Chapter 160: Eighteenth Episode: Chapter 6
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation

There was such a day when the Military Intelligence Special Combat Brigade's officers and non-commissioned officers of various ranks convened to discuss a few more prominent young generals of the Guards. Some said that the Northern Army Group's Chief of Staff, General Krasius was a man of integrity, while some said that General Figg of Narcissus County was also a pretty fine man. Lastly, some said that they themselves could also contend against them, which caused the soldiers to burst into laughter until their commander barged into the tent.

Oscar assembled all the officers in the Special Combat Brigade to the empty space close to the campgrounds. He wanted to conduct a simulation exercise. The process of the exercise was simple, which was to let the officers return to their unit and lead a trapped soldier from the empty space and rush all the way up to the highland opposite the army camp.

However, Oscar didn't just idle around. He and another group of soldiers blocked the mountainside. Two units had just run to each other and the Marshal of the Guards immediately asked them to halt.

"Blasky, you've been done in by my killers!"

Big worm scratched his head and then retreated to the side. The soldiers under the Leader of the Commandos exchanged looks of dismay; how would they continue on this war now that their leader was sacrificed?

Oscar grabbed the team leader by the collar. "What are zoning out for? Lead the rest of the men to continue the charge!"

The team leader promptly saluted the Marshal but Oscar kicked him away, totally fed up. "Don't salute on the battlefield. The rain of arrows has already done you in. Get your ass over to your leader."

Thus, these meaningless "sacrifices" continued from noon all the way to nightfall until even Oscar's face has darkened, only did they totally stop.

"I'm very disappointed!" the Marshal faced his soldiers and officers. "You're all like new recruits! If no one is there to instruct you then you have totally no idea what to do?"

The officers dared not utter a word. They gazed at their Marshal suspiciously, none of them knowing just what kind of madness has struck him.

Oscar made all the officers of the Commando group to arrange themselves into a column and pointed at the perplexed Blasky. "Obeying orders is the most precious moral of the Titan soldiers. However, this quality can sometimes cost your life. Once your field leader falls, you all start to flounder like headless flies. This is the first sign of falling apart."

Finally, someone grasped what the Marshal meant. A Colonel ranked officer stood out, "reporting sir, if my leader has fallen, I can take command and continue to organize the battle."

"If you have also met your end?"

Another Captain chimed, "there's still me!"

"Sorry, you died even earlier than your leader!"

A head of a company offered, "I can go in accordance to the battlefield situation and moderate the entire team."

Oscar shook his head. "It's already too late. You're all deep in the enemy ranks and your rank is only left with one officer, which is you!"

The "only" platoon head of the Special Combat Commandos shot a glance at the soldiers around him. The Field Marshal and soldiers all had their eyes on him, in fact, the entire Special Combat Brigade was watching him. The platoon head cleared his throat and used his most steady voice to answer the Marshal.

"I will lead the men to fight to the death until the very end, just like my company head, battalion head, and leader, offering their loyalty to the Empire to the very end!"

This reply won cheers from the entire field and only the Marshal of the guards lifted the whip, his face sullen.

The whip landed quite heavily and the platoon head covered his face and prostrated on the ground. His shoulders were shuddering but he was putting in all his effort to suppress whimpering.

Oscar faced the crowd that was in absolute silence. "You see? At the last of the last, under the circumstance when all the officers have sacrificed themselves, the brave soldiers are all sent to hell like this because of a stupid platoon head!"

The Marshal helped the Second Lieutenant, who was prostrated on the ground up. "This lash is to wake you up! When you realized that you are the sole officer of the entire rank, you shouldn't lead the soldiers to go with their all at the enemy but give your everything to let your soldiers live on! Understand?"

"Yes sir!" the Second Lieutenant saluted firmly.

"What is your name?" Oscar's face finally softened.

"Reporting sir! I'm the Commando's Second platoon head under the first company of the third battalion, Second Lieutenant Massimi."

"Very well Massimi," Oscar said while rubbing off the bloodstain on the Second Lieutenant's face with his sleeve, "starting from you, learn from your company head on how he operates the field! Next… is your company head. Take note of how your battalion head leads the army. Lastly is the battalion head, observe what your leader Blasky usually does."

"Disperse!" Oscar lastly gave a military salute to his officers and then left on his own accord, leaving a group of soldiers who felt rather upset inside. However, that night, the soldiers started talking. It was O'Neil Andrew Morisette who was the most capable young general of that present age and the Emperor definitely has his reasons for promoting that little rascal to Marshal.

Oscar has been uneasy ever since he came down from Honwarren Castle. According to the Marshal's calculations beforehand, the fight in eliminating the bandits shouldn't be as smooth as it was now. The military report from the Southern Army Group claimed that several of the bandit's bodies on the battlefield have disappeared, which has never happened before!

This was very peculiar because the bandits wouldn't easily give up the base of operations within the Empire's borders and have completely no reason to do so. The commander of the Southern Army Group, General Eugene Mir Bradley even went so much as to directly point it out in his message to the prince that… the bandits were gunning for a big one! However, Oscar was still somewhat skeptical about it.

According to the intelligence gathered by the Southern Army Group, the entire group of bandits will most likely pull back to the outside of the national border in order to preserve their strength and lie low. The Military Intelligence Special Combat First Brigade made a name for themselves in the single Cyottshag battle. This special unit that condensed into an iron fist served as a wake-up call for the bandits. They annihilated over four thousand bandits who were abundant in battle experience at Coyttshag. This proved that be it a guerilla warfare or a full-frontal decisive battle, the bandits weren't opponents of the Military Intelligence Special Combat First Brigade who were well equipped and superior in strength.

"There's still one more point!" Messier handed over a file to the Prince. "The Empire's pressure on Faran Kingdom finally received a response. The Faran King has sent all the main members of the Boustead Family to Engels. The king of Engels claims that they are supervising the most wanted Titan criminals."

"What does that mean?" Oscar was a little dubious.

"It means that the Boustead Family is under house arrest!" the Division Head of the Military Intelligence spread opened the file excitedly. "This implies that the Boustead Family can no longer control the free merchants and the bandit armies as before. The bandit armies gave up on resisting mostly because their financial aid from the Bousteads has been severed!"

Oscar nodded his head cautiously. "I can't be certain of this and moreover Faran and Engels harbor bad intentions towards us! The bandits could absolutely receive financial aid from both these countries. They have already dealt with the Guards for seven years and wouldn't give up so easily!"

Messier didn't offer anything else. Although he was also a little worried, he wasn't as pessimistic as the Prince.

The Marshal of the Guards whirled around to face the Special Combat Brigade Commander who has yet to say a word, "was I a little excessive during the day?"

Brigadier General Luke Citel nodded, "that lash was indeed a little heavy and Massimi was almost disfigured."

Oscar turned his head away in remorse. "Ask Percy to have a look and apply good medicine. If he doesn't have it, have him go buy it at the small town nearby."

Citel acknowledged him and left the meeting.

Oscar went through a week in a paranoid state. The Special Combat Brigade and the First Artilleryman Division of the Guards accompanying them have entered the mountain area of Boudesdorf's border where the Eighth Region's Second Corps were defending. The Boudesdorf area was full of typical hills, mountains, and valleys. Looking down from Boudes Mountain, the ravines and valleys continued to extend to the foot of The Alps. The shadow of the huge mountain and the folded hills produced quite a few forlorn wild areas. However, Boudesdorf's terrain was lower. The Special Combat Brigade that was on a march didn't encounter much trouble like that in Coyttshag.

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

The mountains have entered summer. The warm southeastern wind brought with it greenery and drifting pollen. The thicket occupied a niche between the highland and hills. The tall grass that covered the mountains would rise and fall like the waves in the early morning breeze.

A few long-established villages were situated at the very end of the mountain's uninhabited region. These small villages produce an abundance of Hennessy Cognac. This was a type of brandy and only those that were more than fifty years were granted this title of Hennessy, which was used to commemorate Sir Hennessy who created this liquor.

In actual, the history of Hennessy was not as beautiful as depicted in legends. During the sixth century of Church's calendar, it wouldn't have crossed anyone's mind to produce a brandy stored for fifty years in the cellar. Sir Hennessy could only be considered as the person who discovered this top quality brandy and not the inventor. During the time of unrest where the chaos of war and famine raged, many villages that were manufacturing grounds for a few famous brandy brands fell into decline. When peace and prosperity once again came over the land, Sir Hennessy found a few breweries that have been hidden away for countless years in his cellar. Thus, Hennessy Cognac which reputation extends throughout the whole Westland was born.

The Marshal of the Guards, His Imperial Highness Prince O'Neil Andrew Morisette absolutely loved this bland tasting liquor that had a powerful twang. Usually, when he drank Hennessy Cognac, he would also mix in a little egg yolk wine and olive wine. Thus, the taste would be even more wonderful and the strength of the strong liquor would be dulled.

In the largest town of Boudesdorf, Oscar visited the Military Command Center of the Eighth Region's Second Corps. That was an ancient castle called Bowie. It was reportedly a building that existed after the collapse of the Roman Empire and the city was plunged into chaotic warfare. The mirror wall that was covered by all sorts of relics intrigued the commander of the Guards. The mirror wall extended from the main entrance of the ancient castle all the way to the whole corridor inside a room. Major General Silvio Barrick boasted with pride that on it were all the various forms of swords produced throughout the history of mankind.

"Will you like to choose one as a souvenir?" the commander of the Eighth Region's Second Corps suggested to the prince.

Oscar shook his head.

Silvio was astonished, "The Marshals who visit here would all select one."

Oscar again shook his head, "I'm not here to pick out cheap things."

Silvio Barrick was naturally overjoyed; he just knew that the prince was a good Marshal.

"Why do I say that?"

Silvio laughed, "Because you don't like taking advantage." It was evident that the Commander of the Second Corps cared a lot about his antique swords but he cared even more about the wine hidden in his ancient cellar. Since the Marshal wasn't a person who was fond of taking advantage, Silvio expressed that he was willing to share the oldest brandy with the Prince.

Oscar also broke into laughter, saying that he has been looking forward to that bottle of unique, excellent and pure aged wine.

After that, Oscar requested the Commander of the Second Corps to lead him to the war room. He indeed didn't come here for an inspection or to have fun.

The war room of the Eighth Region's Second Corps was situated at the top floor of the ancient castle. This was originally an observation deck where the previous city overlord lived, worked and rest. However, when the Guards broke through the wall and boarded up all the balcony and wooden windows of the observation deck with bricks, it caused Bowie Castle to appear even more like a fort.

The decorations in the war room were fairly simple. There wasn't any unnecessary furniture or a wide array of ornaments. After trudging up the narrow staircase, one would naturally first lay eyes on the immense tactical map. Marked out on the map were the sentry posts of the Eighth Region's Second Corps and a few prominent military forts.

"Your destination is here!" Silvio pointed out a location for the Marshal of the Guards. "An uninhabited region that the Second Corps is used to calling Center Highland. This is the most important traffic hub of the Boudedorf area. No matter which border sentry you have to pass through, you would in the end still have to choose further routes from Center Highland."

Oscar compared it with the tactical map he brought from Dulin. He realized that the map of the local garrison was distinctively more detailed. Therefore, he instructed his Confidential Secretary to make a copy and General Silvio agreed cheerfully.

"What's up over there?"

Silvio shook his head. "It's very normal. Before you arrived I personally made a trip there."

"Then why did you shake your head?"

Silvio spread out his hands. "You may not believe it even if I say it. Although my field spies didn't discover anything there, the air there is filled with a strong smell, the smell of the bandits!"

The Marshal of the Guards eyed the Commander of the Second Corps' nose. He couldn't find anything abnormal and hence proceeded to the next question.

"What about the border area of Shawmond? Isn't it said that the bandits are the most difficult to deal with there?"

Silvio shrugged, "Shawmond is the defending area of the First Corps."

Oscar was aware that this commander didn't wish to comment on his ally's area and so didn't question any further.

"There is news saying that… Shawmond is a little too peaceful without any hint of the previous tense atmosphere."

"Oh?" Oscar wrinkled his brows. He really didn't want to go on a wild goose chase.

Silvio led the Marshal into his bedroom. This was actually a cabin beside the war room. This was once a small storage room but Silvio converted it into a bedroom. As soon as Oscar entered the room, the Major General of the Guards pressed him onto a chair. He then took the coffee that Silvio passed to him. He knew that the Commander of the Second Corps was about to say something that wasn't very pleasant to hear.

"You really intend to venture into the border area?"

Oscar couldn't help but chortle. "Then do you think I brought so many people to gather for dinner with you?"

Silvio also broke into a laugh. "Since it's like this sir, I have to remind you that the Second Corps of the Eighth Region have already fought against the bandits for six to seven years. The reason why we haven't changed two commanders like the First Corps is because I'm a coward!"

Oscar rolled his eyes. "I apologize for saying this, but if there was anyone who says that the butcher of Horfansted is a coward, then I would definitely slaughter him with my own hands."

Silvio again shrugged. "The people in the region are all saying this; you can't slaughter every one of them!"

Oscar took him seriously. He did a once over of Silvio Barrick suspiciously. "Tell me, just what is this all about?"

Silvio took a sip of coffee and then spread out a tiny tactical map for the Marshal of the Guards. "You've definitely already noticed that the bandit army of the southern mountains is a unit that has organization, discipline and is a valiant fighting force. After six to seven years of uninterrupted battle, to this day, they have already established their presence as a sort of military.

Oscar nodded. "Indeed, the bandit army has really upgraded. Just as you say, they are a type of military presence. Furthermore, their tactics are agile and they have an excellent First Class Commander. But... I still don't quite get what you mean."

Silvio indicated the Center Highland of the Second Corps and then pointed towards the nearby Shawmond border area.

"I only wish to say… as a type of military presence, the bandits will definitely not vanish without a reason! Based on previous experience, or the experience of a coward such as me, it's best that we don't do anything at this moment. Just stay put in the round sturdy castle and the border sentry posts that have a huge amount of soldiers stationed there. Then wait quietly; wait for the return of the bandits. They will definitely return!"

Oscar shook his head in exasperation. "Silvio, thank you for your good intentions! I know that you are thinking on my behalf but I can't wait in vain in your castle. The southern army has already waited seven years and I don't have that much time."

Silvio closed the atlas, also exasperated. "Sir, I just know that I can't convince you! But... according to the advance of your march, I will post two groups behind your left and right flanks. These are the only two groups that I can transfer over to the others are all in their respective posts. Apart from this… I can only wish you luck."

Oscar stood up in satisfaction. Although this commander's attitude was as conservative as he predicted, Silvio has after all done his best.

"I won't forget that you have been of assistance to me before! It was like this in Deiss and the same goes for this time."

"My Lord, you're too kind; you're a Marshal!" Silvio shook hands with the young Marshal.

Oscar twisted his head around when he was about to exit the door. "I say, why didn't you bring this up to me back at Honwarren Castle's Region Military Command Center?"

Silvio laughed. "To be honest, it is because you the combat deployment that you have drawn up at the Region Military Command Center was more or less a little wishful."

"Why?" Oscar dropped his smile.

The Commander of the Second Corps shrugged. "Isn't this obvious? You initially planned to let the First Corps serve as the rear guard and let the Second Corps consolidate the encirclement. Just as in Coyttshag, where the involvement of the First Corps could allow the matter to be carried out more securely."

Oscar didn't make a single comment and merely nodded.

Silvio again led the Marshal to stand beside the gigantic combat map. "The problem now is that the Commander of the First Corps who was just been promoted, Major General Krapitch Drake, is still incapable of organizing an effective military operation. He needs to spend a little more time to establish his commanding reputation in the First Corps. Besides, most fundamentally, the bandits have vanished and the First Corps must defend their posts and can't oblige to your war plans. So… you can only penetrate with a lone army! To sugarcoat it, you're going to search for the whereabouts of the bandits, while to put it bluntly, you're waiting for the bandits to come looking for you. If the bandits really find you, then, believe me, your army will be caught unguarded! This is also the fundamental reason why I hid away my main army."

Oscar was lost in thought. He knew that Silvio was still trying to convince him to abandon his established war plans.

"Sir…" Silvio sighed as if wanting to give up. "I believe that you have definitely received accurate and reliable intelligence support in the Coyttshag operation. Otherwise, it is impossible for you to defeat the land's bandits in three month's time! Those bandits have caused losses to all the suppressing units of the Guards who have been to Coyttshag."

"But this time…" the Commander of the Second Corps started and hesitated. However, he still blurted out the words in his heart. "Don't blame me for complaining but you are completely clueless about the bandits who are skipping over the Center Highland and the Shawmond border area! You only have the rough analysis of the southern Military Intelligence Sub-bureau on the bandits. You... "

"Yes, it's like this!" Oscar suddenly cut off Silvio. "I will tread carefully! Whatever the case, I must give it a go!"

Silvio sized up the Marshal of the Guards a good while. He had a feeling that the youngster should be saying that he was going there to try his luck.

"Then… I will go with my previous words; wish you luck!" in the end, Silvio still gave up. He didn't understand whether this youngster was really war-thirsty or just really stubborn.

"Oh, that's right!" the Commander of the Second Corps suddenly slapped his forehead, "I've forgotten to tell you! Don't let your scouts be too scattered and don't be frightened by the bandits who suddenly pop out from one of the nooks! They have cut a lot of tunnels in the mountains and are as sharp as the mice."

Oscar once again thanked the Commander of the Second Corps and then returned to the army camp of the Special Combat Brigade. It was said that His Highness didn't sleep a wink that night. He was indeed pondering about Major General Silvio's proposition. Up until the next day when the Marshal saw his brave Special Combat soldiers, he cast aside the butcher's words. He believed in his soldiers and trusted that the soldiers would secure victory for him.

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

Church's year 799, the 20th day of the 5th month, it was a bright and sunny day in the southern mountains, without any wind or cloud in sight. The Center Highland of Boudesdorf surrounded the southeastern Bodes Mountain. The nearby shade of the highland was filled with low pine trees and the green thicket stretched out all the way to the middle section of the mountain ridge, up until the snow line close to the summit.

The sky was clear as if it was washed. Occasionally birds would streak across the heavens. Aside from the crisp, bright sound of chirping, the entire highland was deserted and still, without the slightest trace of any wind or stirring of the grass. Sizing up this mountain ridge that rose up from the ground from the inner war route that connected to the north, the people would realize that an ancient riverbed cut through the left wing of the highland. The riverbed has already completely dried up, revealing bright yellow soil. The right wing of the highland was rather indistinct. There was an open space close to a thousand acres wide. The open space was also connected to Boudes Mountain at the Southeast. The tall grass grew among the pine trees and the pine trees stretched their torsos under the sun; occasionally one or two huge banyans would be slotted in between.

A strong mountain soldier was flitting through the forest. The shadows and forest completely obscured his figure. Even the frightened birds had no way of determining his position. This nimble soldier, who carried a long bow, ducked into the underbrush. After a brief tremble of the underbrush, it instantly resumed its stillness.

The tunnel was very peculiar for certain places were moist whilst others were dry. Under the dim reflection of light, the well-trained mountain soldier shuttled back and forth in the tunnels. Occasionally, the sound of coughing would travel out from the soldier hide-hole on both ends of the tunnel. When he met someone familiar, they would greet him. However, the soldier didn't pay any attention to the shouts and repeated whistles of his companions. He passed through a few corners and advanced through a few trap areas. In the end, he arrived at a "Liberty Front" at the underground Command Center of Boudes Mountain. Bagheeda Narov has been waiting for quite a while in the dusky Command Center. This middle-aged man, who kept a pigtail, was not just an ordinary ore merchant, he was also the field leader of "Titan's Liberty Front". He already predicted the situation of today as early as when the Military Intelligence Bureau intervened in the southern battlefield. He has made full preparations for the armed uprising he was leading. This included weaving into the resistance structure of the nearby area and also further shrinking the operation scope of the rebel army.

Bagheeda gave a warm embrace to the communications officer. The official was a little nervous but mostly excited.

"The wolfdog has entered the outer perimeter of the highland!"

A few of the followers beside Bagheeda immediately came forward and surrounded the map. The communications official immediately indicated the position of the "Great Wolfdog".

"The dogs are very crafty. There's only the artillery group on the warpath whilst the rest of them are in the wilderness."

Bagheeda frowned. This was somewhat different from what he has imagined, but he believed that O'Neil Andrew Morisette wasn't clear about just what was waiting for him here.

"Rabbit, are you ready?" the leader of the Liberty Front swiveled to face his comrade.

The lofty mountain hunter nodded repeatedly. "Everything is ready! They're at the open space that connects to the mountain ridge!"

Bagheeda heaved a gentle sigh, "are the needle and thread for stitching the bags ready?"

Another warrior with a composed expression replied, "Don't worry, despite the dogs having two teams at the rear, they will definitely not be able to escape our encirclement."

Bagheeda pressed against the trilby on his head and his fist finally slammed down on the Boudesdorf's Center Highland on the map.

"O'Neil Andrew Morisette has once been a national hero revered by the people, but he and his lackeys have committed the crime of massacring the people. Today we are here to judge them for their sins! We will use his head as an offering for the freedom fighters who sacrificed themselves in Coyttshag!"

The surrounding mountain warriors agreed with a loud roar. They entered the tunnel one after another with all sort of weapons in hand. Surely they would enter their preplanned attacking positions not long after that.

Bagheeda's fist left the map and only then did we realize that surrounding the center of the map was red arrows from every direction pointing directly at the forlorn Center Highland.

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

O'Neil Andrew Morisette was in the tall underbrush beside the warpath. His line of sight was just above the top of the grass, his gaze fixed ahead with rapt attention. Annoyingly, there was only a deathly stillness that stimulated one to start thinking.

The Marshal of the Guards suddenly sneezed despite trying with all his might to control it, the sound caused the soldiers who were lying in wait nearby to turned their eyes towards him. Oscar shot back an apologetic look. "Dang it, there must be someone cursing me!" the Marshal consoled himself.

Suddenly, there was a stir from the opposite underbrush. The snipers who were stationed high above the tree trunks immediately distinguished the trajectory that was parting the tall grass. The sniper pulled against his bowstring and the point of the arrow directed straight at the end point of the trajectory. Light reflected from a mirror came right on time, signifying that the person who arrived was on their side. A burden was shed off from the sniper. He slowly closed his bow and arrow and the moving trajectory also came to a halt.

"How is it?" Oscar sized up Fire Eyes Arthur who was perspiring profusely.

The head of the scouts wiped his face. The sweat that dribbled into his eyes caused him to suffer. "Boss, how do I put it? There isn't even a shadow!"

Oscar pursed his lips and gazed at the opposite highland. "What about the tunnel? We haven't found the tunnel?"

Arthur nodded. "We found two. Both are on the mountainside, but I dare not send anyone down. I made a note though."

Oscar nodded and swept his gaze over the surrounding underbrush. It turned out that both sides of the desolate warpath had countless Special Combat soldiers hiding in it.

The Marshal of the Guards spat out the grassroots in his mouth and with a "splat", killed the mosquito that stopped on his neck. He stood up from among the tall grass and waved behind him. There weren't the ten thousand men and horse that one would have expected, but only the continuous "swish swish" from the underbrush.

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

The vehicle procession of the First Artilleryman Division of the Guards finally emerged on the warpath. The heavy artilleries were draped over with a tarpaulin. The sunlight caused the tarpaulins to reflect multi-colored rays of light. The long march has caused the herd of oxen to be exceptionally beaten. Although they rested for the whole morning, the abrupt resumption of the journey made them whine in protest. The sound of the oxen and whistle of the lashes rang out over the warpath after a moment.

Brigadier General of the artillerymen, Viscount Tove Van Sukhoi had an expression that was not the least concerned. He sat on the first artillery vehicle, taking in his surroundings. Perhaps Torry really didn't care about the small hill opposite him, but he has a sense of priority. He and his old friend's Special Combat Brigade maintained a similar advancement in their march. The goal was to safely take up position at the Center Highland. Then, using the Center Highland as the starting point, launch a full-blown search targeted at Boudesdorf.

However... Oscar was carrying it out with a little too much caution. All the field officers felt that way.

Lying in wait among the tall grass where the mosquitoes roam about was not a delightful assignment. The Special Combat Soldiers hunched their backs, dragged their war equipment and advanced continuously on both sides of the warpath towards the Center Highland.

Torry's artillery team arrived at the artillery barrage preparatory area indicated on the tactical map without running into any incidents. He leaped down the artillery vehicle and instructed the soldiers guarding the artilleries to form a defending front on the spot.

Oscar once again stood up among the underbrush. Advancing forwards a kilometer with his back bent made him out of breath. He assessed Torry, who was not far off and then drew out his machete fiercely. The flag bearer following behind the Marshal immediately flashed a lightning streamer of the Special Combat Brigade. The sound of numerous weapons being unsheathed sounded behind the Marshal.

Oscar was the first to charge up the absolutely silent Center Highland. The Special Combat Soldiers followed the Marshal and the military streamer. They didn't make a clamor, nor did they shout. They merely dashed into the heart of the highland with the quickest speed possible.

The Marshal and his defenders finally came to a halt on the highland. Before him were hills that were unbroken and endless. The looming mountain on the right wing cast down a shadow. The flag bearer set up the military streamer beside the Marshal and the lightning streamer flaunted its body slowly under the shadow of the mountain, foretelling the arrival of the First Combat Force of the Guards.

The movements of the Special Combat Soldiers were swift and precise. Big Worm Blasky's Commando Group occupied the right side of the highland that connected to the open space of the huge mountain. The Commando members were divided into three large groups. Two of the large groups made up a defending front while the third group formed the skirmish line. They continued to dash towards the elevation of the mountain ridge.

The archer group of Ghost Archer Colonel Mitchen laid out a defense at the riverbed of the mountain ridge's right wing. The soldiers fanned out on the spot. They used little shovels to dig up a last minute arrow pit and used tall grass and branches to conceal the arrow pile. Above Commander Mitchen, the Heavy Armor Group led by Bison Bill set up steel fragment plates. According to the Marshal, it was easy for sudden attacks to one side of the riverbed.

Torry's artillerymen only had six Fortress Artilleries. Oscar deployed four of them on the highland and the remaining two were aimed at the riverbed. When the artillerymen were carrying out urgent loading and unloading tasks, Alligator Macier led the Assault Group to draw closer. The Assault Group was in charge of all the Special Combat Brigade's military supply wagons. Oscar handed over the most important war supplies to the most elite, solid team. The military supply wagon procession quickly formed a solid vehicle front to the north of the highland. The Assault Group didn't scale to the summit. These elite soldiers merely arranged into a strict formation within the vehicle procession.

The Scout Group of Fire Eyes Arthur scattered into the forest opposite the riverbed. This group was the only cavalry of O'Neil Andrew Morisette. This Marshal of the Guards had conducted adjustments to his ranks at the Military Command Center of the Eighth Region's Second Corps. He gave up many warhorses and switched a large amount of mountain combat equipment for the cavalry. Arthur broke up the organizational structure of the Scout Group and divided the small group into a certain number of fighting groups. According to the deployment before that, once they encountered the enemy, they would rapidly return to the core of the vehicle front.

Lastly, Devil Sandy's Commando Group was temporarily acting as the Marshal's guards. The one thousand soldiers were building an army camp at the heart of the highland.

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

"It seems that... this is it!" Bagheeda kept the telescope. He stood on one spot of the jungle on Boudes Mountain, sizing up the Guards that were like ants scurrying about on the highland at the foot of the mountain derisively.

"Order... the rabbit to be released!"

A mountain warrior who was standing beside the leader immediately tugged at his bow. The feathered arrow went along a beautiful arc and embedded accurately onto a huge pine tree about a hundred meters away. The warriors on guard beside the pine tree immediately carried out the same actions. The command was thus rapidly transmitted down the mountain.

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

The Commander of the Third Battalion under the Special Combat Commando Group walked ahead of the ranks. He was a daring trooper. When he noticed a puny figure suddenly scuttling out from the mountain forest, his first response was to tighten his bow and fire an arrow.

The whizzing arrow broke the silence of the mountain forest, but the feathered arrow didn't find its mark. The battalion commander cursed. "Apprehend that scout!" Thus the entire rank started the high-speed pursuit.

"What's up?" Oscar set aside his binoculars and continued to peer in the direction where the whistle of arrow came from.

Big Worm Blasky shook his head. He anxiously measured up the Commando soldiers who were flitting in and out among the shadows of the forest.

Oscar felt uneasy all over. He has his suspicions but wasn't completely sure. As a Marshal, he didn't have many opportunities to reflect on his errors, but now he more or less had some experience.

His former self relied too heavily upon the intelligence from the Military Intelligence Bureau and facing this time's operation that lacked intelligence, he didn't seem too confident.

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

Year 799, the 20th day of the 5th month, midday. Perhaps now was already a little late. Marshal O'Neil's Special Combat Brigade was bustling about strengthening the defensive structure while his searching battalion was pursuing a "rabbit". The rabbit, after turning a few circles over the mountain region, it vanished just when this searching group's commander waved his hand to signal the skirmish line to advance forwards. A quick-witted freedom fighter caught on that the field actions were only carried out when the commander was present. His feathered arrow accurately struck the officer's throat. When blood spurted out, the crisp, beautiful sound of a whistle rang out from the mountain forest.

"Enemy attack…"

The ranks of the Guards suddenly erupted with a rallying cry, but regrettably, this army was only escorting one of the Cavalry Companies of the former Commander of the Guard's Fifth Region, General Vangol Abberning Hagrid.

Fiery torches blazed up at the mountain ridges on either side of the national highway among the cries of the knights and the sound of branches and leaves snapping and falling onto the ground was heard.

"Duck from those fireballs!" The Company Commander of the cavalry shouted an order to his soldiers loudly. The younger generation soldiers of the Hagrid Family finally stirred. They urged their warhorses to retreat to the mountain forest on the other side of the national highway.

General Vangol opened the door of the carriage and a soldier immediately blocked the door. Vangol saw that an arrow has already pierced through the soldier. The former General of the Guards' expression was inscrutable. He covered the eyes of the soldiers that were protruding out. The general straightened his uniform. He looked with slight regret at his empty epaulet. This signified that he was no longer a soldier of the Empire but merely a pitiful creature that has been discarded.

Hagrid drew out his sword, a sword that Marshal Alan entrusted someone to give to him. Although he knew he would use this sword long before that, he didn't expect to experience all this when his ranks just set foot into the Faran border.

Hagrid assessed the battlefield calmly. The guarding cavalry was backed up to one side of the mountain ridge. Quite a number of soldiers were shot off their horses by the first wave of feathered arrows. Their corpses fell to the ground, allowing the rolling logs and fireballs that were rushing down the mountain ridge to end them.

The cavalry's disaster hasn't ended. The foes who were lying in wait at the other side of the mountain ridge tossed out even more deadly spears. The spears were swift and precise and the commander of the knights was pinned onto a tree with a spear. This sort of outcome immediately plunged the entire rank into complete chaos.

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

All around the former commander, Hagrid's younger generation soldiers were fighting, each man for himself. They knew that they have fallen into encirclement. The enemies appeared to emerge out of the blue. Every corner of the mountain, arrows came flying and spears were thrown their way. A unit of soldiers finally came through. Beside the Marshal, a sword and shield formation took form. They erupted with the most enraged cry as they confronted the bandits who were charging towards them.

"Bandits?" Vangol Abberning Hagrid watched the enemies that charged and fell ceaselessly with disdain. That powerful exploding force, the strict and meticulous teamwork and the courage in launching a surprise attack far outside the national borders. All these implied that these enemies were absolutely not just any bandits, but Special Forces Soldiers sent by someone who wanted his life.

Hagrid's long sword rose and fell continuously. His opponent and his own blood gradually stained his general uniform that didn't have any army rank red. What the former general felt odd was that these Special Forces Soldiers skilled in assassination seemed to be afraid to confront him. More often than not, a slash of the sword would be able to push them back.

Gradually, the General's strength couldn't hold up anymore. His defenders were left with a mere few. He also had no idea of which fields his family members have ended up in. Finally, the resistance came to a halt. The General was only left with four warriors who were wounded all over by his side. They surrounded the General's left and right with their long swords trained directly onto the enemies who had them surrounded.

"Gay" Mike parted the crowd and strode out with a group of soldiers following behind him. The soldiers were carrying a few corpses on their back but their footsteps were very steady.

"General, we meet again!" Mike said while saluting the former General of the Guards.

Hagrid snorted coldly in response.

"It's a little weird!" Mike shook his head, "Your family members aren't in those few carriages. I can only find these few scapegoats."

Vangol grinned, he hasn't misjudged O'Neil Andrew Morisette's nature. He already sent his family members abroad through a secret channel.

"Can you tell me?" Mike measured up Hagrid a little dubiously. "Since you can conceal your family members without a trace, then why did you still walk into our ambush circle?"

Hagrid suddenly laid down the long sword in his hand, "I only wish to give an explanation to His Majesty III. After all, I was the one who harmed the Imperial Household, but this has nothing to do with my family."

Mike nodded, "You are a General who is worth the respect. If it wasn't for the command, I absolutely wouldn't treat you this way."

The Special Combat Soldier gradually narrowed the encirclement. His spear was almost piercing into the lonely defensive core.

"What are you still waiting for? Haven't you acted enough?" Colonel Mike suddenly said.

Hagrid was a little flabbergasted but the instant his body was pierced through with the spear, it dawned on him what this was all about.

"Hehe!" the General spat out bloody spit. He gave the guard beside him a once over. So these are the assassins who were concealed within the ranks? They have done it really realistically! The spears of four assassins pierced through the General of the Guards' chest and abdomen. Vangol could feel his blood and life draining away rapidly.

"Just like in year 791!" Hagrid muttered to himself. He was a little perplexed as to whether O'Neil Andrew Morisette was really stubborn or really childish.

"Tell your Marshal, his end will not be any better of than mine!"

Mike shrugged. He swung his knife and chopped off the General's head. The head rolled to the ground, emitting a rumbling sound.

This was actually a completely upside down world?

This was what Vangol Abberning Hagrid saw at the very end of his life.

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