Chapter 75: She-Devil (4)

On the Western detour up North, Milton began to speed up the march. This was because he didn’t want to fall behind the Strabus Kingdom advancing from the East. 

Along the way, Milton talked with Bianca to find out what she could do. Since magicians were so rare, it was important to figure out what she could do and how well she could do them. 

He soon found out that her abilities were more useful than he had thought. At first, he imagined her taking out thousands of enemies with a single blow. But according to Bianca, there was no magician in this day and age who could do that. It wasn’t that she couldn’t use attack magic, but Bianca said that even if she used her full power, she would only be able to deal with ten people at a time. When Milton heard that, he was disappointed at first, but he soon found out that magic wasn’t powerful. It was useful. And soon, magic’s usefulness was proven. 

“Milton? Where’s Milton?”

Bianca opened the window of her carriage to look for Milton.

“What’s the matter, Miss Bianca?”

When Milton rode up to the carriage, Bianca whispered to him.

“I found it.”

“You really found it?”

Milton marveled at her as Bianca nodded.

‘Yes… it’s 100 times better to use magic like this than a clumsy attack magic.’

While traveling on the carriage, Bianca had been using Familiar Magic. Familiar Magic was a spell that could manipulate an animal by synchronizing consciousness with them. With that spell, she had joined with a hawk to constantly scout the surroundings from the sky. And she had finally found the enemy.

“Jerome, let’s stop and take a break for a while, but maintain the lines.”

“Yes, My Lord.”

After giving Jerome the orders, Milton entered the carriage. 

“The Count is entering that carriage again.”

“Tsk… even if he’s young, how could he bring his lover to the battlefield…”

Under Milton’s command, Bianca was participating in this war as an assistant chief of staff. 

This had been to hide the magician’s existence as much as possible, but for those who didn’t know the circumstances, it seemed to be an excuse. In their eyes, their military commander was frequently meeting with a sexy beauty. It was only natural to gossip about it. 

Count Forrest has a new lover.

He loved her so much, he brought her to the battlefield.

Once this war was over, they might even get married.

Similar rumors were circulated between the ordinary soldiers and the fact that Bianca was a very beautiful woman fueled the speed of the rumor spreading. 

“Be honest, you’re envious, aren’t you?”

“What’s there to even say? I’m so jealous I think I’m going to die.”

Unintentionally, Milton had caused the soldiers to be jealous of him. 

* * *

Unlike the soldiers’ imagination, inside the carriage was a serious meeting and not a romantic rendezvous. Milton spread open the map. 

“Can you locate the enemy?”

“That’s easy. They’re hiding in the forest here, divided into two, waiting to ambush us.”

“They’re quite far.”

From where they were at right now, it would take at least another half day of continuous marching to reach the enemy’s location. Since they had found the enemy’s location from this far away, then it was likely that the enemy still didn’t know where they were at. 

“Can you find out how many there are?”

“That’s hard. I’m seeing them from the sky, but the forest blocks ma view. And they all hiding, ain’t they?”

“I see.”

Milton looked closely at the map.

“Here, here and here. Please check to see if there are any enemies hiding along those routes.”

“Fine. Then, you wait a bit.”

Bianca refocused her consciousness to control the hawk again. After a while…

“This is blocked, and there's only a few here, but they keep patrolling so it’s guarded. But I think here is fine.”

Milton nodded as he looked at the location she was pointing at on the map. 

“So they were planning on ambushing us in the woods.”

“I think so too.”

Instead of trying to defend from inside a castle, it seems like the enemy planned to directly fight them. If the enemy made this choice, then…

‘Either I looked easy, or he’s in a rush. Or maybe it’s both?’

But either way, it was still a good thing for Milton. An ambush has a high payoff when it is successful, but will have terrible results if detected by the enemy in advance. 

“Miss Bianca, with magic, can you…”

Milton requested something from Bianca. She laughed in response.

“It’s possible. How many do I need ta make?”

“Including me, Jerome, and a couple other reliable knights… about thirty people.”

“Fine. But, it won’t last long, so you need to watch out for that, ya got it?”

Bianca had a rough idea of what Milton wanted to do. 

“How long will it last?”

“‘Bout an hour?”

“That’ll be enough time.”

Including Jerome, Milton immediately gathered the Southern Army’s elite knights. 

* * *

Captain Alfred. As one of the talented people that Siegfried regarded highly, he had been entrusted with 30,000 troops to confront the Southern Army. The reason Siegfried had been able to confidently leave the troops in his hands was because Alfred was a steady commander. 

Alfred was now 45 years old. He had first joined the military when he was just 20 years old, and now, he had lived more than half his life as a soldier on the battlefield.

He wasn’t a genius who had stood out from the beginning; he was just an ordinary commander that didn’t stand out in front of his superiors. He had faithfully served in the military for a long time, but most importantly, he had survived the battles. And that 25 years in battle turned the ordinary man into an excellent commander. Siegfried highly valued Alfred for his steadiness and meticulousness. While Alfred won less than 70 percent of his battles, looking beyond his victory rate, you could see that his soldiers’ survival rate was high, high enough that his soldiers’ survival rate could be counted in the top five of the Republican army’s survival rate. 

Even if he lost, he wouldn’t suffer a big enough defeat that would affect the war. 

Alfred wasn't particularly powerful enough to play with his enemies or born particularly resourceful, but…

Steady, meticulous, and cautious. 

Alfred was someone who had defeated geniuses with those characteristics of his. 

* * *

Alfred first investigated the enemy’s route, then looked for a terrain that was optimal for ambushing. And even as he was preparing the ambush, he kept thinking. 

‘The first thing I need to prepare for isn’t the optimal situation, but the worst situation.’

As usual, Alfred prepared to ambush with his usual meticulousness. First, the reconnaissance team was sent to make sure that the enemy was coming. Then he created a formation that would make it possible to continue to command his men without any trouble should the ambush be discovered. Finally, he secured a way to retreat in case they were pushed back by the enemy’s counterattack. He had made preparations for both possibilities — for when things went according to plan, and for when things didn't work out. Because he believed that meticulous preparations would lead to victory, there was no room for carelessness.

Then, finally…

“Captain Alfred, the enemies are approaching as we expected.”

The enemy’s position was discovered by a scout that Alfred had sent.

“How many men? How far are they?”

“It’s estimated that there are 20,000 troops, and they’re camped about half a day’s march away, Sir.”

“They’re setting camp? You mean they stopped marching when the sun hasn’t even set yet?”

“Yes, Sir. That’s what the report said.”

“……”

When an enemy acts abnormally, don’t ignore it. Alfred’s ironclad rule was to think, think, and think again to figure out what the enemy was intending to do. 

“It’s possible that the enemy knows of our existence. Send out more scouts and do not miss any of the enemy’s movements.”

“Yes, Sir.”

While he had laid out ambushes and was waiting for the enemy, Alfred continued to be careful. He increased reconnaissance, and just in case, took a closer look at both his path for retreat and his surroundings. However, he didn’t find anything unusual. 

‘If there’s nothing wrong on our side, then does that mean something is wrong with their formations that they needed to stop marching?’

It was a possibility. Either something happened within their army or they received a different order from the Capital. 

‘Maybe they’re hesitating to see what happens on the Eastern side of the battle.’

If the Strabus Kingdom defeated Siegfried on the Eastern side, then the Southern Army would have to immediately return to the Capital and defend their country. So that may be why they were trying to save their energies. 

‘Alright. In that case, it makes sense why there’s no movement.’

The more he thought about it, the more it seemed possible to Alfred. 

‘Let’s keep an eye on the situation a bit longer. If the enemy is thinking of using their current location as a defense line, then they’ll move their formation accordingly. It won’t be too late to respond after seeing what the enemy’s movements are like.’

In the end, Alfred decided to wait and see how the enemy reacted. Since he didn’t see a chance to attack them right now, he had chosen the most prudent option. But no matter how careful someone is, it doesn’t mean that it’ll always have good results. Sometimes, things can become unavoidable. 

That night. 

The Republican soldiers hiding in the woods to ambush the Lester Kingdom’s soldiers had to spend the night without a single campfire. 

“Damn it. It’s better to set up a position, than this nonsense. I mean, what is this?”

“It can’t be helped. If the superiors say to jump, we can only jump. How can we argue against it?”

It wasn’t an easy task to spend the night in the forest without a campfire, not to mention the uncomfortable location. In a dark forest with humid air…

The eerie atmosphere would have been more exhausting without other people.

“I guess if the enemy doesn’t make any moves tomorrow, then we’ll also fall back?”

“Based on Captain Alfred’s personality, I doubt it. He’s a commander who prioritizes fighting steadily and safely rather than winning.”

“I guess. But from our standpoint, as foot soldiers, he’s someone to be grateful towards.”

While the superiors thought Alfred was too cautious and didn’t have any accomplishments, surprisingly, the ordinary soldiers liked to fight under his command. Disregarding victory, how could the soldiers not like to fight under him when he was someone with the highest survival rate of soldiers?

“Although he is a bit harsh, he also keeps the highest number of people alive, so of course I like him. Wouldn’t you?”

While one soldier was asking for an answer, the other didn’t respond.

“Hey, Ron? Why aren’t you… huh?”

When the soldier who was standing guard with him didn’t answer, he was confused. 

But when he looked towards the other soldier, he found Ron bleeding out on the floor. 

“What… gah….”

While he was confused, he himself felt a knife stabbing through his chest.

But…

‘I can’t… I can’t see…’

He couldn’t see the person who attacked him. Even as he was dying, the soldier kept his eyes open, as though he was bitter that he could not see the enemy.

At the same time…

“Gah…”

“Ughhhh…”

“Who… who are… uck…” 

Left and right, all the soldiers standing guard were collapsing from the invisible blade. They couldn’t respond at all. They couldn’t see anyone and there wasn’t even a single sound. So even if they were a soldier with great night vision, they couldn’t respond at all. Eventually, all the soldiers in the area died a questionable death. Alfred’s surveillance network now had a big hole in it. 

* * *

After dealing with all the scouts, a group of knights appeared in the dark. 

“My Lord, as you commanded, we’ve taken care of all the soldiers in the area.”

The ones who appeared in the dark were Jerome, Milton, and the elite knights handpicked from the Southern Army. 

“And there were no mistakes?”

“Yes, My Lord. While we were taking them down, no soldiers escaped or made contact.”

Upon hearing Jerome’s report, Milton smiled with satisfaction. With a big grin on his face, Rick spoke up.

“It’s all thanks to that magician. I never knew this kind of thing was possible with magic.”

Perhaps it’s because they had experienced magic for the first time in their lives, but the knights were all very excited.

Rick, with his simple personality, was particularly excited. Seeing him so excited, Milton cautioned him anxiously.

“As a reminder, the existence of a magician is still a secret. It’ll be more powerful if no one knows, whether they be an enemy or a friend.”

“Yes, My Lord.”

While the other knights steadily answered him, Rick gave Milton a bright smile.

“Don’t worry, My Lord. Who would look at her and think she’s a magician?”

“Right. That’s true.”

“Sir, I’m just saying this because we’re on the topic, but when you think of a magician, you generally think of an elderly old man with a long beard. To be honest, I never even thought she could be a magician. I just thought she was you…”

“My what?”

“Ah… that’s…”

That’s when Rick realized. His stupid mouth had gotten him in trouble again. 

“I’m busy right now, so I’ll let it go for now.”

“Yes, My Lord.”

Milton had said, ‘for now.’

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