Release that Witch Chapter 1203
Chapter 1203: A Black Present
Jean Bate was indeed fast. He not only offered half of the rooms in the mansion to the army but also sent some maids to serve the soldiers, although Iron Axe refused the service out of confidentiality concerns.
In watching the reluctant look of the several young officers from the General Staff, Iron Axe replied in a stony tone, "Time to work. Don't forget that your performance in this campaign is subject to Edith Kant's review. You should know the consequences if you make errors."
Everyone shuddered at the Pearl of the Northern Region's name and set to work.
"Map, I'll put up the map!"
"What about the schedule? I'll double check it."
"Anyone help me check the food?"
The room instantly became noisy.
"Look at these young fellows, always full of energy..." Remy commented while shaking his head. "The baron seems to have seen through them."
"A common trick nobles like to play," Iron Axe said, frowning. "He'd better employ his cunning little schemes on the immigration campaign."
"Don't worry. The Administrative Office will keep an eye on him," Remy promised while patting his chest. "Now, we've removed our first obstacle. It's better than I thought. The Tusk and the Redstone Gate Families indeed helped us, but it won't be that easy afterwards."
"No, it'll be just the same," Iron Axe corrected him.
"R-really?" Remy said in surprise.
"Because they've fallen behind," Iron Axe said and looked through the window. The overspread sky had cleared up a little bit.
"Because they've fallen behind." This was what Edith had told him before he had set off a week ago. He met Edith at the office of the General Staff, where they held a meeting to discuss how to efficiently carry out the immigration plan, with a secretary writing meeting minutes next to them. Edith said, "Most nobles haven't noticed the changes taking place in this world but are still dwelling exclusively on their personal interests while gloating over their wealth. They saw hardly anything else. I bet you plan to fight those nobles one by one, right?"
"If they impede His Majesty's plan, yes."
"That'll be too slow," Edith disapproved flatly. "This is different from the Graycastle unification war. We need to garrison troops in various foreign cities, so as time progresses, we'll have fewer soldiers at our command, which will thus significantly prolong the campaign. Those nobles won't openly resist the army but they'll definitely play stealthy behind your back. By the time you notice the damage and rush to rescue, it'll look bad on His Majesty."
"Then what should I do?"
"Set your goals beforehand, build alliance and fight enemies together," Edith said while handing him a table.
There was a list of items on the table, next to each of which was a point scale.
"What's this?" Iron Axe asked in bewilderment. It was his first time seeing such a strange form.
"A threat evaluation form? Or a manual of resistance level? Anyway, what it is called doesn't matter. I made this table based on nobles' mentality and other factors, including gender, heir, the size of their domains, the number of their troops, their behavior, etc. You would have a rough understanding of each noble after filling out the form. The more information you obtain, the more accurate the evaluation will be. Since the situation in the Kingdom of Wolfheart and the Kingdom of Everwinter has changed a lot, the General Staff can't complete the form for you. If there's a city that's not on the form, just punch in the information and do the calculation yourself."
"And what next?" Iron Axe asked as he skimmed through the form.
"If the total point is lower than 50, it means the city has limited power and is not so ambitious. You could build alliance with them. These nobles could actually provide many things for you, such as local maps, the city structure, the demographics, and so on. More importantly, with the support of local lords, we'll be able to implement the plan more efficiently," Edith explained.
"As for those that are higher than 50..." Edith paused for a second and said, "Don't waste time on them. Whether they show any inclination to yield or not, you should crush them immediately."
Iron Axe was a little shocked at the method Edith proposed. A simple table would pretty much determine each noble's fate, even though Edith had never met or talked to any of them.
Iron Axe asked after a moment of silence, "Is the form... accurate?"
As the commander-in-chief of the First Army, he understood the importance of work efficiency and knew very well how much time this form could save them. Most of the ships were borrowed from the Chambers of Commerce at the Fjords, so he should wind up the campaign at his earliest, even if the demons were not planning to erect the Obelisk around the Impassable Mountain Range.
"There could be some errors here and there, and I'm not sure if 50 is a correct cut-off grade. However, considering we have limited time, I'll leave the details to your discretion," Edith said as she sipped her tea leisurely. "The General Staff is only providing counsels here."
Iron Axe turned to the last page of the form and found a list of cities that Edith had already graded. All the information was obtained from the Kingdom of Dawn, and the top city below the cut-off grade was precisely the Sedimentation Bay, the first stop of their journey.
Before Iron Axe took his leave, he asked one last question.
"Aren't there any nobles who haven't fallen behind?"
"Of course there's such a possibility," Edith replied smilingly as she played with her hair. "However, in that case, you'll soon find him out even without this form because this person must be like me."
Iron Axe breathed out a sigh as he came out of his reveries and walked toward the campsite of the First Army. As Edith had said, nobles did not pose problems. The problem was how to mobilize civilians in an orderly and efficient manner.
Nevertheless, within two days, the dock of the Sedimentation Bay had been packed with thousands of people waiting to board the ships. Not only Iron Axe and Remy but also Jean Bate was taken aback by such a huge number.
The First Army, therefore, had to postpone their departure to manage these civilians.
"What's going on?" Iron Axe inquired Remy. "Did you exaggerate His Majesty's promise?"
"No, I know I don't have the authority to do that," Remy said while shaking his head. "I strictly follow the procedure set out by the Administrative Office. It really depends on how many people the local lord could persuade. The baron is apparently not so highly respected among his people compared to His Majesty, so I assume there would only be around 300-500 civilians."
"Now it's 20 times that number," Iron Axe remarked. Obviously it was good news to have so many immigrants all of a sudden, but he was also a little disturbed by such an unexpected high volume. Graycastle was, after all, a distant, unknown country for citizens of the Kingdom of Wolfheart. Naturally, Iron Axe suspected that someone was behind all this, who persuaded these people to abandon their native towns and venture into a journey to a completely foreign country.
"There could be only one explanation," Remy said meditatively, "that they're all refugees."
Refugees had nothing to lose. As long as they saw a ray of hope, they would rush for it.
"But these people are all freemen living in villages and towns near the Sedimentation Bay."
"Yes, they are, but my men heard some interesting rumors when they visited those towns. For example, the Redstone Gate Family, who holds an ancient grudge against the baron, plans to reduce subjects to slaves after they take over the Sedimentation Bay. Another rumor I heard is about a monster that takes humans for food in the mountainous area in the north. Some towns were ravaged and human remains littered the roads. Now, this monster is coming to the southeast. There are many other similar, convincing rumors that perturb the community. I guess this is why so many people choose to leave. If they don't go now, they'll become refugees, too."
Astounded, Iron Axe asked, "When did this happen?"
"At least a month and a half ago, not long after we set out from Neverwinter," Remy replied while stroking his chin. "Aren't we lucky?"
"Not at all," Iron Axe thought darkly. Someone was apparently inducing panic to the public, and this person also knew the purpose of the First Army pretty well.
Who was disseminating the news? Why did he help Graycastle? Was he a friend or a foe? A multitude of questions overwhelmed Iron Axe.
Until a soldier came in.
"Sir, someone asked me to hand this letter to you."
"Who?" Iron Axe asked as he took the envelope.
"He didn't leave his name. He's tiny though," the soldier replied. "But he told me the letter was given to him by someone else as well. Perhaps, the writer of this letter doesn't want to be known. I checked it already. There's nothing but the letter in there."
It was an ordinary burlap envelope much cheaper than one made of parchment or leather. Many shops sold this type of envelope. It was not sealed with wax but was laid open very casually. Iron Axe took the letter out of the envelope, and to his dismay, the letter was written on a piece of black, refined paper normally inaccessible to civilians.
He turned over the letter and found a line printed in gold.
"This is a present from your most loyal servant. I hope you like it."