Lorist finally understood what it meant to have everything go wrong because one underestimated one's enemy. He had considered the people hiding within the inner walls nothing but mere cattle waiting to be slaughtered. He thought all he had to do was wait for Ovidis's Thunderbolt Brigade to arrive and obliterate the ballistae on the walls before launching an attack when the enemy was deprived of their ranged defense. After that, he could occupy the four inner walls and begin dealing out retribution to the slavers and slave traders.
However, he didn't think they would as desperate as they evidently were. They were willing to risk everything for their lives. They gathered up all the slaves in the inner city, modified a carriage by nailing some doors onto the push handles, and forced the slaves to push the shielded contraptions straight towards the Norton soldiers' line to draw their attention. Following that, tens of thousands of people rushed out of the gates and continued their charge without regard for their casualties in a desperate struggle to push past the defensive line and head into the wilderness before making their way to the royal capital.
Lorist suddenly recalled a joke from a show in his past life about a 'baldhead' reprimanding his subordinates for being inferior to pigs, as the 'rabbits' had to spend more than two days and three nights to capture tens of thousands of pigs whereas his tens of thousands of subordinates were captured within an afternoon by the 'rabbits'...
Even though the enemies rushed out in droves like a bunch of pigs, real pigs only knew to escape but those enemies would resist when they had to. When they saw that there would be no escape, they would make their last stand against the Norton soldiers. Some silver and gold ranks went all out before their moments of death, inflicting huge casualties on the Norton troops.
Lorist could do naught but order the rest of the soldiers to regroup before giving pursuit later and avoid enemies that they weren't able to handle in the interest of minimizing casualties. They were under orders to stall the enemies as best they could until more household knights arrived. On another front, Lorist himself was busy heading all over to give his assistance, all the while instructing Malek and Loze who had just arrived and were going to rest up to help him out.
It was only in the afternoon that Lorist gave the order to cease pursuit. During the night, when everyone else was gathered in the tent, Lorist felt like slapping himself after hearing the casualty report. There were more than 2900 casualties, of which 824 were dead. Almost an entire brigade had been rendered incapable of battle. Most of the dead died during the enemy's frenzied charge.
While it didn't show on his face, Lorist felt extreme remorse and thought that he should have pretended that he had the intention of negotiating with the old ambassador if only just to stall for time and let them feel safe for the moment behind their walls. Why did he have to tell the enemy about his clear intentions to kill every single one of them? After scaring the old man away, he even had Potterfang erect the terrifying monument outside the walls, which was definitely the straw that broke the camel's back.
That went horribly!
Lorist sighed and felt humbled after realizing that it had been his own overconfidence, his own hubris that had led his men to their death.
While the port was heavily-defended, only a single brigade of heavy-armored troops and another brigade of wheelbarrow-ballista troops were stationed at each of the three other gates of the walls. Lorist had believed that 500 ballistae were more than enough to secure each of the gates, but he did not take into account that his troops needed to rest. The midnight when the enemy charged out, less than 100 ballistae were fully manned and able to fire, which was one of the main causes for the enemy's successful escape.
"Milord, we've run the estimates," said Potterfang as he walked into the tent.
His left arm was bandaged.
He had been the first to rush to the troops' aid. Fortunately, he arrived in time to save Engelich's life. The old blademaster had been forced back by three other blademasters and would have been in a huge pinch had Potterfang not arrived in time.
Compared to blademasters, Potterfang was a bit lacking. But his swordsmanship was strongly defense oriented, so he was able to keep the enemy occupied without trouble. Fiercetiger Loze later rushed over and changed the situation completely. One of the blademasters who was fighting Engelich saw that the situation was taking a turn for the worse and ran. One of the other blademasters was killed by Loze and Engelich.
As the second blademaster was struck down, the third - occupied with Potterfang until then - attempted to escape as well, but Potterfang - in exchange for a blow to his shoulder - foiled his attempt. Luckily, Loze and Engelich made it in time and killed him before he could do more damage.
"Speak," said Lorist, clutching his head.
"Milord, there are 7432 enemy corpses at our defensive line. Five thousand of them were found near the city gates. Over 1700 of the dead were slaves. After a day's pursuit, we managed to capture 35 thousand prisoners, most were women and children."
Sol, so over 70 thousand enemies were within the inner city and we only managed to capture and kill around 40 thousand in total... Most of the 30 thousand who escaped must have been youths who were willing to leave the elderly, women and children behind...
Lorist only hoped that Josk and Yuriy's scouts would be able to hold the enemy back. They mounted and equipped with longbows and crossbows, so they should be able to deal quite a bit of damage.
But the number of horses available was not enough! Each scout at most had one mount to themselves instead of the usual two. It was just not possible to bring enough horses along on such a rapid response expedition, one which had to cross a vast ocean no less. Even Ovidis's Thunderbolt Brigade assignment of two horses per siege engine had to be cut down to one. Their mobility was halved as a result. If they had another cavalry brigade, the escaped enemies could easily have been surrounded. However, only Loze brought his beloved steed with him. Lorist didn't even have a mount.
"Well, for our captives, have Hector pick out the women to serve in the harlot camps and let the slave patrol squads use the rest as target practice. Allow them to vent their anger or exact their vengeance, but make sure to cut the heads off for embalming. Loze, I trust that you will be able to see it's done."
"Yes, Milord," said Loze, standing to attention.
"Malek, I'll leave clearing out the inner city to you. After that, keep all the spoils we have within the inner city and make sure not to forget to assign food and other supplies to the slave camp once every three days, understood?"
"Yes, Milord," replied Malek.
"Pog, reorganize our family forces and leave behind two heavy-armored brigades and one wheelbarrow-ballista brigade to defend the inner city and monitor the slave camp. The rest will rest for three days before marching towards Hamidas," instructed Lorist.
At that moment, a guard entered the tent and reported, "Milord, Tarkel has a report for you."
Huh? Why is Tarkel still on the island? thought Lorist with surprise.
He had instructed Tarkel and Els to infiltrate the Hanayabarta kingdom two months earlier. Their mission was to gather information on Nupite and Hamidas, and to find out whether it was possible to ransom the household knights and officials. Until Tarkel's arrival today, however, they had never contacted him. As a result, Lorist had been forced to deploy his forces despite the risks involved. He didn't think that Tarkel would still be on the island.
But if he's here, what about Els?
At that moment, Tarkel entered the tent. He saluted and began his report immediately.
"Milord, Els and I posed as two relatives of several high officials in the Peterson Merchant Guild and made our way here. Upon our arrival, however, we discovered things weren't going to go as smoothly as we'd hoped. The Hanayabarta kingdom has close relations with the Chikdor Merchant Guild, but not the Peterson Merchant Guild. The slavers didn't take us seriously, though they treated us with courtesy. They assumed we were young masters traveling around to see the world."
Even though he had been ignored by the slavers and slave traders, Tarkel still managed to fit in by getting acquainted with the mid-lower class officials and quickly gained access to large amounts of information, such as how many slaver bands and slaver nobles participated in the attack on Silowas as well as the number of slaves dispatched to every location and what they were tasked with.
Tarkel even made records of what the warehouses around Nupite had and also managed to rescue more than ten captured islanders from Silowas by purchasing them. But just as he was about to send his report, Tarkel realized with a shock that no ships were available to him.
The ships had long since finished their business on the island and had left. Some of the friends he'd made during his stay also advised him against boarding the merchant vessels of lesser, unknown slaver bands, especially since half of his slaves were women. Being attacked by the crews of those ships at sea was a real possibility, as they could easily dispose of his corpse without leaving a single trace behind.
The best course of action available to him was to wait for another month. By the end of the 10th month, the ships of the Chikdor Merchant Guild was scheduled to arrive at the kingdom, and it was far safer traveling with them than with anyone else. So, Tarkel had no choice but to stay at Nupite to await Lorist's arrival. Unfortunately for him, he was forced to evacuate into the inner city at the insistence of the few 'friends' he made, and he only managed to escape when chaos broke out during the reckless escape conducted by the people within the inner city. When he saw the household soldiers entering the city, he revealed his true identity and was busy settling down the islanders he had freed and waited for Lorist to return from pursuing the enemy.
"Why would the Chikdor Merchant Guild's fleet be coming here during the end of the 10th month?" Lorist asked, his curiosity piqued.
"I heard that their fleet comes over here routinely during the 4th and the 10th months to engage in trade. During their previous trip in the 4th month, the third young master of the Chikdor clan came over for a visit and began telling the slavers about his initial plan to invade Silowas before the War of Glass threw it out of the window when he was drunk at a banquet. It was he who had revealed that our house brought in tens of thousands of refugees to help develop the dominion and it was thanks to this information that the slavers attacked our island," explained Tarkel.
"Haha... Chikdor Merchant Guild and the third young master... So they were indirectly behind the attack all along," said Lorist as he began to understand the truth of the matter.
Well, this is a debt that I'll definitely collect in the future.
"Where's Els?" asked Lorist.
"Milord, Els has gone to the Hamidas. Over 1300 soldiers of our house were captured on Silowas. Apart from 30-odd of them who were tortured to death, they, including Knight Charade and Knight Jim, were sent to the Dueling Grounds..."
Tarkel began to cry out of the blue and pleaded, "Milord, you have to go and save them quick! Less than 300 of those captured are still alive right now... They were sent to fight against magic beasts and other slaves... Too many good men have died. Last month, they even held a festival to celebrate the founding of their kingdom, and over 500 of our soldiers died! Els and I had to witness their gruesome deaths without being able to do anything. The audience even felt that the show was not exciting enough and even clamored for the injured ones to be killed! Those people within the capital... They have to be killed without question! Milord..."
Tarkel's words were like oil being poured into a fire. All the knights within the tent cried out to be sent into battle against Hamidas.
Lorist waved his hand with a solemn expression to stifle the chatter within the tent.
"Stop being so noisy. Hamidas is right over there and not a single one of them will escape anytime soon. The house will definitely have its revenge. As much as I'd like to march towards the capital right here and now, think about it. We've only just arrived last night and our troops haven't had the time to rest properly and recover. The soldiers at the defensive line were so tired that they only realized the enemy's desperate attempt to charge out at the very last minute.
"It takes one day to travel from Nupite to Hamidas on horseback. The charged happened in the early hours of dawn, so Hamidas will only receive word of our arrival tomorrow. I trust that not one of them will be in the mood to watch any more of those Dueling Grounds shows, so our captured soldiers and knights should be safe for the moment. What we need to do now is to get three days of rest before marching towards Hamidas and avenging the deaths of our heroic soldiers!"
"Tarkel, why did Els stay in the capital?" asked Lorist.
"Milord, Els is presenting himself as a swordsmanship-crazed young master and bribed the manager of the Dueling Grounds to allow Charade, Jim, and the other knights to spar with him. That way, they won't be chosen as the fighters for the shows of the slaver nobles. During the celebratory show, Knight Rafaed sacrificed himself to save Knight Charade. Knight Jim and Tok were also injured."
"What about Charade?" asked Lorist worriedly.
Knight Rafaed was one of the regiment leaders of the third local defense brigade who had been captured as he was injured and out cold following his reinforcement of Whitebird Town. The thought of him sacrificing himself for Charade was a surprising one.
"Knight Charade is fine and only lightly injured. However, because of Knight Rafaed's sacrifice, the boss of the Dueling Grounds feels that he is some kind of big shot and refused Els's attempt to purchase him. Els has no choice but to visit him on the pretense of sparring. Els, on the other hand, intends to organize a revolt at the Dueling Grounds and fight his way out of Hamidas. It will prove very difficult, however, given there are two blademasters standing guard. Also, the slave fighters are not armed. There's no way the plan will work," replied Tarkel.
Upon hearing that Charade was still alive, Lorist breathed a sigh of relief.
Engelich stood up and said, "Milord, why don't you let me sneak into Hamidas and rescue Knight Charade and the rest?"
As the matter concerned the happiness of his beloved granddaughter, Engelich was willing to give it his all.
"You won't do," Lorist said while shaking his head, "You'll surely be recognized by many who escaped from the rear gates of the inner city since you were stationed there. The moment you appear at Hamidas, the blademasters will definitely come for you. It's fine if you want to kill yourself, but don't drag Charade and the rest down with you."
The old man sat back down, fully understanding that Lorist spoke naught but the truth.
"If anyone's sneaking in, that would be me. Apart from the old ambassador yesterday, most of the people within the inner city don't know how I look. Later, make sure to check the corpses and captives and see whether that old man managed to escape. If he didn't, I will make my way to Hamidas and find some way to rescue Charade and the rest," said Lorist.
"Milord, you can't take this risk," advised many of the knights in the tent.
"I've made up my mind, so don't bother dissuading me. You guys just focus on allowing the troops to rest and reorganizing them for the next attack. Remember, launch the attack three days from now. Don't worry about me, I'm pretty confident that none of the blademasters at Hamidas will be able to take me on. Perhaps, I might even be able to cause them some trouble," said Lorist with a laugh.
"Tarkel, work with Malek to sort the valuable spoils we have and keep them well stored behind the inner walls."
Tarkel saluted and said, "Yes, Milord."
 The author is referencing 'Year Hare Affair', which is an allegorical Chinese webcomic (that's also been made into a web animation that can be found on Youtube with English subs) about China's take on modern history.