BBYW Vol. 2 Chapter 26 (WN)
Chapter 26 – Eve of the Decisive Battle – The Soldiers’ Unease
“The battle is going to start tomorrow morning, then.”
“Yeah…can we really defeat the Maxwell forces, though…?”
On the east side of Fort Bryden, the soldiers of Lars Baal’s First Imperial Army were eating inside a tent. The menu was wheat boiled in water sprinkled with salt: very simple but certainly not very palatable. Their bodies, taxed by the long march, however, welcomed it eagerly, savoring the warmth it brought to their stomachs.
The warm meal probably loosened the soldiers’ focus: little by little, verbalized worries and fears started slipping past their lips.
Some of the soldiers in the tent had experienced the defeat against Maxwell five years prior. For them, the Maxwell soldiers were as terrifying as man-eating ogres: they couldn’t help but feel disheartened.
“Enough whining! Have you all forgotten that we are soldiers of the proud Baal empire!?”
The leader of the soldiers’ unit rebuked them harshly. The aged warrior, his expression even more stern than the usual, howled at his frightened subordinates.
“There is no question whether we ‘can’ win, just ‘how’ we win!! We, the First Imperial Army, shall lay the foundation of an empire on which the sun never sets!!”
“My apologies, we had a moment of weakness.”
The soldiers apologized one by one to their superior. His bold words managed to wipe away their fears for the moment.
Not all soldiers, however, appeared to have their spirits lifted.
“But captain…there’s a rumor that…”
“Rumor? What rumor?”
“That Lord Snowe made a deal with Prince Grett…”
The rumor in question had recently started circulating among the First Imperial Army troops.
Snowe Halphas, one of the closest retainers of Lars Baal, the soldiers’ supreme commander, had apparently made secret deals with Prince Grett, Lars’ greatest political enemy.
Several soldiers had seen Snowe going in and out of Grett’s offices: the rumor seemed to be fairly solid.
“That is complete nonsense! Nothing but prattle, meant to cause confusion and instability among our ranks!!”
The captain fiercely denied the rumors held any water, but he himself harbored doubts about Snowe’s conduct.
Snowe Halphas was a man of many skills.
He had an excellent education, was well versed in military strategy, and stood out even among the many seasoned warriors of the First Imperial Army. It was no wonder that he rose to the position of Prince Lars’ retainer at the age of 20.
The young “Wise General”, however, was far from perfect: some of his defects were too glaring to ignore. The greatest of them was his inability to realize how he was seen by the people around him.
The First Imperial Army housed a great number of knights that valued military prowess over all else — possibly a reflection of the temperament of their leader, Lars Baal. In such an environment, someone like Snowe Halphas, who excelled in schemes and strategy first and foremost, was often the target of grievances.
His older brother, Eis Halphas, was in a position similar to Snowe, but had someone at his side that understood him well: Bjorc Zagann. He thus did not feel isolated in the army.
Snowe, however, had no such ally and many resented or envied him. Many of the knights in the First Imperial Army hounded him, eager to uncover any misstep he made.
Because of such a background, the rumors concerning Snowe’s alleged betrayal spread like wildfire.
(That bullheaded brat cannot be trusted…but as long as Prince Lars places his trust in him, there is nothing we can say or do!)
“If you have time to waste on baseless rumors, prepare for the battle instead!! Do not think you will have time to sleep from tomorrow on!!”
The captain shared the soldiers’ feelings, but was forced to say the opposite. They were going to fight alongside the Second Imperial Army, despite the fact that they knew it couldn’t be trusted. They could not afford for tensions to break out inside their own forces.
(If the rumors are really true, he will surely try something during this battle! When that happens, I shall defend Prince Lars!)
As the soldiers left the tent, the captain steeled his resolve.