Chapter 186: Consequences of Arrogance (1)

“My Lord, that’s the signal. The enemy has begun to turn around.”

“Perfect.”

Siegfried smiled with satisfaction. He didn’t just want to defeat the enemy. He wanted to annihilate them. This had been the trap he had prepared for them and the moment Count Boris turned the Republican army and aimed for him, the trap was complete. 

No matter how elite the army was, it was difficult to suddenly change the direction of it 180 degrees. There was no need to talk about how difficult it would be to change it during a battle. That’s why when an army’s rear was captured, it would cause tremendous damage. 

Count Boris took his personal force in order to personally deal with the army’s rear. Not to mention, it was the enemy’s commander who had appeared in the rear, so there was even more justification for him quickly dealing with the rear as soon as possible. Although it was standard procedure, this was still something that Siegfried had caused. 

If Count Boris ignored his army’s rear and decided to break through the front no matter what it took, then even if he suffered enormous damage to his army, some of his troops would still survive. However, while he moved from the front of the army to the rear, the ranks became greatly disorganized and even the command structure was temporarily disordered to an unheard degree. It would eventually sort itself out, but Siegfried wasn’t one to let that happen. 

As if he had been waiting for this exact moment, Siegfried checkmated Count Boris.

“Aim!”

The moment he gave that order, Ghost members nocked their bows. But, it wasn’t a regular arrow, it was a fire arrow that had its arrowhead wrapped in a cloth soaked in oil and then set on fire. Then…

“Fire!”

Fiery arrows flew through the sky immediately. 

“Fire arrows?”

“No way?”

The commanders of the Imperial Army had an ominous feeling as they saw the fiery arrows flying through the sky. Once the fire arrows fell, they knew they were right.

“F… fire!”

“Quick! Put it out! Damn it… Gah!”

“Ughhhh!”

The fire from the fire arrows spread in an instant. The wooden barriers that were a part of the second line of defense were covered in oil and all around them were dry wood and straw that would easily catch on fire. It was a trap that had been thoroughly prepared.

“Calm down! First, we have to put out the fire and fix the battleline… Kuh!”

A couple of the commanders tried to control the situation but by then, it was too late. Siegfried had made sure that the enemy lines would be impossible to control by setting fire to everything. On top of that, the fire arrows were also flying from the defense line from the front. The battle was no longer possible to control.

“How could… this happen…”

Count Boris realized that he had been completely defeated. All around him were confused soldiers and fire blazing everywhere. He couldn’t think of a single way to change the situation. The only thing that was certain was that he had been completely fooled.

‘Was it a trap from the beginning? In that case, then I… then what did I…’

Secretly, Count Boris had believed himself to be able to stand toe to toe with anyone based on his cleverness. However, that was an absurd illusion. It was true that he had studied strategic tactics very hard, but being a real strategist wasn’t made just by reading books. Without considerable experience, he couldn’t be called a decent strategist. However, the biggest problem this time was his opponent. Even if Count Boris gained experience in the field and became a great strategist, the results still wouldn’t change much. That’s how much of a monster his opponent was.

“How could this…”

As everything fell apart around him, Count Boris just slumped in despair. 

***

Count Boris’s defeat. 

The annihilation of 50,000 vanguard forces.

The news delivered to the main army of the Imperial Army was shocking. Count Boris had been steadily advancing forward as he won battle after battle, but he had died. In fact, Count Boris was worth as much as the previously fallen Marquis Burkel and Marquis Maroon. The reason that this defeat had come as a big shock was that they had lost a battle they had been sure they would win. 

The Republican Army had sent in most of their troops in order to deal with Marquis Burkel and Marquis Maroon. That’s why the opinion of the officers had been that they needed to attack immediately. The officers who had been against Marquis Ryan Catel when he argued for defense, now had a fire under their ass. What they chose was…

“Now is the time to lead our main army and attack, sir.”

“Sir, he’s right. The enemies used fire to annihilate Count Boris and the vanguard, which also means they have little power left.”

“Duke Sebastian, if we hesitated here, Count Boris’ sacrifice would be meaningless. Please make the right decision here, sir.”

Foaming at their mouths, the officers insisted on attacking.

‘These crazy bastards…’

With crossed arms, Marquis Ryan Catel stood at one side of the room and sighed as he watched the officers arguing to attack. 

If they were being honest, the officers also knew that attacking right now wasn’t the right decision. Nonetheless, they were insisting on completely attacking because they didn’t want to admit that their decision had been wrong. Now, even if they won, it wouldn’t be a true victory. Not only did they lose a tremendous amount of troops, but two of their Masters had been killed.

If they lost this war, then the officers who participated in the war would not be able to escape the responsibility. Currently, they weren’t looking for opinions and thoughts that would be helpful to the war, they were looking for ways that would politically absolve them of that responsibility. 

There were still two Masters in the main army: Duke Sebastian and Marquis Catel. They still had 100,000 troops left and the enemies most likely had incurred damages of their own. In that case, if they chose to attack and were able to drive away the Republican forces, then they would be able to package this war as their victory. If they didn’t want to be ripped apart politically, then they had no choice now but to win. 

‘Those guys are the talents of the Empire? The Empire has been at peace for too long.’

Marquis Catel was beginning to get sick of the Empire. Meanwhile, crossing his arms, Duke Sebastian was deep in thought.

“Marquis Catel, what do you think?”

As Duke Sebastian asked him a question, Marquis Catel naturally had a say in the war. When the other officers looked at him anxiously, he hesitated for a bit before making up his mind.

‘Let just say everything I want to say.’

He responded to Duke Sebastian’s question calmly.

“This expedition is a failure.”

The officers glared at Marquis Catel when he firmly condemned the expedition by stating that it was a failure.

“It’d be best to retreat before we lose any more troops.”

The officers immediately clamored. 

“How dare you say that it’s a failure?”

“The war is just beginning.”

“And you call yourself a Master? You coward. You milksop. This is why you’re not a person from the Empire… eek.”

The officer who had been strongly criticizing Marquis Catel shut his mouth at the feeling of the cold steel of Catel’s sword on his neck.

“A coward and a milksop? Since I’ve been insulted like this, I think it’d be alright if I demanded a duel, right?”

“U...Uh…”

At the Master’s murderous rage, the officer couldn’t say a single word. That was when he finally realized it - even if his opponent wasn’t from the Empire, Marquis Catel was still a Master. Simply put, Marquis Catel was a valuable strength and even if Catel were to kill him in a duel, the Empire would not hold the Marquis accountable. 

“F… Fo… For… Forgive me....”

“Fine. I’ll forgive you with your death.”

Marquis Catel’s eyes grew cold.

“Let it go, Marquis.”

When Duke Sebastian stepped in and stopped Marquis Catel, his murderous intent diminished and the officer, who had been crying, collapsed as he fainted. Marquis Catel laughed when he saw the officer’s pants were wet. 

‘No matter where you go, those who are busy with politics all have guts the size of a pea.’

In the past, the Strabus Kingdom also had people like them: greenhorns who weren’t worth the effort to deal with. Marquis Catel stopped paying attention to him and turned towards Duke Sebastian.

“Duke, it’s time to admit our defeat and withdraw. Only then will we be able to save the lives of the remaining troops.”

“What about the blockade that you mentioned before? The tactic where we retreated to the back and focused on blocking the enemy while the Lester Kingdom attacked them.”

“That was only possible when we had the advantage of having more troops than the enemy, sir.”

“Hmm…”

Since the 50,000 vanguard forces had been wiped out, there was no guarantee that they could withstand the enemy’s attack even if they turned towards just defending now.

‘Has the expedition failed then? But that’s…’

Duke Sebastian also didn’t want to retreat. With him, it wasn’t that he wanted to evade responsibility for the failure politically; in fact, even the Emperor couldn’t recklessly blame him. But the reason he was hesitating on retreating was because of the values of the Empire that he upheld his entire life. If he were to retreat now and the expedition ended in failure, then it would be recorded as the first defeat in nearly 300 years of the history of the Empire. It would damage the dignity of the Empire that had reigned firmly over the continent for many years. 

Not knowing Duke Sebastian’s inner turmoil, Marquis Catel continued to talk. 

“From the start, the Empire has taken this war too lightly. It was a mistake to think of the war with the Republic as a mere expedition taken in order to calm the turmoil in a border area.”

Before the war had started, Marquis Ryan Catel had said that they should mobilize all the troops available in the Empire in order to fight against the Republic. Of course, his advice had been ignored and the size of the expedition was a mere(?) 200,000 men. Although a force of 200,000 men wasn’t a small number, if you considered the total power of the Empire, then a force of 200,000 was nothing. If the Empire decided to go all in, then they could gather at least 500,000 troops and if they really tried, then they could even gather up to 800,000 troops. And if you forcibly gathered troops from the surrounding vassal countries, then the Empire could easily pour in a million men into the war.

“We have to give up on the expeditionary, sir. When we come back for a second expedition in the future, we have to prepare properly and pressure the Republic from all directions.”

Marquis Ryan Catel gave him the best choice that could be made at this point. In fact, even if Milton’s strategist Count Sabian was here, he would have said the same thing. They could only move on and prepare for their next move only if they honestly admitted they lost the battle. There was no way they would be able to think this if they could not see the big picture of the war. Masters usually were shortsighted in nearly everything else because they focused so much on developing their strength, that they didn’t develop anything else. 

But Marquis Ryan Catel was different. Because of the countless wars he fought in since his days in the Strabus Kingdom, he was able to see the big picture during a war. If you disregarded Siegfried with his monstrous stats, Marquis Ryan Catel was truly a wise general with literary and military skills. But the problem was…

“No, we cannot retreat.”

No matter how good of an opinion it was, it was meaningless if the military commander did not accept it.

“Duke Sebastian!”

When Marquis Catel shouted out his name as if he thought it was a regrettable decision, Duke Sebastian spoke. 

“I know what you’re saying makes sense. But… this old man cannot admit defeat yet.”

“......”

Marquis Catel could only look at him grimly. 

‘So in the end, this man is also an arrogant man of the Empire. Damn…’

Duke Sebastian spoke to the regretful Marquis Catel. 

“I can’t say ‘instead,’ but…”

Duke Sebastian continued to speak to him softly. Marquis Catel looked surprised as he listened to what Duke Sebastian was telling him secretly so the other officers would not hear him.

“Are you being serious, sir?”

“We should at least have an insurance plan.”

“If that’s the case, then… no, no.”

Marquis Catel struggled for a moment.

“As you said, it’s better than not doing it, sir.”

“I’ll trust you with this.”

“I understand, sir.”

The other officers who heard this looked like they were going to die from curiosity. They were curious what the two of them were saying, but there was no way for them to find out.

Marquis Catel left first, then Duke Sebastian spoke to the rest.

“The war starts now! We will no longer be fooled by the enemy’s tricks. We will lead the entire army and attack the Republic!”

“Yes, sir!”

In the end, Duke Sebastian had decided to attack and the officers sighed in relief. 

‘It’s fine now.’

‘We just have to win now. We just have to…’

The officers who had participated thinking that they would definitely win the war were desperate for victory. They were so desperate, they couldn’t get out of an illusion that was seriously wrong. They were overlooking the fact that even if the entire army attacked the Imperial Army, there was no guarantee that they would win. 

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