To the north of Variand Mountains.
Due to the surprise attack from the Symphonia Kingdom, flames were rising all over the castles and forts that were built on the defense line.
Symphonia Kingdom, which managed to bypass the invasion route of the Baroque Empire forces, took over the borders and the forts.
As it was an unforeseen attack, the guards of the fort were either forced to leave the places without closing the gates or fighting their enemies properly.
‘We did the first step perfectly.’
Belik, who was satisfied with the outcome of the plan, proceeded to the north to occupy the other forts along the region.
The southern troops, who were dispatched to stop the enemies until the reinforcements arrived, tried. However, because of the faster and fatal attacks of Symphonia, they couldn’t hold long.
Two days from the border of the Symphonia Kingdom was at baron’s land.
The wall of the lord’s manor was sturdy, and that made the lord think that he was safe until it fell halfway.
The Gigants of the Symphonia Kingdom were attacking the helpless lord’s manor.
The knights and soldiers of the manor walked up with weapons in their hands. However, they were all shattered along with their Gigants.
Their faces, which understood their defeat in the hands of Symphonia Kingdom, were filled with fear and anxiety.
It was because they knew very well on how the war prisoners would be treated.
However, the soldiers were shocked after a few seconds.
The army of Symphonia Kingdom had just left them there. On top of that, they had handed them some food and money.
“What if they join the enemy side once again?”
Philip’s concerned question was answered by a man who was riding on a luxurious white horse with red armor.
“Hut, maybe I could have reached faster with my own two feet instead of this horse or carriage? And if they join, we will have to smash them the moment they join.”
The man who replied confidently was Arch Duke Belik, the Commander of the expedition.
Answering Philip’s question, he looked over at the middle-aged knight who was on the other side.
“Look here. Your expression hasn’t been so good for long. Are you hurt somewhere?”
“It isn’t that I haven’t been well. Not long ago, I was protecting this place.”
“Ah well, that is true. That was why you were chosen as the guide.”
Belik nodded his head as he realized the truth later.
The middle-aged knight was Count Ferrero, whom Luke had saved from the prison dungeon two months back.
Before heading back to Nemesis, he stayed there to rebuild the Southern Army, the forts and strengthen their skills.
In addition, they knew about the route of invasions that could bypass the original route to Variand Mountains and the other southern territories.
Luke knew that the situation was favorable for him in that area.
So Luke put him and Shirley, who were practicing swordsmanship or moving around the castle without any official title or position, as ‘Guides’.
Ferrero, who had been defeated by Luke the other day, took Luke as his new master just as he had promised and followed Luke’s orders without a word.
However, he wasn’t feeling happy about it.
It was because, among the knights and soldiers, who were protecting the place, he was one of them.
Because of his faithfulness to the given word, he accepted the condition. However, he couldn’t get the thought of betraying his home out of his head.
However, the one who broke the trust between their war principles was Emperor Rudolf.
He imprisoned Count Ferrero in the dungeon to tame him.
Even if that could be excused, he had taken Ferrero’s family as a hostage and intimidated them. Also, he ordered Ferrero’s followers and retainers to be killed.
It was all Rudolf’s attempt to make Ferrero into a dog that only listened to his words. However, Rudolf only brought antagonism upon himself.
‘Yeah well, I am no longer following Rudolf!’
Upon thinking it through, Ferrero shook his thoughts away.
It was fortunate that Symphonia Kingdom didn’t kill nor discriminate between war prisoners or nobles.
Like before, the normal soldiers weren’t harmed and were released.
Commanders, knights and the officers would be taken to the Symphonia Kingdom. However, there was no danger of them being executed.
They would try to reason with them and turn them toward Symphonia, or they would be given rewards and have them released.
‘Maybe I’ll be placed on the persuasive work.’
Seeing Symphonia Kingdom act more generously and provide equal treatment, Ferrero had decided to help more in the expedition team. Rudolf had to fall quickly in order to save the people from suffering.
It was then that Shirley, who had been out to scout, returned and reported the situation.
“The enemy troops stationed on forts 40 kilometers to the north are retreating at once. Maybe they will join Sherwood city and defend.”
Initially, the Southern Army did send reserve troops on command to the support forces.
However, the speed of Symphonia Kingdom exceeded their expectations, and they had to immediately retreat.
And as that wasn’t enough, they were gathering troops stationed at other forts and estates.
“Hmm, that commander there seems to be like a complete fool. It would have been a good plan to gather a capable defense region and watch the leftover power be defeated.”
Ferrero nodded at Belik’s words and said,
“He is still a young Count and has weak sword skills, but he is someone who can use his commanding abilities to the fullest.”
“Then we might need to be cautious about Sherwood.”
The final goal of the expedition forces was Sherwood, the central city of the southern part of the Baroque Empire.
It was a place of commerce and industry that developed as a key point for movement and where the headquarters of the Southern Army was established.
The city was located on a region, which was in the middle of a flowing river, so attacking by regular means would be difficult.
“Surely, the same tactic will not work. If I could work by myself, I would blow up the bridge leading to the city and burn all the boats.”
“Even then, we need it standing until we reach there. In order to look for the retreating or defeated troops.”
Belik could only laugh at those words.
Both Shirley and Ferrero noticed that the man was cooking something up in his mind.
“Anyway, for the siege, we need to change tactics and think of a new operation. Tell the engineers to secure the materials for the bridge and any temporary transport. If needed, tell them that Gigants or trailers can be used.”
“Understood, Arch Duke.”
Once Philip had been given orders, he stepped back to make the preparations, and Belik asked the scattered troops to attack the South.
If the opponent was going to concentrate their entire power in one region, then this side would play along with them.