Chapter 111: To the Eastern Front (3)

After joining the Eastern Front, Milton stabilized the lines of defense at once.

Horn Castle and Carnot Castle: to these two strongholds at the very forefront of this battlefield, Milton assigned additional troops and solidified the defense in such a manner that the Republics could no longer attack as rashly.

The frontline had recently begun exhibiting signs of weakness as their reserve corps began to run dry, but the Eastern Front was a fundamentally sturdy defensive curtain. The castles of Horn and Carnot acted as a steadfast front, while they were reinforced from behind by the equally steadfast keeps of Andemar, Bison and Lucerne. The five strongholds were arranged so that if any of them were to be ignored and the border was crossed, the invaders’ supply line would not be maintainable.

Yet the same applied for the Kobrook Republic.

The Kobrook Republic’s defensive line consisted of three castles and five smaller strongholds. The three castles were arranged in a triangular formation while the five minor forts formed a buffer at the front. If one were to penetrate while ignoring these eight gateways, their supply line would be cut off and they would be methodically exterminated.

It would only be possible to push the lines if at least two of these eight checkpoints were felled.

“According to our intelligence, the enemy’s numbers are as follows.”

Marquis Bologna handed Milton and Viscount Sabian a chart listing the enemy’s composition.

Litinque Castle – 20,000

Bells Castle – 10,000

Hornie Castle – 10,000

Fortress Lientz – 3,000

Fortress Belluno – 3,000

Fortress Brunico – 2,000

Fortress Merano – 2,000

Fortress Bolzano – 3,000

‘Is that a total force of 53,000? That’s more than I thought there’d be.’

Considering that all the strength of the Republics was meant to be piling into the North, the Kobrook Republic had left a considerable force standing.

Viscount Sabian frowned as he surveyed the map.

“This is… I see that they have arranged the forts in quite a troublesome manner.”

“They have indeed. Were you able to tell at first glance?”

“Yes. The forts have been positioned so that, lest we attack one, reinforcements from the others may arrive in less than a day. Merely capturing one stronghold would be insufficient to act as a starting point for launching a wider offensive.”

“Correct. A rather deliberate design.”

The Kobrook Republic’s defensive line had been precisely constructed to exude this effect. 

First, to attack the three main castles, the smaller forts had to be controlled. Ignoring the minor strongholds to attack the castles directly would leave one open to harassment from the rear by the forts’ forces.

However, the five forts were painstakingly designed to make such endeavors incredibly painful.

First was the distance – their positions were not decided arbitrarily, but constructed so that they could easily act as backup to one another. If one fort came under attack, at least two other forts could send reinforcements at breakneck speed.

“With sufficient deliberation we could capture a fort, but the greater issue is what comes afterwards. These keeps are…”

“I assume they have been intentionally constructed so that defense is difficult. Along those lines, the forts’ walls would be low and not quite sturdy enough to rely on. Most importantly, they would be constructed to be too small for stationing a sizable force.”

Marquis Bologna was awestruck.

“Did you possess this information beforehand?”

“I did not, but such could be naturally deduced from the data you have given me, Marquis.”

According to the reference material handed out by Marquis Bologna, the five minor forts did not house a considerable force. All of them had forces of only 2000 to 3000 men stationed at them.

And the reason was simply because they were not large enough to house more.

“It would be difficult to continue occupying strongholds with such low defensive capabilities even if they were to be seized. Rather, it would become quite the grueling affair to stand against the reinforcements from the surrounding forts and the rear castles. Would that be correct?”

“That is precisely so. To those bastards, these five minor forts are not focal points that must be protected – in fact, they play the part of bait to force a war of attrition. Should defending them become difficult, they surrender the forts with no qualms, only to attack them later with an offensive that our men likewise cannot withstand.”

Though the Kobrook Republic did not possess geographical advantages such as the Grey Mountains, they nevertheless boasted an impenetrable iron wall against none other than the Strabus Kingdom. In fact, the Kobrook Republic had steadfastly protected this border for more than a century.

Furthermore, the Kobrook Republic retained a military force that best capitalized on their concrete defense; and that was their navy.

If the Hildess Republic’s pride were their mountaineers, the Kobrook Republic’s was their navy.

Their overall wartime strategy was to maintain a steadfast defense at their borders, while their fleets harassed the Strabus Kingdom along their East coast. It was because they were simply that confident in the sturdiness of their defense that they could focus their investments on their naval strength.

The one who conceived the current defensive curtain around Kobrook lands was the late Generalissimo Loskan, considered to be a once-in-a-century absolute genius of a strategist. Revered as a hero in the Kobrook Republic, the defensive lines along their borders were the fruits of his lifelong labor.

Even though over a century had passed since his death, the Strabus Kingdom had not been able to punch through this frontier.

Marquis Bologna asked Viscount Sabian with a voice brimming with expectation.

“Good man, I suppose you are the one who proposed an offensive on the Eastern Front. Then I assume you’ve devised a scheme for breaking down this nuisance of a defense?”

Viscount Sabian slightly smiled.

“To give credit where it is due, I believe the Kobrook Republic’s lines are a masterpiece.”

“Do you mean to say you have no confidence?”

Marquis Bologna frowned in disappointment, but Viscount Sabian continued.

“That is not so. The current condition of the Kobrook Republic’s defense is not quite the same as usual. They possess a fatal weakness at present.”

“A weakness? Go on.”

Viscount Sabian explained as he surveyed the map.

“The enemy’s prime error is…”

Viscount Sabian calmly described the critical flaw in the Republic’s defensive lines and the strategy for exploiting this weakness in an orderly manner.

The proposed operation was elaborate, bold – and more than anything, had a high probability of success.

When his explanation concluded, Marquis Bologna and his command staff had their mouths agape.

‘Randol Sabian…’

‘Is this man a genius?’

‘Is there some way we can bring him to our kingdom’s side? How could a man like this be no more than a Viscount?’

“Ahem… Viscount Sabian.”

“Yes, is there a question?”

“No, not quite…”

Marquis Bologna was about to say something, but he faltered when he saw Milton at Viscount Sabian’s rear.

“No, it’s nothing.”

This was when Marquis Bologna resolved: when there were fewer prying eyes, he would make contact with Sabian in secret and offer that he transfer to his command.

Putting forward a transfer offer to a man serving an allied nation was an act that was rude at the least, but had the potential to cause friction and create a fissure.

Despite knowing this, the genius that was Randol Sabian was much too desirable.

‘Even treasure has its rightful owner. He’d be much better off as a Count in our Strabus Kingdom than a Viscount of some minor country like the Lester Kingdom.’

Milton smirked as he watched the cogs turn in Marquis Bologna’s mind.

‘You’re making it too obvious, you old uncle.’

Milton admittedly understood where the Marquis was coming from. Bologna was not some lowly military officer operating on his own, but a Marquis in charge of the entirety of one frontier. It was only a given that he would highly value competent operational staff – wherever he came across them.

But Milton was not concerned in the least.

The reason being…

[Randol Sabian]

Tactician LV.5

Strength – 11        Command – 82

Intellect – 95        Politics – 85

Loyalty – 93

Special Traits – Strategy, Tactics, Intuition, Level-Headed, Silver Tongued.

Strategy LV.9(MAX): Excellent ability to discern the overall flow of war.

Tactics LV.9(MAX): The integrality and effectiveness of tactics used in battle are increased.

Intuition LV.7: Pre-emptively sense critical situations that approach your troops.

Level-Headed LV.8: High resistance to temptation and bribes, and can remain composed even in the face of death.

Silver Tongued LV.7: Persuade or subdue others through dialogue. May be counterproductive when utilized on an individual with strong pride.

Viscount Sabian’s abilities were as above. The Special Traits of Strategy and Tactics had been levelled to the maximum, while every numerical stat except for Strength had surpassed a value of 80.

Importantly, the Loyalty stat was as high as 93.

From Milton’s experiences thus far, there was no need to worry over a possibility of betrayal if the Loyalty stat was greater than 80. And if it surpassed 90, the individual might as well be prioritizing his fidelity to his liege than his own life. As such, Milton had the conviction that Sabian would not be shaken, no matter how enticing the conditions that Marquis Bologna proposed were.

Relaxed, Milton could devote his attention entirely on the war.

“Now that we have agreed on the nature of our operation, it appears all that is left for us is the execution. Let us proceed with dividing up the men into units.”

“Very well.” Marquis Bologna agreed. “Our army will handle the Fortresses of Lientz and Belluno.”

“Then we shall assign ourselves the remaining three forts. I humbly ask that you pay heed to synchronizing our attacks.”

“I shall.”

That day, the substantial army of Marquis Bologna and Milton set off from Lucerne Castle.

The 50,000 troops of Milton and Princess Violet combined with 30,000 troops from the Strabus Kingdom to form a formidable force of 80,000, which divided into five segments as they set off.

***

“They what? Repeat that.”

An emergency report abruptly came flying into the Kobrook Republic’s command.

“The Strabus Kingdom has suddenly begun a frontier-wide onslaught. All five minor forts have come under attack.”

Lieutenant-General Bison, in charge of overseeing the Kobrook Republic’s border, clenched his teeth at the messenger’s report.

“All five strongholds at once? Do you mean to say that the Strabus Kingdom currently has that much capacity remaining on the Eastern Front?”

“We have caught word that the enemy lines have been supplemented by foreign armies.”

“Foreign armies?”

“Yes, sir. They say that a man named Milton Forrest hailing from the Lester Kingdom has joined the war.”

“Milton Forrest, you say?”

Bison’s eyebrow twitched. He knew the name.

No, not just that – before this current war unfolded, all the overseers of the Republic’s borders had been issued a confidential order from the top: if Milton Forrest entered the battlefield, it was to be reported to Central Command immediately.

‘So this is the one that the greenhorn Siegfried is particularly wary of?’

Bison narrowed his eyes and fell into deep thought.

This war between the three allied Republics and the Strabus Kingdom was a spectacular stage upon which any Republican soldier would be thirsting for honor and glory. Yet Lieutenant-General Bison was excluded from this theater, the reason supposedly being that he was the most appropriate man for holding the Kobrook Republic’s borders.

Bison was not convinced by this reasoning.

As opposed to the sparks flying in all the back-and-forth battles of the Northern Front, the humble role he was assigned on the Eastern Front was to stabilize the defensive line and put some modest pressure on the enemy.

For a soldier thirsting for glory such as Lieutenant-General Bison, this most certainly did not sit well with him. To that end, he was quietly raising the intensity of their attacks and pressuring the Strabus Kingdom’s Eastern Front. Though he could not join the spectacular stage that was the Northern Front, he was filled with an ambitious desire to garner his own battlefield achievements befitting of his caliber.

But this was pure and naïve greed.

Siegfried had an accurate grasp of Lieutenant-General Bison’s strengths. In all respects, Bison’s specialty lay in defense rather than offense. He was particularly proficient at managing the defensive lines organically, having served on them all his life. The majority of his achievements in his military career arose from repelling enemy advances while overseeing the Eastern Front’s border defense.

Despite being assigned the most optimal role for him, Bison remained unconvinced. In fact, he went so far as to believe that this foreign bantling named Siegfried had relegated him into this menial job because he was envious of Bison’s talent.

It was an absurd misconception without merit, but he was blinded by his own envy.

In this state of things, Milton Forrest had appeared on the Eastern Front; the one who was said to have emerged victorious against Siegfried. Lieutenant-General Bison had a thought as soon as he heard the information.

‘If I catch onto Milton Forrest here and now, what would that brat from the Hildess Republic think?’

Just imagining his reaction was delightful enough for Bison’s lips to curl into a smile.

At that moment, he forgot that he had to report the appearance of Milton to Central and shouted pompously.

“We will show our iron fist to these impudent dogs who have wandered onto our soil of their own volition. I want a detailed report of the situation at once!”

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