"Are you there, Dear?" Claude asked as he stepped into his bedroom where he didn't find Sheila with a book as usual.
She was instead working on something with her portable array. Sheila had insisted on tagging along on the excursion. They settled on disguising her as one of Claude's personal guards. She had gone with him all the way to Polyvisia. Apart from the guard band and Claude's minions, nobody knew he had taken his lover along.
"Oh, I went to the gold cave. I took two accessories with me," she said without looking up.
They stored all the jewelry, artwork, and other valuables Thundercrash had collected along the way in that cave. Actual coinage was stored separately. While the Nasrian treasury was not as rich as it used to be thanks to the war, its populace was still quite wealthy. Two sweeps saw Thundercrash gather large amounts of wealth worth up to 50 million crowns in total.
The amount startled even Claude. Thundercrash hadn't gotten three million crowns even when they conquered Sidins and Rimodra and confiscated all the nobles and royals' property. Compared to the Nasrian royal family, the two dukes and their nobles were outright beggars.
As Thundercrash 1st Folk's swift attack was so quick that most of the royalty and nobility didn't manage to escape, their wealth fell into Thundercrash's hands. Compared to the two million crowns' worth of goods in the national treasury, the Nasrian royal treasury gave Thundercrash quite a fright. Not only did it have up to six million crowns' worth in coinage, they also had much rare jewelry, and many pieces of art and collectables worth nearly ten million crowns.
Additionally, the wealth of the Nasrian nobles in Polyvisia include roughly five million crowns of coinage and countless pieces of precious wares and artworks. The next two sweeps through the resisting civilians also brought them much coinage, and surprisingly, lots of other precious wares as well. That alone already went far beyond Claude's expectations.
There was no better-organised gang of robbers than the army. Apart from the goods in the gold cave, there was another pile in the royal palace, such as the gold-laced crockery given to every single soldier of the royal guard during the celebration of Nasri VII's 50th birthday. Claude had planned to give them to Thundercrash's troops to commemorate their capture of Polyvisia.
Nasri didn't have a national bank like Aueras did. They had a royal bank. The royal bank was in charge of minting and issuing coinage and making high-interest international loans. They didn't hold small savings accounts. The reason for that was Nasri was still a largely feudal state where nobles had personal fiefdoms, thereby restricting the royal family's ability to open bank branches all over the place. The loans and economies of the fiefs were in the hands of the nobles themselves.
With all the spoils, everything was settled. They no longer had to worry about the soldiers' rewards. They had also earned back their gear expenses of the last several years and wouldn't have to worry about the military budget for the next five or six years either.
However, Claude was quite curious about what Sheila was doing. He had given her a few expensive gifts before, but she seemed completely disinterested in the fancy trinkets so beloved by noblewomen. Usually, all she did was bury herself in the tomes collected by Nasrian royalty while waiting for Claude to return. She often complained about how those tomes contained nothing but made-up stuff. The most accurate sources were still the books her mother had left her.
Claude approached her and found her using the array to observe a really intricate sapphire necklace.
"This is a magic necklace. I read in a magical notebook in the royal family's collection that said this necklace contains a composite mental spell that is a fusion of Tempt, Illusion and Charm. The wearer can obtain the full trust of his or her target. In effect, the affected will fall in love with the wearer and obey them unconditionally, even if it means giving their lives away. That's why it's called the Devil's Temptation. I'm trying to copy the composite spell formation inside."
Nowadays, all she did was tag along with Claude and research various spells. It was no wonder she would pick it out. Claude shrugged his shoulders and asked, "Is this necklace really that powerful?"
"It's mostly exaggerated. Mental spells are really complicated. Well... how should I put it... if the target is a magus, then there's less than a one-in-ten chance of success. All magi meditate. It helps defend their psyche against mental spells. If the target is a normal person, it'll also depend on whether their mental power is strong. The stronger it is, the better they can resist. Composite spells like that are mainly used in tandem with a matching atmosphere, like that of a banquet or ball, to tempt one's target for the best effect."
Claude recalled Mental Shock and how it hadn't worked on the magus that tried to rob him. Sheila was only researching the necklace because mental spells were really rare. She was trying to recreate the three spells from a single composite formation.
Thundercrash had only managed to rid all risk factors from Polyvisia, finally securing the first phase of controlling the area around the capital. They had sent their scouts in all directions to get a grasp on the war's situation. Clearing out the towns around Polyvisia had wasted two months, so they needed an update on the kingdom's situation and whether Aueras had undertaken any action.
Three days later, Claude received word from Ironclad about the battle at Saint Lusk. Seaking's defeat was quite a relief. He didn't have to worry about being attacked from the eastern waters anymore. However, he was a little worried about the two Shiksan corps that managed to get ashore. He immediately ordered the scouts to survey the five northeastern prefectures of Nasri.
When 1st Folk charged into the Nasrian heartland, it was as if a blade had been stuck in the nation's vital organs. The rest of the kingdom was completely unprepared for such a blow. Later, Claude led 2nd Folk to do the same and swept through the 16 central prefectures of Nasri, leaving only the five northeastern prefectures and seven southwestern prefectures still untouched.
The five northeastern prefectures were coastal territories, whereas the seven southwestern prefectures bordered Aueras. Before the five-year war, Nasri only had two prefectures in the southwest whereas Aueras had 32 prefectures and Ibnist Plains, making it the nation with the largest territory in Eastern Freia. After the war, Aueras gained even more territory, taking control of two-thirds of Eastern Freia and becoming a superpower to be reckoned with.
However, civil war broke out during the colonial conflict. Prince Wedrick ascended the throne as Stellin XI and immediately sold five of the border prefectures to Nasri for military funding to chase Prince Hansbach out of the heartland into the newly conquered territories.
That only caused the kingdom's territory to shrink. Only 27 of the original 32 prefectures still remained in royal control, and the 23 new prefectures were abandoned. Aueras immediately fell to become one of the smallest nations in terms of landmass, causing the other nations to start beating them while they were down and almost wiping them out.
But with the region's military aid, they managed to turn the tables. Sidins and Rimodra were banished back to the grave with no hope of reformation, with the dukes and their families all captives. Thundercrash then occupied Polyvisia and swept most of Nasri, leaving it at death's door.
However, Thundercrash fell into a surprisingly dangerous situation...
"What the hell are they thinking?!" Claude fumed over the chaos caused by the royal court just when everything was looking good.
He never dreamt the officers that had sworn they would chase the enemy off their land would actually let them peacefully leave, allowing them to reclaim Ibnist Plains and the royal capital and the lost prefectures.
In the past two months when Thundercrash was busy wiping out local resistance, the Union's army had made their move. They still had three Nasrian corps, three Shiksan corps, one Canasian corps and the new joint corps of Sidins and Rimodra, numbering up to a total of 500 thousand men.
While they had superior numbers, they were no threat. Sidins and Rimodra were exterminated and their two corps were no longer motivated to fight. They just wanted to surrender and go home. Nasri's three corps were intent on rushing back to retake their royal capital as well. As for the three Shiksan corps and the Canasian light-cavalry corps, they were no longer willing to weather Monolith's attacks. They couldn't even if they wanted to.
As such, the Union's army began their retreat. They first retreated from the second defence line to the first before retreating back to the Aueran capital. When Monolith noticed what was happening, they began tailing them like a sneaky wolf in the shadows, preparing to deal another crippling blow.
Monolith remained a looming threat everyone was cautious of, so the officers of the Union didn't hesitate to throw the two new corps of Sidins and Rimodra at Monolith to stop their advance. They probably believed the two new corps to be more burdens than allies.
The troops of the two duchies immediately surrendered when they were discarded. The ideal move to make at that time was for Monolith to round them up and hand them to the royal guard, Griffon, and Reddragon before continuing to pursue the Union's army, forcing them to continue to discard more men to halt their advances. Those men would be helpless free wins for Monolith.
Had it gone as planned, then even if the Union managed to retreat from Aueras, conflict would have flared in their ranks. They would've lost at least half their men as well. After all, nobody was willing to become the sacrifice, especially when they were doing so without glory at all during a retreat. Monolith's targets were the three Shiksan corps and one folk of Canasian light cavalrymen. They wouldn't allow those units to return to Nasri intact.
However, the royal guard, Griffon, and Reddragon heard about those plans and ruined them. They refused to take over the surrendered troops of the two duchies, insisting on pursuing the retreating army of the Union themselves. The high-ranking officers in the ministry of the army and a few nobles in court told Fredrey I that Monolith already earned more than enough merit, so it should be the three reformed corps' turn to perform.
So, Fredrey I ordered Monolith to be his personal guard, which was a great honour that Bolonik and Birkin weren't allowed to refuse. The three main corps of the kingdom got their wish to become the main force to pursue the Union's army.
However, the Union feared Monolith, not the other three corps. Since three years ago when the war started, the Union was already familiar with the three corps of Aueras and their capabilities. The moment Monolith switched out in place of them, the Union's forces immediately set up a formation on Ibnist Plains and started their final battle in Aueras.
As expected, the three Aueran corps rammed straight into an iron wall. While both sides were raring to fight, the battle ended swiftly in a touch. There were only a few casualties, with Reddragon taking the brunt of it, being at the forefront and losing two lines of men. The royal guard and Griffon immediately turned tail and ran the moment things seemed bad.
Even though the three corps could work together so well when they tried to hassle Monolith for benefits in the temporary royal court, they would immediately start to fight one another when Monolith tossed them a lot of supplies. They wanted every last scrap they could get their hands on. It was the same with the pursuit of the Union's army. Reddragon chased them the fastest and wanted the biggest slice of the pie, only to lose tens of thousands of men.
Meanwhile, Griffon and the royal guard didn't have the slightest bit of solidarity with Reddragon and didn't bother to save them either. Instead, they turned and ran, filled with schadenfreude, and cheered from the sidelines. Reddragon's troops grit their teeth in anger at their bad luck and immediately left the battlefield.
Had Monolith swiftly continued their pursuit after that small engagement, the region's plans would be complete. However, the three corps hid word of their failings and maintained that they were continuing their so-called pursuit. In fact, they had a tacit understanding with the Union's forces that they would reclaim the kingdom's lost territories after the Union successfully retreated. Just like that, the three main corps 'reclaimed' the territories as they escorted the enemies out of the border back into Nasri comfortably.
Once the Union's army was back in Nasrian borders, they got themselves back together. They were on home ground and the seven southwestern prefectures had readily built defences for them to take Monolith's attacks. Most importantly, they still retained a fighting force of 400 thousand, not having suffered any casualties at all during the rest of their retreat.
The moment the scouts reported back to Claude, he found that Thundercrash was in a tough predicament. There were two Nasrian corps in the five northeastern prefectures of Nasri, two reinforcement corps from Shiks, as well as an urgently formed light-cavalry corps in Canas, totalling up to 300 thousand men.
In Nasri's seven southwestern prefectures, on the other hand, there were the 400 thousand troops that retreated from Aueras. The original plan was to thin them down to half that number so Monolith could keep them at bay without letting them affect Thundercrash. But now, the total number of enemy troops was ten times that of Thundercrash. It was clear their next move would be the reclamation of Polyvisia.
Thundercrash 1st Folk and 2nd Folk didn't even have 70 thousand men. They couldn't possibly take on that many enemies, especially with the vast amount of wealth, 100 thousand war captives and their 200 thousand isolated families needing to be defended!