Chapter 183: Crisis of the Imperial Army (1)

“Of course I’m afraid.”

“…Sir?”

He doubted his ears, but Marquis Catel spoke calmly.

“I lost my country to the Republic and had to run away. I personally experienced how much a genius of war that bastard Siegfried actually is. Even after being defeated by the enemy, if you aren’t wary of them, then you don’t have the right to stand on the battlefield. At the very least, you should never be a commander.”

“Aren’t you thinking too passively, sir?”

“He’s right. You were with the Strabus Kingdom when you were defeated, Marquis.”

“We’re the Great Andrews Empire. It seems like you’ve overlooked that difference.”

Marquis Catel clenched his jaw as he looked at the officers who didn’t seem like they had any intentions of correcting their thinking.

“Everyone is so full of pride you’ll soon reach the sky. Look at the current situation! How can you be so prideful in a situation where we’ve lost half of our 100,000 troops and two Master? Where do you get your optimism from?”

The officers were silent as if they had nothing to say at Marquis Catel’s scathing censure, however, their faces were full of discontent. From their point of view, Marquis Catel was still an outsider. Even if he had received a title from the Empire, he hadn’t been in the Empire for long, so it wasn’t like he had supporting forces or factions within it. The Empire was too large and too prideful for them to acknowledge him just for his status as a Master.

Marquis Catel sighed when he saw the unpleasant faces of the officers.

‘How difficult. I seriously have to take these guys with me to fight in the war? And against that monstrous Siegfried at that?’

Marquis Catel was just as frustrated. He had devoted himself to the Empire in order to get revenge for his country, but he didn’t plan on just using the Empire. If they gave him the opportunity to take revenge on the battlefield, then he was willing to dedicate the rest of his life to the Empire. So how could he not be frustrated when he received such attitudes and he even had to fight in the war while being held back by them? As if grasping at a straw, he turned towards Duke Sebastian.

“Duke Sebastian, do you also think the same? I’m asking if you also think that I should lead the army and attack the enemy’s main camp immediately.”

Duke Sebastian carefully answered his question.

“What I want to know isn’t what we shouldn’t do, but what we can and should do.”

“What do you mean, sir?”

“Let me rephrase it. The officers are insisting on attacking, and you, the one leading the central army, are against it. Am I correct?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Right. Then what I want to ask you now is what we should do if we don’t attack. What do you think we should do instead?”

Marquis Catel hesitated for a moment.

‘Should I tell him?’

If he was being honest, he already had a plan in his head about what they should do, but he wasn’t comfortable saying it out loud. He questioned whether the person leading this prideful and egotistical Imperial Army would properly hear him out. But now that he had been asked a direct question by Duke Sebastian, he also couldn’t hedge and equivocate. Marquis Catel strengthened his resolve and began to speak.

“First of all, we should be defending, not attacking.”

“Defending?”

“Yes, sir. Our purpose is to defend the Valence Kingdom from the Republic’s invasion. If that’s the case, it’s more important to not lose than it is to win.”

“What kind of a passive…”

“How can you speak so cowardly?”

The officers shouted that it couldn’t be done. However, Duke Sebastian raised a hand to settle them.

“Let’s keep listening.”

With permission granted, Marquis Catel continued.

“Yes, sir. First, we should send our troops back and focus most of them in a fortress that could be used as a defensive base and block the road to the capital.”

“I see. Then what? I don’t think the enemy would retreat on their own just because we drag things out.”

“No, sir. Siegfried will retreat.”

“…Why is that?”

“That’s because he has an enemy at his back that he can never ignore.”

“And who is that?”

“Milton Forrest of the Lester Kingdom, sir.”

 When the name Milton Forrest came out of Marquis Catel’s mouth, the officers made a commotion.

“Milton Forrest?”

“Are you talking about the man who was given the title of Grand Duke of the Lester Kingdom?”

“I heard he did very well in the war against the Republic.”

In recent years, Milton Forrest had been one of the names that had been continuously heard throughout the entire continent. It was to the point where him and Siegfried were known as the two great masters.

However, while the people in the Empire had heard about Milton Forrest, they had never thought about him that highly. The Empire and the Lester Kingdom didn’t share a border nor did they trade. For the people of the Empire, Milton was nothing more than a foreign person who had recently been making a name for himself.

But having been born in the Strabus Kingdom and having fought in the Northern wars, Milton Forrest’s name held weight for Marquis Ryan Catel. When he had been deciding which country would provide the best opportunity for revenge if he exiled himself to, Lester Kingdom had been his second choice after Andrews Empire. His reasoning for that was because in the Lester Kingdom was the only man who had ever beaten Siegfried.

Even though the Lester Kingdom had lost in the First Ideological Conflict, the kingdom had gained enough territory to triple its original size and became a great power in the North. However, when he weighed the two countries, he felt that the Empire, who had always been a powerhouse, was stronger and had placed the Lester Kingdom on the back burner.

‘Although recently, I’ve been anxious about whether it was the wrong decision to choose the Empire.’

Marquis Catel mentally complained to himself but began talking again.

“First, we will pull back the front line from the Valence Kingdom and draw in the enemy while strengthening our defenses. If we send an envoy to the Lester Kingdom and they attack the Republic at the same time, then there’s no way Siegfried wouldn’t withdraw his troops from the Valence Kingdom. That’ll be the moment we attack the enemy.”

If Siegfried heard what Marquis Catel was saying right now, he might have felt himself getting cold. What Marquis Catel was describing right now was the worst possible scenario that Siegfried had thought of. That’s why he had sent David to do something underhanded in order to stop the Lester Kingdom from joining in. However, that underhanded move had failed and the only thing Siegfried could do now was to end the war as quickly as possible. But if Marquis Catel retreated to the back with the Imperial Army and dragged things out and the Lester Kingdom were to move? Then even if it was Siegfried, he would have no choice but to give up this mission. The Republic couldn’t afford to let the Lester Kingdom take any more of their territory, but more than that, if that really happened, then Siegfried himself would have to personally deal with Milton.

Marquis Catel had given the Empire the best option they could take in this situation. However, there was a problem…

“It seems like Marquis Catel is lacking faith in the Imperial Army.”

“Let’s strengthen our defenses and wait for the enemy to retreat? How can you make such a passive strategy?”

“And on top of that, you’re asking for help from the Lester Kingdom? Don’t you know that would leave behind a stain of disgrace on the Empire?”

This was the problem. The strategy that Marquis Catel had planned required the Andrews Empire’s officers to let go of their pride. Although the Strabus Kingdom didn’t like to do it while it was still thriving, the Empire never liked to make requests from other countries. But to ask for foreign help because their strength was lacking? While the choice was practical and effective, it was humiliating and disgraceful to the Imperialists.

‘This is why I didn’t want to say it… did I go too far?’

Truthfully, all Marquis Catel wanted was for them to accept retreating. He felt that long as they bought some time, the Lester Kingdom would begin to move on their own. If the war dragged on, then there was no way either Milton Forrest or Queen Leila would leave alone an empty Republic. Now that he thought about it, he didn’t know why he had said they should send an envoy to the Lester Kingdom. But what could he do, he already said it.

“Duke Sebastian! Even if things are a bit difficult right now, that doesn’t mean we can lower ourselves and let go of our pride.”

“That’s right, Duke Sebastian. We are the Great Andrews Empire.”

“Please make a decision, sir.”

“Please make a decision, Duke Sebastian!”

Duke Sebastian made a decision in the midst of his officers’ outcry.

“We will attack the enemy! But, Marquis Ryan Catel will withdraw from the vanguard.”

“Yes, sir!”

In the end, they had decided to attack the enemy with the central army and Marquis Ryan Catel, who had been excluded from spearheading the attack, sighed.

‘Maybe I shouldn’t have picked the Empire.’

It seemed like he would come to regret his decision.

***

The main army of the Imperial Army increased their speed. Although 50,000 of the original 100,000 troops brought from the Empire had been destroyed, with the addition of 100,000 men from the Valence Kingdom, they were still an overwhelming force. Against such an overwhelming force, Siegfried had to face them with only a force of 50,000 men. On top of that, he had given quite a few elite soldiers to Jake and Eliza, so 40,000 out of 50,000 men were conscripts. However, when he heard that the Imperial Army was approached, Siegfried smiled.

“I won.”

He could already see victory in his grasp.

After Marquis Catel was excluded, Count Dune Boris replaced him in the forefront of the Imperial Army. Not only had he reached the level of an Expert, but he had also completed his training as an officer. He believed he had both the literary and military skills and was very confident in himself. So for him to be in charge of the central army’s 50,000 men, he was very satisfied.

“Of course the Imperial Army should have an Imperial person at the front.”

“What you say is absolutely correct, Count.”

“I don’t know about Marquis Ryan Catel’s personal strength, but he lacks leadership skills.”

All around Count Boris were his retainers acting as his officers. Count Boris planned to take this opportunity and make many contributions to the war and raise the status of his Family name, and so, he had placed a large number of his retainers into the core of the Empire’s vanguard army. Knights, advisors, and regular foot soldiers were all brought from his estate. He had brought everyone here because he didn’t see a future other than their victory in this war.

“Count Boris, our scout said he found the enemy’s lookout.”

“Oh? It’s sooner than expected.”

“It seems like the enemy had been advancing forward, sir.”

“Really? Then what’s the size of their army?”

“Yes, sir. It’s estimated that they have about 5,000 men and have taken up defensive positions.”

“Only 5,000? The enemy should have more than that though.”

“Based on the scout’s report, that’s all they have. Will you check it out yourself, sir?”

“I shall.”

Count Boris moved to the front of the army and looked at the enemy’s formation. It was exactly as the scout had reported. The enemy was building a defensive formation using wooden fences and barriers, but looking at it, they didn’t have many troops.

‘You’re planning on stopping us with just that? That’s impossible. In that case…’

Count Boris wasn’t foolish enough to underestimate the enemy and charge forward. He quietly gave instruction to a messenger.

“While setting up an attack formation, I want you to send a messenger to the enemy camp and urge them to surrender.”

“Yes, sir.”

As the messenger left to do as ordered, one of his retainers spoke up from next to him.

“It’s unlikely that the enemy will surrender, Count Boris.”

“I know. I was just buying us some time.”

“Sir?”

“Send a small reconnaissance team immediately to scout the left and right sides. This could be an ambush.”

“Ah! That could be!”

The retainer immediately moved as directed. Count Boris had kept in mind that this could be an ambush.

‘By showing a small number of men, lure in the enemy and then ambush from the left and right. It’s simple but effective. If it was me, that’s what I would do.’

While Count Boris didn't have any experience fighting in a war, he hadn’t been lazy while studying strategic tactics. He believed the basis of strategy was to always think about the enemy’s position and always be vigilant about the enemy’s actions. Count Boris’s prediction was correct.

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