Under the Oak Tree-Chapter 319 - 80

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Chapter 319: Chapter 80

Sejuleu regarded the map in silence, then turned his head to address Kuahel.

“We would need an ungodly amount of wood to build siege towers that could take on ramparts that high. Just the task of transporting it to the Pamela Plateau would be grueling.”

“We must take every weapon available,” Kuahel replied, glancing over everyone present with his ever-lifeless eyes. “There are magic negators installed on the ramparts, which means it will be difficult to breach the walls with magic. We will have to rely on physical weapons to capture the city.”

“But we already have too much baggage even without the siege towers,” said Agnes. “Add to that provisions and fodder and we would need more men to transport everything, which means even more provisions. This issue alone poses quite the headache.”

Richard Breston snickered. “What a needless worry. By the end of this war, the mouths that need feeding will have been reduced to half. I assure you, our current supplies are more than enough.”

Agnes scowled in disdain at the man’s callous remark. She was not the only one who found his words contemptible; some of the other knights present also shot daggers at him. Even so, Breston paid no mind to their scornful looks. He picked up the map and swept a half-hearted gaze over it.

“The report clearly states that around thirteen thousand monsters currently dwell in this city. Do you expect so little casualty on our side even after hearing such numbers? Is that not too optimistic?”

“I believe you are being too pessimistic,” Sejuleu retorted stiffly. “We should at least try to minimize our casualties.”

“Sir Richard’s words may sound harsh… but he has a point,” said the middle-aged knight to Breston’s right. “1 also see no need for us to increase our food supply.”

From the man’s attire, Maxi surmised that he must be the commanding officer of the Arexian spear unit. The knight turned his head to Kuahel and added, “Moreover, the Council of the Seven Kingdoms has already imposed its nobles to pay for this costly war. Demanding more funds from them will be met with resistance.”

“An unfortunate but unavoidable situation if the war drags on,” chimed in another knight. He appeared to be higher in rank than the first speaker. “We fight to protect the peace of the Seven Kingdoms. It is the Council’s duty to provide our army with sufficient supplies however many times we require it!”

“I assure you, you need not worry about supplies being cut off,” Kuahel replied calmly. “Still, it would be best to find a way to capture the city as quickly as possible. There are few resources available in the Plateau, and there is no guarantee that the supply party will always reach us on time. If the siege becomes drawn out, I’ve no doubt the Council will order a retreat, rendering this campaign a failure.”

His piercing eyes looked at each face around the table.

“We must capture the city within half a month.”

“Ludicrous! How are we to capture a fortress surrounded by gigantic high walls in just fifteen days?! Breston exclaimed with a snort. He began tapping his knife on the map. “We are already at a geographical disadvantage. The monsters have the upper hand by being on higher ground. No matter how gentle, a slope is a slope. It’ll require twice the effort to move the siege towers, and it’ll affect the catapults. And that’s not taking into account our enemy’s unlimited regenerative abilities. Every attack would leave us with heavy casualties while they heal right up! The monsters will know that time is on their side. Mark my words — they will try to drag this battle out.”

Anton, who had been listening to the knights in silence thus far, suddenly spoke.

“A troll’s regenerative ability is not unlimited.”

When all eyes in the room flew to him, the mage lightly cleared his throat and said calmly, “Trolls heal by using the nutrients stored in their bodies. As such, once their wounds are dealt with, they will be afflicted with extreme hunger. If they were to run out of provisions, they would eventually lose their regenerative abilities, and the hunger would likely drive them into a frenzy.”

Nobody spoke for a moment. Riftan looked up from the map he had been studying and broke the silence.

“Which means they also can’t afford to hold out forever. We have little chance of winning if the monsters decide to hunker down and defend their walls. But if they were also struggling to procure food, they won’t find it as easy to prolong the siege.”

“Trolls require fivefold the nourishment of your average human, while ogres require twelvefold. There will certainly be a limit to how long they can sustain themselves,” said Agnes. She squinted an eye, racking her brains. “And these Ayin monsters are breeding dozens of wyverns inside their city, are they not? I heard that a single wyvern requires nourishment equal to consuming a whole cow once a week. It seems our concern over how to feed our horses might not be that significant compared to what the monsters have to deal with.”

“Look here, miss. Did it not occur to you that the trolls might sustain themselves by eating the wyverns?”

Agnes shot Breston an irritated glare at his impertinence.

She was about to snap back at him when Riftan cut in icily, “Why would they eat the wyverns when there is something far more appetizing close by?”

A heavy silence blanketed the hall.

Tapping the table with his finger, Riftan continued, “Humans are the most tempting prey for any monster. The enemy will turn their attention to us the moment they run out of food. It would be impossible for starved cannibals to meekly stay behind their walls when there’s a feast laid out right before them.”

He paused to organize his thoughts before adding, “The question is how long they can hold out. We can’t afford to keep waiting until they run dry. After surrounding them, we must wear them down as quickly as possible. Relentless attacks.”

“Can we strengthen the siege weapons?” Hebaron asked, looking up from the map. “It’ll be difficult to inflict substantial damage to the ramparts with our current catapults. Our tests were disappointing, to say the least. They must be enhanced to hit targets at greater distances.”

“That’s easier said than done,” said Sejuleu. “We’d need a bigger lever to increase the strength of a catapult. Constructing one with our limited resources is one thing, but hauling the building materials for massive siege towers and catapults over treacherous mountain paths is another problem entirely. It would slow us down immensely.”

He gave a deep sigh and shook his head.

“Ordinarily, we would’ve gathered resources from nearby forests, but that’s not a viable option there. Everything we need, we must take with us. It would do to keep that in mind.”

“How about enhancing the catapults with magical devices?” Elliot asked, looking at Anton. “Could you not bolster them as you have done with the mantlets?”

All eyes now turned to Anton. The mage lightly cleared his throat and patted Maxi on the shoulder. “This mage is best suited to answer any questions regarding magical devices. She and two others are currently in charge of crafting them.”

Maxi swallowed dryly. Being at the center of attention among so many knights was intimidating. However, the fight in her flared up when she caught sight of Riftan’s impassive face. She wanted to appear confident in his eyes.

She cleared her throat and explained, “We are already working on doing just that. Currently, we are… bolstering the siege weapons. That alone should enhance the power of the catapults enough to hold rocks or cannonballs… that would normally be too heavy for a regular catapult.”

“And the maximum range of attack?” Riftan asked, leaning forward subtly.

Maxi faltered for a moment before looking him dead in the eye.

“Considering the size of the catapult and the weight of the projectile… the maximum range should be around one thradion (approximately 185 meters),” Maxi replied, enunciating each word. “If you also consider the incline and the height of the ramparts, it would be more effective to station the catapults closer.”

“That range is insufficient,” Riftan mumbled, frowning.

Maxi was taken aback. Clearly, he had expected more.

He seemed to be deep in thought as he brushed his temple. Then he asked matter-of-factly, “Is there no other way to further improve the strength of the catapults? To minimize casualties, we must place them where the enemy can’t reach our men.”

“B-But… there is a limit to how much a magical device can enhance them. Though wood can be reinforced with magic, there is little we can do to strengthen the ropes. The strain that would come from hurling rocks at greater distances would eventually cause them to snap. Rather than risking breakage, we could—”

Maxi stopped herself. She was afraid of being laughed at for sharing an idea that suddenly sprung to mind.

Seeing her hesitation, Riftan brusquely pressed her point. “We could what?”

She studied his expression. How did he feel about her speaking at this meeting? His face did not seem to give anything away.

Maxi nervously wet her lips. “Wouldn’t it be better… for us to alter the terrain instead?”

“Alter the terrain?” Kuahel asked, arching an eyebrow.

Before anyone could dismiss or scoff at her suggestion, Maxi launched into an explanation. “We could elevate the catapults by summoning earth barriers beneath them with magic. That way… we can attack from a greater distance without having to modify the devices any further.”

“But mana concentration in the Plateau is low. It would require twice the mana to maintain the barriers. To keep them up, we would need all of the mages focusing on the task,” Miriam argued, appearing unconvinced.

This was nothing new. During their time at the Mage Tower, Miriam regularly picked holes in her ideas. Now it only filled Maxi with greater determination.

“A-A barrier does not require that much mana! Moreover… we wouldn’t have to keep them up all day long. We would only have to elevate the ground beneath the catapults while we attack.”

“Not a bad idea,” Sejuleu murmured.

Maxi’s face brightened.

Agnes had her eyes fixed on the map, turning Maxi’s proposal over in her mind. The princess soon nodded in agreement..