"General, we received Line 1302's eagle message. Their scouts discovered traces of the enemy and are currently monitoring them from cover and awaiting further orders," Anders reported.
"Oh, so we finally found them..." Claude snapped awake. It had been a week since they found the bull herd and they only just located the enemies now. It seemed that the Canasian voluntary light-cavalry corps really treasured money more than their own lives. Even though they knew well that their scouts had been disappearing, most likely taken captive, they still came, despite the possibility that their bull-hunting excursion had been leaked. They were so keen on making money that they were ready to ignore five Aueran enhanced folks...
"Where are they and how are their numbers?" Claude had just been gearing up for a nap, only to be informed of the enemy right after he laid down in bed. He sat straight up and adjusted his uniform as he asked more about it.
Anders helped Claude with his armaments and continued, "Not much was stated in the letter, but I believe the numbers aren't small. Lieutenant-Colonel Moriad's letter states that the scouts they sent out were slaughtering the wolf pack behind the bull herd and caused quite a huge commotion. That was how they were discovered in the first place."
Slaughtering? It was apparent to Claude that the enemy had at least a line of troops. Otherwise, they wouldn't choose to take on the thousands of wolves following behind the bulls. They were prepared to deal with the annoying wolves first before going in to hunt the bulls. This way, they wouldn't have to worry about being harassed by the wolves constantly. Only with a large enough force would they not have to worry about retaliation by the wolves. Perhaps they even came to see the wolves as their prey.
"Blow the horn and prepare to set out. Let's head for Line 1302's camp in half an hour," Claude ordered.
By traveling slightly far off from the bulls' migratory route, it took two days of marching for them to reach Line 1302's encampment. It was located on a small hill near four kilometres away from the bull herd. The encampment was impossible to discover from far away. Claude was quite satisfied at Moriad's growth. He had chosen a rather decent place to set up camp.
Upon learning of Claude and the main force's arrival, Moriad had ordered his men to expand the encampment to accommodate the main folk and the two accompanying lines. He also came to receive Claude and gave him a report immediately.
The million migrating cows took up roughly five kilometres of land in width alone. Moriad's Line 1302 noticed the enemy around the west side of the herd. They amounted to around two lines of men and after killing off near a thousand red-back wolves and grassland wolves, they began their hunt on the bulls. From his covert observations, Moriad reasoned that the enemy probably split up into two halves, each with two lines of men, one in the east and the other in the west. That way, they would greatly increase their hunting efficiency for the most gains.
Claude also sent out two Thundercrash lines as the vanguard to seek out traces of the enemy. Now that Moriad's line found them, Claude immediately used a carrier eagle to send an order to Berklin's Line 1301 for them to attack the enemy directly from the rear. They would first seal off their escape route before giving them a sound beating.
This time around, the Canasian corps only sent a folk of their forces for the bull hunt. Claude was confident he would be able to exterminate that folk on Albator Plains in totality so that not a single one could return to report their loss.
But before he launched the attack, he still needed to make more observations.
From the telescope, he could tell that the Canasians were all really skilled riders. They could easily part tens of bulls away from the main herd in a matter of minutes and easily dealt the killing blows. Each hunting bout took no more than half an hour. The transport carriages that followed behind would then bring the bull carcasses to a camp not far away for processing. The whole cycle repeated itself endlessly and they almost looked like a bull-slaughtering factory.
It was no wonder the captives said that they managed to kill some 30 thousand bulls the previous year with only a folk of troops and earned up to 80 thousand crowns. No wonder the Canasians were willing to hunt the bulls despite knowing that their captive scouts might leak their plans and still send only one folk of troops there. The potential benefit was far too alluring; 80 thousand crowns was a side hustle nobody could realistically refuse.
Perhaps the enemy merely thought that the five enhanced folks weren't threatening enough, given that they had just been formed recently. Or, they were probably just too confident in their own combat capabilities. They might think that hunting bulls this year was still safe since the five new Aueran corps wouldn't attack them this year.
While the enemy did seem to hold that opinion, they were still experienced soldiers. Their encampment was set up at a spot rather easy to defend. They also dug a moat around two metres wide and three metres deep and used the mud they unearthed to build a simple mud wall three metres in height before reinforcing them at the rear with logs. They built another defensive wall behind the mud one and fortified themselves quite well.
If it were Ranger from back then, they would have to pay a huge price to take a wall like that. But now, Claude had his mortar and he was confident he could turn the walls into a prison to lock the enemies in to prevent them from escaping. Before the attack began, however, the troops of Thundercrash still had much prep work to do, for instance, building moat-crossing boards and the like.
"General, Lieutenant-Colonel Berklin sends word of his discovery of the enemy's rear folk. They are still two days away from us," Anders announced.
"What? The enemy has an additional folk?" Claude grabbed the letter and looked closely. Berklin said that he sent a tent of scouts to the border between Balingana and Cromwell. It wasn't meant to be any kind of initiative. He just wanted to see whether he could capture a few enemy scouts or signallers. He didn't think his scouts would actually discover a folk of enemies marching at the border.
But why have the Canasian cavalrymen began moving? Claude read the time of discovery noted in the letter. It was marked as ten in the morning. Currently, it was already four in the afternoon and close to a day had passed. In other words, the enemy would be upon them in a day or a day and a half's time. Thundercrash didn't have much time left.
"Send word to Lieutenant-Colonel Berklin to find a suitable place and await my orders. Have him stop the reinforcements of the enemy no matter what to buy us some time to eliminate the folk that's hunting the bulls. Also, pass this order on to the troops. We'll have dinner an hour earlier today. After that, all troops are to immediately rest. Thundercrash is to storm the enemy camp first thing at dawn," Claude decided.
"Yes, General." Anders saluted energetically before he left to pass the orders on.
"Wait. Have all the tribesmen come here. Let's have a pre-battle council for task delegation," Claude instructed.
It was already rather deep into the night and the bonfires burned bright outside the enemy camp. Their bonfire placement was quite apt to prevent surprise nighttime attacks, as expected of an experienced force that had fought during the five-year war. They were the ones who prepared the best defence back in Rimodra. The bonfires were placed at both banks of the moat, separated by some 30 metres and illuminating 50 metres ahead from camp.
No enemy soldier would be able to avoid detection from the lookouts on the walls. The moment they entered the light, they would be shot at.
Claude and the others saw from on far one floral-patterned leopard approach the camp, having been attracted by the fire. The instant it approached the moat, some seven shots fired at it. The leopard stumbled and tumbled into the ground. After ten minutes, a carriage was sent out from the camp to collect the carcass before it returned beyond the camp's walls.
The high-ranking officers that witnessed that scene began to shudder. The enemy wasn't new at this. They should be considered among the toughest troops to deal with. They were the top elite, completely unlike the pathetic Shiksan standing corps they had faced.
"Alright, let's go back--" Claude put his telescope away. "--I'm sure you're all aware of our enemy's might. They aren't much weaker than our folk. But you all just have to remember the tasks you're given. Strike Tribe will immediately conquer their walls and gates, so all you have to do is to fight and take care of your respective areas, got it?"
"General, are you certain Strike can breach the enemy's walls and take the gates?" Moriad asked worriedly.
"Of course. We have a secret weapon, after all."
Around four at dawn, the darkest point of night had passed. A sliver of white appeared in the sky, before it was stained red. Red was a common colour in the sights of Nubissia. The sky, earth and even sea were red.
The lookouts on the walls that had had nothing better to do for the good part of the night relaxed their guard. Daytime would come sooner or later. That day was a rather tense day. They were all rather worn out from the hunting, but as long as they could tough through these two months, everyone would earn up to three gold lunis, the standard Canasian gold coin. Three of them were worth approximately two Aueran crowns. Was there an easier, more profitable job than that? It was said that the corps had decided to spend even more effort hunting bulls, so their profits could be double those of last year. That meant that each soldier might get double the bonus from last year.
Most of the bonfires near the camp were being put out. While the fires fueled by dried cow dung burned rather well, they didn't smell that good. It smelled just like one would imagine: charred shit. But on the plains, there was no other way to start a fire, especially with little to no trees in sight. Now that the sky was brightening up, the fires were put out and they let out thick wafts of smoke that obscured vision around the camp.
The lookouts were already used to the smoke. Not long after, the dawn breeze would come and clear out the area. Even if they heard any sound nearby, they would assume it was nothing more than a hungry carnivore that came due to the smell of cooking meat. No matter. When the sky turned bright, the troops from within camp would set out and the beasts outside wouldn't be able to escape even if it wanted to.
So, even when countless iron canisters fell into the camp, none of the lookouts reacted to it. They merely looked at the iron canisters curiously. One of them even wanted to pick it up and see what it was.
Then the explosions rang. The inside of the camp had turned into instant hell on earth. Chunks of meat and fountains of blood splattered all over the place. Even a good part of the defensive walls had broken down.
"Enemy attack!" some survivors cried.
Not like anyone needed any reminding. The explosions were already a painful testament to that fact. The discharged Canasian soldiers were indeed true veterans. They immediately reacted and charged to the walls with their muskets in hand. That was the strongest, most fortified part of their camp and they would never yield it to the enemy no matter how harsh the attack. As long as one person remained there, the enemy wouldn't be able to take that wall that easily.
Not a single soldier was shocked at the scene. They didn't even stop to help their comrades who were in agonising pain and crying for help. If their walls were taken by the enemy, even more of their comrades would die. Their whole unit could end up exterminated, including themselves...
But the moment the fearless soldiers reached their point and began searching for their enemies, a couple iron canisters letting out green smoke fell next to them and exploded. Fire, smoke and chunks of human meat flew all over the place as countless cries and screams rang out.
The canisters were launched in four to five volleys. After that, not a single Canasian soldier dared head to the walls. The walls were already mostly crumbled anyway and most of the logs that supported it from behind had collapsed. That, however, wasn't as glaring as the sight of the bloody, meaty mush that covered around two metres of that wall. It was as if multiple gigantic blood splatters surfaced on many parts of the ground.
When the first Thundercrash soldier peeked over the wall and aimed with his musket, he immediately went back down the ladder and puked at the gory sight.
The battle proceeded as expected. Claude secured an easy win with his mortars. Two enemy lines were completely wiped out and their painstaking efforts hunting bulls all ended up benefiting Claude.
The only thing he wasn't satisfied about was using up near a thousand of those mortar rounds to allow his men to have no trouble scaling and taking the walls, only for them to suffer around 370 casualties fighting the stubborn remnants of the enemies that remained. Claude was so angry at the casualties he harshly rebuked Moriad and Dyavid for making their advance so hastily.