282 The Stage
The following day, Iron Axe brought all of the intelligence that he had extracted from the interrogation to Roland. After which, they returned to Border Town.
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"Are they just Timothy's advance troops?" Roland frowned and asked.
"Indeed, Your Highness." Iron Axe nodded. "As you've guess, Timothy Wimbledon's combat strategy is to send one militia troop after another to attack the western region. Besides the western region, he has also targeted Garcia Wimbledon at the Port of Clearwater with the same stratagem."
"Are they all common people?"
"Not entirely. There're criminals and rats. Most of them are refugees from all over the country," he answered, "according to the statement of the enemy's knight, Timothy coerced them with some promises after forcefully hiring them and convincing them to take the first pill. Thus, they had no choice but to obey Timothy in order to obtain more pills to relieve their pain and their yearning."
"However, they don't know that there's no cure once they've taken the pill." Roland deeply sighed. "The extra pills are simply delaying their death."
"Yes, Your Highness. Timothy didn't tell the militia about the side effects of the drug, and they thought that they would receive the promised title and remuneration after fighting for the 'new king'."
"Where was this troop targeting?" Roland asked.
"Border Town," Iron Axe quickly replied, "because Sir Vincent, who had been killed in the war thought that it would be easier to achieve the goal of the war of attrition since there was no wall in the town. He had estimated that 1,000 militia that had taken the pills would be able to exchange for about 3,000 casualties, which would be a heavy blow to Border Town. However..."
"Sznak also confessed that Timothy assigned them another task. It was to divide the militias into batches and to attack the town in order to ensure their own safety as well as observe your coping style and operational effectiveness. I think he may have noticed that no team leader returned from the last attack."
"There's no one returning this time either." Prince Roland shrugged. "Do these two people know Timothy's subsequent attack plan?"
"They don't know much, but the scale will be far greater than both of the previous attacks."
Roland quietly hated it in his heart and clenched his teeth. [How can these living laborers be consumed like a cannon fodder batch by batch? Even if they can defeat us, it'll still be a miserable victory. It's more important to stop this meaningless war than resisting Timothy's attack. Otherwise, how long would I have to wait for the population to flourish again after unifying the Kingdom of Graycastle?]
"The entire western region will be covered by heavy snow after the arrival of the Months of Demons. A large force will be difficult to move and there would be a long line if they were to travel by ship. Not just considering how how costly it would be, it's also easy to be intercepted halfway." He said, "So, he'll have to act before the heavy snowfall in the winter if he wants to launch an attack this year. He'll also have to search for the population earlier as the recruitment of militias must be completed by the winter."
"You're planning to..."
Roland contemplated for a moment with his eyes closed and said, "I want to delay this war."
"Delivering a diplomatic letter or sending a messenger to him? Timothy Wimbledon probably won't do what you want," Iron Axe said.
"No, it's useless," he said slowly, "In order for Timothy to dispel the idea to attack, we need to either reduce the number of people he can search for or make him realize that a war of attrition is of little significance and make him fear for the western region. I was planning to get Barov to arrange people to spread the news of the western region reclamation in order to attract the poor outside of the city to come forward themselves. However, it seems that the measures are too conservative now and the effect will be too slow. We must take the initiative to contact and enlist them just like our last trip to the king's city in order to take away the population before Timothy. The Southern Territory which is frequently attacked comes first, followed by the northern region of the kingdom which probably has to be undertaken by the First Army.
"A team of 50 people will be enough for only recruiting," Iron Axe continued without hesitation, "After all, it's not within the vicinity of city activities, and there's no worry about any confrontation with the enemy."
"I'll talk to you in detail after I think out a specific plan." Roland nodded.
There would need to be a force retained to guard in Border Town and a squad sent out that would need to return to the town before the Months of Demons. There were also gold royals and food problems as the expenditure would exponentially rise with a more aggressive solicitation policy. The previous plan was more cost-effective, but Roland needed to consider it carefully.
"But, regarding the second point you've mentioned... what should we do?"
"We need to first release the news of deporting the captive civilians back to the king's city so that Timothy has an idea about the course of the battle. After all, he wouldn't keep trying to do such futile thing."
"But our cannon combat mode will also be exposed," Iron Axe worriedly said.
"It doesn't expose much," Roland lightly tapped the table and said, "he won't know the principle behind it or the method to reproduce them. All he would know is that we use a long-range strike weapon and that it's amazingly powerful." He wouldn't be able to defend against it even if he knew. This was the overwhelming advantage of thermal weapons compared to cold weapons. This would not change with willpower, tactics or numbers. "These people will send him a letter of warning."
"Letter of warning?"
"Yes, I'll announce the time and date of the attack in advance in the letter and then raid the king's city on that day," Roland said.
"..." Iron Axe was shocked; he made a solemn salute after he recollected himself. "I swear with my life to complete it as long as it's your order!"
"Relax, I don't plan to send you to death." Roland smiled. "The witches will execute the plan, not the First Army."
How would he make Timothy fear the western region? Roland estimated that there was nothing more shocking than attacking the palace directly. Timothy would probably retract any of his plans as soon as he realized that he was not safe.
Roland envisaged a solution which was derived from the future airdrop leaflets. However, he intended to deliver two air bombs to Timothy beside the leaflets. The so-called raid would be an attack from the sky with a very little possibility of directly killing the new king; however, it would be considered a successful move as long as it played the deterrent role.
As a result, it would be difficult to judge whether Timothy would insist on launching a large-scale attack.
Roland clearly realized that the pattern of the contention war had changed. He was no longer as weak as when he first arrived and needed to hide. It was time for him to reveal himself and step onto the political arena of the Kingdom of Graycastle in order for the people of the kingdom to notice his existence. It was nothing to do with performance, but propaganda of his territory and power.
It was useless to have a kingdom full of ruins and dead bodies. Roland hoped that more people would come to the western region and stand with him after this declaration.
Roland opened the window in the office. The sun crashed into the mountains, the blowing breeze was no longer hot; it was bringing a touch of coolness instead.
Autumn was here.