Translated by Tianic
An editable copy of this chapter, click here.
Character in this chapter:
- Cohen Kheda: The main character.
- Marfa, Jack, Wilder, Moya: Cohen’s childhood friends and firm supports.
- Fischer Summers: Cohen’s friend and the prince of the Swabia Empire.
I stepped on the ground snow layers making creak sounds to walk from one end of my soldiers to the other. I was well aware that my intentionally crooked head was scary, though I crooked it on purpose.
“Needless to say, you’re all good soldiers, far better than the ordinary ones!” I thundered, “But here you are, in the Imperial Guarding Troop! Here, better is never enough!”
“Presumably you all know, that Fischer and I are now a Knight of Protoss!” I started to strode back to the starting end of the row, “To be precise, not even myself know what I’ll be doing as a Protoss Knight. But one thing is clear, there will be no easy job for me to do!”
“Thus, although a single of you is able to defeat ten ordinary soldiers…” I slapped gently the soldier who answered my question earlier, “… you’re not qualified yet!”
“Yes, sir!” He straightened his body and answered.
“Feeling wronged?” I asked.
“No, sir!” He said.
I slapped him harder again, “The truth!”
“A bit! Sir!”
“Complaint… I had complaints too! I had to go onto the battlefield at 17!” I yelled to the whole team, “Now, all of you listen up, from today, to keep you from getting killed, you jackasses better be training harder, combat skills, spells, and intelligence!”
“If any one of you are still not up to my standard, I’ll kick you ass outta IGT!” I said, “WILDER!”
“Yes, sir!” Wilder came to attention.
“Divide my IGT into three squadrons! You, Moya and Jack are in charge of one of each.” I said, “Do it now!”
While they were doing their job, I retreated to Fischer’s side then acquired about his opinions.
“Not much,” Fischer chuckled, “many thoughts though.”
“Makes no difference.” I paused for a second, “No matter what it is, tell me about it.”
“You know, Amart is the real gangster, right?” Fischer said, “But from how I see it, how you talked to your subordinates earlier just made a hundred Amarts combined.”
“You meant that?” I laughed, “Easy peasy. The soldiers are all rough fellows. If you want them to like you, you need to act like them. If you intend to lecture them with reasons and principles, that’s where the gaps are created. I can yet to let my soldiers have a better understanding of me, so I could only resemble them verbally.”
“Have you thought about it, that although you can create a sense of identity by doing this,” Fischer said in an invariably worried tone, “if it goes on for long, it might slack them.”
“Rest assurred, I’ll figure something out!” I said, “But it’s not the time yet, I’m one man short.”
“One short?” Fischer asked, “What kind of man?”
“A man… hehhe,” I chuckled, “He has to be my other extremity. What’s more important is that he has to be paranoid about his ideas! Besides, this person has to be knowledgeable, careful, be able to underestimate me!”
“So that you can give him a military position to constraint all of your soldiers, right? Let him be the bad guy to fix the soldiers who’re out of the line. Then your subordinates will come running to daddy asking for your help. Then you’ll be like ‘I can’t assist you with that, you know’, but will end up arguing with this man anyway. It’ll result in the soldiers suffer unspeakably while still end up obeying the rules and also think you are a good commander.” Fischer said while nodding his head, “Am I correct?”
“Precisely! And I need to let him finish all these for me without even knowing.
“It’s a hard job finding a fellow like that.” Fischer shook.
“Thus we need to pay attention from this moment.” I explained, “Or we’ll be truly screwed.”
“Better pay attention to them now.” Fischer went to the soldiers, “Let’s check out how’s the detachment going on.”
I walked back in front of the soldiers and gazed down to looked at three squadrons.
Wilder was certainly proud of himself standing in front of his squad. He has aggregated the most combat effective soldiers and warlocks. Compared to which, Moya’s and Jack’s teams were relatively weaker. It honestly gave me a headache.
When could Wilder change his disposition?
I summoned all three of them over.
“Now, divide once more.” I said, “After you’re done, I’ll assign you a team, and each of you as a commander.”
Another upheaval smoked. Because Wilder had no idea which team will be his, he tried so hard to balance the three. Which made Fischer and I chuckled at his action.
“Good, starting from tomorrow, one team will be on sentry duty for that day. The rest two will have training jobs.” I told the rows, “The teams on training will be led by Fischer and me! Now, commanders, nominate your sub-lieutenants, and give an awesome name for your squadron!”
All soldiers smiled broadly and surrounded around their commanders. Some recommended themselves, some were pleasing their boss. Amongst the uproar, all looked harmonious.
“What kind of soldier do you want as a training result?” Fischer said quietly to me, “You looked serious about this.”
“Not soldiers, they’re my future junior officers.” I said to Fischer, “It’s almost definite that I’ll be the one commanding the slave legion. What troops will that Minister bastard assign me? If I were to transfer my officers from my Dark Army, then Dark City will be in potential danger. I have to first make my IGTs qualified junior officers that I won’t end up helter-skelter by then.”
“Might as well.” Fischer nodded, “The more, the merrier.”
“Now, bro,” I smiled at Fischer, “Since tomorrow, we have to help each other to fix these punks!”
The next morning, there stood a cloud of soldiers.
The three squadrons all removed their stuffed jacked. Instead, soldiers wore armors and mages wore tight robes.
Each team had their name come up as well. Wilder’s Raging Wolf, Jack’s Nighthawk. Moya couldn’t decide a name for a whole night, and finally, Fischer kicked in his help to call the team Firmament.
Today was Squadron Firmament’s sentry duty. Team Wolf and Team Hawk on training.
The Firmaments set off without us while I ordered the other two squadrons to stay put.
“Now, operation in an unfamiliar environment, you’ve got to maintain your combat effectiveness. To maintain it, first, you must settle into the local surroundings!” Fischer and I also wore armors, “Now, are you cold?”
“Yes, sir!” The soldiers yelled.
“No, sir!” The mages said.
“The mages knew cold-resistant spells, sure they’re not cold!” I said, “And certainly you can always ask your mage friend to enchant you with one. However, their mana is limited! If they deplete their mana now, what if there’s a sudden attack?”
“Hence, here’s your first training objective!” I continued, “All soldiers with magic knowledge must master mid-level cold resistant spell in the shortest time possible, with the help of our mages! Those with less magical knowledge should at least learn the first-level! Those who cannot use magic, come with me!”
“I don’t expect you master it today, that’s just unreal.” Fischer said, “But for the sake of your lives, I suggest you make it quick!”
“Now!” I yelled to order, “Whoever cannot use magic, follow me! The rest stick to His Highness!”
I led about 50 soldiers from the two squadrons to an empty ground. These soldiers were deemed to not be able to use magic because of their races.
First I gave them my personal lessons on how to warm up our bodies under a harsh weather, and how to active the stiff joints out of the cold, how to loosen muscles that contracted. Then I jogged with them for a few rounds.
By then everybody was sweaty out of the run, I showed them on myself how to prevent frostbite while dressed with proper combat outfits.
“If you don’t wanna freeze to death, pay attention to two things! First, fire up enough warmth for yourself. Each part of your body requires different ways to make heat. Second, protect the heat that you made, don’t fucking let it blown away…”
I started the lecture from the reason for anyone to feel cold, till the proper way to wear suits and armors, and the protection of crucial body parts, food selection, frostbite treatment. Not only did I pour everything I knew into their minds, but also set aside a few physicians to write down my sayings word by word.
The three squadrons took turns to train for two times during the six days. Under mine and Fischer’s urge and supervise, almost all the soldiers found their preferred method to defend themselves from the cold. The worst soldier with magic knowledge could at least cast a level one cold-resistant spell. The magic-unknowers also got to learn how to utilize proper body movements and wearings to retain body temperature. Even when they were on sentry duty, they knew to hide in the snow.
With that foundation work, we started the phase two of the training: Rapid march.
The so-called rapid march was not to run altogether, which could usually be defined as run for life.
Since it was defined as a march, no matter rapidly or slowly, there must be reconnaissance ahead, and guards at the rear end. All force establishment must be in order. While marching, army formation must be retained that a soldier will know clearly where his commander is, as well as a commander’s order must be able to be passed onto every of his subordinates in the shortest time possible.
Easier spoken than done. During the following days of training, it was either my wingman scouts went off their supposed course, or my orderly went lost in the snow. Even more so, one day, Wilder’s wolves went over their speed and ended up losing contact with their wingman connection. The entire Wolf Squadron resulted on the surface of a frozen lake surrounded by blizzard without any reference objects. When I found them, hundreds of the wolves were just huddling up there.
Though their morale was nice: yelling army songs while their lips were turning purplish out of the cold. I’ll give them that.
Days went by, as my troopers had learned how to teamwork, the singular training had become competition.
It worked out as Fischer and I first laid out a piece of area, then ordered one of the squadrons to run. While the wind and snow developed to cover all of their traces, the other squadron will be assigned to find the leading squadron during the time limit. No matter for the hiding team or the hunting team, the methods were open.
From the start, almost all of them liked to play as the hiding party. Because hiding was easy! All they needed to do was to demolish their trace, then find a piece snow, dig a few holes and hide inside!
Thus I started tracing them personally as the commander.
I also taught my soldiers how to analyze the area’s landform, how to judge the opponents’ rough marching speed and direction based on the terrain and weather, how to eliminate irrelevant evidence and how to search by dividing the target area into smaller chunks. With my teaching, the scoreboard began to turn.
When the hiding team started complaining, I will lead them.
I taught them how to create ploy, how to annihilate all the traces left, how to make camouflage by utilizing the natural surroundings, and how to seek out blind spots in the enemy’s searching area.
After all of the three squadrons were familiar with these methods, I have seen a crucial issue: If I continued coaching the weaker team like this, not only I will die out of the exhaust, but these guys will never learn to use their brains.
Thus I seized coaching them. Instead, I started to hold regular meetings after the day’s training, attendance was mandatory. During the meeting, the winning party will share their methods used, the losing party should self-criticize the wrongs they did. The sentry team will be listening.
Fischer and I commented their performance on the spot, then nominate the ones that outperformed as provisional lieutenants. If the team they belonged kept on winning for a consecutive three times, they will become an official military officer.
This decision was like a bomb in water. All of my IGTs were the best warriors and mages. They were the noble ones who cannot tolerate anyone to be better than themselves. Thus everybody racked their brain and vowed to win over those nominated provision lieutenants. And indeed, the ones being triumphed over will not be impressed.
Hiding in the snow had long become an abandoned method, now my soldiers chose more to hide in the snow on the trees, or under the snow coverings on the commercial roads, or even in the thick ice. Also, none of them will do stupid things like random search any longer, these men knew to hear out the distant sounds by digging a small hole in the snow. They knew instinctively who and when and what race of soldier left a trace by a look of it, or by measuring finger then glancing the falling snow to know if the ground snow an act of unnatural intention.
Fischer’s and my elaborate creations have brought the IGT into a server state of competition. During the limitless training, there were countless deceptions: the hiding team was beyond anyone’s imagination, not even the most crafty fox will outperform them. The hunting teams were even astute that I dare say the most experienced hunter will praise them.
Watching them growing day by day, I was not so sure I can escape myself from their track anymore, or hunt them down from all the unimaginable places in the shortest time possible. However, generally speaking, their powers of learning were outstanding, it was a good thing.
Thus the training upgraded once again. This time, the hunting team had to find the opponents and ‘eliminate’ them. The hiding party was allowed to retaliate after the regulated time. Later on, we abandoned the time regulation, the retaliation was allowed after certain mini missions.
Fischer and I set the mini mission at our discretion. One purpose was to hide the real intention behind it, the other purpose was to upturn the soldier’s ability to rise to the occasion. Most of the mini missions were bizarre, they might be to stole ten cows from the neighbor village to show me and deliver them back, or to chop down a group of trees in a particular area.
And of course, the hunting team will be informed about these assignments, though only one out of the four was the intended.
As for the hiding team, they simply tried their best to conceal their real purpose by resorting any conceivable past training, from deception to temptation to all to fight back at the hunters. Because by then the hunting teams’ force will be the most dispersed.
Looking back at the hunting team, they would have to learn how to analyze limited and vague intelligence, then based on the traces they’ve spotted to determine the hiding teams’ true purpose in the shortest time possible. Once determined their mission has not been completed, the hunters needed to carry out the annihilation immediately; once their mission has completed, the hunters will have to preserve their powers quickly to self-preserve.
Fischer and I were with them throughout the mission. We wrote down every piece of their tactical action thoroughly, the wrong ones included, but instead of telling them they were wrong, we kept our mouths shut. Only until after the training did we tell them what they had done irrationally.
The three squadrons took turns to finish their assignments. Each one of them needed to play as the hunting team as their priority, then the hiding. Afterward, a new batch of temporary sub-lieutenants was nominated. Then the next squadron went on the sentry duty while the other two squadrons’ lieutenants took their precious time to meet and discuss future strategies as well as summary past experiences and study the map to prepare for the next mission.
As we went near home, the landform and climate changed, the duration of each training prolonged. From half days to a whole day, until the most recent three days and three nights.
Compared with the IGTs’ progression, their training has also brought in many adverse outcomes. First of all, without exception, bizarre events occurred at every place my soldiers went past, as a particular landlord’s carriage was dismantled out of the blue, or two other landlords woke up in the other’s kitchen, or god-knew-who built thousands of snowmen on a certain major commercial road. Though nobody dared to impose this accusation on me, when local bureaucrats from each empire came to see me, then often seemed inadvertent to ask, “Your honored Knight of Protoss, Lord Cohen, will you be leaving my jurisdictional area soon?”
Secondly, we have delayed our return due to the training. Our planned two month period of time to come back to our home country has almost depleted yet we were only half done. Someone might smack us if we cannot make it in time.
Thirdly, and of course, it was the complaint from our accompanied priests. He complained about my rude attitude on him from time to time, just because I used to treat another priest impolitely. He also complained that I was too careless once to leave him idle in the wild for two days.
Today, Fischer who realized the importance of such issue came looking for me, while I was talking to the Firmaments.
“You worry about that? Easy!” I said, “The three squadrons’ training is near completion. They have very familiarized with icy terrains and half iced landforms. Let’s arrange for one last training!”
“There’s one more?” Fischer shook his head, “Don’t you think it’s better to train back in Dark City?”
“Listen to me!” I said, “We need this training to get back sooner!”
“Alright,” Fischer agreed after hearing about my explanation, “But you’ll need to arrange better on the schedule!”
That day, I announced the near completion of the training. A feast will be served at night.
Camp fires were set up around our resting ground. A whole wild animal was barbecuing on the rack, drooping oil into the fire. A strong scent of meat smell began to disperse in the air.
The soldiers sat in three groups according to their team. A mix of troops from different races sat together, back to back. During the long period of training, they’ve learned that no significant difference has existed between races. Compared to the friendship and trust that were built during the training, any weird custom or rather deserted personalities were not worth mentioning.
The soldiers have already had the knowledge of how to approach a teammate from another race, how to gain his or her trust, how to make the other like you or how to deal with conflicts. From the aspect of military management or commanding, these near three hundred soldiers have possessed the qualification of junior officers.
Just imagine the scene where an elf and a sandman devouring fruit back to back, a human booing with another wingman, or an orc bragging stuffs to another dwarf. A happy and harmonious life was so this simple, to everyone.
“Ten-hut!” As Fischer and I exited the tent, my duty officer shouted out.
All soldiers stood up.
Fischer and I returned our salutes.
“As you all know, we spent a considerable amount of time on training,” Fischer said first, “so we have to end it early.”
“Indeed, now all of you, fill up your belly tonight,” I took over the subject, “tomorrow will be our last training.”
The soldiers shouted out, and their faces redden by the campfire.