Chapter 180: Twentieth Episode: Chapter 8
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation

The moonlight beneath the Titan sky shone like gold sand and silver powder, sprinkling across the surface of the earth, and into the young soldier's eyes. With a blink, he saw a bright, long, sword falling from his head. The soldier wanted to raise his knife, only to realize that his arm was gone. He widened his eyes and carefully studied the moon, serenely hung on the night sky.

Oh, how beautiful was the moon tonight!

It was only when the blood crept out of his body that people he realized how warm he was. The southerly wind had turned the dark red blood into a disgusting stench. The fighting men breathed in air mixed with the smell of iron, and then tirelessly aided in its intensity.

Panitigol was confused. When General Bencil was tied to the stake, he was still ferocious as a living tiger, but when they rescued the Twelfth Region commander, the general of the Imperial Guard became all weak and limp, sprawled on the ground like an old man.

The reserve captain dragged his commander onto horseback, but their enemies from the West naturally would not give in so easily. Outnumbered, they were like maggots besieging the knights who were charging forward on their horses, even though the assault of the trainee soldiers caught them off guard. However, in the eyes of these young Titan warriors, across the hill and over the dale, enemies spanned as far as the eye could see!

Frankly, Pani did not quite know how he and his comrades had escaped the battlefield. His horse, which had been moving slowly since the beginning, had the extra weight of another man – the general, stripped of any pants. Fortunately, Pani escaped the battlefield! Only the God of Light knew how he did it! Nonetheless, he was grateful for the fact that he was still alive and breathing.

His pursuers followed the handful of knights who had left the battlefield, and were relentless until they chased them down to a deep ravine. This incident had proved that Pani could indeed be an excellent field commander. Before the charge, he sent two soldiers to guard at the bridge that was piled up by stakes. Later, when he and the few remaining young soldiers rushed over the bridge, the two men destroyed the bridge by pushing down the wooden piles.

Pani finally took a pause when they were out of the enemy's range. He hadn't planned to leave Caven Fort alive, but he did, and now it was time for some careful consideration.

"North, or west?"

The bloody soldiers could not help but to exchange glances with each other. Heading to the west would surround them with enemies, but then there was a massive river to the north. The Imperial Guards have evacuated from the last port, what else could they do?

Pani swallowed a mouthful of blood and realized that it could not satisfy thirst at all. The reserve captain inspected his surrounding environment, but came to a conclusion that he had nowhere to go.

"What is that?" a soldier pointed to a light in the distance.

The light gradually became brighter. It appeared right at the junction of the mountains and valley plains.

A smile washed over Panitigol's face, and soon he was laughing like a child.

Toslak was a simple-minded hunter, so he chose the most effective and most intuitive way to communicate. The energetic hunter cut down some dry pine branches and then used the vines to bind the branches into an arrow. The pine arrow was burning with a fiery glow in the dark night. Its direction was toward the hope for life.

The young soldiers met with hunter at a shallow bay of the Shawob River. The soldiers knew that this strapping fellow would not leave them behind.

Prior to this, Toslak had made a solid raft as fast as he was capable of. This kind of thing was not difficult for him. He smiled as he waved at the soldiers, he even announced that he had prepared a draught ferry for them.

Pani responded to the simple-minded hunter with the warmest hug. Honestly, he fell into tears when he saw the "ferry", because no one wants to leave this world while they were still alive. Although fearless sacrifice was a military tradition, the most indomitable soldiers could become extremely vulnerable once they were rid of the threat of bows and arrows. Pani gestured slightly to the small team of remaining knights. His eyes were tearing when he told the hunter, "My friend, I'm a sinner!"

Toslak counted, "Nine? Only nine!"

Pani laid the unconscious General Bencil on the ferry before nodded at the hunter.

Toslak looked out for the light in the forest on the banks of the river. It was the pursuing troops of the enemy, and they were fast approaching.

"Now it's not time to say these things. Besides, so what if there was only nine remaining? Aren't they all still here? Right here! The place for the heroes." The hunter said as he patted his chest. His huge fist thumped on his chest with so much force it sent a deafening roar to the sky. Pani smiled helplessly and shook his head, "Let's go..."

The hunter paddled quickly to move the ferry down the river, and soon they arrived at Buzaberg Jetty. The jetty had already been ignited into a large fire, staining even the moonlight in a shade of red. The old scheduling officer stood near the raging fire, and waved at the soldiers on the ferry when they passed by, but he wouldn't leave, because that was his Buzaberg Jetty.

Both banks of the Shawob River were ablaze with bright fires. The brilliance that was burning violently belonged to both the enemy and Titan. However, the Titans were the one who set the fire to their own camp. Although the jetty had been burned down, the enemy would soon come over, and Imperial Guards on the other side of the river would have to retreat again. The reserve captain, who had witnessed all this, could not help but shake his head. He could not understand why the Imperial Army became so defenseless when facing an invasion.

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

It was already Church Calendar year 800, the 30th day of the 6th month. The midsummer night scene appeared extremely monotonous in the darkness, and the air felt suffocating with heat and dryness. This kind of atmosphere which made one's lips dried and chapped was hardly pleasant, but the massive Jebron Fortress continued to guard against the quiet night amidst this suffering heat.

Looking out the scenic rural side, it had been a long time... although no one could recall exactly how long, that Jebron Fortress had never encountered an enemy. However, this time it was different, and the enemy would soon attack the Shobar River, a natural barrier. Once using plenty of water to irrigate the Dulins Plain, which was located downstream of Bindir Province.

The people, this time, had irrigated water from the river to build ditches. They also hoped that the river could obstruct the disaster caused by the invaders.

There were only ten or more so kilometers of linear distance between Jebron Fortress and the river. There was no longer any Imperial Guard's bases along this road, what was left was only the ancient quiet village, and a bustling town. The town famous for its rich and original alcohol production was named Elz. Walking along the streets in the town, the classical Roman-style houses would emit a rich scent of absinthe. A real wine lover could also distinguish the smell of hops amidst this sweet atmosphere.

Elz town produced four different types of beer, and each was manufactured by four barons respectively. The selection included dark beer, pure malt, ale, as well as draught beer made using a Deiss technique. The Imperial Guards' favorite would definitely be the pure malt produced by the Baron Holmesin House. On the evening of the 30th, the head of the Holmesin House ordered his servants to move all the beer from their cellar to the barracks. He knew what the soldiers of Imperial Army needed the most at that moment was alcohol.

Bindir Province was the garrison of the Seventeenth Military Region of ​​the Titan Empire. The soldiers who guarded the town had already received bad news from the Twelfth Region. All 40,000 soldiers were annihilated by the army, so what did this represent?

The soldiers drank beer to pass time, along with chewing on roasted peanuts and some dried meats. They all agreed that the brothers from the Twelfth Region were good men, and the God of Light would greet the spirits of these great warriors with the most beautiful angels from heaven. However, some soldiers came to grow worried about the current situation. The invaders were getting more powerful, nobody could predict what would happen tomorrow.

At the end of the drinking session, most soldiers were slightly tipsy. They unanimously changed their opinions and shouted out loud over to the riverbank in the distance, "Bunch of dogs! Clean your neck and come for the slaughter!"

Others exclaimed, "Don't bathe in the Shobar River! The crocodiles are most sensitive to what's between your legs!"

Then the soldiers laughed in delight as if celebrating a holiday. However, their commander was already impatient. The division commander pushed away the jugs of wine and recruited some men and horses to do some patrolling nearby.

The soldiers agreed without hesitation, and quickly they assembled around. Residents of the town were awakened by the rash soldiers, and few men opened their windows boldly to check out what they could do. On the other hand, women in the family blew out the light and mumbled that they should hurry to behind Jebron Fortress before the evacuation of the soldiers, or fled north to the Black Forest controlled by the Steinberger family.

One after another, teams of cavalry galloped out of the town, planning to search for the scouts who were trying to cross the river by the bank. They had been doing this for nearly a month now. However, this evening was a little special. The soldiers were holding torches as they sped across the fields in a neat formation. At first glance, it seemed as spectacular as a roundup hunting activity.

The deepening dusk covered the vast fields with dim light, and the stars kept changing their direction after the moonlight. Sometimes they gathered on the fence of hops and vines, sometimes they dissipated rapidly on the rippling surface of the river.

The fireflies beside the riverbank were preparing for the mating season. Each carried their respective tiny lanterns as they scattered around the night, like free spirits. Some, clueless, hovered just above the water line in search of a mate. The reflection of the river made it seem that these tired insects would stop on its surface, but in the end, a simple wave would take away their glimmering light in an instant, almost without effort.

Toslak took a risk to climb up a riverbank on the shore, and he carelessly crashed into the Imperial Guards cavalry who swaggered about the area. The soldiers surrounded the unlucky hunters as if they had discovered the New World. The eyes of these brave fighters flashed with a certain brilliance familiar to the hunter. It was the kind of brilliance belonged to the wild beasts in the forest.

"I came from Caven Fort... I came from Caven Fort!" said the hunter as he threw his bows and knives on the ground.

The cavalry surrounding Toslak remained silent. They were still inspecting this young hunter, who should have been sleeping soundly in his own home. But of course, the soldiers thought this guy could be a spy of the enemy. He claimed that he came from Caven Fort, and this made the soldiers even more irritated because only enemies would come from Caven Fort.

"I brought with me a General of the Imperial Guards! He is the Commander of the Twelfth Region!" Toslak did not struggle when the soldier set a rope on him.

"What did you say?" the commander of the cavalry finally came over.

"My raft..." the hunter pointed to the underside of the embankment, "it carries a general of the Imperial Guards. He has lost loads of blood and he hasn't come to consciousness yet."

"Go and have a look!" the commander ordered his soldiers and immediately a small cavalry team rushed over the underside of the embankment. People on the riverbank soon heard the screams of their comrades from the embankment, followed by a long period of silence.

Excluding the naked old man, there were also ten young soldiers being "piled up" on the raft. They were all sleeping soundly, even the horses' hooves could not wake them up.

The soldiers of the Seventeenth Region did not want to awaken their sleeping comrades, therefore they only used the torches to illuminate the raft and the faces of their comrades. The river water pushed the raft ever so gently, and water from the river flowed into the gap between the stakes, and onto the sleeping person. The soldiers, who had just experienced a deadly battle, seemed extremely exhausted, and they had fallen asleep like dead corpses. The river washed over their armor, and the rich blood stains quickly dissipated under the shadow of the flame.

Panitigol suddenly awakened as he felt someone moved the flag that was wrapped around him. The reserve paladin was always so quick to respond. His eyes widened and he punched at the guy who was planning to grab the flag. The soldiers on the raft immediately awakened by the loud noises and all of them quickly pulled out the swords held in their hands.

The flame illuminated the angry faces of the soldiers. The poor soldier who had been punched quickly retreated back to his camp. The commander of the Seventeenth Region hurried over as he knew the empire warriors had not yet figured out what was going on.

"Welcome, brothers of the Twelfth Region!" The commander of the Imperial Guards jumped off the horse and salute to the confused warriors, "I am honored to tell you that you have arrived at the last line of defense of the Imperial Guards!"

It was probably in the early morning when the news of the arrival of the commander of the Twelfth Region and his remaining ten warriors spread throughout the Dulins Plain. The sky was still dark, but the Imperial Guards along the way broke the wartime blackout order. They set off huge bonfires for the return of the heroic soldiers, burning flames lit up countless camps in the wilderness.

General Bencil Donnis was awakened by the sound of weapons striking against shields. The general seized the arm of the reserve captain and demanded, "Where are we? Are we in hell?"

Panitigol laughed and drew the curtain of the carriage as loud and enthusiastic cheer burst out around him.

"No, General, we are in heaven!"

Bencil was dumbfounded for a few seconds. All of a sudden, he asked, "Are my soldiers here too?"

Panitigol suddenly stopped laughing and pouted his lips at the carriage door. "Yes, General, all of them are out there! Not one was left behind!"

Bencil nodded. This statement did make him feel better. He looked at himself, and realized someone had put on him a military uniform. The general opened his mouth as he would like to thank this good-hearted person, because he certainly did not want to meet Alan all naked like he had been before.

Commander of the Imperial Guards, Vann Hewitt Alan, summoned all the officers to form a phalanx in front of the Jebron Fort. The old Marshal stood in the most frontmost position, under the hot sun. He saw the smoke over the carriage coming from the distance, and then began giving out commands to his messenger.

When the military carriage approached the fortress gate, it seemed to send the entire fortress into a slight tremble. It turned out to be the victory fanfare played by numerous burghers. The silver-haired old Marshal personally assisted the commander of the Twelfth Region to alight the carriage, but Bencil pushed Alan away rudely.

Alan felt slightly uncomfortable, but he could understand the brave man's feelings. The marshal of the Imperial Guards violated the restrictions of the military ranks, and volunteered to pay tribute to an admiral. No matter what, Alan did not expect that his action would be returned with Bencil's fist.

The old general's punch was a forceful blow. He once used the fists to knock down several dogs from the west while he was in Caven Fort. Alan, who tasted the flavor of his punch flew out like an old sack, leaving some blood and a broken tooth somewhere up high in the sky.

The officers around him had gotten extremely nervous, and they rushed over to where the commander had fallen. However, Alan scrambled to his feet wobbly and kicked the soldiers who were trying to help him.

"This punch is for the Twelfth Region's soldiers who died!" General Bencil stared blankly at the supreme commander.

Alan sniffed a little, his head was still ringing. "Very good! Thank you! And... what's next?"

General Bencil's face was solemn again, and he stood upright to perform a military salute to the leader of the Imperial Army, like he had always done before.

"Commander of the Twelfth Region, Bencil Donnis, reporting! More than 40,000 officers and men have fought to the death for a period of 27 days, and eventually succeeded in stopping the enemy from invading the ferry crossing jetty. I believe… I have completed the mission entrusted by the Imperial Army."

Silver Fox Alan returned the salute. He even waved his hand at General Bencil and gestured him to come over.

"I know, the officers and soldiers of the Twelfth Region have completed their mission. You... my old friend! Come over here..."

Alan did not say anything when General Bencil stepped forward. He simply hugged this brave man without releasing his tenacious grip.

All over Jebron fortress, brightly colored flags decorated the place, and each flag represented a heart-warming battle story. After settling down the heroes that evaded from the enemy region, Alan personally hung up the rhinoceros flag of the Twelfth Region on the most prominent position on the observation deck of the fortress. Then he quietly returned to his small room in the fortress.

As the supreme commander of the 800,000 Imperial Guards of Holy Titan Empire, each word and action of Vann Hewitt Alan was enough to affect the destiny of many people. However, for such an old person of extreme importance, the daily life of Silver Fox Alan could only be described with simplicity.

Alan woke up at the midnight on the 30th day and learned that the commander of the Twelfth Region survived the siege of the enemy. Therefore, he quickly made some arrangements to receive the troops, and demanded hastily for the sailor to produce a uniform for the general. After this, Alan had some breakfast, but surprisingly, or even outrageously, the marshal of Imperial Guards who had almost never consumed alcohol, drank a large glass of iced red wine in the morning. The red wine he consumed was the kind that could be found everywhere in the fortress. Everyone was puzzled by the Marshal's actions.

Later, before General Bencil and his troops arrived, Alan dismissed all the officials in the combat department and sat alone in the church of the fortress for a long time. Maybe he was praying, or maybe he was repenting, but either way he had to take responsibility for the death of the 40,000 soldiers of the Imperial Guards. Although he would later put the blame on the enemy, his sacrifice could not withstand the test of his conscience.

In the end... when the fortress was finally restored to its former silence again, Alan still did not return to his command center. He intended to give himself a day off, so that he could contemplate the many things in life he had to think about.

In the small corner on the north side of the fortress was the Marshal's bedroom, which was right next to the Military Intelligence Bureau's Battlefield Control Center. The indoor stone wall did not insulate sound well, but the old man liked that kind of disorderly noise playing in the background. He never had any good sleep anyway. During his sleepless nights, he would stick his ear to the stone wall, and eavesdrop on the footsteps happening outside, or the whispers of the officers. Sometimes, if he was lucky, he could even hear some familiar names.

For an old man like him, memories meant everything! Alan pondered on the meaning of those names of the places, but he did not associate them with the battlefield today, instead, he reminisced back to the past. When he was still a major, he used to bring his horse to the banks of Shawob River to quench its thirst. After he was promoted to the colonel, he spent the weekend on a ranch near Caven Fortress. Later when he was promoted to a major general… the old man laughed as happy memories filled his mind. The young major general of the Imperial Guards married his bride, who was a local Bindir girl.

Alan was somewhat surprised that he hadn't thought of his late wife for a long time. He even already forgot his wife's appearance. The land in front of him was the hometown of his wife, but his memories were interrupted from here, because he was then promoted to Lieutenant General. He soon left the local army and entered the complicated center of power of the empire. Then... he settled down in Dulin, like many of his ancestors of the Hewitt House.

His family background, his mind, and his means to deal with the enemy's offense helped him to move on the ladder quickly. When the empire ushered in a new emperor, he was already the leader of the military. He was at the highest point of his life, and stood there alone for more than 30 years.

Now... Alan looked around and was glad to see this small, simple room, perfectly in line with his preferences. There was a soft cot, of which the old man took care of personally. There was also a small square table nearby. The old man was accustomed to positioning various documents on the left side of the table, and his personal belongings on the right. He didn't have many personal belongings, but they were scattered over his desk messily. In fact, he had only a drawing tool, a pocket watch made in Riel, several fine quilt pens produced in Faran, and then the seal of Imperial Guards' Marshal, and some postcards, worn over the years.

It seemed that these things were all of his personal belongings! Alan picked up a postcard, and it was one that was sent by his grandson from the north. On it was scribbled, "Happy birthday to my commander!"

Alan thought of the glass of wine and then glanced around the empty little room. It seemed like...

This was indeed his everything.

When the sound of the bell echoed in the fortress as it stroked twelve at midnight, Alan's holiday had also come to an end. By then he was already all dressed up. Over the years, the Marshal's ribbon attached to his medal had changed from the original golden gleam to dull yellow. The medals and badges that symbolized the rank of the Marshal no longer held their shine. Alan carefully wiped the metal on his body with a cotton cloth soaked in alcohol. When a guard knocked on the oak door to the small room, he placed his marshal's sword, which handle had already lost its color, back on his waist.

"Lord Marshal! It's nearly time!"

Alan nodded at the reminder. At the last regular military meeting before the final battle, he wanted to convey his fighting spirit and intention to every field commander who was about to head for the battlefield.

Every space in the sturdy Jebron Fortress was filled with stone pillars and posts, hence it was not easy to find a spacious and bright room. Out of desperation, the Combat Department set the meeting place underneath the fortress. It was a building site left behind when the underground water system was irrigated to the fortress, but it was enough to accommodate nearly a thousand officers.

The meticulous Titans attached great importance to this pre-war military discussion. They placed all the barn lanterns in the underground space and spent some time decorating the venue. In fact, this venue was still an abandoned site when they first discovered, but then the service personnel of the Combat Department covered the ugly corners with countless banners and managed to create an impressive atmosphere.

Alan's footsteps arrived at the venue on the last second before scheduled time.

The nearby officers quickly made way for their commander, simultaneously paid tribute to the old Marshal. With a smile on his face, Alan inspected these unfamiliar faces one after another.

However, out of these nearly thousands of men, some faces were still familiar to Alan. When he passed by those valiant generals, the Marshal always stopped to make a small talk, to shake their hands, and to pat on the other person's shoulder.

General Bencil Donnis was also invited to the meeting, but the general stood on the outermost part of the crowd. Alan still noticed him nonetheless. The old Marshal understood the general's complaints and knew about the awkwardness for a commander without an army to attend in the pre-war regular meeting. However, he still greeted General Bencil with an ardent gaze. The other party only nodded as if he couldn't care less, even deliberately omitting the military rites.

Alan smiled helplessly at the response. He knew it would be like this.

There were more than 40 candles lit on the crystal chandelier, and the shimmering light cast on a huge tactical map through a fan-shaped brass flap. Alan looked at the various markers positioned on the map, but at last he turned around and faced his soldiers, "Let's leave this aside first and have some supper!"

This was probably the simplest supper the soldiers had ever had. Everyone was given a piece of walnut cake, and then a group of soldiers also brought in several large wine barrels, and filled a cup for each of the officers.

The soldiers looked at the cake in their hands and then again at the face of their marshal. They were all somewhat confused at the sight. Only one old officer from the Combat Department who had been following Marshal for many years suddenly realized. He raised his glass at the Marshal, "Happy birthday! My marshal!"

The rest of the soldiers suddenly realized and various kind words and blessings flooded the scene one after another, but Alan only waved his hand at these battlefield commanders gathered in front of him, "This is not important! This wine is for you who are heading for the battlefield, as for this slice of cake, it shall tell you why we had to participate this war."

Alan walked down the steps where the map was placed, and put a small piece of the cake into his mouth, "Well, I must say... we need to replace Jebron's baker!"

Officers broke out into laughter, and some couldn't wait to taste a few mouthfuls.

The commander of Imperial Guards then took a sip of wine, "Sweet and fragrant, this wine is a treasure!"

The soldiers followed suit and tasted the wine.

"What I want to tell everyone is," Alan spread out his hand, "this is exactly why we're fighting! It's for this piece of cake. Although it doesn't taste very good, and there aren't many walnuts inside, but... it fulfills our basic need for survival. Without it, we would be hungry, and when we are hungry, we must endure slavery and oppression by others. Because those who enslave us and oppress us have this piece of cake. If we want to survive, we must bend down to our master.

Alan swallowed the tasteless cake in one gulp, but then at then licked at the corner of his mouth with the tip of his lips. "Now, do you understand? This cake symbolizes freedom! No one can steal it from us! If someone tries to… you..."

Alan swept the audience with the edge of Marshal's sword, "You, the soldiers of the Empire, must rush to the battlefield and fight against the enemies that wish to steal it! Even if… finally, in the end, what you obtain was just this glass of wine!"

Alan suddenly lifted the glass and the dark red liquid fell on his chin into the neckline of the uniform. The intense alcohol ignited the pupil of the silver-haired old man like raging fire. He rushed onto the steps where the tactical map was placed like an angry male lion, and desperately struck at a zone marked black with the handle of his sword.

"We begin! Each officer will report in the order of the battle sequence!"

"The Eleventh Infantry Corps of Imperial Guards reports to you... The Twenty-Fifth Cavalry Corps of Imperial Guards reports to you... The Eighteenth Infantry Corps of Imperial Guards reports to you... The Ninth Cavalry Corps if Imperial Army reports to you... Steinberger Independent Infantry Corps reports to you..."

The underground cavern rang aloud with the cries of the military men. Their voices were transformed into heroic relief of defined structures under the influence of fire.

On Alan's tactical map, there were two places which stood out. One was Jebron Fortress, the traditional line of defense that Alan held on to. Another one was, to be honest, a place that people who had not been would not know about;Titan Imperial castle, hidden in Agurito primeval forest, situated at the western part Damorel Province.

One could trace past history of Hebhopp Castle based on its name. Hebhopp was one of the imperial surnames of the Morisette dynasty. The emperor with this surname was the former ruler before Alfa Morisette Imperial Family.

It was rumored that Hebhopp I His Late Majesty built this extremely feminine castle to hide his mistress. That was the reason the castle was located in a secluded area where the branches and leaves of the primeval forest could totally obstruct the view of the castle in summer. On the other hand, the gray exterior of the castle would completely blend in with the snow during winter.

The commander of the Imperial Guards organized a unified battle sequence for Titan Imperial Guards positioned in Hebhopp Castle, with those who stationed at Jebron Fortress. According to the instructions issued by the Imperial Army, the seven integrated corps near Hebhopp Castle were to assembled as Offensive Army Group Two, which was put under direct command of His Highness Prince O'Neil Andrew Morisette, Marshal of Imperial Guards.

"If Alan really intends to do it this way… in my opinion, we wouldn't have much to do when the time comes!" Major General of Artillerymen, Viscount Tove Van Sukhoi, always looked as if he couldn't be more bothered during the pre-war meeting organized by His Highness the Prince. As he voiced out his opinion, he picked up a muffin from a cookie plate placed on the long table and began savoring it like nobody's business.

"Isn't your artillery already on board? What are you still doing here?" Oscar glared at Torry impatiently.

Torry lifted his right hand, of which four of his fingers had been removed, and replied, "To rehabilitate! This thing tickles, especially during the summer!"

"Oh yeah..." a young man seated around the table snorted coldly, "I bet his paw itches because he hadn't touched a woman for about a month now!"

Oscar took the lead and laughed out loud. He liked this young man, named Lustone. It was said several years ago, Viscount Lustone of Titan's Second Region was only a mere First Lieutenant. However, in year 800 of the Church Calendar, or today to be more precise, Lustone had become the most favored combat staff member to the commander of the Second Region. The reason Oscar had kept him around was because he hoped that the tricky mind of Lustone could bring good luck to himself.

Torry grew excited when anyone mentioned anything about women, and he spread out his arms in a threatening gesture. "What else can I do? I can't solve my problem without my right fingers, and that leaves me with no alternative but to use my left hand. However, I still can't get used to it!"

"Hahahahahaha..." the officers of Offensive Army Group Two laughed even louder.

Oscar was still laughing happily. He would not complain about the chaos and disorder of the meeting, because more than half a month of getting along has made him fully understand the nature of these officers. No wonder Marshal Robin had asked him to be cautious of these men before he left. He figured many of these people from the First and Second Region who were supposedly defending the capital were actually only idlers with false titles. These noblemen received their salary from the military, but had never actually done any remarkable contributions that come with the title of their posts. Oscar even suspected that most of them had not even seen a sharp sword before. Whenever these guys gathered, they would only talk about women, brag, play cards, or when it got too boring, they would even start to gamble! Once, His Highness the Prince witnessed an unlucky Lieutenant Colonel lost two thousand golden Tis to Torry.

Two thousand golden Tis! That was about the income of an ordinary citizen for ten years!

"Anyway, haven't we digressed from the topic a little?" Oscar mentioned to these scum.

Out of fear for His Highness the Prince, who had demonstrated his authority before in the past, the army ruffians of the First and Second Regions finally calmed down, although some were still whispering behind the seats.

With a glass of wine in his hand, Oscar leaned against the soft couch and rolled up his sleeves. He had also loosened himself up in front of these guys. It was too stuffy indoors. He tossed his army boots aside, leaving his bare feet hanging like a rogue. As he tried to recall, Oscar felt that he was a natural when it comes to acting like a rascal.

"Lustone..." The imperial prince, who was the leader of Offensive Army Group Two, called out to his Chief of Staff in an almost inaudible whisper, "By the grace of the God of Light, hurry up and report the silver-haired old man's offensive deployment before I fall asleep…"

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

Alan nodded to the soldiers at the scene, and then pointed at the black area on the tactical map, which was the location of the geographic center between the jetty crossing of Shawob River and Jebron fortress. There was an exceptionally superior pasture where the herdsmen on both sides let their horses run free.

"This is our scheduled battlefield!" the commander of Imperial Guards glanced across the room, and what he witnessed was the longing for battle in the soldiers' eyes.

"Without accidents... take note that I'm talking about contingencies for two scenarios, first..." the tip of Alan's sword was still pointing at the position of invading army on the other side of the river, "the king of Hoilland suddenly change his mind! To give up the ferry crossing and turn into defense! If that's the case... we should take the chance to launch an offensive. The Combat Department has mapped out a similar plan, however, the offensive effect is not quite significant."

"Second..." Alan moved the tip of the blade to the western part of the province of Damorel, "After the enemy conquers Shawob River, the Army Group led by His Highness Prince O'Neil Andrew Morisette does not arrive at the battlefield on schedule. If His Highness the Prince is unable to seize Buzaberg Jetty and cut off the route retreat of the Western Alliance, then the enemy would have a chance to break free from our trap."

"We can't count on Army Group Two!" a voice suddenly shouted among the crowd of officers.

"Yeah! Army Group Two is useless!"

"We should let His Highness the Prince lead the Southern Army..."

"That's enough!" Alan suddenly shouted and the officers immediately calmed down. The silver-haired Marshal waved his hand again and again. It was not as if he had not doubted the combat capability of the Empire's First and Second Region, "But... the Southern Army Group has to deal with the Kingdom of Farans, and Northen Army Group has to be prepared to guard against the regular visitors from Deiss. Hence... we can only draw troops from the Central Military Region, whether or not the battlefield commanders in the First and Second Regions are men or not. We can only hope that His Highness Prince O'Neil's offensive action can successfully surround the enemy."

The commissioned officers of Titans' Offensive Army Group One could not hold themselves back any longer. They began to whisper, and there were even disputes that broke out in certain corners. These officers would not be obedient to orders blindly. They were commanders who have had actual combat experience on the front-line. In their opinions, the prospect of success for this huge battle was not optimistic at all.

First of all, regarding what Alan said about the first scenario! In all honesty, this was highly likely to happen! The Western Alliance was not blind or deaf, they would not turn a blind eye at the huge group of more than 300,000 soldiers assembled together. Even if the king of Hoilland had a mind of a pig, he would definitely realize there was no point to cross the river to attack the enemies that were well-prepared waiting for him?

If the attack failed, the river behind him would become a death trap.

Next, regarding the second pitfall mentioned by Alan. The officers could not help but shake their heads as they spoke about this. Those soldiers who came from the capital's noble circle had always regarded the Imperial Guard as "the cradle of growth." Those were the people who were born with respectable noble titles, some even had titles adopted from both side of their parents. These lofty honorable masters would never go to work like ordinary staff, therefore they disdained becoming government workers and shown more interests in the uniforms of the Imperial Guards. Besides, the salary for military officers were higher and they did not really have to do much when it was peaceful and quiet.

Hence, the First and Second Regions closest to the capital became the cradle, the cradle which fostered military scoundrels and spoiled soldiers. Or perhaps, these two Regions that were overstaffed all year long could be considered the kindergarten of the capital nobles circle.

Just the thought of it made one worried. To send these spoilt brats from the kindergarten to the battlefield? Perhaps even the God of Light would not be able to guess what those guys would do!

In the end, the soldiers finally casted the issue that worried them the most. Throughout the history of the Titan Imperial Guards, they had never encountered a rival main force Army Group consisting of more than 200,000 people on a single battlefield! Marshal Alan had to deploy more than 300,000 people to annihilate the enemy's 200,000 soldiers. There was no precedent for this throughout the Westland, no matter in theory or reality.

Alan regarded everything into account. He knew that the Imperial Guards still lacked the belief that they would win the coming war.

On the other hand, the present situation did not even raise any hope for Oscar! His organization was weak and lacked morale. The high-ranking military officers mostly cravenly cling to life instead of braving death, even the soldiers had the unfortunate appearance on their faces. No one knew what the Prince of Empire had in mind, because he didn't bother much about the day-to-day work of Offensive Army Group Two. He only hurried on road along the lines of the battle instructions.

After the lengthy tactical explanations were over, most of the capital officers who participated in the military regular meetings fell asleep, and the rest wandered along between semi-conscious and reality. Oscar looked around, but fortunately he still had Murat and Luke Citel, otherwise he really didn't know what to do with this battle.

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

"Exactly! What should we do with this battle?" Alan grinned proudly. He asked his battlefield commanders, "I don't know if any of you have read His Highness Prince O'Neil Andrew Morisette's thesis paper which he completed during his time in the Imperial Military Academy?"

"Marshal O'Neil had conducted a meticulous analysis on the team formation and strategy tactics for large troop formation warfare, and he concluded an extremely insightful proposal!"

Together, several soldiers hung a huge tactical map onto the wall.

Alan pointed to the giant shadow on the map which looked like a beehive.

"According to the vision of Marshal O'Neil concerning battle against large formation warfare, we must reorganize the thirty-four troops that participated in this battle. Three Corps into a single column! Under each column would be two infantry corps and one cavalry corps, in other words, according to the cellular model of the beehive, we have to line up eleven columns on the scheduled battlefield, and launch a group assault in the order of the battle sequence instead of putting phalanxes of thousands of people into the battlefield like before!"

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

"So... is there any other problem?" Oscar knocked on the table, and added, "Wake up! Everybody"

The officers seated forced themselves to be awake, and vowed to the Marshal that they who had not touch a sword ever since birth would all turn into superheroes for the battle.

Oscar shrugged indifferently. This was completely different from his previous vision of a great patriotic war. Looking at these food buckets in front of him, the commander of the Offensive Army Group Two could only say -

"Meeting dismissed... you lazy bunch! See you tomorrow!"

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