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Nikolai immediately sees that the guys riding back are being followed by some French dragoons, who are all totally disorganized.
He realizes that he has a tiny window of time to attack these French soldiers and annihilate them.
Calling his men, he jumps out in front and runs to attack.
And the battle is on.
Nikolai chases one French soldier so fast that his horse slams into the other horse just as Nikolai slashes at him with his saber. (Yes, a saber. No, not a lightsaber.)
The guy falls out of his saddle, but has a foot caught in it. Nikolai is about to kill him, when suddenly he is stuck by how human the enemy is. It’s just a guy, with a face. A second later, the French guy yells that he surrenders, so there’s no need to kill him anymore.
Nikolai is disturbed.
Still, his quick thinking made for a successful attack, and a higher-up guy tells Nikolai that the emperor would hear about his awesomeness and probably award him a medal.
Nikolai is relieved, since in reality, he’s not high ranking enough to have ordered anyone to attack and was worried about getting in trouble.
The whole next day, Nikolai is withdrawn and moody, thinking about how useless war is. At the same time, though, he’s promoted, now commands a battalion, and starts going on many dangerous missions.