Release that Witch Chapter 1087
When Anna descended to the underground headquarters, she immediately sensed the oppressive atmosphere in the room.
Everybody rose to their feet and bowed their heads as they saw her. "Your Royal Highness, ma'am!" they said in a chorus.
Iron Axe went down to his knee and said, "I'm sorry for having you come down here. I should have anticipated that the enemy would raid the encampment at night and take extra precautions accordingly. I sincerely apologize for my negligence."
"Please don't blame yourselves," said Anna as she waved her hand. "I'm just concerned about the situation at the front like everybody else. I want to know what's going on. Is everybody... OK?"
Anna was still not accustomed to the fact that she was now the queen. She felt particularly embarrassed when Wendy, Agatha, and the other witches bowed to her. She actually preferred to treat all the other witches as her sisters, although she had never specifically said that aloud.
When the campsite had been attacked, she had immediately been escorted by both the God's Punishment Witches and her guards to the underground shelter. However, Anna would have rather fought with the others like she had done during the Months of Demons than being strictly protected.
Yet she knew as the queen, she had to accept some inevitable changes.
She just hoped that her presence could put everyone's mind at ease.
Iron Axe, surprisingly, looked hesitant. After a moment of silence, he answered, "Your Highness, the battle didn't go well."
"Can you tell me more about it?"
"Certainly. We were actually just discussing it," said Iron Axe, who cast a glance at Ferlin Eltek. The latter gave a nod of comprehension and opened his notebook.
"Based on the reports from the field medics, 200 killed and 700 wounded in First Army," Morning Light replied heavily.
"However, these are just the initial rough estimates. We got those numbers in quite a hurry. The actual casualties will likely be higher, since Miss Nana... can't treat so many people at once."
200 deaths. This number almost equaled the number of casualties the decisive battle against the Church. However, that massive battle was the final battle of the war with the Church. This was the very first battle with the demons after they started advancing north. There was still a long way to go before First Army reached the Taquila ruins.
No wonder Iron Axe was disconcerted by the outcome of this battle.
Anna had seen the wounded soldiers who were covered in blood, lying on the ground in a line. The air in the hospital was saturated with the smell of blood and the sound of inarticulate groans. Nana definitely could not cure all of the wounded at once. For the maimed soldiers and those who suffered severe internal organ damage, she could only cure five to six people at most in one day. Therefore, in order to save more people, she had to apply her magic power to the ones most in need.
For example, Nana would only heal fatal wounds for the soldiers who were wounded in the chest or abdomen. For those who sustained minor injuries, she would instruct the field medics to stitch up their wounds after the soldiers drank Cleansing Water. As for those who had relatively severe injuries, she had to leave their wounds open before she treated them the next day. The soldiers would thus rely on the medicine made from sleeping ferns and coltsfoot to reduce pain. As to whether they would survive the night or whether the liquid medicine would cause addiction, the field medics did not have time or effort to thoroughly think about these problems.
It was not easy to accurately apply magic power to a specific body part in such an intense environment. Anna was surprised at how much Nana had improved. Compared to the little school girl who used to faint at the sight of blood, Nana was now an experienced and professional military doctor.
"I'll advise His Majesty to persuade Countess Spear from Fallen Dragon Ridge to send us reinforcements," said Anna slowly. "She can help the field medics to save more people. By the way, how did the demons sneak in?"
"I guess... the enemy took advantage of the limits of my Magic Eye," said Sylvie, who apparently looked very frustrated. "The Devilbeast scouts they sent earlier were probably trying to learn how far my Magic Eye can see, and I was completely unaware they were watching me..."
"We should have thought about that," Agatha put in self-reprovingly. "After the battle at North Slope, the demons apparently noticed Sylvie's presence. They used Devilbeasts to first test out how far her Eye of Magic can see based on our reactions to them. Then, their army gathered outside that range and raided us after night fell. They started attacking us the very moment we retreated from Tower Station No.1, when our encampment was the most unguarded."
"That being said, this wasn't anybody's fault," Morning Light comforted. "If we really wanted to deceive the enemy, we'd have had to ignore the Devilbeasts when they approached us. This would be against the protocols we received during our training. Even if we knew the enemy's plan beforehand, it would be impossible maintain a scharade with thousands of soldiers and regular workers. In other words, the enemy would have learned the limits of the Magic Eye at somepoint anyways. Even if they didn't ambush us at Tower Station No. 1, they would have done so at No. 2 or No. 3."
"If I remember correctly, the shooting range of the Spider Demons is around two to three kilometers. Since they are fairly slow, it normally takes them quite a while to enter our firing range and be spotted by Sylvie. Is it just pure luck that they weren't spotted in the first place?" Anna asked in confusion. "I'm not really familiar with the operation. Correct me if I'm wrong. The First Army should have their own scouting team, shouldn't they? For example, they can use hydrogen ballons at the encampment."
"You're always so attentive to details, Your Highness," Iron Axe replied while placing his hand on his chest. "Generally speaking, the First Army gathers information in three ways: through Sylvie, through Maggie and Lightning, and by themselves. However, the army scouts are just supplementary and only for contingencies."
After hearing the explanation from the commander-in-chief, Anna finally had a basic understanding of the intelligence system of the First Army. During the Graycastle unification war, this system had worked pretty well. Yet when they fought against the demons, they soon noticed some big flaws in this system.
Nothing running on the ground could compete against the Devilbeasts flying in the sky.
This meant there was a limit in how much information the army scouts could obtain. Once they went beyond that limit, their mission could be highly risky and even life-threatening, and dead people can't bring back information. The Devilbeasts were able to hide in clouds, giving them an absolute advantage over scouts on the ground. As the Fertile Plains was flatter than a pancake, they could dive down anytime like a hawk snatching up a rabbit.
This disadvantage significantly restricted the amount of information the First Army could collect. In this situation, they could barely assist Sylvie. Meanwhile, the flying demons could prey on any soldiers sent out to scout while escaping the scrutiny of the Magic Eye. There was basically nothing the First Army could do about it.
A phrase suddenly flashed across Anna's mind.
A phrase that Roland had a mixed feeling about every time he mentioned it.
That was "air supremacy".
The party who had the command of the sky dominated the war.
Apart from "air supremacy", there were also some other phrases beyond her understanding which Roland said from time to time, such as the Black Ribbon and Akiyama...
Anna shook her head, trying to put these thoughts behind her. She asked, "Based on your description, the Spider Demons should have reached the third layer of the defensive line by the time we saw them. Was it because of the poor lighting at night that we failed to notice them?"
"That's one of the reasons, Your Highness," Ferlin Eltek replied. "The General Staff believes... that those monsters were probably waiting for us there from the beginning."
Anna blinked in mild surprise and asked, "Are you saying... that they were hiding right underneath us?"
"That's right. This is the only explanation that makes sense as to why these giant creatures suddenly emerged within shooting range," Ferlin confirmed in a grave tone. "I asked Miss Sylvie. She told me it costs her a lot of magic power to see through solid matter. When she does that, she can't see very far. It seems the Devilbeasts were also diverting Miss Sylvie's attention while testing out how far she can see. Once she focused solely on the sky, she would not have excess magic power to also monitor things underground."
"So this is why the demons successfully raided the encampment?" Anna questioned herself in silence.
If both Sylvie and the demons were stationary, it would be a lot easier for Sylvie to notice the movement below. The blackness Sylvie had seen was probably not to cover the demons, but rather to distract Sylvie from the Spider Demons when they came out of hiding.
Now they knew they were dealing with a very difficult enemy. The demons had not only come up with a strategy that countered First Army's operation methods, but they were also extremely proficient in their use of magic power.
It was no wonder that a suffocating atmosphere had settled over First Army's headquarters.
This was definitely not a good sign.
What would Roland do if he were here?
While Anna was trying to come up with some encouraging words, Edith suddenly burst into a fit of laughter.
"Why all the long faces like you just lost a battle? We just gained a major victory!" She said while chuckling. "Am I in the wrong meeting?"