Game of the Monarch - Chapter 177

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While Jake and Marquis Burkel were fighting against each other, Marquis Hailey Maroon was facing an enemy on the other side. However, her enemy had a completely different disposition from Jake. The fight between Jake and Marquis Burkel was one in which the elites of both armies gathered to determine who was stronger and superior. But, unlike Jake, her enemy didn’t attack her as confidently or as directly as he had. Marquis Hailey Maroon was facing a completely different type of challenge.

“Just what… the hell is going on?”

It wasn’t unreasonable for Marquis Maroon to be frowning. In front of her was the enemy. There definitely was an enemy in front of her but… She couldn’t attack the enemy easily. Why? Because she couldn’t tell how many troops the enemy had. There was a thick fog between her 20,000 troops and the enemy’s troops. It was so thick that she couldn’t even see 10 meters ahead of her, there was no way she could properly determine how many men there were on the enemy’s side. But from the blurry glimpse she had gotten, she realized that the size of the enemy’s forces seemed unusual.

In the end, she was afraid that she might lose control of her men if she hastily attacked and decided to wait until the fog cleared. She had thought she’d only have to wait half a day at most, but to her surprise, the fog didn’t disappear even after three days. Instead, it became thicker. Now, her soldiers were afraid and nervous because of the unnatural phenomenon that went beyond logic. Having realized that it would be difficult to control her army if she waited any longer, Marquis Maroon decided to move immediately. Although it deviated from the schedule, she couldn’t wait any longer and got caught up in the unnatural phenomenon.

“All forces, we are slowly advancing forward. Infantry in the front, make sure to keep it tight. Archers in the back row. Knights, you’ll be with me in the rear.”

On her order, 20,000 soldiers moved in unison.

“All forces, slowly advance forward!”

At the commander’s order, 20,000 soldiers advanced slowly. Not only were the soldiers in perfect rows and columns, but the infantry’s footsteps were in perfect unison that it sounded like the drum beats.

‘…there’s no reaction.’

From the rear, Marquis Maroon frowned as she looked for the enemy’s movements. She hadn’t felt it while she had been waiting, but now that she was moving closer and the distance between her and the enemy was getting shorter, she began to feel something was strange. Her side had begun to move, shouldn’t the other side start moving too? But the enemy wasn’t making even the slightest of movements. It was like…

“Surely not?”

“What’s wrong, Marquis?”

Her aide asked her a question, but instead of answering, she immediately called out a command.

“All forces, stop! Archers, nock your bows!”

Her soldiers once again moved in unison at her command. And then…

“Row 1, Fire!”

As soon as she commanded, arrows flew into the sky. Perhaps the archers weren’t able to be accurate because of the fog but because of the close distance, the arrows still reached the sky over the enemies’ heads, however…

“Damn…”

Marquis Maroon frowned as she watched that. The knight guarding her by her side questioned her when she saw Marquis Maroon frowning.

“Is there a problem, Marquis?”

“We were tricked.”

Marquis Maroon prodded her horse forward. At her unexpected behavior, her escort knights followed her forward and finally saw the situation.

“This is…?”

“Damn… We were fooled by something like this?”

The courageous Silver Wolf Knights couldn’t contain their anger. What they had judged to be the enemy for the past three days were fakes, they were just scarecrows holding flags. Marquis Maroon had thought the scarecrows were the enemy and because of that, they had been waiting for the fog to disappear for the past three days. What made them even more upset was the writing that they found.

-I welcome you to my forest. Let’s have fun together.

While they didn’t know what it meant, they understood that the enemy was obviously provoking them. 

“Duplicitous things…”

“How could they be so cowardly?”

“Marquis, please give us the order. We will slaughter those who have scorned you.”

The Silver Wolf Knights were furious. All of them were devoted followers of Marquis Hailey Maroon. They were all women who admired her for becoming a Master even though she was a female and had joined the Silver Wolf Knights as Lady Knights with the goal of becoming like her. Amongst them, there was even a woman who had tossed aside her family name because they had opposed her joining. That’s how loyal they were to Marquis Hailey Maroon. When they learned that their idol had been insulted, they couldn’t contain their anger.

However, unlike the enraged women, Marquis Maroon felt alarmed.

‘It would have taken several days to make this many scarecrows. Then does that mean the enemy knew such an unusually thick fog would appear and prepared for this in advance?’

This tactic could only work if the enemy knew that the fog would appear on their path. It was an enemy who could predict and manipulate nature. When she realized that, Marquis Maroon realized that the enemy couldn’t be underestimated but she didn’t let those words leave her mouth and instead, calmly ordered her knights.

“Go and get the troops in order. We will start advancing again.”

“Yes, Marquis.”

Knowing that her troops would lose morale if she looked weak, she kept it to herself, but she also kept in mind that the enemy wouldn’t be easy. 

***

“Whooo… how cute.”

While Marquis Maroon’s army moved, a woman was looking down at them from a high location. The thick fog didn’t block her vision and the distance wasn’t a hindrance. She was able to watch all of Marquis Maroon’s movements as if she was right next to the Marquis. While watching, she had a faint smile that seemed to embody the playfulness of a child.

Like Bianca, she had red hair and golden yellow eyes with the same eye-catching features. She was one of Siegfried’s hidden underlings, her name was Eliza. If Jake was Siegfried’s card against Marquis Burkel, then she was the card sent out to deal with Marquis Maroon. In fact, even if they were both trump cards, Jake and Eliza were very different. 

Jake was someone who would eventually be revealed to the rest of the world in order to show off his strength. But Eliza, her very existence was important to Siegfried. She used magic that other Magicians would renounce and declare as taboo; she didn’t mind experimenting on humans either. And with Siegfried’s support, she had created the elixir that the Ghost members used. There was the danger that if her existence became known, then even Siegfried might be connected to heresy. Therefore, unlike Jake, Eliza was someone who Siegfried had to hide forever. 

So, the fact that he had sent her out to fight meant two things. One, Siegfried highly evaluated the Empire’s strength. While he was confident in his own brilliance, that didn’t mean he thought the Empire was an easy opponent. Instead, he saw them as an opponent who he had to do his best to fight, that was why he was using Eliza, even though it was risky for himself. 

The second reason was that even though the Empire was strong, he was confident that as long as he sent Eliza, he could suppress them. That’s how much he believed in Eliza’s ability. What exactly caused him to believe that? Truthfully, Eliza’s knowledge of strategies was just a bit better than a beginner’s. Her knowledge didn’t come from her formally learning it either, it came from her learning by watching over Siegfried’s shoulder. 

If you consider that, it was unreasonable to expect her to lead a group to deal with the troops led by Marquis Maroon, an Imperial Master. Even worse, 80 percent of her troops were conscripted men. Her situation was very different from Jake’s, his troops had consisted of the best of the best. But, the reason Siegfried trusted her and gave her this assignment was because, more than strategy, he believed in her ability. 

She had the rare ability to use magic that the enemy didn’t know, and the craftiness to manipulate people like they were in the palm of her hands. If Siegfried wasn’t fighting her head-on, he would never want her as an enemy. 

When Siegfried gave her the assignment and the troops, he had told her one thing.

[Do whatever you want as much as you want.]

[I can do that?]

[if not, then you wouldn’t, would you?]

[Hehe…this is definitely outside the scope of our contract. Fine. But…]

Eliza licked her red lips and spoke with a bewitching and dangerous smile.

[I really will do whatever I want. You can’t say anything different later on.]

[Agreed.]

With that conversation, she led her army to go deal with Marquis Hailey Maroon. He did not explain the strategy nor did he tell her the goal. Siegfried had only done one thing. He had released the shackles of the impossibly cunning beast and that was enough. Or at least it was enough to get rid of a behemoth known as Marquis Hailey Maroon. 

Eliza reached out a hand as if she was petting Marquis Maroon.

“Just wait a bit. We’ll play together. I’ll play with you as much as you want.”

And then, she vanished. 

***

Having realized that she had wasted time in a trap, Marquis Maroon hastened her army. At this point, Marquis Burkel had been defeated by Jake but there was no way for her to be informed of that, and so, she believed she also had to quickly push forward. She knew that if she and Marquis Burkel didn’t put pressure on either side, then besiegement would lose effect without being surrounded on three sides. But more than anything else…

‘We can’t lose to such an uncivilized person…’

Her thoughts caused her to speed up. But then…

“Deputy, bring me a map.”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

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Marquis Maroon frowned as she checked the map she had received beforehand. It was a military map so detailed in topography that the Valence Kingdom treated it with strict confidentiality. After checking, she frowned once again. 

“How did this happen?”

According to the map, there should be a small stream, too narrow to be called a river, flowing in front of her. According to the map, there definitely should be one in front of her. A stream small enough that during the summer, before the rainy seasons, it would dry up so that you could see the bottom of it. But in front of her eyes was…

“That’s a small stream? Does the Valance Kingdom not have a concept of size?”

What was in front of Marquis Maroon right now was a huge river that seemed to be over 50 meters wide. Not only was it wide, but it was flowing so fast that it would be hard for people to go in it. If she had not been careful, she could have lost a large portion of her troops.

‘Then don’t I have to change the direction we take?’

She spoke with annoyance.

“Bring over the guide from the Valence Kingdom.”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

Hearing the faint anger in her voice, the guide from the Valence Kingdom was immediately brought over.

“You asked for me, Marquis?”

Seeing the guide trembling from apprehension, Marquis Maroon spoke coldly to him.

“I’m assuming you know why I called you?”

“Y… yes, Marquis. That…”

“Tell me your excuses. It better not be a flimsy one like telling me you took the wrong path.”

The guide trembled at her words. He knew very well that if she wanted, Marquis Maroon could very easily behead him.

“I definitely didn’t take the wrong path. I swear on my life, Marquis.”

Hearing the desperation in his voice, she asked him again.

“Then what is it? Was the map wrong?”

“That’s not it either, Ma’am. I’m from this region, but I swear, I’ve never seen so much water in my life, Marquis.”

“It’s your first time seeing it?”

“Yes, Ma’am, that’s right. I don’t know the reason for it either, Ma’am.”

She frowned at his words.

“How annoying.”

At that one word from her, a member of the Silver Wolf Knight immediately responded. Putting her hand on the sword at her waist, the Knight spoke.

“Stop fooling around and answer properly!”

“It’s… it’s true, Ma’am. I swear on my life…”

“Your life isn’t even worth a fly’s.”

The Silver Wolf Knight pulled out her sword.

“Your failure to carry out your assignment will be dealt with according to the military law.”

The guide was so frightened he banged his head onto the ground and begged.

“P… please save me. I really did my best. I didn’t take the wrong path. This… I don’t… Truly, Ma’am. Please believe me, Marquis.”

It wasn’t a great sight to see a fully grown man begging with tears and snot running down his face. But seeing his desperate appearance, it really seemed unfair and unreasonable. Marquis Maroon let out a small sigh.

“Fine.”

At that, the knight withdrew her sword and the guide looked like he had died and come back alive. Marquis Maroon spoke to the guide.

“We cannot cross the river in front of us. What is the closest detour?”

The guide desperately thought.

“If we detoured a bit to the North, there’s a narrow road that the merchants use. But…”

“But what?”

“There’s a risk of being ambushed because the road goes through the forest, Ma’am.”

Marquis Maroon thought about the guide’s words for a moment before speaking.

“That’s the nearest road?”

“Yes, Marquis.”

“In that case, guide us there.”

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