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Book 4: Chapter 4 (1)

After surrounding the impregnable Chasum fortress with 2,000 infantry, the Parsian army continued its advance to the west. They were not fighting to attack the fortress, but to remove the obstructions and secure the rear. Outside the fortress, the forces of Chasum were largely routed, and the remnants of their army held onto the fortress to show resistance. They were fully prepared to die, rather than surrender to the infidels, which was their business, but the Parsians did not have the time to deal with them.

Therefore, the Parsian army advanced straight ahead on the continental road.

To the Lusitanian army, they seemed to have miscalculated. They thought that they could hold the Parsian army at Chasum for at least ten days, but they had already passed through in just one day.

"Fools! Why did you leave the fortress to fight them? Why not hold the fortress and let the enemy besiege it?"

General Bauduin could not help but grit his teeth when he heard this news. He returned to the royal capital and accepted the command given to him by Guiscard, to battle the Parsian forces.

"It's useless to worry about it now."

General Montferrat comforted his companion sorrowfully. He and Bauduin shared the responsibility of movements of the army. The trust of the king's brother, Guiscard, was welcome, but their responsibility was relatively greater.

After discussing cavalry, infantry, food, terrain, etc., it was Montferrat's turn to sigh this time.

"I was thinking, winning the Battle of Atropatene was perhaps a mistake, wasn't it? If there was no victory, perhaps our expedition would have ended at Maryam, and then we would have returned to our homeland."

"Hey, hey, didn’t you just say that it’s useless to worry about it now? Because we won at Atropatene, we were able to claim the wealth of Pars for Lusitania!"

Bauduin laughed bitterly, while Montferrat nodded. They were both military generals who gained Guiscard's trust and ability, and because they were so capable, they could see their own weaknesses as well.

The first point was that there was already a wave of voices among the Lusitanian army, especially the lower ranking soldiers, who wanted to return to their homeland. Although they were called soldiers, among the 300,000 forces of the Lusitanian army, there were only about 100,000 trained soldiers, and the rest were recruited from peasants or herdsmen. From their standpoint, it was not easy to defeat the pagans, get their share of treasures, and spare lives, so what they wanted most now was to go back to their homeland and return to peace.

"The warriors who went all the way to the country of Pars and killed the devilish pagans finally returned to the village! What a remarkable thing! If he would marry my daughter, it would be an honor for our family too…"

The young soldiers imagined such a scenario. In the eyes of the Parsians, they appeared to be invaders, plunderers, and killers, like men of the legendary Snake King Zahhak. However, poverty, lack of education, and narrow-minded beliefs deprived these people of their imagination. They could not imagine that anyone could believe in a different god than themselves and live a peaceful life with a different culture and customs.

"In any case, the victory drunkenness phase has passed, and the period of hardships in maintaining our army has come."

This matter was apparent not only to Montferrat and Bauduin, but also to Guiscard. One of the ministers said in a comforting and charming voice to His Highness, who was deep in thought.

"Anyway, it is still best to keep Andragoras alive!"

If the Parsian army attacked Ecbatana, I believe they would be unwilling to move if they held Andragoras up on the gates and threatened to take his life.

"Uh, perhaps."

Guiscard wasn't that optimistic. If Prince Arslan was a man who valued his father's life more than the throne, then Andragoras would have no value as a hostage. If Andragoras was killed, it would just make Arslan more deserving of the throne. The method of taking Andragoras as a hostage had occurred to even the incompetent King Innocentis, and there was no way the Parsian army hadn't also thought of it.

First, what would be the result of trying to take King Andragoras as a hostage before the battle? If the battle was lost, there was nothing wrong with choosing the most advantageous strategy, but it would have been better to think of a winning strategy before planning for defeat, right?

It was Guiscard's job to leave the responsibility for the actual battle to Montferrat and Bauduin. Preparing food and weapons, establishing formations for the whole army, repairing the walls of Ecbatana, storing water, and designating a person responsible for establishing plans for all else, these things were all Guiscard's job, and he really worked hard.

"Just one more moment. Everything is almost over."

Guiscard decided. He would destroy Prince Arslan's army, and kill King Andragoras and Queen Tahamine, who had no reason to live. He also had to get rid of Silver Mask, whose origin was unknown and whose danger was increasing by the day. Archbishop Bodin must also be dealt with. After all these antagonists were taken care of, his ambition could be realized – to claim the throne of the new imperial dominion spanning the three kingdoms of Lusitania, Maryam and Pars.

"I won't let any disagree with me."

Guiscard muttered to himself. Taking his brother's throne was deceitful, which was why he had been resigned to being the king's younger brother, content to hold the position of real power in the state and military. But he had done enough, hadn’t he?

"If everything goes well, that is what God wants. If I refuse what God gives to me, it would instead be against God's will."

This was the argument of Archbishop Bodin, and when Guiscard succeeded in convincing himself, the man who was scheduled to be robbed of the throne by him walked into the room, full of concern.

"Are you already done praying?"

Guiscard asked, and Innocentis lowered his voice with a mysterious expression.

"I’m done. Rather, I have something important to ask you. Wouldn't it be good if Maryam and Pars joined forces, brother?"

It seemed like someone else had mentioned the possibility of Pars and Maryam joining forces in Innocentis's ear.

"It wouldn’t be good. We don't have to be too concerned about it."

"Is that so? However, if the Parsian army is in the east and the remnants of Maryam's army are in the west, it won’t be easy to deal with if they both attack us at the same time, right?"

Innocentis seemed to understand the seriousness of the matter as well as he could, and there was a disturbing look in his eyes. Guiscard had also heard about Marquis Leuthold's soldiers seeing Maryam's military ship in the Darband Inland Sea.

"The wounded simply sit and lick their wounds. The remnants of Maryam's army have no more power. Brother, please don't worry."

Rather than Maryam, Guiscard was more worried about Archbishop Bodin. Archbishop Bodin, who had been driven out of Zabul fortress, had no place to go other than the country of Maryam if he wanted to flee for his life. He had already given an order to send an emissary to capture Bodin for treason. Among the Lusitanian army that entered Maryam, Bodin’s knights were extremely powerful. If things went wrong, there was also the possibility that they would gather in Maryam to fight against the king and his brother.

If things were not handled properly, the Lusitanians might be banished forever from the sunlit skies and fertile lands of Pars. Moreover, they would no longer be a powerful country, and in the memory of the Parsian people, they would be nothing more than a group of thieves. Compared to their magnificent beginning, wouldn't such a fall be tragic?

After pacifying his brother to get him to leave, Guiscard took a breath and asked his subordinates to bring the finest wines of Pars to his room. Amaid poured carnelian-colored wine into an ornate goblet, filled a silver plate with lemons and almonds, and left. Guiscard picked up the glass and brought it to his lips, when suddenly he stopped his hand and muttered to himself.

    "Which side will win, the gods of Pars or Lusitania? We have only one god on our side, while they have many…”

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