After returning to their camp, the nobles prepared to make merry. They had met with a chain of failures, but they forced the enemy that had been guarding the village back into their base. It was something to celebrate. The enemy had retreated into their little stronghold, but it was still better than to let them roam about freely and kill more and more men.
Like rats fallen into a jar with cheese, though they could enjoy the cheese, they could not climb out. The nobles would show them their demise. They were so glad they could finally get a good night's sleep without worrying about harassment. As long as the nobles defended the village, the enemy couldn't leave. Most laughable was that the enemy had trapped themselves inside like rats in a jar.
After their short celebration, they began discussing how they would attack the stronghold.
Baron Kunrona used white bread to represent the enemy's mud and wood wall as he introduced his grand plan.
"Gentlemen, I have noticed a weakness in the enemy's wall. It is a straight line. In other words, the enemy can only defend against troops coming directly from the front. They can't fire at our men from the flanks. This will greatly decrease our casualties."
A few nobles familiar with the way of battle nodded in agreement. Perhaps because the wall was only seventy metres long, the enemy couldn't curve it to create a flanked killzone. Or they were constrained by time or lack of manpower and could only settle for the simplest design. Nevertheless, it was not the nobles' business. All they cared about was taking the stronghold.
Baron Kunrona continued.
"We suffered heavy losses and can't compare to the enemy in training or equipment, but our greatest advantage is our numbers. We have confirmed the enemy only have a hundred men. They gave up on their forward fortifications because they can't man them properly. Even if they could trade one man for ten, it would still not be enough.
"Currently, we still outnumber them more than twenty to one. So, I am confident that we will be able to take their main camp. We need only concern ourselves with now minimising casualties and getting it done as quickly and efficiently as possible. I am of the opinion we should send out all the peasants to fell trees tomorrow and gather them at the village to make shield carts, ladders and other equipment we need for the siege."
"Are we certain we want to make those things?" another noble asked, "They have two Aueran light-infantry cannons installed on their walls. I recall that they can fire seven hundred metres away. If we gather at the village, the enemy might be able to shoot at us and cause unnecessary damage."
"That's no cause for concern--" The baron smiled and puffed his chest out confidently. "--I've considered that when I was observing the village from the slope this afternoon. They retreated in desperation. Given their numbers, they could not have defended the village.
"The village is the ideal spot for us to launch our attack from, mainly because it's close to the enemy camp and because the land stretching from the village to the walls of the enemy camp is all flat land. We can move our machinery across the battlefield to the bottom of the walls with little issue and conserve our troops' energy at the same time.
"Granted, the enemy cannons' firing range does cover the entire village. But there's one thing I'm not sure whether you understand. If we only occupy the rear half of the area of the village, the enemy will definitely lose the ability to use their muskets and cannons on us. In fact, they won't even be able to shoot at us even if they want to."
"Why?" asked a noble unfamiliar with military affairs.
His question earned him a glance of praise from Baron Kunrona.
"It's simple. The enemy's equipped with the famous Aueran light-infantry cannon. Our duchy had done some tests and I received the test results from a contact in the military." While the baron boasted about his connections, the results of such tests weren't actually kept secret either. As part of the Alliance against Aueras, the Askilinian troops, including the nobles, had to have a grasp on Aueran weaponry and their capabilities to be able to plan better on the battlefield.
"These cannons are mainly used by their infantry as support. They are lighter and can be moved around the battlefield easily. While they can shoot as far as 700 metres, they can only do real damage within 300 metres. For example, those cannons can only pierce shield carts 300 metres away. If it's any further, it would take a few shots hitting the exact same spot to do any real damage.
"After our duchy's military tested the cannons out, they believe that their greatest strength lay in their scattershot. Within a hundred metres, any soldier without cover will be badly injured by the shots. We already witnessed that first-hand yesterday when we were lured out by their bombardment only to be decimated by scattershot up close."
His words triggered some unpleasant recollections in the nobles. They lost nearly 1200 men within a single day, a complete defeat. Quite a few nobles began cursing the enemy for all the losses they suffered.
"There are two reasons I suggested building our gear in the village. The first is how close the enemy is to us and how easy it is to traverse flat land. It makes it easier for us to attack and the houses within Squirrel Village provide us with cover. Even though they're shoddy, as long as they're in the half of the village away from the enemy camp, the enemy cannons won't be able to do us much harm. We can build our shield carts there and use them to build up even more cover for ourselves. When we have enough, we can push forward slightly to make more room.
"The other reason is that the shield carts will attract the shots from the enemy cannons. The more they shoot, the faster they go through their gunpowder reserves. I want to know whether they can destroy our shield carts as quickly as we can build them. By the time they almost run out, we can mount our attack and easily take over their camp without suffering too many casualties."
Kunrona gleefully finished presenting his reasoning and won the praise and agreement of many nobles. It was the only plan that seemed to be effective.
"But what if they don't shoot at our shield carts?"
There were people who couldn't stomach others gaining more attention they did, even among nobles. Someone tried to cast doubt almost right away.
"Hahaha..." The baron laughed. "Either way, the enemy will be stomped by my plan. If they don't destroy the shield carts, by the time we attack, we can use them to block the enemy's scattershot. They wouldn't be able to cause us any harm that way. I'm sure you all have seen the defensive wall around the enemy's camp during the afternoon. They even have roofs built on the walls themselves to keep out the rain. Those roofs will also render the volley fire of our men behind the shield carts ineffective.
"Even though our troops are armed with guns inferior to the enemy's in terms of aiming and distance, the guns our men use aren't just flaming sticks. Our men will still pose a real threat if allowed to line up and fire from behind the shield carts. That is why the far-seeing enemy built those roof covers in advance. He's someone who has good experience fighting defensively, so there's no way he wouldn't know the threat our shield carts pose. They will definitely want to destroy them.
"I also noticed there is a lot of dried firewood and wheat stalks. We can use them in our attack. All we have to do is to push the shield carts all the way to the enemy walls and set some fuel alight before dousing the fires with water to create smoke to obscure their vision. Our casualties will further decrease that way."
Almost all the nobles stood up and applauded Kunrona's words. His detailed plan convinced the rest that the enemy camp wasn't that hard to attack. They quickly began to think of even more methods to decrease their casualties.
"Perhaps we can split our forces into two units, one to use the mountain path and fill up the traps they dug there. After that, we can attack their camp from the path to stretch the enemy forces thin. That would make our attack from the village much easier," one noble suggested.
But after much discussion, they decided to put aside that suggestion. Even if they managed to fill up the trap hole in the path, who knew how many others there were waiting for them? While losing one workhorse to find a trap was a small price to pay, it was a little too expensive now that the nobles already had a workable plan to attack the camp. They were no longer as willing to use the horses to trigger traps.
"What if the enemy launches a sudden attack on us while we are building the shield carts?" asked another noble.
This time around, Baron Kunrona didn't need to step out. A noble quickly said, "Our forces aren't just for show. The baron's plan is for us to occupy the parts of the village 300 metres away from the camp. That doesn't mean we can't station some of our elite troops in the buildings that are closer to the camp. While their guns aren't as good as the enemy's, they can still kill if the enemy gets close enough.
"The mistake our soldiers made yesterday was they wanted to capture the enemy cannons far too bad. They completely forgot that they were armed. If they had fired a volley a hundred metres away before continuing their advance, a few cannoneers would've been killed and they might have avoided the fate of being obliterated by scattershot."
It was precisely that foolish mistake that infuriated the nobles so much.
After a long discussion through the night, they finally settled on Baron Kunrona's plan. They would send their peasants to fell trees the next day and bring them into Squirrel Village to be made into shield carts. As for the nobles' private soldiers, a clan of them were left to defend their base. The rest were split into two groups, one to supervise the peasants while they worked and the other to be stationed in the village to repel a surprise attack from the enemy.
During the next two days, Squirrel Village was abuzz with activity. One tree after another was fell and transported into it. Had the cherry blossom trees at the rear mountain not been so big, they would've been felled just like the smaller trees.
Shield carts were easy to make. Six to seven trees with the diametre as wide as a rice bowl's had to be fell and de-branched before being lined up together. Next, they only had to add the shield and wheels on one side. They were made for one use only, so no special techniques had to be employed. The peasants familiar with woodwork quickly made more than ten shield carts within the first day and stood them up in the village to be used as cover.
The enemy did begin firing at the shield carts. But after finding that it was pointless after a few shots, they stopped shooting. The next day, near fifty new shield carts were constructed in the village and they were moved a hundred metres closer to the Aueran camp. The enemies fired once more and stopped after destroying only five or six of them.
By the time the third day came, the whole village was almost filled to the brim with shield carts. The frontmost carts were as close as a hundred metres from the enemy camp. This time around, the cannons fired more insistently and only stopped after thirty minutes. But only around thirty of the carts were destroyed, all of which were soon replaced with new ones.
"We launch our attack tomorrow morning!" The nobles gladly obeyed that order and treated their soldiers and peasants to a grand meal. They had worked hard over the past few days and were allowed to rest well in anticipation of the attack on the enemy camp the next day.
The enemy seemed to not have given up on destroying the shield carts. They continued firing every half an hour, not that the nobles or peasants minded. One row of carts being destroyed was no big deal. They could easily replace them the next day. Instead, they were rather eager to have the enemy waste more gunpowder on the carts. The nobles made sure to instruct their troops to be on extra care during their watch in case the enemy grew desperate and mounted an offensive instead.
During midnight within the camp, Claude looked at the three light infantry cannons. "Are the preparations ready?"
There was a brazier next to them with a few metal round shots heated up to burning red.
Moriad said, "Don't worry, boss. We're lucky it hasn't rained for the past few days. I noticed that the enemy didn't realise we've scattered oil all over the straw roofs of the buildings in the village, as well as the firewood and gunpowder within the trenches. They didn't even notice the oil on the village's wooden fence."
"Good. Mazik, fire away. We'll give them a nice smoking," Claude casually instructed.