Chapter 115: A Renowned Steed (4)

“All troops, attack!”

“We will capture the fortress within the day!”

“Do not fall behind the other armies! We shall be the first!”

By Milton’s command, three substantial armies began a full assault on Fort Lientz, Fort Belluno and Fort Brunico.

Though they had already divided their total army and were indeed in the process of attacking the forts, this had not been a proper siege process. The Kobrook Republic’s specialized crossbows were much too useful in a fortified position, and attacking them recklessly would result in ally losses mounting.

Previously, the only time they had launched a full-scale attack was at the very start. After two of the enemy forts were surrendered in this initial offensive, the allied forces were ordered to only maintain a pretense of attacking the remaining three strongholds.

But there was no need for that anymore, as they began their siege in earnest with Milton’s command.

Jerome led a force of 30,000 to attack Fort Lientz, while Princess Violet led 20,000 to attack Fort Belluno. And as one expected, Milton also personally led an army to launch a full-fledged attack on Fort Brunico.

Precisely 3 days.

Fortress Belluno lasted the longest, but all three strongholds ultimately passed into their hands. When accounting for Fort Merano and Fort Bolzano that had been seized by Marquis Bologna prior, all five minor strongholds had now been captured.

Even as all this unfolded, the Kobrook Republic did not show any sign of response.

***

“To be precise, it was more that they could not respond.”

Viscount Sabian said as he poured Milton a cup of tea.

“They could not, you say?”
“Yes. My lord, is it not true that you have decimated a skirmish brigade of 10,000 men? From that moment, they lost their avenue of performing their harassments.”

Milton took a sip of his tea and queried.

“A loss of 10,000 elite horsemen is certainly not insignificant damage. Yet the way I see it, it is not quite enough damage for them to be unable to form an adequate defensive response – is it?”

 “That would be the case in more normal times, but have I not mentioned it before? The present state of the Kobrook Republic’s lines are far from the usual affair.”

“Aaaah… did you not say that just for the sake of it?”

“No, I did not.”

Viscount Sabian sighed as he continued his explanation.

Though the rear castles originally housed a reserve force of 60,000, the number dispatched to them had been shrunk to 40,000.

Out of those 40,000, 10,000 were sent as reinforcements to protect the minor strongholds, leaving a total reserve force of 30,000. 

A further 10,000 constituting the elite cavalry unit led by Lieutenant-General Bison was dispatched to carry out skirmish operations. However, that entire unit was caught by Milton and annihilated, with their commander alone narrowly escaping death.

Their remaining reserve forces amounted to 20,000 men.

“They must protect three castles, yet their remaining headcount is no more than 20,000 men.”

“I see, so they do not have much room to breathe at all.”

“Indeed. In the first instance, their five frontal forts were difficult to capture in their entirety as they were continuously reinforced from the rear, harassing attackers and preventing the execution of a siege. Half their men would be stationed in their fortified positions, while the other half were cavalry detachments who would commit to attacks from the outside.”

In all respects, the Kobrook Republic’s iron defense was maintained through the superb use of their skirmish units as reinforcements. 

Without the support of them, the five minor forts were easy positions to capture.

Milton was aware of everything up to this point as well.

“Be that as it may, what would we have done if the enemy overdid themselves and sent reinforcements?”

“We would welcome it with open arms. If the enemy overexerted and reinforced their frontal positions, does that not mean the castles behind them are empty as could be? Is there much more to be said? All that would be required is to mobilize the army at once and seize the castles.”

Milton nodded his head in awe at his words. No matter how their enemy responded, Viscount Sabian had already paved a path to victory.

“If that is so, was it the enemy’s best response available to restrain themselves from reinforcing the five strongholds as we captured them?”

“Yes. However, they are delaying the inevitable. The outcome will not change.”

“Is that so?”

“Indeed. The enemy is already on their last legs, so to say. They are merely dragging this matter along until they are checkmated – a meaningless flounder.”

“……”

Though Viscount Sabian’s explanation was brimming with self-confidence, Milton’s face hardened.

‘Dragging matters along, huh…’

Viscount Sabian commented on Milton’s peculiar expression.

“What is the matter, my lord?”

“If the enemy is dragging this matter along, would they not have their own set of reasons for doing so?”

“Certainly. They have likely requested reinforcements from their home front, and are intent on holding their positions in the castles until they arrive. Be that as it may…”

“Excluding the forces that were necessary to protect their borders, the rest of the Republic’s military strength should be concentrated on the Northern Front. Therefore, the reinforcements they receive will be minor – if even that.”

Viscount Sabian nodded in agreement.

“Quite precisely. My lord, your eye for discerning the flow of war has-”

“But!”

Milton cut Sabian off once more. 

He asked the Viscount with a grave expression.

“Though they may not receive reinforcements from their home front, what if they receive them from other places?”

“Other places…?”

“Siegfried could lead an army in person and come to turn the situation of this frontline around.”

“……”

Viscount Sabian did not answer, but his face seemingly told that he did not agree with Milton’s words.

“Ahem… my lord. There is a possibility that some reinforcements arrive from the North, but I am not inclined to believe that a key commander would abandon the main field of battle and make his way here.”

“Will that truly be so?”

“Yes. Perhaps it would be a different story if Siegfried hailed from the Kobrook Republic, but is he not one of the Hildessians? It is no matter that the Republics have formed a coalition, for ultimately he must choose between duty to his own country or another.”

“Will that truly be so?”

“My lord…”

Viscount Sabian looked troubled as Milton repeated himself.

Milton then said a single phrase.

“I don’t have a good feeling about this.”

“……”

“My good man Sabian, I may not be able to analyze this situation as you do with stellar logic and reasoning, but… I have a bad hunch.”

Milton was instilled with an increasingly mysterious feeling; one that said Siegfried would appear on this battlefield without fail.

“What is our strategy from here on out?”

“For now, we will attack the three castles in turn to discern the distribution of their constituent troops. Then I intend to launch a siege on each of the castles sequentially, beginning with the one housing the least defenders.”

“Split the army in three.”

“In three? My lord, surely you are not…?”

“We shall launch a full-scale attack on all three castles immediately.”

Viscount Sabian showed blatant disapproval for Milton’s drastic command.

“My lord, I believe the best course of action is to minimize our losses, though it may take a while longer.”

“We will have to put up with some losses.”

Milton wanted to occupy all three castles before Siegfried stepped into the scene. If they did so, they could fight from a considerably advantageous position even if he were to intervene in this frontier.

Just as anticipatorily developing one’s pieces in a game of go proved beneficial in later moments, Milton intended to preoccupy the three castles.

“My lord, if that is your will, then I recommend we concentrate our assault on Bells Castle and Hornies Castle, leaving the main castle that is Litinque Castle until last. Rather than dividing our army into three, we would incur fewer losses by splitting it into two.”

Viscount Sabian offered a compromise to their plans.

“Split into two, you say…”

“Regardless of our superiority in numbers, dividing the army into three to conduct a siege is an ill-advised plan outside the realms of common sense. My lord, I implore that you reconsider your options.”

Milton was as unsatisfied as ever.

But that was merely how he felt at heart; and in his head, he too knew that Viscount Sabian was right.

‘That blockhead that was the First Prince ruined himself because he didn’t listen to Sabian.’

He was going to avoid stooping to the same level as that moron at all costs.

“I understand. I shall do as you say.”

“Thank you. I shall divide and advance the army at once.”

“Very well. Let us make utmost haste.”

“Most certainly.”

With that, the combined forces of the Strabus Kingdom and two foreign allies split their army and attacked the enemy in two locations.

Milton and 50,000 soldiers under his command headed for Bells Castle, while Marquis Bologna headed for Hornie Castle with an equivalent force of 50,000.

Viscount Sabian remained at the rear and commanded the remaining troops in order to solidify their hold on the captured strongholds, remaining on standby with the reserves.

***

“Attack! There’s no need to drag it along – we shall fell Bells Castle within the day!”

Milton rallied his men as they poured on an assault on Bells Castle. The army he commanded was the allied forces consisting of 40,000 Lester Kingdom soldiers and 10,000 men from the Florence Principality. 

Spearheading them from the very front was Milton’s most prized general, Jerome. This was an indication of how vigilant Milton was being regarding this battle.

“My lord, will there be no need to break their gates using siege weaponry?”

Trike said to Milton as he stood on standby beside him.

Milton shook his head and answered.

“If possible, we will capture this castle while maintaining as intact a standard formation as can be. Judging from their response, they are in a state where this should be achievable.”

“True – their troops do seem to be few in number.”

Trike agreed with Milton.

They did not have precise knowledge of the troop size inside the castle, but judging from the number of arrows that were being fired at them, they could estimate that it was a pitifully low headcount.

In actuality, the three castles which formed the rear of the Republic’s defensive line were substantial in scale. They were constructed to be able to stockpile much in the way of supplies and soldiers, so they may send a continuous stream of support to the frontal strongholds. The castles were massive enough to accommodate over 10,000 troops.

Yet at present, one of these massive castles was being protected by 5000 troops at the most. 

No matter how sturdy the castle itself was, it would not be able to function properly with such a small band protecting it.

“The defense on the eastern side is the sloppiest. Trike, give assistance to the men there.”

“Understood. Ah! Will I be allowed to use that?”

Milton sighed at Trike’s question filled with anticipation.

“You may not. There is no purpose in leaking information to the enemy when we do not even require its use at present.”

“Tsk, I haven’t given it a single spin on the field…”

“A no is a no. Or are you unconfident in your skills?”

“Will I ever? Let’s go, lads. It’s time to get to work!”

With that, Trike’s chariot archer unit rolled out.

***

“The eastern walls are definitely the most lax.”

Arriving on the eastern side atop his chariot as commanded, Trike murmured as he watched the castle ramparts. The small number of defenders meant that the arrows that came flying were few in density, with many climbing hooks having already been planted on the walls by the attackers.

Trike commanded his subordinates at once.

“We’ll be supporting the friendlies here. Take aim!”

The archers on the chariots drew their bows. And then…

“Fire!”

Pipipipipiping!

With the high-pitched sound of the bowstrings being released, countless arrows dotted the sky.

“KUH!”

“ARGH!!”

The enemy soldiers that were busily moving about atop the ramparts crouched down together as they received the volley.

“Keep firing! Support our allies by suppressing them!”

“Yes, sir!”

The chariot archers relentlessly fired at the walls. Being a chariot brigade, the amount of arrows each archer stocked was far greater than a regular archer. Furthermore, at Milton’s direction, Trike trained these archers with a focus on the technique of rapid firing.

Archery with ultimate power, speed, and accuracy: these three elements came together to form the godly archer that was Trike. The number of men who were at his level numbered less than one in 10,000 – no, less than one in 100,000. No one could possibly demand that level of archery from regular archers.

And so Milton directed that they concentrate on one thing: firepower.

Do they not say that one bullet is bound to hit if one fires many?

Milton advised that they sacrifice accuracy and develop their ability to pour on as many arrows as possible at the enemy in a short amount of time.

Consequently, Trike focused his training on teaching his men to rapid fire, and the result was that the archers of Trike’s chariot archer unit could fire 15 arrows in as little as 10 seconds. Trike himself could fire 27 arrows in the span of 10 seconds, but that was the story of a monster. 15 arrows are already more than enough for one to be labeled a skilled archer.

To this end, whenever Trike and his chariot archer brigade fired their volleys, it was as if a shower was pouring down on the battlefield – a shower that would have one drenched if they stood in it for just 5 seconds. 

Daunted by this rainfall, the enemies atop the ramparts were crouched down and could not move an inch. 

Meanwhile, Trike scanned the walls with eagle eyes. If it was his men’s job to keep the arrows flying, his was to pick off deliberate targets.

Soon enough…

“Is it that bloke?”

Trike’s eyes sparkled.

He had discovered their commander, bellowing at his men atop the ramparts and spurring them on. 

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