Release that Witch Chapter 869
"That's Valencia?" Iron Axe adjusted his telescope and was observing a city which looked gray and brown in the distance.
"It should be Valencia according to the map. After all, there's only one Sanwan River. We can't get it wrong," said his lieutenant, Bearpaw. Like Iron Axe, he was also a former hunter living in Border Town and among the first batch of Roland's militia soldiers.
"It looks a little weird..." Iron Axe frowned.
"Valencia is a major city in the Eastern Region and a well-established trading center of Graycastle. Together with the old king's city and the Eagle City, they formed the most thriving Central Region of the kingdom. I heard about its name even back in the Southernmost Region," said Iron Axe, "but don't you think it's weird we've seen very few merchant ships here these days?"
"I've no idea about this," Bearpaw shrugged his shoulders and said. "The previous pirate attacks might have terrorized the merchants, so they might not dare to come here to do business again."
"The attack happened two years ago. No matter how much damage it caused, the merchants should have recovered from the shock by now."
The city wall looked mottled and bloated. It seemed to have been thickened recently, but probably because of the lack of stones, they just plastered up the original brown wall with some red mud mixed with a lot of gravels and wooden materials, making it look like the early rubble wall in Border Town. In addition, the surface of this city wall was covered with a layer of glittering things. Because of the distance, Iron Axe could not clearly discern what they were.
However, it was obviously not a comprehensive reconstruction of the city wall. The plastered wall sections now were twice as thick as the old wall, but some other parts still remained the same as before. Looking from a distance, it seemed rough and bumpy and looked nothing like a construction of a city famous for its wealth.
"Who cares. No matter what, we must occupy this city." Bearpaw fished out a fire lantern fruit and threw it into his mouth. "His Majesty ordered us to capture the whole Eastern Region, so we have to seize every city we see in this region, even if it's not called Valencia."
Hearing that, Iron Axe helplessly shook his head. Bearpaw was still a short-tempered person as he had been in the past. Once he had set his target, he would go for it with a javelin in his hand, and when he had returned with his capture, the other hunters would still be busy with setting traps and sending hounds to stalk their preys. It had been said that even the most ferocious animal in the forest, the black bears, would have been reluctant to confront him. That was how he had gotten his name Bearpaw.
Iron Axe believed that Bearpaw would have been promoted to a position higher than a lieutenant if he had learned to use his brain. Even Van'er was already the commander-in-chief of the Artillery Battalion.
Bearpaw continued. "But what matters isn't the battle itself but how to restore order after it. If we mess up the Eastern Region, City Hall will certainly find fault with us. However, if we don't resort to violence, it'll be hard for those officials to control the situation here. Did His Majesty tell you how to deal with these cities?" Iron Axe was a little surprised by Bearpaw's thought.
"No, His Majesty just entrusted me to make decisions depending on the situation."
"That's a real headache for you. But you're the boss here and I'll follow your instructions." Bearpaw grinned.
Iron Axe was intrigued. "Oh? What do you mean by this headache?"
"You really don't know or are you just testing me?" Bearpaw leaned his palm against his brow. "You're definitely going to have a headache when you have to think about how to deal with those nobles. They've held this land for such a long time, waiting for a chance to fight back, but only get to see His Majesty getting stronger. The situation here is complicated. When you seize a city here, most of the nobles will surrender, but without Lady Nightingale, how are you going to make sure they're telling you the truth?"
"Continue." Iron Axe nodded and realized that Bearpaw was not totally mindless.
"Hey, you've really never thought about this?" Bearpaw glared. "This Eastern Front Army doesn't have many soldiers. We can only station a limited number of them in each city we capture, and they can barely take care of the inner city, but this region used to be Timothy's domain! It'll be alright if the nobles are willing to cooperate with us, but what if they're malicious and still think about seizing back the power? Even if there're only a small number of such people, we'll still have no peace from them. Once we leave a city, they'll make City Hall a puppet or even kill the officials we send here. They've many ways to achieve this, such as poison, assassination and bribery. These problems can't be prevented by flintlocks."
"Do you have any suggestions?" Iron Axe asked curiously.
"Boss, that's your business." Bearpaw rolled his eyes and spat out the seeds into the tumbling river.
"Let's assume that now you're the commander-in-chief of the Eastern Front Army. Come on, let's just talk about it hypothetically."
"Well..." Bearpaw thought for a long time and then heaved a long sigh. "There's no perfect solution to this problem. If Lady Nightingale can't come to help us, we can only count on time to solve this issue. Or we can hire more Rats and take some preventive measures. We can follow the example of Neverwinter and build a police team to preserve the order. Meanwhile, we must use as less local nobles as possible until the end of this war."
"Sure enough..." Iron Axe whispered.
"No, nothing." Iron Axe put the telescope away. "Now you can go to inform the people on the other boats to get ready to land. We're near the suburb's wharf."
"Got it!" Bearpaw was thrilled to hear that a battle was coming. "I've been floating on the river for too long. Now, I'll finally get to be in combat here!"
Seeing his lieutenant leave excitedly, Iron Axe exhaled relaxedly and leaned over the porthole in the command room, lost in thought.
He could not help but recall the scene where Edith had had a talk with him before he had left Neverwinter.
The place Edith had arranged for this talk had been a private room in Evelyn's tavern, which was not a place for formal discussion. Iron Axe had expected that Edith, an official of the Ministry of Defense, would have congratulated him beforehand on the success of this military action, trying to build a good personal relationship with the army. However, when he had come into the room, he had seen no one else but Pearl of the Northern Region herself and had heard from her something totally beyond his expectation.
What they had discussed was exactly the problematic thing mentioned by Bearpaw.
Iron Axe still clearly remembered everything Edith had said.
Back then, he had been stunned by her first sentence. "Do you know why His Majesty let you command the Eastern Front Army?"
"I only obey his orders and never ask for the reason."
"But orders don't include all the details for an action, especially those which could not be exposed." Pearl of the Northern Region had said slowly while sipping her Chaos Drink. "You thought you were chosen because you were the most suitable one. But is it true? You know the guys in the Eastern Region better than me. Any well-trained regular army consisting of 500 or 600 soldiers can defeat them like crushing dry weeds and smashing rotten wood. In other words, any regular battalion commander will be enough to cope with the battle in the Eastern Front. By contrary, the Western Front Army has to fight against the Holy City of Hermes. The combat there will be more complicated and dangerous. If it had not been for something special about you, the king would have asked you to help him in leading the Western Front Army and found someone else to command the Eastern Front Army."
"..." Iron Axe had been lost for words at that time but had somehow agreed with Edith in his heart.
Edith then had explained further. "As for this special thing about you, it's simple. That's your attitude toward the nobles. As a Mojin man, naturally, you won't fear or tolerate the Graycastle nobles, and dealing with the rebellious nobles is the key to recapture the Eastern Region."
Just like Bearpaw, she had also analyzed the situation for him. Her analysis was so detailed and convincing that he had to agree that ordinary methods could not stabilize the situation in the Eastern Region.
His Majesty needs resources of people and materials, and he doesn't have so much time to deal with this bunch of scum.
The only problem is... His Majesty didn't give a clear order for it.
He had raised this question to Edith and she had replied by saying, "His Majesty is a merciful lord and can't give any clear order for this, so he needs us to take care of this thing for him. Besides, he did hint about it. This time, City Hall will send 265 officials to the Eastern Region together with you. His Majesty has spent a lot of money and effort training these officials and plans to send them to manage the region for him. There are more than twice the number of Eastern Front Army soldiers than the officials in this region. You should know the reason for this."
Iron Axe remembered that a bolt of lightning had flashed across his mind at that moment.
Edith had reminded him in the end. "Don't disappoint His Majesty."
Suddenly, a report interrupted his thought. "My lord, the First Army is ready to land. We can come to the dock anytime!"
Iron Axe took a deep breath, and ordered in a deep voice, "Let's land and camp. Get ready for battle."