Chapter 0168 Scorched Earth Tactic
30 km past the border between the Handal Union and the Inbury Duchy.
The Union’s main army marched further south.
The army was led by Lord Aubrey.
The leader of national affairs was leading the army as the commander-in-chief.
In general, if an emperor or king leads an army, it would be called an emperor-led military expedition. But Lord Aubrey was neither an emperor nor a king.
As the name suggested, the Handal Union was a ‘union’ of ‘countries’.
It is formed around a council called the 『Ten-member Council』 and was made up of people representing the ten core countries of the Union.
Lord Aubrey was appointed as the ‘Governor’ and the wartime ‘Commander’ by the Ten-member Council.
In workplace terms, Lord Aubrey was the president and CEO, and the Ten-member Council was the shareholders.
Ten years ago, immediately after Lord Aubrey was appointed as the wartime commander and governor after the Great War, the Ten-member Council was overwhelmingly stronger in the power relationship between Lord Aubrey and the Ten-member Council.
Of course, that was natural because the Ten-member Council held the right to appoint the governor and commander.
But in the next decade, the power relations had reversed and now no one in the Union could stand up against Lord Aubrey’s power.
How did he diminish the power of the Ten-member Council?
In the first place, the members of the Ten-member Council were the kings, grand dukes, or dukes of each country that made up the Union.
All but one of them had been replaced in the last decade.
Some died of illness, some were attacked by thugs and never returned, and some died in a coup d’état.
Of course, there was no evidence that Lord Aubrey pulled the strings.
There were none … but the new seats at the Ten-member Council were not hostile to Lord Aubrey.
After all, it was beneficial to submit to Lord Aubrey and maintain the top position in their country.
As long as the Union government was entrusted to Lord Aubrey, their power within their own country was guaranteed.
Ten years ago.
The Union was defeated in the ‘Great War’ with the Kingdom.
However, even during the Great War, there were some battles that the Union won.
Many of the battles that were won were those that were led by Lord Aubrey in his thirties.
Essentially, Lord Aubrey was not a politician but a person who belonged on the battlefield.
In any world, famous individuals had aliases.
‘God’, ‘Genius’, ‘Emperor’, ‘General’, ‘Flying Dutchman’, etc … or ‘Explosive Blaze Magician’.
And the only alias that Lord Aubrey had was … ‘The Great General’.
“Your Excellency, that’s the City of Crew. That means we are 35 kilometers into the Inbury border, but there has been no organized resistance. What does this mean …”
“Lamber, the Duke of Inbury, is utilizing a scorched earth tactic. He will never give in even at the expense of his entire country … he is fighting with that determination. It’s a foolish but dreadful strategy. In fact, wasn’t there no food left in the occupied towns and villages, let alone people? I was surprised that they even buried the wells.”
Lord Aubrey said, chuckling.
The national power ratio between the Union and the Duchy was 20:1, and the nominal war potential ratio was 15:1.
Even though it lost in the Great War, the Union was still one of the three major powers.
The Duchy could not put up a decent fight.
If ‘decent’ doesn’t work, they had to do something extraordinary.
And that was the scorched earth tactic.
To establish a scorched earth tactic, it was not enough to simply drawback their army and eliminate the sources of food along the enemy’s path.
What was absolutely necessary was to ‘hit the enemy’s supply line’.
In other words, the Duchy army would attack supply units somewhere between the Union’s front line and their homeland … that was clear.
And Lord Aubrey was aiming for that.
The question was when would they attempt it? And where would they aim for?
He could narrow down the locations where they would strike to some extent.
He had a grasp of the terrains suitable for surprise attacks and there were not many.
The question was when.
The sooner it was, the easier it would be to deal with.
Over time, the initial sense of tension would diminish and there was a possibility that their response would fail.
So how could he bait them?
One method was to hasten the marching speed of the vanguard.
The vanguards of the Union were all on horseback.
The vanguard unit was marching straight toward the Duchy capital at a speed that was unmatched by infantry.
In other words, his threat was ‘If you don’t attack the supply unit quickly, the Duchy capital will fall’.
Of course, the Union would not win and the war would not end even if the Duchy capital falls.
That was not the case, but the ‘capital’ was also the icon of a country.
It was easy to imagine that the unifying force of the Duke Inbury’s family would rapidly decline if the enemy captures the capital.
It would turn into an issue of … whether there will be any Lords or people who will cooperate in the counterattack when it is eventually staged?
As such, they would want to avoid the fall of the Duchy capital as much as possible.
Or, even if it falls, they would want to hold it until it was near the final stages of the war.
The Duchy capital was the final piece to hold until the end.
The rook and bishop in shogi or queen in chess.
Losing it in the early stages would discard any chances of victory.
“The Duke of Inbury would, at the expense of everything, never bend to our army, but will the Lords and the people have the same spirit?”
Lord Aubrey’s soliloquy only reached the ears of Lamber next to him.
A room in the Duchy capital of Aberdeen.
“The marching speed of the Union army is at the worst speed we can imagine …”
Intelligence Secretary Joseph Salieri concluded his report with that.
The Duke of Inbury, Loris Baggio, listened to the report with a frown from beginning to end.
He would not display that expression in front of other subordinates.
His usual dignified demeanor spoke of ‘Everything is within the range of expectations. Don’t worry’, but in front of Secretary Salieri, who is a long-time acquaintance, he couldn’t prevent his true feelings from surfacing.
“They … their vanguard unit alone is one-third of our entire army …”
“There are about 3,000 vanguard units. It seems that there are not only knights but also adventurers advancing on horseback.”
Secretary Salieri squeezed out the words to inform Loris of the latest information he had.
“Even if the Union has troops at their borders with the Empire and the Kingdom, those are probably second tier and below, and the elite will be sent to this battle. 『When it comes to the Union, their swords and spears are unrivaled』… As sang through the ages, the strength of their physical professions rivals that of the Empire.”
“Oh, I know. You plan to say that if we don’t react properly, this vanguard unit alone is enough to take over the Duchy capital, right?”
“Yes. Of course, it won’t be that easy because we have the 『Green Storm』…”
“No one knows how many shots that can fire or how durable it is.”
Loris gave a loud and deep sigh.
“Is there no choice but to accelerate the actions of the raid team?”
His face was deeply distressed.
A highway about 20 km from the Union-Duchy border on the Duchy side.
A large Union supply unit was heading south.
There were fifteen military wagons and about 60 escort personnel.
There, the first large-scale battle after the start of the war would soon be held.
Arrows and attack magic flew all at once toward the Union supply unit.
A voice immediately rose from within the supply unit.
“They’re finally here. Deploy the 『Windjammer』. Raise the smoke signal.”
The escort captain’s command was transmitted and the Magicians who were strategically placed in each wagon channeled magical power to the alchemy tools at hand and deployed the 『Windjammer』.
At the same time, smoke signals rose from various places.
It was a signal that the supply unit had been attacked.
Naturally, the Union forces would gather once they see that signal.
The Duchy’s raid team naturally saw that the Union supply unit released their signal.
To burn the supplies before the Union reinforcements come.
That was their role.
They knew from the start that it was a fight against time.
“Hurry! Release the fire arrows. Magicians attack the wagons with Fire-Attribute too.”
The commander gave instructions to thoroughly annihilate the target by burning the supplies together with the wagons.
Fire arrows or fireballs flew toward the wagons to engulf the supplies in flames.
They landed without any mistakes … but before they reached the wagons, they struck something.
All fire arrows and fire magic were repelled.
The raid captain looked toward the magic squad captain next to him.
“That’s similar to a 『Wind Defensive Film』. It may have been reproduced using alchemy.”
The words of the magic squad captain plunged the raid captain into despair.
『Wind Defensive Film』was the magic on the body surface of Wyverns that blocked all physical and magical attacks.
That alone was the reason why Wyvern subjugations were surprisingly difficult.
Not only monsters but some national treasure-class items could create a pseudo-Wind Defensive Film. The one in Whitnash in the Kingdom was famous, but … to think there would be one here?
“Shit. Switch to melee combat! We don’t have time, defeat them quickly.”
Impatience was evident on the commander’s face.
In contrast, the Union supply unit.
Following the instructions of the escort captain, 『Windjammer』 was deployed on all wagons.
It was an alchemy item that formed a 5 meters radius dome and its surface was a degraded version of the 『Wind Defensive Film』.
Naturally, the creator was Frank de Verde.
As for why it was a degraded version …
The Whitnash item, known to generate the 『Wind Defensive Film』, could defend against almost all magical and physical attacks with only a small amount of magical power channeled into it by a Magician.
The items loaded on these wagons similarly only required a small amount of magical power from the Magicians but the duration of the ‘Film’ was at most one hour and its strength was about one-tenth of the original effect.
Even a genius alchemist like Frank de Verde couldn’t help but release items with this level of performance as he had minimal development time and it was in parallel with the development of the artificial golems.
Nonetheless, none of the modern alchemists have been able to reproduce this 『Wind Defensive Film』, so Frank’s ability to complete it during his spare time was still extraordinary.
Once the 『Windjammers』 were deployed, all the escort personnel entered the domes.
As long as they remained in the dome, they didn’t have to worry about ranged attacks.
In that case, the Duchy Army could only rely on close combat.
“They’re coming! Defend yourself. It’s our victory as long as we buy sufficient time.”
They didn’t have to win.
While they attracted their attention, reinforcements could be deployed around the Duchy troops to surround and annihilate them from the outside.
In fact, it would be worse if the raiding party left too quickly.
A few seconds after the long-ranged attacks stopped, the captain of the escort unit prayed tensely.
That the Duchy Army would not leave.
That they would challenge them in close-quarters combat.
As expected, the Duchy chose close combat.
Naturally, a smile appeared on the face of the escort captain.
In a hurry, his aide Lamber rushed into the tent.
“What happened? Did the Duke of Inbury surrender?”
“You know that will never happen.”
Lamber was dumbfounded by Lord Aubrey’s joke.
“Shouldn’t that be the only report that would garner such surprise?”
“Haaa … I would like to report. A supply unit was attacked 20km in the Duchy territory. However, as originally planned, the enemy raid team was surrounded and annihilated. Two escort personnel were killed and six were seriously injured. The enemy casualty appears to have exceeded 300.”
Lord Aubrey replied to Lamber’s report with slightly raised lips.
“Fufufu … Although it was as expected, it feels good when the plan goes well. Well then … this has significantly reduced the number of hands that the Duchy can play. They may aim for the supply unit once or twice more, but this first group was probably their most elite within the raid parties. From the next attempt onwards, it will be more difficult, you know? What will you do, Duke of Inbury?”
The muttered words in the second half were so soft that even Lamber didn’t hear it.
“What do you think the Duke of Inbury will do?”
“… I have no idea. But there’s only one thing left that he can count on.”
“Reinforcements from other countries?”
Lamber nodded and answered.
“That’s right. To be exact, it’s reinforcements from the Kingdom. Of course, the current Kingdom does not have the leeway to send an official army with the Knight Orders. In that case, only adventurers will be dispatched … Master McGrath will probably lead the adventures from the City of Rune.”
“To think we would face him once more …”
Lord Aubrey, on the other hand, had a clearer smile with his lips raised more than before.
“A battle is 90% settled before the battlefield. Train the army, gather them, deploy, arrange for supplies, and appoint excellent frontline commanders. That’s it. The battles on the battlefield are just confirmatory works.”
“I don’t want to be told that by Your Excellency, who overturned the battle situation for those confirmation works on the battlefield many times in the previous war …”
Lord Aubrey chuckled at Lamber’s amazed tone.
“It’s also true that it can happen. Or just a few heroes can overturn a battle.”
“Heroes like Master McGrath.”
After nodding three times, Lord Aubrey muttered.
“The borders between the Duchy and the Kingdom will be sealed soon. Kingdom adventurers may face the corpse of the Duke of Inbury if they take more time than expected to cross the border. The battle starts before the fighting begins … Hugh, what are you going to do?”
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