Chapter 114: A Renowned Steed (3)

It happened when Lieutenant-General Bison and his men were halfway to Fort Lientz. 

The forward scouts discovered one detachment of troops laying ahead of them.

“Who’s this? To whom do they report?”

“Are they not the supply unit dispatched from Fort Lientz?”

“Yet they do not wave any banners. Go up and confirm, one of you lads.”

But the scouts were in for a surprise. 

The unidentified unit ahead of them raised their standards, but these were…

“It’s the enemy! They’re the Strabus Kingdom’s allies!”

“Let the main force know immediately! The Strabus’ allies have appeared!”

An unthinkable enemy had crossed their path.

***

“Amazing. It is as if the battlefields are no more than backwoods hunting grounds for you.”

Viscount Sabian laughed at Milton’s awe-filled compliment.

“It was nothing.”

‘That was nothing? Unbelievable.’

All Milton could do was marvel at Sabian’s planning, as he was well aware of all the circumstances that led them here.

First, Viscount Sabian directed the combined army to attack the five minor strongholds simultaneously. With all five under assault at the same time, the Kobrook Republic surrendered two of them and concentrated their manpower on the remaining three in order to maintain their defensive lines. 

Afterward, the Republicans carried out a series of skirmishes on the captured forts with the intention of steadily bleeding out their enemy. This was the Kobrook Republic’s established system of defense.

[To speak the truth, their setup is marvelous. Strategically speaking, they have truly created a work of art in which they maximize the strengths of their specialized troops and superior movement.]

In a military meeting, Viscount Sabian had spoken from the heart and praised the enemy’s defensive line. In some ways, it was also a form of reassurance to the men of the Eastern Front, implying that their struggles were by no means due to incompetence on their part.

In fact, he encouraged them further – perhaps thinking it hadn’t been enough.

[Truth be told – I, too, would indeed have had difficulties in breaking the Kobrook lines, had the situation been as it normally is. But!]

Viscount Sabian looked at everyone around the table as he continued.

[The present state of the Kobrook Republic is not quite business as usual. They as well sent many men as reinforcements to the war on the Northern Front; and as a result, their strength has been reduced.]

It was true: while there was little difference in the number of troops they stationed at the strongholds, their headcount in the rear castles had greatly shrunk. Excluding the detachments always stationed at the minor forts, the three castles originally housed a total reserve force of 60,000 men – but now that number was only 40,000. A third of them had been sent as reinforcements to consolidate the Republicans’ hold on the Northern Front.

[No matter how magnificent their defensive system may be, it is ultimately run by humans. Their lines are indisputably weaker than before, if only for the simple reason that their numbers have reduced.]

With that, Viscount Sabian faced Milton and Marquis Bologna with a voice brimming with confidence.

[If you all act according to my modest plans, we shall see to the enemy’s defensive lines being felled within the next ten days.]

This was the Kobrook Republic’s line of defense he was talking about, the line that had not been broken for entire decades. Viscount Sabian guaranteed that such a defense would fall in just ten days. 

And soon enough, he proved his mettle.

They first enticed the enemy into a battle that was advantageous for the Republicans.

Why? By doing so, they encouraged the enemy to let their guard down and burn through their supply of arrows.

Viscount Sabian scrupulously monitored for the moment they ran out of arrows in order to explore their future course of movement. Though he had a rough idea, he did not take any chances and ascertained their movement through Bianca’s familiar magic. Subsequently, Milton and his men – who were feigning an attack on Fort Brunico – withdrew his troops and repositioned them onto the enemy’s path.

The present situation was the fruits of that labor. The Republican horsemen appeared before Milton like a fox that had been rounded before a hunter.

From the start, it was all within the palm of Randol Sabian’s hand.

Milton spoke as he watched the flustered enemy before him.

“I suppose it’s my part to play from here on out.”

“I will entrust this in your care, my Lord.”

With that, Viscount Sabian withdrew on his horse.

As Milton had said, it was his turn now. He stroked Leonard’s mane as he talked to him.

“I heard that those ones are real fast, being Silfids and all… do you have what it takes Leonard?”

Snort!”

It seemed that Leonard had understood Milton’s words as he fumed through his nostrils and worked himself up, as if replying, ‘Do I have what it takes for this?’

“Reliable lad.”

After stroking Leonard’s mane, Milton issued his command to the cavalry on standby behind him.

“Our toothless game has come before us. Anyone to be bitten by such sorry things will be duly punished. Understood?!”

“Yes, my Lord!”

“Very well. Then…”

Milton took a deep breath and bellowed.

“CHARGE!!”

“URAAAAAAAH!!!”

His entire army moved to attack, with the cavalry forming the head.

***

“Ugh… how is the enemy here of all places?”

Lieutenant-General Bison was flabbergasted as he saw the enemy rushing towards him. No matter which way he looked at it, there was no possible way for the enemy to be awaiting them on this route at this time.

“Lieutenant-General, we may discern how they got here later. Our priority is-”

“I know. All troops, retreat! We will be retreating without engaging in combat!”

Bison was one step ahead of his deputy officer.

It would be madness to fight the enemy when they had run out of most of their munition. Now was the time to retreat.

Thankfully, the enemy was charging at them from a rather distant location in a straight and honest beeline. They had more than enough leeway to escape. Their steeds were the Silfids, the fastest of the three renowned horse breeds of the continent. If they set their mind on running, it was safe to say that no enemy would be able to match their speed.

However, this was a massive miscalculation by Lieutenant-General Bison.

“Lieutenant-General, the enemy is…”

“Have they dropped off?”

Bison asked as he spurred his horse, but his deputy officer’s face had turned deathly pale.

“That’s… they are still trailing behind us. Our distance is gradually closing.”

“What!?”

Shocked, Bison turned to look back. Sure enough, the distance between them was closing.

‘This just can’t be. They’re catching up to our cavalry, the fastest in the entire continent?’

An unacceptable reality was unfolding before his very eyes.

Dududududu…

The louder and louder thundering of their nearing hooves made its way to Bison’s ear.

Unlike the elegant and light-footed gliding of the Silfids, the enemy cavalry’s gallop was a completely different sight.

It was apt to say that their dynamic style of horsemanship shook the very core of the earth, kicking up the soil as they stormed forward. The ominous sound of their hooves throwing up the dirt beneath them drew closer and closer; and before long, the Republicans’ tail was within striking range.

Bison’s eyes widened in disbelief at this spectacle. After all, how could they be caught in a pursuit? He could not imagine this in his wildest dreams.

“This… this just can’t-”

“Smash them apart!!”

The Lester Kingdom’s cavalry – with Milton in the lead – did not wait for Bison to face the truth before ramming into the enemy’s rear.

UOOOOOOOOOH!!”

“Don’t leave a single one alive!”

Thump! Shunt!

Milton’s cavalry tore through the rear, accompanied by the terrible sounds of breaking bones and tearing flesh.

“ARGH!”

“Some-someone… stop- KUH!”

“Ahhhhh!”

It was a one-sided affair, a grisly sight as Milton and his cavalry collided into the enemy who were unable to form an adequate response.

By the nature of their main weapon being the crossbow, the Kobrook Republic’s cavalry was weak at melee combat. Though they carried a sword as a sidearm, the armor they wore was lightweight as they prioritized speed. They were troops that were vulnerable in hand-to-hand combat as long as the distance was closed. 

But even when taking this into account, the unfolding scene was far outside conventional logic. Like a sandcastle being swept away by the tide, the enemy was being felled overwhelmingly. 

Even amid this, the one who stood out the most was Milton and his steed, Leonard. 

Leonard did not care for the enemy’s horses and recklessly crashed into them at full force. With the fearsome power that he boasted, the Silfid horses were blown away after but a single collision, their legs and necks mangled. Sensing the danger that he posed, there were defiant ones that, reared and kicked him with their hind legs – and Leonard just took the full brunt of it.

Krack!

In fact, it was the Silfids’ legs that were broken. The difference in their physique was simply that colossal.

While Leonard’s brutal assault at the very forefront was a sight to behold, the other Lester horses also showed their considerable stopping power. The ‘Destroy’ breed, the fruits of Bianca’s labor, was crushing the Silfids – one of the continent’s three renowned breeds – as if they were paper.

After Milton and his cavalry had engaged in combat, they had decimated half the enemy in the blink of an eye.

“Un… unbelievable. This is an absolute nightmare.”

Lieutenant-General Bison shuddered as he witnessed his men being unilaterally destroyed.

He had believed that they were the world’s fastest cavalry, and he had never thought that there would come a day when they would be caught onto in a chase and hunted down.

It was then when Milton met eyes with Bison.

Milton roared at him.

“Might you be Bison of the Kobrook Republic? I am Milton Forrest, hailing from the Lester Kingdom! Let us duel to decide the victor.”

Milton usually did not favor duels of honor. But if he was presented with an opponent that he could certainly win against, no other method proved as convenient.

‘Now then, accept it. Who knows, there could be a turnaround if you beat me in a battle that’s already lost.’

Milton expected his enemy to accede.

However…

“Lieutenant-General, please seek refuge!”

“You must save yourself, sir! Please, retreat to the rear so we may reorganize.”

Without waiting for Bison’s consent, his men stood in Milton’s way.

“Buzz off!”

Milton boldly charged into the Republican soldiers who blocked his path.

“Bastard! Die- UGH!”

“ARGH!”

Milton’s momentum was superb, wielding a sword with lingering aura as he rode atop Leonard.

The Kobrook Republic’s mounted crossbowmen, who focused on their horsemanship and collective tactics than their individual strength, did not have a single man who could stop Milton.

“Kuh…”

Bison clenched his teeth as part of him died with his men in Milton’s slaughter. But even as the rage he felt reached the very tip of the hairs on his head, he was not a man who was so foolish as to be blind to the truth.

Could he beat Milton even if he were to dash in right this moment?

It was impossible.

Then what could Bison do?

‘I cannot let the death of my men be a dog’s death.’

Bison shouted towards his subordinates, who foolhardily impeded Milton to save him.

“For our great Republic!”

His subordinates responded in kind.

“For the paradise of someday!”

Tears streaked down Bison’s face as he shouted.

“I shall never forget your deaths!”

With that, he turned his horse around and began making his getaway. Milton roared after him.

“Shit, move it you fanatic freaks!”

Their victory was certain, but it would be a considerable pain in the neck if they missed the enemy commander. Milton spurred Leonard forth to pursue Lieutenant-General Bison.

Yet…

“Die, you dog of the monarchy!”

Republicanism everlasting!!”

“Hurrah for the Republic!!”

Bison’s subordinates completely disregarded their own bodies as they threw themselves at Milton to slow him down. There were those that approached near and jumped off their horse at Milton to grab him and dismount together, and there were yet others who targeted him with what little arrows they had left.

“I said move, you bastards!!”

The enemy’s desperate act of defiance was not enough to endanger Milton’s life.

However, for the price of their lives, they succeeded in prolonging that of their commander.

“Congratulations on your outstanding victory, my lord.”

Viscount Sabian approached Milton with this praise after the battle drew to a close.

“An outstanding victory, yeah right… it leaves a sour taste in my mouth for them to have spoon-fed us and still have a bite remaining.”

Seeing Milton’s disappointment, Viscount Sabian clarified with him.

“Are you disappointed that we did not take the head of Lieutenant-General Bison?”

“Frankly, I’d be lying if I said I was not.”

“Hoh, please do not pay it heed. In the grand scheme of things, letting go an officer of such a position should not terribly endanger us.”

From Sabian’s perspective, Lieutenant-General Bison was an opponent that he could toy around with anytime as long as he put his mind to it. It would not create a problem in this war for such an unthreatening opponent to escape with his life.

“The more pressing matters come now. My lord, as you have now extinguished a 10,000-strong force of the enemy elite, it is time for us to make our next move.”

“And what may that be?”

At Milton’s query, Viscount Sabian formed a smile swimming with confidence.

“It is an all-out attack.”

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