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The defence is stronger than the attack; therefore we should think that the latter can never lead us too far, for as long as the weaker form remains strong enough for what is required, the stronger form ought to be still more so. We must always consider means of this description as small investments, from which only small profits are to be expected; as means suited only to very limited State relations and weak motives.

Then they are certainly better than battles without a purpose—than victories, the results of which cannot be realised to the full.


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What we have said about the defensive battle throws a strong light upon the offensive also. It is otherwise with the offensive battle: For this reason, in the battle which is not purely defensive and in the real rencontres, there always remains also something of the difference of the character of the battle on the one side and on the other.

A combat in lines, formed to envelop, has evidently in itself great advantages; it is, however, a subject of tactics. The attack must not give up these advantages because the defence has a means of counteracting them; for the attack itself cannot make use of that means, inasmuch as it is one that is too closely dependent upon other things connected with the defence.

To be able in turn to operate with success against the flanks of an enemy, whose aim is to turn our line, it is necessary to have a well-chosen and well-prepared position. But what is much more important is, that all the advantages which the defensive possesses, cannot be made use of; most defences are poor makeshifts; the greater number of defenders find themselves in a very harassing and critical position, in which, expecting the worst, they meet the attack half-way.

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The consequence of this is, that battles formed with enveloping lines, or even with an oblique front, which should properly result from an advantageous relation of the lines of communication, are commonly the result of a moral and physical preponderance Marengo, Austerlitz, Jena. Besides, in the first battle fought, the base of the assailant, if not superior to that of the defender, is still mostly very wide in extent, on account of the proximity of the frontier; he can, therefore, afford to venture a little.

It is an erroneous idea that an enveloping strategic advance from the very commencement must be connected with it, as at Prague. That strategic measure has seldom anything in common with it, and is very hazardous; of which we shall speak further in the attack of a theatre of War. As it is an object with the Commander in the defensive battle to delay the decision as long as possible, and gain time, because a defensive battle undecided at sunset is Edition: The more this is the case, so much the more concentration of forces becomes paramount, and turning a flank to be preferred to surrounding.

That the principal fruits of victory are first gathered in the pursuit, we have already learnt in the twelfth chapter of Book IV. According to the nature of the thing, the pursuit is more an integral part of the whole action in the offensive than in the defensive battle. Whether he meditates bringing on a decisive battle after crossing, or may expect the enemy to attack him, he exposes himself to great danger; therefore, without a decided superiority, both in moral and physical force, a General will not place himself in such a position.

If we suppose that this defence is not considered the only means of safety, but is so planned that even if it fails, still a stand can be made near the river, then the assailant in his calculations must add to the resistance which he may experience in the defence of the river, all the advantages mentioned in No. Suppose, for instance, an attack which is not intended to end in a great solution, and which is not conducted with thorough energy, we may be sure that in carrying it out a number of little obstacles and accidents, which no theory could calculate upon, will start up to the disadvantage of the assailant, because he is the acting party, and must, therefore, come first into collision with such impediments.

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Let us just think for a moment how often some of the insignificant rivers of Lombardy have been successfully defended! Therefore the assailant, superior in numbers and bent upon serious blows, has the means of making a demonstration at one point and passing at another, and then by superior numbers, and advancing, regardless of all opposition, he can repair any disadvantageous relations in which he may have been placed by the issue of the first encounters: But the worst which an assailant can do, is to attempt a Edition: In that way Bellegarde lost the battle on the Mincio, , where by chance both Armies passed at different points at the same time, and the Austrians were more divided than the French.

As regards the second means, it presupposes on the part of the assailant the means, suitable relations, and the determination to fight; but when these conditions may be presupposed, the defender will not readily venture upon this mode of defending a river. But also in cases of a great solution, a river is an important object; it always weakens and deranges the offensive; and the most fortunate thing in this case is, if the defender is induced through that danger to look upon the river as a tactical barrier, and to make the particular defence of that barrier the principal act of his resistance so that the assailant at once obtains the advantage of being able to strike a decisive blow in a very easy manner.

In the book on the defence, it has been sufficiently explained how far defensive positions can compel the assailant either to attack them, or to give up his advance. Only those which can effect this are subservient to our object, and suited to wear out or neutralise the forces of the aggressor, either wholly or in part, and in so far the attack can do nothing against such positions, that is to say, there are no means at its disposal by which to counterbalance this advantage.

But defensive positions are not all really of this kind. If the assailant sees he can pursue his object without attacking such a position, it would be an error to make the attack; if he cannot Edition: Between these two objects a competition may arise, in which case the first is entitled to the preference, as it is of an offensive nature; therefore homogeneous with the attack, whilst the other is of a defensive character.


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  5. But it is certain, and may be regarded as a truth of the first importance, that to attack an enemy thoroughly inured to War, in a good position, is a critical thing. No doubt instances are not wanting of such battles, and of successful ones too, as Torgau, Wagram we do not say Dresden, because we cannot call the enemy there quite War seasoned ; but upon the whole, the danger is small, and it vanishes altogether, opposed to the infinite number of cases in which we have seen the most resolute Commanders make their bow before such positions.

    We must not, however, confuse the subject now before us with ordinary battles. It was for a time the fashion to speak with contempt of entrenchments and their utility. The cordon lines of the Edition: Certainly, when a few thousand men are to defend several miles of country, and when entrenchments are nothing more than ditches reversed, they are worth nothing, and they constitute a dangerous snare through the confidence which is placed in them.

    But is it not inconsistent, or rather nonsensical, to extend this view even to the idea of field fortification, in a mere swaggering spirit as Templehof does? What would be the object of entrenchments generally, if not to strengthen the defence? No, not only reason but experience, in hundreds and thousands of instances, show that a well-traced, sufficiently manned, and well-defended entrenchment is, as a rule, to be looked upon as an impregnable point, and is also so regarded by the attack.

    It is consistent with the nature of an entrenched camp that it should be weakly garrisoned; but with good, natural obstacles of ground and strong field works, it is possible to bid defiance to superior numbers. Frederick the Great considered the attack of the camp of Pirna as impracticable, although he had at his command Edition: But it is a question, whether those who have since contended not only for the feasibility but also for the facility of the attack would have made up their minds to execute it at the time.

    We, therefore, think that the attack of an entrenched camp belongs to the category of quite exceptional means on the part of the offensive.


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    6. It is only if the entrenchments have been thrown up in haste, are not completed, still less strengthened, by obstacles to prevent their being approached, or when, as is often the case taken altogether, the whole camp is only an outline of what it was intended to be, a half-finished ruin, that then an attack on it may be advisable, and at the same time become the road to gain an easy conquest over the enemy. From the fifth and following chapters of the sixth book may be deduced sufficiently the strategic relations of a mountain generally, both as regards the defence and the attack.

      We have also there endeavoured to explain the part which a mountain range plays as a line of defence, properly so called, and from that naturally follows how it is to be looked upon in this signification from the side of the assailant. There remains, therefore, little for us to say here on this important subject. Our chief result was, that the defence must choose as his point of view a Edition: An attack, therefore, armed with the means and the resolution for a battle, will give the enemy a meeting in the mountains, and certainly find his account in so doing.

      But we must here once more repeat that it will be difficult to obtain respect for this conclusion, because it runs counter to appearances, and is also, at first sight, contrary to the experience of War. It has been observed, in most cases hitherto, that an Army pressing forward to the attack whether seeking a great general action or not , has considered it an unusual piece of good fortune if the enemy has not occupied the intervening mountains, and has itself then hastened to be beforehand in the occupation of them.

      No one will find this forestalling of the enemy in any way inconsistent with the interests of the assailant; in our view this is also quite admissible, only we must point out clearly a fine distinction here between circumstances. An Army advancing against the enemy, with the design of bringing him to a general action, if it has to pass over an unoccupied range of mountain, has naturally to apprehend that the enemy may, at the last moment, block up those very passes which it proposes to use on its march: But even if it is a very improbable case, yet still it is natural to fear it; for in War, many a thing is very natural, and yet in a certain measure superfluous.

      But another measure which the assailant has to apprehend here is, a preliminary defence of the mountains by an advance guard or chain of outposts. This means also will seldom accord with the interests of the defender, but the assailant has not the means of discerning how far it may be beneficial to the defender or otherwise, and therefore he has only to provide against the worst. Further, our view by no means excludes possibility of a position being quite unassailable from the mountainous character of the ground: We may also very well conceive that positions may be found in mountains themselves where the defender might avoid the ordinary disadvantages of mountain positions, as, for instance, on lofty plateaux; but they are not common, and we can only take into our view the generality of cases.

      It is just in military history that we see how little mountain positions are suited to decisive defensive battles, for great Generals have always preferred a position in the plains, when it was their object to fight a battle of the first order; and throughout the whole range of military history, there are no examples of decisive battles in the mountains, except in the Revolutionary Wars, and even there it was plainly a false application and analogy which led to the use of mountain positions, where of necessity a decisive battle had to be fought and in the Vosges, and , , and in Italy.

      The dispositions for the attack of mountain positions are mostly of a tactical nature; but we think it necessary to insert here the following remarks as to the general outline, consequently as to those parts which come into immediate contact with, and are coincident with, Strategy. If a supreme decision should lie in their defence and their attack, they place the assailant in an advantageous situation, for their wide extent is still more in opposition to all the requirements of a decisive battle than the direct defence of a river or a mountain range.

      If the offensive side does not possess the means required for a decisive battle, then even lines are treated with respect, that is, if they are occupied by the main body of an Army; for instance, those of Stollhofen, held by Louis of Baden in the year , were respected even by Villars. But if they are only held by a secondary force, then it is merely a question of the strength of the detachment which we can spare for their attack. The resistance in such cases is seldom great, but at the same time the result of the victory is seldom worth much.

      The circumvallation lines of a besieger have a peculiar character, of which we shall speak in the chapter on the attack of a theatre of War. It is one which concerns the defence and the attack in common; nevertheless it has always in it something more of the nature of the offensive than the defensive. We shall therefore now examine it more thoroughly. It is like the first moves in a game of chess. It is, therefore, a game of evenly balanced powers, to obtain results from favourable opportunity, and then to use these as an advantage over the enemy.

      These five interests may establish themselves in the smallest features of detail belonging to any particular situation; and any such object then becomes, on that account, a point round which everything for a time revolves. A bridge, a road, or an entrenchment, often thus plays the principal part.

      It is easy to show in each case that it is only the relation which any such object has to one of the above interests which gives it importance. The first antithesis is the surrounding the enemy, and the operating on interior lines; the second is the concentration of forces, and their extension over several posts. That form will gain the upper hand which is used with the greatest skill. The stronger force has the choice of extending itself over several posts; by that means he will obtain for himself a convenient strategic situation, and liberty of action in many respects, and spare the physical powers of his troops.

      The weaker, on the other hand, must keep himself more concentrated, and seek by rapidity of movement to counteract the disadvantage of his inferior numbers. This greater mobility supposes greater readiness in marching. The weaker must therefore put a greater strain on his physical and moral forces—a final result which we must naturally come upon everywhere if we would always be consistent, and which, therefore, we regard, to a certain extent, as the Edition: The campaigns of Frederick the Great against Daun, in the years and , and against Laudon, , and Montecuculis against Turenne in , , have always been reckoned the most scientific combinations of this kind, and from them we have chiefly derived our view.

      The smaller the interests at stake, so much the more important the details of time and place become, so much the more that which is general and great falls into the background, having, in a certain measure, no place in small calculations. Is there to be found, viewed, generally, a more absurd situation than that of Turenne in , when he stood with his back close to the Rhine, his army along a line of fifteen miles in extent, and with his bridge of retreat at the extremity of his right wing?

      But his measures answered their object, and it is not without reason that they are acknowledged to show a high degree of skill and intelligence. We can only understand this result and this skill when we look more closely into details, and judge of them according to the value which they must have had in this particular case. Morasses, that is, impassable swamps, which are only traversed by a few embankments, present peculiar difficulties to the tactical attack, as we have stated in treating of the defence.

      Their breadth hardly ever admits of the enemy being driven from the opposite bank by artillery, and of the construction of a roadway across. The strategic consequence is that endeavours are made to avoid attacking them by passing round them. Where the state of culture, as in many low countries, is so great that the means of passing are innumerable, the resistance of the defender is still strong enough relatively, but it is proportionably weakened for an absolute decision, and, therefore, wholly unsuitable for it.

      On the other hand, if the low land as in Holland is aided by inundations, the resistance may become absolute, and defy every attack. The campaign of the Prussians, in , under the Duke of Brunswick, against the Dutch, ended, it is true, in a quite contrary way, as these lines were then carried by a force very little superior to the defenders, and with trifling loss; but the reason of that is to be found in the dissensions amongst the defenders from political animosities, and a want of unity in the command.

      Nothing, however, is more certain than that the success of the campaign, that is, the advance through the last line of inundation up to the walls of Amsterdam, depended on a point of such Edition: The point alluded to was the leaving unguarded the Sea of Haarlem. By means of this, the Duke turned the inundation line, and got in rear of the post of Amselvoen. The winter is, no doubt, the natural enemy of this means of defence, as the French have shown in and , but it must be a severe winter.

      Woods, which are scarcely passable, we have also included amongst the means which afford the defence powerful assistance. If they are of no great depth then the assailant may force his way through by several roads running near one another, and thus reach better ground, for no one point can have any great tactical strength, as we can never suppose a wood as absolutely impassable as a river or a morass.

      We have only to think of the difficulties he must contend with to subsist his Army, and how little he can do in the depths of the forest to make his ubiquitous adversary feel his superiority in numbers. Certainly this is one of the worst situations in which the offensive can be placed. Most of the subjects have been already touched upon in the sixth book, and by their mere reflection, throw sufficient light on the attack. Moreover, the conception of an enclosed theatre of War, has a nearer relation to the defence than to the attack. To all the advantages which the defender finds in the nature of his situation, the assailant can only oppose superior numbers; and, perhaps, in addition, the slight advantage which the feeling of being the offensive and advancing side gives an Army.

      The importance of this feeling, however, is generally overrated; for it does not last long, and will not hold out against real difficulties. Of course, we assume that the defender is as faultless and judicious in all he does as the aggressor. Our object in this observation is to set aside those vague ideas of sudden attack and surprise which, in the attack, are generally assumed to be fertile sources of victory, and which yet, in reality, never occur except under special circumstances.

      The nature of the real strategic surprise, we have already spoken of elsewhere. We do not mean that the opposite qualities in each case may be altogether wanting, but that the qualities named have the greatest affinity to the attack and defence respectively. These qualities are only in reality necessary because action in War is no mere mathematical calculation; it is activity which is carried on, if not in the dark, at all events in a feeble twilight, in which we must trust ourselves to the leader who is best suited to carry out the aim we have in view.

      This is less doubtful as regards the attack than in regard to the defence, for the assailant goes in search of the defender in his position. But we have maintained in treating of the defensive that the offensive should not seek the defender out if he has placed himself in a false position, because he may be sure that the defender will seek him out, and then he will have the advantage of fighting where the defender has not prepared the ground.

      Here all depends on the road and direction which have the greatest importance; this is a point which was not examined in the defence, being reserved for the present chapter.

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      We shall, therefore, say what is necessary about it here. This way is the immediate object of the attack. To fall in with the enemy before he has reached this object, to cut him off from it, and in that position to beat him—to do this is to gain an intensified victory. The question, then, for every assailant to ask himself is, If I am successful in the battle, what is the first use I shall make of the victory?

      The object to be gained, as indicated by the answer to this question, shows the natural direction for his blow. If the defender has placed himself in that direction, he has done right, and there is nothing to do but to go and look for him there. If his position is too strong, then the assailant must seek to turn it, that is, make a virtue of necessity. But if the defender has not placed himself on this right spot, then the assailant chooses that direction, and as soon as he Edition: Of all the roads amongst which the assailant has a choice, the great roads which serve the commerce of the country are always the best and the most natural to choose.

      To avoid any very great bends, more direct roads, even if smaller, must be chosen, for a line of retreat which deviates much from a direct line is always perilous. He should therefore only advance with his columns on such a width of front as will admit of their all coming into action together. Such separation into as many columns as is indispensably necessary must be made use of for the disposition of the tactical attack in the enveloping form, for that form is natural to the attack, and must not be disregarded without good reason.

      But it must be only of a tactical nature, for a strategic envelopment when a great blow takes place is a complete waste of power. It can only be excused when the assailant is so strong that there can be no doubt at all about the result. This service of protection must be performed as far as possible by the manner in which the Army advances, that is, eo ipso by the Army itself. If a force must be specially detailed for this duty, and therefore a partition of forces is required, this cannot but naturally weaken the force of the blow itself.

      Dangers of this description, to which the assailant is exposed, must be measured chiefly by the situation and character of the adversary.

      When everything lies under the pressure of an imminent great decision, there is little room for the defender to engage in undertakings of this description; the assailant has, therefore, in ordinary circumstances not much to fear. But if the advance is over, if the assailant himself is gradually passing into the defensive, then the covering of the rear becomes every moment more necessary, becomes more a thing of the first importance.

      For the rear of the assailant being naturally weaker than that of the defender, therefore the latter, long before he passes over to the real offensive, and even at the same time that he is yielding ground, may have commenced to operate against the communications of the assailant. If the attack succeeds, then, with the attainment of this object the whole falls again into a state of rest and equilibrium. If difficulties to a certain extent present themselves, the general progress of the attack comes to a standstill before the object is gained. This is the character of most campaigns. Sometimes an idea of the credit of the Army is attached to it, as was perpetually the case in the Wars of the French Marshals in the time of Louis XIV.

      It makes a very important difference whether a portion of territory can be kept or not. In general, the first is the case only when the territory is on the edge of our own theatre of War, and forms a natural complement of it. Only such portions come into consideration as an equivalent in negotiating a peace, others are usually only taken possession of for the duration of a campaign, to be evacuated when winter begins.

      If it is not one of considerable importance, it can hardly be looked upon as the object of an offensive determining a whole Edition: It certainly in itself is a loss to the defender, and a gain to the assailant; the great advantage, however, from it for the latter, is that the loss may compel the defender to retire a little and give up a strip of territory which he would otherwise have kept. The capture of a magazine is therefore in reality more a means, and is only spoken of here as an object, because, until captured, it becomes, for the time being, the immediate definite aim of action.

      For the reasons there explained, it is easy to conceive how it is that fortresses always constitute the best and most desirable objects in those offensive Wars and campaigns in which views cannot be directed to the complete overthrow of the enemy or the conquest of an important part of his territory. We may also easily understand how it is that in the Wars in the Low Countries, where fortresses are so abundant, everything has always turned on the possession of one or other of these fortresses, so much so that the successive conquests of whole provinces never once appear as leading features; while, on the other hand, each of these strong places used to be regarded as a separate thing, which had an intrinsic value in itself, and more attention was paid to the convenience and facility with which it could be attacked than to the value of the place itself.

      At the same time, the attack of a place of some importance is always a great undertaking, because it causes a very large expenditure; and, in Wars in which the whole is not staked at once on the game, this is a matter which ought to be very much considered. Therefore, such a siege takes its place here as one of the most important objects of a strategic attack. The more unimportant a place, or the less earnestness there is about the siege, Edition: That this does happen no one can doubt, unless he knows nothing at all of military history.

      But what is of more importance for us is to observe that these things are not without objective value, they are not the mere pastime of vanity; they have a very distinct influence on Peace, and therefore lead as it were direct to the object. The military fame, the moral superiority of the Army and of the General are things, the influence of which, although unseen, never ceases to bear upon the whole action in War. Now, the means which the assailant has at command without resorting to a decisive battle are derived from the interests which the defensive has to protect in his theatre of War; they consist, therefore in threatening Edition: Should the attack effectually interrupt the communications, and in such a manner that the defender cannot re-establish them but at a great sacrifice, it compels the defender to take up another position more to the rear or to a flank to cover the objects, at the same time giving up objects of secondary importance.

      Thus a strip of territory is left open; a magazine or a fortress uncovered; the one exposed to be overrun, the other to be invested. Out of this, combats greater or less may arise, but in such case they are not sought for and treated as an object of the War but as a necessary evil, and can never exceed a certain degree of greatness and importance.

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      If, therefore, a contest or rivalry of this description takes place between the assailant and defender, then the assailant must seek to compensate by numbers for his natural disadvantages. It is much more difficult to discover in what degree an assailant is enterprising and bold than to decide whether the defender has something of consequence in his mind. Practically viewed, there usually lies already in the choice of the defensive form of War a kind of guarantee that nothing positive is intended; besides this, the preparations for a great reaction differ much more from the ordinary preparations for defence than the preparations for a great attack differ from those directed against minor objects.

      Finally, the defender is obliged to take his measures soonest of the two, which gives the assailant the advantage of playing the last hand. The attack of fortresses cannot of course come before us here in its aspect as a branch of the science of fortification; Edition: In relation to the taking of strong places, there is also a great difference between campaigns which tend to a great decision and others.

      In the first, a conquest of this description is always to be regarded as an evil which is unavoidable. As long as there is yet a decision to be made we undertake no sieges but such as are positively unavoidable. When the decision has been already given—the crisis, the utmost tension of forces, some time passed—and when, therefore, a state of rest has commenced, then the capture of strong places serves as a consolidation of the conquests made, and then they can generally be carried out, if not without effort and expenditure of force, at least without danger.

      In the crisis itself the siege of a fortress heightens the intensity of the crisis to the prejudice of the offensive; it is evident that nothing so much weakens the force of the offensive, and therefore there is nothing so certain to rob it of its preponderance Edition: But there are cases in which the capture of this or that fortress is quite unavoidable, if the offensive is to be continued, and in such case a siege is to be considered as an intensified progress of the attack; the crisis will be so much greater the less there has been decided previously.

      All that remains now for consideration on this subject belongs to the book on the plan of the War. In campaigns with a limited object, a fortress is generally not the means but the end itself; it is regarded as a small independent conquest, and as such has the following advantages over every other:. The grounds which decide the choice of the fortress which should be attacked, in case that may be doubtful, generally are:. Small means are only sufficient to take small places; but it is better to take a small one than to fail before a large one.

      Nothing is more absurd than to waste forces before a very strong place of little importance, if a place of less strength may be made the object of attack. The conquest of a fortress with a strong garrison can, therefore, much more readily repay the sacrifice it costs than one with very strong works. Most sieges fail for want of means, and the means are generally wanting from the difficulty attending their transport.

      BOOK VII: THE ATTACK

      There are two essentially different ways by which a siege may be covered: The first of these methods has gone quite out of fashion, although evidently one important point speaks in its favour, namely, that by this method the force of the assailant does not suffer by division exactly that weakening which is so generally found a great disadvantage at sieges. But we grant there is still a weakening in another way, to a very considerable degree, because—.

      There is no alternative, in fact, but to defend ourselves to the last extremity within the entrenchments. That these circumstances may cause a greater diminution of the Army than one-third, which, perhaps, would be occasioned by forming an army of observation, is easy to conceive. But this weakening of the tactical resistance is by no means its only disadvantage; and we have only reckoned up the prejudices which forced themselves into the judgment on the lines of circumvallation next in order after that disadvantage because they are nearly akin to each other.

      A line of circumvallation in reality only covers that portion of the theatre of War which it actually encloses; all the rest is more or less given up to the enemy if special detachments are not made use of to cover it, in which way the very partition of force which it was intended to obviate takes place. Thus the besieging Army will be always in anxiety and embarrassment on account of the convoys which it requires, and the covering Edition: In the time of Louis XIV.

      Then lines of circumvallation had their foundation in the nature of circumstances. In future it is not likely they will be often used again, unless where the enemy in the field is very weak, or the conception of the theatre of War vanishes before that of the siege. Then it will be natural to keep all the forces united in the siege, as a siege by that means unquestionably gains in energy in a high degree.

      The lines of circumvallation in the reign of Louis XIV. Lastly, it is a disadvantage in lines of circumvallation, that in case of a reverse it is more difficult to save the siege-train. TokyoPop September 9, Language: Related Video Shorts 0 Upload your video. Share your thoughts with other customers. Write a customer review. There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later. I love manga thanks. Kindle Edition Verified Purchase. It has a lot more stories besides the anime! I hope they print out all the series! In the manga you get in more detail of Haruka, the demon eating goblin, since he was sealed away.

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