No wonder Marmen was furious -- there would have been no harm without comparison. Falcon used to consist of only two infantry divisions and one cavalry division, some mere 15 thousand men. They were all elites, but that had been in peacetime. As one of the kingdom's guard corps, 15 thousand men was more than enough It was not enough in times of war, however. So Marmen had no choice but to incorporate private nobles, mercenaries, and adventurers.
Falcon had gone through a number of reformations and restructurings in the four years since the war had broken out. The unites the most like they had been before the war were 1st Division, 4th Division, and a small part of 2nd Division. Their only trump card was 1st Division. 4th Division was mostly fresh recruits now, and its combat strength was subpar. 2nd Division comprised major nobles' levees, some mercenaries, and remnants of 1st Division. Despite this, it was still notably more powerful than 3rd Division as they consisted entirely of adventurers and the levees of minor nobles.
Marmen was absolutely furious at 3rd Division. Though it had its hands on nearly a third of Falcon's supplies, it was worth barely half of 1st Division. This bloated division was like a malignant tumour protruding from under the wings of the falcon, which could otherwise soar high in the skies. However, all of the margrave's complaints were rejected by the king, despite his frequent presence in the royal court. Those small and medium nobles were barnacles attached to the larger noble households. If they were ruffled, the foundation of the kingdom would be shaken as well.
It was less than five days from the agreed meeting time. Under such circumstances, the fact that only a handful of units from 4th Division had arrived demonstrated their negligence. It seemed he had to take care of those damned nobles himself again. The livid margrave did not realise he had also cursed himself -- wasn't he also a noble?
Of course, in his eyes, he who had been raised in a prestigious margrave household, the minor nobles couldn't compare to him. They were merely a horde of upstarts relying on their ancestors' efforts. Their lines rarely lasted amongst the peerage for more than three or four generations. It was exceedingly rare for a minor noble line to last. Hence why they were all considered minor nobles. Only those above the rank of count counted as major, or true, nobles.
2nd Division was far more pleasing to Marmen's eyes. 1st Division was his son and heir into which he poured his hope for the future -- his greatest pride and joy. 4th Division was the youngest son, still immature, but obedient. It required his utmost care to bring out its potential. 2nd Division was a step-son, a bother in most cases, but still worth some effort. 3rd Division, however, was the bastard son he would rather not even acknowledge existed. The cavalry division was his heart itself. Ironically enough, it was currently under the command of his old partner-rival, Margrave De Sandro.
He rubbed his temples as the herald departed. The battle seemed like it was going to be easy, but the margrave felt progressively more worn out. Marmen had to deal with a myriad of trivial chores to manage the divisions under him -- including the senseless disputes between several noble units that had stemmed from conflicts in interest. To top it off, there was 3rd Division that sickened the margrave the most. Marmen couldn't help but wonder if he should take a breather after the battle.
"One more year!" the margrave murmured to himself.
The war must wrap up by the end of the following year. This was the consensus shared amongst the kingdom's top nobles. If they had yet to end the war by then, they would request mediation from the two kingdoms' liege-lord empire, Aomar. Faustian was a small kingdom. The king had just barely two million subjects. The war had thus far cost it 100 000 people, nearly a full twentieth of its entire population, nearly double that proportion of its adult male population. Even more painful was that most of them were the kingdom's young and strong. They were the ones supposed to build the kingdom's future in the shops, on the fields, in the mines, and on the walls. If they lost too many more, they would be unable to hold on to the territorial gains they'd won thus far.
Shalor's losses were even greater. They were fighting on their own land. They lost not only the soldiers that fell in battle, but the inhabitants and resources of every town and castle that fell to their enemy. Marmen dared assert that Shalor's losses were at least half as much again as high as Faustian's. And they had had a smaller population to begin with. At this point, victory depended solely on which side collapsed first and Marmen was certain it would not be Faustian.
"It's all up to the cavalry to capture Bimore later on…" Bimore looked as though it had already been subdued.
"What? You're asking me to send the cavalry division to the hinterlands of the Bering Mountains! Soldier, you must be pulling my leg!" a lofty middle-aged man rebuked a messenger who was kneeling on the ground. "How can the cavalry enter the Bering Mountains? They even have to go through a dense forest! Am I hearing you right?"
Faced with the merciless voice of the man towering over him, not only did the messenger not wince, he nonchalantly said, "This is the prince's order."
The middle-aged man was rendered speechless. There was no denying that he recognised the off-white medallion from Lion corps pinned on the messenger's chest. It was something that could not be counterfeited. If one inspected it carefully enough, one would be able to see that it stood out an ordinary medal of Lion. The messenger's medal was enclosed in a ring of intricate patterns, which signified that its wearer was a guard of Prince Kenzir himself.
The middle-aged man pondered in silence before he finally began, "But we're just about to invade Bimore. The cavalry division must assemble before that. Military command has already given us the green light. I simply cannot divert the cavalry division when the time comes," said the man adamantly.
"I am just conveying the prince's order. Whatever you do, Herr, the prince will take responsibility for it," said the messenger.
Up against conflicting orders, the man was torn despite knowing which held priority. If it was not for the prince's medallion on the messenger's chest, he would have driven the soldier out for speaking nonsense.
"I'll have to discuss this with Margrave Marmen. Come with me," instructed the middle-aged man after a moment of deep thought.
This middle-aged man was Margrave De Sandro, who had mastered control over the elite cavalry troops of Falcon. He was also the father-in-law of Baron Cardoj. Although Sandro was not that much younger than Marmen, he did not give an impression of a little old man like Marmen did; his vigorous strength allowed him to seemingly stop his ageing. He was perceived as the most prominent man within Falcon, just for being a formidable peak-level Knecht.
Not long after, De Sandro arrived at Marmen's tent. After a briefing, Marmen also fell silent. "Why?" asked Marmen. Though the soldiers dedicated their whole life to obeying orders, Marmen, who was about to relish the fruits of victory, still couldn't exactly wrap his head around this. He could not figure out what compelled Prince Kenzir, who had always been wise and decisive, to give such a foolish command. Besides, the order was only to reroute the cavalry division to the Bering Mountains without going into their specific objectives.
"This is confidential, and margrave, you will only need to execute the order," were the herald's exact words.
"Shut up! Tell me, why?" Marmen rose to his feet raving mad, bellowing at the little herald who was young enough to be his grandson.
"Do clarify -- what's the reason? I believe Prince Kenzir will never give such ridiculous orders. There has to be a reason," De Sandro chipped in. Although he was an old partner and rival of Marmen, at least they could agree on this matter.
Seeing the resoluteness of both of them, the messenger recalled the prince's words before he left: 'Make sure they send troops to rescue Princess Angelina.' Caving in, he finally revealed the prince's motive. "It's because of Princess Angelina..."
Hearing the reason, the two margraves immediately understood the matter. "This little Queen Kent is growing bolder and bolder!" Marmen bluntly chided. Fortunately, nobody else was in the tent. Heavens forbid if that got out.
"The question now is how many troops will be sent to respond. How many from infantry do we send in addition to the cavalry? It is impossible to rely on the cavalry alone to search along the border. What's more, the Bering Mountains are within Morphey Forest. It's not a safe place." Unlike Marmen, De Sandro did not kick up a fuss and instead expressed his thoughts calmly.
Marmen also began to ponder this seriously. Angelina grew up under his watch and it could be said that, among the many margraves in the capital, it was only in his arms that Princess Angelina could sleep peacefully when she was a child. He had long regarded Princess Angelina as his own granddaughter. There was no mistake -- upon receipt of news that the princess might be in distress, he was the most anxious apart from the king and Prince Kenzir. Naturally, Marmen would not show it. He would prove himself with concrete actions.
"The cavalry division will send three companies, and the infantry will send 4th Division. They can take this as a form of practice." Marmen decided.
Catching Marmen's intentions, De Sandro suppressed the burning urge to slam his fists on the table as he hissed, "Impossible! I'd send a maximum of one company from the cavalry division, and I strongly disagree with involving the 4th Infantry Division. For the upcoming siege on Bimore, 4th Division is the main force. If you send them out, which unit do you plan to send for the attack then? 1st Division? They have yet to fully recover from the Battle of Felmo Grand Canyon. I disagree with mobilising 4th Division!" De Sandro heaved a sigh breathlessly as he finished.
"Don't we have 2nd Division?" Marmen squeaked meekly. The duo was like two ends of a magnet. If one was weak, the other would be strong and vice versa. Forget Marmen's short temper or Sandro's image of an amiable old man, Marmen was overcome with guilt at this very moment. Still, for the sake of his dear sweetheart Angelina, he could only feign persuasion for now and hope that his old partner would agree with him.
"I'm sure you know of the implications of sending 2nd Division. If anything were to go wrong, who would bear this responsibility?" De Sandro remained unfaltering, and the argument dragged on.
The poor messenger, on the other hand, had already been shocked wordless by Marmen's words. Half the cavalry division? An entire infantry division? Herr Margrave, aren't you the audacious one?