We're back from CNY with the first release of the week! Also, for those unaware, I'm translating another western-fantasy novel at volarenovels.com, "The Sword and The Shadow"! Feel free to drop by here!

Thunk! A thick wooden board fell to the ground and formed a three-meter-wide bridge over the ditch. A 100-man leader wearing leather armor and a black helmet on which a white feather was placed roared.

"Quick! Push the second ditch-filling cart[1] over!"

A dark form flashed past like a bolt of lightning. With an audible whoosh, the leader's body was knocked flying by a bolt coming from a tower roughly. He landed about four meters from where he had been standing. He desperately tried to feel the bolt that had pierced through him before he coughed out several mouthfuls of blood and collapsed dead, his eyes rolled.

The 100-man leader's death dropped the rest of the squad into chaos. However, another leader came over immediately. He wasn't as brave as the last one, who dared to stand right next to the ditch. Instead, he hid behind one of the carriages carrying a large wooden shield and barked orders for the ditch-filling carts to be pushed forward. The squad's men calmed down and continued their push. At the same time, the leader had his own squad, a hundred longbowmen, fire at the tower.

This was the second siege battle of Southern. It took place on the 4th day of the 7th month, Year 1778, more than a month from the first battle. During the past month, House Fisablen and the four central duchies' forces had cleared quite a number of forests in the area to construct large numbers of siege engines and the two-wheeled shield carriages. They only launched their attack against the four houses after properly preparing and getting a good rest.

From the fortified camp defended by Firmrock to the flatter expanses of land roughly five kilometers to its left were nothing but fire, smoke, clashing blades, blaring horns, cries of death, and thumping drums. Whether they be the attacking or defending soldiers, they shared one desire: victory against the enemy for the survival of themselves.

From a tall viewpoint, the elite infantrymen of the four central duchies seemed like waves in a rising tide. They came wave after wave, and the towers seemed like bedrock at the shore, breaking the force of the waves without ever falling. All the attacked towers retaliated with non-stop ballista-bolt barrages. Droves of enemies died bloody deaths at a time.

However, across the month, the four central duchies' forces managed to prepare some large siege engines perfect for taking down towers. The moment the ditch-filling carts were pushed to the moats, the moats would be filled and rendered useless. As the two-wheeled shield carriages of the duchies blocked defenders' attacks, the soldiers hacked down on the towers' wooden doors. Fighting soon ensued at close quarters within the towers. Battering rams were also deployed on the battlefield and with only two or three knocks, holes would be made in the towers. Some of the soldiers within rushed out to fight their enemies to the death, only to end up falling one after another.

The ones who attacked Firmrock's fortified camp were none other than the grassland barbarians. Not only did more than 20 thousand of them dismount and turn into infantry, they also pushed similar ditch-filling carts. Originally, the two-wheeled shield carriages and the battering rams were going to be escorted by House Fisablen's Third Frontier before they could be used. However, the infantry from the four duchies were far more compatible of operating those engines. After three attacks and two or so hours of effort, not much was done apart from the three thousand plus corpses and five ditch-filling carts left at the three frontmost ditches.

Lorist observed the barbarian infantry march forward towards the defensive formations atop a small hill in the middle of the main camp. The troops retreated after leaving another one or two hundred corpses behind. However, his expression was grim; definitely not the joyous one he ought to have after driving his enemy back. That was because he just received a report that the 47 towers at the flatlands to the left had either fallen into the enemy's hands or burned down completely. The household soldiers defending those towers perished. Given that the ditches dug around the towers enveloped them almost completely, the defending troops had nowhere to run to and didn't have a choice but to sacrifice themselves and try to take as many enemies down with them as they could.

Ah, I really tied myself up like a caterpillar weaving a cocoon.

While the tower tactic was extremely effective against cavalry, it wasn't much use against infantry, which were far better at attacking, especially when the enemy had so much experience as well as their adeptness at constructing various siege engines. They were also willing to pay the heavier price required to take the towers. That way, the enemy could make up with the disadvantage using numbers. The defending soldiers atop the tower outposts were practically sharks in a pond. All they could do was make up for their own losses by taking as many of the enemy with them as they could.

I still really lack experience... Tactics from an era with firearms are really unsuitable in a setting that only has cold weapons.

No matter how strong each individual steel ballistae was, there was no way they could pierce the carriage's shields. Their log shields weren't a threat when they were pushed by humans, but now they had the grounding and support of the two-wheeled carriages. Even if it were to shatter from concentrated fire, it wouldn't fall over to affect the soldiers hiding behind it. There was also the ditch-filling carriages. Once the enemy got close enough to the towers, the steel ballistae wouldn't be able to target and the defending soldiers had no choice but to fight their attackers in close quarters.

"Is Fiercetiger Loze managing?" asked Lorist.

"Your Grace, Sir Loze can hold on. But he was injured by a unit of enemy longbowmen when he led one of his spear cavalry divisions to reinforce the first line. He is injured pretty badly," answered the messenger.

"How did it happen? Didn't the carroballistae return fire?!" asked Lorist a little angrily.

"Your Grace, the carroballistae couldn't be deployed on the frontlines. They were stopped by the ditches behind the third line and couldn't fire that far. Sir Loze was also attacked by the enemy because they were bottlenecked by the ditches' intersection points," mumbled the messenger softly.

Lorist really felt like giving himself a harsh slap. It was another one of his mistakes. He had set up three lines of tower defenses in an area roughly five kilometers left of his current position. The first and second lines were 200 meters apart, while the second and third was 300 plus meters apart. The problem was that he had ordered his men to dig ditches around the towers at the first and second defense lines. He had initially thought that the winding route would delay the enemy's advance and allow the defenders to have more time to wear their numbers down. However, the enemy's ditch-filling carts instantly rendered the ditches useless. Not only that, they were even an obstacle to the reinforcements he sent to the first line of defense.

Sigh! Back then, everyone agreed to my idea of using the tower tactic to stop House Fisablen's light cavalry, so nobody said anything about it when I ordered the ditches dug. This ended up being my fault yet again. No, I can't stay here for long.

"Send someone to notify Potterfang. I will head to the battlefield near our left flank where Loze is," Lorist instructed Els, "I need to make sure he holds on to the defenses there. Also, don't move the battle standards. The guards shouldn't follow me either. Our movements must not be noticed. Just have Reidy bring a company along. Also, have Ovidis's Thunderbolt Brigade and Terman's knights secretly travel to the left flank and be on standby. Since the four central duchies are so willing to sacrifice themselves for Duke Fisablen, I'll make sure they sacrifice all their men."

"Understood, Your Grace," replied Els before he turned and barked his own orders, sending three other guards riding down the hill.

Just before Lorist left, he suddenly recalled something.

"Els, if the main camp is suddenly attacked by the grassland barbarians, you may have Potterfang retreat gradually and give up on the defenses at the front. The only important thing is the main camp. Also, if there is anything urgent, you may lead the guards into battle, understood?"

Lorist brought Howard, Reidy and a company of 100 guards to leave for the left flank.

"Your Grace? Why have you come?" asked Loze with a bloody bandage wrapped around his left shoulder.

"How did this happen?" asked Lorist, concerned.

Loze gave an embarrassed smile.

"I rushed a little too fast and didn't notice the volley of arrows. I didn't think one would pierce through my armor and strike my shoulder like this. Fortunately, the shoulder pads were tough and only a small wound was opened. It's just a flesh wound, nothing serious."

"Are you really fine? It wasn't poisoned, was it? Have you gotten it checked by a herbalist?"

"I have. I even drank a bottle of cleansing. The wound has already been treated and it won't affect my deployment. Just look," Loze said as he waved his hand around relaxedly.

"Your Grace, don't worry about a small thing like this. I'm really fine."

Lorist nodded and turned to look at the front. The battlefield had already quieted down.

"Your Grace, the enemy's currently resting. Even though they breached the frontmost 47 towers of the first line of defense, their casualties weren't light. They should be well over 10 thousand. For each soldier we lost, we killed about two or three enemies. It's not a bad exchange," briefed Loze hurriedly.

As the terrain around that area was rather flat, the tower outposts Lorist built were clustered together in threes. While the four central duchies' infantry managed to take down 47 them, they also paid a huge price. Looking into the distance with his telescope, Lorist could see the soldiers of the four central duchies busy cleaning up the battlefield and moving one corpse after another onto carriages before shipping them back. There were some others who were resting, as well as others from regiments behind transferred over to maintain the siege engines. One could probably hear the sound of hammering as they repaired the log shields.

Lorist looked at the position of the sun.

It's still roughly ten or eleven in the morning. The enemy might still attack after lunch. The four central duchies must be planning to push through the towers lines here at the flatlands and use their numerical advantage to occupy this place. After that, they can have House Fisablen's Frontier Legion launch their attack from here towards our main camp to force me to leave Southern.

"Heed my orders. Have the soldiers at the second defense line withdraw from the towers with their ballistae immediately."

"Your Grace, we can't have that!" Loze blurted, shocked, "With the presence of the towers, it will cost the four central duchies at least half of their forces to breach all three lines. While we would sacrifice more than ten thousand soldiers defending all three lines to do so, the enemies that remain would be much easier for us to deal with!"

Lorist shook his head.

"Our house doesn't make our soldiers fight suicidal battles just to grind away at the enemy forces. Even if the kill-death ratio is one to ten, it's still too huge a loss for me. Also, I believe it will be House Fisablen's Frontier Legion's turn once they breach our three defense lines. The enemy will definitely not give us a chance to exact revenge on the four central duchies' forces. The moment we allow their light cavalry to advance to our rear through this hole, we would lose the initiative on the battlefield. Recalling our soldiers from the towers doesn't mean we won't engage in battle. Instead, giving up on the towers will be advantageous to us."

"Advantageous?" Loze said as he blinked, "Your Grace, what sort of advantage do we have?"

Lorist laughed.

"Even though our numbers can't compare to theirs, we are definitely more advantaged in field battles and taking an offensive position. Have you forgotten? Look at the area between here and the second line. There is a distance of 340 meters. This whole flatland spans five kilometers and is sufficient to position more than 100 thousand soldiers. My plan is to position our soldiers in a horizontal formation along the third line. If the enemy wishes to breach this line, they will have no choice but to fight a field battle. Hehe, when it comes to those, who do we have to fear?"

Lorist's plans were simple. Loze and Pajik, two gold-ranked knights, would each lead one Tigersoar division and another Pegasus division with a total of 50 thousand troops and get into formation at the left and right flanks. Malek's carroballista division, a light cavalry division from one of Count Shazin's two divisions, as well as the heavy infantry legion sent by House Kenmays would form the center that numbered 40 thousand. They would be lined up horizontally. The soldiers of the four houses preparing for a field battle numbered a total of 90 thousand men. Coupled with Count Shazin's light infantry division and the retreated soldiers from the second line that would be in charge of manning the towers of the third line, their force numbered 100 thousand in total.

The second line soldiers' retreat shocked the enemies resting at the first line. When they realized, they hurriedly occupied the empty towers and let out cheers of triumph. It was apparent that the second line's occupation was a great morale boost. However, they quickly caught on to the enemy's positioned in the manner fitting of a field battle at the third line and quieted their cheers gradually. Perhaps, it had occurred to them that even though they were spared a grueling siege, an even bloodier field battle awaited.

The enemy also reacted quickly. The enemies that occupied the second line used the tower outposts as a means of preventing ambushes. A large group of tool-wielding soldiers began to fill up the ditches before shield carriages were lined up at the front of their forces one after another. Finally, the infantry regiments began to position themselves in battle formations.

"It seems the enemy is ready to engage in a field battle. But it looks like it'll take them a number of hours to get ready. Blow the horn, how our men take a break. We'll let everyone get some rest. Have the logistics cook up something delicious so we'll have enough energy for the coming massacre," instructed Lorist.

"As you wish, Your Grace."



[1] Check it out at this link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Wagon_and_cart_for_filling_in_moats_wjzy.jpg