Chapter 189: Consequence of Arrogance (4)

Having lost all their supplies, the Empire had no choice but to withdraw. From here on out Siegfried’s nonstop attack would begin. He personally attacked from the rear while Jake had set up troops alongside the road in the front. From the Imperial Army’s point of view, it was hell. 

“E… enemies!”

“Ack…”

“XX I can’t fight anymore.”

“I’d rather you kill me, you XX bastards!!”

Exhausted from hunger, the soldiers fell into chaos without being able to counterattack. They didn’t listen to their commanders’ orders and most of the soldiers fell into despair. After one night, there were more soldiers who had deserted than those who had died fighting the Republicans. 

Duke Sebastian tried asking for help from the surrounding villages in order to reverse the situation. In all honesty, it was more like plundering than ‘asking for cooperation.’ However, Siegfried had already predicted their move and made his move beforehand. The village that the Imperial Army went to in order to procure food was completely empty. Siegfried had already told the villagers, whose public sentiment was on his side , to take refuge elsewhere. 

Duke Sebastian gritted his teeth when the Imperial soldiers trudged back without being able to gather a single grain of wheat. 

“What a monstrous bastard…”

How could they have been defeated this terribly? Of the original 100,000 men, the Imperial Army now only had 30,000 left. And as each day passed, they weren’t sure how many more troops they would have left because of the deserting soldiers.

The officers who had advocated for the attack didn’t dare meet Duke Sebastian’s eyes. They had never thought they would have the worst possible results ever. Winning or losing wasn’t the issue now. It was questionable whether they would even be able to return to the Empire alive.

At that moment, Marquis Catel began to talk.

“We can’t pointlessly increase our sacrifices. We have to pick a death squad.”

Death squad. It was a unit that in order to help their fellow soldiers escape, would stay behind and drag things out with the enemy in order to buy their allies some time. 

At that moment, all the officers in the audience turned away to avoid eye contact with Duke Sebastian. At this point, taking charge of the death squad meant death. While they had participated in the war, they were not prepared to die and they all avoided making eye contact. But their struggles were meaningless.

“Most of the army’s senior members will have to stay as part of the death squad.”

The officers were shocked to hear Marquis Catel say that it wasn’t a question of who to pick, but that most of them would have to remain. 

“What do you mean?”

“If people are going to die, we should minimize the damage as much as possible.”

“That’s right. That’s the essence of military law…”

Bang!

When the offices all started to talk, Duke Sebastian stomped on the ground. Then, he spoke with murderous rage.

“From now on, I will kill anyone who dares to interrupt Marquis Catel.”

Duke Sebastian was being serious. Naturally, all the officers shut their mouths.

Marquis Catel continued to talk.

“At this point, even if the death squad stayed behind and blocked the road, they would not be enough of a blockade against the enemy.”

“That does seem unlikely.”

“That’s why, we aren’t building a blockade, but sending bait, sir; a bait that’s as appetizing as possible for them.”

“I see. Is that why the army’s leadership should stay behind?”

The officers frowned at Marquis Catel’s words. As long as Marquis Catel, who had brought it up, said he would remain, there was little chance for them to get out.

Duke Sebastian felt both apologetic and grateful when he saw Marquis Catel’s determination and he decided to agree to his plan as well.

“We will fight together until the end.”

However, Maquis Catel rejected Duke Sebastian’s determination.

“Not you, Duke Sebastian.”

“What?”

“Someone has to command the army, sir. Not to mention, you’re a significant symbol to the Empire.”

“Nonsense! If that’s the case, then you’ll lead the army and I’ll stay behind in your stead."

Marquis Catel shook his head at Duke Sebastian’s response.

“Duke Sebastian, you are the commander-in-chief of this army.”

“So what about it?”

“Even if the entire army was annihilated, there is a big difference whether the Commander-in-Chief of the army survived or died.”

In other words, Duke Sebastian must survive in order to soften the defeat of this war. 

“......”

Duke Sebastian closed his eyes tightly. While he couldn’t agree to what Marquis Catel had said in his heart, he knew Marquis Catel was right in his brain.

‘Damn it…’

Duke Sebastian would have to return to the Empire and take responsibility for this defeat. At the same time, he had the obligation to clearly inform them about the realities of this war. How strong was the Republic? How lazy and arrogant had the Empire been? If he didn’t clearly convey to the Empire about these two things, then they would be defeated in the next war. 

***

The next day.

The Imperial Army left behind 10,000 troops as part of the death squad and retreated. Some of the officers made a fuss in order to not remain behind with the death squad, but it was no use.

The decisive blow was what Duke Sebastian had said.

[You think your head would still be attached to your bodies even if you returned back to the Empire?]

Even for Duke Sebastian, the responsibility for the defeat would be heavy. In the case of the officers, even if they returned to the Empire, they most likely would not survive. In the end, they stayed behind. Truthfully, even if they remained, they weren’t very helpful but they had to remain in order to take responsibility for the war.

Once the enemy came closer until they were only a day’s distance away, Marquis Catel fed his men as much as he could. In all honesty, there wasn't much food for them to eat until they were stuffed, but when he killed the injured horses that Duke Sebastian had left behind and turned it into soup, it was enough to feed the soldiers for about a day. Although it was a huge loss to the cavalry, it was important to give the soldiers energy, even if it lasted only one day.

And so, Marquis Catel led the 10,000 men death squad and camped on the road.

“I apologize to you all.”

He was talking to the knights who had decided to stay behind on the death squad.

“No, Marquis.”

“Rather, it’s an honor to be with you until the end, sir.”

Although Marquis Catel had been criticized by the officers for not being an Imperialist, for the knights, it was different. Just the fact that he was a Master was enough for them to respect him. And after fighting in the war together, they saw that based both on his character and ability, Marquis Catel was a man worthy of respect. 

“If this war had been conducted as Marquis Catel had said in the first place, then we wouldn’t be losing as we are now.”

What that one knight said was the representation of what all the other knights there felt. Marquis Catel laughed bitterly at those words as he thought to himself.

‘I wonder if that would’ve really happened.’

He already knew this, but with this war, he realized it again. Seigfried was a real monster. No, he wasn’t just a monster now.  Just what exactly was Siegfried? It was a name he had never heard about until ten years ago. But the Hildes Republic had slowly let Siegfried’s name be known and he had destroyed the Strabus Kingdom, and was now about to defeat the Empire.  

‘Incredible. He’s truly an incredible person.’

For Marquis Catel, Siegfried was his sworn enemy who had destroyed his country. Nevertheless, he felt more respect than hatred towards Siegfried. It was to the point Marquis Catel couldn’t erase the question of, ‘How great would it be if someone like him was on the same side as himself?’ in his head.

‘That’s an unthinkable idea.’

As the corner of his mouth quirked up, a messenger spoke to him.

“Marquis Catel, the enemy has appeared.

“I see.”

He muttered to himself as he watched the enemy slowly appear from within a storm of dust.

“This here will be my grave.”

It wasn’t so bad. Although he had lingering regrets, when he realized that his last opponent, Siegfried, was so strong that it was definite that he would leave his name behind in history, Marquis Catel felt a strange sort of satisfaction.

“Let’s see, shall I leave my name behind in history?”

And with that, Marquis Catel took the lead and drew his sword as he shouted loudly.

“Charge!”

At his word, the Knights followed after him and the cavalry and the infantry followed them. 

***

“Even if they’re going to die, they’re attacking too simply. Sir, do you think they gave up?”

Jake spoke up from Siegfried’s side. Even if Master Marquis Catel was leading, as long as the soldiers following him were hungry and didn’t have the ability to support him, there was nothing for the Republicans to fear. Since the Imperial Army was weak, they had thought the Empire would have a strategy. But just a simple attack?

To Jake, it seemed like Marquis Catel had given up.

“Perhaps they’ve given up? Or perhaps they’re prepared to die? We’ll see when we fight them.”

Having said that, Siegfried raised his hand and gave a signal. At that, the Republican Army moved in unison and started to defend. 

“Overlap the shields!”

“Lift your spears!”

The overall quality of the Republican Army had risen once Jake’s elite soldiers joined. In an orderly manner, the soldier quickly created the perfect defense. Nonetheless, Marquis Catel continued to charge towards them without slowing down. Instead, he pushed his horse even faster. Within his eyesight were the Republican soldiers who looked overly confident. 

“Ha, just a mere soldier and you think you’ve already won…”

The corner of Marquis Catel’s mouth turned up. He was usually a gentle person but currently, he was in a bad mood. And the moment he clashed with the Republican’s defense…

“Get lost!”

His Aura Blade fanned out and wiped out the soldiers in front of his eyes. 

“Guh!”

“AHHH!”

Though the soldiers stood as firmly as possible, they could not withstand Marquis Catel’s blow. Rather, because they were so concentrated, the damage was even greater. Having blown away nearly thirty soldiers with a single blow, Marquis Catel shouted as he rushed forward.

“I am Ryan Catel!”

Then, he valiantly wielded his sword and fanned out his Aura Blade in all directions. In an instant, his surroundings became a blood and scream filled chaos.

“Gahh!”

“Stop… stop him!”

“Damn it. That monster… Kuh.”

When the Knights and the soldiers of the Empire, who had been following behind Marquis Catel, saw his unilateral abuse of the Republican Army, something sprouted in their hearts. Even if he fed them properly for about a day, that wouldn’t help their bodies to recover. The soldiers were still hungry, but their blood boiled as they saw Marquis Catel’s performance. 

“Follow the Marquis!”

“Long live Marquis Catel!”

The Imperial Army and the Republican Army clashed against each other.

“Ugh!”

“You goddamned bastards!”

“Kill them all!”

All around them were anger and death. Surprisingly, it was the Imperial Army who had the upper hand in the beginning. Due to Marquis Catel’s heroic appearance, and that of the knights who followed him, the soldiers of the Imperial Army’s morale rose and they stood superior to the Republicas, even though they were obviously physically inferior. Marquis Catel punched a hole through the enemy line and through that, the Knights continued to dig in and shook the enemy’s ranks even further.

In fact, the knights of the Empire were far better than the rest of the world.

In this war, they hadn’t been able to show their full potential because they had been pushed down with Siegfried’s tactics, but the Knights’ were fully capable of overwhelming the Republic. In the Republic, the rank of a Knight was comparable to a lieutenant. In order for the front line to not be pushed back any further, they fought back as best as they could. However, they had to admit that the Empire’s Knights were a bit better than themselves in terms of sheer competence. But most of all…

“Stop them!”

“Goddamn it!

The problem was, there was a monster that couldn’t be stopped even if a large number of Republican officers attacked together.

“All of you, piss off!”

Marquis Catel rushed towards his enemies as if he planned to vent his anger at them. He didn’t care about the sides or the rear, he only charged forward and repeatedly blew away the enemies in front of him. At his aggressive attack, the Republican’s battleline shook and before they knew it, the Imperial Army had broken through the Republicans’ first line of defense. 

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