Count Cobry was fuming with rage as he squeezed yet another golden cup in his hand into a crumpled up chunk. All his servants didn't dare to take loud breaths lest they end up like that unfortunate sob the day before, who had returned to the embrace of the Earth Mother Goddess having been struck on the head with a similar chunk that used to be a metal cup that was thrown by the count after he had accidentally made a loud noise when the count was irritated from hearing about the bad news.
The count unconsciously squeezed his fist and turned the cup into a plethora of different shapes. He only noticed that the cup had been squeezed into a small golden ball of metal when the jewel inlaid on the cup fell out of his palm. Placing the golden ball on the table, the count stood up and paced around in frustration before going to the veranda, causing all the servants to let out a breath of relief as nobody was hurt in his presence.
Count Cobry was already 63 years old that year, but he still looked like a strong and healthy middle-aged man. Even though he had been criticized for his bad character among the noble circle, his talent in Battle Force training was definitely top-notch. Not only was he a Two Star Gold rank, he had managed to bring up 17 Gold ranks and 38 Silver ranks out of all his illegitimate sons. If the count were at the Morante City's academy sector, he could use those results to earn himself a Gold ranked Battle Force instructor badge without much difficulty.
Relying heavily on his illegitimate sons, Count Cobry has managed to expand his territory by quite a huge margin and solidified the Cobry Family's position as the hegemon of the northwestern area of the Redlis Kingdom. However, just when the rank of a duke was within his reach, his plans had been overturned all of a sudden. How could he not be pissed?
Since he first became good friends with the First Prince ten years ago at the capital, the count has always served him well by disguising his troops as bandits to raid merchant convoys. The count had sacrificed over 6 Gold ranked and 13 Silver ranked sons in hopes of being granted the title of the Duke of the Northwest by the First Price. But that could only be achieved if he manages to make the former nobles of the Krissen Empire submit to the First Prince.
The northwestern area of the Redlis Kingdom was the place where nobles who had military achievements were enfeoffed land. While the nobles there were loyal to the First Prince in name, none of them actually took him seriously. When the First Prince first raised the flag of rebellion, only a few of them actually joined the war effort enthusiastically. And when it came to taxes and administration, all of the First Prince's attempts to raise the taxation rate has been suppressed either openly or secretly by the nobles.
The count understood that his reputation in the northwest was not that impressive. Back in the day, having a less than ideal reputation as a branch family spawned from a birth outside of wedlock, not a single noble family wanted to form marriage alliances with the Cobry Family. The First Prince had wanted the nobles of the northwestern area to give 20% of their earnings as tax, but the count understood that they would definitely not agree to that proposition. Thus, he resorted to using military force to subdue the nobles since he believed that the northwestern area would one day become his dominion and the lesser nobles there area there, the better he would fare.
How, then, did everything start to go haywire? Count Cobry stood at the veranda and looked towards the site where the new city was being built that was blanketed by a cloud of dust. The layout of the city before his eyes had been inspired largely by the design of the capital and he planned to have it be his headquarters when he becomes a duke in the future and use it as the center of administration for the northwestern area.
In the past, the count frequently felt proud and full of himself when he witnessed the city's construction from the veranda. Even though life was fleeting, his name and legacy would forever live on in the form of the city and weather through the indifferent passage of time. He had even planned to erect a large statue of him when the main construction of the city was completed and hold the ceremony of his ascension to the title of the duke there.
His dream would only require two more years to come true! The count grasped both of his fists and steeled his resolve to not allow anyone stop him in his tracks of realizing his long-held desire. The current situation was looking pretty good for the count as the allied noble armies had been forced into a corner and had no way to resist him whatsoever, as could be seen from the fact that many of the nobles had started writing private letters to him stating that they would be willing to switch sides and obey his orders. And with the gradual increase of the count's power, he had managed to wipe out many of the neighboring nobles and had turned their dominions to uninhabited wastelands that housed no one apart from some insurgent forces or bandits who probably had death wishes.
When the count thought about the insurgent forces, he was once again reminded about the merchant convoy that his rebel-sweeping corps had attacked out of habit from the old days when they masqueraded as bandits. Until now, they were still entangled with the convoy and seemed to have forgotten his order to capture people from the mountainous strongholds to be used as laborers.
The count could never even imagine that the forces he had sent out had been all wiped out. He truly believed that his force that consisted of two companies of pike cavalry and five companies of garrison troops was completely invincible in the northwestern area of the Redlis Kingdom. He reasoned that his men probably didn't dare to send reports back to him because they were worried that he would be further angered by the fact that they were having a hard time taking back the camp as the convoy's forces had a defensive advantage. Then again, he had sent yet another company of pike cavalry along with a sizeable amount of food and supplies as reinforcements, so he believed that he would receive the good news in a couple more days.
He was angry yet curious at the same time about the convoy that spread so far that one couldn't see the end of it from the other end, as reported to him by one of his men who had participated in the second assault on the convoy. Which merchant guild could the convoy belong to? It was glaringly apparent that they did not put the count in any regard from the manner in which they decided to cross his lands unannounced.
What he didn't expect was that the entanglement between his rebel-sweeping corps and the convoy's forces had given the pests from the western mountains a chance to occupy the Burdock Bastide when his forces were spread thin. That place was the original dominion of the Cobry Family! Had it not been for the reports of the citizens who had evacuated the area, he probably would've been unaware that the bastide was being ravaged by the insurgent bandits for five whole days already.
At first, the count didn't believe the report of the citizens at all and even gave them a savage round of caning. However, even under the painful strokes of the cane, the citizens' testaments still stood firm and they even swore that all of what they said were true. Half-believing the reports, the count sent a squad of pike cavalrymen to check the situation out. According to their reports, they had encountered Divine Marksman Josk and many other bandits that numbered around a company's worth of men. After engaging in a brutal skirmish with the enemy, only a few of the pike cavalrymen managed to make it back alive.
Upon the mention of Josk, the count felt a chilling sensation on his shoulder where Josk's arrow had once pierced. Given Josk's participation, it wasn't hard to guess that the illegitimate sons stationed at Burdock Bastide had met their demise. Based on what the citizens' and his cavalrymen's reports, he estimated there to be around 3000 rioters, which was about the number of the insurgent forces that hid themselves in the mountains. It seemed that they were going all out for that attack.
Alright, I guess it's time I made my move. Don't think that just because I'm 63, I would be easy to mess with. However old a lion is, it would always retain its savagery and majesty and will retaliate when it is threatened. If I don't quell these rioters as soon as possible and word about this gets out, others would think the Cobry Family is on the way to its downfall to the point where it couldn't even handle some petty rioters. The count made an oath to himself that he would teach the insurgent pests a severe lesson and will not rest until every single one of them pays for their transgressions.
The count could afford to deploy a regiment of garrison troops numbering around 2000 people as well as one company of pike cavalrymen from Geldos City given that he had one newly-formed squad of pike cavalrymen and two squads of garrison troops which was more than enough to defend the city with. Coupled with the other pike cavalrymen he had stationed at Williamiles Castle and the soldiers of the nobles who were on his side, he easily rallied a force of 5000 people that was powerful enough to completely crush the insurgents of the western mountains, not to say much about a disorganized bunch of rowdy bandits. I guess this arrangement is fine. I'll deploy my soldiers within three days.
After finishing his thought, Count Cobry called out loudly, "Heed my orders..."
Lorist started pointing all over the map and said, "Here, here and here. Yuriy, send some people to be stationed there. These are the ideal places to monitor the road that connects Burdock Bastide to Geldos City. The count will definitely have his men use that road if he starts mobilizing his troops and we will be able to make our preparations the moment we see something going on. Josk, you did pretty well yesterday and managed to eliminate half of the squad of pike cavalrymen they sent over without relying on the forces of the convoy. However, the insurgents have lost quite a bit of men too, right?"
"That's correct. They have lost around 200 men. If I didn't happen to pass through that area with a squad of light cavalry scouts, they would probably have been wiped out entirely. However, I left the equipment and weapons of the defeated soldiers of the count to them and they were quite thankful and pleased with that arrangement despite their losses," reported Josk.
"That's the main reason why I praised you. Now that news of his soldiers' defeat has gone out, he would definitely mobilize the rest of his troops. We are prepared to face off against him at this spot. If we didn't have the insurgents fleshing out our numbers, we will not be able to stave off the full-force, head-on assault of the count and might even incur huge losses even if we emerge victorious.
"Where is the convoy led by Knight Charade located at now?" Lorist asked.
Potterfang pointed to a point on the map and said, "They're already here and will arrive at Burdock Bastide by tomorrow afternoon. I've already sent Knight Loze and a company of heavy-armored cavalry to receive and escort him along the way so I believe that the convoy would not have any problems reaching the bastide unharmed. Pleased rest assured, milord."
"How can I not be worried when the convoy hasn't arrived yet? I'm afraid that everyone will have to be quite busy within the next two days. Yuriy, make sure your scouts increase the patrols in the surrounding area, but try to shut an eye to what the insurgent forces are doing to minimize the conflict we have with them. Don't get into fights just because of their despicable behavior, alright?" said Lorist.
"Yes, milord. I will make sure to inform my subordinates to be careful," replied Yuriy.
"Just hold it in for now. When the convoy arrives, we will be able to send Malek to gather up the insurgents that are causing trouble and enforce military discipline on them. If they don't obey, then we will kill a few to make an example out of them for the others to follow suit. We have no choice but to endure for the first few days as we don't have enough manpower right now," said Lorist as he shook his head while laughing bitterly.
In actuality, the actions of some of the insurgents were even lowlier and more detestable than things common bandits would carry out. Incidents like robbery, murder and rape was rather common within the count's dominion at the moment, but it was an understandable consequence. Given that the insurgents have been fighting against the count for so long, they would naturally desire to cause as much havoc as they can within the count's dominion as a form of payback. However, it would be too extreme to allow them to vent all their hatred for the count onto his innocent citizens. As Knight Josk had put it, some of the insurgents used to run away on the mere sight of the count's soldiers. Currently, they were laying their hands on the defenseless citizens of the dominion and that had caused several fights to break out between the convoy's soldiers and the insurgents'.
"Josk, how fares the formation of your mounted cavalry unit?"
"Milord, the people who fit the criteria of that unit is exceedingly hard to find. Not only do they have to be good at riding, they must also have a talent for marksmanship as well as have some mastery in Battle Force. So far, I've only managed to find tens of men who fit that bill," said Josk in a downcast manner.
"It's alright, take your time. I believe when the unit is properly formed, it will definitely take the battlefield by storm," consoled Lorist with a smile.
On the next day, Charade arrived at Burdock Bastide with the rest of the convoy, causing everyone to be in a cheerful mood.
That night within a large hall, Lorist looked at the map and announced, "Today, Knight Yuriy brought us some news that the nobles who are allied with the count were leading their armies to gather at Geldos City. That means that Count Cobry is already rallying his forces and will possibly deploy his troops in one or two days to take the bastide back. Since we don't have much time, we'll rest up for the whole day for tomorrow and I'll have Potterfang lead a heavy-armored cavalry squad and three pike infantry companies over here to set up camp. Terman's knight squad and Dulles's carroballista squad will also leave at the same time.
"We'll leave two companies of pike infantry to defend the bastide with Charade being in charge of them. Knight Malek, you will be tasked with patrolling the surrounding area and gathering up the insurgents who have been exploiting the citizens of the dominion quite excessively. Make sure the insurgents obey our orders and ask them to gather up at Potterfang's camp. If there's anyone who refuses to comply..."
Lorist suddenly radiated a killing intent at that moment. "Knight Loze, you should know what to do..."
Lode Wales's face showed a sinister snicker. "I understand. I'll let them have a taste of my heavy-armored cavalry company if they dare to break their word..."
"Great. Mister Tim, you don't have to worry. As a true friend and ally of the Norton Family, you only have to let your men rest up and recuperate. When our forces start confronting Count Cobry's army, I will let you lead the ambush on Geldos City," said Lorist.