Chapter 240: Twenty-sixth Episode: Chapter 5-1
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation

If one would like to discover the soul of river, take a walk along a tall dam. The stones on the embankment would be decorated with taupe overcoat after being washed down for years.

Some said that Don River was a color streamer on the Titan flag, while others said Shawob River was a precious metal in the imperial crown. In the north, rivers did not have such names. In the vast expanse of plains and deep valleys, river turned into tributaries, which flowed calmly through villages, towns, and finally into the people's hearts.

The national road and the river went hand in hand all the way southward. There was an armed force on the road. They came from the upper reaches of the river and was heading for the lower reaches in the south.

The troops of Titan soldiers stretched for more than ten miles, far beyond one's eyes could see. However, one would discover that these soldiers were overshadowed by the depressing emotions of failure. Most of the soldiers bowed their head down, their clothes and outfit dishevelled. Many were not even carrying the weapons that have never left their side.

In the river, multiple wooden rafts were flowing downstream. On them carried wounded soldiers that were still bleeding. The blood was washed away as current pushed the rafts forward. The eyes of the wounded did not seem to be focusing on anything at all. Their hearts were occupied by miseries whereas the bloody wounds on their bodies made them lost their ability to speak.

Titan warriors marched with their heads down, only occasionally glancing over at the open river. They were defeated! Although the defeat was not thorough, the troops in complete mess and the military flag fluttering awkwardly were enough to illustrate the problem. There were also the wounded soldiers who were once their brothers, not to mention the victims who were abandoned by the roadside. Even if they had left the depressing battlefield, they still could not get away from the sickle of Death that oddly resembled the weapons of Deiss soldiers.

The Deiss attacked too quick! Too fierce! Northern Army Group Headquarters received a message that Moreiro Border has been broken through, while left flank of the army group was attacked by a small team of vanguard in the morning. Commander Vann Alan Hewitt issued orders for his Imperial Guards principal force and right flank to simultaneously draw closer to the left flank, but this did not change the fate of the entire campaign.

Year 801, 4th day of the 10th month, Deiss against the northern defense line finally made their move. They were a massive army group consisted of 160,000 people who hurried their way from Alborto Basin to meet Alan.

Alan could only force out a smile. He took into account that Deiss who was on the offensive was at advantage in military strength, but never did he expected that he would be caught in a crossfire.

In the middle of the 10th month, with the principal force of Titan Northern Army Group border front line as their aim, Deiss first launched a surprise attack in Moreiro area which was located on the western part of the battle line. Then, a small-scale commando army group consisting of 40,000 cavalrymen attacked the left flank of northern army. Alan hoped his strategy could more or less curb the attack of the Deiss cavalry, but the actual principal force of Deiss army suddenly assembled quickly before Alborto Fortress and swooped down at Alan's troops with the speed of a lightning.

Retreat to the defense line to avoid the enemy's spearhead? Or gather the whole troop to fight back when Deiss arrived at the battlefield? Fierce quarrels broke out in the headquarters of Northern Army Group. The reason for eruption of quarrels was mostly because of Alan's indecisiveness in this matter.

After summing up opinion of the masses and studying the battlefield information collected, the commander of Imperial Guards finally decided to take on the battle. This decision was not necessarily a smart move but it certainly illustrated several points.

Where was the problem? It was on Silver Fox Alan who took command of the Northern Military Region as the commander of Imperial Guards. The commander of Imperial Guards could not retreat from enemy but accept the battle at his own initiative. Alan's fame and commanding authority on the battlefield could not be offended in the slightest manner. To retreat when the enemy attack was no different from perish on defeat.

Whether it was for Alan personally or Northern Army Group, the duties as a soldier, the trust from Her Majesty the Empress, and the hope of the people of Titans required them to fight against the invading enemy in this dangerous situation. This kind of situation was like that of O'Neil Andrew Morisette's experience in Saijo Mountain – an open fire was inevitable! There was no argument to it. Victory naturally meant the birth of another heroic epic, while defeat... was not too big of a deal either. Most heroic epics were tragedies anyway.

Alan understood that if he could advocate the second line of defense and let Krasius the Chief of staff of Northern Army Group operates the border line defense, there would be an additional level of command. As such, Alan could recall the principal force on the first line of defense when he encountered sudden changes in the front.

This evasion tactics seemed fair and reasonable. However, if he was the commanding officer in the first line of defense… or in other words, what had young Krasius earned to be guarding the border defense? Alan should have the honor to be the first to defeat Deiss. Of course, losing the battle this time round was also his responsibility.

Regardless of reasonability… with his long history of victories and a keen sense in battles, alongside his fearless mindset and a great degree of trust in luck, Alan chose to fight as if that was his only option. Doing so would create yet another chapter in the history of heroic poetry, but choosing to retreat would lose some of his essence and spirit as the Imperial Guards commander. Alan himself could not pinpoint exactly what it was, but he felt that "what goes around comes around [1]."

From the beginning to the end of the battle, the God of Light never favored the Silver Fox. The Northern Army Group's left flank was captured in cavalry's repeated attack, the center army group was challenged with Deiss crack force twice as powerful as they, and the right flank… the right flank was being placed in the most embarrassing position. This was somewhat the fault of that idiotic commanding officer in charge of the right flank. When Alan was fighting the decisive battle with his enemy, a small unit force of the Deiss army has been checking the Imperial Guard's right flank for almost half a day. Alan did not see the flag of the right flank even at the end of the campaign.

This battle was too… baffling? Not entirely! Alan found answers to several problems when the war has reached a stalemate. Deiss's attack on Steinberger Front has certainly been an extremely realistic feign attack. The number of soldiers deployed to Blackwood border area should not have been more than 40,000 to 50,000 people.

According to the battle reports that were sent in earlier, the number of Deiss soldiers supposedly being deployed to attack Steinberger Front should be an army group consisting of 180,000 people. Alan had been suspicious of this number, but still he could not figure how Deiss High Command could transferred more than a hundred thousand people from the northwestern battlefield to the frontal battlefield in the north without anyone noticing. Therefore, Titan Military Intelligence Bureau was difficult to absolve themselves from the blame. There must have been some mistakes in their parts.

Before the war, Alan was most worried about Moreiro border garrison area, and it happened that Deiss launched a surprise attack from here. Moreover, it seemed that the group of 40,000 cavalry soldiers was very familiar with Moreiro area. They had not walked a wrong way and arrived from the western end of the front line to the assembly site of the Northern Army Group's left flank in only four days and nights.

In this sense, this war plan was not only a bold assumption. The Deiss High Command must have undergone careful calculation, strategic deployment, as well as strict security measures and covert marches in order to lure the sly, old Silver Fox into this modest trap.

The reason why Deiss's tricks were only modest was because… their target was Alan. Even if he encountered attacks from both sides, even if his right flank did not draw closer to him during the battle, even if Deiss troop forces were twice the strength of Titan's, Alan managed to devise a campaign strategy that did not profit Marshal Stanbein too much in the decisive battle.

Perhaps the fierce battle between Deiss and Titan which happened out of nowhere on Church's year 801, 8th day of the 11th month was not a decisive battle at all. Both sides maintained the attitude to keep on fighting and never give up. This was the first time that Alan stuck to convention while fighting a battle. On the other hand, Deiss commander who was afraid the table would turn did not entirely oppress the Silver Fox using his massive troop forces.

Maybe the Silver Fox was really down on his luck. During the Devil's Attack, the number of casualties on the battlefield were already approaching Alan's acceptance limit. The commander of Imperial Guards was going to beat the drums and withdraw from the battle, but before he could do so, the left flank of the Northern Army who had been exhausted by the enemy was finally defeated. The Teutonic Knights who had just entered the battlefield destroyed all the fronts of Titan Army Group left flank with crushing force.

Alan was left with no options. The collapse of the left flank was predicted even before the war. At times like this he could only urge the central army group to withdraw from the battlefield as soon as possible to meet with the right flank army group who has not been contributing in any sorts. They should preserve their strength and retreat in depth of the defense line.

Deiss sent out their symbolic chasing troops to drive Alan and his central army group out of the battlefield. Later, they surrounded the Titan soldiers who had been defeated on the left side of the battlefield.

According to the records in the history of the Great Defending War, the Northern Border Defensive War on the 8th day of 11th month lasted for five hours. Slight snow fluttered from the sky. The Deiss Army led 160,000 people to attack from the front, and commanded 40,000 cavalries to attack Titan left flank from the west side of the battlefield. The Imperial Guards Commander Vann Hewitt Alan did his best to attack the enemy. However, the left flank was caught in a fierce battle whereas the right flank was confined to outside of battlefield by the enemy...

Nine infantry divisions of the Northern Army Group lost their organisational systems forever. More than 30,000 Imperial Guards fell on the battlefield, 11,000 were taken prisoner, wounded were too much to be counted. This was Alan's biggest defeat since the start of his military career.

However, that was not the end. Marshal of Imperial Guards issued a general order to every department that he and all the officers would evacuate the battlefield at the last moment, and Alan did it! But it did not go well. An arrow hit him on the mount by accident and sent the unprepared commander to the air. Alan refused the assistance from his knight guards and struggled to his feet by himself. He was later carried away on a stretcher. It seemed like… he might no longer be able to stand up with his own strength again. All the military doctors were at a loss of what to do. Their commander was not feeling any pain and discomfort, but he felt weak all over.

Alan has collapsed; his face pale. He was lying in a carriage that was used to transport hay. He knew that it was not the Deiss that defeated him, but himself. The reason for the failure could possibly be misuse of war strategy, or an issue with the intelligence report, or the damned right flank army group. No matter what, Alan was the commander. He had already been defeated when the Second Defending War has just begun. What was more terrible was that he had also lost himself in this battle.

The river embankment was much higher than the plains. The Imperial Guards lined up in a loose formation and evacuated to the rear along the road. They filled up their water sacs with iced-cold river water. On the surface of river water was some ice floe particles which flowed down from the upper reaches. The soldiers had no choice but warmed the ice water with their depressed morale.

Temporary tents for food distribution were established every few kilometers along the river. Since it was not a disastrous defeat, they were left with some army gears and food supply. The chef has made a big pot of fish broth using the river water. The soldiers had to fill their servings of broth using helmets as they had discarded their dishware and utensils on the way of retreat. These people began gulping down the broth by roadside and chewed those rock hard stale bread as if it was the most delicious feast they have ever eaten.

Inside the massive carriage covered with horse hay was Alan who has not eaten or drank. He was not taking the opportunity to rest either. His face was paler than the clown in the circus, and there were traces of blue-blacks on the corner of his left eye and his chin. The commander of Imperial Guards by this time could not accurately urinate into the toilet. The accompanying officers and knights repeatedly prayed at God of Light to replenish his health. Some even went to the side and sobbed silently at his misfortune.

If an official order was issued for them to get the emotions off their chest, perhaps each and every Titan warrior would cry their eyes out. They had lost. They had lost to the cruel Deiss. Those devils would go from house to house searching for winter supplies. They would go from house to house to bully the good and violate the women.

Those women were wives, sisters and daughters of the soldiers. However, the Deiss have won, hence the local men had no other choice than to retreat. The men constantly turned their head around as they marched. The last thing they wanted to remember was this ashamed and resentful battle, but the chasing troops of the enemy would not give up harassing them. Whenever the team at the back blew their whistles, the men sighed deeply and tried to speed up their pace.

The massive army troop lost their flashing weapons and the imposing manner they first carried when they were marching toward the battlefield. Now, they were only walking aimlessly. They seemed to know that river and national road would lead them to Bron Fortress – the largest fortress in the entire Westland. What they needed most right now was a sturdy fortress to put away their exhaustion and depression that broke their souls.

Far away from the border, the population increased as they got nearer to the inland. The enthusiastic and kind-hearted northerners rushed forward to the river to check out the commotion. They brought along some homemade food and distributed them to hungry soldiers.

There was another group of people waiting on the dam. This group of people consisted of men and women, young and old. They stood tall on the dam to obtain better and more expansive view. They craned their neck to look around in all directions, in attempt to locate the faces of their loved ones among the defeated soldiers. However, the number of soldiers who marched past seemed endless and it was difficult to distinguish one by one.

As a result, they could only stand by the road side to shout their questions at random soldiers. "Have you seen a private soldier named Seth?""Do you know Captain Rock?"

"Captain Rock from 2-3-1 archery battalion?"

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The person who asked was a young lady. She had totally no idea about her husband's battlefield number, but she knew her husband was the best archer in their hometown.

"Yes! You're right! Captain Rock who is great in archery! Do you know which team he's in? Is he walking in front or at the back?" The anxious woman grabbed the soldier who answered her question. She looked like a wreck with tears swelled in the corners of her eyes.

The soldier looked at the poor woman with slight regret. He should have ignored this woman who asked about Captain Rock. How could he tell her that Captain Rock had been trampled over by the devil's horse as if he was a piece of trash?

"He... he is at the back... just wait a little longer!" the soldier joined in the crowd after dropping the lie. The woman burst into tears. She tipped her toe and constantly waved at the disappeared soldier with a floral handkerchief in hand, "Thank you... thank you..."

Captain Rock's was elated. How lucky was she to receive good news of her husband so quickly! Her beautiful smiling face affected the dejected soldiers. One of the officers that walked past her told her kindly, "Be patient and wait a little longer, he may be in the next team."

The beautiful woman was even more excited. She grabbed the soldier's face in her hands and kissed him on the cheek.

"Thank you… thank you so much!" Captain Rock's wife turned to the advancing soldiers. Her boldness caught everyone's attention, "And thanks all of you too... you are all warriors..."

The soldiers lowered their heads again. The word "Warrior" was harsh to their ears. The sound of it triggered their most sensitive nerves.

Captain Rock's wife waited on the dam. She went near the river to drink when she was thirsty, and washed her face when she felt tired. She kept waiting until nightfall. The people who were on the side of the road left gradually after obtaining the news of their loved ones. Finally, only the beautiful woman was guarding the cold embankment alone.

One Imperial Guard that noticed her brought her a blanket, another who heard her stomach grumbling offered her a piece of bread. Some more responsible soldiers tried persuading her to return home. After all, the night has fallen, but the woman did not listen to them. She argued she must tell her husband that the Deiss soldiers were approaching, that the villagers and herself were withdrawing to the Bron Fortress.

"What if he doesn't get the news? He will go mad if he can't find me!"

The soldier then comforted her, "He will be notified because all of us are going to Bron Fortress. Perhaps he was already over there waiting for you!"

The woman thought for a moment, and looked up to the sky. She should be on the road now. The soldiers brought her paper and pen. She wrote everything she needed to explain to her husband on a piece of thick kraft paper. However, when she reached the bulletin board in front, the sign was already full of various message and notes. After pondering over the board for a long time, but still unsuccessful in looking for an empty corner, she pulled out the self-defense dagger her husband had gifted her and cut off a handful of her long golden locks. In the end, she nailed her hair, dagger, and the message on the board. Before leaving, she prayed devoutly that her husband would bring her home to live a good life without war...

Translator's note

[1] Alan who had won countless battles throughout his life anticipated that what he did to others will eventually come back to him.

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