Episode 80. The Drake on the Battlefield (2)

There were no scouting or spying operations of any kind. This was indicative of the sheer speed of the Drake Cavalry. They ran in one direction and one direction only -- that direction was towards Seon-Hyeok as he rode on Goldrake.

“Reduce the speed of the troops.”

A while after leaving the barracks, Seon-Hyeok reduced his cavalry’s speed for the first time.

“Stop in place.”

At the quiet command, Clark loudly repeated the words to deliver the instructions to the rear of the cavalry before shutting his mouth. The cavalry had naturally stopped with Seon-Hyeok, as they had only been chasing after the drake this entire time.

“Take a break while mounted.”

They didn’t ride to their fullest ability, but even so, they couldn’t help but feel fatigued after wearing heavy iron armor all day. At Seon-Hyeok’s command, the riders shook their wrists that had been clutching the horses’ reins, loosening their stiff joints and checking on the condition of their mounts.

“Are there enemies nearby?”

At the sudden order to take a break, Clark approached to ask.

“There are 50 cavalry riders heading south from the northwest. At this rate, we’ll catch up to the enemy’s rear.”

“What’s the plan?”

The rest of the cavalry perked up their ears.

“What do you mean, what’s the plan?”

Seon-Hyeok answered with a determined voice while looking around at his cavalry.

“We’ll crush them all.”

At his words, the short rest ended, and the riders picked up the weapons placed in their saddles.

“We’ll smash into the enemy’s rear, then take care of their main forces. Use whatever weapons you see fit, but prioritize mobility. The squad in front will be responsible for taking down the enemy’s rear.”

It wasn’t an easy task for heavy cavalry to chase down and annihilate the faster light cavalry, especially those who had taken care to travel even lighter than usual. Nonetheless, none stepped up to question his command.

The trust in the new company commander was simply that great.

“Let’s go.”

At his command, the riders slowly began to move. Interestingly, the sound of horses’ hooves, which would normally have traveled far across the wide plains, remained within the immediate area before disappearing. Even stranger, the dust clouds that usually formed when the cavalry moved scattered quickly.

‘As you command.’

This was all thanks to Atiya, the low-tier wind spirit. The enemy would likely be unaware of the approaching cavalry until they reached the troops’ immediate vicinity. And by that point, the Drake Cavalry would be in optimal condition, fully prepared and ready to charge at a moment’s notice.

It was as expected. The enemy’s rear forces, moving separately from their main unit, did not notice them until they were within line of sight. By this point, the vanguard of the Drake Cavalry was charging towards them, spears extended, and the Nocteins were unable to speed up and evade the attack. They were skewered and exterminated on the spot.

This was all as Seon-Hyeok intended. He used the occasional hills found on the sprawling plains to thoroughly hide the movements of his troops, and as a result, he was able to easily deal with the enemy’s rearguard.

“Hm.”

Seon-Hyeok subconsciously furrowed his brow as he noticed the smell of blood coming from the leading squad when they rejoined the Drake Cavalry. He had experienced this many times in the past, but he couldn’t get used to the foul scent. Before, he had been intoxicated by the smell, losing his focus in the process. However, it was different now. Having endured two battles, several duels, and the experience in Rugenburg, Seon-Hyeok had grown, and he was no longer easily shaken as he was before.

“Cavalry. Begin moving again.”

Hearing his orders, the drake, crouched on the ground until this point, raised himself up. The cavalry began to follow.

How long had they been crossing the plains like this?

The Drake Cavalry ran into the southbound enemy light cavalry, still unaware that their rearguard had already been overwhelmed. The Noctein forces were shocked to see their enemies appear without warning, and they completely lost their minds at the sight of the giant monster at the forefront.

Seeing this enemy cavalry unit that didn’t dare engage in combat but instead sought to pivot and immediately ride away, Seon-Hyeok whispered a quick command.

“Goldie! Roar!”

Goldie had been biting down and holding back until this point, but he let loose at the issued command.

Roar!

Upon hearing the monster’s roar spread throughout the plains, the enemy cavalry became rooted in place even as they tried to escape.

The horses screamed and reared up, and the riders lightly holding onto their reins were immediately thrown off their mounts. The remaining cavalry tried to calm down their horses, but by the time they barely managed to succeed, the lead riders of the Drake Cavalry had already approached.

“Charge!”

Seon-Hyeok gave a quick command, looking down at the ranks of the enemy cavalry entangled in a giant mess. His riders lunged forward with the spears tucked under their arms.

The first to reach the enemy, of course, was Seon-Hyeok riding Goldrake.

“Ugh.”

An enemy rider, having fallen from his horse and in a daze, looked towards him with a blank expression. His sanity seemed to have completely deserted him at the sight of the terrifying monster.

Crack.

Goldrake trampled over the rider without mercy. The drake was able to crush the human with his huge body, without having to exert any force or lower his body. At the same time, he turned his long neck to hit the adjacent rider.

The brave Noctein cavalryman clutched his weapon and looked to attack, but he was thrown into the air after being headbutt by the drake. One look at the rider’s badly crushed chest was all Seon-Hyeok needed to know that it was an instant death.

Roar!

Unleashed for the first time in a while, Goldrake roared ferociously.

***

Clark had kept his distance from the drake to avoid being swept up in the tail swinging in all directions, and he unknowingly lost his grip on his spear as he watched.

“What the hell…”

He saw the drake going on a rampage, biting and tearing apart enemies on all sides. The enemy riders showed no will to resist in front of the wild monster, and they were trampled, torn to shreds, and slaughtered.

“Ack!”

“S, save me!”

The Noctein soldier stared blankly at the monster with his spear limply pointed down. He was trampled by Goldrake without being able to attack a single time. The soldier next to him, crying out in anguish at his comrade’s death, lunged forward, only to be snapped in half by the drake’s powerful jaw.

Before they knew it, Clark and the riders had stopped to stare at the scene.

“This is a nightmare…”

In the midst of the massacre, a soldier had gone insane and begun muttering to himself. He seemed to have lost his mind watching his comrades being slaughtered by monsters. The soldier wished to wake up from the nightmare, but the only ending offered by the nightmare was death.

The monster stamped his foot repeatedly over the crushed soldier as he turned into a formless mass.

Ack!

All that could be heard were screams and roars, and the brave Drake Cavalry let out a groan at the unimaginable sight.

“This is the Dra…”

The riders reveled at this new way of fighting, which went completely against cavalry principles. Their terrifying charge broke into the thick of the enemy units, where they were able to break the enemy ranks from inside out.

“Focus! Block their retreat from the back forward! Those in front, stand your ground!”

Clark shouted at the men watching the battle blankly to block any possible enemy retreat. It was a necessary command, but in the end, the instruction proved meaningless.

The Drake Cavalry and the monster didn’t allow a single Noctein rider to escape.

***

“Urgent news!”

The commander had been standing by, aware that there were skirmishes occurring daily, and his expression stiffened as he saw the approaching messenger. He worried that another village had burned down, or that the Adenburg infantry had suffered additional losses.

But contrary to the commander’s concerns, the messenger’s expression was bright.

“The Drake Cavalry has destroyed a group of 50 enemy cavalry!”

The Mangsk commander pumped his fist at the news.

“Oh! Viscount Drachen!”

“And allied losses?”

The commander cut off the cheering listeners and asked about the damage dealt to his own forces. When the messenger exclaimed there were no losses with a flushed face, the commander cheered alongside the others.

“Urgent news!”

Even before the Adenburg command had a moment to truly celebrate the victory, another messenger came to deliver news. The atmosphere within the command, which had become heated by the rare good news, quickly became subdued.

However, it was good news once again.

“Our forces have emerged victorious over 25 enemy cavalry!”

“Oh!”

The command center cheered at the news of victory after victory, and the messenger continued his report.

“Seven infantry companies from the 24th Regiment quickly clearing the area and advancing.”

“By the 24th Regiment, you mean…”

It was the Drake Cavalry that had split off from the 24th Regiment to operate independently. Naturally, if the infantry from the conservatively-led 24th were advancing, the reason behind this change was obvious.

“It’s Viscount Drachen’s Drake Cavalry that engaged the enemy!”

“As expected!”

Their expectations proved correct, and the command center grew excited about the birth of their new savior.

“We have suffered no losses! The enemy cavalry has been completely destroyed!”

Once again, the allied troops did not suffer any casualties. Even considering the fact that the Drake Cavalry was more heavily armed than the enemy, such a result was unprecedented.

Messengers continued to arrive the following day, all reporting on the victories won by the Drake Cavalry. The number of enemy riders Seon-Hyeok’s company eliminated was now more than enough to make up an entire regiment.

“Then it should be safe to say that the situation deep within our borders has been taken care of.”

Even for the more mobile Noctein soldiers, it was unreasonable to penetrate too deep into enemy territory. As a result, the number of enemies disrupting the situation far within the Adenburg borders was not particularly large, and they had been completely annihilated by the Drake Cavalry.

The problem going forward was the territory between the now stable lands far within the kingdom and Fort Mangsk. There were four regiments’ worth of enemy cavalry currently operating within this area, and the reports of villages being looted and infantry suffering heavy casualties did not show signs of ending.

“We’ll be able to breathe a bit if we can hold out a little longer.”

However, even this bleak situation was gradually improving. The more the Drake Cavalry handled the situation in the rear, the more restricted the enemy cavalry’s activities became.

“Commander! Urgent news!”

The commander frowned as he saw the messenger approach. Unlike the others before him, this messenger had a stiff expression.

“The scattered enemy cavalry has gathered together and are moving east!”

“If they’re grouped together, what are their current numbers?”

At the advisor’s question, the messenger responded, face completely pale.

“Three regiments at the very least! Possibly as many as four regiments!”

At the response, the advisors at the command center all jumped to their feet.

“If it’s that many…”

“It’s over 90 percent of the enemy forces currently within our borders.”

Hearing this, the commander flew into a fit of rage.

“What the hell are the patrols even doing? Why weren’t they aware of the enemy’s movements?”

“The patrols are already working their horses beyond their limits in an attempt to prevent the enemy cavalry from looting and plundering the villages. Given the sheer size of the front lines, they were forced to loosen up with their scouting, and the enemy was able to find a gap.”

The Mangsk commander muttered to himself as the advisor offered an excuse. After all, it was his idea to protect the entire frontier. His mobile forces had been worked to their limit and had inevitably shown weakness to the enemy. He couldn’t blame anyone else at this point.

“How much time is needed for our forces to regroup?”

“At least four days, and that’s just the time necessary to gather the cavalry spread out on the front lines. However, that’ll be barely enough to keep the Noctein forces in check. If we want to completely drive them out, we’ll need three infantry regiments as well, which will take a minimum of 10 days.”

At one point, they had hoped the enemy would group together. If the Nocteins had done so, the Adenburg forces could have finished the war with a single decisive battle. However, the situation now was completely different.

The commander had tried his best to prevent the scattering of the enemy forces, but when he finally stopped to look at the forest instead of the trees, his own regiment had also been divided into multiple groups and distributed along the front lines. It would take some time to gather the troops needed to deal with the unified enemy cavalry.

“They got the better of us. This might’ve been what they were after from the start.”

If the Nocteins were fielding a cavalry army the size of four companies, even an infantry regiment would be trampled in an instant in battle. In other words, it meant that it would be almost impossible to stop the enemy, no matter where they were headed.

“But I don’t understand. There’s nothing for them to gain even if they gather their troops like that.”

The enemy’s movements meant that the western territories were in immediate danger, but the nobles ruling these lands were battle-hardened soldiers. Even if they suffered heavy losses in the war, they would endure and eventually rebuild their territories. History had already shown the tenacious vitality of the western nobles.

“Could they be targeting the breadbasket in the center of the kingdom…”

“That’s impossible. Even if they were able to raid the kingdom’s granaries, there’s no way they could leave unscathed. No, they wouldn’t be able to get past the Central Army in the first place.”

The power of the Central Army protecting the heart of the kingdom was formidable. They were the kingdom’s elites, and the last bastion in case the front lines were ever breached. The royal knights and mages were all affiliated with this army. No matter how reluctant the kingdom was to use their superhuman individuals, they wouldn’t spare their strength against an enemy that had invaded deep into their lands.

“But what could they be after then? They couldn’t possibly have caused all that chaos just to raid some border villages?”

Those at the command center wondered about the situation, and the commander suddenly realized when exactly the enemy’s movements suddenly changed.

“It can’t be? They sent four regiments’ worth of cavalry just to beat one…”

One of the aides seemed to have the same idea, as he inadvertently spoke up.

“It’s not just any cavalry. It’s the cavalry that destroyed the Sasteins, the pride of the Noctein Kingdom.”

The enemy had been waiting for the right moment, and now, they gathered to target the Drake Cavalry. It was indisputable that the Nocteins’ motive was revenge.

“Where’s Viscount Drachen right now?”

“The last we heard, he joined up with the 22nd Regiment to regroup.”

***

“Uh. This isn’t good.”

At that moment, Seon-Hyeok was staying at the 22nd Regiment garrison to recover from the fatigue of multiple battles, and he froze upon noticing hostile forces approaching from all directions.

When had they grouped together?

He was able to sense at least three regiments’ worth of enemies, and some of the enemies felt particularly ominous. His body was screaming at him to retreat. However, he couldn’t.

“Oh, eat this.”

“Thank you, ma’am.”

There were people from the nearby villages who had fled the Noctein invaders, wounded soldiers recovering in the garrison, and two infantry regiments left behind to protect them. If Seon-Hyeok wanted to run away, he would have to leave them all behind.

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