As he watched the friendly cavalry being mercilessly exterminated from atop the ramparts, Marquis Bologna bit his lips.
“Will not even one man manage to return?”
‘We’ve lost a precious unit of horsemen because of one idiot acting out of line.’
With a grim face, the Marquis called on a messenger.
“Yes, Marquis! Did you call for me?”
“Behead the ones who opened the fort’s doors without my consent, and hoist their heads high on a pole for all to see!”
“And inform all the men once more – leaving this stronghold is absolutely forbidden until I give the word! If a man infringes this rule, his House shall be responsible even if he is killed in battle.”
“Yes, I shall deliver your words at once.”
The messenger broke into a sweat as he acceded to Marquis Bologna’s spine-chilling orders.
With that, Bologna clenched his teeth as he gazed beyond the fort’s walls, muttering under his breath.
“Four more days. Just four more days and I will pay this back a hundred-fold.”
“It is as if we are facing a turtle.”
For four days, Lieutenant-General Bison attacked the enemy without rest.
They did not only attack Fort Merano, but also went back and forth to Fort Bolzano and ceaselessly harassed both. A rain of arrows came showering down on the enemy’s positions regardless of whether it was day or night. As the walls of the strongholds were constructed to be rather low, the bolts of their long-range crossbows could sufficiently reach the soldiers stationed on the inside of the fort – all the while maintaining a safe distance.
Despite this unilateral onslaught, the enemy showed no signs of budging past the one band of cavalry that had sprung out the gates on the first day.
‘Strange. At this point, aren’t they usually unable to hold and abandon the fort? Why are they being sitting ducks as we pummel them like this?’
Though this was a one-sided battle, Bison was nevertheless instilled with an unidentifiable restlessness.
“Our intelligence says Marquis Bologna is the one that is occupying Fortress Merano, correct?”
“Yes, as far as I am aware.”
“…How strange. I know he is not this incompetent of a man.”
Lieutenant-General Bison had become somewhat acquainted with Marquis Bologna in the long while they had fought against each other on this frontier. Though there were no specific achievements to speak of, he was nevertheless a capable man worthy of being assigned the post of the Eastern Front by the Strabus Kingdom for such a long time.
An enemy he may be – no, because he was an enemy – Bison acknowledged his capabilities.
So why was the enemy being so sluggish?
“This is strange – too strange.”
Seeing Bison’s restlessness, one of his command staff chimed in with his hypothesis.
“It may be that the reins of their present operation are not being assumed by Marquis Bologna, but that upstart we call Milton Forrest.”
“The bantling from that insignificant nation?”
“After all, he has joined this war with a sizable force, regardless of where he hails from.”
“A valid point.”
He realized the change in the enemy’s approach could very well be due to a shift in the enemy’s command. It was certainly a logical explanation for the peculiarity of the present situation.
“Were we able to discern what that boy was doing?”
“As far as I am aware, Milton Forrest is currently attacking Fort Brunico with a force of 5,000 troops.”
“And how is Fortress Brunico?”
“They are still reporting a 2.”
“Hoh, so they do not require reinforcements?”
“Yes, they say that the enemy is unable to properly approach the walls.”
Bison formed a smile at the good news.
“A greenhorn indeed.”
While the Kobrook Republic’s crossbows were powerful when utilized as part of a skirmishing brigade, they were also highly advantageous when used in a defensive position. Though the walls were deliberately designed to be low and thus had low defensive capabilities, it became a different story when their crossbowmen were deployed on the ramparts.
The specialized crossbows were a formidable tool in fortifying positions. In a normal siege battle, a force of 2000 crossbowmen could sufficiently repel an attacker five times their size. Sieging into their positions without knowing this fact would only lead to the needless hemorrhaging of troops.
‘To lose to a young’in like that… as I thought, that Siegfried man was also chump change.”
At this rate, they would win the war on the Eastern Front. Unlike Marquis Bologna, Milton Forrest was nothing more than a rookie who hadn’t the slightest clue how to fight them.
Their victory was assured.
As Bison’s restlessness disappeared after ascertaining this, one messenger came approaching him.
“Lieutenant-General Bison. The arrow reserves have dropped to less than one-tenth our original quantity.”
“Already? I suppose it’s only expected… we’ve been piling on the volleys every day after all.”
Having ceaselessly attacked the enemy day and night for four days, it did make sense that they could consume through the arrow deposits quicker than anticipated.
“Send a dispatch rider to the nearby Fortress Lientz immediately and request a resupply.”
At that moment, Bison spotted a rat in one corner of the tent sitting still as it watched him.
‘What a fearless rat.’
Bison merely chuckled and passed it off as a peculiar sight.
“He’s makin’ his move.”
“In which direction, ma’am?”
“He says Fort Lientz.”
At Bianca’s single utterance, the knights escorting her sent messenger pigeons flying in a myriad of directions.
This was the signal to commence their counterattack.
“Is it happening at last?”
Marquis Bologna clenched his fist after receiving one of the messenger pigeons.
This was the moment he had waited and waited for, and it was finally here.
“Open the gates! Send forth the men who are prepared!”
“Yes, at once!”
With that, Fort Merano’s doors swung open and the Strabus Kingdom army that had weathered beating after beating emerged.
“All units, charge!!”
“Slay the wicked Republicans!”
The emerging Strabus army spread wide and began rushing towards the horse crossbowmen.
“An attack now of all times?”
It was an uncanny timing that made Lieutenant-General Bison narrow his eyes in suspicion; right when they had been intending to withdraw temporarily to resupply.
Be that as it may…
“How many arrows do we have remaining?”
“We still have one-tenth of our original reserves. I believe this would allow twenty to thirty more volleys.”
“I suppose that is just enough for one battle?”
It wasn’t bad at all.
Bison nodded as he watched the enemy spread out and descend upon them.
“Not bad at all indeed.”
They had done more than enough even if they were to retreat here and now. The enemy was bound to have suffered considerable casualties after battering them endlessly for four days.
Be that as it may, hadn’t this turtle that was cowering inside its shell finally stuck out its neck?
It did not seem like a bad idea to give in to ambition and aim for a little more in terms of results.
‘We’ve got enough arrows for one engagement… good. We should engage in one more bout before we leave.’
Bison made his resolution and issued an order.
“All men, remain on horseback and take aim! Annihilate them as soon as they come into our firing range!”
The mounted crossbowmen swiftly moved into their positions in a natural manner that was befitting of their elite status.
And with that, their arrows covered the sky and came raining down upon the enemy.
“Open ranks! Spread out into open ranks!”
“Do not cluster!”
“Footmen, advance forwards! Cavalry, rush at them from the flank! Form a surround!”
As the enemy’s attack came raining down, the Strabus Kingdom’s commanders ordered their soldiers to disperse in a manner they had done many times before. They ordered the high endurance heavy infantry to assume the forefront while the cavalry hastily performed a roundabout maneuver.
Consequently, while there were some signs of casualties among the advancing infantry, it was not terribly substantial.
“Charge! Do not stop moving those feet!”
Bison clicked his tongue as he watched the Strabus commanders spur on their soldiers.
“Tsk… I should have expected that won’t bear much fruit, with them being an opponent familiar with us.”
The Strabus Kingdom’s response was the closest solution that one could realistically implement against the Kobrook Republic’s mounted crossbowmen units.
The mounted crossbowmen’s strengths were a range that almost doubled conventional crossbows and their fast movement. If only one of these two factors was to be negated, their combat strength might as well be cut by half. This was the countertactic devised by the Strabus Kingdom army to actualize this fact. The infantry made a frontal push, while the faster cavalry curved in from the side to cast a surrounding net.
Of course, encircling the Kobrook Republic’s mounted crossbowmen, who all rode Silfid steeds, was by no means an easy task. However, they could be beaten as long as they were boxed in – though that in itself may require a stroke of luck.
In reality, there had been occasions in the past where mounted crossbowmen units that were being operated by inexperienced commanders were boxed in by a surround and wiped out.
“Though those cases arise merely from the good fortune of facing a green commander.”
Lieutenant-General Bison quickly scanned the battlefield. He soon found an out for them and issued a command at once.
“Target the cavalry incoming from the right first! Do not let them form their surround!”
The Strabus army’s tactic could only succeed if their cavalry established a surround in the time it took for their heavy infantry to close the distance between them. Therefore, their utmost priority was to ignore the advancing infantry at the front, and clip the wings of the horsemen that were dispersing towards them on the sides.
The error that commanders could make in this situation was to attack the easy and slow-moving target that was the heavy infantry, neglecting the cavalry coming for the flanks until it was too late.
That was an error that could not happen in the hands of the seasoned Bison.
Acceding to his precise command, a volley came flying towards the cavalry detachment trying to develop a surround on the right flank.
Unlike the heavily armored frontal infantry, the horsemen were a unit of light cavalrymen. They fell left and right and were thrown into disarray as the Kobrook Republic’s crossbows dealt a significant blow.
“We have an opening! All men, after me!”
Bison personally commanded the troops as he led the way in the direction of their retreat. Even as he did so, the volleys he diligently ordered to be fired continued to cause losses for the Strabus Kingdom army.
As soldiers fell here and there, Marquis Bologna urged his soldiers with a thunderous voice.
“Do not be afraid! Spread the cavalry out! Begin forming the surround once more. Victory is ours the moment we halt their movements!”
Lieutenant-General Bison roared at his troops in a voice that did not lose out in power.
“There is no need to fear. The enemy’s cavalry is as slow as snails – they cannot possibly catch onto us! Fire at will as we move and exterminate their horsemen!”
These two commanders, now all too familiar with each other, gave their utmost in directing their troops in yet another matchup between them.
The outcome was…
“Tsk… we did not gain as much as I thought.”
“Can we not trap them after all? Those damn Silfids…”
Neither was satisfied with the result. Lieutenant-General Bison did not inflict as much damage as he strived to, while Marquis Bologna could not catch the enemy even after mobilizing all the forces stationed inside the fort.
But if one were to be technical and boil it down to real gains and losses, Bison was the one who had benefited from this battle. While the damage he inflicted was not up to his hopes, it was substantial damage nonetheless.
‘Our arrows are starting to run dry…’
In war, one had to know when to pull back – and Bison was no stranger to this as he ordered without hesitance.
“We are disengaging! All men, follow my lead at full speed!”
He and his subordinates bolted with all their might. The Silfid breed horses revealed their astonishing speed as they entered a full-fledged gallop, using their long legs to effortlessly propel themselves forth in a manner that was elegant even at these top speeds.
With that, they faded off into the distance, gone like the wind.
“Marquis, the enemy has fled. We should give chase at onc-”
“No, that’s enough.”
Marquis Bologna was well aware that their cavalry could not match up to the speed of the mounted crossbowmen if they had set their heart on withdrawing. Pursuit was impossible.
“We expected as much anyway.”
There was no need to chase them.
Though the enemy had slipped their grasp, there was a faint, mysterious smile on Bologna’s lips.
Having withdrawn from the battlefield, Bison confirmed the status of his army.
“How are our conditions?”
“We remain in good shape. We have suffered less than 100 casualties.”
Bison smiled contentedly at the messenger’s report.
“Good. I expect no less from the strongest skirmishing brigade.”
Despite having engaged the enemy for four straight days, their losses were less than one percent. This was all due to the specialized strength of the mounted crossbowmen unit – and Bison’s ability to command, which perfectly brought out this unique strength.
“Our only concern is that we urgently require a resupply of arrows. We can no longer fire a full volley.”
“As I am aware. Then we shall mobilize to resupply at once. Have we touched base with Fort Lientz?”
“Yes, we have.”
“Then let us make haste. Resupplying is our utmost priority.”
Lieutenant-General Bison and his unit made a beeline for Fort Lientz.Previous Chapter Next Chapter