Chapter 112: A Renowned Steed (1)

The first matter for any command staff as they entered battle was to become up to date with the situation.

The defensive line that Lieutenant-General Bison oversaw had a rapid response system in place. The conditions of the Kobrook Republic’s strongholds were reported on a numerical scale from 1 to 10 to make the reports prompt and accurate. 

1~3 signified that an attack was defendable with the resources on-site. Meanwhile, 4~6 indicated that they required reinforcements, and 7~10 signified that they would not be able to defend even with additional reinforcements and needed to retreat.

Using this simple code, the Kobrook Republic’s borderlines were able to swiftly receive situational reports and respond in haste.

The messengers reported in a similar fashion at present.

“Fort Lientz is a 5.”

“Fortress Belluno is a 5.”

“Fort Brunico is presently a 2.”

“Fortress Merano is a 6.”

“Fort Bolzano is a 5.”

Bison’s expression turned grave.

‘So four of the five forts require reinforcements?’

It was evident that this was more of a coordinated operation than he had initially thought.

According to their system of defense, it was advised that at least three out of the five strongholds were in their hands at any one time for their arrangement to take effect.

The reserve troops on standby at the three castles amounted to 40,000 men. They had to be distributed among the four endangered forts to save them.

‘Excluding Fort Brunico, at least two out of the remaining four forts need to survive. In that case…’

Lieutenant-General Bison came to a speedy conclusion.

“The 2,000 men stationed at Fortress Merano are to retreat. Mobilize 5,000 of the troops stationed at Bells Castle. They shall combine for a total force of 7,000 to be sent as reinforcements to Fortress Lientz.”

With this, they surrendered Fort Merano but instead ensured they protected Fort Lientz.

Up next was…

“Also withdraw the men stationed at Fortress Bolzano. Mobilize 5000 of the troops stationed at Hornie Castle and send both detachments to Fortress Belluno as reinforcements.”

 With Bison’s quick orders, two of the five forts were decisively surrendered so that the other three may survive.

“Move with haste. Our system of defense is only as effective as how much faster we move than the enemy.”

“Yes, understood!”

The messengers rushed out to relay his orders.

Bison murmured to himself as he gazed at the landscape through his window.

“I shall show you exactly why our Kobrook Republic’s defense is known to be insurmountable.”

***

Prior to Lieutenant-General Bison’s orders, the distribution of the Kobrook Republic’s forces was as follows.

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

But in order to counteract the Strabus Kingdom’s simultaneous attack on all five forts, the composition of their deployments quickly transformed.

Litinque Castle – 20,000

Bells Castle – 5,000

Hornie Castle – 5,000

Fortress Lientz – 10,000

Fortress Belluno – 11,000

Fortress Brunico – 2,000

Fortress Merano – Withdrawn

Fortress Bolzano – Withdrawn

Though they surrendered two of the forts, two others were bolstered with additional troops to maintain the lines. Furthermore, the reinforcements dispatched to Fort Lientz and Fort Belluno were prepared to deploy to Fort Brunico if the need were to arise.

It was truly a superb response.

Due to the Kobrook Republic’s swift repositioning, the enemy’s offensive was halted after capturing two of the five forts: Fort Merano and Fort Bolzano

Though the Strabus forces and their allies now seized these two strongholds, it was not of notable benefit to them. In fact, it was more apt to say that they were merely occupying these forts because the enemy had willingly withdrawn.

All things considered, the capturing of these two forts in itself was a meaningless endeavor. These forts were deliberately designed to make it difficult to house a substantial force, and the low walls were insufficient to form an adequate defense.

Soon, the Kobrook Republic would carry out an intense attack on these two forts and torment their foes. This was the tactic that they had implemented time and again; and the Strabus Kingdom, knowing this full well, had tried to brace through it time and again – and failed.

“All men, we shall commence our sortie!”

Lieutenant-General Bison personally led a force of 10,000 cavalries from Litinque Castle and headed for Fort Merano. Furthermore, he hastily sent a messenger to the Fortresses of Lientz and Belluno to request an additional 3000 cavalry from each.

This totaled a relatively small force of 16,000, but it was more than enough. From the first instance, their objective was not the retaking of the fort but harassing their enemy as they tried to hold the position.

“Lieutenant-General! Fort Merano has come into view.”

From atop his horse, Bison roused the men with a roar.

“We shall show these invaders our prowess. Attack!!”

At once, the cavalry galloped forth.

Only, instead of approaching Fort Merano head-on, they approached it at an angle and curved around the fort’s walls.

***

“Marquis Bologna, the enemy is drawing near the right side of the stronghold.”

“All men, overlap your shields and maintain a phalanx formation!”

Marquis Bologna responded right away to the new threat. He was well aware of what the enemy’s aim was, for this was a favorite tactic of the Kobrook Republic whenever such skirmishes occurred.

Once the 10,000 cavalries that were circumnavigating Fortress Merano sufficiently closed their distance to the walls, all the horsemen whipped out a crossbow.

“Target the soldiers atop the ramparts! Take aim!”

Ka-chick.

At the order of their commanders, the 10,000 horsemen readied their crossbows.

With that…

“Fire!”

The arrows of 10,000 men blotted out the sun.

***

“Here it comes!”

“Ensure you raise your shields fully!”

“I shall personally slay anyone who lowers their shields just because they are struck in the arm!”

Even as the commanders threateningly ordered their soldiers…

Thunk thunk thunk! Thunk thunk thunk thunk!

“Agh!”

“Urgh…”

“AHH!”

A shower of arrows poured down on the defenders.

“HOLD! WE MUST HOLD!”

“Do not let go of your shields! We die the moment you let go!”

The commanders clenched their teeth and continued to vehemently direct their men. Despite that, their losses were beginning to pile on.

‘For things to be this dire despite such thorough preparation…’

Marquis Bologna bit his lip as he watched the troops weathering the storm.

He was already aware that the Kobrook Republic’s crossbows were particularly special.

Every component was crafted with a specialized smelting method for the part, and these were masterfully assembled to form a remarkable final product; the firing range of which doubled that of a regular crossbow. Of course, the firing power of the Kobrook crossbows was also greater for equivalent distances.

The Kobrook Republic’s pristinely crafted crossbows were a highly desired good for other nations. Several times they had managed to procure the item and attempted to reverse engineer it, but replicating the quality of the original was impossible. The Kobrook Republic’s unique smithery and crafting was a well-kept national secret, so valued that it was not even shared with the other Republics.

As such, when this item appeared on the market once in a while, it was so highly appraised that it would fetch a price ten times that of a regular crossbow. The only nation that could arm their soldiers to the teeth with these crossbows was the Kobrook Republic itself.

‘If there’s any solace, it’s that their rate of fire is fairly lower.’

Marquis Bologna commanded the soldiers to raise their shields and brace through the onslaught until it ended, for his present role was to hold the two strongholds they had managed to capture.

Just four days.

If they held for just four days, this situation could be flipped right back around in an instant.

And so for now, they had to endure even if they were to incur some losses.

But it was then…

“Let’s show the Republican bastards what we’re made of!”

“URAAAH!!”

The doors of Fort Merano opened, and one detachment of horsemen came galloping out.

Marquis Bologna was beyond shocked.

“Who is it!? Who decided to run out without consent!?”

“Viscount Betrick is making a sortie with his knights. Up to 1000 of our cavalry has followed behind him.”

“That idiotic… do you mean to say he’s acting outside orders!?”

Marquis Bologna thundered.

Viscount Betrick was a name that he recalled. He was a green-as-could-be youngster who had only just had his coming-of-age ceremony this year and inherited his peerage. 

At best he was courageous, but at worst he was airheaded. In addition to his exceedingly belligerent behavior, he was a young officer who was always antsy over how he could garner some more achievements under his belt.

It seemed that he was unable to withstand being attacked so one-sidedly and stormed out the fort with his own forces.

“That idiot! Did I not hammer into him that he should learn to stay put?”

Marquis Bologna glared at Viscount Betrick and his horsemen from atop the ramparts.

***

“Good, we can catch them.”

On the forefront, Viscount Betrick clenched his teeth as he led his band of cavalry.

He was a youthful noble brimming with confidence who had reached the Expert level at a relatively young age. 

However, there was a time and place to be confident, and being unable to discern this could lead to poor results.

Rather than remaining huddled up inside the fort and weathering the enemy’s attack, he thought it would be better to attack the enemy with his own cavalry. The enemy’s crossbows had impressive firing power, but they had a low rate of fire and the intervals between their shots were long. Viscount Betrick was convinced that if he were to lead some horsemen and quickly rush them down, it would be a significant contribution and he would receive all the glory.

In reality, this was more of a delusion than a logical conclusion. He had rationalized his hopes of what could be and persuaded himself into believing that this was a real opportunity.

They say that individuals only concerned with their own success should never be allowed to devise strategies in times of war. Viscount Betrick was a typical instance of such a man.

Whatever the case may be, he was blinded by his own ambition and rushed at the crossbowmen. His courage to act outside his superior’s orders came from a strange delusion that if he were to make a substantial contribution to the war effort, it would all be forgiven – or even rewarded.

But there was something he did not know.

The cavalry of the Kobrook Republic was not said to specialize in skirmishes just because of their long-distance crossbows.

***

“Lieutenant-General Bison! A detachment of enemy cavalry is charging at us.”

Bison smirked at the messenger’s report.

“Hoh, is a rookie fresh on the battlefield acting out of line?”

Anyone who knew what the Kobrook Republic’s mounted crossbowmen were capable of would not undertake such a reckless charge. If they were being charged, it meant that whoever was leading the cavalry was a new face unaccustomed to this field.

“Like moths drawn to a flame; and we shall graciously accept! Do not let a single one of them go!”

“Yes, sir!”

At Bison’s command, the mounted crossbowmen moved to position in perfect order.

***

“Viscount Betrick! The enemy has redirected their aim towards us.”

“Raise the shields!! Bear through it!”

Viscount Betrick commanded his subordinates, likewise raising his sturdy kite shield to cover himself and bracing for impact.

‘We can bear through one volley.’

He knew that the enemy’s crossbows had a long range of fire – but he also knew of the downside that their rate of fire was slower than regular crossbows. Thus, he had assessed that they could weather the first volley and thunder forward to close the distance with the enemy’s tail.

‘As soon as we close the distance, horsemen equipped with crossbows will be easy pickings.’

The arrows of the crossbowmen came flying.

“Shields up!”

“Pay close heed- argh-”

Thunk thunk! Thunk thunk thunk!

“AAARGH!”

“Ne-e-eigh!”

As the arrows found their mark, Viscount Betrick’s unit of horsemen suffered serious damage.

If the crossbows had a long range of fire, it meant that as the distance to their target shortened, the destructive power of their arrows conversely increased.

The crossbow bolts punched through the knights’ armor, and were even potent enough to penetrate shields.

Viscount Betrick’s cavalry detachment had been struck with a volley at a distance where the enemy’s destructive power was the greatest. With just one attack, as much as half of the horsemen fell out of the charge. Betrick clenched his teeth.

“Do not be afraid! Follow my lead!!”

He valiantly galloped forward. There was no retreat at this point anyway. He had to close the distance with the remaining half of the unit at least.

However…

“Viscount Betrick, the enemy is fleeing!”

The enemy had no intentions of engaging in melee combat, instead promptly spurring their horses away from the Viscount and his men to increase their gap.

“Ugh… catch them! Do not give them respite!”

Viscount Betrick shouted at his men as he rushed at the forefront. Several arrows had already found its mark in his steed, but it acceded to its master’s will and continued to gallop forth with thundering hooves.

Yet…

“H-… how could this…”

The longer he spurred forward, the further away the enemy became.

This was why the Kobrook Republic’s mounted crossbowmen were so optimized for skirmish warfare. The steeds which they rode were a breed known as the Silfids, one of the three renowned breeds of coursers on the continent.

Silfids, Paladins and Stroms – these were the three breeds of horses that were of most renown in this continent. Even out of those, Silfids were bred to have the greatest speed on flat terrain. While they were lighter than other horses, their legs were also longer. Although on first inspection their physique seemed to be lackluster, a closer look revealed that they had no unnecessary fat and their muscles were developed entirely for fast gaits. As such, the Silfids were known to be the fastest out of the three renowned continental breeds of horses.

And every last one of the Kobrook Republic’s mounted crossbowmen were riding a Silfid.

Their equipment was as light as they could afford it to be, and they waged war exclusively through unilateral long-distance attacks where they carefully avoided melees as they weaved in and out. This was the style of the Kobrook Republic’s strongest skirmish unit, the mounted crossbowmen.

“Fire!”

With enough distance created between them, the crossbowmen steadied themselves and let loose another volley that covered the sky.

“SHIT!”

It was only now that Viscount Betrick realized how foolhardy his decision had been.

And in war, lapses in judgment were accompanied by a horrendous price.

“ARGH!”

“Ugh… AH!”

“Pl-please… spare- KUH!”

As he bore witness to his comrades dying left and right, Viscount Betrick bravely charged until the very last.

However, he too was ultimately unable to withstand the concentrated fire of the crossbows and met his end, eventually falling off his horse lifelessly.

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