Chapter 32: Water Soup is Tasteless
The long awaited reinforcements had arrived, for the Liberation Army force that had refrained from attacking Sayeh.
Large numbers of catapults and siege towers had been completed by the Liberation Army who had been working at top speed with the cooperation of the local cities.
The people had also cooperated full-force in transport work, and an obviously excessive amount of one thousand catapults and one hundred siege towers were deployed.
Commander Behrouz had ordered the entire army to start the attack again.
Regardless of day or night, arrows and stones incessantly continued to shower the fortress.
The stones that would be used for ammunition were soaked in oil and fired after igniting them.
The defending side couldn’t cope, and they were being exhaustively crushed.
After three days and three nights of attacking, the Liberation Army advanced their siege towers up to the fortress walls and began to rain down arrows from above.
The Kingdom’s archers atop the ramparts had nowhere to hide. They desperately continued resisting regardless, but they were falling one by one due to being easy targets.
And, the garrison defending the main gate were also in a predicament.
“Don’t let them break through! Defend the gates to the death! Until reinforcements from the Royal Capital come, we’ll endure somehow!”
“Pour down the oil! Burn them all down!”
The main gate garrison shoved their bodies against the gates, tenaciously putting up a resistance. They kept on fighting with what little energy they had left.
The Liberation Army’s battering rams struck the gates, and each time, the force sent the soldiers pushing their bodies against the gates flying.
The garrison above the gates poured down large volumes of hot oil and were shooting fire arrows at the approaching Liberation Army.
The battering ram burst into vigorous flames, but even so, the offensive continued. More and more enemies were coming.
The Liberation Army soldiers climbed over the corpses, and took hold of the battering ram.
A fierce blow from the blazing battering ram broke down Sayeh Fortress’s weakest spot.
The main gate garrison commander resolved himself, unsheathed his sword, and gave his final orders.
“Here they come! Everyone draw your swords-, Long Live the Kingdom’s Army! Long Live His Excellency Yalder!”
“Long Live The Kingdom! Long Live Yalder!”
“All hands attack! After me-!”
The Kingdom’s soldiers with their spear line instantly at the ready skewered those of the Liberation Army first to arrive.
They used those bodies as a shield against the Liberation Army forces coming in swarms.
The Kingdom’s soldiers were crushed, trampled, and slaughtered all without a chance to even scream.
As if infesting the fortress, the Liberation Army soldiers invaded inside, killing every guard they met.
There was no justice nor righteousness; merely swarms of beasts drunk on madness and seething with mindless desire to kill.
The guards fought well. They fought very well. But, they were outnumbered. Force of numbers was overwhelming them.
The infirmary housing the wounded was sealed off and then set fire to, and everyone inside burned to death.
Everyone in the fortress was massacred with no regard to combatant or noncombatant. The Liberation Army soldiers weeded out everyone still breathing, and gleefully gave them the finishing blow.
Behrouz hadn’t given such orders, but all the pent up dissatisfaction, misery, and hatred were all turned towards the soldiers of the Kingdom, and the commanders couldn’t stop it. If they tried to clumsily stop it, they were likely to be killed in retaliation. They couldn’t intervene.
Secluded in Sayeh’s highest tower, Yalder took off his helmet and quietly steadied his breathing.
His face had a great number of wounds, and his armor was also partially destroyed. Pain coursed through him when he moved his body. One of his bones may be broken.
His hair was disheveled, and his facial hair had grown as it pleased. The edge of his trusty sword was chipped and had become useless.
“……So in the end, reinforcements didn’t come. What a shame. Barbora probably has his own circumstances. I would’ve liked to have a nice, slow chat with him once. It seems I won’t have that opportunity.”
Yalder gave a bitter smile in resignation. He could hear the sounds of intense fighting from outside. The guards were probably buying the final bits of time. He felt admiration from the bottom of his heart towards their loyalty.
Behind Yalder flew the flags of Kingdom, the Third Army, and the Fourth Army.
Battle played out under those flags, welcoming the soldiers’ final moments. He gazed at them, deeply emotional.
“This is my guess, but Sir Prime Minister may have colluded with the enemy. Thinking of it that way, it follows that reinforcements would not have come. Sir Barbora was probably imprisoned, or killed.”
Muttered Sidamo while adjusting his uniform disarranged through work. Even he, a staff officer, had exhausted his energy in desperation, fighting up to their final moments. And now, he had was beginning their final preparations.
“So even the Prime Minister, the highest civil official, has forsaken the Kingdom? There’s probably nothing more we can do then.”
“Hey Sidamo. It’s not too late. You have something you must do right? You don’t have to keep me company. Disguise yourself again and escape.”
Yalder didn’t know how many times he had tried persuading Sidamo. Sidamo dearly wished to restore the fallen house of Arte.
Knowing that, Yalder had been telling him to hurry and escape. Sidamo had stayed with him up until now; he had done enough.
“So you say, but Your Excellency cannot start up those alone. They require magical power.”
“You can use magic?”
Yalder asked with an expression that said he was hearing this for the first time.
“I only have it, but I cannot use it. Though something like activating those won’t pose a problem.”
He had capacity for sorcery, but he wasn’t blessed with talent as a sorceror. Hence, Sidamo had arduously exerted himself and acquired his rank of Staff Officer with his knowledge.
“This is your last chance. Run away Sidamo. Live, and carry out your long-cherished desire.”
“I must refuse. I too have some backbone. I cannot shamelessly live on while letting my leader die in battle. Discussing this anymore is wasting both our times.”
“Damn you’re a stubborn man. ……Well, that’s quite like you I guess. Fine then, do as you please.”
“Sir. I intended to anyway.”
The corners of Sidamo’s lips raised ever so slightly. Yalder smiled.
“I regret that I couldn’t keep my promise with Colonel Schera. What a shame, yeah, truly a shame.”
“Sir, Schera too certainly thinks it a shame.”
“Hmph, I’ll have to apologize one day. I hope she forgives me.”
“If you bring some good food, she won’t have a problem. Schera is that kind of person.”
“I guess so. When that time comes, I must keep my promise—-”
From outside the high tower resonated cheers. It appeared that all the guards had been annihilated. The door to the tower was broken down, and they rushed inside.
It would probably only be a matter of time until they closed in on their room.
Yalder nodded, and Sidamo hid himself. He prepared those next to him. He would activate them at Yalder’s signal.
The sounds of countless military boots surged towards them, and the double doors were mightily kicked open.
“Found you, General of the Kingdom, Yalder! Your head is mine!”
The Liberation Army soldiers surrounded Yalder, the points of their weapons pointed towards him, and they began ridiculing him.
“Your Kingdom is done for! Now accept your just deserts!”
“What a pathetic man. For this prestigious General to be killed by simple soldiers!”
“Silence! I may be washed-up, but I, Yalder, will never hand over my head to the likes of you-!”
Glaring at the sneering soldiers of the Liberation Army, Yalder unsheathed his chipped sword.
Momentarily lost for words at Yalder’s spirit, the soldiers’ faces turned red in rage.
“You’ve quite the mouth for a beaten dog! We’ll kill you!”
“A General’s head! As much reward as we want!”
“Hehe-, it’s mine!”
The Liberation Army soldiers rushed at Yalder with their spears forward.
Slashing down several small fry, Yalder’s abdomen was pierced by many spears.
Pulling out the spear tips, he stumbled backwards. The enemy soldiers stepped over the corpses and closed the distance.
After smashing the head of the lead man, Yalder finally made his decision.
While coughing up blood, Yalder roared with all the air in his lungs. He would not hand over his head to these soldiers.
“—-Long Live, The Yuze Kingdom-!”
Yalder cut his own throat with his sword. Losing strength, he collapsed to his knees.
“He’s saved us the trouble!”
“Shithead! I’ll chop him up!”
Catching his corpse, the soldiers bared their teeth in ridicule. They all rushed at Yalder’s corpse.
After witnessing his friend’s final moments, Sidamo chanted the ignition spell for the Sorcery Mines taken from the Liberation Army.
Those that had misfired at the previous battle were recovered from the oxcarts and brought to Sayeh.
They were placed in the four corners of the castle room. The excited Liberation Army soldiers hadn’t noticed, but large quantities of gunpowder and oil were scattered around.
When Sidamo reached the final line of the incantation, the figures of his deceased older brother and foolish older sister floated in the back of his mind.
And for some reason, Schera’s detestable face came to mind too. To think of Death of all things in his final moments–Sidamo couldn’t hold back a wry smile.
But, he didn’t hate her way of living. Free and unrestrained, her appearance as she lived willfully; perhaps he was envious. He wasn’t really sure.
(Thankfully, I still have some time. Let’s follow Death’s example and think more selfishly. …….Older brother, I’ll be leaving this world. Farewell, older sister.)
The instant Sidamo finished chanting the spell, blinding light surged from the Sorcery Mines.
The expanding blast burned everyone in the area to nothing, wiping them out without a trace. The flames set the oil on fire, and the gunpowder exacerbated the force, and the entire tower was caught up in the explosion.
The Sorcery Mines that had started Yalder’s days of agony, now brought about their end.
And so Sayeh fell, and the surviving soldiers of the Kingdom’s Third and Fourth Armies were utterly wiped out. Yalder, Sidamo, and the garrison of all ten thousand soldiers under them died in battle.
All that was left were the resounding cheers and cries of the victorious Liberation Army.
However, the face of Behrouz who had achieved victory was grim.
(…….Isn’t this… nothing more than using the people’s wrath for our own devices? There’s no guarantee, that the blade of their anger won’t be pointed towards us one day.)
Behrouz closed his eyes and brushed away his thoughts. They were in the right. It was true that the Kingdom had ruled over the people in tyranny. Justice was on their side to free the people.
—-Indeed, that was why they were in the right. They just had to not repeat the same mistakes. Humans learn from history. They would walk the honest path.
Along with the staff officers celebrating their victory, Behrouz entered inside the fortress.
Corpses of the Kingdom’s soldiers, corpses burned to death, corpses crushed to death, corpses dismembered, everywhere.
The old general Behrouz… continued to walk onwards, in this world of hell built under the name of Justice.
When dark smoke rose from Sayeh Fortress, the Liberation Army soldiers surrounding Cyrus Fortress thundered in cheers.
At the same time it was to show delight, it was also to make those inside the fortress taste despair. —-You are next, it signified.
A month had already passed since the siege started. It wouldn’t be strange if the fortress had already exhausted their provisions.
Diener studied the Kingdom’s soldiers standing on the ramparts with a spyglass. Their cheeks were sunken, and their complexions were severely poor. Their bodies staggered, and they could barely stand.
But, they were still living. It was still too early to attack. Even if they attacked with force and felled the fortress, that would be too lenient.
The Death God had to taste even more unbearable hunger. Once she went mad from hunger, he would kill her.
Lowering the spyglass, Diener ordered Vander standing next to him.
“Kill them. I told you I won’t accept surrender.”
“Are you sure? They’re holding a white flag.”
“I don’t care. Tell the soldiers it’s likely a fake surrender. Death had eaten at the Imperial Army and destroyed them with that tactic. We will not make the same mistake as them.”
“Understood. Messenger, convey the orders to shoot down the enemy soldiers!”
The messenger on his horse left headquarters. Several minutes later, the soldiers of the Kingdom holding a white flag were doused with arrows, and they died.
He wouldn’t let anyone escape from Cyrus Fortress. With a thin smile on his face, Diener went back to his pavilion.
Confirming the black smoke and knowing Sayeh had fallen, Larus decided it was time to surrender. He couldn’t make the soldiers go along with his selfishness.
But, the envoys were shot down before they managed to reach the enemy camp. It seems the enemy intended on killing everyone in this fortress.
Emaciated himself, Larus worked over a plan for hereafter.
Reinforcements hadn’t come yet. They probably wouldn’t come no matter how long they held out, he feared. If Barbora was still in command, they should have arrived a long time ago.
That they hadn’t meant that something had happened in the Royal Capital. There was a high chance that Barbora was dismissed.
He didn’t know what the Prime Minister was thinking, but what Larus understood now was only that the Prime Minister would let this fortress fall.
In that case, there was no meaning in confining themselves like this. They were just wasting their stamina.
However, it was too late to launch an attack. The enemy’s preparations were perfect. There was only death if they opened the gates and made a determined assault.
Two choices remained for Larus. There was no choice for surrender.
Would they stick it out inside the castle until the very end and die from hunger, or would they raid the enemy’s formation and proudly die in battle?
Larus slapped his desk. There were many things he could’ve done if he knew that they were going to be abandoned from the onset.
Guerrilla warfare with concealed soldiers and using Cyrus Fortress as a decoy. Mobile raids, taking advantage of the mobility of Schera’s unit. They could’ve slowed the Liberation Army’s advance by interfering with their supply line.
Yet, he had chosen to enter their deathbeds, where they had to spend every day in worry of remaining provisions.
Larus lamented his own caution and passivity. He needed a little more time, until he could make his final decision.
In her hazy consciousness, Schera sat in front of the fields with several of her cavalry.
A cavalryman was propping up Schera from behind, for those occasions when she would sometimes lose consciousness.
If humans subsisted only on water, it would take generally two or three months to die of starvation. Of course, every person was different.
With her healthy appetite, the extent of Schera’s debility was more severe than the other soldiers, and one could tell she was in trouble from a glance.
Her cheeks were caved in, and it had become difficult to satisfactorily move. But, she could still fight. Schera grasped the scythe next to her tightly.
Now that a month had passed since the start of the siege, meals were reduced to once a day, and those meals were also in a miserable state.
Next to Schera was a plate. A scrap of bread about the size of a pebble quietly sat on it.
A large amount of liquid was poured into a bowl. An ingredient-less soup. It wasn’t a soup as thin as water; it was water.
More accurately, water flavored with a little salt. She thought could hear a chef’s cries of anguish.
Schera picked up the scrap of bread with trembling hands. She gently carried it into her mouth, and slowly chewed, taking her time. Once it couldn’t be tasted, and once it couldn’t be chewed any more, she swallowed, her throat making a noise.
Schera’s cheeks slightly relaxed. The cavalrymen couldn’t watch anymore, and they spoke up.
“Colonel, please, take ours—-”
“I don’t need it.”
She strongly refused the extended bread. She detested taking her companions’ food. She took a sip of salt water, and spit it out.
This wasn’t food. It was just water. Schera tiredly leaned on a cavalryman.
“Colonel, I beg you, please eat. You need the nutrition more than us. Please.”
“I don’t want it. I’d rather die. I’ll never eat it.”
Schera unyieldingly refused her subordinates’ proposal. She would only eat the portion allotted to her.
As a high ranking officer, Schera should have been distributed more than the noncommisioned officers, but she only ate an equal amount as her cavalry.
She couldn’t eat more by herself, much less take away another’s tiny portion.
Anything but that. Anything but doing the same things as the rebel army. Those guys were vermin who took from them while saying they were fighting for the people.
“……I hope they… quickly grow… and become edible.”
The crops in front of her hadn’t borne fruit yet. She wondered when they would.
While propped against one of her cavalry, Schera longingly stared at them.
—-Katarina made up her mind, seeing this scene.
That night. Katarina waited for the soldiers keeping watch to fall asleep, and she decided to go outside the fortress.
She would use magic to leap down from the ramparts and slip into the enemy camp using what little she knew about concealment.
Her targets were the supply convoys. Schera should accept eating food stolen from the rebel army.
At this rate, Schera would die of malnourishment.
Even if they started killing all their warhorses and using their meat for food, Katarina too probably wouldn’t eat them.
What a joke it would be if “Death” died from starvation. Katarina hadn’t stayed beside Schera to witness her die like that.
She would never accept such a death.
Katarina prepared her equipment, and examined the environment surrounding the ramparts, when,
“Yo. Who’re you eloping with this late at night? Or are you star-gazing?”
There was a man’s throaty voice. Katarina scowled, and the man waved his hand in greeting.
It was the stupid man who had come from Madros, Darus Madros.
“……Just a whim of mine. Leave me alone.”
“Wasn’t rank absolute in an army?”
“And didn’t you yourself ignore that? So I’ll be doing the same.”
“I hear yah. Heh, what a strong-willed woman.”
Darus took out a hip flask and held it to his mouth. Its contents were water of course.
“Do you need something?”
Katarina touched her glasses, vigilant.
“Nn, not really. I just thought there was a suspicious human shadow passing by. That’s all. I ain’t gonna stop whatever you’re gonna do. I came here in a similar fashion after all.”
“I see. I’ll be going then. For the Colonel, I’ll definitely plunder some food.”
“That so? Well, take care. Even if you’re unlucky, we’ll be able to meet before long. The only difference is sooner or later. I’ll explain to the Colonel when the time comes, so don’t worry.”
Knowing it was futile to stop her, Darus shrugged his shoulders and was about to leave. Katarina spoke to his back.
“If, just if, I don’t make it back, take care of the Colonel. She won’t fare well without an adjutant I’m sure.”
“Woah woah, gimme a break. I almost got my head chopped off by the Colonel. That ain’t a joke.”
A laugh burst out of Katarina, seeing Darus putting his hand on his neck.
“That’s fine then. I knew there was no one more fit to the duty than me.”
“Exactly. So yeah, be careful. Also, that pink ribbon doesn’t look good on you at all.
Muttered Darus, giving Katarina’s pink ribbon a glance and leaving.
“……None of your business.”
Katarina took out her cane and loaded it with magical energy.
She strengthened her legs for the descent, and she intended on using a rope ladder on the way back. She had to leave a minimum amount of magic power. It would be difficult no matter how she played it out, but she had no choice but to do it.
(…….I should have learned more magic besides necromancy for times like this. Too late now though.)
She took a deep breath, opened her eyes, and sallied forth from Cyrus Fortress.
—-First Lieutenant Katarina Nubes disappeared from that night onward and would never return to Cyrus Fortress alive.