Chapter 57: The Hildes Republic (1)

“It’s a night raid!”

Though the army of the First Prince was having difficulties in capturing Fortress Baikal, they had nevertheless exclusively been the ones on the offensive until now. Naturally, the commanders began to let their guard down, and the soldiers showed gaps on guard duty due to their fatigue.

A detachment of the Second Prince’s army exploited this lapse in judgment to attack them.

“Burn it all to the ground!”

“Pay back all we have endured tenfold!”

Uooooooooh!!”

Surprised by this sudden night ambush, the royalist troops began to suffer significant damage. If there was a silver lining, it was that there weren't a lot of enemies and that the attacked site’s assigned commander was a capable man.

“Do not be flustered!”

The commander in charge of this site was a knight by the name of Saimon, who now personally drew his sword to enter combat with the enemy. He valiantly commanded the men and raised the troops’ morale.

“The enemy is small in number! Face them and fight! Dispatch a messenger to let the main army know of this ambush! A hundred foot soldiers will follow my lead!”

The commander’s shrewd response allowed the situation to stabilize relatively quickly as the soldiers regained their composure and followed his orders. But the damage had already been done.

“What are the casualties shaping up to be?”

“The casualties of our troops still need to be aggregated. But…”

“But what?”

“Five catapults were destroyed.”

Saimon closed his eyes tightly at his subordinate’s report.

‘It was a diversion from the start.’

The enemy had infiltrated the camp with the objective of destroying the siege weapons. Though the attack had been repelled as best they could, the damage caused was too great.

***

The next day…

“These fools! Behead the commander who could not prevent this raid at once, as well as the soldiers who were standing on guard duty – every last one of them.”

The First Prince’s order to behead them in his rage shocked and panicked Marquis Trauss.

“Your Highness, executing those responsible here will cause a disturbance in our soldiers’ morale. If a punishment is to be given, perhaps ordering them to be responsible for correcting their own errors would be…”

“What responsibility can be entrusted to a so-called commander who cannot even adequately respond to a camp raid?”

“Be that as it may…”

“Enough! This matter is closed. Carry out my will at once!

Even Marquis Trauss’s remonstrations could not stop the First Prince’s stubbornness. In the end, the on-site commander and knight Saimon, as well as close to a hundred troops, were all decapitated.

“Isn’t this way overboard?”

“That good sir Saimon… he really was an upstanding man for a knight.”

“Precisely.”

The soldiers were all stricken with fear and unease as they watched the procession. In their minds, notions of the First Prince’s cruelty and viciousness were being gradually cemented, and desertions from the army started picking up pace from this day forth.

***

Perhaps it because they smelt blood in the first raid? But every night, guerilla detachments attacked the royalists’ encampments.

Though they could not inflict the same amount of damage as the first night, the relentless raids put the First Prince’s troops more and more on edge. The commanders began to sense danger as morale slowly dropped and desertions grew in front of this iron castle that refused to fall. Around the point that the commanders were determining that something had to be done…

“Shall we get started then?”

Siegfried, the aide dispatched by the Republic, moved into action.

***

“Your Highness, this is an emergency report.”

A messenger came running to the First Prince, his face turned deathly pale.

“What is it?”

“Count… Count Sainbridge, who was supervising the supplies, was killed in action, sir. The supplies themselves were all destroyed as well.”

Bang!

“What madness is this?!”

The prince shot up from his seat. How could the supply unit be attacked, when all of the Second Prince’s troops were presently holed up in Fortress Baikal?

‘Perhaps…?’

The prince suspected that someone out of the nobles tending to the rear had betrayed him.

“Who could it be? Which bastard dared to betray me?”

But the First Prince’s predictions were wrong. The ones who attacked the supplies were…

“They were forces from the Hildes Republic, Your Highness. They have stepped into this war by attacking the supply unit.”

“…….”

The prince felt as if he was about to collapse.

“Wha-… why would they…? Byron, you mongrel!!”

It was only now that the First Prince finally realized why the Second Prince turned to Republicanism. The Hildes Republic had been part of this game from the start.

***

This was an absolute worst-case situation.

The triumph after triumph garnered by the First’s army in the beginning of the war shaped up to all be a lie that caused them to be back into this corner. Not only was the morale of the royalist troops plummeting but the Hildes Republic had joined the war. The pillaging of the supply unit on top of that was a near-fatal blow.

The commanders quickly tried to control the flow of information, but all was leaked to the troops in time.

“Is it true that the Hildes Republic has joined the war?”

“Shit, word is that the supply unit was razed to the ground to boot.”

“Is that why we only have porridge for today’s rations?”

“Damn it, who knows how long we’ll be having straight porridge. And that prince bastard has absolutely lost it, screeching at us to keep attacking…”

“F**k!! Everything’s just absolutely f**ked.”

Viscount Sabian sighed as he watched word spread like wildfire among the men.

‘The Republican blokes must have planted an agent among our troops. Is there no turning back at this rate?’

The fact that information was spreading so fast despite the commanders employing regulatory measures meant that the spies of the Republic were already present amongst the men, or some of their men had converted and defected to the Republic.

As the Republicans always said: 

[We are everywhere.]

‘They really are.’

Viscount Sabian shook his head and sighed again. He could not see a path to victory from this point. If anything, they could be witnessing the moment of this country’s downfall.

***

Now, with their supplies destroyed, there was only one option left to them: to retreat with their remaining forces and decide where to go from there, even if that meant the civil war would be extended.

Yet the First Prince still refused to accept this reality, stubbornly asserting that all would end if they captured Fortress Baikal. He prolonged this headfirst war despite the efforts of the command staff to dissuade him, and consequently, they simply could not achieve a positive outcome. The Baikal Fortress did not budge even after ten days of relentless attack.

When the enemy began their counterattack, they could not respond in equal measure and incurred continuous losses. It was to the point where the soldiers were surrendering more than they were fighting. Eventually, the First Prince mustered his remaining forces and tried to make his wretched retreat.

That route of retreat was a living nightmare. After having cut off their supply lines, the detachments from the Hildes Republic struck from the rear to reclaim the strongholds that had fallen into the royalists’ hands and set up camp, deploying troops along the First Prince’s escape route. With the encamped Republican troops waiting wherever they went, they had no choice but to slaughter their warhorses after they ran dry of military rations. All the knights and nobles had to walk. When even what little horse meat they had run out, the soldiers had no choice but to loot private residences in their vicinity.

Though they had set off with a force numbering 80,000 men, the defeated soldiers that returned in a pitiful state did not even amount to 5000.

***

“Hahahahaha!! What a feat you have pulled indeed. Truly, you have displayed the prowess of the same Hildes Republic military that went toe-to-toe with the Strabus Kingdom.”

Though he had been backed to the edges of a precipice at one point, Byron, the Second Prince, was now firmly establishing the North as his domain after the First Prince’s army was completely decimated. Of course, he would be happy.

Now with the situation having reached this point, the Second Prince became tinged with greed.

“The enemy has lost a substantial force of 80,000 and withdrawn. How about we go straight for the jugular and advance to the Capital?”

The Second Prince saw this as an opportunity from the heavens. While the First Prince's troops were having difficulties recovering from such a heavy blow, if he used this gap to advance together with the Republican troops, then it felt as if he could finally have it all in the palm of his hand. His greed knew no bounds.

Siegfried laughed.

“A brilliant insight. The enemy has most certainly lost a sizable force, as well as losing the goodwill of the people with the ransacking of homes on their retreat. This would be the most suitable of times to advance our army.”

“Oooooh… you are of the same opinion, my good sir?”

Though the prince was rejoicing in his delight, Siegfried sounded slightly troubled with his next words.

“Be that as it may…”

“Hmm? Is something the matter? Would there be a problem?”

Siegfried smiled bitterly at the prince’s query, looking conflicted.

“Though I too wish to advance our troops, that authority does not lie with me.”

“You don't have the authority? Whatever do you mean by that?”

“The order I received from my homeland was to aid Your Highness after you declared your Republican stance, and spread the notion of Republicanism to the rest of the Lester Kingdom. To that end, I was commanded to help protect your sphere of influence over the Lester Kingdom’s North.”

“If that’s so… does it mean you cannot lend your strength for an offensive on the Capital?”

“I must apologize. I truly believe that this is a fantastic opportunity, but I do not have the jurisdiction to move the troops beyond the mission I was assigned.”

“Mmmm…”

The prince let out a murmur of disappointment as he wonder if he would have to miss such a grand opportunity. Siegfried spoke up as if he had read the prince’s mind.

“However, Your Highness, there is a way for me to help you that is within my discretion.”

“Hoh, and what may that be?”

“The order I received from the mainland was to protect your domain, wherever that may be. To that end, I and the troops of the Republic will spread a foolproof defensive line around the Northern region. In that time…”

“I could lead our elite Northern corps of 30,000 and attack the Capital.”

“That is precisely my point.”

The Second Prince smiled brightly, for this was definitely an enticing offer. Siegfried continued advocating for an offensive.

“In general, one must know when to distribute their strength in war among offense and defense. We Republicans will do our utmost to protect your territory. During that time, if you were to bring the valiant elite corps of the North and capture the Lester Kingdom’s Capital…”

“That does seem like a brilliant suggestion.”

The Second Prince was not familiar with the basics of warfare, but for some reason, he felt confident with Siegfried encouraging him. All he had to do was capture the Capital with the elite troops while the Republic watched over the Northern lands.

‘This chance will pass if I don’t decide quickly.’

Steeling himself, the prince stood up from his seat.

“We will mobilize the army at once. Call for Marquis Marius!”

The Second Prince resolved to attack. 

***

He gathered his advisors and informed them of his intentions to advance on the Capital.

“Consequently, the Republic will be entrusted with defending, and we will be attacking the Capital with all troops.”

The first one to react was his maternal uncle Marquis Marius.

“Your Highness, is this truly your own opinion?”

“Indeed it is. A strange thing to ask.”

The prince sounded somewhat perturbed by the Marquis’s query. However, the Marquis could not shake his feeling of discontent.

‘Did that snake say something strange to him?’

He felt that the prince was becoming too dependent on the Republic. Though Marquis Marius initially consented to join hands with the Hildes Republic, he didn't completely trust them. So how could he agree to clearing out their home and leaving its protection to the Republican army? This did not sit well with him – and he wasn’t the only one.

“Your Highness, with all due respect, I believe the first priority is solidifying our grip on the North.”

“I agree, Your Highness. Though the Republic claims they will protect our lands, I am of the opinion that they cannot be completely trusted.”

The other Northern nobles aligned with Marquis Marius. For these nobles, their lands had been passed down to them from their ancestors through the generations, and they couldn't help but be anxious at the idea of entrusting them to the Republic for even a moment.

The prince spoke as if he anticipated their objections.

“I am well aware of what it is that concerns you. But don't worry, for I would not entrust our base to the Republican forces without a safety measure.”

He whipped out a single document.

“This document formalizes my engagement to Roxanne – the eldest daughter of the Hildes Republic’s Fuhrer Bahasten.”

The nobles were beyond shocked.

“Your Highness?!”

“Do you intend to form an alliance of blood with the Republic, sir?”

There was no way they wouldn't be surprised by this. No one anticipated the prince would go beyond a mere alliance with the Republic, and form a tie of blood.

“There is nothing to be surprised about. Our need for the Republic’s aid is too pressing. To gain their aid, we too must evince that we are to be trusted.”

And to that end, he was paying the price of creating a bond thicker than ink. The gravity of a blood tie was different from that of a simple alliance. Hearing this, the Northern nobles began to have their conviction shaken.

‘He’s not wrong. The Capital’s as good as empty right now…’

‘Who knows when the next opportunity will come if we miss this one.’

‘Solidifying our grip on the North would be close to calling it quits with what we already have. But what if we were to capture the Capital…?’

Anxiety faded, and in its place crept in greed. The prince repeated himself firmly.

“There will be no next time. If there are no more objections, I will assume that it is decided we will attack the Capital.”

With that, the elite Northern company of 30,000 were slated to attack.

***

‘Would this really be alright?’

Marquis Marius was still strongly unsettled. It was certain that this was a good opportunity to attack the Capital with the elite corps. There was no one left to stop them, now that their force of 80,000 had been defeated. But entrusting their lands of the North to the Republic was ever a disturbing prospect. Unable to take it any further, Marquis Marius sought out Siegfried.

“Oh, Marquis Marius. Why are you suddenly looking for me?”

Marquis Marius scowled at Siegfried’s carefree attitude.

“There is something I wish to ask.”

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