Author's notes: I'm back. Now before the Turn, I'll be answering some questions (the ones that I can spot as being for the Turn before this).

Guest: What you said about the rifles and other advanced firearms are indeed right. However, keep in mind that this story is crossed over with Command & Conquer Generals not real life so real life limitations aren't a concern here like in other fanfics such as those crossed over with GATE. I can apply those real life limitations but I'll have to drop the C&C crossover part of the story.

Guest: The ALC commander in that situation offered a "proof" that he wasn't lying. Said "proof" being to launch a barrage of arrows at the enemy general's general direction (except they fell short of him and his troops). I'm going to admit it's an exaggerated bluff but when you present a "proof" that implies it (i.e. you need a lot of archers which means a lot of men to pull off a salvo like that), the enemy will be subconsciously forced (as they don't know of the Hwacha which allowed for that kind of stunt to happen) to believe what you're going to say even if it's outrageous. Then add psychological factor here: the ALC commander was talking to the enemy general as if he has the upper hand in the situation. Combine those two and you get a recipe that makes that sort of thing to happen.

Thaqif: I'll be updating "Sentient Familiar of Zero" in the future. Playing AC3: SL (making an AI AC in particular) just saps most of my time for this.

Guest and Guest: If you see the ALC that way, I intentionally made them like that since I'm aiming to make this story to have a touch of "black and grey morality." Speaking of that, I want to portray them as fallible beings like any other human being is. Their negative traits that you have pointed out will become a plot point later in the story as a roadblock that they must overcome which will define their character development later on. Also, another reason why I settled for this is that I felt that the ALC being completely unalloyed good while Reconquista being pure evil as being too bland and cliché. Also, those ALC troops you saw were just a portion not an entire representation of ALC soldiers in the story so not all of them will be behaving as such.

Guest and MDS: The Windstone Catastrophe will be dealt with later on. Since you brought it up, that's going to be an overriding plot device later on (in a sequel perhaps).

Blue050645TL: ALL high-tech combat gear will be restricted until late in the story. I don't want to give the ALC too much game-breaking weapons (i.e. the Juggernaut) this early in the "campaign"/story.

Now, with the questions answered, here's the Turn! Be advised that this is around 40K words in total. Not much to say here because, like the last Turn, I posted this in my limited free time thanks to my real life commitments.

========== Turn 23: Blood God ==========

It is thus more potent, as well as more economical, to disarm the enemy than to attempt his destruction by hard fighting … A strategist should think in terms of paralyzing, not of killing.
– Sir Basil H. Liddell Hart


The sky was burning. Hundreds of large stones dropped from the sky in clusters by massive flying behemoths fell from the sky like rain. Upon touching the ground, the same stones then exploded with tremendous power disintegrating anything unfortunate enough to be below or near the stones when they exploded. As the large stones crashed on the ground, bright blue pillars of light pierced the sky and torn asunder anything that received the unfortunate fate to be right below the pillars of light.

Aside from the stones and pillars of light, humans wearing weird sand-colored clothes that seem to blend with the desert's sands jumped out of the back of some of the behemoths, slightly smaller than the ones dropping the large stones, and to their apparent deaths. However, a few moments after they jumped, strips of cloth hurled away from the humans' backs and expanded into large balls of cloths that slowed their descent down to the earth which would have killed them had they descended at too fast speed.

The slowly-descending humans took several minutes before they touched the ground. Once they were on the ground, they immediately stripped the strips of cloth that saved them from what should be their deaths and heaved what looks like black-metallic sticks that seemed to be muskets of unknown design which they held weirdly. One of the humans yelled something to his kind before all of them moved with the same human who spoke leading the way. As the humans advanced, more of their kind touched the ground in the same fashion and did the same as them.

All over Nephthys, the homeland of the elves, corpses of dead elves litter the land. The very soil and the walls of the various buildings of the capital city were smeared in blood as the same humans who descended from the sky pushed their way through scores of elves still alive who were mounting a resistance that seemed futile. It seemed futile in the face of the humans' fearsome weapons that took the shape of muskets of unknown design which they were carrying on their descent. Those same black-colored muskets spew out fire that kills any living soul in its general direction in a terrifying rate. One of the humans armed with such weapons mowed down dozens of Elven soldiers with contemptuous ease.

The same scene of humans in weird clothing slaughtering elves was repeated all over the capital. Supporting these unknown humans were metallic wagons with what seems to be a cannon of unknown bore encased in some kind of turret which was free to rotate on top of the wagon's body. If the black muskets spew out fire at an alarming rate, the metallic wagons spew out huge fireballs from their cannons whenever they fire. In terms of absolute destruction, the cannons of these metallic wagons were superior to even the cannons mounted on Elven warships. While the cannons on the Elven warship were more powerful per shot, the unbelievable accuracy and range of the cannons of these metallic wagons were far above than what they should have for their size. From a viewpoint of battle, these metallic wagons were far more deadly than the unknown humans with their black muskets for they were capable of pulverizing anything made of flesh in one shot to the point nothing was left of that being except a pinch of black ash on the very ground where the being stood before getting shot.

While a bountiful slaughter continued to happen in the ground, the sky was also bleeding as it was burning. Above the skies were Elven dragon riders who were desperately doing everything they can to stave off the human horde from rampaging all over the Elven capital. Despite their best efforts, it was not enough. In the same bleeding sky were huge sword-shaped metallic constructs that moved too fast to the point even an Elf's superior peripheral vision over a human cannot track. These flying constructs, which apparently belonged to the humans, flew at an unbelievable speed so fast that the Elven dragon riders cannot catch up. Although the flying constructs were fast, flying at unimaginable speeds was not the only thing they can do. After getting a good angle of attack at any of the Elven dragon riders, the flying constructs turned almost instantly and made a beeline towards their target before they spew out fire at an impressive rate aimed at an Elven dragon rider bisecting him in pieces. Before the flying construct can even fly past the Elven dragon rider it targeted, its victim was already falling from the sky in pieces all the while his blood drew weird lines in the sky before meeting the unceremonious fate of crashing in the sand like a splat of red.

However, spewing fire was not the only thing these infernal constructs that fly in the sky can do. Through some unknown devil's magic, it can use the metallic rods attached under its wings to also attack the Elven dragon riders. These metallic rods disconnect from the wings of the flying constructs, seemingly fall down to the sky, and then a spew of flames erupt on one end of it that seems to be its tail as if it went to life before beginning to chase an Elven dragon rider. One such rider getting the unfortunate fate of getting targeted maneuvered his dragon stead in order to avoid the thing crashing into him. However, for all of his efforts, the thing eventually proceeded to kill him.

Unlike the assumption that the rod will crash into him, the rod exploded when it was close enough to him spraying deadly flames and steel fragments of unknown origin straight at him and his stead. Because the rod exploded literally next to him, his entire body and parts of his stead were immolated by the rod's explosion. After a split second, he and his stead began a fast descent screaming in agony all the way to the ground. The echoes of the scream that yelled pain continued until the rider and his stead made an unceremonious red splat on the sand.

These two heinous tricks were what these infernal constructs use against the Elven dragon riders for the most part. However, there were also times that these infernal constructs refrained from attacking them for one reason or another. One such reason was the Elven dragon riders were returning fire on them. Unfortunately, that was a futile effort for these infernal constructs effortlessly dodged any attacks aimed at them. Outside of the dragon riders returning fire, the infernal constructs maneuvered in a way to do either trick they showed but, instead of going on with it, held back in attacking. From a clueless mind, it would seem that these infernal constructs have run out of anything they can throw. However, it was a hope dashed as quickly as it formed. The infernal constructs eventually attacked a few moments later.

It would then dawn on any living being's mind on the reason for such a move. It was because these infernal constructs derive enjoyment from inflicting despair and misery on their victims. However, they also seem to enjoy giving their victims a sense of hope which they will let develop for a few moments before utterly and mercilessly crushing it with flames, explosions, and death. The Devil with his cursed magic may have been the worst enemy of the Elven race. However, the degree of cruelty displayed by these humans, who were his playthings, was unprecedented.

When all of the Elven dragon riders were dead, the infernal constructs proceeded to leave the skies by going in the opposite direction of Nephthys. As they were high up in the sky, the numerous clouds in the sky were unintentionally obscuring from view anything up in the sky. As the infernal constructs flew away from the elves' homeland, several massive flying steel warships burst out of the clouds. However, these warships were unlike any that flew the world's skies. Instead of having the traditional design of cannons encased in turrets located on the deck of the ship and some cannons on the hull as was the design of human flying warships, the ships in question only has a flat surface area long and big enough for the infernal constructs to land on it which the constructs did along with a tower of some kind on one of its sides. However, before the constructs can land, more of the same constructs which were on the ship's flat surface flew off as if to take the place of the ones about to land on it. There were also smaller flying warships around it, likely the massive warships' escorts, which tend to resemble the traditional design of flying warships albeit they look undergunned for their size for they lack the number of cannons that a human warship has.

As the slaughter raged on, the unknown humans were able to make a beeline towards the Elven Senate Building and were now well on their way to capture it. A fierce battle raged around the building as the humans threw a lot of their forces at it while the elves desperately committed almost every force they have left to defending it. However, just like the earlier fights across the capital, it was a losing battle for the elves. Eventually, the humans prevailed. Shortly after they victory, the humans went for the roof of the building to raise what appears to be their flag on a pole they also brought. The flag in question consists of a blue cloth, an irony because of how much Elven blood they spilled, that has one large white star with six tips on the top left corner with three horizontal stripes just near the bottom of the flag. A few moments later, they hoisted the flag on the top of the pole and planted it on the roof of the building.

Cheers coming from the humans erupted both on the roof of the building and those fighting what remained of the elves on the ground. As the humans cheered, so do the Blood God. With so many deaths and blood covering the ground, the Blood God was pleased of this bountiful slaughter. Innumerable souls were now destined to come under his jurisdiction for they were all killed under his name. As the Blood God surveyed the deaths before him, he was surprised to see an interesting revelation which came to his attention. Of the deaths in this slaughter, only a few of the humans were killed. They were so few that they might not as well exist as the Blood God decreed. Although disappointing in a way, the Blood God was still pleased for he now found a champion or, more proper to say, an army of champions to carry out his will of death and destruction.

As the cheers continued, winged demons, stained with the blood of fallen elves, flew above the completely defiled Senate building. From the viewpoint of an innocent onlooker, the winged demons sport a grayish metal skin and a face that shows nothing but a rectangular hole of some kind where a blue glowing light can be seen. The same glowing light also manifests itself on the demon's wings. These features combined with the blood stains all over its body give off the feel of a truly horrifying demon the likes of which elves nor have humans even heard off.

These winged demons, likely the spawns of the Blood God, continued circling around the Senate building as the humans cheered on their victory over the Elven race. With the Blood God showing interest on these humans, it was safe to say that these demons were in the area to bear witness to the tribute to the Blood God that the humans made. And a tribute will always be reciprocated with a blessing from the Blood God. A blessing that only champions that proved themselves with the blood of their slain enemies can attain. As the cheers continued, the Blood God's mad laughter can be heard from another plane of existence.

Unknown Area…

0100 Hours…

It was in the middle of the night. Everything was quiet except for the laborious breathing by the sole occupant of one room of a large house in the desert.

After getting up from the bed, Aqil was breathing heavily over a dream he just had.

"Just what does that dream mean?", Aqil asked to himself as he caught his breath.

The dream he just had being called a dream was an understatement. It was a nightmare. A nightmare that was completely unthinkable even to a scholar such as him. And even then, nightmares were at least something that can plausibly happen no matter how flimsy the chance for it to occur. However, this nightmare was far above that.

Humans slaughtering elves?

Aqil thought about it. In the entire history of the elves, the opposite was what actually happened. It was the elves slaughtering humans in every single occasion the humans decided to pick a fight with them. There wasn't even any fight where the humans obtained anything resembling a victory as far as he know.

However, there was one thing that seems strange in that dream. The flag the humans were using: a simple blue flag with the least amount of decorations in the form of stars and some stripes. As far as he can tell, no human kingdom was using a flag of that design. If they were not any of the kingdoms, who can they be?

Aqil thought deeply about that. If that flag was of any indication, this meant that the humans who he saw in that nightmare were not any of the existing human kingdoms. The fact that they weren't dressed the way the soldiers of the human kingdoms were was another proof that seems to back this up. Instead of wearing armor, they were wearing strange clothes that doesn't look it can offer any protection but tend to blend well with the desert sand. They do have helmets and what passes as body armor but they seem to be insufficient in protecting the wearer. Their strange but extremely deadly muskets further reinforce this possibility. Although the human kingdoms do use muskets and even the elves, the sheer power that those muskets possess were far and away surpassing that of the ones in use by either the elves or the human kingdoms. Furthermore, the humans put magic as their principal means of offense against the elves with mundane weapons as support. In the case of these mysterious humans, it was the opposite albeit magic doesn't seem to see any use at all unless the pillars of light were one such example of their magic.

Pinching the bridge of his nose from thinking too much, Aqil continued to make an analysis of these strange humans he saw in his nightmare. Another observation he saw from these humans was that they lack the traditional magical constructs and beasts of war that the human kingdoms fielded in their excursions in the Holy Lands. On the ground, instead of gargantuan earth golems, the mysterious humans have those strange metallic wagons with cannons on a rotating turret on them that was so good in killing anything at range. In the air, instead of dragons and other flying beasts, they have those infernal flying constructs that proved more than capable of butchering anything the elves have in the sky. Instead of wooden ships, they have what seem to be steel-hulled ships and they're huge with some easily dwarfing what the elves have.

That next observation doesn't make any sense. Aqil thought. Everything that these unknown humans have was completely contradictory of what the human kingdoms have. The only reason why he even views them as humans was due to the fact that they look as such. Past that, they don't seem to have anything in common with the human kingdoms. The way they wage war being the most prominent but that probably has something to do with the way he saw that nightmare. It was simply unreal.

Aqil walked towards the window in his room to inhale some fresh air. Thinking too much on a mysterious dream that doesn't make any sense, the gentle breeze of the night helped to soothe his senses.

As the breeze soothed his senses, Aqil focused his gaze on the horizon. Being in the desert, the only thing he can see from the window of his house was the endless expanse of sand as the light of the two moons up in the sky provided illumination which allowed him to see the sand. However, for all the sand he can see, he knew that a sea was on the other end of where he was standing at.

And behind that sea lie the human-controlled lands.

The lands that serve as the home of the barbaric humans which likely include those he saw in his dream. Now that he thought about it, Aqil wondered about the lands the humans inhabit. Over the course of history, elves never bothered to take into account the exact state of the human lands itself given that elves doesn't really want to be bothered with humans.

Being the Devil's descendants, it would be safe to assume that the human lands were foul wastelands tainted by the Devil's magic. However, there was no such evidence that this was the case. On another note, it was also unclear how humans live there especially if the Devil's magic, being pure evil made manifest, had contaminated the lands which likely continue to this day if such about the Devil's magic was actually true.

However, all of these musings still can't answer the one question that formed up in Aqil's mind.

"Just what is that dream telling me about the humans?", Aqil thought to himself.

Meanwhile, in a firing range somewhere in Saltisbury…

1200 Hours…

It was already noon yet the sound of gunfire can still be heard as fresh ALC troops, that still trickle in some reasonable numbers as the days pass, continue practicing their shooting skills in one of the fort's wide courtyards turned into a firing range.

Firing from a prone position, the ALC troops in training were firing their Negev machine guns in bursts in between of three to five rounds while keeping their gun sights on target just five hundred meters away from them. For rookie troops, the recoil generated whenever their machine guns fire makes it hard for them to keep their sights on their target as the recoil throws their aim off. Even in a prone position, the rookie status of these troops meant that maintaining accurate fire was hard as these troops weren't acclimated to the nature of their weapons yet.

As the rookie troops continued firing, the handful of ALC soldiers in the area inspected the shooting performance of the new recruits.

"Aren't those the new machine guns the rookies are using?", an ALC soldier asked.

"Yeah, they are", a second ALC soldier replied.

"Man, immediately getting the chance to use new gear, these guys sure are lucky", the first ALC soldier said.

"Nah, they're being already trained on it", a third ALS soldier said, "I heard that the Negev machine gun is supposed to become our standard machine gun from now so it's a good idea to get the troops used to using it. Production of that machine gun started as soon as we got a large supply of Galil rifles."

"Oh yeah", the first ALC soldier replied, "We'll probably get the ACRF-40 replaced by this before this war ends."

"The Negev's not as heavy as the ACRF-40 while having more than twice the ammunition capacity per box", the third ALC soldier added, "I bet it's the better machine gun between it and the ACRF-40."

"Seeing what role machine guns are being used for", the second ALC soldier said, "Yeah, it's the better machine gun."

"With at least a hundred bullets per box, I'm betting any fucker unlucky enough to be in front of it is guaranteed dead", the third AC soldier said.

"Well, unless they're zombies or such", a fourth ALC soldier joined the conversation, "Doesn't stop them from getting mowed down eventually though."

"Zombies?", the second ALC soldier said, "Are you really serious?"

"Well, I think so", the fourth ALC soldier answered, "There's rumors spreading around that the soldiers from Leichestar that we captured are zombies. If that's actually true, well that shows how those guys were able to charge into heavy gunfire without a care for their lives."

"That's… that's kinda scary", the third ALC soldier said, "I mean, if those fuckers are turning people like us into undead, they'll eventually run us down with sheer numbers which they'll get from corpses they can get their hands on."

"Not unless we put a lead between their eyes", the first ALC soldier replied, "We have come down this far. We can't back down now no matter what they'll throw at us."

"That's true", the fourth ALC soldier added, "Zombies or not, we should beat them down for good."

"It's time those fuckers get what's coming for them", the second ALC soldier said, "We've been under their boot forever and we always get the short end of the stick every single time."

"On a different matter, does anybody know why we're shifting battle-experienced troops off the frontlines and replacing them with freshly-trained troops?"

"Now that I think about it, no", the first ALC soldier said, "That doesn't make any sense to me especially at a time like this."

"To give those troops rest and some breathing space to relax", a voice from behind said, "While giving the fresh meat some battle experience."

The AL C soldiers turned around only to see a familiar figure.

"Commander Henry", the four ALC soldiers said as they saluted.

"Is there something here that requires your attention?", the third ALC soldier asked.

"Nothing actually", Henry replied as he returned the salute, "I just want to see how more of our new recruits are doing.

Henry observed the rookie soldiers as they tested their shooting skills. From Henry's perspective, the rookie troops seem to have a hard time hitting targets within a five hundred meter range as their shots get sprayed all over the place. However, they seem to be wise enough to realize that going for a fully automatic firing will drop their accuracy even further so they were firing in bursts where the recoil was far more manageable than holding the trigger until the ammunition runs out instead. As he continued observing the rookie troops, one of the soldiers with him asked a question.

"Sir, what do you mean give them a breathing space and rest?", the second ALC soldier asked, "I'm just curious about it."

"Ah that", Henry said, "You see, as troops fight and, obviously, survive their battles, they tend to rack a lot of kills on top of battle experience. However, as those kills and battle experience go up, so does stress."

"Stress?", the first ALC soldier, "You mean depression? Why would the troops be depressed if they're winning?"

"It's not depression", Henry replied, "The stress I'm talking about here is their state of mind where killing the enemy takes utmost priority above all else."

"That doesn't sound too bad", the fourth ALC soldier said, "If our troops are determined to kill the enemy, wouldn't that mean we could chip off Reconquista's forces faster and hand us a victory sooner than later?"

"As much as it sounds attractive, it does give us a number of long-term side effects that can do us in if we got careless", Henry replied, "Since our troops are in that state of mind thanks to the kills they racked up beforehand, they will end up prioritizing killing the enemy even if that would mean either defying orders or breaking formation. That's the primary concern behind this sort of thing."

"So troops that want to kill the enemy no matter what are a liability then?", the third ALC soldier asked.

"That's right", Henry answered, "Troops that act like that can compromise detailed battle plans and defensive actions as they can potentially open a gap just to kill the enemy which, ironically, the enemy can exploit to his advantage."

"Worse, they might end up doing it at the most critical of moments", Henry said, "That's going to cost us a lot. That doesn't even include the likely loss of these experienced troops."

Henry then glanced at the rookie troops training before them. He sighed before speaking again.

"You know how long does it take to train troops of reasonable quality right?", Henry asked the ALC soldiers with him.

All four ALC soldiers nodded.

"Well, that makes explaining this easier", Henry said, "Politics and military planning aside, since battles and wars are often decided on how well a military performs in combat, it is good to always have your experienced troops at top form and ensure they can survive battles you're going to send them at at all times. Losing experienced troops will not do us in outright since they're technically replaceable but it hampers our fighting capability until we can get troops of similar quality to replace those we lost which the enemy can take advantage of to defeat us."

"So does that mean we have the upper hand on Reconquista now?",the first ALC soldier asked, "I mean, we just killed their entire dragon knight corps back in Saltisbury. That should hamper their fighting capability right? They're elite soldiers after all."

"That's right", Henry answered, "However, even if we did killed them, Reconquista still has a number of other cards to play against us so we can't afford to slip if we are to win against them."

"Well fuck", the first ALC soldier said, "What would it take to bring down all of their advantages so we can defeat them?"

"Sir, I heard rumors that Reconquista is using necromancy against us, is it true?", the fourth ALC soldier asked, "It's been going around for some time already."

"Actually, High Command is theorizing that it could be the case", Henry said.

Upon hearing Henry's words, the four ALC soldiers tensed which Henry immediately noticed.

"However, it's just a conjecture at the moment", Henry added, "It's all based on the tests conducted on the Reconquista soldiers we captured at Leichestar which just amounts to one battle. That isn't enough to prove anything so it's still up for grabs on what the hell's actually happening."

"Wait, so does that mean the guys that we captured are already zombies?", the third ALC soldier asked.

"Possibly", Henry replied, "Not to scare you four but some of those enemy soldiers that we captured have been showing signs of decay and cannibalistic tendencies lately. That fits well with what zombies do."

The ALC soldiers talking with Henry gulped before one of them asked another question.

"Does that mean we can go all out in kicking Reconquista's ass?", the second ALC soldier asked, "If they're using zombies against us, we shouldn't be holding back and try to kill as many of them as possible."

"No", Henry replied, "As it stands, this is just an isolated case. Up to Leichestar, the Reconquista soldiers we captured were fine. They don't show the characteristics that their counterparts at Leichestar have. Unless the next couple of battles that we're going to find ourselves in are against enemy soldiers that show zombie-like tendencies, we can't go all out exactly. It's going to hurt our reputation amongst the rest of Albion's population."

"Sir, what do you mean reputation?", the third ALC soldier asked.

"Oh, it looks like you're not aware of it yet", Henry said, "As of right now, our reputation in the areas that we control is quite good. However, in territories still controlled by Reconquista, it isn't. But Reconquista's isn't any better either. We can't just go and kill in everybody down there if we are to eventually take over Albion. We need to earn the populace's trust to do so by being better than Reconquista. Now that reminds me, that's quite another reason why our troops on the frontlines are to be shifted back to the rear for them to rest and relax."

"Let me guess", the first ALC soldier interrupted Henry, "Since those guys are just going plain high on killing off Reconquista soldiers, they might end up killing those civilians thinking they're Reconquista supporters or such which could be bad for our reputation right?"

"Yes, that's the reason", Henry said, "We don't want the folks living under Reconquista-controlled territories to see us as bloodthirsty fuckers. We need them to see us as people that are with them."

"Oh", the fourth ALC soldier exclaimed.

"If we are to show our good intent to the rest of Albion's population, we must pass off as friendly as possible from their perspective", Henry said, "Should we win their hearts and minds, this would mean additional manpower for us to use against Reconquista."

"That makes sense", the first ALC soldier said, "If we really want to win with the people behind us, we need to be the good guys then."

"Since Reconquista isn't that popular with the common folk, this should be doable", the third ALC soldier added.

"It isn't should be double but completely doable", Henry corrected, "Our spies operating in Reconquista-controlled territories are indicating that the people down there are pretty resentful of Reconquista. They are not just doing anything because they don't have the capacity to pull it off."

"Well, that's quite reassuring to hear", the second ALC soldier replied, "That means we're not just us in this fight."

"And if we are to enlist their help in this fight, we must get their trust first", Henry replied, "Anyways, continue supervising these rookies. They'll come in handy in the next couple of battles we'll fight as our experienced troops take time off the battlefield for once."

Meanwhile, somewhere in Dortmund…

1300 Hours…

Dortmund, a large city located in Albion's southwestern region. Due to its location, in the plains before the mountainous north, it serves as the gateway of Albion's southern territories with its northern counterparts. However, between it and the Northern Provinces were several smaller settlements such as the mining town of Ingleton just at the very edge of the northern part of Albion. Thanks to its large size, Dortmund was able to fulfill the role in question for its larger size than the smaller settlements separating it with the Northern Provinces makes it far more conducive to handling things like trade with the northern part of Albion. As such, the city itself was bustling in trade with various merchants plying products of various make everywhere. Every single hour, dozens upon dozens of wagons containing valuable goods arrive in the city while a roughly proportionate amount of wagons was also leaving the city to deliver goods to other locations as well.

Despite all of these happenings, something else was happening in the city's slum areas. In one such dilapidated house, six men inside it were busy doing something. Of the six men, three of them were busy writing something on a table, two were busy drawing something on the same table, and the sixth man was preoccupied with checking a lot of papers and arranging blocks of them via stacking them on top of one another.

"Hey, ensure that thing is well-hidden", one of the men writing on the table said to the one busy with stacking the papers.

"Yes, I'm working on it", the man in question replied, "This thing looks like nothing but a giant block of metal. So long as the buttons and switches aren't seen, nobody's going to turn an eye on this thing."

"We're not taking any chances", the first man answered, "That thing's value is far higher than our lives combined. We cannot let that thing fall to the enemy."

"Yeah", another man, one of the men drawing something, said, "I can't believe that High Command just gave us this thing for our mission. Getting entrusted with this sort of equipment, High Command sure puts a lot of faith into intelligence gathering."

"Didn't they gave this thing to us to make our job a whole lot easier?", another man who was drawing on the table asked, "I mean, with this thing, we don't have to travel back and forth just to deliver whatever information we get our hands on making it less likely for us to get exposed."

"Well, they do", the first man said, "And that makes it more important that we take good care of it. The success of our mission depends on it."

The man who was sorting the papers eventually finished what he was doing. With the task done, he shifted his attention on several crates made of oak lying on the ground. Deciding that he needs confirmation on what to do, he asked the first man who talked.

"Hey boss, what are we going to do with the crates?", the man asked.

"Ah, you mean the contrabands that we're using as our cover as a smuggling ring from Germania?", the first man, possibly the leader, said.

"Yes, these crates", the man confirmed as he singled out the few of the crates.

"Just store them somewhere that we can easily manage handling", the first man answered, "These things are crucial to maintain our cover. Also, don't bother trying to do anything with these."

"Ah boss, why do we need to not mess with it again?", another of the men writing on the table asked, "If I'm not mistaken, these things are just leaves."

"Those leaves you are talking about are strange medicinal herbs that induce weird… but interesting… effects on the human mind and health", the first man answered, "The Ranger who briefed me on this one says that it can make you go high on it that you'll start hallucinating and act not to be yourself. It doesn't help that it's addicting that the first use of it can potentially lead to more uses. Worst case, consuming too much of it can lead to death as well."

The last thing that the leader of the group said caused the other men with him to pause with disbelief shown clearly on their faces. An air of silence followed before one of the men broke the silence.

"What?", a man, one that was writing on the table, said, "A bunch of leaves can kill people? That's just plain crazy."

"As much as I don't want to believe it, that's the truth", the leader replied, "Before we were airlifted on this mission through those big flying contraptions the Rangers called a 'Chinook', the same Ranger and one of those scientists showed me what happens when those leaves are consumed in large amounts. The consequences of consuming it are not so pleasant to be honest. Since those Rangers aren't screwing around, I'm taking their word for it."

"Well, this shit is crazy", the man who was sorting the papers earlier commented, "Bloody leaves can kill you."

"Yeah, it's crazy", the leader replied, "Then again, with how things just went for us, I'm going to accept this insane logic about these leaves as truth."

"You mean that the noble in charge of this city, who has a penchant for buying smuggled goods, ended up liking it to the point we, posing as a Germanian smuggling ring, managed to get any potential prying eyes off us in exchange of us handing over all of the leaves we can smuggle, which is what we made them believe, to that noble?", the second man who was drawing asked.

"Yeah", the leader said, "Personally, the debriefing I got myself into said specifically that. It's as if High Command was expecting this to happen all along."

"I'm placing my bets that High Command planned this through", the fourth man, one of the ones writing, said, "With that noble likely having records in cities like Saltisbury, they probably made a plan with this noble's personality taken into account."

"If I'm not mistaken, that noble's damn rich that it allowed him to get any vices he desired easily", the fifth man, another one who was writing, said.

"Yeah, that sucker's so rich that it was said that he funded roughly a tenth of Reconquista's fighting army on his own", the third man, one of the two men drawing, added, "Seriously, when he liked these leaves, he paid us generously for it."

"Too bad, that's going to bite him in the ass later on", the sixth man said, "With any luck, he should die from taking too much of that leaves in."

"A clean kill if that happens", the leader commented, "Should it happen, that saves us a lot of effort trying to kill him should a kill order from High Command come to us. After our work's done, we can easily bail out of this place."

After saying the last sentence, the leader looked at some of the crates, colored differently than the ones holding the mysterious leaves, and gave an order to the sixth man.

"Ensure that those particular crates are shut tight", the leader ordered referring to the differently colored crates, "We'll need them when we're about to get our asses out of here."

"Right boss", the sixth man said happily, "Of the stuff that we brought with us, the things in these crates are my favorites."

"Well then, you should keep that thing really shut tight until we need to use it", the leader replied.

As the men were preoccupied with a lot of things inside the house, another event was unfolding somewhere else in the city.

Inside a small pub in the other end of the city, two men inside was just spending their time drinking lazing around to pass time. As the both of them were chugging the mugs of beer that they ordered, the barkeeper, a middle-aged woman, approached them.

"I heard that the two of you fled from the Northern Provinces held by the rebels", the barkeeper said, "So what's going on there?"

"You won't believe me", one of the two men sighed putting the mug on the table, "Those guys are just bloody insane."

"You mean the rebels?", the barkeeper asked.

"Yeah", the same man replied as he took another chug at his mug, "There's so insane that they thoroughly trashed elements of the Imperial Army there with ease. They even toasted every single dragon knight in one of the battles that they fought the Imperial Army."

"You must be joking", the barkeeper replied, "Dragon knights are very powerful. The rebels probably have mages of their own to deal with them."

"Those mages are too prideful to take orders from those rebels that are commoners like us", the other man interrupted, "No way they'll do that. They're probably locked out somewhere up in the North in some prison cells there."

"Serves those bastards right", the first man added, "It's time they taste the feeling of getting mixed in those cells."

So… why did you guys fled here by the way?", the barkeeper asked.

"Considering our trade, they might not like it", the second man answered.

"Why did you think so?", the barkeeper replied.

"Well, they started doing some bloody crackdowns on whatever organized bandit gangs are in the areas they controlled", the first man said as he took another gulp at his mug, "Instead of waiting for them to set their sights on us, we decided to flee immediately."

"Are they really that brutal?", the barkeeper asked.

"I don't know", the first man answered, "We value our necks so we fled immediately."

"Oh…", the barkeeper mused, "It must be tough for you guys up there."

"It would be tough if we ended up staying there", the second man said, "For all we know, those guys will just round us up, line us against the wall, and execute us."

Just as the barkeeper was about to reply back, a newcomer suddenly tapped one of the two men from behind.

"So you guys came from the Northern Provinces?", the newcomer asked.

"Yeah", the first man said as he turned around.

Upon turning around, the man saw that the newcomer was accompanied by three more men. Taking in their looks into account and the way they were dressed both of which gives off the feel of being mercenaries as the newcomers took seats on the table adjacent to theirs, the man sighed internally before a thought registered in his mind.

"Germanians", the first man thought, "What are these guys doing here?"

Before he can think more about it, the newcomer, who occupied one of the empty seats beside the one he and his companion were sitting on, began to speak.

"What's going on up there?", the newcomer asked, "Since you guys came there, I guess you have an idea about that."

"It's a bloody chaos", the first man answered, "Those rebels are tearing into the nobles like a hot knife cutting through wet paper."

"Really, how are those rebels doing it then?", the newcomer asked, "Do they have mages?"

"Uh no", the second man said, "They're using some sort of muskets to do it."

"Muskets?", the newcomer asked, "Those are not something you'll want to use against mages since they suck."

"Those muskets aren't the same thing you know", the second man replied, "I don't know how those guys did it but their muskets or whatever those may be are damn accurate to the point they can shoot people from a really really far off distance and that doesn't even consider that those things fire multiple shots in a row rapidly instead of a single shot that muskets are."

"Very strange", the newcomer commented.

"So what business do you have with those rebels?", the first man asked, "Don't tell me you people are allied with them?"

"Our boss is just interested in them", the newcomer replied, "He heard their exploits from somebody else while he's still in Germania doing some other jobs there."

"Tch… these guys are definitely mercenaries", the first man thought before he spoke, "And why is your boss interested in them?"

"Not sure", the newcomer replied, "When he heard about them from one of his close associates there who paid him a generous sum of money, he began setting up for an excursion here in Albion just for them."

"We're bound to go to Leichestar but the rebels got a hold of that port town before we can get there", the newcomer added.

"You guys really wanted to die?", the second man asked, "Those rebels are dead serious in killing the nobles they can get their hands on."

"We're not going to face them in battle", the newcomer answered, "Just get a concrete idea of who they really are is enough."

"These guys seem to be coming for us for intelligence gathering purposes", the first man thought to himself, "High Command must be alerted to this."

"Well, the Northern Provinces is crawling full of them", the first man said, "Hope you don't piss them off by accident because, if you do, well you guys are going straight to your deaths."

"Are they really that brutal?", the newcomer asked, "By how you're portraying them, they seem to be really bloodthirsty murderers."

"I don't know", the first man replied, "But I don't want to find out since dying horribly could be one of the outcomes for that."

"Heh, running away like cowards", the newcomer said, "If it wasn't for this, I would like to have some fight with them."

"Ugh… you're nuts", the first man replied, "Call me a coward but I don't intend to die horribly. Their muskets are reducing whoever gets hit by it to a bloody stain on the ground."

"How did you know about that?", the newcomer asked.

"We ran across some of them butchering some mages up in the North", the first man answered, "Fortunately, they didn't bother to pay any attention to us. They're busy slaughtering any noble that are fighting them. I just want to forget it."

"They seem to be a crazy bunch", the newcomer commented, "What do they do to commoners?"

At the question, the barkeeper, who was listening to the entire conversion the whole time, paid more attention to it.

"Well, they just leave them alone to their own devices", the first man said, "Before we left, I recall hearing that they're recruiting their soldiers from the commoners living in the areas they control. Hell, if I'm getting it right, they're even getting those people trained in the use of those muskets in the forts of some cities they captured."

"They're preparing for a massive fight with Reconquista?", the newcomer asked.

"I don't know", the first man replied, "Like what I said, we fled the instant we got the chance. We don't want to risk dying there."

"Oh", the newcomer said, "Looks like these guys are damn dangerous."

"That should already be obvious what with them cunt punching the Reconquista up there", the first man said, "Messing with mages doesn't end well unless you're more powerful than them. Those guys did it so they're obviously powerful."

"Man, we're probably going to be in a bind here", the newcomer said.

"Against such a powerful group, you're really going to be in a bind", the second man commented before chugging the beer on his mug, "Also, tell your boss that he's nuts. Reconquista can't do a bloody shit against them so I doubt you mercenaries can do it either."

The second man's comment caught the newcomer and his companions by surprise what with them subconsciously jerking upon getting called mercenaries.

"How did you know that we're mercenaries?", the newcomer asked.

"You said something about jobs in Germania along with your boss being there", the second man said, "Besides, you guys look like Germanians."

"Calling us mercenaries just because we look like Germanians?", the newcomer asked incredulously, "Don't be ridiculous."

"Well, do you Germanians have any business of high value here in Albion other than being mercenaries?", the second man asked.

At that question, the newcomer fell silent.

"Then, there's that", the second man said as he sized up the newcomer and his companions, "Besides, you and your buddies' bodies will pass off for mercenary work." You guys look beefy with all of those muscles you have."

"Quite the observant aren't you?", the newcomer said, "Fine, you got us. We're mercenaries."

The first man looked at the newcomer's companions and observed them before turning his attention back at the newcomer.

"I take it that the guys here with you aren't the only ones with you and your boss?", the first man asked.

"Yeah", the newcomer answered, "After our plan to go to Leichestar failed, our boss dispersed us in different places near the areas bordering those held by the rebels to gather information."

"So these guys are all spread out all over Albion", the first man thought, "All the more reason for High Command to be alerted to this. Who knows as to who these guys are working for."

After thinking about it, the first man thought about what he should say next. He can ask these mercenaries as to how many they were to give him an idea as to how many mercenaries High Command will have to worry about. However, doing so might lead these people to suspect something about them which was something he doesn't want to happen. As spies covertly deployed behind enemy territory, keeping a low profile while gathering whatever information of value that was easy to get was of utmost priority.

He can also try to ask on what areas do his other comrades were in to get an idea on where do High Command can expect them to be in. However, that also runs into the same problem as asking them how many they were. This leaves him with one option that was completely safe but completely wastes this opportunity of finding unseen third parties without being found out in return.

Play dumb and simply let them go without much fuss.

"Well, that's just some bad luck you got there", the first man replied as he drank the last dregs of beer on his mug, "Anyways, we need to go."

With that, the two men made their leave leaving the newcomer and his companions, all being Germanian mercenaries, right at where they were sitting at. With them leaving, the newcomer turned his attention on the barkeeper to make his order for him and his companions.

As the two men made their way for the exit, the first man made eye contacts with a pair of men sitting at one of the tables near the door. The eye contact itself lasted a second with one of the two men sitting on the table making a slight nod. After that, the two men finally reached the door and went out of the bar.

Outside the two men walked towards a horse-driven wagon with a wooden cover all around it and entered it. One of them took the reins connected to the horse and held it tight to force the horse the move. With the horse now moving, the card then gathered up speed until it was now moving at speed.

"Damn, to think mercenaries are going to be after us", the man holding the horse's rein muttered.

"Well, I think that's because of us getting more popular", the other man replied jokingly, "Jokes aside, sounds like things are getting more and more muddled as more people gets involved."

"Right, whoever hired those mercenaries is a reason for some concern", the first man said, "However, we likely won't be able to figure out who they are, how many mercenaries are there, and on what areas are they in without getting found out."

"The best we can do is alert that they are for real", the other man said as he turned around, "So I'm going to alert our guys about them."

"Ok", the first man replied.

The other man then went inside the wagon. Inside, a couple of haystacks were neatly stored which the man then immediately rummaged through. After a few minutes of searching, the man then found what he was looking for.

A gray-colored metallic box with screws and buttons sticking out of it as well as a headband-like thing with a stick that ends in a rounded shape sticking to it linked to the box with a rope of some sort.

The man wasted no time in pressing some of the buttons and turning some screws of the box, a radio, and the stick attached to the headband-like thing, actually a headset, then began to let out a static noise after a while.

With the radio now active and set to the correct frequency, the man then spoke on the radio.

"[COMMS] Alright, we got a new situation. We encountered mercenaries that don't seem to be hired by Reconquista trying to get a bead on us. It looks like a third party is in play here", the man said over the radio.

The radio then began to produce garbled responses for a few moments thanks to the static until the response became clearer enough for the man to hear a coherent response.

"[COMMS] Understood", the male voice on the other side of the radio said, "[COMMS] Be advised, more of our spies detected a large Reconquista force estimated at a hundred thousand men that just set up camp here in Dortmund. Going for further probing reveals that they're bound for Ingleton and is only staying here to make preparations for the trek to Ingleton so they can leave at any time."

"[COMMS] Copy that, over and out", the man replied.

After the radio transmission had ended, the man quickly put down the headset back on the radio and hid it in the haystack again. To further make the haystack more convincing as a cover, the man arranged it neatly so they can be easily be declared as being shipped off to somewhere else.

With the radio now concealed back again, the man then went back on his seat just beside the first man with him.

"So how did things turn out?", the first man, focused on guiding the wagon's horse, said without turning to look at his companion.

"Well, looks like a big Reconquista force just set up camp in this city", the other man replied, "And only god knows when they'll set out."

"Well, damn", the first man said, "Things really are getting more hectic these days."

Meanwhile, somewhere in Armaghe…

1320 Hours…

On the grounds of the weapons factories of Armaghe, newly-built ACFG-15 howitzers were lined up neatly. The howitzers themselves were arrayed into long columns with men, a mixture of ALC soldiers and factory workers, inspecting the artillery pieces for any possible defects. The columns of newly-built howitzers were long enough that the men inspecting them were in the dozens with more coming in as more of the new howitzers were being towed in the grounds.

In one of the long columns of these howitzers, several men were conversing as they inspected them.

"So these are the new howitzers?", an ALC soldier asked, "Looks like just a bigger ACMG-10 to me."

"Yeah", a factory worker replied, "It can lob bigger shells further than the first artillery piece that we had making it good at cracking open defenses."

"So does any of our guys manning our artillery pieces already trained in their use?", another ALC soldier asked, "I'm no artilleryman but I'm sure these artillery pieces aren't likely to behave like the small ones that we have."

"Well, since these artillery pieces are new", a second factory worker said, "None of our artillery crews have any firsthand experience with them. I'm afraid that, if these pieces were to be used in any operation right now, our artillery crews probably can't hit for shit for the most part."

"Speaking of operations", the ALC soldier said, "I heard there's one coming up and it's pretty ambitious… capturing more than two enemy towns all at once."

"You're talking about Salfort and Prestord", a second ALC soldier said.

"Yeah, those two", the first ALC soldier asked, "Although it's a bit daring, both of those two aren't that big so we should be able to capture them without too much trouble."

"Now that reminds me", the second ALC soldier said, "I heard there really wasn't anything standing in those two that could resist even a powerful blast which means that, even if our guys can't hit for shit with these new pieces, they should still be able to do some damage provided the shells landed close enough to matter."

"Well, anyway", the second factory worker interrupted, "Does anybody spotted any defects in these new pieces so far."

"None", the first ALC soldier replied, "The others seem to be the same as us as well. If they did, they would be reporting it by now."

"That's good", the second factory worker said, "That way, we can concentrate on cranking out more of these things instead of fiddling with each piece and figuring out what went wrong with each of them individually."

"Say", the second ALC soldier replied, "How many of these things are you guys capable of churning out?"

"I'm not sure", the second factory worker answered, "However, looking at these pieces currently in the yard, I say we can make at least sixty of them in a day."

"That doesn't sound too bad", the first ALC soldier replied.

"Actually, that's quite bad", the second factory worker said, "If what I'm hearing is right, we need around at least a hundred of them made in a day to meet up the artillery requirements of the army."

"You mean plans for that daring assault on those two towns?", the first ALC soldier asked.

"Not quite, it's for taking on Ingleton", the second factory worker replied.

"Ingleton?", the first ALC soldier asked, "You mean that windstone mining town?"

"Yes, that one", the second factory worker answered, "I heard that the Reconquista is busy fortifying it. Heck, they're even pulling out of Salfort and Prestord to use their forces stationed there to further reinforce it."

"Why the hell would they fortify it?" the second ALC soldier asked, "It's just windstones that's in there."

"They probably want to deny us the use of the airships we captured in Leichestar", the first factory worker suggested, "Airships don't fly without windstones after all."

"Oh, right", the second ALC soldier replied, "But then, we only have ten of them against Reconquista's entire fleet and those airships are even bigger than the ones we stole from them."

"It's just ten but these guys probably don't want us to get more advantages over them", the first factory worker said.

"I see it now", the first ALC soldier said, "High Command likely wants to have a lot of artillery pieces to pound whatever defenses they have there."

"It's going to be one hell of an endurance battle for that mining town", the second ALC soldier added, "Either we pound them to hell and they back off or we cut our losses taking it and back off. That's the two possible options that we have here."

"That's… that sounds it's going to get ugly", the first factory worker commented.

As the men on the grounds were busy inspecting the newly-built artillery pieces, the insides of the factories were equally brimming of activity.

All over the factories, men were busy with handling newly-built small arms. However, the factory workers themselves were focused on building a specific small arms: the Negev light machine gun.

Amidst the throngs of factory workers inside the factories, one figure stood out distinctly from the rest. It was Kenneth. Eschewing his Ranger uniform for that of a factory worker, he meticulously inspected the Negev machine gun grasped in his hands. As he inspected the weapon in his hands, one of the factory workers came up to him.

"Sarge", the factory worker said, "Why are we focusing on these small arms after we finished the ACFG-15 field gun?"

"Oh, that's for complementing those artillery pieces that you mentioned", Kenneth answered as he put the machine gun on the table in front of him.

"How?", the factory worker asked, "If it's all about machine guns, we also have the ACRF-40 for that."

"The ACRF-40 is good itself", Kenneth replied, "However, it doesn't pack as much firepower as the Negev due to is smaller magazine count of forty rounds per box as opposed to the Negev's one hundred fifty round per box capacity."

"How does that tie in with complementing the ACFG-15 then?", another factory worker asked.

"Well, that's simple", Kenneth began, "In warfare, the usual role of artillery is to deal a preposterous amount of casualties on the enemy while weakening their ability to fight back by, well, thinning out their number and hopefully wrecking the shit they use in battle. Meanwhile, the infantry is used for several roles such as taking ground and finishing off enemies weakened… by repeated artillery strikes at melee."

"Sarge, you're saying that the ACFG-15 with its higher damage potential than the ACMG-10 thanks to its bigger caliber is meant to hammer the enemy and then the infantry, with a high firepower potential thanks to machine guns like the Negev, is there to finish off the weakened enemy?", a third factory worker asked.

"That's the gist of it", Kenneth answered, "Now that reminds me. If you guys happened to get tasked with designing several new weapons for the same armed force branch such as our ground forces, it is important that, aside from making the weapons powerful yet easy on logistics, they should work well in unison with one another in the battlefield through a strategy or tactic."

"Why is that Sarge?", another factory worker asked.

"It's simple", Kenneth replied, "If those different weapons are working with each other in perfect synchronization, they tend to punch more than what they are really capable individually as if they are single weapon."

"Just like what I said earlier about this machine gun", Kenneth added as he tapped the Negev machine gun he was inspecting a moment ago, "And the newly-built ACFG-15s now sitting idly outside where the artillery punches holes in the enemy from afar and the machine gun finishes off any stragglers with overwhelming firepower at close range."

"Sarge, I heard about these things called mines that explode when you step on them", a random factory worker suddenly said.

"And what about the mines?", Kenneth asked.

"I'm thinking of that they'll work well with snipers in slowing down the enemy in chokepoints", the same factory worker answered, "The mines can be used to deter the enemy and force them to tread carefully while the snipers can pick them off one by one."

"That's a good example you got there", Kenneth said, "Unfortunately, due to the nature of the mines, this sort of combination usually works well during defensive battles for us. However, it's ridiculously deadly when used in defensive situations especially against an enemy that isn't prepared for dealing with snipers."

"I see", the first factory worker that spoke to Kenneth said, "Sarge, is this what you call the 'combined arms' approach in your world's warfare?"

"That's only a simple illustration of it", Kenneth answered, "Combined arms, when you get to the bottom of it, is the utilization of various military assets of an armed force in such a way that they work together in unison to accomplish a military goal in the quickest and most efficient manner possible all the while hopefully covering each other's weaknesses."

"Sarge, how is that different than the military approach Reconquista and the other kingdoms use?", the first factory worker asked, "I mean, they're also using all elements of their army such as their infantry, cavalry, mages, airships, and other assets in unison with each other."

"Their approach puts a lot of emphasis on their mages", Kenneth replied, "A large part of their armies' offensive power rests on those guys that, if they were to get taken out, their non-magic forces will end up being next to useless and dead meat at worst."

"Seriously, those mages are damn easy to kill with our weapons", Kenneth added, "And any of their armies that got their mages wiped out is, for all intents and purposes, also dead when facing us."

"At this point", Kenneth said, "If we are to take out their mages, their fighting potential as an army is going to drop significantly. The battle is as good as over at that point."

"I understand", another factory worker chimed in on the conversation.

"Now that reminds me", Kenneth began, "An operation aimed at targeting more than one town at once is already being planned. Speaking of that, I want all of you to take note of the results of this particular operation. Starting at this point on, our forces will be extensively fighting heavily under a combined arms approach as we hammer our way towards Reconquista's capital of Londonium. Observe carefully how our forces fare well in every battle and be prepared to make new weapons or customize existing ones so they can have the sharpest and strongest blade in every battle they will be in at all times."

All of the factory workers nodded indicating that they understand well what Kenneth was implying to them.

"Good", Kenneth said, "Now, let's get back to work. We need to ensure that our troops can get a lot of bullets pumped on the enemy."

Meanwhile, Saltisbury…

1440 Hours…

A long line of ALC soldiers, numbering at least forty thousand troops, were on a march towards Saltisbury. A large number of the ALC soldiers were marching on foot while the Dragoons, the ALC's rifle-armed cavalry, rode on horses for the march. In the march, the Dragoons occupied the front and rear of the marching line while the infantrymen were in the middle. This was done to ensure that, in the event of an ambush, the Dragoons themselves can quickly exploit the mobility advantage provided by their horses in order to break out of the line, thereby quickly getting out of an ambush, and engage the enemy as soon as possible. Although they were marching to an ALC-controlled territory, the ALC force was completely on guard for any possible attack they might encounter out of the blue.

All over the marching ALC soldiers, almost every single one of them was happily chatting with one another over various things of little importance to the cause. However, it was what they were doing to pass off the time in the face of the long and uneventful march.

Finally, after a few months worth of fighting, we can have some day off away from the frontlines", an ALC soldier commented.

"Well, High Command sure is very generous to us", another ALC soldier added, "Still, it's very fortunate for us to make it out alive in Leichestar."

"Yeah, that town might be small but it sure is a tough nut to crack open", a third ALC soldier said, "Man, those guys defending it are damn persistent."

"Those guys?", a fourth ALC soldier asked, "From what I'm hearing, they're zombies."

"No shit", the second ALC soldier butted in, "If they're zombies, this means the enemy now has endless amounts of bodies to throw at us."

"They're dumb shitty fags", the third ALC soldier countered, "Even if they really have zombies answering to their call, knowing them, they'll end up wasting that advantage somewhere up in the future."

"We need them to blunder so hard that it's just unbelievable for that to happen", the first ALC soldier said.

"Blundering is what they have been doing the entire time", the second ALC soldier replied, "With how things are going, them committing a colossal blunder isn't really that an impossible thing to happen."

"Besides", the fourth ALC soldier added, "The only reason these Reconquista bastards managed to snag control of Albion is just due to simple politicking. The Albion Royal Family just got outwitted real bad politically."

"Oi! Why are you guys blabbering about serious things?", a new ALC soldier chimed in on the conversation, "We're redeployed back to Saltisbury to rest and relax as well as get reinforced with more men to replace those we lost over the course of the battles we've been in."

"Yeah, I guess you're right", the third ALC soldier said, "Well, time to relax I guess."

The group of ALC soldiers finished their conversation and continued on their march. An hour later, the Dragoons on the front of the marching line caught sight of the city walls of Saltisbury. In response, they signaled behind them that they were now entering the outskirts of the city which prompted several troops, both the Dragoons and infantry, to raise flagpoles sporting the ALC banner to prevent the ALC forces stationed atop the city walls to quickly identify them as allies.

"We're the XIII Corps from Derben!", one of the Dragoons in the front of the formation yelled, "As ordered, we immediately mobilized towards Saltisbury as soon as the order for us to do so reached us!"

In the next few minutes, the marching line of ALC soldiers stood by the city walls. The ALC soldiers atop the walls, noting who were in front of the city's front door, waved at the ALC soldiers outside the city. A few moments later, the city's gates began to slowly rise up giving the ALC soldiers a way to get inside the city. Once the gate was completely risen up, the ALC soldiers marched forward entering Saltisbury as they did so.

Once they entered the city, they were greeted with the sight of the city's inhabitants cheering them as if they were heroes. Naturally, most of the arriving ALC soldiers were taken in by shock of this.

"Geez, the city folk here seems to be welcoming us as heroes", an ALC soldier commented.

"Well, we fucked around with mages up to this point", his comrade said, "The only way to survive from fucking with them is if you're a mage. We aren't mages so this should be obvious."

"I guess you're right", the first ALC soldier replied, "Still, receiving praises like this makes me feel rejuvenated as if I can fight an entire set of battles again."

"Don't feel so confident", his comrade said back, "We won because our leaders know what they're doing. Even with powerful weapons like what we have, those mages still aren't some shitty pushovers."

The newly-arrived ALC soldiers looked around observing their surroundings. To their left and right which occupied the city streets, a lot of civilians were occupying them. On the center, however, was completely occupied with a large number of ALC soldiers just like them. One of the Dragoons, seeing the formation of ALC soldiers facing them asked one of the soldiers welcoming them.

"What are those soldiers for?", the Dragoon asked.

"Ah, those guys", the ALC soldier said, "They're the II Corps. Basically the replacement troops meant to fill in the spots you XIII Corps guys vacated back in the frontlines."

"Couldn't we just rest right at the frontlines?", the Dragoon asked.

"Well, that's High Command's orders", the ALC soldier answered, "I heard them saying that troops recuperate the best when they're shifted off the frontlines."

"I see", the Dragoon said.

With the conversation over, the Dragoons ordered the rest of the recently-arrived ALC force to make way for the fresh batch of ALC forces, numbering some sixty thousand men, en-route to the frontlines. When the fresh batch of ALC force began to move, they moved in an orderly march. The front of the ALC force consists of several columns of Dragoons followed by an almost equal number of columns of infantry before being followed by equal columns of Dragoons sandwiching the infantry between two formations of Dragoons. Meanwhile, the center of the line consists primarily of infantry and ACMG-10 howitzers and the rear was similar to the front.

When the fresh batch of ALC force was gone, the recently-arrived ALC force went towards one of Saltisbury's forts where they can disarm and spend their free time relaxing. It took the recently-arrived force some time before they reached their designated fort. Once they entered it, they went towards one of the fort's barracks to disarm all the while seeing newly-recruited ALC soldiers being drilled for combat in the fort's grounds. Once that was done, they were given permission to leave the fort and spend their time resting in the city.

At one of the fort's gates, the men of the XIII Corps, now dressed in typical civilian clothes, gathered and chat with one another for a while.

"So we have a day off the field", a man, one of the XIII Corps' Dragoons, said, "Best we spend it on something really worth our time I guess?"

"Hell, yeah!", another man added, "Breaks like these don't come that too often. For all we know we'll probably end up getting sent back to the frontlines all of the sudden so we must make the most out of this."

"That's how this goes", a third man said, "Well, we'll probably meet again as troops when the call order comes for us."

After exchanging some pleasantries, the men of the XIII Corps split up in small groups and went on their own way. Due to the number of men of the XIII Corps, the number of small groups that bunched up together as they went on their own way reached past a dozen. Among these groups was one certain group. This particular group consisted of only eight men and was wandering around one of Saltisbury's many streets.

"So this is Saltisbury", one of the men said, "The first time we set foot on this city, it was under Reconquista and we are storming this place. Now, it's under our control and serves as a base for us."

"I know what you mean", another man added, "This city feels a lot different now than compared to before. It's as if this is an entirely different city on itself."

"Probably because Reconquista's no longer in control of this place", another man said, "After this city fell to us, all signs of Reconquista like their banners have been removed."

"There's more than that", the first man added, "Right now, there's no longer any signs of nobles or mages idly wandering around the streets."

"Oh yeah", the second man said, "Those guys. I'm betting they're getting some trashing right now."

"Man, if they weren't cunts to us, I would pity them", the third man said, "Too bad, they aren't so I'll piss on them when I got the chance."

The small band of ALC soldiers continued to wander around the city intending to use their first day of rest away from the frontlines in getting to know the city better. After several hours of going around the city, the group retired to a small bar somewhere in the city's main square to have a drink and rest.

"Man, that was fun!", one of the men exclaimed as he slurped on his mug of beer.

"Yeah!", another exclaimed, "Getting to experience all of these fun things after all that we have been through already refreshed me."

"With how our progress against Reconquista looks like", a third commented, "We'll probably get another break like this before this war ends."

"Given how hard we pushed Reconquista, we're now down to just one or two pushes against them", a fourth man added, "With us being crack troops, we'll probably be one of the forces tasked to smash down Londonium and then it's a total victory for us."

"Yeah, but it would be good if we're still alive by that point", a fourth man said.

"Geez, buddy", a fifth man interjected, "Don't ruin the mood with us dying there."

"I'm not trying to ruin the mood", the fourth man replied as he drank from his own beer mug, "I'm just stating that we shouldn't get carried away even though we're rolling over Reconquista far smoother than expected. Those fuckers might be hiding something beneath their sleeves."

"I'm betting they'll piss it away if they do have it", a sixth man said, "Given that most of them are idiots, any advantage they have will end up getting wasted before they even know it."

"That's assuming that most of the enemy top brass are idiots", a seventh man added, "I don't know much of them but Cromwell likely is a sucker for military affairs. That guy used to be a prelate after all."

"Oh yeah, I forgot that bastard", the sixth man said.

"Forget that sucker", the eighth man finally spoke, "If there's somebody that needs to be idiots for us to get a clean win, it's his generals. Those guys run Reconquista's forces so them being idiots is the only thing relevant here."

"I don't think any of them are going to be a threat to us", the fifth man said, "Those guys rely the most on their mages. Since we're kicking the shit out of their mages, I can't see why they're still a concern. The nasty shit we have to deal with is something up their sleeves like them controlling zombies as was stated in the rumors."

"Oh yeah, I forgot that shit they're rumored to be doing", the fifth man replied, "If it turns out to be the case, I'm betting we'll also have to thoroughly destroy the corpses of any enemies we would be encountering. After all, no corpses lying around means there's nothing that can be turned into a zombie."

"Seems the right thing to do", the fourth man added, "If things get desperate, I'm betting that we'll be getting orders to burn down cemeteries and all places that contain a shitload of corpses and even skeletons while we're at it real soon."

"It shouldn't be that hard", the first man said, "If it's burning corpses, we already have weapons called 'flamethrowers' for that."

"Flamethrowers?", the third man asked, "What kind of weapon is it?"

"I just eavesdropped on it from some of the soldiers we passed along in the fort while we're unarming ourselves there", the first man answered, "From what I heard from them, it seems to consist of a large container of oil strapped to a soldier's back with a hose linked to it which, through some intricate mechanism, unleashes a long and massive stream of flames whenever the hose's trigger is clicked."

"Sounds impractical if burning zombies into ashes is the only thing it can do", the third man said, "What uses does it have beside burning things?"

"Well, from what I have eavesdropped", the first man said, "It's primary use is for flushing heavily entrenched enemy troops hiding in fortified positions by subjecting them to intense heat of the flamethrowers."

"So anti-fortification work then?", the second man asked, "We have artillery for that sort of work. Hell, we even have a new artillery piece and it's bigger than what we have until now."

"Apparently, High Command doesn't seem that complacent that artillery can crack open every single enemy fortification we'll run into so they're also coming up with additional weapons that can do the same thing as backup."

"Man, High Command sure is crazy-prepared at all times", the third man commented, "We infantrymen are mostly tasked with storming enemy positions after an artillery barrage has softened up the enemy defenses and holding ground."

"Just take the new gear, will you?", the fourth man said, "It's an additional gear that we'll be using so we should be thankful for it."

"Speaking of gear, I heard that the Negev has just been turned into our standard light machine gun replacing the ACRF-40 in that role", the sixth man said, "Considering that, our firepower also got a boost as well."

"Speaking of that gun, when will we get the chance to use it?", the eighth man asked, "I seem to recall seeing the troops that departed to replace our positions in the frontlines earlier to be armed with Negev machine guns."

"When we get redeployed back to the frontlines of course", the sixth man answered, "With us being veterans, we're likely to get first dibs on new equipment so getting that gun is almost a guarantee."

"Well, that's quite reassuring", the eighth man replied, "Nothing makes any battle easier with far better gear other than experience."

"With machine guns, mowing down those bastards just become a walk in the park", the fifth man said, "Their magic is still a pain in the ass though."

"Agreed", the fourth man added, "I still recall one of those shitty fags making the ground soft causing me to fall into a sinkhole. That hurts a lot especially as it was four feet deep. Thankfully, the armor I'm wearing at that time eased the impact of my fall."

"Ouch", the second man commented, "That makes putting a hole on them, preferably between their eyes, as soon as possible a lot more important. Can't let those shitty fags messing around for too long or we'll get into trouble."

The group chatted as time passed by all the while drinking. After a while their conversation changed to a different topic.

"You know", the second man began, "Despite all that we have been through, I still can't believe we managed to make it this far."

"To think that we'll be able to defeat the nobles in combat, that is", the second man added.

"Well, this is honestly unbelievable", the first man said, "If I'm just a new meat, I'll probably think this as a hopeless situation."

"Considering those guys tend to throw fireballs and the like at us whenever they damn please and we don't have any means to deal with them", the fourth man commented, "Yeah, this is unbelievable on top of being crazy as well."

"The crazier part is that we didn't just beat them, we're also taking their turf bit by bit", the sixth man added.

"And since we're capable of beating them now", the eighth man began, "It's payback time."

"Payback?", the third man asked, "What do you mean?"

"They've been treating us and everyone we loved as shit for almost an eternity", the eighth man answered, ""I suppose you guys aren't forgetting that?"

Everyone took a glance at each other before making a nod which the eighth man treated as a sign of "Yes".

"Good, with what's happening now, we now have the opportunity to get back at them for those shit they're pulling on people like us for the rest of our lives", the eighth man explained, "And I say we take this opportunity to cunt punch them."

"Hell yeah!", the fifth man exclaimed with signs of drunkenness now visible on him, "Normally, we'll get our heads chopped off for this but, with the situation now, tough luck for that to happen."

"That's the spirit", the eighth man said, "The only thing we can do now is charge forward. No matter what happens, no turning back now."

"Of course", the third man replied, "With the shit we pulled on them, they're going to behead all of us if we surrendered to them. So yeah, this is a fight to the death."

"So it's victory or death for us huh?", the fifth man said as he gulped on his beer mug, "In that case, what happens is that we either win everything there is or lose everything if we screwed up."

"That's pretty much it", the sixth man replied, "The stakes for this war against Reconquista is just damn high so we better throw everything we got at it."

"This entire thing really makes me nervous", the second man said, "Not because of fear of dying but this intense adrenaline of killing those bastards."

The second man put his mug of beer on the table and looked at both of his hands which he realized to be shaking the entire time. At the same time, his fellow soldiers looked at him.

"And for some reason", the second man added, "Killing them feels… fun."

The other men looked at each other before looking back at the second man. After a few moments, one of them cut in the silence.

"Hey, quit that creepy stuff you're spouting!", the first man exclaimed, "We're not crazy enough as those nobles when it comes to killing."

"But you know", the fourth man said, "Hearing that makes me wonder what those nobles feel when they're slaughtering us commoners for one reason or another."

The fourth man's words, for some reason, caused every man on the same table as him to pause as if those words struck a chord. In this silence, everyone was deep in thought thanks to the words.

"They probably don't feel anything at all", the seventh man said, "To them, we're nothing more than furniture that they can use as they please and dispose off when no longer needed. Pretty hard to have feelings on killing us when they likely even don't see us as humans."

"The average noble is a psychotic whackjob to us", the third man added, "That's why they don't see us as humans."

"I don't really like them but that's quite overboard", the seventh man commented.

"Well, that's the only reason I can think off", the third man replied, "Those bastards are born in a more luxurious life than us given their status so comprehending their thoughts is impossible since they think differently than us."

"Sometimes, I envy them", the fourth man said, "They're born in families that got way more privileges than us commoners. It feels just way too unfair."

"Yeah, that's something that we can be jealous of", the first man added, "Well, that doesn't matter now since we can get those privileges after we're through with them in this war."

With that statement, everybody on the table developed a wide grin on their faces.

"Damn right!", the third man said cheerfully, "Let's go get those fuckers!"

With that, the men shared a toast with each other through the beer mugs they were holding.

Meanwhile, somewhere inside Saltisbury's Capitol Building…

0000 Hours…

In a large room somewhere inside the Capitol Building, six sets of computers were set up with the LCD monitors, keyboards, and CPUs on the table with cables running everywhere inside the room. Before the sets of computers were several Rangers busy manning the computers with some of them typing on the keyboards.

In the midst of the night time's gentle breeze which was entering the room through the open windows of the room, the scent of hot coffee permeating the room can be smelled by people inside the room what with some of the Rangers having a mug of hot coffee sitting next to the computers they were manning.

As the Rangers in the room were manning their computers, Chuck was standing behind them pre-occupied in watching the screens of the computers the Rangers were using. Of the six computer sets, Chuck's attention was mostly focused on the two computer sets with his attention switching between the two every quarter of an hour or so. The reason being the two computer sets he was focusing on were linked to two spy drones currently flying somewhere which was proven by the high definition live video feed shown on the two computer sets' monitors with each computer set controlling one drone each.

"All seems pretty quiet isn't it?", Chuck commented.

"Yes, sir", the Ranger said without turning around to reply properly, "They seem pretty quiet after we handed their asses to them in Leichestar."

"Heh, can't really blame them for it", Chuck replied, "Getting handed over with a loss after loss and no way to regain the momentum will really shut them up."

Chuck looked at the computer screen that one of his subordinates was manning. The screen he was looking at displays the view of a town from a bird's eye view. Said town seems abandoned given that there was not even a single person he can see wandering the town's streets. From what he can see, that probably has something to do with the town being sparsely lit with torches which doesn't provide enough illumination to see things clearly. Fortunately, thanks to the Spy Drones high-resolution cameras, it wasn't a big problem.

"This is quite odd", Chuck mused, "This town of Prestord is supposed to be heavily reinforced with Reconquista forces but there's no sign of them here."

"Same here in Salfort", the other Ranger manning the computer just beside the one Chuck was watching on said, "No sign of enemy presence whatsoever."

Upon hearing his subordinates reply, Chuck turned around and made his way for the large table in the center of the room and looked at the large piece of paper on it. Said large piece of paper happened to be a map detailing a good chunk of Albion's terrain.

"So the enemy is apparently out of sight", Chuck thought to himself, "So where can they have possibly went to?"

Chuck inspected the part of the map detailing Saltisbury and the towns of Salfort and Prestord. Aside from the city and the two towns in question, he also inspected the terrain separating them.

"Hmm… the area between Saltisbury and these two towns seem to be mostly flat", Chuck said, "That way, we can easily mobilize a large army without too much fuzz."

"However, the same can be said of the enemy", Chuck added to his thoughts, "And they still likely have a large army further down south that they can use to shore up their lines facing us."

Chuck took seat on one of the chairs near the table and inspected the map even further. Upon deeper inspection, he noticed that there really wasn't anything special with the terrain features of the ground connecting the city and those two towns. Resting back against the chair, he closed his eyes and thought about it.

"Damn, what can the enemy be possibly thinking?", Chuck asked himself.

Various situations ran in his mind as he tried to get a grasp of what the enemy might be planning with this strange behavior of theirs. However, all of he can think of eventually ran into a dead end. As he was trying to make sense of what's happening, the other Ranger subordinated to him called him out.

"Sir, could it be possible those guys chickened out and just retreated all the way back to their capital of Londonium?", the Ranger asked.

"Eh? That's also possible", Chuck said, "But highly unlikely. Judging from the information we have read about them, they'll make a fight out of it first before retreating."

"Damn, I'm hoping they'll just plain smart up and back off so we can take areas without a fight", the same Ranger replied.

"That doesn't fly with how prideful and bigoted those shitty fags are", Chuck said, "They'll still make a fight for it even though we have a vast advantage in firepower against them."

"And they get their asses handed to them for their troubles", the Ranger added.

"Well, that's some cheeky punks for you", Chuck said referring to Reconquista.

Aside from Chuck and the two Rangers with, there were also four other Rangers in the room also manning computers. However, unlike the two Rangers' computers controlling the Spy Drones, the computers these four Rangers were using were focused on managing communications with all of the city's forts as well as some outlying bases like the makeshift prison camp somewhere around Derben. The warehouse where the Juggernauts were stored in was also in this communications network.

Due to the task of the four other Rangers, they were mostly chatting with one another doing the scheduled transmission calls to their designated forts and other communications spots at certain intervals. Seeing them, Chuck called out to them.

"Any news from any of our forts?", Chuck asked.

"None in particular", one of the four Rangers replied, "Just the usual 'everything is fine message'."

"I see", Chuck said, "Well, since Saltisbury is tightly secured, those suckers likely aren't going to be thinking of infiltrating us. They'll likely screw up if they did so. Still, it's good to be better safe than sorry."

"Honestly, why are we still not dissecting one of them?", the second Ranger asked, "Seriously, even a dead mage will do."

"Well, High Command forbids that though", Chuck answered, "Those shitty faggots might be a real pain in the ass but they're still humans so there's that."

"Tch, sometimes I think it's hard to be the better man", the third Ranger said, "Honestly, I think those suckers doesn't really deserve to be called humans for the shit they're doing if their secret personal documents saying as such which we retrieved in their mansions here in Saltisbury is any indication."

"Chill down, buddy", the fourth Ranger said to his fellow, "I also read some of those records and… I gotta agree that shit isn't something I won't let slide that easily but there's nothing good that we can do if we stoop to their level or even lower than that."

"Those are more or less their skeletons in the closet", Chuck said, "And we just unearthed them. It makes me think of how much of that shit will they pull off if we hadn't conquered this city as soon as we are able to."

"They also have their ilk in the other villages, towns, and cities here in Albion likely doing the same shit", the first of the four Rangers added.

Upon mentioning that, everyone in the room fell into a deep silence which was only broken by one of the two Rangers manning the Spy Drones.

"Uh, regarding about further offensives, when will we launch the next one?", the Ranger asked, "If those faggots are doing that in the dark, I think we need to stop them as soon as possible and the best way to do that is to conquer those areas they are in."

"Well, from what I am informed of by High Command", Chuck began, "We'll be commencing that offensive, codenamed 'Mad Rush' a few days from now."

"I see", the Ranger who asked replied, "That explains the massive effort put into training new recruits and pressing new weapons like the ACFG-15 into service as soon as possible which we've been doing these last couple of weeks."

"So what's the plan for this 'Mad Rush' offensive?", the second of the Rangers manning the communications computers asked.

"The plan this time is fairly ambitious… but quite reasonable in the long term", Chuck said, "It calls for an all-out simultaneous attack on the towns of Salfort and Prestord from Derben where we'll station our forces in beforehand with the intent to capture those two targets. Once that's done, our forces are to march on the town of Ingleton from those two towns and capture it then dig in."

"Damn, that's really ambitious", the third Ranger manning the communications computers commented, "Taking three towns in a quick strike when we are only gobbling up one target at a time."

"That's because of the geography", Chuck replied, "The town of Ingleton is a chokepoint connecting the mountainous northern part of Albion with the plains of the south. If we are to succeed in capturing Ingleton, we'll be driving out Reconquista on the northern part of Albion and turn the mountainous north into an unassailable fortress. That's not to mention that Ingleton is a windstone mining town giving us access to a supply of windstones which we can use to fuel the airships we got in Leichestar."

"Well, that makes sense", the fourth Ranger using the communications computer said, "With the northern part in our control, we can muster our forces even more and roll over them in the plains."

"Sadly, once we get to the plains", Chuck said, "This is where things will get a lot harder."

"And why is that?", the first Ranger manning the Spy Drone controlling computer asked.

"You do know that most of their mages usually cast their spells when we are in their sights right?", Chuck asked to which he received a nod to all the Rangers inside the room, "In the plains, there's not much cover to hide in so they'll instantly see us which makes us vulnerable to their magic-based brute force attacks like summoning golems, raining down blizzards, and incinerating us in firestorms among other things. Besides, it's in the plains where their medieval ordered formations are going to be the most effective."

"Well shit", the second Ranger manning the second Spy Drone control computer commented, "But don't we have our tanks and stuff?"

"There's not many of them so we can't fully rely on them. Our artillery will do a large number of them in but I won't be fully counting on that", Chuck said, "Without a doubt, the battles in the plains that we'll find ourselves in aren't going to be a walk in the park. We'll be likely to take some heavy casualties there when we get to it."

"But don't worry about it", Chuck added, "It's not like we'll be completely lost against them in the plains. The application of the right strategies and tactics as well as superior weaponry will carry the day for us just like what's happening now."

"Well, that's a relief", the second Ranger said, "Dealing with gun-armed goat-fucking insurgents is one thing but fucking with people who can literally control the fire, water, wind, and earth is another."

"Since fighting medieval guys armed with nothing but swords, bows and spears while we have guns and bigger guns will mean a guaranteed win for us", Chuck replied, "I suppose whoever shat us to this place seems to have taken the idea to have the medieval guys have magic to balance things up."

After speaking, Chuck gave off a hearty laugh which surprised his subordinates.

"Uh, sir", the Ranger manning one of the two Spy Drone control computers said, "Aren't you taking this situation too lightly?"

"I'm aware of how our position stands as is", Chuck replied, "However, there's nothing we can do about this other than make a tight hold on the knife and drive it as deep as we can on the enemy. It's a do or die battle for us now."

"If that's the case", the same Ranger said, "Wouldn't this mean that this would be technically easy for us? Other than mages and whatever spells they can pull out of their asses, they don't have anything nasty enough to throw at us. Their dragon knights got totally wasted here in Saltisbury."

"I won't be that sure about that", Chuck replied, "The bulk of Reconquista's forces are on the south as they were preparing for an invasion of another kingdom when we crashed their party so the dragon knights likely aren't the only cards they have against us."

"Good grief", the same Ranger commented, "Just how many cards do those bastards really have?"

"Likely more than we can count", Chuck answered, "This is why this operation is going to be our most important operation so far. If we managed to pull this off, we can get an even better fighting chance against them."

Before everyone in the room can talk more, one of the Rangers manning the Spy Drone control computers noticed something strange being displayed in his computer screen.

"Sir, I think we have some unexpected development in Salfort", the Ranger said as he switched his attention back on his computer station.

Chuck and the other Ranger also manning the other Spy Drone computer went towards the Ranger who called out and looked at what the screen was showing. When Chuck saw what the monitor was displaying, he let out a laugh.

"Man", Chuck said as he gave a laugh, "Those suckers seem to have a trick up their sleeve all along though it's something I didn't bother thinking of."

The monitor Chuck just stared into shows a lot of Reconquista soldiers that seem to be at haste in doing something if their actions in loading into wagons various crates were any indication. However, their actions don't add up as far as he was concerned.

"Any ideas what they might be doing?", Chuck asked.

"They're probably withdrawing to Ingleton to reinforce it", the same Ranger answered.

"This early?", Chuck said, "I know they're fortifying that mining town but to pull out this fast is rather surprising."

"Well, even if they're packing off now, it would still take a long ass time before they can move out", the other Ranger manning the second Spy Drone commented, "After all, they're over eighty thousand strong there based on our earlier overflight drone reconnaissance runs. That sort of numbers isn't going to be moving that fast."

"Hmm… do we have word of our intelligence ring in Dortmund?", Chuck asked.

"Dortmund?", the second Ranger said, "You mean the guys we secretly airlifted via Combat Chinooks to there and have them pose as a smuggling ring peddling goods from further south of Albion?"

"Yep", Chuck confirmed.

"Well, from their last transmission a few hours ago, they said they spotted a large Reconquista force numbering at least a hundred thousand men camping in Dortmund and was resting there before making the leg to Ingleton", the second Ranger answered, "They also stated that they're unsure on when it will set out for Ingleton so it might just move out without a warning."

"Hmm… so the bulk of the enemy force is still to reach Ingleton at the moment", Chuck said, "Then this makes carrying out the offensive as scheduled the correct decision. If we're lucky, there wouldn't be as much resistance the moment we attack Ingleton."

"Hey, check Prestord for similar enemy movements", Chuck suddenly said to the other Ranger using the computer controlling the second Spy Drone, "If those guys in Salfort are withdrawing to Ingleton, chances are the enemy force in Prestord might be withdrawing as well to prevent themselves from getting potentially pincered."

"Right away, sir", the second Ranger replied.

The Ranger in question then used his computer to order the Spy Drone linked to the computer he was using to move to the city's outskirts facing the territories still under Reconquista control to find out any Reconquista forces that might also be withdrawing. It took the Spy Drone half an hour to get into position but it did surprised everyone watching the Spy Drone's live feed through the monitor when it did reach the area designated.

"Holy… shit!", the same Ranger exclaimed, "That's a lot of troops down there!"

"Yeah", the other Ranger controlling the first Spy Drone added, "From the looks of it, it seems that they number roughly a hundred thousand men… and they're all pulling out."

"This is quite the unexpected development", Chuck said, "Looks like the enemy really decided to withdraw and make their stand in Ingleton."

"Well, this makes our job a whole lot easier", Chuck added, "However, it would make the situation much much easier if we can chip down their numbers a bit. Alright, pass this information to High Command and declare it as urgent information."

"Understood", the second Ranger replied.

"Sir, what are we going to do with the Germanian mercenaries that our spies in Dortmund replied by the way?", one of the Rangers manning the communications computer asked, "They also said that those guys aren't affiliated with Reconquista. From what I can see, it looks like this war isn't gonna be a one-on-one brawl between us and Reconquista."

"Damn, looks like I forgot that one", Chuck said, "Anyway, pass that information as well. It looks like we're dealing with some uninvited guests here."

"Yes, sir", the Ranger replied.

Meanwhile, general quarters of Saltisbury's Capitol Building…

0700 Hours…

There were only four occupants inside the room and all of them were looking attentively at the large map with some blue and red miniature pennants scattered all over it resting on the table in the center of the room. The four occupants were Mark, James, Simon, and William.

"Well, looks like our timetable and plans just got a little bit of an adjustment", Mark said.

"Seeing that they're effectively showing their backs for some backstabbing for a certain amount of time", James added, "Yeah, an adjustment is in order."

"Does this mean they're chickening out?", Simon asked.

"No", Mark said as he pointed at one spot of the map, "Look."

Mark was pointing at Ingleton's position in the map before grabbing the two red pennants placed above the parts of the map representing Salfort and Prestord and moving them to Ingleton.

"They're attempting to lure us in a decisive battle in Ingleton where they'll have the advantage in the ground due to being the defenders", Mark explained, "Those troops backing off from these two towns are meant to reinforce Ingleton. A form of defense-in-depth approach if I must say."

"We're cracking their defenses like nothing in the last couple of battles we had with them such as Saltisbury", Simon said, "So is there any difference with Ingleton now?"

"Well, going by terrain features", Mark said, "Yes."

Mark then brought up a scroll of paper and unfurled it on the same table just beside the map already placed on it. The unfurled scroll of paper turned out to be another map although the map's scale was smaller than the first one since it only encompasses a town from the looks of it.

"As you can see from this map", Mark said, "Ingleton's population isn't that bigger than the villages we already have such as Rodiz, Odense, and Durhen what with the very few settlements and buildings in this town."

"Shouldn't that make conquering it easier?", William asked, "Aside from wiping out the Reconquista forces defending it, there's not really much that will be able to oppose us."

"While that may be the case", Mark said, "The thing is, although Ingleton is considered a town, it can be considered a city if we look at it in terms of land area covered. Land-wise, it's as large as Armaghe with the reason being why it isn't as populated as the other cities is due to the windstone mining operation going on there. A far cry from what we've been up to now."

"I see", William replied, "With it being a production point for windstones, they will likely defend it to the last man against us."

"That's what's going to make this operation also more difficult than the previous ones that we had", Mark said, "Aside from the windstones that it produces, capturing Ingleton means that Reconquista is going to be driven out of the Northern Provinces for good so you can bet they'll throw everything they have to prevent their last foothold from going down."

"In that case, the rewards for getting past the difficulties of this battle is simply worth it", Simon commented.

"Agreed", James said, "While I can't completely say that the quality of our troops as being best, they'll already be enough for this operation as is."

"About the troops, how many are we going to use against them?", William asked.

"We're using around two hundred and forty thousand troops", Mark said, "That's roughly six corps divided into forty thousand troops per corps. We'll also be deploying a reserve force of one hundred and twenty thousand troops divided into three corps as well."

"Sounds like this is going to top the thirty thousand troops we fielded at Saltisbury when we were capturing this city", James said.

"Well, considering we're on a roll", Simon added, "This is something to be expected. Still, I find it funny that I'm now taking part in such a large scale battle where both sides field men in the hundreds of thousands which is something I never experienced in the past. It gets even funnier when I'm in command of a large number of troops for this battle when my last post was that of a simple footsoldier."

"Times change, that's why", James said, "Though the real funny thing is we managed to make it this far. We're now halfway on the road to victory and we did all of that with our troops being just trained conscripts and volunteers. Modern weapons have a part in this but still."

"Even if we're already halfway through this, we still have a lot of work to do", Mark added, "Assuming we do managed to conquer Londonium, Reconquista's current capital, chances are that we'll still have to fight a couple more Reconquista holdouts and remnants that will form up as soon as Londonium falls."

"Clearing out those leftovers shouldn't be that too hard to do", James said, "Aside from magic, they likely won't have any cards to pull off when that time comes since they would all have been spent along the way."

"Anyhow, how many enemy troops are we going to face in Ingleton?", Simon asked.

"Going by reports coming from Chuck", James replied, "We're looking at a hundred thousand enemy troops arriving to Ingleton from Dortmund which might be marching now as we speak. This does not count the enemy troops about to do a tactical withdrawal from Salfort and Prestord which will likely converge in Ingleton as well."

"How many troops are withdrawing from those two towns to go to Ingleton?", William asked.

"Going by intel reports, Salfort is said to have at least eighty thousand troops withdrawing while Prestord has a hundred thousand men doing the same", James replied.

"So the enemy has a total of two hundred and eighty thousand men bound to defend Ingleton", William said.

"Not if we managed to ambush those enemy troops making a withdrawal though", Simon countered.

"And that's the entire reason for the adjustment of our strategy", Mark said.

"So we're going to hit them while their pants are down huh?", Simon commented, "Well, in that case, we won't be needing that many experienced troops to do this. The guys still training that we have should already do the trick."

"On what day are we supposed to carry out this attack?", William asked.

"On five days time… exactly at the moment the enemy forces are anticipated to retreat from those two towns", Mark said, "Anyway, let's discuss the battle plan for this offensive."

"As I already said earlier", Mark began, "We have a total of three hundred and sixty thousand troops for this operation although one third of that are reserve troops."

"Does that mean that we'll be using one hundred and twenty thousand troops each to capture Salfort and Prestord?", William asked.

"No", Mark said, "What we're going to do is to ambush those two Reconquista forces while they're en-route to Ingleton as part of their tactical withdrawal. Basically, we need to wipe them out before they reach Ingleton."

"So the only enemy force we'll have to worry about is the one hundred thousand enemy troops coming from Dortmund with this attack if we succeeded to wipe those two forces out then?", Simon asked.

"Yes", Mark said, "However, there's also the local Reconquista garrison stationed at Ingleton but they shouldn't pose much of a problem as that garrison isn't that big to begin with."

"So how many troops does that garrison have?", James asked.

"Going by records we retrieved here in Saltisbury, it's roughly the size of a regiment so about two to four thousand troops tops", Mark answered

"Well, so they're just a drop in the bucket then", James said, "In terms of heavy equipment, what are we bringing in for this?"

"Seeing the importance of this operation", Mark replied, "We'll be committing all of our Comanches and Combat Chinooks as well as our tanks and other combat vehicles for this."

"That sounds overboard but seeing that the Reconquista gets kicked out of northern Albion with this operation, not bad of a deal", Simon said.

"How about the ships we seized in Leichestar?", William asked, "Those are some of the heaviest equipment we currently have."

"As much as I want to use them for this battle, we won't be using them", Mark replied, "There's the issue of windstone supplies which is one reason why we're attacking Ingleton and the lack of crews that can make full use of it. Both of those are things we can't address at the moment so those ships are currently mothballed."

"Well, damn", William exclaimed.

"Now that we have taken into account the troops and equipment, what moves will we make?", James asked.

"Our plan begins by splitting our main forces in half to ambush the two Reconquista forces as they set out for Ingleton from their current positions", Mark said, "And each Reconquista force gets three corps of the main forces each."

"And what about the reserve forces of roughly one hundred and twenty thousand men?", William said.

"As their name implies, they're a reserve force meant to either reinforce the main force during the main attack on Ingleton, hold any captured ground while the main force pushes in deeper, and do mostly logistics-related tasks while the main forces does the brunt of the fighting", Mark answered, "And old man William, you're the one going to command them."

Mark's last sentence caught everyone by surprise especially William himself.

"What?", everyone except Mark asked in almost perfect union.

"Uh… old man William have no experience in combat much less lead an army especially an army numbering more than a hundred thousand troops so why are you handing him an army to command?", James asked.

"Yeah", Simon added, "William is just some village elder and he didn't even experienced being a soldier like me."

"Actually, William is just a nominal commander", Mark answered, "In short, he's just a commander in name only. His main job is to simply keep tab on the reserve force while we personally lead our main forces in battle."

"Can you or any of us just do that?", Simon asked.

"In theory, we can", Mark said, "However, in practice, it might not be the case. Once the fighting starts, we might end up getting our hands full fighting the enemy with whatever forces we have on hand to the point we might not have the chance to send orders to more of our forces since we're all focused on bringing down the enemy we're fighting."

"So I'm simply a spare commander?", William asked.

"Yes", Mark said, "As it stands now, our forces are getting bigger as the time pass by so we need more commanders to command them as a result. Unfortunately, unlike the common soldiers, creating more skilled commanders isn't something that we can easily do so we have to make do with people we already have."

"If you're looking for a spare commander, why me?", William asked for the second time.

"The reserve force you will have nominal command of is composed of conscripted common folk and they have the least training out of all the forces that we have at the moment", Mark answered, "And since they're common folk with not much military training going for them right now, they are just villagers given guns and village elders have a lot of experience with dealing with them."

"Basically, your job is to simply keep them in check", Mark added, "As a village elder, you'll have the biggest pool of experience when it comes to interacting with people like them compared to us soldiers."

"I see", William said, "Is there any chance that they'll see combat?"

"It depends on the situation", Mark said, "If that situation does come, any of us here will immediately requisition the troops under your nominal command to bolster our forces. Because you'll be commanding the reserve force, you'll be posted at the rear so your chance of getting into battle with the enemy forces will be low."

"Understood", William said.

"Good", Mark said, "Now let's move on to other matters regarding our strategy for this 'Mad Rush' operation. Now, for the initial phase of this operation, we are not to use any crack troops we have in our main forces and simply rely on our freshly trained troops to eliminate the withdrawing enemy troops."

"Shouldn't using our best troops make this job easier?", Simon asked.

"It does make things easier", Mark replied, "However, I'm reserving our best troops for storming Ingleton's defenses."

"Why are we going to do that?", William asked.

"It has something to do with Ingleton's land area isn't it?", James asked.

"Correct", Mark said, "Since Ingleton covers a lot of ground for a town as well as its population and garrison being small for such a big area, it's defenses aren't going to be that tough and dense easily allowing our crack troops to pelt their defense line bit by bit and let our more numerous standard troops exploit the breaches to their defense line."

"There's still the force coming from Dortmund right?", Simon asked, "Wouldn't they make the defense line stronger once they arrive there?"

"They can", Mark said, "Fortunately, there's not much that they can do to bolster Ingleton's defenses in such a short time. They'll likely need two weeks of non-stop construction of fortifications and defenses to present us with a tough nut to crack at the minimum which we won't be giving them. Even if we didn't ambush the two withdrawing enemy forces, they still won't be able to erect serious defenses in such a short time either."

"Regardless", Mark added, "For some safety measure, this is where our combat vehicles like the Comanches and tanks will move in. In the event the enemy managed to erect serious defenses that can give our infantry real trouble, our vehicles will be there to eliminate these defenses."

"Finally", James said, "Those things will now be able to prove what they're capable of. Speaking of our aces in the hole, are you going to sortie in a Juggernaut like in the battle of Saltisbury?"

"No", Mark said, "I'll be commanding troops on the ground this time. However, Juggernauts will get deployed for this operation and there's going to be three of them deployed."

"What? Doctor Ignatio and the other scientists managed to get two more operational?", James asked.

"Yes", Mark answered, "I'm surprised they managed to pull it off."

"Okay, so who's going to get to pilot those three?", James asked.

"Still up for grabs", Mark said, "It'll be a trio of Rangers who won't be assuming any command for this battle so they can fully concentrate on piloting it."

"I see", James replied, "So will they be using the same modus operandi just like what you did in Saltisbury?"

"Not quite", Mark said, "The Juggernauts' main role for this battle is to assist the crack troops in smashing down the enemy defenses we'll encounter and support our standard troops in smashing enemy forces inside the town once we have made a breach in the enemy's defense line."

"So basically, we're going hit Ingleton as hard as we can both physically and psychologically?", Simon asked.

"That's the short answer", Mark answered, "However, it's not as simple as that."

"How?", James said.

"As we all know, Ingleton produces windstones which is used as fuel for airships", Mark said, "The specific plan for Ingleton is that we will set up camp outside Ingleton's perimeter and covertly airdrop a few commando teams in there at night to map out the entire town on the ground. Given its large size, there's bound to be several primary targets of importance that we'll want intact and mapped out."

"Like the windstone mines there?", James asked.

"Yes, those are the primary targets I'm talking about", Mark answered, "I don't know how a windstone mine operates exactly considering how windstones behave so I want these targets untouched. After we secured Ingleton, we can start inspecting them."

"I see", James said, "Other than the windstones, we'll want the local population in there to be in as good a condition that we can so they can assist our war effort."

"That's right", Mark said, "And once those primary targets have been mapped out, we'll start deploying our crack troops and combat vehicles to smash their defense line before proceeding to wipe out enemy forces inside the town while leaving the primary targets intact."

"And for an extra measure", Mark added, "We'll also deploy our new ACFG-15 howitzers to shell the enemy defenses we'll first see to divert the enemy's attention away from our commando teams to our forces setting up camp in their front door."

"By commando teams, you mean the same people we tasked in seizing the enemy ships in Leichestar, right?", William asked.

"Yes", Mark said, "And as you already knew, Cecilia will be leading one of those commando teams."

"Hey, old man William, are you fine with this?", James turned to ask William, "Your own granddaughter will be taking to the field in this battle. You know the risks of a battle isn't it?"

"Yes", William replied with a sigh, "As of now, I'm just an old man with nothing to speak for my name while my granddaughter is racking up accomplishments in this war."

"Well, she's taking a more active approach in this war", Simon said, "Naturally, she's going to get accomplishments as time pass."

"Since this is the first time you're going to command a large body of troops, I suppose you can use this for a start in getting some accomplishments for yourself even though your command is just nominal", Mark said, "That way, you won't be just some simple village elder like what you are now."

"I guess you're right", William said.

"Now that reminds me", Simon said, "I heard that you gave the XIII Corps a leave from the frontlines. Why did you have them a leave just to take a rest?"

"That's honestly complicated", Mark said, "However, to put the answer simply, I don't want to break a sharp blade that quickly."

"What?", William asked, "What do you mean by that?"

"XIII Corps is one force of over forty thousand men consisting mostly of crack troops", Mark said, "Forty thousand is a large number in itself and its value gets bolstered thanks to that same forty thousand being mostly crack troops."

"They're a big experienced force so why are you still not rescinding orders and have them be included in our main forces?", Simon asked.

"They just fought one bloody battle one after another", Mark said, "They're mostly one-sided battles in favor of us but that still doesn't excuse the fact that those battles are still life and death situations so there's a bit of trauma there… and that's not to mention all those battles just shattered their perception of reality."

"Perception of reality?", Simon asked.

"Simon, mages rule supreme over commoners because of their ability to use magic right?", Mark replied with a question.

"Uh… yes", Simon answered, "What of it?"

"We just killed a shitload of mages and other related targets in the battles we've been up to so far", Mark said, "Which would have been unthinkable by your world's standards."

"A lot of mages got felled by commoner troops armed with swords, spears, and other weapons in our world's battles long before you arrive so what's the difference now?", Simon asked.

"We killed a lot of mages in such a short period of time when compared to those killed before this war came into being", Mark said, "And that simply shattered the belief that mages are superior as their superiority can be challenged by mundane commoners this easily. Simply rolling them over just add insult to that injury."

"Now do you know why this is a big thing?", Mark asked.

Simon simply thought deeply about it but James immediately answered.

"It's because commoners, which comprise the bulk of our forces, now see that shit as a lie given how easy they're now to defeat?", James answered.

"Yes", Mark said, "But to be honest, before we fielded automatic weapons, I gotta admit that magic does make mages functionally invincible losing mostly to magic with luck, determination, and skullduggery coming a close second."

"I heard that this has been the status quo for the last six thousand years of this world's history", James added, "I'm betting that's going to piss off a lot of commoners now that the thing they have believed for their entire lifetimes is a lie."

"And that isn't going over the grievances that commoners harbor against mages and the nobility in particular yet", Mark added, "Simon, tell me. What sort of excesses do you think the nobility has done against their commoner subjects?"

"Honestly", Simon began as he sighed, "There's a long list for that but all I can say is that I'm lucky the excesses that I had to put up with just ended with me getting kicked off the service in Albion's Royal Army."

"Well, now think of the commoners having to endure that for a few millenniums", Mark said, "How do you think the commoners will respond now that they have a sword that they can use to stand on equal terms with the nobility?"

"That's…", Simon trailed off as Mark interrupted him.

"Their repressed feelings of hate and vengeance will finally surface after all these times of oppression and the only thing they'll want is absolute retribution", Mark said.

"Prior to me joining the cause and scoring victories against Reconquista, the people here don't sound like that", Simon said.

"Just because the people don't openly vent out their anger at the nobility doesn't mean it doesn't exist", Mark replied, "For all we know, their hatred just continues to burn with greater intensity much like how wine develops a deeper taste as time pass by. The only reason why they haven't risen in revolt was due to a combination of being raised to believe as such and their inability to fight back. As for the last one, the ability to fight back in equal terms is going to be a trigger for it to get into motion."

"Going by Mark's words", James said, "The men of the XIII Corps seem to fit the bill. I've received word from some of the COs of the XIII Corps that some of the men down there seems to voice out that they want to 'get even' with the nobles they're up against for the shit they have to endure under those bastards and will butcher any mages they will end up facing when given the chance."

"That's one big reason why I had them shifted off the frontlines", Mark said, "Their psychotic tendencies resulting from their experience of easily killing mages now can potentially backfire on us in the future. The last thing I want to hear is them breaking orders to kill off some mages out of sheer hate."

"Damn, that escalated quickly", Simon said, "Though that's probably me not minding anybody's business at all."

"Well then, you should now", James said, "Unlike a footsoldier, a commander must take into account his soldiers when making decisions. Since you're now a commander, you should start acting like one now."

"Ok", Simon said, "But I really suck at interacting with civilians.

"Speaking of civilians", James said as he turned to William, "What's the name of your wife again?"

"It's Laura", William replied meekly, "What of it?"

"I recall hearing from Cecilia about what happened to her", James said, "I know that the circumstances behind her death was caused by the kind of nobles we're now fighting but please try not to go psycho on them. They're asses but I just want for you not to become like them."

"I will", William replied with a sigh, "I'm too weak-willed to do something like that."

"Well, good then", James said, "We want to keep this sort of shit from flying any higher so every people that can keep their cool is one step towards that goal."

"Well, let's continue discussing this battle plan shall we?", Simon said, "I believe a big operation as important as this requires a lot of planning to succeed at the bare minimum isn't it?"

"But before we start with that, what are we supposed to do with the Germanian mercenaries that Chuck said was trying to get information on us?", James replied.

"Oh right, I forgot that one", Simon said, "Looks like we got some shitheads wanting to get a piece of the action here."

"Personally, I prefer not to deal with them yet", James commented, "While we're easily capable of kicking the shit out of Reconquista, having to deal with another unknown faction at the same time is quite a large workload to do."

"So we're not going to be doing anything to them yet?", Simon asked.

"That's pretty much it", Mark answered, "Just as James said, trying to deal with another target which we have no information on while already dealing with an easy-to-beat target isn't an easy thing to do. I prefer to do big things one at a time."

"And what are we going to do with them once the time comes?", William asked, "Sooner or later, we'll have to deal with them."

"We'll just have to observe them for now", Mark answered, "From Chuck's words, it seems that the furthest reach of these Germanian mercenaries is in Dortmund which is a city linked to Ingleton. Let our agents in Dortmund do the work for us for now. We'll start formulating plans to deal with them once we took Ingleton."

"Okay, is everybody in agreement?", James asked.

Both Simon and William nodded.

"Good, let's go back to polishing our plan to take Ingelton", James said.

The four men inside the room then went back to discussing how they'll move and deploy their forces as they moved the blue and red pennants on the map to see the best possible attack plans with the most minimal amount of casualties to their side.

Meanwhile, Londonium…

1530 Hours…

Londonium, the capital of the Holy Republic of Albion, was the largest city in all of Albion. Due to its size and location, it was the seat of the Reconquista government. It used to be the capital of the Albion Crown before it was defeated by the Reconquista in their bid for power. Despite going through a coup, Londonium hasn't seen any sign of battle as the Reconquista was skillfully able to outwit the Albion Royal Family and completely defeat them without undue losses for them.

As a result, this capital city that retained its status was still in good condition sparing the Reconquista any effort to rebuild it as cities usually get ravaged by the fires of war in the event battles took place on or near them. With that said, business continued as usual even with the ousting of the Royal Family. Well, that's the case if the change of the government was excluded from the picture.

Inside one of this city's buildings, a man was walking through a long corridor lined up with tall rectangular windows with a parcel in hand. He continued walking until he reached a door which he knocked on to alert the people inside.

"Boss", the man said, "We got report from some of our men we dispatched further up north regarding the rebels."

"Come in", the voice from the other side of the room said.

The man then opened the door and inside it was Peter. The same man then wasted no time in walking towards Peter. Taking a seat opposite facing him, he put the parcel on the table between the two of them.

"Our men in Dortmund was able to gather some information about the rebels", the man said, "And honestly, it doesn't look good for us."

Peter didn't spoke for a moment as he immediately opened the parcel and read the contents of the papers inside. It took him a full ten minutes of reading before he finally replied.

"Damn, this looks harder than expected", Peter said.

Putting the papers on top of the parcel, Peter just sighed.

Going by the report coming from his men currently in Dortmund, the rebels were simply more than what he expected. However, "more than" was an understatement here. The correct word was "unimaginable."

Although there were rumors of the rebels being in control of many of Albion's northern territories, the confirmation that they actually do on top of being able to raise armies of their own was another. However, what makes this unimaginable was that a bunch of rebels actually did all of this. With concrete proof now before him, he can no longer have any second thoughts as to the might of these rebels. As he thought more about it, the other man, a subordinate of his, with him in the room asked him.

"Boss, what do you think the rebels' next move will be?", the man asked.

"Hard to think about it, Walter", Peter replied, "However, given the flow of events and their territories right now, it's likely they'll attempt to take Ingleton in one swoop."

"Ingleton? That small mining town?", the man, named Walter, asked, "Why would they go so far as to rush just a small town?"

"It's a mining town, sure", Peter replied, "However, it's a windstone mining town and those rebels just stole airships in Leichestar. Put those two together and you'll see why."

"So they're just going for that town just to supply those airships they stole with windstones?", Walter asked.

"That's just one reason", Peter replied, "However, the main reason why they're likely to pull this stunt will be the chance to kick Reconquista out of Albion's Northern Provinces."

"How is that the case?", Walter said.

"As it stands right now", Peter began, "Ingleton is their only foothold in the mountainous north and getting driven out of there means that the entirety of Albion's northern half will fall to the rebels."

"I see", Walter said, "Boss, what do you think of the Reconquista's chances to hold off the rebels there?"

"Pretty good", Peter replied without pause, "Ingleton's terrain is mostly flat and it's huge so their strategies will be able to work properly. Besides, unlike the earlier battles, chances are that Reconquista knows that they will be coming so sucker punches aren't going to be a thing here."

"In short, this battle will be very bloody?", Walter asked.

"Yes", Peter replied, "If one of the earlier rumors about them, the one saying they're two million men strong is the real deal, then we're looking at them sending at least a hundred thousand men strong force to take Ingleton."

"A hundred thousand man force?", the man said, "Sounds like the same number the Reconquista force is currently stationed at Dortmund headed for Ingleton based on another report of our men there. The battle there sure is going to get bloody."

Peter noted that one fact of the Reconquista sending such a large force to a small town. With a grin forming on his face, he replied.

"And that's what will make this battle, if it materializes, a lot more interesting", Peter replied with a grin, "The fact that an insignificant little town that has only windstone mines in it will be the stage of such a likely brutal battle between two armies."

"Well, that can't be argued", Walter said, "Still, we're lucky the rebels took Leichestar before we got there. Otherwise, chances are we'll end up getting turned to meat paste."

"Yeah, thinking more about it, I'm starting to think that us not getting to Leichestar is a blessing in itself", Peter replied, "Still, if this battle sees the light of the day, we'll also get the opportunity to get a bearing on that guy."

"Who?", Walter asked.

"This ALC's overall commander", Peter said, "Ever since we started hearing about the ALC shortly before Count Von Goebbels hired us, this guy is simply an enigma. By the rumors, he's one hell of a commander who managed to defeat Reconquista forces in a string of battles. With this battle, we can see if those rumors aren't just bluffs."

"Isn't turning this ALC into a force to be reckoned with already enough to confirm this?", the man asked.

"It does", Peter said, "However, if this battle goes through, we can see for ourselves how he's going to win this now that both sides are likely to be at equal footing here. This presents us with the chance to gauge his skills as a commander."

"In that case, he's an exceptionally skilled commander if he can win this battle but… what if he lost?", the man replied.

"He will not", Peter replied, "Thanks to the situation at hand, there's really nothing that Reconquista can do to stave off their inevitable defeat in Ingleton. Even if they do managed to blunt the ALC's initial offensive, the ALC can simply commit more of their forces to keep the pressure on. At this point, it simply is just a matter of hammering the defending Reconquista forces in a grinding war of attrition until they start to buckle up at which point the ALC can drive the killing blow to defeat them for good."

"Couldn't Reconquista just send in more reinforcements after that?", Walter asked.

"They can't in a timely manner", Peter said, "There's a good distance between Londonium and Ingleton. If they do send more forces up there when the battle is already in full swing, there's a good chance their forces will only arrive just in time to see the ALC having already fortified their new holdings from heavy assaults."

"Wait, if this battle is going to be a guaranteed win for the ALC, how exactly is this going to be a gauge of that commander's skill?', Walter replied.

"Exactly just what I said which is 'how'", Peter answered, "The real gauge that can show his worth as a commander is what sort of strategy he can make and how proficiently he can carry that strategy out."

"And how do we exactly measure that?", Walter replied.

"Basically, using five things", Peter said, "Casualties, enemy losses, time it takes to successfully carry out this attack, how smoothly the entire operation went, and things gained in this battle."

"Let me guess, the lesser the casualties, the more enemies killed, the less time needed to do it, how well the battle went, and how much loot they got, the better the commander is it?", Walter said.

"Exactly", Peter replied, "Of course, that's the norm. This isn't going to work if this ALC commander pulls off a different approach that still yields success though."

"I see", Walter said, "By the way, boss, if this battle is a sure win for the ALC, why is the Reconquista still sending troops to get chewed up there?"

"Outright stupidity", Peter replied, "That's why. Honestly, the Reconquista is just the same as the nobility that they ousted and those of the other kingdoms. Their belief that commoners like us are simply of an inferior breed simply influences them to think like this."

"You mean that the ALC won't stand before their might just because the ALC is made up of commoners?", the man said.

"Yes", Peter replied, "In war, just because you can cast magic while the enemy can't doesn't mean you're superior over that enemy. The true face of war is simply that of a giant slaughterhouse that doesn't give a shit if you can cast magic or not. You'll just die all the same in the battlefield."

"Oh dear, so they're still clinging to their pride as it is now", Walter commented, "Even though doing that means complete annihilation. It would have been a lot more rational if they sent more troops there. By the way, are there other routes to gain entry to the Northern provinces without having to pass Ingleton? Surely, Ingleton isn't the only town that links both the north and south."

"There are some routes, yes", Peter said, "However, unlike the route linking Ingleton and Dortmund, those other routes really aren't routes you'll want to have an army as big as a hundred thousand men to go through. Those routes are a pain in the ass to deal with. Well, that won't be the case had the Albion Royal Family basically created more roads before they got ousted and Reconquista actually doing improvements for the civilian populations which they don't."

"Well, I guess there's no point discussing them further", the man said, "So I guess Ingleton's going to be one major battlefield real soon."

"That's right", Peter said, "That ALC commander likely knows this as well so he's going to act accordingly. And Reconquista, despite their bigoted purview of commoners, knows well that the ALC will get a boost in capability if they were to get that town for its windstone deposits. After all, a hundred thousand men isn't something to sneeze at either."

As the two were having a conversation, a knock came on the door.

"Boss, new message for you", the voice on the other side of the door said.

"Come in", Peter replied as Walter stood up and went towards the door.

Upon opening the door, a well-built man was in front of the door with a letter in his hand. Walter got handed the mail that the newly-arrived man was carrying. After that, the same man then went away with Peter's subordinate then closing the door before handing over the letter to Peter.

Peter wasted no time opening the letter. It took him a few minutes in reading it. After it, he put the letter on the table just beside the parcel he just opened a while ago.

"Well, looks like they're starting to get desperate", Peter said.

"What's the message, boss?", Walter asked.

"The Reconquista government wants us to join up with a separate force being currently organized here in Londonium bound for Rosais comprised of elements of their Imperial Army and the mercenaries that they hired" Peter answered.

"Rosais?", Walter said, "Isn't that the place where they build warships?"

"Yes", Peter replied, "It looks like they want to defend that area as its fall means they will not be able to get more ships while handing over to the ALC their biggest weapons."

"Well, that sounds sensible", Walter said, "When will we leave for Rosais?"

"We'll leave once the signal is triggered which will be Ingleton's fall", Peter replied.

"So this move is an insurance?", the man asked.

"Close but not quite", Peter replied, "Their main plan seems to be making this a defensive battle as they can't commit enough troops thanks to their overambitious plan of conquering Tristain and, eventually, the rest of Halkeginia.

"Sounds like they want to bog down the rebels in a war of attrition where they play as the defenders. They're probably hoping that they can chip off enough of the ALC before mounting a powerful counter-strike", the man said.

"Yeah", Peter replied, "Seems like they don't want to waste their big cards on a bunch of folks they deem as inferior. Really, a big ego is a real pain in combat."

"By the way, why do we even had ourselves hired as mercenaries for this?", the man asked, "According to Count Von Goebbels, we don't need to fight them at all. Just know them better then bug out. "

"Although that's the primary objective", Peter replied, "This turnabout of events forced me to make some adjustments to the plans and getting hired as a mercenary group is now the best course of action to achieve our goal. With the Reconquista opening its doors to mercenaries, going with this option becomes even more convincing."

"But wouldn't doing this expose our cover?", the man voiced out his concern.

"With mercenaries getting hired in bulk, that won't be an issue", Peter replied, "With the situation at hand, they likely couldn't care less as long as they can get more troops to field against the ALC."

"Damn, they're really this desperate", Walter said.

"With them on an impending backfoot, that's a well-placed concern", Peter replied, "And almost everything other than that just became a secondary concern. That, in turn, gives us more freedom of movement as they can't be bothered to pay any attention on us now what with those rebels raining down on them like a pile of bricks."

"So the rebels are actually making things easier for us?", Walter asked.

"That's pretty much it", Peter answered, "The only thing we have to watch out for is not to piss them off as much as possible. If these guys can kick Reconquista's ass easily, we won't stand a chance against them in a straight up fight."

Meanwhile, in a fort somewhere in Saltisbury…

0840 Hours…

A few days later, the atmosphere around the fort was very tense. It also felt suffocating for any person that found himself standing anywhere in it.

The reason being the fort's grounds were currently holding a massive number of ALC troops arrayed in rank-and-file formations at attention in front of their superior officers. Dressed in the ALC's distinct dark green combat uniforms coupled with steel helmets dyed in green as well and standing still, the rectangular formations of men would look like small patches of trees that suddenly encroached itself inside the fort out of nowhere from the perspective of people watching from the fort's high-enough towers to make the men look as such.

In the far end of the fort's grounds, several ALC commanders were inspecting the assembled troops.

"Man, this is several times larger than the force we committed to take this city", Michael said.

"Yeah, thanks to that size, we're now assigned as full-pledged commanders", Henry added, "Anyway, let's check out these guys.

The two Rangers then walked past the large ranks and files of ALC soldiers arranged in large rectangular formations with the intention of evaluating the troops. On their inspection, they realized that every ALC soldier was now properly kitted out in terms of equipment. For a start, each ALC soldier was armed with a Galil assault rifle although some of them were armed either with a Negev light machine gun or an M24 sniper rifle. Some of the soldiers were also armed with flamethrowers which were easy to spot due to the bulky fuel tanks strapped to their backs. Aside from weapons, all ALC soldiers were now wearing the same dark-green uniform with a thin steel armor vest reminiscent of some Second World War Soviet steel armor vest and a steel helmet over their heads. To complement the weapons and armor the soldiers now have, backpacks containing various supplies, tools, and ammunition were strapped to the back of all ALC soldiers with a few of them having a rectangular prism-shaped box containing a radio stitched to their backpacks.

As the two of them reached the other end of the grounds where the artillerymen were standing on with their artillery pieces, especially the newly-built ACFG-15s behind them, Michael noticed a familiar face amongst the soldiers. Walking towards one of them, he gazed at the soldier in question, quite a young man at around sixteen years of age.

"Have we met somewhere before?", Michael asked.

"I don't think so, sir", the young man said.

"Okay, what's your name, soldier?", Michael asked.

"It's Nick Gorden, sir", the young man, calling himself Nick Gorden, said.

"Gorden?", Michael asked, "Are you related to Ian Gorden by the way?"

"Yes, he's my father", Nick answered.

"I see", Michael replied, "So that's why you feel familiar to me. You're a son of one of the guys I worked with before. Now that I think about it, what's Ian now doing?"

"He's busy at home training more guys in shooting", Nick replied, "Ever since Armaghe fell, we got a lot more people in our town enlisting for battle and, since he's the guy in charge there, the responsibility to train them fell on him."

"Oh, that's good to hear", Michael said as he looked at the artillery pieces behind Nick and the other artillerymen, "I see that you joined as an artilleryman. So how good is your aim with the new cannons?"

"Still not sure of it", Nick said, "Me and my buddies just got to practice shooting with it two days ago so there's not much to say about it for now."

"Understood", Michael replied, "Well, with this battle, you'll have plenty of targets to shoot at. Make this battle count towards your proficiency with the new cannons."

"Yes, sir", Nick said.

With that said, the two Rangers looked around for a bit before going back at the other side of the grounds where the other commanders were inspecting the troops. Upon reaching the spot where they were at a couple of minutes ago, Mark, James, Simon, William, and Chuck were now there with Mark about to give a declaration. The two of them immediately rushed and stood beside Chuck who was on the rightmost end facing the formation of troops in the grounds.

Checking the loudspeaker for a bit, Mark held it up in such a way that his mouth was in front of the part of the loudspeaker that takes human voice as an input. With the loudspeaker in place, he began to speak.

"All troops, attention", Mark said over the loudspeaker, "Right now, we will be undertaking the biggest operation we will have so far. As such, the stakes in line in this operation are all vastly far higher than what we had in our earlier operations."

"Know this. In history, no commoner dared to stand against the nobility because commoners do not possess the power to do so. However, we managed to come this far to oust the Reconquista which had just ousted the Royal Family", Mark added before his voice got a bit louder, "And now, victory is just on the other side of the hill. That victory has been formed from the toils, sacrifices, and blood that all of you here contributed to the war effort. As such, do not falter. It will only take a little bit more to down these bastards. So do not slack, this last half of our campaign will cement our victory and etch into history our names as the commoners who have defeated these imperialist bastards!"

Yells of jubilation broke out among the formations of ALC troops listening to Mark's speech. As the troops' yells continued, Mark continued his speech.

"That said, steel your nerves to even greater lengths for this operation", Mark said, "Once the battle starts, fight the enemy harder than you have done so, do not give the enemy even the slightest chance to breathe, do not let go of the enemy till they're all dead, stand your ground against overwhelming odds the enemy will throw at you, and most important of all, do not surrender! Do all of these and this campaign will go down in history as the first time commoners trumped the nobility!

When Mark finished his little speech which was evident when he finally put down the loudspeaker, the yells of jubilation amongst the troops simply got louder. Behind him, William walked towards him.

"You seem to have fired up the people here", William said looking at the mass of soldiers standing at the rear of the organized formations of soldiers standing at attention, "And even the reserve troops too."

"As the overall commander in charge responsible for the victories the ALC have", Mark said, "My words will have a lot of weight behind them. Honestly, with the road we have to track ahead of us, we'll need the men in high morale as a good luck charm for this operation to succeed."

"Alright", Mark added, "We have a lot of work to do now. William, inspect the reserve troops. Although you might not be seeing much combat, still keep the reserve troops in good shape for combat."

"Understood", William replied.

After speaking, Mark approached the other commanders, Simon, James, Henry, Michael, and Chuck, to debrief them.

"Alright guys, this is the day of the operation", Mark said, "Any worries before we move out soon?"

"None that we can think off", Simon said, "Honestly, let's keep the ball rolling now."

"We'll move once the dudes that will be doing pivotal roles for this operation are ready", Henry replied, "We'll be receiving notifications from some Rangers once they're up."

"Oh, I see", Simon said, "Who are they again?"

"For a start, we have already selected three Rangers for piloting the three Juggernauts now active just yesterday", Michael said, "As soon as they have been selected, they immediately started trying to acclimate themselves to using those powersuits."

"Aside from them, are there anything else?", Simon asked.

"Well, we have the guys manning the tanks and the Commanches already prepping up", Chuck answered, "It won't take them too long until they're all ready."

"That's good to hear", Simon said, "I like it when the plan gets set in motion."

"Haha! We'll be peeing on them so hard they'll be too dumbstruck to act", Michael said cheerfully, "Oh boy, this'll be the best curbstomp battle I'll have up to now."

"Six corps making a simultaneous attack on Reconquista forces about to set out of those two towns at once before making a coordinated attack on a third town", Henry said, "Yeah, that's going to be unbelievable for this enemy especially when it's done by commoners."

"Well, we gotta thank those guys for having that commoners can't beat nobles taboo", Chuck added, "That's one thing that will make this possible."

"Yeah", Henry replied.

As the ALC commanders were discussing the battle plan before heading out among themselves, William was making his way towards the furthermost formations of ALC soldiers in the rear which constitute the reserve troops. As Mark ordered, he were to check on them to ensure they're in good shape at all times so they will be ready for combat if it ever came down to it. After walking a few good minutes, passing through formations of well-trained ALC soldiers in the process, he finally reached the reserve troops.

However, before approaching them and introducing himself as their commander, a nominal commander to be exact but still a commander, he inspected them first. Upon inspection, the first thing he noticed was that the men that composed the reserve troops doesn't look like to be soldiers he can count on fighting. They were kitted in the same gear that the soldiers of the main forces have but they don't give off the air of troops that can actually fight which the main forces have. Though considering who they were, this was to be expected.

Realizing just how important this operation was, considering the ALC was now willing to press even apparently untrained troops to get more boots on the ground, William then approached the troops. The reserve troops, seeing William approach, stood as straight as they can as they quickly realized that a commanding officer was approaching them.

William, upon reaching the reserve troops, took a deep breath before he spoke.

"All men, listen up", William said, "As of now, you all know that all of you here are just reserve troops. However, that does not mean you are allowed to slack off in this battle. Just as General Mark said, this is a very important operation and you are all inspected to give it your all once you are all called into battle."

"Although I am your commander", William added, "Once you soldiers are called into battle, command of you will switch to whoever commander of the main forces requested for reinforcements. As such, my command over you troops is nominal. However, for the time being, you will follow my orders. Is there any question?"

William looked at the reserve troops to see their reactions. Though they don't seem to be demoralized, he can see that they seem to be unsure about whether they'll see combat or not. After a while, one of them raised his hand and asked.

"Sir, aside from combat, is there any task that we might have to do for this battle?", the ALC soldier asked.

"Due to our role as reserve troops", William said, "We'll be handling certain logistics roles such as constructing forward bases outside Ingleton in preparation of a siege we'll be conducting there."

"I understand, sir", the same ALC soldier replied.

"So, is there any other question?", William asked.

The reserve troops shook their heads indicating that they no longer have to ask anything.

"Good, spend this hour or two to prepare", William said, "We'll be departing any time soon."

"Yes, sir", the ALC soldiers said in unison.

All over the fort, ALC soldiers were busy preparing for the inevitable operation. As they prepared, most of them can't help but chat with each other over the battle that will happen in the next few hours.

"So, again we're basically the first wave?", the ALC soldier said as he slammed the magazine of his assault rifle, "The reserve troops are kinda lucky. Getting to hit the enemy after we softened them up."

"Don't be ridiculous", another ALC soldier replied as he checked that his ammo bandolier strapped on his person was full, "Those guys are simply that. Reserves. They're meant to reinforce us once we made a breach on the enemy defense line in case we suffered some casualties so we can still keep up hammering the enemy."

"So, if we don't get too many casualties, they won't get deployed?", the first ALC soldier asked.

"Yeah", the second ALC soldier said, "Though, High Command can still probably order them to for any reason they deem needed."

"Forget the reserves", a third ALC soldier said as he joined the conversation, "What we need to worry about are the enemies we have to fight."

"Eh? Them?", the first ALC soldier asked, "You mean the Reconquista forces retreating to Ingleton"

"Not them", the third ALC soldier replied, "Those guys are pieces of cake to us. It's Ingleton that we have to worry about."

"Ah yes, that town", the second ALC soldier said, "Heard it's quite the desolate place due to windstone mining activity there."

"Man, that place is spacious enough that we'll see the Reconquista forces fighting there capable of applying their standard battle strategies against us", a fourth ALC soldier said as he walked towards the three other soldiers.

"On the other hand, because it's desolate and very open spaced, any defenses they can muster is going to be thin enough that we can simply overwhelm it", the second ALC soldier added.

"So it's weak defenses but a lot of enemy troops to fight huh?", the third ALC soldier said, "Not bad considering this will be a siege."

"That said", the first ALC soldier added, "Although this operation will involve two battles, it's the second one which will be attacking Ingleton that's the only real battle."

"Yeah", the third ALC soldier said, "The first is obviously just a warm up though."

"Anyway, enough with the chatter", the fourth ALC soldier said, "Let's continue prepping up."

Meanwhile, in a warehouse somewhere in Saltisbury…

0850 Hours…

Inside the warehouse where Doctor Ignatio and his associates were working on the Juggernauts, three of the dreaded powersuits stand ready and were awaiting deployment. For the latter, it was only a matter of time before it happens.

In front of the three Juggernauts were the three Rangers selected to pilot them. As they stand before the powersuits, they held a little conversation.

"So, we're selected for this task huh?", the Ranger said, "Piloting these high-tech avatars of doom that is."

"Well, that's because General Mark is going to command troops on the ground for this battle himself", the second Ranger replied, "Still, these eggheads sure are amazing. Getting two more of these things up and running."

"Heh, that's Doctor Ignatio for you, Adrian", the third Ranger said to the second Ranger.

"Yeah, I guess you're right", the second Ranger, Adrian, replied.

Before they can get their conversation any further, Doctor Ignatio came from behind and spoke to them.

"Are you guys already prepared for piloting the Juggernauts", Doctor Ignatio asked.

"Yeah, we're always ready for anything", Adrian replied.

"Good, now gear up", Doctor Ignatio said, "There's a timetable for this operation. We need to follow that as closely as possible to increase the chances of our success here."

Without a word, the three Rangers quickly made their way towards the g-suits already prepared for them to wear them. With the help from the other scientists and Rangers also in the warehouse, the three of them were now wearing the g-suits. With the g-suits on, they proceeded to climb the ladder leading to the Juggernauts' cockpits. After a while, the three of them were now inside the Juggernauts they're tasked to pilot.

"So this is a Juggernaut from the inside", Adrian said as he inspected the powersuit's operating system's activation sequence, "Guys, what's up on your ends?"

"No problem here", the other Ranger with Adrian replied.

"Same here", the second Ranger with him added.

"Good", Adrian said, "Without any problem, I think we can now sortie out."

"By the way, what weapons do you have, Adrian?", the second Ranger added.

"Uh, let's see", Adrian said as he subconsciously thought about the weapons the Juggernaut he was piloting has.

In a few moments, a screen showing up the weapons equipped on the Juggernaut appeared before Adrian in the powersuit's HUD. Without wasting any time, he told his fellow Rangers about the weapons on his powersuit.

"A Vector rifle, a Kord machine gun, that same death scythe that General Mark used, and Locust missiles", Adrian said, "Wait, Locust missiles?"

"Ah, that's the replacement for the Hornet missiles", Doctor Ignatio suddenly said, "Unlike the Hornet, the Locust has twice the range and has more blast radius the moment it explodes. Since it can be fired in swarms like the Hornet, it can be used for long-range saturation barrages."

"Thanks for the explanation, doc", Adrian replied, "Well be on our way, then."

"Well, happy hunting", Doctor Ignatio said, "Oh, when you guys reach Ingleton, I want you to do that little stunt I told you upon first getting here. I already told General Mark about it so he'll understand."

"Uh… yes, doc", Adrian replied, "That play is going to be the nastiest trolling I'll see in my lifetime so far."

"Don't be ridiculous, kid", Doctor Ignatio replied, "This is just one more move to win this battle and the next battles after that."

With that, the trio of Rangers, piloting three Juggernauts, made their way towards the wide exit of the warehouse. Outside, the three of them decided to walk a few meters as there were a lot of people, all ALC troops preparing for the operation, in the vicinity. The blast whenever a Juggernaut uses its CBT-FLEET boosters can injure any unlucky person caught in it so the three of them decided to spend the time walking and only use the boosters when they're far enough from everyone.

However, as the three of them moved towards a less-crowded place to take-off, they can hear some of the ALC soldiers chatting about them.

"Hey, look at that!", a random ALC soldier said, "It's the Juggernaut! The Angel of Death!"

"And look, there's three of them", his fellow ALC soldier added, "Man, we are so going to win this battle!"

"Hell yeah!", a third ALC soldier yelled, "There's no way we can lose now!"

The on-looking ALC soldiers, realizing what was going on, immediately gave the three powersuits a wide berth to pass through. With the men looking on them as they walked, the three Rangers piloting the Juggernauts can't help but have a little chat through the communications equipment installed in the Juggernauts.

"We look like some heroes about to go on an adventure what with the guys here cheering us", one of the two Rangers with Adrian said.

"You can credit General Mark for that", Adrian said, "Only committing one of this thing in crucial battles like when we took this city, he really spent some effort into hyping this as an 'I win' trump card."

"Yeah, and it's also a morale booster too", the other Ranger with Adrian added, "Just make a flyover on our guys with this thing and they'll be reinvigorated to fight back even against the odds."

After a while, the three of them reached an empty area. Distancing from each other a bit, the wings on the Juggernauts they pilot extended and, after a few moments, bursts of blue light erupted from the wings. Several seconds later, the ground below them began to rumble as the whirring noise generated by the discharge of energy from the Juggernauts' wings' intensified. As the whirring noise went louder, the three Juggernauts squatted a little and then boosted upwards with great thrust in the next split second. In an instant, all three Juggernauts were already up in the sky thanks to their mach-level speeds.

The on-looking ALC soldiers took a few seconds before it registered into their minds that the three powersuits they were watching walk towards a less crowded area were now up in the sky. When they finally realized it, their cheering went louder as the three Juggernauts turned into three shiny glints as they went higher up in the sky.

As the ALC soldiers cheered at the Juggernauts flying away, some of the Rangers, also preparing for the operation, held their own conversation.

"So, those are the Juggernauts", a Ranger said as he sat on top of a Crusader Tank's turret, "We already have three of those things up. I wonder what'll happen when we get all six operational."

"Overwhelming victory, of course", another Ranger said as he climbed on to the Crusader tank to join his fellow Ranger sitting on the tank's turret, "No way a bunch of fantasy European dudes with magic can beat it."

"Yeah, but the one battle it appeared in has the element of surprise on its part", the first Ranger replied, "In this battle, there will be no surprises. By this point, the enemy had already grew a braincell or two so surprises aren't going to be much now."

"Well, we have three", the second Ranger said, "We've been using only one Juggernaut up to now. Seeing three of them in battle is going to get the enemy off-guard. Of course, that assumes the enemy thinks we only have one 'Angel of Death' on our side and didn't go full-paranoid into thinking we have more."

"Even if they do, it won't matter", a third Ranger said as he looked at the two other Rangers sitting on the tank, "Honestly, that's going to be for our benefit. If they think that we have more of them, then we can easily project a sense of superiority over them which will work well for us in psychological warfare."

"Oh right", the first Ranger said, "Would be fun trolling them if we threatened them to surrender or face an entire army of angels at our command. I would pay a million just to see the look on their faces when we told them that."

The three Rangers laughed at the proposition suggested by the first Ranger.

"Haha! That's going to be glorious!", the third Ranger exclaimed.

"Anyway, let's get back to prepping up", the second Ranger said as he got off the tank's turret, "The operation's going to start anytime soon."

"Agreed", the two other Rangers said.

After getting off the tank, the second Ranger went away while the other one went in the opposite direction. Meanwhile, the first Ranger got inside the tank through the hatch.

Upon getting inside, he was greeted with the sight of the tank's cockpit which consists of a screen facing the seat with what looks like a steering wheel, just below the screen, meant to steer the tank left or right also facing the chair. Aside from that, a joystick meant to control the tank gun and the coaxial machinegun was located just to the right of the chair where somebody would normally lay a hand to rest. In addition, various levers and buttons were located around the cockpit meant to control various other systems of the tank. Below the screen was three pedals meant to accelerate, move backwards, and stop the tank.

With him sitting on the cockpit, he immediately started up the tank's operating system.

The next few seconds were spent waiting for the system to load up completely. The first things to get loaded on screen were the general condition of the tank as well as its ammunition loads for both its 120mm main gun and its remote-controlled machine guns. With a faint bleep, the screen where the aforementioned basic information was shown gave way to a general view of the area in front of the tank which was what any tank crew will see especially those who have experience with the older M1 Abrams tanks that the Crusader tank replaced.

"Well, looks like there's no problem", the Ranger said.

He then stepped on the pedal meant to accelerate the tank so it can move forward. However, instead of completely stepping on the pedal, he only made a weak step on it so as to test the tank's engine which was crucial for the tank's mobility.

"No engine problems either", he added.

With the engine accounted for, he immediately switched his attention on another important component of his vehicle: its own Scout Drone.

Clicking one of the buttons near him, he heard a faint creak as one of the sealed bulkheads on his tank's turret opened up which gave way to an equally faint whirring noise indicating that his tank's Scout Drone just took off. A few moments later, the screen gave a weak bleep as a small box appeared on its bottom right. The small box showed an almost top-down view of the area around his tank, which was also shown in the small box. The scenery that the small box shows was what the tank's Scout Drone sees.

"The drone's also good to go", the Ranger said, "Well, let's get this shit rolling."

With all the relevant things for his tank accounted for, the Ranger, actually the tanker in command of the tank, completely stepped on the pedal causing the tank to move forward. Using the steering wheel, he maneuvered the tank along the road to head up to the rendezvous point where he and the other tanks will accompany the ALC attack force. As he drove through the road, he noticed the other Crusader Tanks and even Paladin Tanks following behind him.

"[COMMS] This is going to be the second time we're going to see combat", the tanker said, "[COMMS] Right guys?"

"[COMMS] Yeah", another tanker said over the radio, "[COMMS] And we're all going to be committed for it too."

After speaking, everyone heard a different rumbling noise coming from behind the line of armored vehicles driving for the rendezvous point. The tanker, having an idea on what might be it, pushed one of the buttons under the screen. Upon doing so, another small box appeared on the screen's bottom left part. On seeing what the new small box was displaying, he broke out into a laugh.

"[COMMS] Man, this party just got a whole lot funnier", the tanker said happily, "[COMMS] Even the Overlord Tanks are committed for this operation."

Truth to be told, the small box on the screen that showed up was showing what was behind the tank. It so happened that some of the vehicles following the tank were Overlord Tanks and there were four of them. From what he could make out of the little box, there seems to be also several Humvees as well due to the M2-armed automated turrets, which Humvees in the US military have, sticking out behind some of the other vehicles behind.

"[COMMS] Hey guys, did the Nuke Cannon also got committed for this operation?", the tanker asked over the radio.

"[COMMS] Yeah", one of the other tankers replied, "[COMMS] But it can only fire the Neutron Shells. Nuclear Shells are out of the question. We're not going to turn that place into a nuclear landscape after all."

"[COMMS] Right", the tanker replied, "[COMMS] This operation sure is going to be a real blast."

As the tankers held conversation between each other, the column of combat vehicles heading for the rendezvous point gained speed as they raced to get there so that the entire ALC attack force can move out as a single force as soon as possible. While the vehicles were moving to their destination, some of the ALC soldiers can't help but have a little chat with one another about these metal contraptions capable of moving on their own.

"So these things will finally join the battle", the ALC soldier said, "Makes me want to think how they'll fare in it."

"If they're anything like the Juggernauts", a second ALC soldier said, "There's nothing that Reconquista can do to stop them while these things will straight up murder them with impunity."

"That's good to hear", the first ALC soldier replied, "This makes our chances look even better."

"Anyway, we better get moving", the second ALC soldier said before yelling to get his fellow soldiers' attention, "Everyone, let's move!"

Every ALC soldier around the two immediate slung their weapons on their person after bags containing supplies meant to sustain themselves in a long drawn-out battle were already on their backs. As the ground made a faint reverberation thanks to the rolling wheels and tracks of the combat vehicles, it was quickly drowned by the sound of footsteps that many ALC soldiers also heading to their own rendezvous points made.

Back inside the warehouse, all of the scientists, Doctor Ignatio in particular, were having a break after prepping up the three Juggernauts that just went into deployment just a couple of minutes ago. The guards tasked with guarding them were also on a break.

"Doctor Ignatio, is that plan you told those three Rangers really necessary?", one of the scientists asked.

"Of course", Doctor Ignatio replied, "Even General Mark approved of it."

"Well, that's honestly too douche given the people of this world's religious beliefs", the same scientist said.

"Don't be absurd", Doctor Ignatio replied, "Science and religion does not mix up well with one another no matter how you put them in a single container. As a man of science, I believe it's my duty to discredit their tripe called religion. The same can be said of you and the other scientists with me."

"And how is that plan meant to discredit their religion?", another scientist asked, "That plan revolves around using their own religion against them instead of proving it wrong."

"Oh, it does prove their religion wrong", Doctor Ignatio replied, "It does by science being able to pull off feats that their religion clearly stated as cannot be replicated by any human effort. As science counts as a human effort, this means their religion is wrong."

"Well, sir", the second scientist replied, "I just hope that sort of stunt you're planning won't be doing any sort of excessive consequences for us in the future."

"Nah, leave it to General Mark", Doctor Ignatio said, "We're men of science. Searching for the truth regarding the mysteries of the world is our main task."

"Okay, does that mean we get to dissect a dead mage's body to know how their magic works?", the third scientist asked.

"We'll eventually get to that", Doctor Ignatio replied, "Besides, once this war ends, I'm sure there's going to be a lot of dead mage corpses and even dragon carcasses that nobody's going to be concerned on to examine so there's no need to be worried about such things. No need to be in a rush."

"For now, let's get some precious break after a session of strenuous work", Doctor Ignatio added, "Once this battle ends, we might find ourselves being hard-pressed in doing some important work or two."

Meanwhile, outskirts of Salfort…

1220 Hours…

A couple of hours later, a large ALC strike force numbering a hundred and twenty thousand men had reached the town's outskirts. However, instead of storming the town with brute force, this large force opted to flank it and set up an ambush on the retreating Reconquista force stationed in this town as the enemy force made their retreat towards Ingleton. In their effort to pull off such a move, the ALC forces took positions in the high ground overlooking the road linking Salfort to Ingleton.

As soon as they occupied the high ground on both sides of the road, ACMG-10 howitzers were quickly emplaced and were pre-sighted to hit the road where the target Reconquista force was expected to march on their trek to Ingleton. At the same time, dozens upon dozens of Long Arrow artillery pieces have been lined along the ridgeline of the high ground so they can rain down a ridiculous amount of arrows in a single salvo meant to take as many of the Reconquista soldiers down as much as possible. In order to not alert the unsuspecting Reconquista force of such an ambush, ALC soldiers made great efforts to conceal both the howitzers and the Long Arrow artillery pieces from view. The most common trick the ALC soldiers used was to cover them with thick foliage so they will blend with the trees planted on the high ground.

While the ALC soldiers were making preparations for the ambush, Mark, James, and Simon, all three standing just a couple of meters away from the high ground's ridgeline, were discussing matters about the ambush.

"It's been a while since we pulled off something like this huh?", Simon said.

"Yeah", Mark replied, "Big difference now is that we're doing this in a much larger scale in both men and equipment."

"And so does the enemy in both accounts", James added, "Chuck made an estimate of eighty thousand strong or something along those lines."

"That's a tall order", Simon said, "With that size of the enemy forces, we can't fail here no matter what."

"Easy there", Mark said, "Even if we fail to chip them off down to half their numbers, they're likely going to get demoralized by our ambush alone. The more ferocious our ambush is, the more psychological damage we'll be able to inflict on them. Unless the enemy has a capable leader, a large but badly demoralized force is more of a liability for them."

"So does this mean we're going to focus more on creating a ridiculously overwhelming out-of-the-blue alpha strike instead of inflicting as much casualties as we can to the enemy?", Simon asked.

"No", Mark said, "We'll still be able to create a badly demoralizing strike on the Reconquista force we're targeting while doing our best to wipe them out."

"Yeah", James said, "In my opinion, a wiped out enemy force is still better than a badly demoralized one since the former can't be used by the enemy while the latter, despite the low morale, can still be used to some degree. One less enemy on the field means this battle just got a bit easier."

"Still, I wonder if our troops can pull off an ambush of this scale", Simon said as he stared at the ALC troops lurking on the cliffs of the high ground.

As the three continued on their conversation, ALC troops were scaling the cliffs, just two hundred or so meters away from the road, sandwiching the road where the targeted Reconquista force was expected to pass through to ambush them. While the high ground was occupied with a large number of artillery pieces, the cliffs themselves, the parts with a large enough flat area to allow ALC soldiers to stand on them, were occupied by ALC soldiers lying on their bellies with their weapons trained on the road. Negev light machine guns took the lion's share of the weapons that ALC soldiers on these cliffs use. Thanks to these machine guns' high rate of fire and large ammunition capacity, they were the perfect weapons to devastate a large enemy force moving like a blob inside a constricted space like this road flanked by high ground on both sides.

As the preparations continued, the three voiced out their thoughts regarding this to one another.

"Although our troops are now better trained than ever before", James said, "Anybody wants to guess the odds of us pulling off a successful ambush of this scale?"

"Good enough, I guess", Simon said, "From the intel reports we received, the enemy forces now retreating from Salfort and Prestord are nothing special other than their numbers. Our troops, despite this being their first time pulling off an ambush of this size, should be able to handle them."

"Besides, it's not like the enemy is expecting an ambush at this point", Mark added, "Thanks to our established modus operandi of digging in hard in a village, town, and city we capture which is what we did up to this point, Reconquista won't be expecting us to strike this way. What they'll probably expect is that we'll take our time amassing a large force, overwhelm a place we target, then dig in before spending a good deal of time before repeating this process. From their perspective, this should allow their forces to beat a retreat without taking any serious damage."

"Well, that means they'll be greatly surprised by this", Simon said with a chuckle as he gazed at the line of artillery pieces being set up, "After all, this place just got turned into a nasty killzone."

"Also, with any luck, we should be able to reach Ingleton before the Reconquista can erect any defenses there after we mopped up these guys", James added.

After a while, the radio sitting on a table just a few meters away from the three rang indicating that a radio transmission was being transmitted to it from somewhere. Grabbing the radio headset and putting it on, James immediately answered the call.

"[COMMS] Any news?", James asked.

"[COMMS] This is Hunter-Killer 1-1, a massive wave of hostiles will now be passing through your position in the next ten or so minutes", the voice identifying itself as Hunter-Killer 1-1 on the other side of the line replied, "[COMMS] We're currently shadowing this enemy force outside of their line of sight."

"[COMMS] Understood", James said, "[COMMS] Hunter-Killer 1-1, you know the plan. Take up positions in your designated area and wait till the enemy gets there before opening fire. However, you and your flight are restricted to only using your Comanche's chainguns for this ambush. Save the special ordnance for Ingleton."

"[COMMS] Copy that", Hunter-Killer 1-1 replied, "[COMMS] Over and out."

When the radio transmission ended, James put the radio headset down beside the radio and went towards Mark and Simon.

"They're near", James simply said.

"Well, our men seems to be almost done with the preparations so we're good to go", Mark said.

By the time James had put the radio headset down, the ALC soldiers were almost done with their preparations. All of the tube-based artillery pieces, the ACMG-10 howitzers, had been pre-sighted to fire at the road and so are the Long Arrow artillery pieces. Meanwhile, the ALC soldiers on the cliffs were already prepared to fire on a moment's notice on the unsuspecting Reconquista force expected to pass through the road.

Time felt as if it stopped for the ALC forces about to mount an ambush. For every second that passed caused some heartbeats to go faster showing signs of nervousness for what was about to come. After an eternity of waiting, the first signs of the Reconquista force appeared and were about to traverse the road ahead of them.

The first thing the ALC troops stationed at the high grounds and cliff overlooking the entrance of the road were heavily armored heavy cavalry troops followed by foot soldiers with mages and other support troops following them in turn. Behind the mages and those support troops were more foot soldiers then heavy cavalry. From the looks of it, a typical standard marching formation.

"Well, here they are", Mark said as he looked at the passing Reconquista force through a pair of binoculars.

After a while, Mark put down the pair of binoculars he was using before turning to both James and Simon.

"The operation begins now", Mark said as he pulled out a flare gun from his holster, "You two know what to do now."

"Yes", James and Simon said in unison.

"Good", Mark said, "You two are to fire your own flare guns the moment you see a flare shot up from my own flare gun. We'll be using these flare guns to signal our forces to start and cease the ambush."

"Understood", Simon said, "We'll be going now. Funny enough, the first time I used a flare gun is to scare that little shit Montagu into surrendering. Now, I'll be using it again but it's now to start some serious one-sided slaughter."

Both James and Simon immediately hurried to their designated positions which happened to be quite a distance away and on opposite ends from Mark's position. As Mark waited for the two to reach their positions, he popped open his flare gun's chamber to check the flare loaded in it. Seeing the flare in place, he quickly closed the chamber locking the flare in place and ready to be fired at a trigger click.

While waiting for both Simon and James to get into position, he observed the unsuspecting Reconquista forces passing on the road just below him and his forces. As of now, only their vanguard had entered the road. Numbering a thousand or so cavalrymen, the vanguard was deployed in an arrowhead formation meant to occupy the road's entire width which, if Mark were to guess, was intended to make a sweep out for any possible ambushes an enemy might be planning in a place like this. Judging from the speed of the Reconquista cavalry which was meant for a march and their display of higher than usual situational awareness in inspecting the area, they're making a thorough sweep.

Unfortunately for them, there were no such things to be found on the road itself. Instead, the real things that mattered were located on the high ground and cliffs. As a result, their efforts were simply in vain.

After some time, the radio tucked inside one of Mark's pockets vibrated indicating that a radio transmission was on the line. Quickly bringing it out, he answered the call.

"[COMMS] Ready?", Mark asked.

"[COMMS] I'm in position here near the exit", James replied.

"[COMMS] Same here for me at the entrance", Simon added.

"[COMMS] Good, let's wait for a good chunk of their forces to get inside the road first", Mark said, "[COMMS] If we hit too quickly the bulk of their forces will be able to back off and escape wasting this effort that we just made. When I decided that the moment for the attack comes, I'll shoot a flare, you two do the same after me."

"[COMMS] Understood", both James and Simon replied.

After the call ended, Mark put the radio back inside his pocket.

With the flare gun on hand, Mark keenly observed the Reconquista forces as they traversed the road sandwiched by the two lines of high ground which the latter was unaware of being occupied by concealed ALC troops. Thanks to his position at the middle, between the entrance and exit of the road, he has a greater sight range than both James and Simon making it easy for him to decide when to mount the attack.

The minutes passed as more and more Reconquista troops entered the ALC's killzone with the ALC troops lying in wait now beginning to select which target to shoot at for once the signal for the attack was launched.

After a dozen more minutes which had felt an eternity for the ALC forces, Mark pointed his flare gun up in the sky and clicked the trigger. A popping sound erupted from the flare gun's muzzle as the flare itself went out of it sped straight into the sky. Once the tiny flare burst out into a giant fireball of light up in the sky, both sides' attention went into high gear. Just as the ALC troops in Mark's immediate vicinity opened fire, initiating the ambush, two more flares popped up in the sky and turned out the same as the first one.

With three flares having detonated up in the sky, the two lines of high ground stretching on the sides of the road parallel to each other and the cliffs on them erupted in gunfire, arrows, and explosions as the entrenched ALC forces stationed in these areas opened fire on the unsuspecting Reconquista force below them.

An extremely loud cacophony of artillery cannons roared into life as lines of ACMG-10 howitzers opened fire lobbing their shells into the road the Reconquista forces were on. Meanwhile, hundreds of Long Arrow artillery pieces discharged half a thousand meter-long arrows a piece simultaneously. Unlike the ACMG-10 howitzers, the arrows launched by these wooden artillery pieces were so many that they were able to blot out the sky from the view of the Reconquista forces. While artillery shells and arrows rained down on the Reconquista forces that had been just caught off-guard, the ALC troops on the cliffs opened fire with their machine guns, rifles, and sniper rifles. Thanks to the limited space provided by the road, the Reconquista forces were effectively packed tightly in such a small area making them easy pickings for even the small arms the ALC troops possessed.

Due to the combination of artillery shells, arrows, and bullets, the Reconquista force found itself being chipped off at an alarmingly fast rate. In the first salvo alone, more than a dozen divisions were wiped out down to the last man as they were turned into a red mist by artillery shells, pincushions by arrows, and swiss cheese by bullets.

"Damn it!", a Reconquista commanding officer mounted on a horse grunted, "All troops make a run for-"

The Reconquista officer himself was unable to finish what he was about to say as he received a meter-long arrow to the forehead and another one on the neck followed by half a dozen more meter-long arrows on his body. The force of the arrows that chucked themselves into him was strong enough to make him fall off from his horse which immediately broke into a panicked run. Meanwhile, the foot soldiers he was commanding scurried away from where he dropped on the ground due to fear of also getting riddled by such long arrows.

Throughout the Reconquista force, panic, confusion, and fear were the only three things that ruled over it. Thanks to these three, the situation for the Reconquista force was rapidly deteriorating as more artillery shells, arrows, and bullets claimed more of their numbers.

"By the Founder! How did it turned into something like this?!", a high-ranking Reconquista officer yelled, "Aren't these bastards supposed to take Salfort first?!"

As much as the Reconquista officer yelled to the heavens over his predicament, he was also struggling to keep his panicking steed into running randomly due to risk of getting hit by the ALC forces. Trying to get a bearing on the situation atop his panicking steed, the only thing he saw were his troops getting slaughtered in the dozens per second.

Brandishing out his wand, he chanted a spell.

"Far Sight", the Reconquista officer muttered.

After chanting the spell, the Reconquista officer's sight suddenly got a drastic increase in range. With his sight greatly enhanced, he stared at one of the cliffs overlooking the road. To his surprise, and shock, he noticed the ALC troops entrenched there busy shooting his own troops.

Realizing what's going on, he immediately chanted another spell. This time, a spell that can amplify his voice. Once the spell was in effect, he spoke.

"All troops!", the Reconquista officer bellowed, "The enemy is on the cliffs! Kill them all! Archers, aim and fire! Shield troops, close order formation! All earth mages summon golems and reduce those filthy vermin to paste!"

With the loud booming of his voice, his order amongst the ranks of the Reconquista force was immediately followed despite the confusion generated by the out-of-the-blue ambush that the ALC forces did. Soon enough, archers were returning fire with their own arrows although the volume of their arrow fire and the size of their arrows were pitiful when compared to the five hundred one-meter long arrows fired by a Long Arrow artillery piece, which the ALC force deployed in large numbers, in a single volley . The contest between exchanging arrow fire was heavily stacked in favor of the ALC.

However, the earth mages in the Reconquista force soon got their own ball rolling. The earth began to rumble as huge mounds of dirt rose from the ground as the earth mages chanted. In the next few moments, the mounds of dirt took a distinct shape. That shape was that of the golem.

As the time flew, more and more mounds of dirt, some big and some small, continued to rise from the ground and turn into golems. However, before these golems can take the initiative, artillery shells, bullets, and more arrows rained down on them. The arrows and bullets did nothing but turn the golems into giant earthen pincushions. The artillery shells, on the other hand, tore through the golems and kicked up dust on impact. Due to the preposterous amount of shells lobbed in response to the golems forming up, any golem that got hit by artillery shells instantly crumbled as they were unable to withstand the amount of firepower they were subjected to.

While the golems were taking a beating, the earth mages that casted them were also subjected to the same treatment. However, unlike the golems that can only be taken down by artillery shells, the mages themselves were easily killed by arrows and bullets in addition to artillery shells once either of the three hits them. Thanks to their flesh-and-blood bodies, arrows and bullets have no problem tearing holes in them. Meanwhile, artillery shells reduce their bodies into red paste on the dirt.

"Everyone! Keep firing!", an ALC soldier in the cliffs yelled as he unloaded everything inside the magazine of his assault rifle on the Reconquista forces, "Don't let them get the chance to reorganize!"

As the ACMG-10 howitzers and Long Arrow artillery pieces unload barrages of artillery shells and arrows on the ambushed Reconquista force below, the ALC troops on the cliffs never let go of their triggers except when replacing the spent magazines of their weapons with a fresh one before opening fire again. With the Reconquista force constricted inside a narrow space, it was simply impossible to miss by a large margin even if recoil was in full effect.

"Okay guys! Keep the pressure on!", another ALC soldier yelled, "All snipers, prioritize taking out those mages!"

The ALC soldier's command was immediately heeded by his fellow soldiers armed with sniper rifles and took aim. Due to the mages wearing distinct clothing like brightly colored capes, they were easy to discern from the commoner troops within the Reconquista force. As a result, it was easy for the snipers to take them down in one shot.

Thanks to accurate sniper fire, the mages of the Reconquista force started falling one after another due to 7.62mm rounds to the head. The remaining mages tried to scurry away but the killzone provided by the flat road in between the two stretches of high ground meant that escaping was a difficult proposition. As sniper rounds whizzed through the air, mages continued to drop left and right with some had their heads burst out like balloons.

As the Reconquista force took more and more casualties over time, the ground they were walking on started to gain a new color. From the original dirt brown the ground has was slowly being turned into a blood red color as more blood splats cover the ground thanks to the rising casualties due to the ALC's ambush.

However, despite the shock that the ALC did with their ambush, the Reconquista force was starting to make some progress in returning fire. The golems that the earth mages conjured started grabbing up large boulders lying around the road and slung them straight on the ALC lines on the high ground.

"Ah shit!", an ALC soldier cursed himself, "Those bastards are starting to return fire! All artillery, concentrate on those damn golems! Don't let them get any closer to our lines or we're going to get toast!"

While boulders were starting to rain down on the cliffs, some of the golems started to scale the cliffs to get to the ALC soldiers attacking the Reconquista force from there. However, on their way to climb up the cliffs, the ACMG-10 howitzers began to lob their artillery shells on them causing massive damage to the golems thanks to the howitzers firing the artillery shells in an overwhelming volume that the golems can't withstand. Soon enough, the golems were disintegrating into an avalanche of dirt due to the explosions of the artillery shells that hit them.

"Alright, let's keep pushing them!", another ALC soldier yelled as he fired a burst from his assault rifle in an attempt to score a hit on one of the Reconquista mages, "Prioritize shooting those mages with your guns! Killing them will prevent more golems from appearing!"

His order was quickly followed by his comrades who then proceeded to lay out a withering barrage of hot lead in an attempt to kill as many mages as they can. However, due to the mounds of dirt from the destroyed golems, the ALC soldiers encountered difficulties in killing off the mages who have taken cover behind these mounds of dirt.

As the ALC's ambush intensified thanks to the Reconquista slowly regaining some of their footing which the ALC cannot afford to happen, Reconquista's vanguard force of cavalry troops were galloping at full speed ahead of the main force to reach the other end of the road and, hopefully, to safety.

"Quick, men! We're almost out of this inferno!", one of the Reconquista cavalrymen yelled as he urged his steed to run faster.

As the cavalrymen forced their horses to gallop as fast as they can to get out of the ALC's ambush, the ALC's fierce attacks took their toll on their numbers like the rest of the Reconquista force. For every meter of ground they ran past through, a random cavalryman ends up finding himself either having a meter-long arrow chucked into him, a tiny piece of hot lead embedded into his body, or just plain dismembered into several body parts by an artillery shell.

"AAAARRRRGGGGGHHHH!", a Reconquista cavalryman screamed as bullets riddled him and his horse causing both rider and steed to tumble violently on the dirt.

"Tch…", the lead Reconquista cavalryman gritted his teeth in frustration before turning to his second-in-command, "Let's split up to reduce our numbers getting shot by those bastards, four on-"

The lead cavalryman was stopped dead in the order he was about to give the moment he got a good look on his second-in-command. His second-in-command was still riding atop his stead. However, said second-in-command was riddled by so many meter-long arrows that it turned him into a human porcupine with the steel tips of the arrows penetrating to the other side of his body skewering him as well. Because of that, one thing was already clear.

His second-in-command was already dead.

Gritting his teeth again in frustration, the lead Reconquista cavalryman gripped the reins of his horse tighter urging his steed to run even faster.

"Founder be damned!", the lead Reconquista cavalryman cursed in a loud voice as he unsheathed his sword and raised it up high, "To all surviving cavalry, whip your horses to run as fast as possible! The only way we'll be able to survive through this is to reach the end of this road being sandwiched by the high ground on both sides!"

The other Reconquista cavalrymen, quickly realizing the meaning of their leader's orders, obliged instantly. Within moments, the Reconquista vanguard force picked up speed intent on reaching the end of the road. Some of the ALC troops, seeing what was happening, changed their aim at them.

"Shit!", an ALC soldier cursed, "Those guys are going to get away! Kill them all!"

With the ALC troops atop the cliff seeing what the Reconquista force vanguard was aiming for, the volume of gunfire on them intensified. As the ALC troops concentrated their fire on the Reconquista cavalrymen acting as a vanguard force, James, who were observing them, relayed an order.

"Have the Long Arrow artillery crews concentrate on those targets", James ordered regarding the enemy cavalrymen, "Don't worry about running out of arrows. Just focus on wiping them out to the last man."

"Yes, sir", an ALC soldier replied.

Within the next couple of seconds, a massive barrage of meter-long arrows fired by the Long Arrow artillery pieces was heading straight for the general direction of the Reconquista vanguard force. The Reconquista cavalrymen, seeing the massive barrage of arrows big enough to blot out the sun from their view, can't do anything but stare in horror.

With predictable results, many cavalrymen of the Reconquista vanguard force were skewered by the long arrows turning them into porcupines along with their horses the moment the long arrows hit their positions. However, despite taking heavy casualties from this barrage of long arrows, the Reconquista vanguard force still had numbers to keeping pushing their way out of this ambush.

Reduced to less than a fourth of their number, the Reconquista vanguard force kept galloping forward. Realizing that they're just a hundred or so meters away from reaching the end of the road, the surviving cavalrymen's spirits went up. However that was short-lived when they saw something waiting for them from there.

At the exit of the road hovered a nightmare that they will carry to their deaths. Above the road were eight flying steel behemoths whose skin was a dark shade of gray. Emitting a nefarious whir, these monsters hovered at the end of the road as if to say that any soul who reached this point was where their life ends.

Most of the surviving Reconquista cavalrymen, having stopped cold due to fear, can only gulp and that was their last action before the flying steel behemoths made their move. The behemoths' mouths began to roar to life beginning with a faint roar before turning into a louder one. When the roar went louder, the behemoths spew out flames in their general direction and that was the end for them.

The flying steel behemoth, actually Comanche combat helicopters, fired their 30mm chainguns at the immobile Reconquista cavalrymen in an effort to prevent them from escaping the ambush wiping them out in the process. Dozens upon dozens of 30mm rounds tore into the Reconquista cavalrymen reducing them to dismembered body parts and pools of blood on the ground. By the time the Comanches stopped firing, the ground where the Reconquista cavalrymen once stood had been turned into a giant pool of blood with body parts and entrails swimming in it.

"[COMMS] Man, this is damn boring", Larry said, "[COMMS] Hunter-Killer 1-1, isn't that right?"

"[COMMS] Hunter-Killer 1-2, concentrate on the mission for the time being", Brett replied, "[COMMS] We'll worry about that once this ends."

"[COMMS] Whatever, Brett", Larry replied.

The Comanches hovered at the exit of the road with orders to gun down any Reconquista troops that managed to get past the ALC forces attacking them from the high ground and cliffs. From the perspective of the Comanche pilots, the only thing they can see was a bloody one-sided massacre happening in front of them which was also concealed by the two stretches of high ground running parallel to each other.

"[COMMS] Well, this is just a damn massacre", a Comanche pilot said over the radio as artillery shells screamed in front of them.

"[COMMS] This is not a massacre, this is just war", Larry interjected, "[COMMS] These fuckers are just out of their luck for this to happen."

Just then, a small group of Reconquista soldiers appeared at the entrance of the road from the side the Comanches were waiting at. This small group of Reconquista soldiers, all cavalrymen like the vanguard force that were just finished off by the Comanches were badly exhausted and received heavy damage from their looks alone. In front of the Comanches waiting to gun down any Reconquista straggler that managed to survive the ambush, they were nothing more than easy targets.


30mm chainguns roared to life as they discharged round after round on the Reconquista forces in front of them reducing the latter to pools of blood in less than twenty seconds.

"[COMMS] Attention to Hunter-Killer Flights 1 and 2", Brett said, "[COMMS] Enough with the chatter. Just concentrate on gunning down anything that's not on our side popping out here. We can blabber all we want about this once this battle's over."

"[COMMS] Roger", all Comanche pilots replied in unison.

Just as the situation intensified at the middle and the exit of the road for the Reconquista forces, the situation at the entrance of the road where the Reconquista forces first entered wasn't any less intense either.

"Keep firing at them!", Simon yelled, "We're hitting them at their rear so every hit we do on them will be several times more effective than our guys hitting them from the middle and end sections of the road!"

Being assigned as in-charge of the ALC forces on the high ground just overlooking the entrance of the road between the two stretches of high ground running parallel to each other, Simon and his forces has a clear shot on the Reconquista forces' back which became the case when Mark fired the signal for the start of the ambush as the Reconquista force's rear guard had already entered the road at this point.

"We're hitting their rearguard so no need to panic!", Simon added, "We won't be getting hit as hard as our guys in the middle and end of the road by counter-attacks so don't sweat it. Prioritize going for killshots instead of firing blindly!"

The ALC soldiers around Simon heeded their commander's order. After relaying the order which took several minutes to inform the other ALC soldiers of it, the rate of fire of the ALC soldiers under Simon's command dropped. However, many of the shots that they fired hit home on the enemy. While not all of them were killshots, they were enough to send their targets down.

"Good, continue with that sort of shooting", Simon said as he walked towards the artillery and Long Arrow artillery crews, "Men, concentrate your fire on the largest concentrations of enemy soldiers you can spot. We're aiming to maximize the amount of damage we can do on them. If a lot survive your shots and went out of your range, ignore them. Just leave them to the soldiers under General Mark and Commander James further ahead inside the killzone."

"Yes, sir", one of the artillery crews replied.

More artillery shells and meter-long arrows whizzed through the air as they slammed straight into the mass of Reconquista soldiers still surging forward attempting to reach the end of the road. This, in turn, caused even more casualties to the Reconquista force. Because the Reconquista soldiers surging at the area Simon was in command of comprise the rear guard of the Reconquista force itself, they suffered even greater casualties than those being attacked in the areas under Mark and James' command.

After a while, Simon noticed that there was no more Reconquista soldier he can see scurrying away for his life. Realizing what just happened, he brought out a radio stored in his his pocket.

"[COMMS] Mark", Simon began, "[COMMS] I can no longer see any enemy forces here on my end. Looks like every single one of them has been wiped out."

"[COMMS] Understood", Mark said on the other end of the line, "[COMMS] Launch a flare to notify your troops to stop firing."

"[COMMS] Roger", Simon replied.

After that, Simon terminated the call and put the radio back in his pocket. With the radio inside his pocket, he immediately reached for the flare gun tucked inside a holster strapped to his right hip. Cocking open the flare gun to expose the empty chamber, he then loaded a fresh flare into it and snapped the flare gun's action in place. With the flare gun loaded, he then pointed it up in the sky and clicked the trigger. The flare immediately shot out of the flare gun's muzzle a split second after the trigger was clicked. After reaching a certain altitude up in the sky, the flare then exploded into a bright ball of illumination that can still be easily seen despite the daylight.

"Okay, my end's well done", Simon thought as he put the flare gun back on his holster,"I hope the other two get their own ends done soon."

As Simon's thoughts focused on the bloodstained killzone just below him, the echoes of gunfire, meter-long arrows, and artillery shells continually lowered until the entire place became dead quiet. With the noises gone, the only thing left before him was the charred and bloodstained road where elements of the Reconquista force once marched through.

Meanwhile, in the middle section of the killzone, Mark was busy directing the ALC troops under his command in raining down death on the Reconquista forces just below them. While he was doing it, an ALC soldier came up to him.

"General, Commander Simon said that all the enemies on his killzone have been wiped out", the ALC soldier said, "The enemy forces that we're facing now is the enemy's rearguard now."

"Excellent", Mark replied as he turned and walked towards the artillery crews, "Men, double the rate of your fire, the enemies now in our killzone are the last of the enemy. Thin them out the best you could. Just leave the leftovers to Commander James' forces."

"Yes, sir", the artillery crews yelled to ensure that the roars of artillery doesn't drown out their voices.

The next few minutes saw an increase to the intensity of the artillery barrages of ACMG-10 howitzers and Long Arrow artillery pieces. The intensity of these barrages were great enough that anything hit inside the killzone was reduced to a small pool of blood or turned into a human porcupine in an instant.

"Alright, keep this intensity of barrages up", Mark said, "Well be resupplied by the time we reached Ingleton so do not worry about ammunition for this battle."

"Yes, sir", the artillery crews replied.

While the Reconquista troops in the middle section of the killzone were being chewed up by Mark's forces, the same could be said to those at the exit section where James was in command of the ALC troops.


The sound of the Comanches' 30mm chainguns were loud enough to compete with those of the artillery barrages. However, unlike the artillery barrages launched into masses of Reconquista troops fleeing for their lives, the sound of chainguns firing could only be heard to mow down any Reconquista soldiers that managed to get past the barrages of artillery shells, meter-long arrows, and gunfire alive.

Ever since taking their positions in front of the road's exit which was unobstructed by the two stretches of high ground running parallel to each other on both sides, the Comanches were lazily hovering at the road's exit to act as a guarantee that no Reconquista forces can escape alive from this ambush.

"[COMMS] Ugh… this is getting boring as fuck", Larry grumbled, "[COMMS] We're just lazing here doing nothing other than hosing any shithead that gets all the way here with a 30mm."

"[COMMS] Hunter-Killer 1-2, just chill out", a random Comanche pilot said, "[COMMS] By how things are going, it wouldn't take long before we wiped these suckers out. Just a few more chaingun taps and we'll be done with this."

"[COMMS] Hunter-Killer 1-4, thanks for the assurance", Larry replied as he pressed the trigger of his Comanche's 30mm chaingun on his controller stick, [COMMS] Anyways, these fuckers sure are hard to put down."

Larry was referring to Reconquista stragglers that were able to get past through the killzone set up by Mark, James, and Simon in advance. Fortunately, even if those Reconquista stragglers managed to make it past the killzone, they have been badly worn down by the constant attack the ALC forces set up along the killzone. This makes them very easy to dispatch by the waiting Comanches at the exit of the road from the Reconquista force's point of view.

"[COMMS] Attention, Hunter Killer Flights 1 and 2", Brett said over the radio, "[COMMS] I just received a transmission from General Mark that he already eliminated all Reconquista forces on the part of the killzone he's overseeing so the last of the Reconquista forces remaining are on Commander James' killzone. Give it your best shot for the last wave of these fuckers."

"[COMMS] Roger", all Comanche pilots replied.

"[COMMS] Finally", Larry added, "This lame shoot leftover enemies session is going to get done with."

After a while, a decently-sized blob of worn down Reconquista troops, with some of them kitted with far more expensive and decorated armor and weapons, appeared near the exit of the road in front of the Comanches. Due to the circumstances present, the result was completely obvious.

"[COMMS] All units, let them have it!", Brett ordered over the radio, "[COMMS] There's also a bunch of head honchos down there! Don't let any get away!"

"[COMMS] Roger!", all the other Comanche pilots, including Larry, acknowledged in unison.

As if in perfect unison, all Comanche pilots kept their index finger pressed on the trigger behind the control stick of their Comanches. In response, the 30mm chainguns of the Comanches spun up for a few seconds before they unleashed a full stream of 30mm rounds downrange on the hapless mob of Reconquista soldiers that presented themselves as targets in the killzone located on the exit of the road made by the Comanches.

The firepower presented by 30mm rounds hitting bone, flesh, and steel was enough to tore through the three aforementioned objects relatively easy. As the 30mm chainguns spun to fling a 30mm round downrange on the unfortunate Reconquista troops, blood splats, organs, steel fragments, and bones flew in random directions. Due to the efficiency of modern weaponry like chainguns, this one-sided massacre was over as fast as it started.

"[COMMS] All targets eliminated", Brett said over the radio, "[COMMS] Hunter-Killer Flights 1 and 2, let's head to the rendezvous point."

"[COMM] Roger", all of the other Comanche pilots replied.

With that, all eight Comanches flew away and headed for their rendezvous point. With the speed of their Comanches, the trip to the rendezvous point was brief as it only took them ten minutes to reach it. However, attempts to reach it by foot, wheels, or tracks will take a lot of time especially for the former.

"[COMMS] So this is the rendezvous point", Larry commented.

Below the flight of eight Comanches lay a sight that put every combat helicopter pilot gasping in shock.

"[COMMS] H-holy shit!", one of the Comanche pilots screamed, "[COMMS] Just look at those vehicles right there!"

The Comanche pilot was referring to the assortment of vehicles parked neatly on the rendezvous area. From utility vehicles like Construction Dozers, Ambulances, Combat Chinooks, and Supply Trucks to combat vehicles like Crusader Tanks, Paladin Tanks, and Tomahawk Launchers, all manners of US military vehicles were all over the area. Support vehicles like the Microwave Tanks were also in play. Aside from the US military vehicles, recovered Chinese military vehicles like the Overlord Tanks and the Nuke Cannon were also in the mix. Even the Ballast Tractor that housed the Juggernauts was also in the area. The rendezvous area resembled more of a makeshift parking lot than a rendezvous area with such vehicles parked on it.

"[COMMS] Yeah, I can understand the Overlord Tanks but the Nuke Cannon as well?", another Comanche pilot said, "[COMMS] And that Ballast Tractor over there means that at least one Juggernaut is also in this."

"[COMMS] Chill down", Larry replied, "[COMMS] That thing's mean to only fire Neutron Shells so we won't have to worry about nuclear contamination if it were to fire. Besides, with most of the enemy being squishy meatbags, Neutron Shells are far more useful than Nuclear Shells. The Juggernauts are just plain overkill though."

[COMMS] All Flights listen up", Brett said over the radio, "All of the assets you are seeing right now is brought up as backup weapons in case the enemy force we'll fight in Ingleton have their own assets that can give us trouble. This operation is going to be the biggest we'll have at this moment so don't slack here."

"[COMMS] Roger", every Comanche pilot replied in unison.

As the combat helicopters and vehicles form up and stood ready to mobilize to Ingleton once the three ALC leaders, Mark, James, and Simon, finished regrouping the ALC troops that were responsible for ambushing the Reconquista force they targeted, another big ambush was happening somewhere else.

Meanwile, outskirts of Prestord…

1240 Hours…




"[COMMS] Hunter-Killer Flights 3 and 4", a Comanche pilot said, "[COMMS] Keep this barrage up. The enemy forces will soon be completely wiped out. Just concentrate on the enemies appearing here at the exit."

"[COMMS] Roger", the other Comanche pilots replied.

The withering fire of the Comanches, eight of them in total, directed at the exit of the road, also flanked by two lines of high ground on both sides, where Reconquista forces were coming out of was more than enough to turn anything organic that showed up there into chunky salsa. Over time, the small pools of blood from the corpses of Reconquista troops shredded by 30mm rounds from the Comanche's 30mm chainguns on the road's exit turned into one giant pool of blood with other sorts of organic matter like organs and bones floating on it. While this giant pool of death was a representation of a one-sided slaughter, this was also simply a testament to just how lethal modern weapons were in a battlefield no matter what era it was.

"[COMMS] Check that little pool of blood over there", one of the Comanche pilots commented, "[COMMS] It's starting to turn into a swamp."

"[COMMS] Well, that's good", another Comanche piloted commented as he nudged his control stick a bit to adjust his Comanche's 30mm chaingun's firing crosshair, "That bloody muck should slow them down making them easier to turn into more meat paste."

"[COMMS] Say, how long do we have to do this?", a third Comanche pilot asked, "[COMMS] We're just hovering here gunning down any of those Reconquista bastards that managed to get past the killzone ahead of us."

"[COMMS] Given the intensity of attacks that our ground forces are pumping on these bastards, it shouldn't be that long", a fourth Comanche pilot answered.

While the Comanche pilots were comfortably hovering at the exit of the road and gunning down any Reconquista troops at their leisure, they saw a massive swarm of meter-long arrows soaring into the sky before going down and crashing back on the ground below… with predictable results.

"[COMMS] Man, that's a lot of arrows crashing into the ground", a Comanche pilot stated.

"[COMMS] That's good for us", the third Comanche pilot added, "[COMMS] More arrows raining on the enemy means more casualties on their part which also means less bastards for us to mow down."

"[COMMS] Yeah", the first Comanche pilot said, "[COMMS] Man, I'm starting to love arrows."

While the flight of eight Comanches were taking positions at the exit of the road where leftover Reconquista forces scramble to for safety to wipe out said Reconquista forces, the situation in the high ground above the killzones was hectic.

In one of the two stretches of high ground overlooking the road that was turned into a killzone completely occupied by ALC forces, ALC artillerymen were busy lobbing shell after shell on the road below them with the ACMG-10 howitzers that they were manning.


The sound of spent shells being ejected off the chamber of the howitzers can be heard as soon as the same howitzers fired. With the spent shell ejected, a fresh shell was rammed by an ALC artilleryman as quickly as the spent shell was ejected.

"Alright guys, let's keep this rate of fire up and steady!", Nick shouted to prevent the roars of more artillery shells fired by more ACMG-10 howitzers to drown out his voice.

"We're already doing it!", a fellow ALC artilleryman shouted as he handed over to Nick a fresh 75mm shell to be rammed into the howitzer's chamber the moment it exposes the spent shell it just fired, "We'll be buried under a ton of spent shells if this keeps up!"

"Don't be absurd!", Nick shouted back, "With how much artillery shells and arrows we pumped into them a while ago, their numbers should be close to being wiped out by now!"

As of the moment, a lot of spent shell casings litter around Nick and his fellow artillerymen. Thanks to repeated firings by many howitzers, smoke was everywhere making it slightly hard to see. However, because the enemy was constricted in such a limited space, any hit that connects was bound to claim a lot of kills.

"Anyway, somebody go brush away these shells!", a random ALC artilleryman yelled, "And bring in more fresh shells here too!"

A couple of other ALC artillerymen nodded and swept away the spent shell casings littering around Nick, his fellow artillerymen, and the ACMG-10 howitzer they were using. At the same time, a pair of ALC artillerymen went to them and provided a rectangular wooden case filled with a dozen or so 75mm artillery shells.

"Thanks", the same ALC artilleryman said, "Now, let's go back to shelling those bastards!"

With that, Nick and the other ALC artillerymen resumed firing.

As lines of artillery pieces lobbed shells and Long Arrow artillery pieces unleashed swarms of long arrows into the sky, three certain Rangers in their designated vantage points were overseeing the entire ambush as it unfolded.

"Well, just look at that", Henry commented as he peered through a pair of binoculars, "These guys are fleeing the best they can instead of fighting back."

While he was peering through the binoculars observing the Reconquista force took casualties as the ambush went on, an ALC soldier came up to him.

"Sir, a considerable number of those bastards are getting away", an ALC soldier said, "We should be intensifying our attacks on them!"

"No need to get so worked up here", Henry said as he put down the pair of binoculars, "As the force stationed at the part of the killzone where these suckers will be entering, our main job is to thin out their numbers. Leave the wiping them out part to our comrades further ahead of the killzone. Just kill what you can on the enemy."

"Yes, sir", the ALC soldier replied.

"Also, tell the guys manning the artillery crews not to mind about ammunition", Henry added, "Tell them to fire as much as they can to incur the highest possible amount of enemy losses they can inflict. We'll be resupplied with more ammunition by the time we reach Ingleton after all.

"Yes, sir", the ALC soldier said, "With your leave."

The ALC soldier saluted and went away.

With the ALC soldier gone, Henry returned to observing the ambush as it unfolded. Before the ambush started, the road was nothing more than stone and dirt. Now, the road where the Reconquista forces entered was still stone and dirt. However, it was stone and dirt painted in red blood as more and more Reconquista soldiers fell due to artillery shells, meter-long arrows, and bullets.

As artillery shells, meter-long arrows, and bullets whizzle everywhere, Henry reached for the radio in his pocket and initiated a radio transmission. The radio in his hand let out some static noise as it tried to reach a radio that will receive its signal. After a while, the static noise stopped indicating that another radio received the transmission that Henry's radio was transmitting.

"[COMMS] Chuck, how's your end doing?", Henry said over the radio.

"[COMMS] It's going smoothly", Chuck replied, "Whoa!"

Henry heard something slam into where Chuck was standing at although he also heard noises of Chuck getting out of the way in time to dodge whatever it was.

"[COMMS] Hey, what's going on there?!", Henry asked.

"[COMMS] Uh… it's nothing", Chuck answered, "[COMMS] Those shitheads are starting to return fire here in the middle section of the killzone. Fortunately, we have the superior volume of fire over them here and, thanks to the high ground, their return fire is ineffective."

"[COMMS] Thankfully", Henry replied, "[COMMS] How many enemies are still left in the middle section of this killzone by the way? Mine's starting to drop like a rock."

"[COMMS] It's beginning to thin out as we land more hits on them here", Chuck answered, "Michael who's overseeing the exit section of the killzone should be able to finish off whatever manages to get past here. After all, he also has the Comanches assisting him there."

"[COMMS] Oh yeah", Henry said, "[COMMS] Well, let's wrap this one up."

Henry then placed the radio back in his pocket and switched his focus back on the slaughter just in front of him from the high ground. On the slaughter itself, it was becoming more and more brutal as each minute passed on. The number of losses that the Reconquista force they ambushed here was reflected to just how large the sea of blood that now painted the dirt and stone road was.

Thanks to the blood, body organs, bones, steel fragments, and other organic matter sprawled throughout the road, it was hard for the surviving Reconquista forces to move making them easier targets for the ALC artillery pieces and troops on the elevated terrain overlooking the road to kill even more of their numbers.

Despite this ambush taking a tad bit longer than the intended duration, Henry noticed that the morale of the ALC troops fighting in this ambush was skyrocketing to high levels as time flew. Normally, these guys' morale should have already dropped a bit when the Reconquista forces managed to return fire to some degree but the opposite happened. Rather, the ALC troops were throwing everything they got at the enemy to wipe them out.

"Well, I guess Mark's speech from earlier really is this effective", Henry thought as he turned his attention on the energetic ALC troops manning the artillery pieces on the high ground, "That said, I still better conclude this ambush as soon as possible."

Taking a deep breath, Henry bellowed an order.

"All troops listen up!", Henry yelled getting the attention of all the troops within the immediate vicinity, "Change of plans! Throw everything we've got at the enemy so our allies up ahead will have an easier time mopping up whatever enemy survived of our ambush!"

Henry's orders were met with cheers from the ALC troops around him. Within seconds, the intensity of weapons fire coming from the ALC troops that Henry commands intensified to a noticeable degree. The ALC troops on the other stretch of the high ground, noticing what's going on, promptly increased the intensity of their attacks to match those that were in Henry's immediate vicinity.

While the entry section of the road commanded by Henry surged in activity, the middle section, where most of the Reconquista force was right now, was also having an intense development.



"Tch…", Chuck gritted his teeth, "These bastards are a real pain in the ass."

From Chuck's vantage point above the high ground, he can see several golems casted by the earth mages amongst the ranks of the Reconquista force they just ambushed hurling rocks and medium-sized boulders straight for the high ground the ALC troops were on. While none of the thrown rocks killed or badly wounded any ALC troops yet, the golems were starting to become an annoying problem in this ambush.

"Tell the artillery crews to specifically target these golems!", Chuck ordered one of the ALC soldiers around him, "Also, tell the guys manning the Long Arrow artillery pieces to maintain their rate of fire!"

"Yes, sir!", the ALC soldier replied before turning around to take his leave.

The same ALC soldier, hands above his head, raced towards the line of ACMG-10 howitzers unloading shell after shell on the road designated as a killzone to relay Chuck's order to them. Within minutes, the ALC artillery crews adjusted the aim of the artillery pieces and resumed firing once that was done. When they resumed their barrage, instead of indiscriminately firing on anything on the killzone, their shells were aimed specifically at the golems. The other ALC artillerymen on the other stretch of high ground soon followed the change in targeting priority when they noticed that their fellows on the stretch of high ground where Chuck was was targeting were specifically targeting the golems.

As a result, the golems, who were busy hurling anything they can get their hands on at the ambushing ALC forces, started going down due to the firepower being lobbed at them in retaliation. Before half an hour passed, all of the golems were nothing more than giant mounds of dirt on the bloodstained road.

"Good! They're down!", Chuck yelled upon seeing that only mounds of dirt were what was left of the golems, "Alright people! Resume firing!"

Heeding his orders, the ALC troops, including the artillery crews, reverted to their targeting priorities from before Chuck ordered them to specifically attack a certain set of targets.

Meanwhile, the surviving Reconquista forces, with their cover in the form of the earth golems now gone, took in more casualties when the ALC troops resumed firing on them. However, this time it was in a greater intensity than before. With their cover gone and ineffective return fire, only one embarrassing option was available to them.

Flee with their tails between their legs.

For the surviving Reconquista troops scurrying away for their lives, this ambush was simply the most humiliating experience for them to receive. To think that them, the ones who was destined to unify all of the human kingdoms in a grand crusade against the Elves, to be killed in something like this was far more humiliating than getting outright humiliated by opposing nobility as prisoners of war. To top it all off, this was done by mere commoners.

Mere commoners…

No, dirty commoner scum.

And to add insult to that humiliation, they were all fleeing from these filthy vermin. Getting shot at the back while retreating was one thing but to be driven off by filthy vermin was another… and it was simply unforgivable.

These filthy vermin shall all die a thousand times for this upstart ploy that they pulled off.

However, as much as they wanted to curse at these commoners, their curses simply don't stand at all against artillery shells, meter-long arrows, and bullets that the same commoners were hurling at them at such a breakneck pace. From their view, those meter-long arrows that the commoners were throwing at them were so many that those arrows simply blocked the sun's rays from their view. Speaking of those arrows…



Dozens upon dozens of arrows rained down on a concentrated blob of Reconquista troops instantly killing them and turning their remains into pincushion of long arrows. Despite some of the Reconquista troops were wearing armor which should have afforded them some degree of survivability against arrows, the meter-long arrows simply went through them as smoothly as a knife goes through wet paper.

"Ah shit!", a Reconquista soldier grunted, "Everyone spread out!"

The Reconquista soldiers that weren't skewered by the meter-long arrows immediately spread out to prevent themselves from being wiped out by the massive arrows by the dozens. While this made it hard for the ALC troops on the cliffs to target them and the artillery crews forced to spend more ammunition to kill them, this also made them combat ineffective as loose amounts of troops simply lack the mass of an attack that can deal a decent blow against any enemy.

"Concentrate fire on those guys!", an ALC soldier yelled, "We're this close to wiping them out so don't let up on the attack!"

"Yeah, some of those guys look like some head honchos!", another ALC soldier yelled, "Killing them should hamper the enemy's ability to act!"

More meter-long arrows rained upon the road that the Reconquista soldiers were running through as ALC soldiers continued to unload magazine after magazine worth of ammunition on the same Reconquista soldiers to kill them off. However, due to the Reconquista soldiers having spread out, the casualties that the meter-long arrows inflict was reduced while the insanely fast rate of fire of the ALC soldiers meant that their accuracy went horrible which also meant fewer casualties for the Reconquista soldiers.

Despite this, it didn't negated the truth that the Reconquista force was being chipped away by the ALC force that ambushed it and it was only a matter of time before they were all wiped out. As time flew, the Reconquista force was being wiped out man by man. Before it dawned on the doomed Reconquista force, the last of their numbers were already near the exit section of the road that the ALC forces turned into a killzone.

"Sir, the last of the enemy forces are now entering our range!", an ALC soldier shouted.

"Well, that's good", Michael said, "Order all the Long Arrow artillery crews to prepare for a massive full-sweep barrage and the ACMG-10 ground pounders a massive salvo. They are to fire on my command via a flare signal."

"Yes, sir", the ALC soldier replied before running.

The same ALC soldier took a minute or two to relay Michael's order to the lines of artillery crews pumping out arrows and artillery shells on the killzone. Once the order was relayed, all of the artillery crews ceased firing as they waited for the others to finish loading their payload and were prepare to fire at a moment's notice once Michael's order went up.

While the artillery crews were preparing for one massive barrage and the ALC soldiers shooting the Reconquista troops with their firearms to further whittle down their numbers, Michael, peering through a pair of binoculars and a loaded flare gun already at hand, observed the fleeing Reconquista troops as they closed the distance to the exit of the road where the road starting from that point wasn't flanked by two stretches of high ground.

When the Reconquista troops reached a certain distance away from the road's exit, he raised his flare gun in such a way that its muzzle was facing the sky. With the gun's muzzle pointing at the sky, Michael clicked the trigger and the flare shot out of the gun before speeding up towards the sky. Within minutes, the flare exploded into a bright ball of light that can be seen by anyone on the ground easily.

As if on cue, thousands of meter-long arrows soared into the sky as hundreds of Long Arrow artillery pieces launched their payloads simultaneously which was followed by the roars of many ACMG-10 howitzers as they fired in a massive broadside to add up to the weight of fire that the Long Arrow artillery pieces created.

The gargantuan wave of meter-long arrows and artillery shells seared through the air like a swarm of angry locusts taking to the skies before gravity caused this same wave to go on an impact course to the ground. The ground, occupied by Reconquista troops running for safety, was soon drenched in blood as many Reconquista troops succumbed to the wounds they received from either the meter-long arrows that punctured their bodies in the dozens or the serious burns inflicted by the explosions of the artillery shells that didn't killed them outright.

However, despite the devastating loses the Reconquista forces received from this barrage, a number of them still managed to survive. With only a hundred or so meters away from the exit of the road sandwiched by two stretches of high ground on both sides, the Reconquista force, although badly battered by the ambush, still surged on due to the belief that safety was now on sight. Advancing on full speed through unrelenting gunfire, the remnants of the Reconquista force threw everything they got to reach the road's exit. After several more minutes of running, the Reconquista force managed to reach the exit.

What remained of the Reconquista force cheered up for they managed to survive the ambush laid by the filthy vermin hiding on the high ground overlooking the road despite the odds arrayed against them.

That was what everyone of the surviving Reconquista force thought before their attention was caught by an ominous noise resonating up in the sky. When they looked up, the spark of hope they got for escaping the killzone vanished. Before them stood eight flying steel behemoths staring down on them much in the same way a predator does with its prey. In an instant, despair griped their hearts and minds.

And that same despair was the last feeling they felt when the flying steel behemoths breathed fire on their way. The fire of the flying steel behemoths gave way to a large pool of blood with the Reconquista soldiers that survived the killzone on the road finding themselves bathing in it. The vision of bathing in their own blood was the last thing they saw before Death claimed their lives.

Above this pool of blood, the eight Comanches scanned the area for more enemies that might pop out of the road's exit. After a few more minutes, the flight leader of the eight Comanches received a radio transmission.

"[COMMS] To Hunter-Killer Flights 3 and 4", Michael's voice was heard on the radio, "[COMMS] The Reconquista force you took out just now was the last. We'll now start organizing the troops to march on Ingleton at this moment. Mission accomplished.

[COMMS] This is Hunter-Killer 3-1, copy that", Hunter-Killer 3-1 replied, "[COMMS] We'll be heading to the rendezvous point. Over and out."

"[COMMS] Understood", Michael said over the radio.

After Michael's transmission ended, the group of eight Comanches flew away from the slaughter they just did towards the rendezvous area where the other ALC combat vehicles were waiting.

With the Reconquista forces from Salfort and Prestord wiped out, the road to Ingleton was now laid bare.

Meanwhile, outskirts of Ingleton…

0600 Hours…

Two days later, above the skies just outside of Ingleton's outskirts, three Juggernauts were soaring through the air as they stayed just outside the sight range of any person in Ingleton.

"[COMMS] Man, we're inside this suit for two days straight", a Juggernaut pilot grumbled.

"[COMMS] Don't be absurd", Adrian interjected, "[COMMS] Being stuck inside the US' most advanced piece of death tech is a lot more bearable than participating in an ambush just two days ago. Besides, we're Rangers so this sort of thing shouldn't be a problem to us."

"[COMMS] Yeah, yeah, I get what you're trying to say Adrian", the first Juggernaut pilot replied, "[COMMS] Still, thinking about another way, this isn't really that bad. Being able to kill the shit out of the enemy using probably the best piece of weaponry back in our world to date sounds good to me."

"[COMMS] Right", the other Juggernaut pilot added, "[COMMS] I'm amazed the three of us got selected to pilot this awesome piece of gear produced by those eggheads."

"[COMMS] Speaking of those eggheads", the first Juggernaut pilot began, "[COMMS] Adrian, you sure we'll have to go with what they instructed us to do?"

"[COMMS] Uh, yeah?", Adrian said, "[COMMS] It got the green light from General Mark so we'll just have to carry it out like any other order."

[COMMS] Well, I don't really have any complaints about it to be honest", the first Juggernaut pilot replied before he made a big grin on his face, "[COMMS] However, I didn't expect that egghead to be such a troll."

[COMMS] Seeing who the enemies we are fighting, yeah", the other Juggernaut pilot added, "[COMMS] I feel almost sorry for these guys. We're going to turn their beliefs against themselves with this dick move."

As the three conversed with one another, a new voice joined in the chatter.

"[COMMS] This is Command Actual to Juggernaut Team, are you all set?", Mark asked on the radio.

"[COMMS] This is Juggernaut Team Leader to Command Actual, we are ready to roll out at any time", Adrian replied.

"[COMMS] Good", Mark said, "[COMMS] As of now, you are aware of your first action for the battle of Ingleton and you will be carrying it out now."

"[COMMS] That first action being to go with Doctor Ignatio's request is it not?", Adrian asked.

"[COMMS] Yes, that's the one", Mark said, "We'll be using that to crush the enemy's morale before the siege starts."

"[COMMS] Understood", Mark replied, "[COMMS] We, the Juggernaut Team, will be carrying out that objective. Over."

"[COMMS] Copy that, over and out", Mark said before his transmission ended.

With Mark terminating his call, the three Rangers now piloting the three Juggernauts committed to this operation were left again to their own devices. It took them a few seconds before their chatter with one another resumed.

"[COMMS] Well, looks like it's time for some job", the second Juggernaut pilot said.

"[COMMS] Agreed", the first Juggernaut pilot added.

"[COMMS] Well, let's go", Adrian said.

The three Juggernauts then flew towards the direction that will take them to Ingleton. As they flew, they saw on the ground a lot of tents and other makeshift dwellings housing ALC soldiers that will soon be finding themselves into battle after the last one they took just two days ago. They can also see the various vehicles, including the Comanches currently ground, that the ALC committed for this operation in a makeshift motor pool located just half a dozen tents away from a larger tent which they think is the command post.

From their view above the skies, the entire encampment of ALC troops on the ground looked like a small village and the three of them can't help but air their opinions about it.

"[COMMS] Well, that's a lot of our guys down there", the second Juggernaut pilot commented on the large encampment of ALC troops below them.

"[COMMS] Yeah, there's also the Ballast Tractor that housed the Juggernauts in the mix", Adrian said.

"[COMMS] This operation really is fuck huge", the first Juggernaut pilot added, "[COMMS] I know this operation is going to be a large one but not this huge to the point we're committing most of our assets for this one battle."

"[COMMS] If I'm not mistaken, those vehicles are simply meant as backup weapons in case the enemy has something that our rank-and-file guys can't deal with on their own so they won't be used as a first option", Adrian explained.

"[COMMS] The exception to that which I can think of are the tanks which will be used as an armored spearhead during assaults and the Nuke Cannon which will be lobbing Neutron Shells for this battle", the second Juggernaut pilot.

[COMMS] To be honest, the tanks and Nuke Cannon are already enough for this", Adrian stated, "[COMMS] The Microwave Tanks and Tomahawk Launchers are both just overkill. On the other hand, the Ambulances and Dozers are well appreciated here."

After a while, the three noticed that they're already in front of the town's entrance what with the Reconquista troops they saw stationed on top of the walls.

"[COMMS] Guys, this is it", Adrian said.

The two nodded and, in the next few seconds, the Thanatos Death Scythe appeared in the hands of their Juggernauts in spear form. The same weapon also appeared in the Juggernaut that Adrian was controlling. However, instead of the spear mode that the other two have, Adrian's was in its scythe mode.

"[COMMS] You two, on me", Adrian ordered.

The two other Juggernauts complied and flanked the Juggernaut Adrian was piloting on both sides. With his two fellow Juggernaut pilots flanking him, Adrian moved forward until they can be seen by the Reconquista troops stationed on the town's walls.

The CBT-FLEET boosters on the three Juggernauts exerted a tremendous amount of energy that their exhausts can be seen from afar. At the same time, large ethereal wing-shaped protrusions made of energy manifested on the Juggernauts' wings.

While the three Juggernauts were showcasing their show of force before the Reconquista troops, who were now showing signs of awe and fear on what they were seeing up in the sky, on the town's walls, Adrian was recalibrating his Juggernaut's voice settings.

"Ugh… I didn't expect that I'll be the one tasked to carry on this trolling", Adrian thought to himself as he watched the expression of the Reconquista troops on the town's walls with perfect clarity thanks to the Juggernauts' sophisticated high-resolution Heads Up Display.

After some time, he finished modifying his Juggernaut's voice settings. With the voice setting accounted for, a window with words written in it appeared on his HUD. Taking a deep breath before speaking it with his Juggernaut's modified voice, he began to speak in a booming voice thanks to the customized voice settings.



PS: Well, that's all of it for this Turn. I'll be now setting my sights on getting another chapter of "Sentient Familiar of Zero" done. If more questions spawned in the reviews, it will take *just* a while before those can be answered.