Chapter 106: Twelfth Episode: Chapter 6
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation

Snowfields, snowfields as far as the eyes could see. Two red pines covered in frost and a house that was practically buried in the snow were the only decoration on this land. The national highway winding through the snowfields appeared to go on forever. The distinct greyish black surface of the road was the only way for the people to differentiate between the highland and gorge.

Close to noon, the winter sunlight appeared dim and feeble. Without the warmth of the sun, the snow radiated a dazzling light of its own and a chilly winter air. There were no signs of life, for the Northerners were reluctant to leave their houses during the mid to end of the second month. However, there were still wagons of traveling merchants shuttling along the national highway. These traveling merchants, who were transporting the North’s specialties, were probably the most diligent group of people during the winter. If they wanted to secure their profits, then they had to endure through all the sufferings brought on by the wind, snow and frigid temperature.

The rays of light reflected on the snowy grounds caused the distant mountain range to be draped in a misty outer layer and made the outlines of the horizon to appear extremely fuzzy. It was as if the people could touch the mountains by stretching out their hands and could pluck a cloud if they jumped.

The order to halt that came from the front of the procession took a full minute to spread all the way to the rear. It was evident that this group was extremely huge. It consisted of the entire infantry brigade of the Steinberger Family, the entire infantry division of the Imperial guards and the entire cavalry division of the Narcissus knights. Lastly, in order to accomplish their mission smoothly, the Sukhoi Family, the Empire’s first arms dealer, gave ten Fortress cannons allocated to a division level. Of course, this did not include the technical staff and who set out together with the procession. Torry always thought that even if the temporary artillery soldiers were to freeze to death, it still could not compare to a firearms expert or engineer’s life.

Marching in the snowfields was an arduous task! It was still manageable during the day; if they did not encounter any blizzards, then there wasn’t any condition that could defeat the soldiers who were used to living in the North. However, when night fell, this mixed army would have to take caution as the surface temperature could hit as low as thirty degrees below freezing point and if there were strong winds, it would not be a surprise if it went as low as over forty degrees below freezing point. The soldiers spread out a good few layers of thick palliasses into the tent. These palliasses were an essential for the march on snowy grounds. It could shield against the wind and snow, and prevent the tent from getting wet. When the horse feed was insufficient, one only had to tear open these palliasses and dry them, then they could be used to replenish food for the warhorses.

Speaking of warhorses, these creatures were perhaps the most pitiful group of warriors in the procession. They did not have a tent, but only a temporary stable. The stables were very crude and played no role in sheltering against the wind, but this could not be helped, as the knights really couldn’t find adequate wooden materials. Thus, the knights could only add on a few blankets for their companions by day while they themselves huddled in their tents beside the brazier, with their cloaks wrapped tightly around them.

Food was apparently a topic that the knights in the group were most unwilling to bring up. Most of the coal brought by the procession were used for warmth and the remainder was already insufficient for the rest of the journey. So, each time before retreating to their camps, the procession would send out a group to search for dry firewood, but as one could imagine, in a plain that was frozen for a thousand miles, their findings were scarce. Thus, the soldiers could only have one warm meal per day and these warm dishes would only appear at night. In the morning and afternoon, Titan’s soldiers could only chew on frozen bread and extremely salty marinated meat.

The result of continuously eating cold food was that most of the soldiers fell ill from severe dysentery. Since it was not known whether these unfortunate men carried the dysentery pathogen, to avoid its spread, the medical officer of the procession could only leave these poor souls who had relentless diarrhea at the church or relay station along the way.

Torry despised this because his temporary artillery soldiers kept dropping out. Although the ten tractors were carrying immense objects of more than six thousand over kilograms, there was not much difference with the other units who were carrying heavy supply wagons, rations and all sorts of military essentials. So Torry kept losing his temper and complained that these weaklings who could not even walk properly were a disgrace to his family.

Each time this happened, General Endorph from the Steinberger Family would come over to console the young Major. The General would go "It’s fine, if we’re slow, then let it be. The important thing is our cannons, if they are fine then being late by ten days or half a month is also worth it."

Although it was put that way, His Imperial Highness Prince still kept expressing his dissatisfaction. He was also complaining, complaining about the weather, the speed of the march, the materials used to set up the tents and also the Raytheon that were picky eaters. Raytheons were the noblest creatures on the battlefield. It refused the soggy straw in the manger and would rather go hungry than to even touch those. Without a choice, Oscar could only resort to gathering his followers and taking a few sausages and flour from his and their fixed amount of meals. Then he would entrust the master chef of the camp to combine the flour and sausages to make flatbread. Each time that moment arrived, the Raytheon would put on their most noble manner and appear at the entrance of the cooks’ campgrounds. It would bask its own glory while waiting for the appetizing food.

"Beloved Sasha, today is already the 21st of the 3rd month! I already have enough of this! The other areas of the Empire probably already have the spring breeze blowing through them, but at Lidlebain Province, we are being bathed all day in the great snow of winter and the icy-cold wind and frost brought about by the low temperature."

Having written up to here, Oscar again became fidgety. This is seriously absurd! He just started his letter!

"Sasha, I am really at my wits end! Torry’s artillery team is like a dying bride when they move, they are like one who is shy and ridden with incurable diseases! I do not wish to comment on the quality of the Sukhoi Family’s soldiers, but I dare affirm that if these soldiers were born a peasant, then they can only be the laziest among them who cannot even endure hardships."

"Perhaps... My demands are too harsh, but it is necessary to make a journey of twenty-five kilometers a day! If it weren’t for General Endorph’s exceptionally precise grasp of the characteristic of the weather, I believe that my procession will have long been trapped in the blizzard. Blizzard, Sasha! Thank heavens! You have never experienced it. A few days ago, I watched the disaster at the edge of the storm. Dark clouds appeared in the sky that formed into a cyclone. A large amount of snowflakes froze together and smashed onto the ground, producing a loud boom. It is said that the wind force at the core of the storm could easily destroy houses and huge trees, but I have never seen such a scene. I only hope that at least before I arrive at Blackwood Fortress, I will not encounter such a disastrous climate.

"Is everything okay at home? I apologize for dropping so many complains. I guess now I should ask about my beloved and friends! In your last letter you mentioned that Annie’s lung infection still recurred in the end! Ola! How should I say this? My Sasha, I have to say that this is part of your responsibility. I have told you to be mindful of Annie’s health status on more than one occasion, but did you? You have really disappointed me!"

"It’s only natural that you will feel extremely wronged by my saying this, but you have grown up! Do not forget that you are the mistress of Swan Hill Castle. When I am away, you should be responsible for the people and matters there! I am not putting pressure on you, but just reminding you. I want to instill awareness in you as a mistress, for managing a family is not an easy task. Do you still remember Lady Vijdeline whom I mentioned before? She is an expert in this field and I have never met any other girl who does it as outstanding as her! So, if there is an opportunity, you must really consult her properly. My Sasha, when will you only truly grow up? Annie mentioned in her letter that you hurt your shoulder when you were on the sleigh at Swan Lake, and you even dislocated it! You still dare hide it from me?"

"Sleighs are for children, shouldn’t you... you do a little... Oh sorry! I also don’t know what you should do. I deeply appreciate your missing me; I know that you are just trying to distract yourself from the loneliness and silence. However Sasha, promise me that you will not scare me like that again and will not disappoint me anymore!"

"Okay, this should do it! My hands are almost frozen! I reckon that we will come across a relay station tomorrow, then I will send out this letter. Oh goodness gracious! Even the relay stations are scarce in this province."

"Lunch break is already over Sasha. The military bugler has already sounded the bugle horn to set off. It seems that my lunch will go to waste, but don’t worry, my stomach is a little upset and going on an empty stomach once in a while is necessary. After a few days, the army and I will arrive in Butan Fortress. One of the corps of the Empire’s seventeenth region is defending there. I believe that we will not have to fret over supplies and cold food there."

"Church’s year 797, 21st day of the 3rd month, midday, the Western section of the national highway at Lidlebain province, 170 kilometers from the Steinberger Family’s territory. Your loving brother, O’Neil Andrew Morisette!"

"Percy!" Oscar unfolded the letter for his doctor, "Look, what do you think? Do you think Sasha can detect a problem?"

The poison doctor scanned through the letter then eyed His Imperial Highness Prince’s bloodshot eyes and shook his head with a sigh.

"My Imperial Highness, to be honest, this letter appears as if it is written by a blind person. You should wait for your eyes to recover before doing this."

Oscar rubbed his red, swollen, and sore eyes, but no one could blame him, for no one ever told him that a disease such as snow blindness existed in this world.

"Ola! That will not do! I have mentioned in my letter that my illegible handwriting is because of my freezing hand; Sasha will not suspect a thing!" Oscar shook the letter, seemingly very pleased at his cleverness.

"Okay, okay! The procession is about to set out and I need to wrap a bandage around your eyes!"

Oscar frowned, "Is this needed? Don’t tell me that you don’t know! Murat and my division commanders are making fun of me."

Percy rolled his eyes, "My Imperial Highness, you are actually still concerned about this? Let your eyes heal before considering other things! Snow blindness, as the name implies, can really give rise to permanent blindness. You must be careful by all means. As for Murat and the others, believe me, no one will dare mock you for they do not wish to die."

This mixed army resumed their journey swiftly. The aftertaste of the lunch still lingered in the soldiers’ mouth. To be honest, that was the most ice-cold meal in the world. However, little did these warriors who were hastening on their journey know that the same problems beset another army larger than them up ahead.

***************

The origin of the name of Black Woods goes back a long time! It was said that the first batch of ancient Romans to have arrived on Westland’s most vast and primitive forest gave it its name. The Western part of the Black woods starts from the Northeastern part of Riel Kingdom then cuts through the whole Northwestern border of Titan Empire. It extends southward until the vicinity of Dulin capital and eastwards until the common border of the Steinberger family and the Empire’s seventeenth region.

This deep and vast forest has a wide expanse of uninhabited region. Aside from more than ten forest fortresses and large timber bases operated by the Steinberger Family, basically no one else was willing to spend their lives in a forest where ferocious beasts lurked.

There was not much difference between the woodland in Titan Empire that was close to the border of Riel Kingdom and the Blackwood Fortress. It was winter now and Blackwood was even more worthy of its name. The sunlight appeared even more pale and feeble in the hidden, deep woods. The snow accumulated on the trees exerted pressure on them and occasionally the crisp sound of branches snapping in the woodland could be heard; this was more or less the only noise in the woodland. Most of the time, this place was deserted and moreover it was still, like a silent ghost realm where only those from the domain of the King of Hell or specters would visit.

A flock of birds suddenly soared up from the woods. These birds that were resistant to cold shot up into the sky, cawing. After they circled above for a period of time, they settled down in the other end of the woodland.

The northeastern wind churned up snow powder and in the white mist covered woodland, a soldier in full armor suddenly emerged. The soldier had a thick animal fur wrapped around himself. The fur has not been processed and still retained the look of a beast.

At a rare spot of the woodland that was bathed in sunlight, the mist thinned out remarkably. The soldiers walked into the light and the military boots that were also wrapped in fur produced a squelching sound as they left deep set footprints on the snow grounds.

The soldier came to a halt and gazed behind him, baffled. His face broke into a gratified smile. His companions have caught up with him; initially it was a platoon, followed by a company, after that, a group and following that, another group! In the end, it was division followed by division and corps followed by corps. Soon, soldiers equipped with all sorts of weapons thronged the whole woodland. The sound of footsteps sinking into the snow grounds, combined into one and it continued to advance forwards.

In the middle section of this peculiar procession, an officer draped in beautiful fur came to a halt. A young knight with a dainty face spread open a massive map. He looked at it carefully and ascertained the position of the Sun in the sky.

"I reckon... We have penetrated about sixty kilometers into the borders of Titan Empire!" The knights gave a figure cautiously.

"Sixty kilometers?" A burly knight in front of the group frowned, "This is not good news for we are already behind on our journey by half a day more than initially planned."

"Your distinguished Marshal!" An officer approached the bulky knight. It was difficult to fathom why that knight was actually a Marshal! But, whose Marshal was he?

"My distinguished Marshal, you need not worry, the daylight hours are short now so it is only natural that we should not travel too fast! Although it is unlikely that the Steinberger Family’s patrol will show up in this wretched place, it is hard to say though that certain unfortunate soldiers won’t discover our enormous army along the way. So, let us wait until we’ve entered a hundred over kilometers deep into Titan’s borders then we can rest during the day and march during the night. That way, we can speed up and conceal our procession."

"Concealing the procession is of utmost importance and we need to assign more hands in the reserve group to clean up the footprints and traces of the march. As for speeding up..." The Marshal with a knights appearance shook his head, "Forget about speeding up, as long as we aren’t discovered, we can arrive at the twenty first district sooner or later! To accomplish this great strategy for His Majesty Emperor, I am willing to sacrifice my all."

"Marshal, we came here for the objective of the strategy. But I should remind you that the group of knights and infantries should rest. We have already skipped lunch and if the soldiers still do not eat anything, I fear that they cannot endure until nightfall."

"Very well! Messenger!" The Marshal twisted his head around "Order the procession to halt the advance and rest for twenty minutes in our current location. One more thing, the scouts and reconnaissance detachments are to extend their search to a five kilometer radius."

"As you wish Marshal!"

Within the forest, the enormous procession quickly came to a halt. Numerous messengers bustled to and fro among each unit. They notified the infantries, and the cavalries. Evidently, this enormous army that attempted to cross the entire Northwestern part of the Black woods possessed commendable military branches and organizational structure.

Marshal Veron Blundindt, commander of the Deiss Teutonic Cavalry Group led his group of officers to convene in a temporarily built tent; he was immensely pleased with the results of the patrol party. The Kingdom’s most elite force and warriors were all gathered in this vast forest! The march of two months and a half has brought on enough suffering to the tenacious Yaran soldiers. Not only do they need to march secretly along the road opened up by the Rielese, they still had to exercise restraint over the use of fire after entering Titan’s borders. They could not warm themselves by night and could not cook or heat up food by day because the smoke and fire they produce will alert the people of Titan more than ten kilometers away of their presence. Upon the third day of entering Titan, the soldiers fed on frozen bread and snow water. Although within the three days, the numbers exceeding what was initially estimated succumbed to those conditions, the Yaran warriors from Deiss endured through without resentment or complaint

The Marshal looked around at the soldiers there. Since the force has infiltrated enemy territory, His Majesty King and the Kingdom’s commander-in-chief’s secret order could be commenced.

All the officers were anticipating it and they subconsciously grasped the sword at their waist firmly. They heard that it took up a year’s time to scheme this secret combat plan. Now, they can finally witness it.

The Marshal beckoned with his head to the stunning young lad beside him. The youngster beamed and opened up long scroll.

"This, is the detailed map of Titan Empire’s Steinberger Family territories. Each of the family’s border sentry posts, fortresses and pillboxes’ precise locations are marked out here." Despite trying his hardest to conceal it, the young lad still failed to repress the immaturity in his voice.

"Thanks to the DeKTer’s2 spying and investigation work for half a century, our secret agents managed to produce a map of such precision. They even specified every possible patrol routes of the Steinberger’s border guards that we may come across. This is also the reason why our Kingdom paid such a heavy price before they obtained the right to pass through Riel kingdom. Only our current marching routes can successfully evade our enemies in the forest."

The young lad tactfully concluded his explanation, having noticed that the officers were getting impatient.

"So... Fellow officers of the Teutonic cavalry group and commanders from all over the Empire!" The young officer announced while hanging the gigantic map onto a frame. He then indicated a location on the map. "Here is the region at the edge of the Black woods that is less than forty kilometers away from the Steinberger Family’s ninth military camp, which is the destination of our secret march, and also the target that we aim to destroy!"

"Colonel Opal! What’s over there? Is it a military base?" An officer voiced the question that everyone harbored. Due to stringent confidential measures, the officers participating in this operation were not yet clear about the specifics of the advance.

The dainty Colonel Opal stroked the hair on his forehead. The few sensitive officers noticed that this was a highly feminine gesture. The high-ranking military officers’ curiosity for this elite combat staff officer from the commander board burned!

Colonel Opal glanced at the supreme commander and Marshal Veron Blundindt nodded towards him.

The combat staff officer colonel cleared his throat, "Soldiers! Attention! This narrow lowland ravine is the twenty-first Region in Titan Empire’s battle sequence. In other words, all members of Titan guards’ twenty-first region are the targets that we will annihilate!"

The group of officers broke into an uproarious discussion. It was the officer who first voiced the question who once again stood up in agitation.

"Your distinguished Colonel, Titan Empire’s battle sequence only has a nineteen established Regions. If the capital garrison is taken as the twentieth Region, then that will be all of them! This twenty-first Region you mentioned, where does it come from?"

"That’s right! Isn’t this making a joke out of the Kingdom’s valuable military strength?" Another officer jumped up, delivering his opinion more aggressively than the last.

The officers’ debate made Marshal Veron, who already has strands of white hair, scowl.

"Everyone shut up! Is this a flea market? Colonel Opal isn’t done speaking yet!"

Seeing the Marshal’s sour face, the officers present all obediently fell silent instantly.

"Okay, so that officer ask where does Titan Empire’s twenty-first Region derive from? Well I can tell you that the informants of the DeKTer used countless lives in exchange for it!" Colonel Opal’s gaze scanned the astonished officers. He then started to elaborate.

"Titan Empire’s history dates all the way back to the end of the mythical age. The Roman Empire of once upon a time left an astounding amount of wealth for this powerful nation. Without having to mention those jewelry made of precious stones, fine masterpieces and the vast array of precious hand scrolls; just the gold reserves itself are an unimaginably astronomical amount. Titan’s rulers assigned their most elite forces to watch over this colossal amount of treasure!"

"Based on the DeKTer’s probing, the Titan Empire Security Division reserved a top secret archive called ‘ELF’. ‘ELF’ refers to the Empire’s Last Fending force, a division constituting of a brutal force of paladins!" Colonel Opal once again indicated the point marked out on the map, "This unknown ravine, is the location where Titan Empire trains and nurtures paladins! Which also happens to be the group of paladins’ encampment and the site where the Imperial Household of Morisette hides their gold reserves."

"The goal of our strategy is to completely obliterate the armed paladins called ‘Last Fending Force" and seize the tremendous wealth!"

"Isn’t this just robbing?" A person from among the officers muttered.

Colonel Opal caught the comment and shot an icy glare at the officers seated there, "Do you know what kind of change this wealth can bring to a Kingdom who puts on a powerful front but is actually weak at the core? Do you know the true significance of eliminating the paladin division?"

No one dared utter another word! The officers of Deiss already considered a staggering amount of problems. The people of Titan has maintained their strategic dominance over the Kingdom for half a century and it was time that this structure changed! And speaking of robbing, the ancestors of the Yarans relied on this method to achieve the structure of today. There isn’t a need to mull over it anymore; the officers at the scene quickly accepted this method of plain robbing.

"So, Your Distinguished Marshal, the code name of combat!"

Marshal Veron acknowledged, "Now I announce the commands!"

All the commissioned officers rose.

"This operation is codenamed Torrent! The commander board’s orders are as follows, first, infiltrate the Empire’s national borders discreetly by putting away our armor, military flag and any articles that can reveal your identity. Second, once inside enemy territory, eliminate all the people of Titan you run into during your advance, including the villages in the forest along the way. Before you are discovered, surround the outskirts of the target and launch your attack. Third, regardless of the price one has to pay, the operation’s objective should be set as the primary objective. Fourth, after the success of the attack, retreat immediately, regardless of the amount of resources you managed to seize, withdrawing from enemy territory in one piece is the main concern."

"Are there any more questions?" After reading aloud the orders, Marshal Veron scanned through the audience once more.

"Your distinguished Marshal, how many are there in the people of Titan’s paladin group? What kind of structure is it?" An officer queried.

"The DeKTer’s investigation indicates that the Titan paladin group is only of a division level. Meaning to say that there will be three thousand over paladins waiting for us at our destination! However... The Steinberger Family positioned a huge camp not far from that area and I believe that once the paladin group suffers an attack, they will come forth to provide assistance! So, my plan is to allow the Kingdom’s First and Fourth Infantry Corps to surround the ravine and the Teutonic knights will be the main attacking force. Simultaneously, the Kingdom’s Sixth, Eighth, and eleventh infantry corps will spread out to invade from both sides and subdue the Steinberger ninth assist corps’ military camp."

The officers at the scene again broke into a heated debate! So it turned out that the unit involved in this time’s secret raid were not only them, but the Kingdom’s sixth, eigth and eleventh infantry corps were also advancing towards the target from an alternative route.

Once the officers all retired from the tent, Marshal Veron called out to Colonel Opal to have a seat.

"Your Highness..."

"Marshal! Call me Colonel, it makes more sense!"

"Yes Colonel! I only wish to say that the commander board’s plan has no flaws, but the battlefield is full of the unexpected and I cannot guarantee every phase of the plan can be executed smoothly. This is also the reason why I am unable to answer His Majesty King of the probability of victory back in the palace."

"I understand!" The Colonel who was referred to as Highness by the Marshal, nodded, "But... all the elite cavalry and infantries of the Kingdom have invested into the Torrent, we do not have any other options!"

"Yes, there are no other options!" Marshal Veron nodded slowly, "Eighteen thousand Teutonic cavalry groups, Forty-five thousand infantry corps. Among these men, just how many will be able to return to their homeland?"

Naturally, the old Marshal did not voice the last thought. As they ventured deeper into enemy territory, the uneasy feeling continued to well up inside. Veron prayed everyday for he trusted his intuition. May this undeclared war not end up as a tragic end for the Kingdom’s elite.

However, there are many things beyond one’s control, just like when it decided to snow!

***************

"Church’s Year 797, 24th day of the 3rd month, my unit finally managed to make it to a haven in the blizzard. Butan Fortress was the last large military camp of the Empire’s seventieth region’s Western section. Early the next morning, we only need to advance another ten kilometers or so in the Northwestern direction and will enter the Steinberger Family’s inherited territory – Haussen Province. Either way, we have already completed two thirds of our whole journey. But gosh, I actually contracted dysentery during this last moment! Damn it, seriously damn it! I will end here! I have totally no idea just how many times I have relieved myself today! Ola! Oh God of Light, the sensation is back again! I need to go relieve myself! I may as well just live in the washroom!"

"Church’s year 797, 25th day of the 3rd month, the wretched snow is still falling, unending! My dysentery has not been treated effectively. Percy, that hopeless doctor, I can tell earlier on that he has only learned poison! But... even if it is poison, at least let me eat something! For the past three days I’ve been consuming fluids, if it isn’t oatmeal, then it is dried vegetable soup. And this is not the most devastating! I noticed that the oatmeal and dried vegetable soup still appeared in its original state among my excretion! Dysentery has messed up my digestive system and is practically driving me crazy!"

Oscar tossed aside his quill pen and hugged the blanket wrapped tightly around him. For His Imperial Highness Prince who was usually indulged in mouth-watering delicacies, half a month of regular cold meals has finally taken its toll on him. No matter what he did, he just could not muster up any strength and only the gruel and bitter medication kept him going.

"Has everyone arrived? Have a seat!" Oscar greeted the high-ranking military officers entering one after another.

"Are you okay?" Murat asked with deep concern.

"Thank you for your concern, I am absolutely not fine! Murat, promise me that before I die, you will clean my body and those excrements. I really don’t want to meet the God o Light with a stomach reeking of watery stools!"

"Hey my friend, you should not be so negative! You should persevere in the battle against this illness!"

Oscar glared at Torry, he knew that the young man was making a sarcastic remark, but His Imperial Highness Prince did not have the energy to bother much about it anymore.

"Hold your tongue a little, lad!" Snowstorm gave Torry a light thump on his head.

Lieutenant General Endorph of the Steinberger Family came forwards, "Your Highness, I apologize for interrupting your rest, but you have to make a decision, for there are two routes spread out before us."

The Lieutenant General spread out a map that showed the Steinberger’s territories. He could actually recall every single detail of the map clearly without having to refer to it.

"Look, we are here, close to the center zone of the provincial boundary. For the first road, we can continue northwards and follow the Botan River’s riverbed to arrive at the edge of the Northern forest. After entering the forest, we will go along the warpath opened up by my family to reach Blackwood Fortress. For the second road, we can cross over the Botan River. It isn’t difficult as the Botan River’s ice layer is still very thick. This way, we will need to replenish our supplies at the defending region of the family’s ninth military camp. After that, we will venture into the forest through Saijo Mountain nearby."

Oscar scanned the map, but the tiny words on it made him feel dizzy.

"What place is Mountain?" Oscar leaned back against the chair. He was deeply intrigued by the name.

"Over here!" The Lieutenant General pointed out a naturally formed gap at the edge of the forest, "Actually... Saijo Mountain is only a small highland, but the soldiers who are guarding the defensive line will usually leave the forest here when they change shifts to return to their inland homes. They say that once they see this little hill, it’s like meeting their wives and daughters and so, the name Saijo Mountain, meaning wife and daughter, was founded.

"Is there a big difference to travel on either of the roads?" Despite Oscar’s stomach twisting in pain, he still persevered for he was responsible to lead this unit.

"A tremendous difference!" Lieutenant General Endorph nodded vehemently, "Going upstream along Botan River, we will arrive at Blackwood Fortress a week earlier, but in between we will not receive replenishments, because the military camp at Botan River’s river domain does not possess the ability to cater to such an enormous procession as ours. If we take the Saijo Mountain road, it will be a different story. We can receive ample rest at the ninth military camp and then enter the forest from the direction of Saijo Mountain. Needless to say, the duration will be half a month longer than that of the Botan River route."

Oscar dug his elbow deeply against his lower abdomen. That wretched aching and constricting sensation coming from his anus was difficult to overcome!

"Murat... You... You have a look?"

One could tell that His Imperial Highness Prince was exerting all his energy in battling against his illness and Murat even suspected that the youngster was not fully conscious.

"Your Highness, I think according to the current situation of the procession, we should choose the most dependable marching route. Reorganizing and replenishing our supplies at the Steinberger Family’s ninth military camp is necessary. Otherwise, we will lose more soldiers on a route with no possibility of replenishments! Weighing the two options, even if we’re delayed by half a month, we should still take into consideration our own well-being."

Lieutenant Endorph nodded in agreement; frostbite and dysentery were already too common among the procession! Moreover, marching along the glacier indeed has its dangers. The weight of the tractors and cannons were evident and if the ice could not withstand them then this trip will have been a waste! And if he were unlucky, the punishment from the family would befall him!

"Then... Like this, advance towards the ninth military camp and enter the forest from the direction of Saijo Mountain. Go ahead with preparations! I... I have to go... Go..."

Seeing His Highness’ face drain of color, the high-ranking military officers hurriedly left the tent in succession; they dared not occupy any more of the prince’s time.

***************

"How do you feel?" After Oscar stirred from his sleep, Percy’s face came into focus before his eyes.

"Ola!" Oscar moved his muscles subconsciously, "Weird, I feel much better!"

"Hehe! I treated you with a medication of special effect!" Percy beamed delightedly.

"What is it?" Oscar peered at his doctor, guarded. "Is it Dolantin?"

The Poison Doctor scratched his head. "The medications brought by the Red Tigers have all been depleted and I am only left with Dolantin! Tell me, is there any other choice?"

Oscar heaved a sigh, when being faced with such unbearable pain, it seemed that he could only resort to Dolantin, but will it solve his appetite problem? His Imperial Highness already went a week without tasting meat and this was the most unbearable as compared to his body progressively wasting away.

"Okay, okay!" The prince flipped over and came down from the camp bed, then proceeded to kick open the entrance of the tent.

"Messenger."

"Reporting, Your Highness!" Wellington Steinberger immediately came forwards.

Oscar scowled at the snowfield’s vast expanse of whiteness, "Inform the unit to set out immediately, we need to leave this wretched place!"

Before Wellington could reply, Oscar’s face turned a sickly color!

"Ola! Hold it! Hold it! The sensation is coming again! I need... I need to find a place to relieve..."

***************

"Church’s year 797, 28th day of the 3rd month, my Red Tigers, Tatalus’ infantry division, Lieutenant Endorph’s independent brigade, and that bug Torry’s artillery team, finally arrived at the ninth military camp of the Steinberger Family. To be honest, I was a little surprised. According to the location demonstrated on the map, deep in the rear of the ninth military camp’s border, the area does not have any profound military strategic value, but the Steinberger still allocated three infantry groups and six independent cavalry brigades at this military camp! The commander of the camp invited me into the pillbox at the heart of this military base and it was really difficult for me to believe that I was surrounded by fifty thousand soldiers of the family!"

The key point of the military barrack’s center pillbox was a small dome arch tower. Oscar was stretched out on his stomach, admiring the night view of the military camp from an arrow slit.

Rows of wooden houses surrounded the pillbox in neat rows. Each courtyard had guards on night duty, patrolling back and forth. Despite it being deep into the night, Oscar still saw the spacious drill ground lit by a bonfire and the infantries were still drilling their formations. The shouts of the slogans sounded ear-piercing and the inharmonious sounds broke the tranquility of the military camp.

"Your Distinguished Lieutenant General!" Oscar nudged Endorph who was beside him, "Not that I’m suspicious, but... The atmosphere here is indeed different from the other military camps. Don’t say that it’s just an illusion for I’ve seen the military camps along the way and they do not appear like this! Just look at the weapons of the soldiers, the establishment of this military camp and also look the sentry posts and isolation pits decorating the left of the military camp! All of these indicate that this is not an ordinary place. Are they guarding against something... Or protecting something?"

Endorph raised his eyebrows, he was a little over-sensitive to the prince’s observation. However... This issue absolutely could not be discussed without permission.

"Your Highness, I am also unclear. I only know that since the Steinbergers moved into Haussen province, the ninth military camp has always been like this!"

Oscar shrugged. A problem suddenly struck him.

"That’s right! Why would... The Empire’s military and the Secret Service Department use the first batch of Fortress cannons to equip the Steinbergers? I thought... They would use these huge beauties to arm Valencia Fortress that is under construction."

Endorph smiled proudly. "The first reason is because the family strove hard and fought for it and the second reason is Blackwood Fortress and the whole Western border’s dangerous state."

"The people of Deiss?" The warlike nationality instantly popped into Oscar’s mind.

"That’s right!" Endorph nodded, "Not knowing why, the people of Deiss suddenly increased their soldiers within the borders. Over the past six months, the border guards opposite us have reached an extent of thirty division. You know? This number can allow the people of Deiss to do as they please at the Empire’s gates! So, the military arranged for the first batch of cannons to be allocated to Blackwood Fortress, the Northwestern strategic gateway. If the Deiss wants to invade the inland, then they must first seize the entrance at the Northwestern part of Blackwood."

Oscar did not have a clear understanding of Blackwood’s state, so he did not make any hasty comments and remained silent.

Lieutenant General Endorph suddenly burst into laughter and Oscar gaped at him.

"Your Highness, do you know why we did not encounter too many troubles throughout the journey?"

"Why?"

"It’s all thanks to your status as the Imperial Envoy!" Endorph exclaimed with sincerity. "Previously, if the family went to the Sukhoi’s territory to handle certain matters, they would always be pestered by the external two giants. Take this time for instance, we are transporting cannons that powers from all places have their eyes fixed on. If it were before, Karl Arnold and Jebron will definitely plan a sabotage in secret, even going to the extent of disguising themselves as bandits to rob it! But since you’re here, both these families dare not even make a move!"

After hearing this, Oscar could not help but collapse into laughter as well, "I here I was thinking just what you were talking about. So it’s the Karl Arnolds and Jebrons, but... Would they use such lowly methods?"

"Of course! What do you take them for? They are two old bloodthirsty wolves! If the opportunity arises, they will throw away everything and pounce on it to take a bite out of you!"

Oscar nodded, "Okay, okay! May I continue to bring luck to our procession!"

Endorph whipped around in astonishment, "Your highness, you’re leaving? Won’t you stay to chat a little more?"

Oscar waved his hand in exasperation, "I need to find a toilet fast! My stomach hurts!

Translator Note:
Rielese: People from Riel Kingdom
DeKTer: Short for Deiss Kapitum ont Terraburo
Saijo Mountain: Translated to the Japanese name from the Raw text, 妻女山. It is the Onyomi reading of the Kanji words.

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