Wizard! Chapter 523
William sat in his office listening to Jordan’s report. For the most part, it was good news. The League had been taken by surprise, with several key targets being defeated in the first days of the operation. None had yet been confirmed to have escaped, but maneuvering troops to the exact positions necessary had allowed them some time to respond. Some cities were under siege, which could take some time. Liaoyang hadn’t fully embraced magic, with ki cultivation still being the preferred method of combat and military training. Even so, they weren’t without magic, and that meant they could create magical fortifications. William doubted they were as good as most of the gevai ones that had over a gross of years of work, but they were enough to prevent his armies from just walking into the cities or forts they protected.
Part of that was they didn’t bring any siege equipment- there was something about a mile of stairs down and up that made that impractical, not counting the great gross of miles traveled underground. They were already working on the construction of siege engines, but William personally hoped they would just surrender.
William wasn’t sure if the league had thought his armies were weaker than they truly were. He could pull from the entirety of Cruonia, which was about the same size as all of the human lands. On the other hand, the League only had approximately a third of Liaoyang’s people. That was only about ten percent of the humans, and William was fairly certain he could draw on an army to match all of the humans together if he had to. It was just expensive to mobilize that many troops… and the Subterranean Territories would probably not approve of quite that many people moving through their tunnels even if they were currently on good terms.
Perhaps the League had just expected better warnings of his troops arriving. William couldn’t blame them for that. Appearing from concealed tunnels they couldn’t have even known about had given him an advantage… but that didn’t mean he couldn’t have won the old fashioned way.
It was also possible they had been distracted by Ustil’s armies approaching. The League had sunk or captured ships trading between Cruonia and Ustil regardless of the ships’ crew or country of origin. Ustil kept their troop preparations secret, but that was never perfect. They had been over a week away from the border with the League, and with no signs of Cruonian troops on their way they had probably expected more time.
In a way, Ustil had already done most of their part for the war by being a decoy. Their military force wasn’t needed… but their presence would still be useful. Firstly, William didn’t have enough forces to occupy any significant part of the League’s territory. He had the military power, but just not enough people. Ustil would make up for that… and also provide a much needed human presence. He didn’t want it to look like he had changed over to being a conquering Demon King. That was why he’d spent so much effort over the last few years justifying the attack with the emissaries of the other nations.
He only really had to make the humans accept the situation, as the elves and dwarves- those on the continent or not- didn’t particularly like the xenophobic bent of the League. Though there had been only a very small amount of trade from those off the continent flowing into Ustil, it wasn’t nonexistent- and they had suffered some losses. If possible, William wanted it to look like Cruonia was looking out for Ustil and their shared trade interests. That wasn’t hard, because he did care about those things. He just hoped he could end the war with minimal bloodshed. That might still be the blood of many leaders and soldiers, but he would at least avoid slaughtering civilians.
If everything went well, within a few months they could reach the end of military conflicts and start a change in leadership. William would prefer if Ustil took over the territory, but that wasn’t practical for several reasons. At the very least, the people of Ustil were very different from those of Liaoyang. An attempt by them to actually permanently occupy the land would result in more people taking up arms. It was also impractical for them to do so, with the language barriers. It was possible that they could appoint governors of sorts from among the people, but avoiding any sort of conquest was better. They could still require some reparations be paid and have a less hostile government set up. The following weakness of the League might result in them being taken over by one or both of the other pieces of Liaoyang, but that would be more acceptable to them… and William didn’t hate that option.
There was only one thing that actually concerned William about how the attack had gone so far. “So… why didn’t you tell me Tiburcio was hiding in League territory?”
“I only knew about it after he arrived. By that point, it was already too late to stop him or do anything about it. I didn’t expect that you would have a better chance of convincing him to leave.” Jordan shrugged, “It was his choice, and his presence wasn’t tactically disadvantageous.”
William sighed, “Why couldn’t he just stay here? If he was healthy I would have no problem calling him in but…” William shook his head, “So how is he?”
“Our company arrived and defeated Lord Wang Xue’s company, including capturing the lord himself. Tiburcio was engaged with the enemy, riding on the back of a dire tiger.”
“Where did he…?” William shook his head, “Nevermind. Continue.”
“Anyway, the men saw him fall unconscious on the back of the dire tiger. He appears injured but… they can’t get close to check his wounds. The dire tiger is keeping them at bay, and they’re worried attacking it will cause it to become violent. For the moment, they’re keeping watch to make sure it doesn’t do anything to him, either.”
“Is there anything useful about his wounds?”
“Those with the best eyes report he is covered from head to toe in blood, and much of that is from his own wounds. The medics say the wounds are likely fatal but… one of the medics worked with the elite troops. He agrees with their assessment, but also says that he won’t believe Tiburcio is dead until he confirms it for himself, up close.”
“If the medics could get to him and help… I wouldn’t believe it either.” William rubbed his forehead, “It would be shame to lose him over this.”
“I agree. Capturing Lord Wang Xue might be tactically useful, but we could have dealt with him later. Men like Tiburcio aren’t easy to replace.”