While Rivelia fought her desire to unveil the truth behind Isaac’s lies, Count Wolfgang and Isaac had agreed upon the terms with satisfaction.
“I’ve already finished speaking with the Department of Administration. One signature from you and your realm will become mine temporarily. This contract was signed by Mazelan sunbaenim as a witness, so you don’t need to worry about this being a scam. To seal the deal, I had Mazelan sunbaenim wait for us to call him, so why don’t the two of you speak together after you sign this. You can get through a lot with connections in the Department of Administration, and if you’re lucky, they might even offer some aid with no strings attached. That fella takes good care of me, you know.”
Rivelia retched in response as Isaac’s flaunting had ballooned beyond reason.
With plenty of supplies and funds provided by Isaac, Count Wolfgang eagerly made his moves. The recruitment of additional soldiers and mercenaries, combined with a slowing of the Black Bandits’ activities, allowed Wolfgang to focus on the war.
When all preparations were finished, Count Wolfgang ordered the advance. Breaking through the haphazard forces of the Marquis, Wolfgang quickly recovered his lost territories and advanced into Marquis’ lands.
Wolfgang’s goal to finish the war in the shortest time possible was close to fruition, as he conquered most of the Marquis’ lands. But that was when the Marquis struck back.
Somehow, the Marquis’ forces were suddenly aware of all of his forces’ positions, crushing them and his overstretched supply lines.
Plus, there was an astronomically high casualty rate for officers, leading to the annihilation and mass surrenders of leaderless troops. Whenever a battle occured, every leader was killed, from its highest general to its lowest officers.
It was most definitely assassination, but aiming for officers was common knowledge in war. Wolfgang had neither the excuse nor time to file a complaint. Thanks to some battalions that had resisted desperately, Wolfgang bought enough time and ordered his troops regroup, but even his rendezvous locations seemed to have been leaked. The remnants of Wolfgang’s forces that managed to retreat back to Countdom were only slightly more than half of what he started with.
A crushing defeat. Wolfgang even considered the possibility that the Marquis had been sending incapable officers to lull him into a false sense of security before this one decisive move, but the officers and advisors of Wolfgang couldn’t wrap their heads on how to analyse the Marquis’ forces. How did half their forces survive despite losing in terms of both intelligence and strategy?
“Wow. I really have nothing to say to these retards. How am I supposed to look at those dumbasses losing despite having map hacks and cheats on.”
Isaac was at a loss for words to describe forces of Marquis, which were the epitome of incapability. Isaac had given them all the information and killed all the top officers to streamline the process, yet they somehow lost a few battles against remnants of the Count’s armies.
This war would have been over long ago if Central hadn’t intervened. And as if pouring oil to fuel Isaac’s flaming fury, these Marquis’s generals actually believed they won because they outsmarted their foes and charged recklessly despite countless warnings of an ambush – only to be caught in the forewarned ambush and lose decisively. Isaac could feel his blood boil just watching them.
Still, Isaac managed to make steady profit from this. The sudden change of course in the war attracted significant attention, and the gambling scene engorged itself once more.
Even Wolfgang’s army, which boasted of its elite troops, were helpless when their positions were leaked and left without a leader. They were cornered.
Pushed back by the relentless advances of the Marquis, Count Wolfgang lost all his territories except his initial barondom. Even that was mostly occupied by the Marquis, and Wolfgang’s forces prepared for their last stand in the Count’s castle.
Two preparations had to be made before a siege could take place. First, only volunteers could participate in a siege battle on the defending. Second, all civilians unrelated to the war had to be evacuated.
These two preparations needed to be finished before even starting the battle even if the castle was surrounded, but some of the Marquis’ forces couldn’t wait patiently and bickered amongst one another about their shares of loot when the war was over. Some of his forces openly fought one another, granting the dishonour of infighting during a war to the Marquis.
Of course, the Marquis was furious, and he ordered the two noble families to fall back to the reserves. But the two families were so caught up in their emotions that they requested the start of provincial warfare to the Department of Administration against each other, beginning a battle in the midst of occupied territory. They were the first in history to fight a provincial war against allies in the middle of another war; the Marquis was fuming with anger.
Meanwhile, not one soldier from Wolfgang deserted their post, declaring their will to fight unto death. Even the evacuated civilians remained in sight of the castle, praying for Wolfgang’s victory in their hearts.
“Wow! These dumbasses. I’m really done with them.”
But the wishes and efforts of the soldiers and refugees were pointless, as the result was already predetermined. As soon as the judge announced the start of battle and Marquis’ forces charged, the castle gate was opened.
Isaac shook his head when he watched the Marquis’ army rush headlong toward the gate, throwing caution to the wind.
Not everyone in Marquis’ army were fools. There were plenty of officers who prepared proper tactics and made preparations for a decisive victory. But it was always the fools who had the power to decide, so the result was the same no matter how many advisors tried.
Even now, Isaac clicked his tongue, watching the high nobles scream at their soldiers to take the castle and capture Wolfgang alive despite their advisors’ warnings against traps and ambushes. The nobles were charging forward nonstop, racing other nobles to the prize that was Wolfgang’s capture.
It was understandable why they were so obsessed with capturing Wolfgang, since such a feat would be listed first in the list of all war efforts. And it was Isaac who made Wolfgang’s efforts useless by opening the castle gate to finish the battle quickly.
“Are the Count’s forces that stubborn? Or are the Marquis’ forces that useless?”
“You have a point.”
Rivelia answered uneasily and Isaac agreed.
The siege that started at noon was still going on as the sun was setting, boring Isaac.
“I can see that they aren’t going easy because it’s not his anymore. Yeah, break it all. I see that the reconstruction business is quite profitable too.”
The Marquis’ forces struggled to advance into the castle partly because this was their first siege battle, but also because their plan of advancing quickly through the main roads was thwarted by the relentless resistance from Wolfgang’s forces, who hid inside buildings and in the streets, disregarding civilian damages.
The winner had to assume debts from civilian damages; in this case, it was the Marquis. The Marquis argued with the war judge furiously as he watched the battle unfold, but the judge did not accept the Marquis’ argument, as Isaac had bribed him.
The rights for the territory had already been passed on to Isaac, so all civilian damages had to be handled by Isaac. So Wolfgang’s forces that resisted until death didn’t have to care about it. It was also Wolfgang’s revenge on Isaac.
“It was you right? That told Wolfgang.”
Rivelia acted innocent as she avoided Isaac’s sharp glare.
“As you said, Director, only a fool would be oblivious.”
Rivelia didn’t tell him directly. She simply orchestrated an event that would allow Wolfgang to learn that Isaac had bet on Marquis’ victory after a chain of rumours.
This would have been enough for Wolfgang to realise that Isaac was backing the Marquis when Marquis’ forces advanced with endless supplies despite Wolfgang’s constant raids on their supply lines.
And Rivelia revealed this to Wolfgang just before the siege battle. It was an act of petty revenge on Isaac, who sought personal profit through the war, but watching Isaac grumble was such a refreshing feeling to Rivelia that she thought it was worth it. And since it had little impact on the war and only increased Isaac’s losses, Isaac didn’t have a good reason to scold her.
“I don’t know if I should be happier that you are getting more conniving, tsk.”
Isaac commented on Rivelia, who was looking far into the distance when he received news from Kainen. The Marquis had broken through into the castle’s keep, and Wolfgang and his few remaining soldiers were facing off against the Marquis in their last stand.
“I guess that’s it for my war business. Tks. This is your punishment for leaking the info. Don’t move from here.”
“You can see what’s happening with the communicator, so just watch and don’t move.”
“This is an order. Don’t move. And think about the homework I gave you. The answer will come soon.”
“… Yes sir.”
The last survivors of the battle locked themselves inside the banquet hall, which was the largest room in the keep. Its doors were reinforced by furniture inside the room, but this crude barricade was smashed open with ease. The Marquis’s soldiers poured into the room, surrounding Wolfgang, his knights, and the rest of his soldiers.
Wolfgang himself sat upon the chair at the end of the Banquet hall with his family. His grim expression changed to fury when Marquis Lichten entered with absolute arrogance.
“Huhuhu. It’s been a while, Wolfgang.”
When the two’s eyes met, Count Wolfgang kissed his wife and held his children dearly as he whispered.
“I’m sorry, Laila, Julia. Your father’s greed for vengeance has made it difficult for you.”
Julia burst into tears and tried to bury herself in her father, while Lailia tried her utmost to hold back her tears and glared at Marquis Lichten.
Marquis Lichten engraved the image of Laila into his mind, seeing how ferocious her eyes were, before speaking to Wolfgang.
“I’m really curious, so I’d like to ask. Why did you aim for me? If you wanted the title of Marquis, you could have simply taken over your neighboring territories. Why did you aim for nobles under my rule only?”
“Are you really asking that question?”
Wolfgang’s eyes were vengeful, yet the Marquis responded as if he was truly oblivious.
“You won’t say you didn’t know my father, will you?”
The Marquis rubbed his chin and reminisced.
“Wolfgang… Yes, Of course. I remember. Aindolf Wolfgang. A fool whose arrogance went beyond his measly title of Baron. Ha, dear me… That petty reason is why you pointed your sword at me, a Marquis?”
“Petty reason? This land suffered for a long time because of you. And you say petty?”
“That was just my underlings moving at their own volition. All I did was state my disapproval of that man.”
“That one statement was why my father was caught in your nobles’ schemes, expelling him from the Campus. That one statement was why this land was constantly harassed by other nobles, locked into poverty. My father spent his entire life living in despair, watching his poverty ridden fiefdom crumble and his residents leave to make a living elsewhere.”
Wolfgang cast sleep magic on Julia, who had been throwing a tantrum in refusal to leave her father’s side. After putting her to sleep, Wolfgang handed Julia to his wife, while patting Laila’s head once before coming down from his chair.
Watching Wolfgang step down with a sword in his hand, Marquis Lichten shouted furiously.
“You should have been happy with that title of Count. How dare a clueless pup seek to aim for me?”
“You’d gloat over this victory when you would have been obliterated if it weren’t for that Warlock organisation and Isaac’s schemes?”
“Ha! Such brave words you speak when you don’t even know the reason why you lost?”
Wolfgang asked back, realising something was behind the scenes. But Marquis Lichten showed no signs of answering and pointed at Wolfgang’s wife and children with his chin.
“If you don’t want them to see you die in front of them, have them leave. I hear your wife is a branch family of Dorothy, so I will protect her until her family sends an escort.”
“How dare you even suggest such nonsense, to trust your despicable nature!”
Pount, who had remained silent in conversation between Wolfgang and Lichten, shouted out furiously. His cries echoed throughout the banquet hall, causing the Marquis’ combat knights to flinch. The Marquis frowned at this sight.