The commander of the Marquis’s army was truly in question. Even now, he bellowed the order to charge forward, despite his many advisors warning against it. The Count’s army reacted by feinting a retreat for a moment, and then they completely demolished the Marquis’ right wing and utilized their mobility to surround the Marquis’ army.
It was apparent that there weren’t any fools who’d follow their commander’s orders to charge when their centre was surrounded. The soldiers deserted the battlefield, and the forsaken commander was silenced by his own knights. Incapacitated, the commander’s limp body was dragged to safety by the skin of his teeth.
With the battle nearing its end, the judge that had watched it from start to finish announced the Count’s victory, and a triumphant roar emerged from the Count’s formation.
Isaac got off his seat listening to the victorious cries, stretching his stiff limbs when Rivelia approached.
“What happened to Kunette and Reisha?”
“I’ve been notified that they barely managed to stop them in New Port City.”
“Rizzly’s really having a hard time.”
Kunette and Reisha wanted to follow Isaac as if it was a given, but this job required confidentiality – not to mention that the two couldn’t be involved in the work of the Directorate of Security.
It may have been possible with Isaac’s approval, but Kunette and Reisha stood out from the crowd too much, not to mention that they had a job to do in New Port City. Which is why Isaac, his agents, and Rivelia escaped from New Port City in the thick of night while Kunette and Reisha were sleeping. Poor Rizzly clutched at Isaac’s feet begging him not to leave, but he was coldly ignored and left to his demise.
“But who’s that fellow that’s been doing nothing but screaming incessantly throughout battle?”
“That is Marquis Lichten’s youngest son, Baron Aintz.”
“Oh! He was a VIP. A very precious body he is. He’s going to be very useful. What about the Count?”
“That is one of the battalions commanded by Sir Rhineland the Flash. Befitting of his name ‘the Flash,’ the battalion boasts the greatest degree of mobility within the Count’s army and thrives in lightning-fast battles..”
“Good. How’s the preparations?”
“They’re complete but…”
Rivelia’s words faded with hesitation and looked behind, dragging Isaac’s eyes with her.
“It’s just as I’d imagined.”
Isaac grinned as he watched his Security agents standing in a line. Their bodies were covered in a white cape, and their faces were covered with cone shaped hoods with two holes for their eyes. Seeing tens of men wear this outfit in silence brought an ominous feel.
“From now on, we are the Black Bandits.”
Rivelia frowned hearing the word ‘bandits,’ but she couldn’t do anything. This was the Directorate of Security’s official work. Rivelia was but a mere observer and couldn’t take any action. She reported to Central’s headquarters immediately when she found out that Isaac planned on masquerading as a band of bandits, but the higher-ups replied with the message to either watch or pull out from the mission completely, not even considering stopping Isaac.
“Why are we the Black Bandits when our outfits are white?”
“Hm? Don’t worry. It’ll be dyed black with enough blood on it.”
The agents gulped at Isaac’s nonchalant comment. Those very pure white hoods were going to be drenched in blood soon.
Both sides had skirmishes up to now, but those were akin to reconnaissance in force. This was the first conflict that could be considered battle.
EDN: Reconnaissance in force is the military term for “an offensive operation designed to discover and/or test the enemy’s strength or to obtain other information.”
The first battle had significant importance, as its result greatly impacted the army’s morale. This, in turn, was the reason why being in the vanguard was a great honor; any accomplishments would earn high praise. The honor of a vanguard had captivated Baron Aintz, and he stubbornly demanded to be at the forefront.
The Marquis was no fool, and Baron Aintz, who had been wasting his entire life without a shred of involvement in the military, had never even been a candidate to even participate in this important battle. But Baron Aintz was extremely stubborn; plus, his status as the Marquis’ son and Marquis’ love allowed him to snatch the commander’s position for the main forces.
The result was a devastating defeat. It was a foregone conclusion, considering that it was a reckless charge lacking any semblance of tactic or strategy. But Aintz not only avoided responsibility by shifting the blame to cowardice of his soldiers and knights, he even scolded the advisors for not reinforcing his position. This sight brought even Marquis Lichten to an unheard-of fury, who disgracefully discharged Baron Aintz from the army.
While the Marquis was busy consolidating his forces from the first defeat, Count Wolfgang was in a festive mood. Rhineland’s battalion finished the post battle cleanup, collecting the dead and transporting the injured to the back. Afterwards, they made camp in the middle of the plain.
Rhineland, who had been a longtime colleague of Count Wolfgang with whom he had overcome many trials together, was mellowed that the dream he and Count Wolfgang shared wasn’t far off. So he allowed his soldiers to celebrate with alcohol.
As the bonfire lit the camp brightly, the festive soldiers smiled and laughed as they shared the joys of victory and paid respects to their dead companions late into night. Despite this, they also showed proper discipline by having guards patrol outside the camp.
“Wasn’t it amazing?”
“Yeah! Look. My hands are still shaking.”
“Did you lose anyone on your side?”
“Not me, but I think Hans’ group in the spear corp was badly injured.”
“I saw it too. The Marquis’ army was trying so hard to break through there.”
“If it weren’t for the honourable combat knights, not even Hans would have lived.”
The mood darkened as they mentioned the dead, so the patrol switched to a more cheerful topic. Even as they conversed, they didn’t let up in keeping watch, especially when the patrol heard a twig break in the distance.
The patrol immediately pointed their spears towards the direction of the sound, but it was difficult to make out what was there in the thick of night.
The patrol was about to approach to check if it was a wild animal, when a man wearing black glasses appeared. The flashes of ember lit his face in the dark with a ‘tick,’ ‘tick’ sound.
“Who are you! State your identity!”
Isaac ignored the patrol’s shout, focusing on his lighter that seemed to have run out. He tried two more times before giving up and asking the patrol.
“You guys got any light?”
“This is your last warning! State your identity! Or we will kill you!”
“You don’t have any?”
“I have one.”
The patrol were awed by the sudden appearance of a beautiful woman, simply gazing in silence. Meanwhile, Rivelia lit the cigarette for Isaac. Isaac let out a smoke and asked.
“Why do you carry a lighter when you don’t even smoke Choyu leaves?”
“Lighters are one of the basic commodities we’re supplied with.”
“So you’re just a fiery woman.”
TLN: This is a pun in Korean. The raw is 불만 있는 여자, which usually means you’re an unhappy woman, but it can also be read literally as a woman with only fire. It’s a dad joke.
Isaac snickered at his own joke, but the response was cold. The patrol leader Alex found something amiss at this laughing man and moved immediately as he was trained.
“Enemy! Sound the…”
Alex’s words did not finish. As he took out his whistle and turned to his men, he saw them being taken out by men wearing strange outfits. As he lost consciousness, he felt the sting of cold air in his neck and liquid pouring down onto his chest.
“The patrol has been taken care of.”
The agents assembled under the dim light of the dropped lantern. Isaac let out another breath of smoke and gazed at the Count’s camp relishing in victory.
“It is the norm to celebrate the victor.”
It’s a celebration, but only for you… the agents grumbled in their minds as they took out their weapons. It was the new ranged weapon provided by Central. The first live combat testing of a weapon anticipated to be as effective as the guns from Expeditionary Forces.
“Let’s light up the place first. It’s too dark. Load the fire arrows.”
“Loading fire arrows.”
With Isaac’s order given, the agents loaded their crossbows with clips filled with bolts enchanted with fire. They raised their bows up. Since this was such a long ranged weapon with a low firing arc, they needed to raise their gun up somewhat, lest the bolts only land on the front of the camp.
“Scatter it nicely. Fire all rounds.”
The agents moved in accordance to Isaac’s nonchalant order. Bolts poured out from the crossbows and shot high into the sky before raining down onto the camp.
The magic imbued in the bolts activated the moment it made contact. The engulfing flames consumed the nearby surroundings, and the whole camp was now on fire.
“Let’s throw some fireworks to celebrate their victory too. Change your rounds. Load the explosive bolts.”
“… Loading explosive bolts.”
The agents hesitated before gritting their teeth and repeated Isaac’s order. The foes they fought in the defence of the Gate were from the other world, but these were citizens of the Empire, just like them. Their hearts were troubled, watching what was once a camp full of laughter shift to that of screaming and shouting.
“Fire all rounds. Afterwards, fire at will. This is supposed to be a weapons test, so make sure to use all the special rounds and write a report on them later.”
Another rain of bolts shot up into the sky with Isaac’s order.
A storm of dust, earth, and blood erupted into the air from the explosions. Afterwards, the agents began firing at will and began using all sorts of special rounds.
It seemed that even the Count’s elite soldiers didn’t possess the bravery to face such an unprecedented scale of firepower. They never had the time to organise themselves in this chaos. Consumed by fear, the soldiers scattered in all directions.
Something unimaginable had happened. 1500 soldiers of the Count were ambushed and routed by a mere 30 or so individuals.
Even their commanders were either confused or dead. Soldiers without commanders were as good as nothing.
Watching the soldiers abandon their arms and run, Isaac took out a new cigarette and flicked it at Rivelia with his mouth.
Rivelia shook terribly with her fists clenched. She took a deep breath and threw the lighter at Isaac.
“Fiesty. Is it because you’re just a fiery girl?”
Rivelia didn’t even turn her face to look at Isaac, refusing to react to Isaac’s dull joke. She instead focused on the burning camp.
Just as Isaac was about to light his cigarette, a group barged out of the camp. They were all mounted on horseback. At the head was Rhineland.
“I guess the combat knights are different.”
The fact they were on horseback meant they were combat knights and cavalrymen under their command. They were the core and most powerful part of the army, and Isaac‘s mouth was agape with admiration at their attempt to find and retaliate against the source of ambush even as their soldiers ran away. Isaac stepped back.
Isaac smiled mischievously as he shrugged, and Rivelia shot deadly glares before she bit her lip and stepped forward in Isaac’s stead.
“Hold fire. Switch to hip fire stance.”
The agents stopped shooting into the sky and turned to aim at the charging cavalry.
Rhineland instinctively knew that the crossbows were now aimed at them, seeing the rain of arrows stop. He shouted and charged to where Isaac was, and his cavalrymen followed behind him as they hastened their steeds. The charge was pitiful, carried out by men who didn’t even don armour or equip a lance, only a sword in their hand. A result of the ambush.
But it still proved why cavalry were a force to be reckoned with. The shaking earth under the hooves of a hundred horses had the force to chill anyone’s heart.
After hesitating again and again, Rivelia gave her order, and bolts loosed from the agents’ crossbows. These were crossbows that referenced Isaac’s invention, which pierced even Central’s defensive coats.
Blinded by darkness, these cavalrymen melted in the face of the silent shower of bolts like infantrymen charging into a machine gun nest.
Man, horse, it did not matter. They all plummeted into the ground, dead before they could even utter a scream. Without any armour on them, these men were thrown from their horses and couldn’t survive the momentum added by their charge and the impact of the bolts.