Chapter 117: Siegfried’s Interventions (2)

“But would it be easy to draft civilians? If it’s not done properly, wouldn’t it just cause discontent?”

“Isn’t this the Republic? It couldn’t have been that difficult.”

“Ah… you’re right.”

The prevalent culture in the Republic was to give their life for Republicanism. In such a cultural atmosphere, if you refused instead of doing the same thing, then you’d be treated as less than a horse. It wouldn’t have been difficult to increase their manpower if the people were encouraged just a little bit. 

“Then, it won’t be as easy as it’s been up until now.”

Marquis Bologna let out a sigh of regret.

“It can't be helped. Even so, we’ll be able to capture it in ten days.”

“Ten days? Is there a reason you’re rushing, Marquis Forrest?”

“In a war, we never know when or what could happen. So, when there’s a clear opportunity, I want to achieve as much as possible.”

Milton turned to look at Viscount Sabian.

‘Is everything still good?’

‘It’s all good, sir.’

The lord and vassal exchanged opinions quickly and briefly. Milton had previously instructed Viscount Sabian to keep track of the Northern Front since Siegfried could intervene at any moment. Seeing how there was no information, Viscount Sabian figured that meant there weren’t any reinforcements from the North yet.

‘In that case, let’s focus on besieging Litinque Castle for now.”

***

When the large army of 60,000 led by Milton and Marquis Bologna arrived at Litinque Castle, Milton quietly admired it and nodded his head.

“It’s definitely worth giving up on both Bells Castle and Hornie Castle.”

Litinque Castle looked very solid and perfect. The walls were high and strong, and the moat surrounding the castle was 5 meters wide. Because the gate functioned as a drawbridge, it would be impossible to use a battering ram and because of the moat, it would be difficult to use a ladder or grappling hook to climb up the castle walls.  Milton had attacked many castles, but Litinque Castle seemed to be the strongest and most difficult out of all the castles. But that was only natural since it was the last fortress guarding the borders of the Kobrook Republic.

‘What should I do? At this rate, it’ll be difficult to capture in ten days…’

Now that things had gotten like this, Milton began to think that what Marquis Bologna said previously, to take some troops and attack from the back, wasn’t a bad idea. At that moment, Viscount Sabian, who had returned from viewing the walls, spoke to Milton.

“My Lord, I’ve come up with a plan for the siege.”

“It seems doable?”

“Yes, My Lord. Although it’ll be very difficult, there’s still a few possibilities.”

“A few possibilities…”

For a second, Milton thought it was ridiculous. Here he was, trying to think of something, but Viscount Sabian had already thought up multiple ways to attack the castle. 

“Let’s hear it.”

“Yes, My Lord. There are two possibilities, but before I tell you what they are, I have something to ask you.”

“What is it?”

“There’s one where we could win in three days, but there’ll be a lot of damage. And there’s another where it’ll take half a month, but there’ll be far less damage.”

“And you’re asking me to choose one?”

“Yes, My Lord.”

Milton sighed at Viscount Sabian’s words. 

‘Half a month is too long. It’s long but…’

Milton spoke after thinking it through.

“How much damage would we take in the three-day operation?”

“It would be at least 20,000 to 40,000 troops, My Lord.”

“Half of our troops would die?”

“That castle demands at least that much, My Lord.”

Milton spoke bitterly.

“What about the operation that takes half a month?”

“Under 5,000 men, My Lord. Maybe even less than 2,000 men.”

“Hooooo…”

‘You’re calling this an option?’

Milton sighed deeply. He wanted to attack as quickly as possible. MIlton wanted to settle the situation here before the enemy’s reinforcements arrived from the Northern Front. However, the difference in casualties between the two operations was too big. If Milton was an ordinary nobleman, he would have prioritized his war service over the lives of his men but…

“It can’t be helped. Let’s go with the half a month plan.”

“Yes, My Lord.”

When he heard Milton’s answer, Viscount Sabian inwardly smiled. 

‘With My Lord’s character, I knew he would go with this option.’

Viscount Sabian had deliberately explained his plans like this so that Milton would give him this answer. Of course, there hadn’t been anything wrong with his report to Milton. However, there were some exaggerations. The three days attack plan meant they would launch a full-scale frontal offensive… Truthfully, even with that, there would have been less than 10,000 casualties. 

Although Litinque Castle looked strong and sturdy, there were still a few hidden cards on their side as well. From the start, Lester Kingdom’s army wasn’t putting in all their effort and men into this. After all, this wasn’t a war in their own country; they had only come as a reinforcement force. If Milton wanted to, they could very easily besiege Litinque Castle head-on with sheer power. 

But, Viscount Sabian encouraged Milton to make one choice over another by reporting exaggerated results. What reason could he have for doing this? Could it be that he was wavering in his loyalty to Milton? No, that wasn’t it. Viscount Sabian’s loyalty towards Milton was as strong as ever. He did this because he thought Milton was going about this war wrong.

‘My Lord is too conscious of Siegfried. We can calmly proceed with the war but we’re putting in too much effort into it.’

Viscount Sabian believed that in his role as a tactician, sometimes, he had to confront his Lord for his own sake. At least, that’s how he comforted himself. 

Truthfully, with his personality, Viscount Sabian didn’t like doing something like this. With his personality, he believed that if he didn’t like something his Lord was doing, it was best if Sabian pointed it out directly. It wasn’t his personality to be evasive or to influence someone into doing something else. But he didn’t avoid it. No, he couldn’t. Viscount Sabian remembered belonging to the First Prince Skyt’s army in the past.

That war. For Viscount Sabian, it was both his first actual war as well as the war where they were defeated miserably. At that time, Viscount Sabian had boldly and straightforwardly spoken to the First Prince. He had been convinced that he was right and he couldn’t just watch that dimwitted First Prince be reckless. Viscount Sabian didn’t care whether the person he was speaking to was the next king and without hesitation, Viscount Sabian had spoken directly.

But what was the result? The First Prince didn’t accept his words and even excluded him completely from his staff. In the end, the First Prince’s army had been annihilated. Others didn’t know this, but that war had traumatized him. Although Viscount Sabian had been completely excluded, the army that he had been in suffered a terrible defeat. Because it was the first war that he had participated in, that war remained vividly imprinted in his memories. Not to mention, the words of Marquis Trauss, his deceased teacher. 

[Tsk, wasn’t there a way to say the same thing differently? You knew the personality of His Highness, Prince Skyt, yet you didn’t stand down?]

Viscount Sabian didn't know this then, but during his teacher’s funeral, he thought over the words and realized that his teacher had been right. He had been overconfident. He thought all he had to do was say the correct thing. Then, the person he was speaking to would automatically understand and agree to everything. Why? Because he was correct. It had been arrogant of him. 

With that in mind, Viscount Sabian realized that he had some responsibility for the First Prince’s army being defeated that badly. From an average person’s point of view, Viscount Sabian’s thought process was too much. But because Viscount Sabian was smart and talented, and as self-aware as he was of his skills, he was also a person who took responsibility for himself. 

Sometimes, a competent person will contradict himself. This was exactly what Viscount Sabian was doing right now. He was afraid of being rejected by Milton if he talked directly about it. So, he manipulated Milton in order to get the result he wanted. It was something that would help his Lord Milton fight the war a bit better, but it was something that Viscount Sabian would never have done 3 years ago. In the first place, manipulating someone to get the results he wanted meant that a small part of his conscience did not trust his Lord’s judgement.

A very small…

A very small crack appeared in Milton’s army. 

Having been granted permission from Milton, Viscount Sabian first completely surrounded Litinque Castle. Then, he explained his strategy to Milton and Marquis Bologna. 

“I plan to surround and kill our enemy.”

When Viscount Sabian simply stated his purpose, Milton spoke to him. 

“I heard that Litinque Castle usually stocked up on a lot of supplies. Would there be much meaning in cutting them off?”

It was possible to starve the enemy to death by completely besieging the castle. However, in order for the plan to be effective, there were two conditions that had to be met.

  1. Making sure the besieged castle didn’t have enough soldiers.
  2. Making sure no reinforcements would come during the siege. 

These two conditions were the basis of effectively killing the enemy. However, from what Milton knew, Litinque Castle was originally a castle that was used to store and distribute supplies to the other fortresses. It was unlikely that Litinque Castle’s food situation would worsen after only half a month. 

“Just as you feared, My Lord, the enemy’s food supply is probably more than enough to last half a month. They could most likely last half a year without any problems.”

“Then, it’s not really a siege, is it?”

Viscount Sabian smiled at Marquis Bologna’s question. 

“Food is important but… what I’m aiming for is something more important to humans.”

“More important to humans? What’s that?”

Unlike the puzzled Marquis Bologna, Milton had a guess. 

“Water. You plan to touch the drinking water?”

“Yes, My Lord, that’s exactly it. Humans can’t last three days without water.”

Milton nodded at Viscount Sabian’s words. If they could cut off the enemy’s drinking water source, it would definitely be the best solution. But the question was, how?

“So we should sneak into the castle and poison their well. In order to carry out the operation, we’ll have to gather a suicide corp.”

Marquis Bologna seemed to think this was a great idea since he was putting his two cents in. But…

“Marquis Bologna, according to my intelligence, there are eight wells inside Litinque Castle.”

“Hmm… that’s a lot.”

“It is unreasonable to invade the castle and contaminate eight wells to prevent it from being used. If that was possible, then we might as well open the castle gates.”

Come to think of it, that was correct.

“In that case, how do you cut off the enemy’s drinking water source?”

“It’s simple. Instead of touching the well itself, we touch the well’s water source - the underground water stream.”

“The underground water stream?”

Milton was startled. When he thought about it, it was a great idea. If everything went well, then by cutting off the underground water source, they could completely deplete the enemy’s drinking water. However, there was still a problem.

“How do you find the underground water stream that supplies water to a large castle? And even if we found it, wouldn’t it require a lot of construction to cut off the water?”

“Did you forget, My Lord? Our military has an expert in water exploration and construction.”

“An expert?”

Milton was confused. No matter how much he racked his brain, he couldn’t think of a single person. If he had to pick a person, he’d say his fiancee Sophia, but he didn’t bring her to the battlefield.

“Who are you talking about?”

Viscount Sabian subtly glared at him in response.

“Oh dear, have you really forgotten, My Lord? It’s Miss Bianca, My Lord.”

“…Ah. Indeed, you’re right.”

Now he remembered. The fact that Lester Kingdom’s military had a magician was a secret. With Marquis Bologna, Viscount Sabian hadn’t been able to say that it was possible to explore the underground water streams through Bianca. In the past, when Sophia had been concerned about ground subsidence on the Estate because of the underground water streams, Bianca had been the one to solve the problem. 

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