Chapter III, A Magnificent Victory
MARCH 25, UNIFIED YEAR 1926, GENERAL STAFF OFFICE WAR ROOM
Deep inside the Empire’s General Staff Office, in the War Room…
It had been ten days since they’d plunged into combat in the east with the Federation. The map with everyone’s positions scribbled on it spread out on the table showed how far the Imperial Army had fallen back during that time.
It was evident from the repeatedly redrawn lines that the Eastern Army Group’s defensive positions had been gradually receding from the border. Of course, the Imperial Army General Staff had been prepared for the likelihood of getting pushed back by the Federation’s first attack.
They were aware of how immense their enemy was, and they had a plan. Still, the reports from the front lines and the shift of the war showed, whether they wanted it to or not, that the strength of the fearsome attacking Federation Army was far beyond what they expected.
Which was why Lieutenant General von Rudersdorf, who was planning their interception strategy, was forced to grumble that he wanted to concentrate more troops in the east.
“The scale of the enemy is greater than we imagined. The Eastern Army Group has come crying to me; they’ve given up all their strategic reserves. At this rate, we’ll be chronically undermanned on every front. We’ll probably have to retreat farther than our initial plan.”
“If you’re saying we should have prioritized stationing more troops in the east in the first place, I’ll take it.” But Lieutenant General von Zettour replied that there wasn’t anything else they could have done. “The Intelligence Division could use some help, I think. Here’s the latest information they rushed over.” Zettour continued, exasperated. “It’s a big army,” he said, watching Rudersdorf’s eyes pop at the documents he’d handed him. “They’re about a hundred and fifty divisions, and that’s only facing us in the east. They have another twenty-five divisions marching south to Dacia. Intelligence’s preliminary estimate was a hundred and twenty divisions total, but in reality they have about 50 percent more than that.”
There was no mistake in acknowledging the Federation Army as gigantic. Zettour himself, as the one in charge of logistics, felt that if the Federation could move such a huge army so fast, its national strength couldn’t be taken lightly.
The most astonishing thing was the concentration of forces. Due to its vast territory, the Federation had to split up its troops even more than the Empire did. Despite that, however Zettour was genuinely in awe they somehow managed to commit 175 divisions to one front. They had either tremendous confidence in the security of their other regions or other forces in reserve.
“The horrifying part is that they aren’t even fully mobilized yet. These numbers are just absurd. How many do we have?” Rudersdorf grumbled in disgust.
Zettour could only frown and nod because there was a good chance that the Federation Army could still expand its forces for one more phase.
When the Federation decided to sneak attack the Empire, it had worked to keep its intentions secret as long as possible. As a result, it should probably be said, until the safety canaries sang, despite being on guard against Federation activity, somehow the General Staff had failed to notice it.
The Federation had managed to hold back from mobilizing until right before it opened hostilities, keeping its shift to wartime organization hidden from the Empire. With a sigh, Zettour told his friend and colleague the situation they were facing.
“Things are pretty rough even on the main front in the east. The Eastern Army Group has been strengthened since the western front has quieted down, but they still only have sixty divisions. I sent over five from the former Entente Alliance front, plus three mechanized divisions and three infantry divisions from the homeland response reserves, but it’s still not even half of what we need.”
“So only sending in the hundred divisions of the Great Army would let us catch a breath.”
“About that, here’s the latest report. The situation is apparently not what we planned.”
What? Rudersdorf asked with his eyes, and Zettour handed him documents from an envelope under his arm, stating his concise conclusion.
“Full mobilization is probably not doable. They can move sixty.”
The ideal was a hundred divisions, but the Imperial Army could actually offer only 60 percent of that. Zettour, from the Service Corps, found it exceedingly regrettable, but even that 60 percent would be made up of divisions patched with new recruits and reserves from the home front.
They probably wouldn’t be as strong as they should be.
“Sixty?! Zettour, that’s nothing like what we discussed!”
“With two more weeks, we can move another thirty, but there’s no way for the last ten. They haven’t had enough key officers since the battles on the Rhine front and the western offensives. There is just no way to have a full roster.”
He continued with an “On top of that.
“You should feel lucky if those thirty are even usable, since they’ll be second-string security divisions from the rear. And I’m sorry to say the artillery they’re using is just what we could seize from the former Republican Army. As for machine guns, they’re even more poorly equipped than the troops were before we got into the trench battles on the Rhine.”
“I’ve heard all about the equipment problems from you multiple times. That’s fine. But General von Zettour, this is the first time I’m hearing of the personnel shortage. Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I don’t want to admit this, but the first I heard of it was also just twenty minutes ago. The deputy director of the Service Corps’ jurisdiction is gear and training… I don’t do personnel affairs. That would be Supreme Command and the Personnel Division.”
That’s bureaucracy in action for you. They both grinned wryly, but it was no joke to either of them. Even if it was just accounting issues, limits on the amount of personnel they could use were intolerable at this point.
When Rudersdorf reached the distressing conclusion that they needed to rethink their plan, Zettour responded that he wasn’t completely out of ideas.
“This is just a thought, but…perhaps we should consider diverting the reinforcements meant for Dacia to the east instead. The way I see it, we can stand to reassign two or three heavy divisions.”
“Yeah. It’d be nice if we could have the fourteen occupying divisions do something. From my perspective, even if we defend Dacia in depth, losses to the homeland will be minimal.”
Hmm. Zettour wrote the friendly units and potential routes of Federation unit attacks on the map and considered them in silence.
The eastern front was too big to defend in depth with trenches they didn’t have enough soldiers. And even if they could dig the trenches, they didn’t have enough men to defend them.
In which case, the only option for the eastern armies was to fight a retreating battle with a focus on delaying. The point was to be in the right place at the right time to intercept.
“General von Rudersdorf, before I get your opinion on this, I want to review where we’re at. Broadly speaking, we’re up against three groups of attacking enemy forces. Group A is en route to Norden in the north, Group B is preparing to break through the eastern border and attack us at home, and Group C is heading south to Dacia.”
“I agree with your diagnosis.”
“Which do you think is the main attack?”
“In numerical terms, B is the overwhelming focus. It must be around a hundred divisions. Considering the territory they need to cover, it’s probably an appropriate number, but it’s still more than the combined seventy divisions of A and C.”
Zettour nodded gravely in response to Rudersdorf’s groaned comment. Putting together the photos from reconnaissance planes, reports from the front lines, and SIGINT, they were forced to conclude that a sickening number of Federation troops were surging toward them.
The possibility of taking out each unit via the Imperial Army’s forte, interior lines strategy, was there, but even if they could get units separated, the enemy army could put up numbers that the General Staff was right to fear as a nightmare.
“…Could be a multifront attack with their matériel superiority or human wave tactics by matériel saturation at some point they’ll overwhelm the Imperial Army’s limited fighting power and brute force our lines back. It’s quite the practical strategy.” Smoking his cigar, Zettour leaned slowly back in his chair and noted calmly that it was only natural the Federation adopt a strategy that took the difference in raw power between the two nations into account. “In theory, I should probably add,” he couldn’t help but murmur as he offered Rudersdorf a cigar.
If the Federation Army was trained and equipped equally to the Imperial Army, the Empire’s lines would probably collapse that very day. But though they grumbled about the surplus of enemies, the troops were fighting an organized defensive battle as they retreated.
The situation strongly suggested and this was another surprise for the Imperial Army that Federation troops were even more inferior in terms of training and equipment than assumed. Even if the numbers were a giant to threaten the Imperial Army…it wasn’t fatal.
“How can you say that, General von Zettour?”
“Surely you have an idea, General von Rudersdorf.”
The pair of friends smirked deviously at each other. The confidence and certainty that they could do it filled the air between them. Officers of the General Staff have the nastiest personalities there’s no helping it. It’s the typical outcome of a staff education system that seeks only genius.
“Now then, to discuss things a bit more seriously… In a way, this will be a collection of assumptions we’re familiar with. As envisioned by interior lines strategy, we’ll neutralize the attacking enemy groups one by one.”
But Rudersdorf’s confident pronouncement rather irritated Zettour. His tone was so reassuring, and that’s precisely what caused Zettour to frown. He was only dimly aware of it, but the heads of Operations in the General Staff had this tendency to…be obsessed with solving everything in one push. It wasn’t as if he didn’t understand at all, but he worried that they focused too much on operational license and the long view.
“First, we’ll annihilate Group A up in Norden. From there, we’ll hit what we can, moving on to B. I want to nail Group C in part to keep the Dacian region in check as well.”
“I agree. First, we’ll crush A with the Great Army; then, in the same swooping motion, they’ll annihilate B along with the eastern armies. But shouldn’t we leave C alone and move those troops up to join with the Eastern Army Group? Consolidating troops is one of the basic principles.”
“Are you out of your mind, Zettour? In terms of comparative fighting power, that would be asking the impossible of the forces in Dacia. Asking them to make do with half their numbers is one thing, but pull any more soldiers out from under them and the Dacian front will surely stagnate.
“If it were just transferring some reinforcements, that would be fine,” Rudersdorf commented negatively. Zettour was still on about defeating the enemy in one blow. Rudersdorf refused to accept a plan that would take time and delay progress in one area.
“I understand what you’re trying to say, but we don’t even have the wherewithal to mount an offensive in Dacia right now. I’m sure it’s fine if we leave it alone.”
“The Imperial Army proved how mobile it can be in Dacia, even with limited railroads, when it gained control of the country in the first place, didn’t it?”
“Most of the horses we used for that were lost somewhere in the Republic.”
“You know we don’t have horses,” Zettour pressed. It was the same thing he had told him anytime they were executing an offensive on the Rhine.
He had only just barely been able to secure supplies by requisitioning horses from every region and running them into the ground. You could look all you wanted, but you wouldn’t find any extra horses around.
“We only have very limited infrastructure on the Dacian front. It doesn’t compare to home. I agree that given the circumstances, we should be fighting a mobile battle of interception on the eastern border, but what about sticking with mainly delaying combat in Dacia? We should be able to buy time if we defend our positions and draw them into a trench battle.”
For the Imperial Army, designed as it was with interior line strategy in mind, a long-range attacking battle would be a huge burden. It was already too hard for them to move in regions where the railroads weren’t properly maintained.
That’s why he had to say these things that the heads of Operations wouldn’t like.
“Zettour, are you serious?”
It’s the only way.
He continued assertively, choosing words that accurately conveyed his intentions. “Delaying combat, attritional containment, and solid lines I believe this is our only realistic option in Dacia.”
“I beg to differ. In fact, as someone working in Operations, I won’t even beg. For starters, the one in charge of the operation would never accept an option like that.”
“…The reason being?” He spoke slowly and turned to look at Rudersdorf with a sigh, waiting for the counterargument he knew was coming.
“Zettour, I’ll be frank, since this is you and me talking here!”
“The key to interior lines strategy is the strategic leeway to move manpower as flexibly as possible! Should we continue to leave enough troops down there to pin down a mere portion of the Federation Army? The answer is no, no, no! We can’t allow men to be wasted like that!”
Though he nodded at “You understand that, don’t you?” Zettour was nonetheless compelled to voice his argument.
He himself had once been part of the Operations organization. He understood where Rudersdorf was coming from the fear that troops might be stationed inefficiently, the necessity of securing the initiative.
Interior lines strategy is, in the end, a craft that involves working out every trick in the book to run as safely as possible over thin ice. Optimization by eliminating even the slightest uncertainties or waste. These basic principles had been thoroughly beaten into all staff officers’ heads, so Zettour understood so much it hurt they were a part of him.
But he also understood logistics.
“You’re not taking the infrastructure deficiencies seriously enough. The Railroad Department is going crazy about how badly maintained the rails are. If we assume a scorched-earth policy using air and mage units, we won’t need that many.”
“You want us to allocate air forces to a scorched-earth battle? Absolutely not. I want to focus our usage of the fleet on pinning down Group B in the east, especially. Taking into account the differences in fighting power, we should be able to crush the Federation’s eastern defenses instantly if we consolidate our air forces there.”
“Having air forces in Dacia would not be a waste. I’m not taking defense of the eastern front lightly, but can’t you even spare the aerial strength to escort a bomber unit?”
Protecting the east vs. burning Dacia down to stagnate the lines. The key to either plan was air forces, and the General Staff had a hard time deciding how to allocate them because all the fronts were so desperate to have them.
What made it more difficult was that it wasn’t a simple debate of how many soldiers to deploy. In any time and place, military men worry about new weapons. That is, there are always meandering discussions about how to use them.
Just as Zettour and Rudersdorf couldn’t agree on how the air forces should be used, it was a troublesome debate in general.
“I’m not averse to considering the Service Corps’ requests, but do you have any idea how much our entire situation will suffer if we put in the effort to knock them out one by one? Time, Zettour. We don’t have time.”
“We already have the depth on the eastern border to fight a delaying battle, don’t we? That’s why we have a national defense plan and border control. It’s certainly not impossible to use air forces to slow the enemy down.”
“Zettour, I don’t deny your view. But from mine in Operations, it would be hard. The entire army along the border has shifted to delaying combat, but the matériel disparity is huge. It’s too big.”
Rudersdorf’s opinion that air forces should be allocated for air defense missions and gaining command of the sky to support swiftly operating ground forces was correct in terms of attempting to optimize a definitive battle.
But Zettour’s rebuttal wasn’t wrong. Air forces could cooperate with ground forces, but they were also plenty capable of achieving things on their own, especially when it came to putting a halt on an advancing enemy army.
Their discussion was going nowhere, but that was where their discussions usually went. That was why when Rudersdorf muttered, “Good grief,” it represented the true feelings of the heads of Operations.
“I keep thinking, Well, if half the ones in Dacia were amateurs… If they were imbeciles, we could probably route them from head-on…”
“That would be impossible. True, the Federation Army isn’t highly trained, but they still rank as a leading power. We won’t be able to repel them with border security–level personnel and equipment.”
“I know. I guess our only option is to draw troops from the Great Army and other groups to surround and annihilate them, render them powerless. That’s why I want ready fighting power. I’ll be blunt. I don’t care where you get it, but I want more troops.”
“I’m pretty sure I already sent you the list of what’s available.”
Zettour emphasized that he couldn’t give him any more. But Rudersdorf ignored him and barreled on, describing his own circumstances.
“I need you to squeeze harder. General von Zettour, you have a pool of units and reserves in your jurisdiction, don’t you?”
“You’ve got to be kidding me! That’s the instructor unit and the evaluation unit! I don’t even want to use those to defend the capital if I don’t have to! Are you saying we should throw units engaged in training and research onto the front lines?! Or did you mean someone else? The only other units we have are cadets! Are you telling me to accelerate children through their unfinished training and send them to the front?!”
“Homeland defense should take priority. I believe we should get as many reinforcements for the eastern front as possible.”
“Rudersdorf, I don’t disagree that homeland security should be our top priority, but! If you’ll allow me to be frank, you’re putting too much emphasis on driving out our enemies. The homeland is going to lose its strategic flexibility. There’s still the possibility of a Commonwealth counterattack in the west!” Zettour continued with the same severe expression, I know you know that, compelled to relay the changes occurring on the western front. “The Commonwealth Army isn’t just a papier-mâché tiger anymore! Those numbskulls in Intelligence barely catch anything, and even counting just what they found, there are already fifty divisions conscripted and trained! If you add the remnants of the Republican Army, the Commonwealth’s colonial forces, plus voluntary soldiers from self-governing territories, that’s another twenty!”
It was too dangerous to disregard the Commonwealth’s rapidly growing fighting power. The troops garrisoned in the west were fierce Rhine front vets, but their strength couldn’t be guaranteed given reorgs and reinforcements being sent east. They weren’t in a position to be sleeping easy.
Add to that the disparity in naval power in the west, and the Imperial Army needed to assume an attitude of passive defense. Under those circumstances, it was only natural to hesitate about sending their full strength east.
“I understand the situation with our manpower in the west. We can leave the bare minimum. But the bare minimum we need is what’s already there now.”
“That’s out of the question!”
Zettour elaborated on his argument, but Rudersdorf repeated his views from the ground up.
Extreme differences of opinion began to factor into their argument. Rudersdorf from Operations sought the fastest victory on the front lines, while Zettour from the Service Corps wanted to keep their options open in the rear.
They understood each other’s views, but the debate was going on forever, and Rudersdorf finally snapped, “General von Zettour, it seems you’re forgetting one thing.”
“And that is?”
It’s that… Rudersdorf stood, pointed at the window next to him, then balled up his fist and struck the glass.
Even strong glass is still glass.
“…This is how you fight a war!”
The window shattered with a rhythmic tinkling.
Paying no mind to the shards injuring his hand, he thrust it at Zettour and declared, “This! Impact! Can you win if you’re worried about hurting your fist?!”
“I’m not about to get my arm broken that way. The Imperial Army is already as much of a mess as your hand.”
Zettour was as matter-of-fact as ever, but Rudersdorf sniffed at him.
“Ha, then what’s the problem? I’m plenty capable of boxing with this arm.”
“Sheesh, thinking like a barbarian as usual, I see.”
“And Professor von Zettour is still around, too, isn’t he? Why don’t you resign and hole up in a research office somewhere?”
Rudersdorf didn’t hesitate to press Zettour, who had been mercilessly teased for his self-possession and sober honesty, telling him their only option was to act. They had known each other for a long time, which was why they understood each other so well.
“Old friends are the most troublesome kind, huh? Well, if you go that far, it’s hard for me to argue back.” If Rudersdorf was going to make those kind of remarks, Zettour would have to remove his helmet. “But Rudersdorf, it’s still my duty to warn you.”
Prefacing with an offer of cooperation, Zettour reestablished what exactly the unpleasant situation with logistics was.
“I understand what you’re intending with this operation, but there are limits. I’m speaking from the logistics perspective, so I need you to hear me out on this. If we can’t secure air supremacy, supply lines to Dacia will be unreliable. If the Federation Army finds a weak spot, like the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion did, they could take out our supply depots!”
“The Federation’s air power hasn’t changed. They’ve been functioning particularly poorly ever since officers of the previous rule, including aerial mages, were purged.”
“Are you mixing up supply depots and fortresses? They’re piles of flammables like ammo and fuel incredibly vulnerable to air strikes!”
Rudersdorf’s look said, I understand, but can’t you do something about it? To which Zettour replied, “I get it,” and continued, “We’re doing everything we can, and this is the result. Listen, General von Rudersdorf, I understand what Operations is trying to do. I will do everything I can to build a system to support it, just like I have before. So please just let me say one thing: that we are bending over backward.”
With regard to maintaining supply lines, the Imperial Army had been optimized from the beginning for a domestic interior lines doctrine. To put it another way, as long as the defensive lines were in their own territory, a foundation that could handle a large burden had been maintained for years.
But that went for the east where they had invested a lot of time and money in building a border it had that infrastructure. The infrastructure in Dacia hadn’t been maintained at all.
The Imperial Army, by its nature, relied too heavily on railroads. The one who felt that most keenly was the one responsible for them, Zettour. Even if he wanted to improve that, the only alternative land transportation options were trucks and horses.
They didn’t have enough oil for trucks, and rubber for tires was scarce.
Even if he tried to get horses, he’d be competing with other industries like agriculture. How was he supposed to fix anything under those circumstances? It made him want to scream more than anything.
“If you’re saying that, then I know it must be true.”
“But it doesn’t matter. The Empire can’t politically afford to let the enemy have the upper hand any longer.”
Ohhh, I see, thought Zettour, realizing where the problem facing them lay.
“…In Norden and Dacia, we did a fine job fending them off, so this is about that one time on the Rhine we got caught off guard?”
Rudersdorf nodded to say, Exactly. Something like exasperation came through in his expression, but it was no wonder. The officers currently in the General Staff had cleaned up after their predecessors’ accident and stabilized the crisis on the Rhine.
The same pointless, futile precedents were still holding them back. The General Staff would not be allowed to make the same mistake again… In other words, losing territory would be unforgivable.
Saying Sheesh with chagrin that would probably be allowed.
“I’ve heard the Federation Army always behaves badly. It must be awful in the border battles. Insane rumors from evacuees who didn’t flee in time are practically the only topic of conversation in the palace.”
“In the palace? Are you certain? I just want to make sure.”
“I guess they made their way to high-ranking government officials, mainly beginning with the ones from the east. Zettour, we’ll be branded as useless fools who can’t even protect our own people.”
In response to Rudersdorf’s warning not to ignore political factors, Zettour expressed his understanding but replied that war was war.
“We can ignore that. We’re not fighting to receive good reviews.”
“I think we need to make good use of our military might before politics intervenes.”
“Soldiers don’t need be involved in political decisions, right? The opposite is also true. We’re all doing our best, so I don’t think we should get in one another’s way…”
Only Zettour would make that statement; as a military official, he valued mutual trust among bureaucrats.
He was also a soldier who valued practicality and reason. To put it another way, he made a mistake only rational people make: He naively believed that no one with half a brain would even think of something so stupid.
“…I think there’s something I should tell you.”
“Several people in government are saying that your 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion went overboard in Moskva. Watch out for your critics in the rear.”
Which was why he didn’t quite understand the severity of what Rudersdorf was saying.
“Hmm? You knew?”
“No, your Colonel von Lergen was saying something similar.”
She was a bit too talented of a magic officer, but he still couldn’t really understand what they were getting at. Zettour replied with a wry grin and a nod. I can understand being anxious about her, though.
“I don’t deny that her actions can seem excessive.”
There, he recalled that she was rather indifferent to how people interpreted her actions.
Major von Degurechaff is, for better or worse, overly accustomed to the military way. It’s no wonder other people have trouble understanding how she thinks young though she may be, the military forms the sum and total of her life experience.
“Major von Degurechaff is by nature a brilliant magic officer and a genius General Staff officer. If she deems something necessary, then I trust unwaveringly that it is an appropriate use of military strength. You know how talented she is, Rudersdorf.”
“In the military realm, yes.”
“What’s tickling your funny bone all of a sudden, Zettour?”
“I thought the same thing. That she’s a mad dog. But now I think her specialty is actually strategy. She understands politics and can also use military force in a rational way. Really, she’s an ideal General Staff officer.” He muttered, “Wait, that’s not it,” and added, “or rather, in as much as she employs violence correctly, ever loyal to raison d’état, Major von Degurechaff is perfect. In another ten years, I’ll probably be preparing her a section chief position in the Service Corps so she doesn’t get snatched up by the Operations Division.”
Actually, for a child who knew nothing but the army, she was surprisingly intelligent. She was probably so capable that he could leave things to her and rest easy. More than anything, her wealth of combat experience plus her natural preoccupation with winning and losing on the strategic level rather than the tactical level made her ideal as a General Staff officer.
He was being serious when he said he wanted her to eventually walk the path of a proper member of the General Staff.
“You seem to think quite a lot of her.”
“Because she exhibits so much talent. Weren’t you strongly recommending her for the war college back then?”
“I just thought she was a capable soldier. And I knew you had a high opinion of her… Oh, why don’t we see if the 203rd can clear up that misunderstanding for us?”
So that’s where this was going. Zettour nodded, satisfied that he understood. He’s going to ask me to borrow her again.
“I want to try entrusting them with a mobile mission as the vanguard, naturally.”
“I don’t mind, but theory would dictate you choose a unit that knows the lay of the land. Wouldn’t it be better to pick one from the Eastern Army Group that’s been stationed out on the border for so long?”
“The armies in the east tend to lack experience, so I’m not sure whether they can handle a breakthrough,” Rudersdorf practically spat.
And Zettour agreed, “That’s true.”
“With this, the 203rd will have been active on all the fronts, right? I really appreciate this, General von Zettour. I realize it’s the General Staff’s mobile force, but this unit you put together through your good offices is awfully easy to use.”
“It is the Service Corps’ fervent hope that everyone can delight in flexibly drawing the forces they need. Down the line, I’d like to establish a General Staff reserve group that can be used as strategic reserves.”
“That can be your next project.”
“Right. So what do you think about the idea of whacking Groups A and B in succession?”
“It’s flawless. In a way, it’s our element. An interior lines plan has already been drawn up most carefully. We even have our rail timetable requests ready!”
In response to Rudersdorf’s Leave it to me, Zettour gave a slight nod that meant, I’m counting on you. The longtime buddies were bound by the belief If anyone can do it, he can. No other words were necessary. “Well, you work fast. All right, I’ll go tell the Railroad Department to do the impossible, so you find me a box of candy or something for them.”
MARCH 26, UNIFIED YEAR 1926, IMPERIAL ARMY EASTERN ARMY GROUP TEMPORARY CAMP 21
After the Moskva raid, the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion spent about ten days in unconventional combat, then triumphantly reentered an area under friendly control a hero’s return.
The moment they reached the base, the rear personnel waiting for them gave a toast and deafening cheers.
The victory celebration was the place to be, so much so that base command even dropped by with one of their favorite bottles. But what delighted the battalion members more than anything was that their superior tacitly approved of them partying.
Major von Degurechaff normally required adherence to regulation so strict it’s as if the rules were alive. After proposing a toast as a formality, she readily made her exit, claiming she felt “suddenly indisposed.”
“This will definitely take longer than twenty-four hours to recover from,” she calmly declared, adding, “Don’t wake me up for anything that isn’t military business.”
The battalion took the opportunity to toast their commander’s health…and drain bottle after bottle.
Captain Weiss, with his usual sense of self-control as an officer, was on duty…which meant that, to put it bluntly, all the officers but him wholeheartedly enjoyed a reunion with their beloved beer.
And so they dreamed of peace in their cozy beds…or rather, they were supposed to. Sound sleep in a warm bed… It took only half a day for that tranquility to be shattered
“All units, up and at ’em!”
by the sound of a bugle and that adorable yet fearsome voice all members of the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion grew accustomed to within a few days of joining.
Thus, when Major von Degurechaff’s longtime fellow soldiers Captain Weiss and First Lieutenant Serebryakov jump up, grab their gear, and hustle to battalion headquarters, the unit is prepping for combat whether they’re hungover or otherwise indisposed.
“Battalion, gather up! Gather up, troops!”
“Captain Weiss…? What’s all the noise?”
“There you are perfect, Lieutenant Grantz! Round up the battalion on the double!”
Catching sight of Grantz, who is still half-asleep, and Weiss, who must have kicked him out of bed, Tanya is furious at the state of her officers.
It’s true that she told them they could drink as much as they wanted.
But Grantz apparently has a weakness. He’s an officer, but he’d been sleeping curled up with a bottle. Even if that’s just where he happened to pass out after enjoying the victory celebration… He’s got a lot of nerve if he’s still out of it.
“Lieutenant Grantz! I thought I trained you on the Rhine front, but it seems like it wasn’t enough! You’re getting reeducated!”
“Drag everyone out of bed! Fifteen minutes! The briefing is in fifteen minutes!”
The piercing intimidation in her eyes must have alerted him that this was no normal state of affairs. Though still groggy, Grantz has the brains to leap to his feet and acknowledge the order.
“I’m leaving this up to you, Lieutenant.”
“Lieutenant Serebryakov, emergency contact from the government. I want you to pick up the documents from the Eastern Army Group. If you bring them this, they should hand them over.”
“Right away! Excuse me, then!”
Grantz runs off in a panic, and Serebryakov jogs briskly away. Well, they’ve grown into people I can use.
You can’t create talented people overnight.
Which is why we have to get through this crisis with who we have on hand…
I sure have rotten luck with people pushing their problems off on me.
We’ve received a general notice regarding the situation in the east, as well as standby orders from the General Staff.
Tanya’s inner feelings as she pores over the map with Weiss, grouchily sipping ersatz coffee at battalion headquarters, match her expression exactly.
Since the war started, they’ve switched from delaying defense in the east to a retreating battle, looking for an opportunity to counterattack. So the front lines falling back is…permissible enough.
But the problem is the speed and pacing. If you asked me if the front lines should fall back exactly as far as they are pushed, I’d really have to wonder.
“…The eastern border sure is a mess.”
“There’s nothing we can do about it. It’s a matter of course that even the Eastern Army Group would have to retreat in the face of this quantitative disparity. I had some idea before, but the Federation Army is really just huge…”
“Yes, it makes you wonder if Communists grow on trees. Still, they sure managed to scrape together a pile of soldiers.”
She and Weiss are grumbling about a report on the current state of the war that has just come in. As far as we know, the ratio of imperial to Federation divisions on the eastern front is currently one to two.
“This is what they mean when they say to overwhelm your opponent with strategy by making numbers your tactics. The Federation Army is far better maintained than we imagined. What a pain,” Weiss comments with a frown.
But Tanya bursts out laughing. This is what it means to laugh off your worries when you’ve been overly anxious.
“…Ha-ha-ha, Captain Weiss. You’re an excellent soldier, but it’s because you’re an excellent soldier that you seem to be forgetting something important.” At his perplexed look, Tanya responds, “I don’t blame you for not knowing what. You should remember this, Captain: The guys who bring trouble from the rear onto the battlefield have no chance of winning. In the Empire, the General Staff and the government keep their distance from each other, so our army tends to forget it, but a soldier has to have nothing to do with domestic politics.”
“I thought I knew that, but”
“The Federation is a giant with both its arms and legs tied. Poking it in the eyes will be easy.”
The political commissars oversee things, and they report to the rear, so it’s this terrible command structure where no one wants to admit defeat. How bad is it? Probably as harsh as fighting under Tsugene in the old Imperial Army or being in a unit that reported to General Full-of-shit-guchi.
…Aside from numbers and firepower, there’s nothing so scary about these guys. Of course, those two things require us to be on our guard, but still.
“And then once the giant with its arms and legs tied can’t see, we kill it?”
“We must, before the ties come loose.”
Just then, a subordinate’s voice requests permission to enter, and Tanya looks up with an Oh?
She calls toward the entrance that he should enter, and the messenger soldier tells her that Grantz has finished rounding up the troops. Tanya responds with a “Good” and orders to have them stand by to sortie. I’m glad things are going smoothly, but still, she murmurs to herself.
As she watches the messenger turn on his heel and leave, Tanya’s focus is to gain an understanding of the situation by the time orders come from the General Staff. When fighting Communists, it’s best to be prepared.
“…Major von Degurechaff! Dispatch from the eastern armies it’s urgent.”
But her train of thought regarding the documents at hand is interrupted when Serebryakov returns practically shrieking her report.
“What is it?”
“The Third and Thirty-Second Divisions the rear guards for the eastern armies’ delaying combat have been surrounded in Tiegenhoff and need help breaking free!”
“Give me the map. I want to check the war situation.”
But in comes a messenger from command.
“Major von Degurechaff! I have your orders from the General Staff! Prepare for a mobile mission and form up for a long-range advance!”
“Thanks, got it.” With that brief reply, Tanya snatches the message up, runs her eyes over it, and realizes she’s caught between a rock and a hard place.
“Wait a second, Lieutenant Serebryakov.”
Before her quiet subordinate, Tanya silently considers the situation and her cards.
I want to turn down the rescue request, but if there’s a combat mission waiting from the General Staff, then the important question is whether the rescue can be used as an excuse to get out of a more strenuous task. If I’m going to get run around and overworked either way, I might as well keep it to a minimum.
Now here’s the question: Is rescuing the troops surrounded in Tiegenhoff a good enough reason to skip the mobile mission?
For a moment, she is tempted…but after considering it further, Tanya shakes her head. Her conclusion is that, for one, it’s not possible. If it’s about saving the entire army, she knows that a couple of friends in harm’s way won’t stop them from ordering her battalion back to do the bigger rescue.
“Saving our friends in Tiegenhoff is important, too…”
“Yes, Major. But the General Staff has ordered us to prepare for the operation and to sortie as soon as possible.”
Be it Lieutenant General von Zettour or Lieutenant General von Rudersdorf, the generals of the General Staff may try to avoid adopting a policy of minimizing harm, but they aren’t the type to actively eschew the idea. The reason they hesitate to accept losses is a moral one, and they aren’t the type to get so emotional that morals trump the needs of reality. And surely, I’m lucky that they aren’t the sort of superiors to get their priorities mixed up.
But neither can I get out of this mission with the excuse of saving friendlies.
“It’s too bad, but…our allies in Tiegenhoff will simply have to…” Weiss sounds contrite but urges the difficult conclusion to abandon their fellow soldiers, when Tanya reemphasizes, “Wait!”
If that’s what the General Staff is ordering, then we either ignore the request from the Eastern Army Group to rescue the two divisions or refuse. Thinking responsibly, the latter is probably the proper thing to do.
But one thing is bothering her: Tiegenhoff’s location. As far as she can tell on the map, the town where the two divisions are holed up is in a very interesting place. The more she looks at it, the more it looks like key terrain.10
“Hmm, this location sure is interesting.”
“…But it’s so cut off from everything.”
“Tiegenhoff is a bit isolated, isn’t it?”
Weiss’s remark is correct. Tiegenhoff is a city in the rear that the troops retreating from the eastern border just happened to hole up in. Well, the lines were being pushed back farther than the original defense plan, so it was probably impossible to expect them to establish a staging point around here.
“But the location isn’t bad. Lieutenant Serebryakov, find me a detailed city map. And don’t forget to fill in Lieutenant Grantz.”
Serebryakov jogs off with a “Yes, ma’am,” and while her adjutant is fetching what she’s been asked for, Tanya turns back to the map to try to get a better understanding of the situation.
“It’s what you see here, Captain Weiss. As long as the General Staff doesn’t intend to make this a total retreating battle, don’t you think Tiegenhoff will become a life-and-death position?”
“…You’re right. But assuming it’s already under heavy siege, it’ll be difficult to rescue those troops.”
Tiegenhoff is an easy city to defend because it’s on a river…and it’s also near the sea, which is handy. On top of that, it has some distance from the border and is extremely close to a transportation hub. At one time, it must have been on a trade route from a port city.
Like this, it would be easy for the city to receive maritime support…and it would put pressure on that transportation hub everyone would be scrambling for in a mobile battle.
“I can’t have you forgetting that our fellow countrymen are trapped there. Imperial soldiers as well as civilians. Tiegenhoff isn’t a Federation city, you know!”
“Practically speaking, Captain Weiss, you make a valid point. They are definitely surrounded. But allow me to point out something else: Tiegenhoff hasn’t fallen yet.”
The two divisions are able to expect some degree of support from the rear, given that a city of their own country is under siege. Even the civilians can put up some resistance in an urban battle. Well, if heavy artillery decided to burn the whole city down, it would be futile resistance, but still.
Even with General von Zettour making the arrangements, it was impossible to take heavy artillery in the advance against the Republic. The siege guns always end up being available once things have already calmed down.
“S-sorry to keep you waiting.”
“Thanks, Visha… Uh, what’s all this?”
“The eastern armies gave me these aerial photos along with the map, Captain. They want us to understand the situation the trapped troops are in.”
Answering Weiss’s question, Serebryakov holds out a sheaf of documents categorized and plastered with all sorts of labels.
…When their head count is low, it’s easy to understand why the eastern armies would give us such materials. They must be desperate for us to help them with this rescue.
“Thanks. What about Lieutenant Grantz?”
“He’s currently occupied with an eastern army communications officer’s endless pleas for us to save those troops. If need be, I can show him in…”
“Wait just a moment.”
Saving allied troops…isn’t really our job. But we should be faithful to fellow freedom fighters confronting the evil of Communism. A liberal who would abandon warriors fighting for freedom and the market isn’t a liberal at all.
You can’t defend the world if you lose that stubborn refusal to back down a single step against the Communists.
If that’s the case… Tanya is determined.
“Captain Weiss, line up all the aerial photos and recon results. Let’s also look at the full reports from the Third and Thirty-Second Divisions.”
If there’s a chance the rescues will succeed, Tiegenhoff should be saved. Tanya prompts Serebryakov and Weiss to look at the map. “Let’s consider the area around Tiegenhoff as if we’re going to do the rescue.”
At least, that’s how the liberal camp Tanya knew worked. Now, with no threat of nuclear war now was the time for good people to take up arms and put their bodies on the line to nip Communism in the bud. Of course, there are only limited reasons for Tanya to volunteer personally. It would be fine for her to support from the rear.
But standing by while in a position to lend a hand is unforgivable. As long as that’s true, then it’s your duty to lend one if you can.
“Major, what are you looking for?”
“Heavy artillery, Captain. It’s something we learned on the Rhine… Big guns sent up to the front lines from positions in the rear are always late. I expect the Federation Army does no better.”
“With all due respect, Major von Degurechaff, I don’t think our operations should count too much on the enemy making a mistake.”
Every word Weiss said was absolutely true, and Tanya smiles and tells him, “Of course not.” Your enemy being a fool and you expecting your enemy to be a fool are two different things. Even if they seem like the same, it’s too huge a risk to underestimate a potential enemy.
“I don’t mean to disparage the basic principle of preparing pessimistically and acting optimistically. I agree that we should assume it won’t work out. But…,” Tanya continues with a bit of conviction in her voice, “…if you’ll consult your fond memories of our battle to subdue the Republican Army, weren’t we under strict orders to assume we had no heavy artillery? The Imperial Army has a tendency to forget this, since we won, but…heavy artillery pieces are hopelessly slow. They never show up on time.”
The slowpoke artillerists are always late for decisive junctures. They’re a credit to the defense, and they contribute to offense, but…firepower in critical battles never manages to reach the itch.
“General von Zettour took pains to arrange them for us, but we were still often lacking firepower. Let’s see if the Federation Army is capable of having heavy artillery accompany their advancing infantry.” After frowning at the maps for some time, Tanya speaks again as if to say, I was right! “The enemy artillery seems to be lagging behind… There are two pieces of evidence here that back that up: I can’t see any heavy artillery in the aerial photographs, and there are no reports from our troops that they’ve been shelled.”
Assuming an absence of enemy heavy artillery is wishful thinking.
But in this situation, there is a real possibility that it’s actually absent. In any case, we can be confident that it hasn’t been detected yet.
“So they weren’t advancing with the intention of a siege battle, huh?”
The moment Weiss, also frowning at the map, nods that he thinks they can do it, Tanya murmurs her agreement.
Communists tend to be big on armies with lots of firepower, but this time even they’re without the heavy artillery they’re so proud of. In war, if the other side’s specialty, artillery, is missing and there are enough resources to wage our side’s specialty, mobile battles, then this is easy. We force our enemies to do what they’re bad at and what we’re good at.
“So, if that’s the case, Captain Weiss, wouldn’t Tiegenhoff make an even better forward position than we thought?”
“For the mobile mission, you mean? If, as you say, the enemy heavy artillery really hasn’t advanced…”
Tanya and Weiss murmur that they can hit the city, but then Serebryakov, who has been paying them no mind, her attention silently focused on the map, speaks up with an argument for caution.
“Please wait. Certainly, that’s how they appear to be equipped, but can we really rule out the possibility? For instance, there are a number of movements along the border. Please consider the chance that long-range units including railway guns might be getting deployed.”
“Lieutenant Serebryakov, I find it hard to imagine railway guns would advance. Do you really think our enemies are stupid enough to move such large equipment through an area where they don’t have air supremacy?”
“I’m not talking about their intentions, ma’am. Please consider their ability.”
The Federation Army has already positioned a number of railway guns along the border. The unit the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion fought or more like trampled earlier was Federation railway guns. “And,” continues Serebryakov with a grave look on her face.
“Even on the Rhine, enemy railway guns in the rear were a serious threat. Please take into account that even artillery positions and communications trenches fortified with concrete couldn’t take a direct hit from a railway gun.”
Certainly, neither Tanya nor Weiss could deny that. Perhaps recalling his time on the Rhine, Weiss makes a bitter face, while Tanya remembers how Dora raged in Warsaw.
“Major, Tiegenhoff has far weaker defenses than we did on the Rhine. And if this estimate of their railway gun positioning is correct, there’s a good chance we would be in range.”
Though they’re lacking the artillery making the long advance, they do have an extended range with their railway guns. Serebryakov’s comment that we might just barely enter it is correct.
For a moment, Tanya fears the dearth of enemy firepower upon which the rescue would be premised may be short-lived, but then she finally realizes Oh.
“Lieutenant Serebryakov, you’re right to point out the possibility that enemy heavy artillery may exist, but I don’t think it will be a significant threat. You let your Rhine experience influence your thinking too much.”
“Do excuse me, Major, but what do you mean by that?”
“Captain Weiss, you feel the same way?”
Tanya smiles wryly. They’ve learned too much from their experiences.
“It’s simple. Indirect fire becomes possible only with incomparable teamwork. Remember that on the Rhine front both the Empire and the Republic had artillery scouts stationed on the forward-most lines or had aerial mages like ourselves flying around as observers to collect data in peril of being shot down; only then was effective fire possible.”
Cannons fired at random…won’t find their mark. Without a scout to give you adjustments and observe your impacts, you’re only wasting shells. If there’s an exception, it’s strictly the times you want to fire at a large city on a map, like Paris, so that it’s fine as long as it lands in the ballpark, and you let loose with your Paris Gun.
“Oh yeah, now that you mention it… I took it for granted and just assumed indirect fire could happen anytime.”
“That’s what I’m talking about, Captain Weiss. If you read the frontline reports closely, the scariest thing for ground troops observer scouts weren’t spotted.”
“I heard that Federation Army artillery operate as a group…so it’s doubtful the frontline units have spotters, then.”
Weiss nods It’s just as you say, Major and Serebryakov looks as though she understands. Tanya is satisfied that she has managed to remind them that the battalion’s priority is to eliminate enemy observers should they appear.
…The mobile mission and the rescue of the Third and Thirty-Second aren’t actually conflicting objectives. The two divisions have been overwhelmed by enemy wave attacks in an isolated location, but…that position can be used as a stepping-stone to attack the rear enemy lines.
“I say that rescuing these two divisions contributes to the General Staff’s objectives with the mobile mission. I’m asking permission.”
If you can consider the risks and returns and still decide it sounds worthwhile, there’s no reason not to do it.
Tanya declares they’re going in for the rescue.
The fact that Weiss and Serebryakov happily approve is a good indication that the battalion’s opinion isn’t split.
Tanya’s subordinate officers are raring to fight as usual, and she’s happy that she knows that she can count on them even in a difficult situation.
Almost as an afterthought, she directs Serebryakov to prepare first aid supplies.
“Lieutenant Serebryakov, have your unit take as many medical supplies as you can. We’re planning on a long-range advance, but we may have to air-drop them, so attach parachutes.”
In other words, Tanya says to herself. “Guess we gotta try some kindness.”
When Serebryakov asks her, “Is anything the matter?” she replies, admitting that it’s uncharacteristic of her, “Ah, I just thought if they’re in a jam, they might have run out of some of this stuff. It would be nice to take them whiskey and cigarettes, too, but I figure in the thick of a fight, they need medical supplies.”
When Tanya continues, lamenting that they don’t have any whiskey or cigarettes, anyway, she ends up nearly scowling at a comment from Weiss.
“I don’t doubt that. But, Major, there should be alcohol from the southern continent in the battalion treasury.”
“Captain Weiss, what are you talking about? Nobody told me that!”
Everyone brought back a little something with them as a souvenir, or they could have even had something sent via military post, but…bottles in the battalion treasury? The fact that she hadn’t approved the expense or sanctioned the purchase is, to Tanya, almost embarrassing.
“A member of the battalion won it in a poker game at the headquarters of the staff of the southern continent expeditionary forces, so I’ve been holding on to it. And it’s just the kind of thing you’d expect HQ to have nice stuff.”
“You’ll have to excuse me, Captain. I thought you were the serious type who wouldn’t even touch gambling.”
Upon receiving Tanya’s glare that all but demands details, Weiss gets a bit flustered and hurriedly says, “Actually, it was Lieutenant Serebryakov who won it…”
“What? Is that true?”
“Umm, I was just playing for fun…”
She bows and explains that she somehow won big and she took the alcohol because of the general mood at the time; she didn’t have anything to do with it, so she tossed it into the battalion treasury. Since they’re dealing with an emergency, Tanya shelves the issue for now but is forced to make a mental note to talk to the troops later.
That’ll be for after we complete this rescue mission. In reply to Tanya’s proposal, the General Staff say they approve of the idea, in addition to authorizing it. And since the orders are official, the General Staff will take care of making adjustments to other areas.
The Eastern Army Group assists with weapons and ammunition, which Serebryakov handles. Once Grantz and his unit receive a briefing on documentation about the region from the eastern staff, Tanya gives the battalion details on their objectives and itinerary.
Basically, we’re delivering hope. When she finishes telling them that, the veterans are all pumped, as expected. “Let’s do it!” they shout aloud, and implicitly they cry, If our troops are in trouble, we’ll run to the rescue! That’s what mages live for! Their fighting spirit is running high.
Normally, mages hate delivery missions because of how much fatigue they entail, but this time it’s only natural that delivery should be a part of the mission, so they shoulder the first aid supplies and other goods without a single complaint.
Unexpected additional supplies show up right as Tanya and the battalion are lined up on the runway ready to take off. The Eastern Army Group staffers who came to see off the already heavily laden battalion brought bottles and cigarette packs as if they’d just remembered they had them. Officially, Tanya declines their request to take the items to their friends on the front lines because they would be too heavy, but she announces that she’ll honor her subordinates’ free will.
Her men put the slightly off-the-record goods into their packs the alcohol and cigarettes are treated as personal items and with a farewell a bit grander than usual, the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion takes off and begins their push toward besieged Tiegenhoff.
Their goal, naturally, is to break the encirclement.
Maintaining combat formation in anticipation of encounter battles and invading the occupied area at full speed is a chance for the battalion to apply the search-and-destroy skills they polished on the Rhine and down south.
And so the hammer of this augmented battalion is wielded by the Imperial Army and brought down with all its might on the Federation Army.
To get straight to the point, the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion succeeds in smashing into the encircling Federation Army units with perfect timing.
“Advance, advance! Cut right through!” Tanya roars at the front of her unit, and they begin an anti-surface strike to all but obliterate the units attacking the imperials, starting with their flank.
“Ready suppressive fire! Choose your own targets!”
With one call from Tanya, who’s not about to let them engage in organized combat, enemies who appear to be the commanders are, to the last man, wiped out by a mix of scattered explosion formulas and optical sniping formulas raining mercilessly down on the ground.
As long as the return fire is sporadic, there’s no need to pay attention to it, so the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion dominates the battlefield as if they own it.
Even a mage in a defensive shell will be shot down if they get careless on a battlefield where bullets are flying. But if the shooting isn’t done in a structured way, the chances they connect are thankfully microscopically slim.
Kicking apart the Federation Army, now incapable of organized combat, is like child’s play to these elites who toyed with the Republican Army on the Rhine front.
Tanya follows Serebryakov’s prompt to see a corner of the enemy army crumbling and nods at the punctuality.
“Our troops! Great timing!”
Though surrounded, the trapped divisions were still fit to fight. It was only natural for them to hit the enemy where they were weak. As the friendly mages fly out in response and begin raining formulas down on the Federation troops’ heads, Tanya confirms that it’s a rout.
“Act together! Punch through! Pry their lines apart!”
The 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion concentrates their fire on a single point and supports the breakthrough while moving into position to join up with the others. Meanwhile, the friendly units are quick to pick up on the objective and readily begin to cooperate.
Thus, the breakthrough and combining of forces gets accomplished quite easily.
Satisfied with the coordination that could have been pulled off only among pros, Tanya walks over to greet a man with a big smile on his face, whom she guesses is the commander.
“Major Hofen, Third Division, 213th Mage Battalion! Thank you for coming! That was a close call!”
“I’m sorry we were late. I’m Major von Degurechaff, 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion reporting to the General Staff. We were ordered to make a counterattack and just barely managed to rush over here I’m so relieved. And by the way, nice job surviving such a heavy encirclement.”
Tanya and Hofen shake hands, wishing each other luck in future battles. Of course, the exchange is a formal courtesy, but the gratitude and praise are genuine. Unlike etiquette that remains only as a shell of its sentiments, on the front lines, it helps officers bond through their shared experiences.
“We escaped right before the heavy artillery showed up.”
“I’m just glad we made it in time. In the academy, they drilled it into us that tardiness was not tolerated so much that even just the word late frightens me!”
Hofen remarks how terrifying it was, and Tanya responds with a comment about how badly they might have been chewed out if they hadn’t made it in time. With this exchange, the two officers are still feeling each other out, but both are satisfied with the results.
“Which way is divisional headquarters?” Tanya gets right to the point and informs Hofen of her battalion’s situation. It’s true that they came on orders to perform the rescue, but now it’s more important to prepare for their next operation.
“Allow me to escort you. We’ll be here keeping a check on the enemy remnants, but what about you?”
“We have orders from the General Staff to advance farther. I imagine it’s so those who come after us will have an easier time.”
“After seeing in that fight how skilled your units are, I would say so. Major von Degurechaff, I’m so grateful to you and your battalion. I’m impressed that you pulled off that breakthrough and saved us. It’s too bad we can’t treat you to drinks, ma’am, but please allow us to treat your subordinates once you can take a break from operations.”
He quips with a big grin that they’ll protect the 203rd until their mobile mission is over, and Tanya smiles wryly, commenting on his cleverness.
“Not to be presumptuous, but my units can drink. Unfortunately, when they get a chance to, they down enough to make up for their usual abstinence. They’re so hard-core that once, on the southern continent, they downed an enemy transport unit just for beer… I’m afraid you might go bankrupt if you treat them, Major Hofen.”
“Ha-ha, they sound like they know how to party. All right, then, all the officers of my battalion will pool together to treat you guys. Drink as much as you like!”
Every nonchalant gesture he makes is filled with a veteran’s tact and wit. A colleague like that is a priceless partner. Honestly, even just one seasoned officer is enough to make things go so much more smoothly.
“That sounds fun. Oh, this is nothing much, but…”
Even Tanya wants to get closer to someone she feels she can get along with. She casually produces the bottles and cigarettes entrusted to them by the staffers as a sign of that pleasant impression.
“Ha-ha-ha. It’s too bad you can’t have such a tasty drink. Let’s both live through this and I’ll treat you when you’re older.”
“I’ll be looking forward to it. Well, I’d better be going.”
“Thanks. I’ll be hoping we don’t go broke.”
They part like pros, with an exchange of respectful salutes, and Tanya, with her subordinates trailing behind her, makes a dignified exit from the battlefield. Okay, on to the next job.
As he watches her go Sheesh his expression breaks, and he murmurs, “So the rumors were true.”
“How did it go, Commander?”
“…I never would have thought those dubious rumors about the officer of unknown age were true…”
Met with the blank stare of his subordinate, he realizes that the man hadn’t met Major von Degurechaff or any of the mages who had come to their rescue.
Grinning wryly, he explains what he has seen the presence of a child officer.
“I mean I met the commander who came to rescue us, and…what can I even say? She looked about the same age as my daughter!”
“C’mon, you must be kidding! A General Staff officer? She has to be in at least her late twenties if she graduated war college.”
All Hofen can say is that it was what he really saw.
True, his subordinate is correct. It wasn’t rare for someone out of the academy and war college to be in their early thirties by the time they wore the General Staff officer insignia.
Who would believe him if he said she looked like his ten-year-old daughter?
“Sheesh. I guess some battlefield legends have unexpected truth to them.”
“Well, more importantly, we’ve got work to do. Work. We all fought so hard to drive out these enemies; we’re gonna blow them apart before they regroup!”
MARCH 28, UNIFIED YEAR 1926, IMPERIAL ARMY GENERAL STAFF OFFICE, WAR ROOM
“The breakthrough is a success! They did it!”
It was the report that the vanguard unit, the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion, had reached Tiegenhoff. The Third and Thirty-Second Divisions, who were at one point feared annihilated, would probably be saved. This was what it truly meant to be thankful for God’s protection.
“What about the encirclement?!”
“We’re not sure! According to the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion, they all seemed equipped like standard infantry, apart from a few mechanized units.”
“Wonderful! In that case, we can win!”
Still, there were probably few people as grateful as Rudersdorf, Deputy Director of Operations in the General Staff.
Whether they lost both the Third and Thirty-Second Divisions, and Tiegenhoff along with them, depended entirely on the Federation Army’s fire support.
But though he braced himself for the worst, as he often did, this time it seemed Lady Luck would smile on the Empire. When they took the lid off the situation, the Federation Army’s immensely powerful bombardment abilities were nowhere to be found.
“We have plenty of shells from Zettour, and we have full run of the rails… Sheesh, at this rate, settling things after we win will be more of a pain than the battle itself.”
“General von Rudersdorf?”
The 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion did a magnificent job with the rescue mission. All they did was liberate a city under siege, but now…the Federation troops who were going to invade the Empire would suffer arteriosclerosis. The threat of their supply lines being attacked from the rear was a nightmare for officers and men alike.
Even a surrounded point could become a base for mounting a counterattack, if it could connect with other units. In the vast war zone of the east, that was certainly a lesson learned.
It seemed that now that victory was in sight, his tongue was getting a stretch. On top of that, the idea of artillery being allocated for mobile operations he’d been discussing with Lieutenant General von Zettour came to mind.
“If we can crush the infantry before the artillery gets set up… Shit, I keep wishing we had self-propelled guns. Cannons are so slow their one weakness but there’s nothing we can do about it…”
Heavy guns or superior firepower? Rudersdorf smiled wryly at the eternally unsolvable dilemma.
…And just as dismay began to set in, a rare piece of good news arrived. Rudersdorf was one of the first to thank God.
Relaxing one’s attention frequently causes a winning battle to end in tragedy… No, perhaps it should be past tense. At least, Rudersdorf had no shortage of reasons to believe that.
This was a defensive battle making the best use of the interior lines maneuvers anticipated and planned for by the Imperial Army General Staff. But, though only to an extent, they had grasped the signs of their enemy’s offensive.
“…I’m surprised at how little there is for a General Staff officer to do in a winning battle. Honestly, being a deskbound hero is so uncomfortable. It was the same with Norden and the Rhine, but I think I would feel better out on the front lines with the troops.”
Providing is preventing.
It was just a saying, but at the same time, he had to trust in the work they had done to prepare and wait for the results. It wasn’t easy to take responsibility for the lives of the troops. Even people who don’t like to write letters get used to writing to the bereaved families of their subordinates; it wasn’t a pleasant experience.
“We can only hope for success and that our losses are few.”
But, some wisely continued.
“Luckily, our troops have a measure of heavy artillery support now, and the imperial air forces have indisputable supremacy in the skies. We could even borrow some troops from Tiegenhoff and use them to pincer the enemy that is, if we need more. Our advantage in firepower is already apparent.”
They would control the sky, amass their firepower, make the terrain their ally, and resist the enemy who outnumbered them. It was a classic route, but there was a reason it was so well tread.
“The only problem is the Federation Army’s decentralized attack. We imagine much of it has to do with balancing out the attack routes with supplies, but there are also several strange movements that we can’t rule out as dissemblance.”
“Agh, what a pain. They could have stayed bunched together and made it easier on us. These bastards and their clumsy tricks.”
“General von Rudersdorf, with all due respect, I should point out that there’s nothing incompetent about the Federation’s attack plan.”
Rudersdorf winced because he knew it was true and picked up on the other man’s implications. “Yes, there’s no doubt that the plan itself is trouble.”
Since the fighting broke out, he could tell the Federation’s attack routes were meticulous and prepared with considerable zeal. The practical issue was that they were coming on routes he wished they weren’t. Not only was their major invasion following the sneak attack an attention-grabber, but the way they were actually going about it was formidable.
“But you’re not taking into account that critical factor the Federation Army’s level of training… It’s strange, but this seems like a first-rate intellect devised a plan with no regard for what his troops are actually capable of.”
The problem was the vague incongruity he felt here and there. He wondered if perhaps they used a previously prepared plan and prioritized the sneak-attack effect…but any commander should still know the status of his troops on the border.
Then either it was an awfully secretive plan, or they used it because they had no others. But it wasn’t Rudersdorf’s job to think about it any more than that. The rest was for Zettour and those fellows.
Good grief. Smoking a cigarette, he turned his attention back to his own area of expertise and looked at the map depicting the war situation.
“I wouldn’t have expected this position to be around still… Who would have thought a city would make such a good resistance base?”
The murmured remarks acknowledged how troublesome it was when an opponent unhindered by the laws of war attacked a city.
“…Aside from Arene, the Imperial Army doesn’t have much experience with urban warfare. Well, neither does the Federation Army, but they also don’t seem to have any qualms about breaking international law to attack cities.”
“Legally speaking, the Federation hasn’t signed the convention respecting the laws of war on land.”
The staffer affixed the question Why? to his face, and Rudersdorf spelled it out for him, exasperated in spite of himself.
“What’ll they do with prisoners?”
“Huh? Prisoners, sir?”
Rudersdorf broke it down for the blank-faced officer: This war has no rules! There may have been norms and standards written down on a scrap of paper, but they wouldn’t apply to war in the east.
“In terms of international law, there are no rules governing this slugfest between the Federation and the Empire. The Service Corps has said we should follow the convention just in case, but it’s doubtful our opponents believe in reciprocity.”
“We just have to hope the Communist Party or whoever is progressive.”
“Expecting nothing of these specialists in firing squads and internal Gewalt is probably better for your mental health.”
MARCH 28, UNIFIED YEAR 1926, MAIN ATTACK GROUP HEADQUARTERS
The forces the Imperial Army called Group B were called the Main Attack Group on the Federation side. Ever since the fighting started, taking control of imperial lands and wiping out the Imperial Army were the goals of the Main Attack Group as they broke through the border like troops who’d lived their whole lives for this reckless advance.
They forced their way through the Imperial Army’s Eastern Army Group’s delaying action with numbers and continued their single-minded advance with no regard for losses. But the expressions on the officers’ faces were tense in a strange way that was difficult to describe, far removed from elation.
And precisely because they were advancing, their grim expressions became more and more severe.
It was clear on the faces of the generals and staffers in the war council meeting held by the brains of the Main Attack Group at headquarters that they were near their breaking point.
“Although our advancing forces are currently facing quite a bit of resistance, the imperial units are retreating, meaning it’s still possible to push on as we have been.”
“Ideally, we would wait for the heavy artillery to arrive, but we have troops filled with the desire and determination to offer themselves up for the revolution. Of course, I think brave, loyal men like that should have artillery support…”
It was a war council, so naturally the reports were about the war.
So here’s something.
It goes without saying that it’s essential to use appropriate wording and keep reports brief so as not to invite misunderstanding. Even the most hurriedly cultivated and deployed Federation Army officers knew that (even if whether they could implement it or not was a different story).
“Comrade Generals, I beg your pardon, but how exactly is the war proceeding?”
“Just as you heard in the report, Comrade Political Commissar.”
Actually, they had a tendency to talk too much, and the Federation Army wasn’t so amateurish as to allow for loose-lipped high-level officers and political officers. If anything, perhaps the issue was that these were neither amateurs nor fools.
“So, Comrade Generals, what is your view on the situation, then?”
“We’d like to hear from you regarding party directives. I think you’re the expert there.”
“It’s true that I’m in charge of military politics, of course…”
The exchange is all very roundabout, with hidden meanings.
“…This council is getting awfully heated. Let’s relax a bit, gentlemen.”
After the trickle of acidic conversation ran dry into an awkward silence, the chairman exercised his wit. Everyone stood as if they had been saved and huddled together, talking among themselves with faces that said, Sheesh.
In whispers, of course. But even now that the war council was clearly livelier, the conversations were still grim, because everyone was glancing around and knew that the others were sounding them out, too.
…No, everyone was sighing internally, feeling helpless.
The government’s announcement that they were keeping the pressure on the Imperial Army had to be a mistake.
Yes, it was true that they broke through the border in their initial offensive.
And it was true that the Imperial Army units were retreating.
But anyone in the Federation Army with decent military knowledge feared the embellishments in the reports sent to Moskva.
On the individual level, well, it was probably done to protect their position. They’d just write something to sound a bit braver.
Given the “special political environment” the Federation Army was operating in, they could understand why the men on the front lines would write such things. And because they understood…it was easy to imagine what kinds of changes would get passed on from the rear.
Probably something like, “The Imperial Army’s morale has collapsed for the most part. We’re currently eradicating fanatic resistance as we push forward.”
In other words, the Imperial Army was losing, and the Federation Army was putting down the fanatics resisting along its smooth advance.
One could only call it removed from reality.
“…So what’s really going on?”
“Nothing much different than by you. The Imperial Army moves a lot faster than we thought.”
They were unable to crush organized opposition, and their only enemy was the Eastern Army Group right now. Considering the Imperial Army’s doctrine and geographical circumstances, they wouldn’t be able to avoid the extremely problematic arrival of the Great Army as reinforcements.
And worst of all…, several people thought grimly, swallowing the words they couldn’t say.
There were indications that the Great Army would show up much faster than expected.
“It’s also incredibly problematic that we have no way to win an air battle. I realize that we’ve been forced by ‘pressing circumstances’ to transfer the few mage units we have I know we had no choice but it’s still hard.”
“I knew these guys were trouble, but there’s a big difference between hearing something and seeing it. What the hell did the political officers mean when they told us they have less firepower than artillery, are slower than planes, and are fewer than infantry, so they wouldn’t be a threat?”
“That’s going a bit far. You might want to watch it… That said, I agree with you. Our supply situation was already bad enough, but thanks to the mages tearing through in the rear, the lines have nearly collapsed.”
And the losses in aerial battles, always reported to Moskva as negligible, were gnawing away at the Federation Army’s offensive resources.
The Imperial Army air fleet could boast of its power, while the Federation Army air forces had no choice but to fight at a disadvantage. Well, it could be said they were still just barely putting up a desperate resistance, even if all they could do was offer support from above.
The Federation’s handling of magic forces was the worst of what was coming back to bite it. The shackles of the past were heavy, and the Federation Army’s mage forces were behind. For that reason, a few old-fashioned units were the most it could operate with.
“Oh, right. I wanted to ask you something… Is the rumor true, that a political officer applied to send mage units our way?”
“If you’re talking about Officer Chobarkov, apparently it’s true… Which is why he’s been taken back home to the Commissariat for Internal Affairs for a hearing or whatnot.”
When the limited number of mages was taken away, a breaking point had been reached. The rumor that someone had finally protested to be allowed their few units wasn’t a rumor after all.
Sadly, things were far worse than the rumors said. The man who objected had been taken away, and a new political officer was probably being briefed with unrealistic reports as his replacement.
“…Oh, I see.”
His sigh was a lament for their world, where a man with common sense was crushed the moment he mustered the courage to bring up reality.
These were professional soldiers with a modern education. Though ideological education is biased, anyone who fought on the front lines could see their gear was inferior to their enemy’s they understood it so well it made them sick. The only problem was one that could be grasped with a glance at the atmosphere in the meeting room.
They couldn’t object to the party’s decisions… Not only that, but they couldn’t even express any doubt about the party’s perceptions. To the officers having restricted conversations here and there around the room, wary of the observing political officers, it was extremely frustrating…but that’s what it was like in the Federation Army.
“Do the political officers who are left understand the situation?”
“Of course. They may adhere idiotically to the ideology, but how much of an ignoramus would you have to be to not grasp what’s going on?”
“…If they would just tell us to pull back. If they would just tell us not to chase too far and hold instead.”
The Imperial Army’s retreat, like when they beat the Republic, should probably be viewed as a tactical retreat. On that point, all the generals agreed.
To them, one look at the map made it clear.
The Federation Army was flooding into a pretty half-moon dent in the center, but the Imperial Army defensive line units, the left and right edges, were putting up an oddly strong resistance especially in Tiegenhoff, which at one time was completely surrounded but then received a fresh mage unit as reinforcements.
Even now they were attacking…but they had started to feel a chill, like they were gradually charging farther and farther into the Imperial Army’s encirclement.
As soldiers, what they really wanted was to halt immediately and rearrange their defenses. But. They all hesitated to say so. They couldn’t help it.
Because they knew that the first person to open their mouth, to call for a halt, would be deemed an unforgivable traitor by the Communist Party!
And this was after Moskva had been raided by a mage unit. The party elites had to be eager for a scapegoat. None of these men wanted to be the one to fall under their gaze they were instinctively scared.
Hence, the desperate glances at the political officers.
One word from them, the party will incarnate, and we’d be saved.
And as one side has one thing on their minds, the other side is thinking the same.
Humans are, on the whole, similar creatures, and their thought processes often resemble one another’s. To the political officers, who had been on the receiving end of silent looks for a while now, the military officers’ intentions were crystal clear.
“…What’s our status?”
“Utter crisis. The front lines keep sending us spirited reports, but it’s obvious if you actually go on inspection. The Imperial Army isn’t collapsing… I’m fairly certain they’re simply falling back to lure us in while waiting for reinforcements.”
Contrary to the reports being sent to Moskva, the situation on the front lines was far from what they wanted to see.
The political officers had some military education, too.
If they walked around the actual battleground and talked to the soldiers, even if they were detested…there was no way to misunderstand the situation the Federation Army was in.
“I guess it’s obvious from a look at the map. There’s a stubborn defense in the direction we want to go. The enemy is herding us where they want.”
The remarks were bitter, and the drags on their cigarettes were silent. In this room swirling with indescribable irritation and smoke, the hopeless situation found the men wanting to cradle their heads in despair.
“…If the generals would tell us to fall back…”
“Whether they’ll be able to convince Moskva is unknown. But if we could make it a fait accompli…”
“That’d be difficult. The damned generals want to make us bring it up again.”
Who would take responsibility for reporting the defeat to Moskva?
What was tearing apart Main Attack Group headquarters, in the end, was everyone’s true feelings and fear no one wanted Moskva’s eyes on them. If they made a report, Moskva might rethink things. But the enemy was on a rampage with the insolence to trample Moskva, and they were failing to stop them.
“Political Officer Chobarkov already tried it, right? Next, it’s the army’s turn to handle it. Military strategy is their problem to begin with, isn’t it?”
Under the circumstances, even just objecting to the party transferring mage units to defend Moskva was doing the most a political officer could do for the front lines… At least, they had sacrificed one of theirs.
Now it’s your turn.
In their positions, it was taboo to say as much, but that was the political officers’ keenly felt opinion on the matter.
The inadvertent groans spoke volumes as to how uncomfortable their situation was.
To the political officers, the danger of opening one’s mouth at this point was clear. But they were also scared of looking like they had no plan.
What would happen if the Federation Army continued with these reckless attacks?
If the Commissariat for Internal Affairs gave them the evil eye, they were finished. Anyone who could envision the punishment waiting for them if they were defeated had an extraordinarily hard time being proactive. They knew how the apparatchiks and the presidium thought, which left them with no choice but fear.
They writhed and struggled, and then finally, they found a way.
“There is one bit of good news. The unit in Tiegenhoff reports directly to their General Staff.”
One of the men going through documents, groping for a plan, discovered a positive report. They found a way to use the information in a report about the enemy chain of command.
“Directly to the General Staff?”
“Yes. You’d probably understand if I say it’s the unit that did you-know-what.”
It was the mage unit that had struck Moskva and made a grand show of obliterating the Federation and the Communist Party’s dignity and authority. Upon hearing the culprits were in Tiegenhoff, they had their excuse. “…Let’s suggest attacking Tiegenhoff. If we do it right, we’ll avoid the encirclement crisis and prove to the army that it needs us.”
THE SAME DAY IN TIEGENHOFF
Tanya is literally smacked awake by Lieutenant Serebryakov, who is staying in the same billet as her in Tiegenhoff.
“Lieutenant Serebryakov? What is it?”
“An offensive! The Federation Army is on the move!”
Judging from how pale she is, it’s obvious this is no small move.
Sensing the crisis, Tanya hurls off her blanket and jumps out of bed. Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, there were no children’s pajamas anywhere to be found, so she sleeps in her uniform. Her low blood pressure upon waking is annoying, but she has no time to fret about things like that now.
Swallowing her cold coffee, Tanya asks some quick questions to get a sense of their situation.
“…According to the air fleet, it’s eight divisions at minimum.”
“What? Eight at minimum?”
It’s an offensive of, with the most optimistic estimate, four times their own two divisions. Tanya was sure their offensive would be carried out with some degree of numbers, but even she has to parrot back that amount in disbelief. That’s way too many. She doubts the veracity of the reconnaissance plane’s report for a moment but then shakes her head. No.
“A major offensive? If they send that many troops our way at this point, they can certainly protect their flanks, but…have they seen through our maneuver plans?”
If the enemy is changing up their movements, there must be a reason for it. As far as Tanya knows, the rigidity of Communist thought and command chain is legendary.
That they would abandon their reckless breakthrough on the central lines and mount a major offensive on Tiegenhoff, off to the side, is completely unexpected.
“This will leave their central offensive dead in the water… Should we assume if they are transferring this many forces around, there’s been an intelligence leak? Well, but they’re going so slowly. They must have figured out what we’re doing and are moving in response.”
Anyone can guess that the Imperial Army’s aim to surround and annihilate the Federation Army is a maneuver battle. Traditionally, the General Staff can be considered believers in Cannae that is, disciples of the double envelopment. It’s only reasonable, then, that the Federation Army is on guard against it.
Even if there was a leak, Tanya’s suggestion of maneuvers with Tiegenhoff as the base was only just adopted.
…They must have sensed they were in danger of being surrounded.
Man, underestimating the Federation Army as a bunch of good-for-nothings who move in adherence to their inflexible command structure like the Red Army was a total mistake.
If Communists can react on the fly…this war won’t be so straightforward.
“Ngh, no time to think about that. How do the rest of the troops see the enemy situation?”
“Both divisions’ headquarters have concluded there are signs of a major offensive. Captain Weiss is waiting outside…”
“…How thoughtful of him.”
That my warmonger12 subordinates have the delicacy to mind sex differences comes as a bit of a surprise. That said, it’s important to act when the time comes.
“Sorry I’m late!”
Jumping out of her room and seeing Weiss fully outfitted, Tanya grasps her role completely.
“I’ve been informed of the situation. For now, I’m going to joint divisional headquarters. Under the circumstances, I need to confirm what the division commanders’ plans are.”
Tanya and her troops are reinforcements that just arrived. Originally, Tanya’s battalion had been planning on supporting only the two divisions in Tiegenhoff until further reinforcements showed up.
So if she doesn’t figure out what everyone’s moves are, this war won’t happen. It’s irritating, but it was Tanya’s mistake to think the enemy army wouldn’t act this quickly. She can only grind her teeth at her naivete, laughing at the Communists’ tendency to be fools.
“Captain Weiss, while I do that, I’m leaving the unit up to you! Prepare to sortie immediately and be ready to get a jump on the enemy vanguard in the sky!”
“Yes, ma’am. We’ll shift into scramble prep on the double.”
“If you feel it’s necessary, you can attack without waiting for my instructions. But keep defense of the city in mind when judging how far to go. We’re aiming for command of the sky, but don’t do any more than intercept. I don’t want the battalion taking any pointless losses.”
Leaving him with an “I’m counting on you,” Tanya rushes over to the joint divisional headquarters of the Third and Thirty-Second Divisions and is stuck being shocked again the moment she arrives.
Aerial recon shows multiple enemy units made up of infantry divisions on the approach. Astonishingly, the Federation hasn’t even bothered with heavy equipment and dares to raid the city with light units.
The serious issue, however, is that the defending side has only two divisions. Two undermanned divisions mid-retreat, that is. Considering they were practically cut off until the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion arrived, circumstances are awfully severe.
For one, it will be impossible to expect them to have the concentration of force to prevent approaches from all directions.
At this rate, we’ll be defending from within the city. The majority of civilians have evacuated, but even so, it will be a huge hassle to weather the Federation Army’s wave attacks while protecting the remnants.
On top of that, the Federation isn’t a signatory on several international treaties. The law of war doesn’t apply.
“…So our battalion is advancing to defend the city. We’ll lure the enemy and engage in delaying combat on the outskirts of Tiegenhoff.”
Thus, upon returning to her battalion, though frustrated, Tanya is explaining the unavoidable interception plan to Weiss, Serebryakov, and Grantz. Of course, it isn’t as if they grasp their enemy’s situation well enough to do terribly complicated maneuvers.
They’ll advance and buy time as they get a handle on things. The modern mage battalion is taking on the role of the traditional light cavalry seems about right.
“Are you sure? The General Staff instructed us to be the vanguard in the mobile battle. If we use up our energy on delaying combat here, the original plan will fall apart.”
“We’re not just talking about a breach the whole advance base on our flank is about to get swallowed up. We have no choice but to intercept. I think the General Staff will understand.” Not to mention. Tanya puts on a defiant smile. “We can also read this as the enemy sending in the rest of their reserves. If we get through this, all that’s left will be to make short work of the Federation Army minus their backup.”
“You’ve got grit, but this plan seems too intense.”
“Whoa, whoa, Lieutenant Grantz. Have you forgotten the Rhine front? You cut loose against an entire corps, forget divisions! This isn’t impossible. If you’re going to try to get out of it by saying it’s too intense, I don’t mind sending you out against them on your own how about it?”
“Commander, if you could please stop messing with me…”
“Sheesh, Lieutenant Grantz. Be a pain in the ass somewhere else, not on the battlefield. You need to learn some work ethic.”
She pats dejected Grantz on the shoulder. Thanks to him, the rest of the unit finds some humor to chuckle at despite the fact that they’re about to face the overwhelmingly huge Federation Army. It’s good to have that bit of emotional wiggle room. Especially for a difficult job, it’s best to have the proper degree of tension paired with the proper degree of calm.
Panic will always cause mistakes.
“All right, battalion. As usual, we’re going to get in the enemy’s way. You learned this at school the part about aggressively doing things your opponent hates.” After all. Tanya grins before continuing, “I’m a good girl, you know. Naturally, I take the initiative to do what others hate.”
“Ha-ha-ha-ha. You’ve hit the nail on the head, ma’am.”
“Right? Okay, Captain Weiss. This operation is go. Our opponents in the Federation Army are more flexible than we thought. Now then, shall we see what they can do?”
The Communists are outstanding opponents.
So no carelessness, no extraneous thoughts we’ve got to kill them, in order to never be bothered again and to make it safely to tomorrow morning.
These guys kill for their ideology. We can’t lose to idiots who don’t know the harm principle.
With renewed enthusiasm, the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion takes off and advances to meet the approaching Federation units. Before long, a unit that seems to be the vanguard comes into sight, but Tanya is incredibly confused.
“What the? We’re this close, and they still haven’t sent up their aerial mage units?”
Her grumble sums up the reason.
When she turns to her adjutant, Serebryakov, who is on lookout duty, she gets a head shake in answer.
“Lieutenant, we aren’t over Dacia, you know!”
“I understand what you mean, but Major…I’m not detecting anything. Are you picking anything up?”
“No,” she replies, but she’s so taken aback that the word lacks strength.
Still, Serebryakov, with an equally mystified look on her face, must feel the same way. Regardless of how it would go if they were invading the enemy’s rear areas, they’re coming at them head-on with the added objective of recon-in-force.
Since it’s recon-in-force, and the whole point is to see how the enemy handles them, they were prepared to battle Federation aerial mages, but this is what they get. Even Tanya didn’t imagine there would be no one to meet them.
“We still have to be on guard against an ambush, but…are they trying to draw us in? This is the Federation Army! Are they really going to just take anti-surface attacks undefended like Dacia and its lack of air or mage forces?”
And they’re the ones attacking. Tanya figured that given their meager heavy artillery, they would throw in all the air and mage forces they had to make up for it. That’s how you would usually do it, and without control of the skies, this fight would be a one-sided massacre.
The whole reason Tanya decided to engage and sound out their strength was to figure out the scale and determination of their forces. But this is a waste. Even if they were to try to discern how the enemy is thinking, or if Tanya were to make her own judgments, no contact with enemy mages is potentially fatal to either objective.
There’s no way to predict their tactics.
“We’re flying here right out in the open! If we’re not being intercepted, then…stay on your guard for ambushes and ready anti-surface attacks. Let’s rule out the possibility of any enemies lying in wait.”
All we can do is strike, cautiously but unhesitatingly.
Tanya considers a number of ways to deal with potential enemies and prepares herself to respond whether they’re present or not.
“This is Fairy 01 with a notice for the battalion! Ready anti-surface attacks by company! Don’t forget to watch your flanks. Support one another and keep a sharp eye on the air around you!”
This is sort of like playing dual-hammer Whack-a-Mole with one hand tied behind your back. Here we go! Tanya shouts and waves the hand holding her rifle to signal everyone to be ready to charge.
“Assume strike formation! Company members, follow me!”
The calmly gathered unit begins a steep dive on her orders. In preparation for the most dangerous part withdrawing after the descent Tanya has her unit behind her, essentially a wall of meat. Having the commander go out front is great. Tanya laughs as her altitude plummets, and when she reaches point-blank range where she can see her enemies’ eyes she seizes the chance she’s been waiting for.
The panicking enemy land army’s return fire is limited, so it’s easy for her to pick out the commander by watching the confused soldiers.
Her company’s members line up their gleaming barrels, wondering when they can fire their formula bullets Now? Now? and Tanya’s voice booms as if she’s delivering a message from heaven. “On me! Manifest your explosive formulas! Anti-surface attack now!”
She computes the formula with her Type 97 and manifests it at the appropriate coordinates.
Loosed with perfect timing, the formula flies true, into the middle of the enemy infantry, literally blowing away an area that had just barely been maintaining discipline.
Tanya’s formula flashes and bangs, followed by a chain of explosion formulas fired by her company that pour down with model you could even say quintessential density. Given the secondary explosions and the flying shrapnel, she doesn’t need to ask the observing escorts to know that they’ve gotten some results… The enemies are crushed all too easily.
Soldiers flee in a panic on the ground, just like the Dacian soldiers who broke ranks and ran. It really takes me back to that one-sided game in Dacia.
But. There Tanya exercises self-restraint and shouts over the wireless that it’s time to pull out.
“08 to 01. Their anti–air fire is limited! Requesting permission for a second strike!”
“Denied, 08! We’re not here to increase our gains! Prepare to withdraw!”
A proposal from her subordinate to achieve more comes flying in over the wireless.
It’s not bad to bask in the joy of kicking Commie ass in combat, but the battlefield wasn’t made for the pursuit of individual happiness.
“Let’s hit them as much as we can! We should attack again!”
I understand how they feel, but we can’t go mixing up our objective and our method. Tanya has the wherewithal for a wry grin.
For whatever reason, the members of the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion really are warmongers. Once they spot an enemy, all they can think of is sinking their teeth into them and not letting go.
“Fairy 01 to all units! Prepare to withdraw! We’re withdrawing! Pull out with your company. Once we regroup, we’ll swing by the enemy lines. Make searching for and destroying mage forces your top priority!”
She shouts not to turn around as she looks out for anyone in pursuit, and when they regroup up in the air, she checks everyone’s gear.
Though everyone regrouped efficiently, Tanya finds Weiss keenly focused on the ground. So he thinks we should strike the Commies now, too, then.
Is he overly eager to fight? Marvelously brave? Either way, Weiss is a sensible person who finds it hard to object to his superior officer directly. This is one of those times a boss has to step in and be considerate. Fine. Tanya shrugs and discreetly calls him over.
“Vice Commander, are you one of the ones who thinks we should reopen fire?”
“…May I tell you what I think, Major? These will probably be the only units without air cover. If we don’t hit them now, our troops will suffer later.”
When Tanya asks Weiss directly if he is dissatisfied with withdrawing, he makes an argument. And what he says is correct. It’s not as if Tanya hasn’t considered that their opponent may have dropped the ball. And it’s because she followed the same train of thought that the battalion is withdrawing.
“It could be a trap, couldn’t it? These are Communists we’re talking about. We can’t rule out the possibility that while we’re playing with the division in charge of getting beat up, they send in the real fighters.”
Even the United States Navy used radar picket ships almost like targets for beatings; using them for the defense of the fleet was simply reality.
As long as the opponents are Communists, the possibility that they would use some random unit as a decoy and then attack with their real forces can’t be ruled out.
“Okay, let’s continue with the search-and-destroy procedure. I just hope it goes well.”
With that, she tells her troops to follow and sneaks in repeated anti-surface attacks on what appears to be a Federation Army attack route.
This is what it’s like to achieve great success and against virtual swarms of enemies.
The battalion notices new enemy ground divisions seven times, but they never meet any enemy air or mage forces.
The plan was to search and destroy, to lure the enemy like a violent light trap, but though they rain punishment on the ground, the enemy never appears.
Upon reporting as much to the Third and Thirty-Second Divisions holed up in Tiegenhoff, Tanya spots what seems like a new batch of ground forces. There are still more? She’s practically lost patience by now.
“More fresh troops? What are you even thinking at this point, you Federation jerks? You’re going to expose all these combat resources as targets for anti-surface attacks? I don’t get it.”
If the Federation really doesn’t care about losing eight divisions, then I wonder about the extent of their reserve forces. How many are there, even in just this district we’re covering?
No. There, Tanya switches gears and whips her exhausted body into shape for another anti-surface strike.
As if it was her intention all along, she carries out a strike on the eighth division of the day in order to continue searching for mages.
The results are the same.
And the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion must have gotten used to the Federation’s anti–air interception. They cruise for a few minutes on the edge of the guns’ range, and when the Federation troops start to shoot in panic, the mages are calmly observing their targets.
Is this just how they do things?
While they exhibit unexpected self-control in not shooting blindly when the mages are out of their range, they have a tendency to shoot all they have the moment we just barely enter it. If you remember these kinds of peculiarities about enemy armies, they’re surprisingly handy. Making a mental note, Tanya nods at Serebryakov’s exhausted-sounding report that the battalion has regrouped and no one is missing.
“Nice work, Lieutenant Serebryakov. No losses, but how about fatigue?”
“…Major, we’re pretty tired.” Serebryakov almost never complains, but she admits now that she’s exhausted.
Guess it’s that time. Tanya is forced to accept that even her battalion has limits when it comes to their ability to sustain tenacious combat.
Since they’re performing recon-in-force, they’re carrying weapons and ammo under the assumption there will be combat. And it’s an aerial mage unit. With their computation orbs alone, they have a number of anti–surface strike options they don’t even have to use formula bullets. She’s been coaxing the limits further up as they continue fighting, but…her subordinates really are nearing dangerous levels of exhaustion, not to mention running out of ammo.
“What was that division just now?”
“As expected, it was a new one, not one of the seven we’ve already hit… Guess we should take the air fleet’s reconnaissance seriously.”
“So this is eight divisions?”
Talking with Serebryakov and facing the truth that the estimate of eight divisions can’t go any lower, Tanya, being Tanya, still has to murmur, “I don’t get it, though. I wonder where their air forces are. The question’s giving me a headache.”
“…I beg your pardon, Major, but if they haven’t come out after we’ve attacked them this much, maybe… Maybe…there aren’t any here?”
Serebryakov’s remark leaves Tanya dazed for a moment. The Federation Army has no aerial mage forces?
She laughs it off as impossible. “But Lieutenant Serebryakov, that can’t be true. They’re the ones who went on the offensive.
“And besides…,” Tanya continues to explain. Unlike the premodern Dacian army, the Federation Army may be Communist, but the Federation still manages to count as a major power. Regardless of the quality, it does employ aerial forces, and there have been reports from various units that they were fairly tough.
“Have you read the combat reports from the air fleet deployed in the east? They say they’re currently battling it out for air superiority with Federation air forces, including mage units!”
“Yes, Major. But that means the Federation Army should understand the importance of air superiority.”
That’s true. Tanya nods. Though the war is going in their favor, she hears that the aerial battles are difficult. After all, many of the imperial mages are stationed at important points in the west, having a staring contest with the Commonwealth. Not that there are so few in the east, but…having to deal with the entire Federation Army head-on is intense.
“They’ve left us alone all this time… I mean, I tried to think of various perspectives the Federation might have, but I can’t come up with any reasons for this besides an absence of forces.”
“…That makes sense, but… No, you’re right.”
In that case, I guess I misread the situation. Tanya regrets having such generous expectations. Instead of worrying about searching, we should have concentrated our efforts on anti-surface strikes.
Hindsight is twenty-twenty, but it bothers her that she missed that chance.
Even if they were to restart the attacks now, her unit is utterly spent, and that’s an optimistic description. If she pushes them too hard, they won’t be able to exhibit their full capabilities even if restarting is possible.
Tanya’s logical calculation of pros and cons flatly rejects pointlessly thrusting elites such as the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion into a mass of enemies as a meaningless sacrifice. It’s a terrible shame, but they need rest and supplies.
“We’ll withdraw… Ask Tiegenhoff for rest and supplies. We’ll leave the job of attacking the ground forces to another mage unit. Oh,” Tanya continues. “Tell Major Hofen of the 213th Mage Battalion we decline his offer of drinks.”
Serebryakov, wincing, and Grantz, looking disappointed, acknowledge the orders.
Grantz seems to really have a thing for booze. That’s no good, muses Tanya. Overindulging in alcohol is immoral, and although it’s a matter of personal preference, Tanya is about to tell him that maybe he should pay a bit more attention to his health when she catches herself in shock.
Was I about to interfere with someone’s personal freedoms? …And on dubious moral grounds?
MARCH 29, UNIFIED YEAR 1926, IMPERIAL ARMY GENERAL STAFF OFFICE
At about the same time Major Tanya von Degurechaff was having some internal conflict about her mental status and returning her unit back to Tiegenhoff…Lieutenant General von Rudersdorf was knocked out of bed with the news that Federation forces were approaching Tiegenhoff. The following report, that the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion had intercepted and had its way with them, made him smile.
The mages gave a thorough beating to eight enemy divisions. With just the two divisions holed up in Tiegenhoff, the city might have fallen…but apparently, in the end, Degurechaff had employed quintessential mobile defense.
She had gone so far as to send a report apologizing for acting to lure out the enemy mages and realizing too late that there weren’t any, but…that was just her being a perfectionist. Rudersdorf even chuckled at the bizarre apology.
She had taken on a massive army, upset them so much they would have trouble advancing, and proven the absence of enemy mage forces. As a result, the Federation Army’s many available reserves were being held up.
He was sure, then, that they would be victorious.
There was only one thing to do now.
Send in a torrent of soldiers, all the men the Empire could move, to hit the exhausted Federation Army’s enervated weak points.
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