Two people stood locked in heated argument inside a particular tent in 3rd Division's camp. Nonetheless, they had a tacit understanding to leave the division out of their discussion. 3rd Division was composed of the private armies of numerous minor nobles; their sole purpose was to rush in and loot once the battle was over.
They eventually agreed on dispatching one company from 1st Division, three companies from 2nd Division, and another company from the cavalry. 4th Division would be the spearhead of the assault on the city's walls. They needed combat experience anyway. Of course, the margraves still had to decide which of its companies would be dispatched. They did that soon enough, and the messenger was dismissed return to the prince with his report.
De Sandro had made a major concession this time and Marmen owed him a small favour. To repay him he handed the choice of company to be dispatched from 2nd Division to De Sandro. Unlike Marmen, Falcon's corps jarl who was held high esteem by the entire kingdom, De Sandro was only in charge of the cavalry division. He had many vassals, however.
To Marmen's knowledge, one of the companies in 2nd Division belonged to De Sandro. So he believed De Sandro could understand his good faith.
Locke and his platoon could finally see the camp in the Als valley just as the last curve of the sun vanished behind the hills' crests to the west and Locke was overwhelmed with emotions. He saw in front of him the majestic 2nd Division and Falcon corps, stretched across the valley like a beautiful maiden. The dark green tents made it look like a verdant forest rather than a division's camp.
He had fought in division-sized formations before, but only as a grunt. He had been the butt end of the speer, the business end of the sword. He had had neither the time nor the attention to spare to be overwhelmed by the majesty of what he was a part. That same sight also offered safety. It was never back to have more men on your side of the battle line.
Jersson was just as overwhelmed. He was asking Chris, Dale and other platoon jarls about the corps' headquarters and general military knowledge. As a platoon jarl, he could not remain ignorant anymore. He had to understand his circumstances in order to make progress. Unlike Locke, who had Yoshk and Karl as mentors, he had to work hard by himself to develop even though he was older than Locke.
Every time Solon saw arrays of tents like these, he felt a bold sentiment rise in his heart. He imagined himself as a general that could command the army calmly. Although he only joined the army not long ago, he was satisfied with his military career. As Cardoj had thought, Solon was a better fit for the army than his step-brother, who was always goofing off, or the second son who was better in handling economics and transporting goods. Besides that, Cardoj always placed emphasis on the martial arts. This was why he could outshine other lower-ranked nobles in the war between two kingdoms, becoming even more powerful than some viscounts despite being a baron. As such, he had to give more thought on making Solon his heir.
"Come on, comrades, just a little more until we get dinner!" Mond shouted with full force, spreading his voice across the battalion using impetus to amplify his voice.
Meanwhile, Cardoj rode his pedigree mount ahead, feigning an insipid expression, which made it hard for others to guess his thoughts.
Someone in the distance rode towards their location. From the looks of it, the person seemed like a messenger from division headquarters.
A soldier riding a brown pony made his way towards Cardoj. While ponies were unsuitable for warfare due to their relatively lower strength and short stature, they were comparable to a purebred battle steed as they could go long periods without water. Ponies were even considered to rank at the forefront of all horses in terms of endurance. Hence, ponies were often used for transmitting messages in the army. Their natural habitats were hilly terrains that were characteristic of Ligia.
Mond and others who were beside Cardoj immediately closed in to block the incoming person. However, Wyr, who was at the right of Cardoj, did not budge; instead, he gripped the sabre at his waist. He was confident that he could stop any assailant at once even if the offender was as powerful as he was.
Unlike his previous calm demeanour, Cardoj smiled. He did not bother with the tension that was building among his subordinates and confidently rode towards the incoming soldier. He noted that the soldier wore the insignia of Falcon corps' cavalry division. Although Marmen was the jarl of the corps, he only had direct command over two divisions. He had to fairly split benefits obtained by the other divisions among the whole corps for them to operate smoothly as one. On the other hand, De Sandro trained the cavalry divisions with an iron fist till there was nobody left who dared to be disobedient. In general, they had different positions and rank as margraves, but their actual capabilities were about the same since the cavalrymen's fighting capacity in the open field couldn't be held off with just twice the number of infantrymen.
As they were near the army base, they shouldn't be in any danger. The soldier was probably just coming to pass on the margrave's order.
Indeed, as an elite soldier of the margrave, he could sense the hostility from Cardoj's men. However, he did not express any intent of fear, but instead straightened his back and leapt off the horse to greet the baron with courtesy fitting for a superior and a noble. He then took out a letter personally written by the margrave. In retrospect, Locke, Mond, Yoshk and others were completely ignorant of the proper august protocol. They even casually half-bowed when they reported to their superiors. In contrast, the soldier's mannerly conduct implied that he was sent from division headquarters. He stood out from normal plebeians with his actions.
Nonetheless, Mond and others were not embarrassed when they witnessed his courtesy towards the baron. They calmly sheathed their weapons and withdrew their impetus.
Cardoj scanned the letter. It was as big as a palm and only contained a few words, but Falcon's seal, the cavalry division's seal and De Sandro's signature could be seen at the bottom.
He asked the soldier if the margrave had any other orders. He already knew what his mission was, but he believed the margrave had something to say.
The soldier approached Cardoj and told him a few words in secret. After Cardoj nodded, the soldier hopped back onto the pony and departed for Als Valley. Right before he left, the old attendant beside the baron gave the soldier a hefty bag of coins. The soldier, of course, knew the baron was the margrave's favourite subordinate and accepted it calmly. If it were another messenger, they would not receive such good treatment. Only Cardoj knew how to get on people's good side that way.
After Cardoj whispered to Mond and Solon, he rode with 20 of his personal cavalrymen towards Als Valley swiftly, as he wanted to consult De Sandro in person.
On the other hand, Mond ordered the troops to head west in the direction of the Bering Mountains. Solon also prepared the cavalry division to depart together with the troops. Since Wyr left with Cardoj, Solon had temporary command over the cavalry division as deputy jarl.
The troops and platoon jarls were confused about the order. Nonetheless, obedience was ingrained in their veins, so all of them did as they were told. Despite this, two platoon jarls went to Mond to clarify their doubts. They were about to report to 2nd Division soon, but Cardoj suddenly left the unit for somewhere they weren't aware of. Hence, they hoped Mond could disclose what the baron told him. In response, Mond remained silent with a solemn look. The two platoon jarls were given a cold shoulder.
Locke was also perplexed about the situation. He went to Solon to ask about it, thinking that Solon would tell him since he was under Solon's direct command now.
"Herr..." Locke walked to the side of Solon. Just when he started speaking, Solon interrupted him by waving his hand.
"I'm not sure about the particulars either. Anyways, we might need to head to the Bering Mountains later, or even Morphey Forest."
"Could it be that we are bypassing Bimore through the Bering Mountains, before circling around to Bimore?" After years of experience in war, Locke had a rough grasp on military tactics.
"Who knows? Anyways, we can rest for two days and enjoy hunting at the Bering Mountains." Solon whistled and uttered in ease.
"..." Locke didn't know how to continue the conversation. He did not particularly crave hunting as he ate a lot of meat in the past two years. He was not interested in food. His main intention was to establish connections with the logistics unit using the huge sum of money he now had when he arrived at division headquarters. Hence, he could use the opportunity to buy useful potions. He couldn't expose his wealth because they were a result of taking advantage of a loophole the baron's trade unit. If the baron were to figure out his wrongdoing, who knew what the baron would think about him? The best course of action was to spend it as quickly as possible, leaving a small portion behind for himself. After all, he was long interested in the magical items that Yoshk mentioned.
"You might even encounter monsters." Solon's words pulled Locke out of his imagination. Locke wanted to catch a glimpse of monsters too. He wanted to know how many second-rate soldiers could take on a monster. The blood, meat, and even the fur of a monster was valuable.
"Although the Bering Mountains are near Morphey Forest, some monsters might wander out of it. It has been a long time since I last ate monster meat. I really want to taste it again!" Solon continued. He was close with Locke that he no longer cared about putting up a formal front.
Locke's background was different from Solon's. He had never even encountered a monster, not to mention eating one. Even so, he was all too curious about these creatures.