’re lucky, we might be able to force them to gather together. The name of the ‘Drake Cavalry’, the unit that broke the Sasteins, is truly that powerful.”

At the commander’s orders, messengers rode off in all directions.

***

“We will move separately.”

After arriving on the front lines with the 24th Regiment and receiving information on the current situation, Seon-Hyeok notified the regimental commander of his decision.

“That’s ridiculous. One of our cavalry companies has already sustained considerable losses. The enemy looks like they’re running about mindlessly in our lands, but in reality, they’re keeping their units at a distance where they can group together at any time.”

The regimental commander strongly opposed Seon-Hyeok’s idea, saying that he could not expose the already depleted cavalry forces to needless danger, but Seon-Hyeok remained adamant.

“At that rate, we won’t be able to catch the quickly moving enemies until we’re all dead.”

“The current goal is not to annihilate our enemies. We just need to maintain the front lines until the ground freezes and the enemy is unable to hold out any longer. We don’t need to be overzealous and waste our manpower.”

The Nocteins were engaging in unprecedented levels of guerrilla warfare, but when the cold season finally arrived, they would be forced to return to their homes. Their objective was food for the winter and slaves to work to death, not any territorial gains at the cost of the Adenburg Kingdom.

“But what about the damage already done to the civilians? Even now, villages are burning, and people everywhere are becoming homeless wanderers. If we just hold out until the winter, the whole west will fall into a great recession.”

“We’ll have to take those losses. The people of this kingdom aren’t that weak. As always, they’ll rebuild their villages and move on with their lives.”

Seon-Hyeok beat at his chest in frustration at the regimental commander’s ridiculous, firm attitude.

“The soldiers are frustrated! A passive response will cause the soldiers to lose their trust in the kingdom.”

“If anyone complains, they will be punished severely. We cannot give priority to any individual over the defense of the kingdom.”

In the past, when Seon-Hyeok served as a heavy cavalry rider of the 24th Regiment, he believed that the regimental commander was quite skilled in his role. Seon-Hyeok had felt this way because the regimental commander carried out only the important missions without recklessly overworking his soldiers, much like the Mangsk commander. However, this had been nothing more than an illusion.

The regimental commander hadn’t been valuing efficiency, but rather was simply unmotivated. Instead of actively changing the current war situation, he was being the epitome of an incompetent leader satisfied with maintaining the status quo.

“If the commander really wished for that course of action, he would have called on the Central Army for infantry regiments, not our cavalry.”

The regimental commander briefly seemed intimidated at the mention of the commander, but he refused to change his stance until the very end.

“There’s no need to take unnecessary risks. The loss of civilians is heartbreaking, but that’s insignificant compared to the time and effort spent building up a cavalry unit.”

Words did not work with the regimental commander. Seon-Hyeok felt as though he was going crazy.

His plan, which the regimental commander dismissed as overeager and reckless, was an operation designed knowing his own abilities. He himself led the Drake Cavalry, and he used Wind Spirit to skillfully observe the situation in all directions. Unlike other cavalry companies, they faced no danger of being caught up in their enemy’s ambushes or sieges.

If the enemy showed signs of grouping together, the Drake Cavalry could simply retreat from the front lines. However, no matter how many times he tried, the regimental commander refused to listen to his suggestions. In the end, Seon-Hyeok resorted to complaining to Frederick, attending the meeting as the regiment’s second-in-command.

“I’ll ask the commander directly. As you said, what the commander wants might be the elimination of the Noctein forces, not the maintaining of the current status quo.”

Frederick sent a messenger to the fortress, and the chosen messenger returned with the commander’s answer in just two days.

“I permit you and the Drake Cavalry to carry out your own operations.”

The commander’s orders were to the regimental commander, not Seon-Hyeok. Unaware that a messenger had been sent there because of Seon-Hyeok, the regimental commander granted the foreigner his own command, albeit with a grim expression.

“Don’t overdo it. You might not be aware of this, but the name of the Drake Cavalry that once defeated the Sasteins carries significant weight for the soldiers on the front lines. If their faith in the Drake Cavalry is broken, then they’ll be demoralized much more than if a couple more villages burn to the ground.”

“I will keep that in mind. If possible, I will stay no more than a day’s distance away from the 24th Regiment.”

Seon-Hyeok repeatedly emphasized that he would be cautious before leaving the barracks and finding his cavalry riders.

“We’ve finally been given permission.”

The riders shouted in happiness, as they had been complaining until this point about being unable to ride about properly after arriving at the front lines.

“Let’s go. We’re going to wipe out those bandits disturbing our borders.”

At his words, the riders all mounted their horses. The Drake Cavalry, held back until now on account of the slowly-moving infantry, was finally able to break free of its restraints and ride out into war.

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