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Once Noel had completed her preparations for departure, she went to give her parting words to Elgar. While it wasn’t an eternal parting, they probably wouldn’t be able to meet as often. She had fulfilled her promise to him, but all it had done was change to one of their both serving the Commonwealth, and their friendship had not changed at all.
“See you, young master. Take care of yourself.”
“You too, Noel. I pray you fight well. Contact me right away if something happens. It doesn’t matter where you are, I’ll come running to help you.”
“Ahaha, that’s my job. I’ll definitely make it to your wedding, so make sure to invite me, okay?”
“Illum… said she also wanted to talk with you. Seems like she wants to hear stories from the army.”
“Do you think we could become friends one day? We haven’t met yet, so I’m curious.”
“She’s rather docile, but if you can get close to Riglette, you shouldn’t have a problem with it. As for the wedding… do come.”
Elgar had briefly looked as though he had something he wanted to say, but his expression quickly returned to normal; one of earnest concern and thought for the people and kingdom. He was wrinkling his brow, truly the most appropriate expression for a troubled young man.
“I’ve wanted to say this for a while, but if you keep making that face, happiness is going to run away, you know.”
“I’m still a novice. If I don’t do this, nobody will follow me.”
“You’ll find the composure sooner or later. That’s how it was for me, so I’m sure you’ll be fine.”
“Yeah, I guess so. I’ll work hard so that happens.”
Finally, Noel told him what had been bothering her, “Um, this is about censugrass, but I’ve been looking into it for a while, and I think it’s best if something is done about it. If it is left alone too long, its roots will grow deep. As long as it is used correctly, I think it could become a powerful medicine, though.”
Noel knew a little about medicines with horrible effects.
“If that’s just not possible, I think it’d be best to just burn it all.”
“I know that much; how dangerous it is. Perius gave the same advice, but restricting it with the law would be difficult, and we can’t afford to get rid of it.”
“If you ever want to be rid of it, don’t forget to call me because I’ll help you out.”
“Haha, I bet that’d be difficult for you as the governor general. Thanks for worrying about me, though. I’m glad.”
“It’s no big deal. We are friends after all.”
Noel patted Elgar on the head, and he gave a tired sigh as he nodded with a face that looked as if he was holding back tears. Noel would have given the children from Willa island some candies to make them happy, but unfortunately, she didn’t have any on her at the moment, so all she could do was pat him. With no clue what to do in a situation like that, Noel had many things she still had to study.
The office of the governor general, headed by Noel, departed from Madress and arrived in the western Baharan city of Laldo. Having been assailed by the aggressive Baharan military, they suddenly struck a firm blow against their confidant foe. Many were cut down as they retreated, and thus, they successfully drove out the enemy from the land around Toldo; a brilliant result for the first campaign of the office of the governor general.
“Any more than this and everyone will show up, so it’d be pointless if everything were undone.”
Noel thought that she shouldn’t dive too deeply into enemy territory aside from capturing Toldo. While Toldo itself was a highly strategic point, going any farther would lead to the capital city of Vesta which not only had the majority of the enemy forces, but they were also aiming to quickly retake Toldo. The better decision was to avoid a pointless battle and to strengthen the defences around Laldo to wait for the reinforcements from the various kingdoms of the Commonwealth. The governor general would target Vesta once the forces had been augmented. Above all, what stood before Noel was most likely the black sun cavalry. She couldn’t let them survive; if they did, many of her companions would die, and so she had to destroy them right there in Bahar. Noel predicted that the deciding battle would be fought on the plain between Toldo and Laldo, the plains of Altvear.
On the other hand, the Horsheido empire was also massing troops in Vesta. Falid had been redirected from the retaking of Laldo to chase down an advanced party. Noel was focused on gathering as many soldiers and supplies as she could from the surrounding land while she fortified Toldo. There was a sense that the next battle was soon approaching. The enemy aimed for the same Altvear plains as Noel. The gently rolling grassy knolls were a suitable place to array a vast army, but more than that, the elite black sun cavalry could be used to its greatest effect. Mid autumn would probably herald the battle once the harvest was done. Emperor Amil had not recognised the formation of the Commonwealth and had begun to prepare troops to quickly subjugate them. Furthermore, it was announced that those traitors who called themselves a commonwealth were to be executed regardless of status, and this resulted in the viceroys of the provinces immediately attacking the commonwealth as a show of loyalty to the empire. The time of the decisive battle between the Horsheido Empire and the Libelikan Commonwealth drew nigh on the vitally important central plains of Bahar.
Noel gathered her companions to plan the decisive battle in the office of the governor general in Laldo. Those who had the honour of participating were Barbas, Riglette, and Noel’s direct subordinates; Cynthia, Kai, and the observers from each kingdom; the officers despatched from Giv and Karmbeeth; and the various soldiers like Mirut and Cal who were charged with conveying orders.
“We’ve really gathered, eh? The city’s almost full up isn’t it?”
“That’s right. Those who don’t fit are camping outside. Thankfully we have the provisions for it so there aren’t any problems, but we cannot remain this way forever.”
Noel nodded at Cynthia’s words.
“Once the war is over, we’ll have the soldiers work the fields. Those who don’t work don’t eat. That was a Gembi saying, right?”
“That is correct. You did well to remember it.”
“It’s a good saying. Should we make it the motto of the governor general?”
“Your excellency, please stop that. It would anger the kings.”
“Ahaha, I get it, you don’t have to look like you’re going to cry.”
With what was known as colonialism, they were able to train their main forces as well as gain basic supplies, all good things; however, it was necessary to gain the approval of the people as they would be borrowing their inheritance, their land, for quite some time. Burns had obtained a kind of permission, but that would only be of use if they won. Even knowing that, Noel had to lay the groundwork. More important than talking about it after the fact, was to comprehend events before they occured. That was how Irvan had put it simply in his advice on how to stand at the top. It seemed as if he had been through a lot himself, and he sighed when Noel consoled him with a pat on the shoulder. If Riglette was the master of tuts, Irvan was the master of sighs. Noel was sure that she needed to hear his secrets on it.
“Now then, do we know the status of the empire? Have we sent out our spies?”
“We have, and they have about 100 000 men. It may exceed 150 000 if they forcefully conscript.”
“We have 50 000 of the office of the governor general, 10 000 of unified Coimbra, 20 000 of Gemb, and 10 000 of the Bahar liberation front. Giv and Karmbeeth are presently fighting their own battles, so it seems unlikely for us to receive any more reinforcements. In short, the Commonwealth army must fight with 90 000 men. We have a numerical disadvantage.”
The room was full of serious expressions as Cynthia read the reports. Noel held up her hand to let them know it was all right.
“It isn’t something to worry about. What’s important is how the battle goes at the front line. It isn’t like everybody can all fight at once. When the tides of battle turn, no matter how many men are in the back, they can quickly fall into a rout. Well, we’re in the same position, though.”
“Hmm, might you have a plan Governor General Noel? I would be honoured to hear it if you please. I must fulfill my duty as an observer.”
“Ahaha, I don’t have anything convenient.”
Sighs resounded in the room. Cynthia and the rest shook their heads and rubbed their temples. It was pretty harsh treatment from people without any good ideas of their own, but Noel had resigned herself to such a fate as the governor general.
“I’ll properly explain. Okay… well I don’t think it’ll be easy to move such a big army until the next battle. We’re all doing our best and training hard, but we won’t win with just that. If we fail to move well, or attempt a fancy maneuver, we’ll open a chink in our armour. The black sun cavalry won’t be so kind as to ignore that kind of a thing, so I think it is best to attack them head on.”
“I see. While it is true…”
“The most important thing is knowing where to strike, right? If the enemy lays out a trap, we need to be sure not to get caught up in it; though that’s pretty obvious.”
Voices of acceptance could be heard around the room, and Noel didn’t think they had any particular objections. The battle would probably be in one or two months. Noel had decided to get everything done that she could before then. Obviously, they had to be wary of their enemy’s movements. Cavalry was highly mobile, so it would be hardly surprising if they tried something. The worst case scenario would be them driving back her allies just as a large enemy offencive began. A decisive victory wouldn’t then be obtainable. While Noel fully intended to make use of small-scale ambushes and sabotage, it wasn’t going to have an impact on a major battle. A direct confrontation with 100 000 enemy men was completely different from everything she had done so far. While Noel had never experienced it before, but she had an idea: that kind of battle was decided by morale. A large number of soldiers made up the backbone of the army and if they were pushed too far, they would rout, causing a chain reaction that would spread through the army like an avalanche. Even without taking much damage, a routing army was impossible to rally.
“That said, we need to do what we can. Barbas!”
“Have the White Ant Bloc practice on horseback. I don’t care if it’s just for show. Learn how to get away as quickly as possible, so don’t worry about it being surface level. I’ll have the cavalry assist you.”
“That’s fine, but we can’t fight the black sun cavalry just by getting on horses.”
Said Noel, “Ahaha, I won’t have you do anything pointless like that, so don’t worry. I’m only going to have you ride out and come right back. Let’s say I’ll have you be mounted grenadiers in a way that only you can be.”
Even that much would be difficult, but they were the only ones that could function as grenadiers with the combustion stones. No amount of practice would be too much, and Noel wanted to rely on their experience.
“Hehe, understood! Leave everything to me! We’ll stick it to those fools!”
Noel nodded, apparently satisfied with Barbas’ entused response.
“Thanks. Cynthia, you are to secretly secure cooperation from the other commanders in the liberation front. This is extremely important: don’t make use of anybody with a different background, and make sure to only bring soldiers you know are with the Commonwealth. If anybody complains, send him to me.”
“Understood. Leave it to me.”
“I’m really counting on you. It’d be a shame if we lost just cause we were dragging our feet.”
Noel narrowed her eyes at them, and the officers straightened up into a salute.
“It is true that there are some who argue needlessly. We’ll discipline them thoroughly, so no need to worry. Also, our men are motivated so morale isn’t an issue. All we need to do is increase discipline and training.”
“Yup, I’m counting on you, Commander of One Thousand Cynthia.”
“You can count on me, Governor General Noel.”
Observers essentially didn’t need formal language, as Noel was lenient on that front. It was basically okay to do as she pleased, but she straightened up and spoke correctly to Cynthia. Cynthia got nervous in front of other people, and when Noel had pointed out to her that it might lower the combat effectiveness of her troops, Cynthia had acknowledged the comment with her fist.
“Burns of the Liberation Front will be in charge of fabricating rumors. Spread tales of the vile empire far and wide. If we can increase the chance of a Baharan independence, we won’t be at a disadvantage. It may seem cowardly, but it is important to lay foundations.”
“Also… Riglette and Kai, I have something to ask you so stay behind. Now then, the rest of you are dismissed. Get to work.”
Everyone returned to their official duties, leaving Noel, Riglette, and Kai alone in the room. Cynthia was curious about the topic of discussion, but withdrew to follow her orders about training. There were advantages to becoming important after all.
“Now then, Governor General, your excellency, just what could it be that you were willing to send people away to ask? Could it be that the great hero of the commonwealth is plotting something less than acceptable?”
“I will do anything within my power that you ask of me. There is no need for restraint.”
“Yup, this is something I can only entrust to you two. You probably won’t like it, but I will have you do it, so I’ll apologise in advance. The burden will lie upon me.”
After her apology, Noel clearly stated her request, the contents of which caused their faces to stiffen in disapproval as expected. She explained the reasons it had to be done at Kai’s probable objections, and offered a suitable reward. Riglette, knowing that Noel was serious, and that there was no backing down, merely nodded reluctantly. Though objecting to the plan adamantly, Kai too eventually nodded after seeing the determination and will in Noel’s eyes. From their faces, Noel could tell that their opinions weren’t going to change; Kai’s pain was particularly blatant. Men of high rank were entrusted with many lives, and they had to give orders that would send men to their deaths. Such was the responsibility of a supreme commander. That was why Noel prepared her plan to minimise total losses while attaining victory.
I really don’t like saying that it can’t be helped, but this is war so it can’t be helped.
About a month after Noel had begun her preparations for the battle, she received a letter from an anonymous emissary of the empire. The sender was Falid Alain of the Horsheido Empire, the commander of Noel’s most troublesome enemy: the black sun cavalry.
The contents could be understood as follows:
Noel, your excellency,
Congratulations on your promotion to governor general of the Libelikan Commonwealth. Though divided as enemies at the moment, I believe our thoughts for Libelikan people are the same. To protect the suffering people, and prevent the sacrifice of more soldiers, I would like to meet and try to find a way to avoid war. I sincerely hope that Governor General Noel Bosheit, her excellency, can attend. I believe we will be able to discuss our dreams.
The rest was all superfluous. Noel showed the letter in full to her companions, and rejected it.
“Even if we met now, nothing would be solved, so I won’t go.”
“Unfortunately, that is the wise choice. Being called out to talks at this point is highly likely to be a ruse. The emperor Amil has already announced his intent to put us all to the sword. That doesn’t leave much room for negotiation.”
“I can’t tell if he genuinely wants to stop the war, and it’s probably already too late anyway. I am of the same opinion as Sir Cynthia. You should not go.”
“Also, there is a high chance that there is something else we haven’t noticed. With all the false information around, it can’t be helped. Right, oh oft reshuffled in the ranks Governor General Noel, your excellency.”
“Ain’t that yer dad’s fault, you fucker!? The fuck you sayin’ bout other people!?”
“I have thrown away my relations to the Grambulls. In the first place, I have no interest in the dead. I just stated the truth.”
“What a heartless bastard!”
Barbas and Riglette snarled at each other, but Noel, unfortunately, didn’t have the energy to tease them as she wanted to concentrate.
“Anyway, I won’t meet him. I’m sure there’d be all sorts of problems,” mused a Noel that was highly experienced in both being promoted and demoted.
Noel didn’t know when all the rumors had spread so far, and if anybody harboured ill will toward her could use them to maximum effect; if done there was nothing Noel could do about it, and she would be forced to fight alone once more. As governor general, Noel had to take a certain degree of care when moving. That was one of the things she had researched. She did, however, fully intend to respond. It would be pitiful to just stand by and watch. In preparation, she wrote that she would tell him directly on the battlefield. Noel would use whatever methods she could.
“Still, this is a strange letter. Ain’t the second half basically a love letter? Like that mention of the promise at Madress, that ‘Beloved Noel, your excellency,’ and such. I get the strong feelin’ that he’s still wantin’ to praise you.”
“Tell me, Mr. white hair, are you really an idiot? You’re talking about the enemy empire’s general of the army.”
“Shut up. It’s my honest impression. Any man can understand that. Ain’t that right, Kai?”
“Hmm, now that you mention it, I can’t say that I don’t feel something along those lines. It really does have that effect.”
Barbas happily whacked Kai at his agreement.
“Don’t it!? Hehe, there’re some things only a man can understand!”
“I see. How stupid. Don’t just say that you muscleheads. Haaah, I want to die listening to this white haired monkey.”
“Heh, some bitch would never understand. Looks like you ain’t got no man in your life. I won’t let any of my men help you out with that even if you ask. I couldn’t leave them to that misfortune.”
“What? How about you die once!”
Neither Noel nor Riglette had understood the letter, but the sense that he wanted to meet and talk was clearly delivered. He likely wanted to personally meet despite the circumstances, or there would be no reason for the imperial general of the army to send that kind of letter; a crude plan. It was, however, too late. Nothing could be done. The black sun cavalry was an enemy that had to be killed. The end was more important than the question of Falid as ally or foe.
There would never be an opportunity for such a talk again.
After some adjustments, I would like to give you chapter 45 as well as the final chapter tomorrow.
I’ll give up if it’s too much for me. Please treat me well.
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