Titan Beneath the Heavens
Chapter 179: Twentieth Episode: Chapter 7
Chapter 179: Twentieth Episode: Chapter 7
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
Holding a narrow-edged knife in his hand, Second Lieutenant Sulijah stood tall in the center of the south wall of Caven Fort. Beside him was a young, hunchback apprentice. In front of him was a battlement of smooth-surfaced poles made from pine wood. Tied on it was a Hoillander officer who failed in his attempt to sneak into the fortress.
Behind Second Lieutenant Sulijah, or more specifically, under the city wall, the last 5,000 soldiers of Titan Imperial Guards of the Twelfth Region lined up in two phalanxes. A number of commissioned officers positioned themselves at ease at the front of the phalanxes. Among them was a general of the Imperial Guards and several other officers whose ranks were hard to be identified by eyes. In this instant, the officers and the soldiers looked exactly the same; their armors dilapidated, cold light reflecting on those 5,000 swords and spears.
What remained the same was the soldier's eager expression to watch Second Lieutenant Sulijah execute the death penalty on the enemy. Second Lieutenant Sulijah was the only remaining executioner of the Twelfth Region, without doubt, also the best one. He would definitely conduct a wonderful performance that fulfills his comrades' viewing pleasure.
Located outside the wall of the battlement was the campsite of the invaders. The dense breathing sounds of the enemy were audible to red-haired Second Lieutenant Sulijah's ears, and this certainly made him rather nervous. Slightly shy, even. However, he was an experienced executioner, and he knew how to restrain the negative emotions that might affect his performance. For example, never look at the faces of the officers and soldiers, just focus on inspecting the criminal's features which were laid right in front of his eyes.
The words of his tutor suddenly rang in Second Lieutenant Sulijah's mind – there should be no more living people in the eyes of an excellent executioner once he stepped up to the execution bench. In his eyes, there should only be pieces of muscle, a large map of blood vessels, and fragments of organs and bones.
Sulijah had executed nearly thousands of bodies after more than a decade in practice, but this was the first time he witnessed such a strong and handsome male body. The thought came to his mind as he examined the Hoillander officer's fully bare and naked body.
The chest muscles were well-developed, and the abdomen was flat. Sulijah loved the dazzling blond hair and the tanned skin of the criminal. He especially adored this guy's face which constantly carried a sarcastic smile. This made it more rejoicing for the executioner as he was bored of faces of ugly beggars who only knew to scream and cry.
Sulijah was scrutinizing the criminal, just like how the latter was examining him. In fact, the executioner was rather embarrassed, because he knew that General Bencil Donnis did not have the right to penalize a prisoner of war, moreover sentencing the man to one hundred strokes.
Somewhere distant below the city wall, in the campsite of the invaders, positioned five cannons. Sulijah tried to recall the memory of his tutor being shot in the chest by these cannons. His tutor was sent over the city wall, and no one had any idea on where he landed.
(Monologue) What am I waiting for?
As the executioner's young apprentice shouted aloud, "First stroke!", a narrow-edged knife flung across the air reflected the bright sunlight.
Sulijah flicked his wrist and the small knife flickered with yet another nice arc of light. The piece of meat left the tip of the knife and flew like a bullet up into the sky, before sticking itself onto the brick of the fortress wall.
The executioner heard the soldiers behind him inhaled deeply. The energy at the enemy's campsite seemed to have tensed up too. The silhouettes near the cannons seemed to be moving around as if the artillerymen had received their orders.
Without warning, Sulijah stopped what he was doing. He had broken the execution convention that had been practiced for more than a decade. This executioner of the armed forces wiped off the perspiration formed on his forehead and took a few large gulps from the bottle that his commander had secretly passed over to him. His face went red within seconds. It was thought that what contained in the bottle was some stiff drink.
"Whatever! I don't give a damn!" Sulijah tried to calm himself down by loosening the stiffness in his hands a couple of times. The blood on the tip of the blade was also shaken off simultaneously. The enemy's artillery fire probably would not wait until his hundredth strokes. That was something Sulijah tried hard not to think of. Although he was not unfamiliar with death it did not mean he was tired of the dull life. It was common to encounter criminals who did not appreciate life, but it was quite rare to meet an executioner who does not fear death.
A second stroke landed on the left chest; it was still as smooth and precise like his first one. The tip of the blade shaved off the captive's left nipple in one swift move. That resulted in two holes the size of golden Tis on the chest of the Hoillander officer. He began to bleed, although only in small amount. It was because the executioner hit hard on the captive's chest before he made the cut. This move caused the heart to contract in shock and greatly reduced the blood flow in that area. This time-tested method was discovered by numerous executioners who had worked for the Supreme Military Court for many years.
Sulijah's small knife began to move rapidly all over the criminal's body. He found the familiar feeling from memory. The battle from the past ten days had made him used to loud screaming and violent hacking, but the moment he grabbed this small knife, he was once again the execution officer of the Twelfth Region, the most experienced executioner of the Supreme Military Court.
"… seventh… eighth… ninth… tenth…"
No one had any idea when did the Hoillander officer began to scream in agony. The kind of cries issued resembled the human body being bitten by hundreds of millions of mosquitoes at the same time. As usual, Sulijah did not pay attention to the expression of the captive, but only looked intently at the landing place of the knife. This would be the last time he performed his executioner's stunt. He was well aware of that and he knew he must perform it to perfection.
The enemy's camp finally started to move their cannons closer to the castle. The young apprentice of Sulijah looked in horror at what was happening outside the fortress. He continued reporting the numbers in trembling voices, but he dared not stop, because he had long become a part of his mentor, a part of the executioner, even. His tutor would lose his perfect rhythm if the young apprentice missed a beat.
Finally! The invader opened fire as expected!
The center of the south wall of Caven Fort shook violently in the midst of flames that lit up to the sky. When the smoke cleared, all the main characters of the event - the wooden pole, the condemned prisoner, the executioner, and the young apprentice – had disappeared. What entered the sight was a pile of blood and flesh mixed together.
"The hanging penalty is not creative while the guillotine is not uncommon, an executioner who doesn't execute by dismembering is never a qualified executioner," this was Sulijah's final conclusion.
"Twenty-ninth!" As the cannon was fired, the hunchback apprentice tried to stand tall with his back straightened.
General Bencil Donnis, the Commander of the Titan Imperial Guards' Twelfth Region, climbed up to the damaged city wall and looked for something. Fortunately, the head of that Hoillander officer remained as a whole.
The General of Imperial Guards threw the head with partially ruined face to the foot of the invaders, "Here's one! This is your destiny!" He shouted angrily at the dogs who came from the west.
On the side of the city wall, the Imperial Guard soldiers with indifferent expression issued a deafening cheer. They pointed the knives and spears in hand to the sky. However, the aggressors were not to be outdone and soon their huge army groups split at the foot of the mountain. One after another, the phalanxes trampled vigorously on the Titan land under their feet, approaching their final goal gradually which was by then already a spent force.
General Bencil Donnis seized his Twelfth Region flag from the hands of his cornetcy. He was extremely proud of the print of his favorite rhinoceros horn on the flag. In order to obtain a rhino horn, hunters have to risk their lives. Otherwise, when the rhinoceros launches an angry charge, the hunters' chest would soon be run over until they were as thin as a sheet of paper.
Speaking of a hunter, Toslak was one, who lived near Caven Fort. He used to go hunting in the valley or forest a few kilometers away because there was a secluded area that has been blessed with nature's wonder. Not only there were hares, antelopes, foxes, and mountain hogs, but there were also black bears and King of the Jungle – black leopard!
Toslak frequented the forest just like that old leopard which inhabited the woods. The experienced hunter often wondered what would happen if the black leopards in the forest deal with the local tax collectors who always kicked at his door. Perhaps the old leopard would have to pay three silver Tis for his gorgeous, black velvet-like fur if it wanted to continue staying in the woods.
"What the heck! What kind of a world is this?" the hunter took a bite into a stale bread, and the sour taste made him furrowed his brows.
The western dogs had driven away the local tax collectors! Well, it was worth talking to the local priests about this at the prayer meeting on Sunday! Toslak only studied in the countryside as his father couldn't afford to let him attend middle school. As a result, this man lived a life of idle and easiness as he roamed around the forest to make a livelihood since he was a teenager. For such a hunter who did not know any alphabet, his perspective on life was extremely simple and straightforward; anyone who could bring him happiness is a friend.
Indeed, it should have been something to be grateful of, for the dogs from the West drove out the local tax collectors. But these men should not hang the local guards on the trees! Neither should they drag the mayor's little daughter to the stable!
What was the name of the lady again? Toslak thought carefully, but he just could not recall. Nonetheless, the hunter knew she was a good girl. His definition of a good girl was any girl who would pay him for a rabbit who was alive and kicking. The innocent-looking girl with big eyes and long neck even told him that he must not pull out his bows and arrows if he ever encountered such a lovely little animal again.
Toslak sighed with remorse, as his conscience made it harder to swallow the dry bread. He should have done something when the good girl was dragged out of her house by several drunken Farans. He had two hard bows and a short bow, as well as three sharp knives for killing the pigs! He was an infamous hunter, and he definitely could have done something for the good girl of the mayor! But, his damn wife was kneeling at the door of his house, with two children in hands. He could not do anything to vent his anger. He could only to listen to the "good girl" who was crying and calling for help.
Toslak spat out the soured bread on the ground. He did not dare to face the people in the town or witness the dead body of the "good girl". It was said that the "good girl" was stripped naked by the dogs with her neck twisted off. Although her neck was long and thin, it was not so easy to be broken. The young hunter covered his face and ran out of the town overnight, to a place where there was no more dogs or good girl.
Toslak was that simple-minded. He blamed himself entirely for the death of that "good girl"!
He still remembered he had pledged to the "good girl" many times that he would hunt a black leopard, then let his wife at home make the "good girl" a warm scarf with its skin. The neck of the "good girl" was long and thin, she would be the most suitable person to wear a gorgeous leopard scarf.
"Remember, oh, be sure to remember!" said the good girl, as she threw another silver Ti at the hunter. Her voice was unusually vivid as if she was right there in front of him. Toslak remembered every look and movement of the "good girl", but he dared not think about her again.
Pale sunlight shimmered its way into the woods through the layers of dense leaves. The lichens climbed up to treetops of those tall shrubs that had grown year after year, adding some miserable green to the dampened area. The heavy rain from the previous day transformed the forest into a quagmire, hence some carnivorous animals were guarded by the mire. But even the smartest animal would miss its steps sometimes! This was a saying circled among the hunters, also the norm for hunting.
Toslak bent at his waist, hiding behind a large plantain tree. The wide banana leaves completely obstructed the hunter's form, revealing only his vicious and fierce gaze as the sun shone.
"Elba!" This was the name that Toslak gave to the owner of this territory. Elba was one of the few black leopards which he had dealt with before. It had imprinted three permanent claw marks on Toslak's body from their previous encounter. Similarly, Toslak also gave a stab to Elba's back. Since then, Elba and Toslak had a life and death enmity, and they both prayed to meet each other again in the vast forests.
"Hays!" This was the name of Toslak gave for Elba's wife. It was as fierce as its husband, but it was slightly tamer compared to grumpy Elba. Toslak had met with Hays several times, but Hays always only sniffed the air and then walked away with its exquisite fur in an imposing manner like a queen. It did not favor the battle between the males. Most of its life was spent dealing with various territory affairs and young leopards who were still in desperate need of feeding.
Today, Toslak and Hays met again, but he was drawn over by some sad wails. He inspected the vines surrounded him and sniffed at the strong pungent smell of urine in the air. The hunter realized that the lair of the King of the Jungle was right there in front of him.
Hays was extremely vigilant. It looked up sharply and discovered the hunter behind the banana tree. It wanted to pounce on the man as a warning to the intruder, but the scar on its back has completely cracked. Blood was seen oozing out with the speed of floodwaters.
The hunter walked out of his hidden place and loaded the bow immediately as usual, with the arrow pointed straight at the mother leopard. However, the current situation was somewhat bizarre. Toslak survived under the claws of the leopards and it did not happen out of no reason. He was very familiar with the habits of this extraordinary ferocious predator. Hays's condition was terrible, something unfortunate must have happened to her!
Sure enough, everything became clear just after Toslak saw the blood on the ground. Hays could no longer move by now. However, in its mouth between the sharp fangs hung a dead young leopard. The hunter was puzzled at the sight. Slaughtering its offspring? This showed that the King of the Jungle had been unable to defend its territory. This showed that they have encountered even more ferocious beasts.
"What happened to you?" the hunter greeted the seriously injured leopard. Obviously, Hays could not understand. It had already collapsed to the ground, although still glaring at the intruder with angry eyes.
The only surviving cub in the lair was not aware of what was happening. The bloody smell of its mother and siblings excited it. Even though its mother had killed her children, it kept running playfully around its mother. For young leopards of this age, life was nothing but part of a game.
Hays's panting grew louder, and it knew that it was going to leave the world. Its sight lingered around its only young son and the hunter as if considering which one to resolve first.
Toslak finally noticed the weapon embedded into the leopard. It was a sharp dagger, with an insignia inlaid on the handle. The hunter inspected it carefully, and realized it belonged not to the nearby Imperial Guards but to the dogs from the west!
From the jungle came intermittent cries of leopard. The young hunter put away his bow and arrow resolutely, then patted on his chest at Hays who was on the verge of death, "I'll save him!"
The hunter bit his lips as he was surprised by his own courage, simultaneously trying to figure out what kind of emotion he was holding against his former enemy.
Elba which was covered with cuts and bruises was enclosed in a vast open area at the center of the forest. It was angry but extremely calm at the same time. Not only did the body's trauma not diminish its morale, it was Elba – the King of the Jungle. Even the tricky Toslak was not its opponent, not to mention these third-rate rascals in front of it now.
Faran Kingdom's hunting squad was led by a baron who liked this activity as a hobby. Soon after they entered the forest, they encountered Hays who was inspecting the territory.
Hays's beauty charmed the dogs from the west. Although the female leopard could not satisfy the sexual desires of these rascals, they went on the offensive immediately after the female leopard's beautiful fur. As a result, Hays suffered heavy blows and only left the scene until its husband came to its rescue.
Now, Elba's situation was not optimistic either. The dogs from the west consisted of a team of ten people, all equipped with military-style hand crossbows. Elba's shoulder and buttocks respectively took a shot, which gradually slowed down its action. Its aggressive roars were only a desperate demonstration in the eyes of the invaders.
The dogs provoked the King of the Jungle incessantly, pricking Elba's limbs using long spears. It tried its best to dodge the attacks but even when fraught with danger, it was unwilling to give up. It was the King of the Jungle, even death was not enough for the intruder to see him fall to the ground. For the black leopard, this was a struggle of reputation and dignity.
A sharp arrow suddenly flew past their eyes. When the dogs turned their heads around, they realized their baron had one hand flew to his neck, and blood was oozing from his mouth. The next thing they knew, the well-dressed Faran officer fell flat to the ground.
The unexpected change brought a sliver of light to Elba, but the beast did not flee. Instead, it rushed toward an intruder and thrown him to the ground. Elba frantically tore open the opponent's throat until the broken bones of his body caught between its teeth.
Only until now that the dogs were aware of what was happening. They were yelling at their companions, but another arrow appeared from the direction of the jungle. The powerful arrow shot down one of the dogs, but it also gave the rest a clear sense of the archer's whereabouts. At once, three or four people rushed over to the opponent's hiding place.
The hunter from the small town remained calm behind the big tree, his hard bow was stretched again and then shot out from the left side of the tree. "One for the good girl!" An enemy down! Toslak hid back behind the tree and then installed a new arrow which he quickly shot after from the right side of the tree. "One for Hays!" Another enemy wailed followed by the attack.
The young hunter dropped his longbow to block the enemy knight's sword with his knife. He took advantage of the situation and cut off a flesh from the dog's lap. The remaining guy responded quickly and returned the hunter with a stab in the direction of his left ribs, but the latter managed to avoid, and it landed on his bags of arrows. The hunter stabbed once into the enemy's neck with his backhand when he turned around and that dog quickly fled to the distant. Toslak stepped hard on the guy who took a stab in his thigh. He then pulled an arrow from behind and embedded it into the enemy's eyes.
Elba's fierce roar finally turned into a howl as one of the dogs stabbed Elba's leg with an iron spear. The tip of the spear was stuck to its bone, which Elba fractured with no choice while struggling to get the spear out.
The King of the Jungle's greatest rival finally arrived. In one swift move, his sharp knife chopped off the long spear of the enemy, and it brought a shower of blood between the heaven and earth! The Faran soldiers were not frightened by the sight of it. They gathered and attacked, but the hunter was exceptionally agile. Toslak applied the skills he learned from the beasts to avoid the enemy's blows. His knife constantly making stabs into the dog's precordium or attacking their helmets.
All of a sudden, Toslak felt his neck soaked with warm blood and immediately he turned around. Somehow, Elba, who had been crawling on the ground had now jumped up to his back. The hunter's eyes looked beyond the panthers' and glared instead at the sneaky bastard who made a surprise attack. The little bastard panicked as his knight's sword was stuck in the panther's body, yet he was quick to escape. However, Toslak's hard bow was way faster in comparison, and the extremely forceful arrow pierced through the chest of that man and landed on a big tree in distant! For a brief second, the only sound that was heard in the silent forest was the quivering of the arrow's end.
"Elba!" Toslak hugged his previous rival in his arms. He was amazed to witness concern from Elba's gaze, although more was still the passion to continue fighting.
The King of the Jungle was panting for breath. Although it did not recognize the hunter, it remembered his scent from memory. Elba was also puzzled at the situation. The last time they held each other was to fight for survival, but this time? Everything was in disorder! Elba did not like the scent of the hunter, but it admired his courage in fighting.
In the same position, Toslak held on to his rival. Oh no, Toslak held on to his brother, until it finally let out its last breath. The hunter began to choke with tears, like how he did when he first learned of the death of the "good girl". The hunter's mind function in a simple manner and his principle in these two matters remained unchanged. He did not understand the philosophy argued by men of literature and writing. His only belief was that those who fought together with him against the enemy were his brothers.
Later, the hunter buried the King of the Jungle and its wife near their lair. Like this, their souls could continue to guard this land forever. Near the fight scene, Toslak discovered the little leopard cub which had escaped its mother's kill. The little cub mistook the hunter as its father, as on him lingered a strong scent of Elba. Toslak went along with it and took the little guy with him when he left.
The young hunter did not return home, as he still couldn't face the town people and the sight of the good girl's tomb. He looked at the bodies sprawled across the forest. Maybe, the dogs would locate them and find their way to him. It seemed that he must flee before they track him down. Hence, he decided to try his luck at the jetty, perhaps there might be a boat to the opposite side.
The opposite side of the river was considered as the real territory of this country. The hunter frowned as he thought of it. He was a simple man, and he did not like to think about things like this. Today, he and his brother Elba had taken the lives of ten dogs who invaded their country. When would they be able to kill them all? Anyway, he should first take a shelter to the other side!
It was late in the evening, and the Shawob River was still as calm as usual. The river rippled in the sunset and flowed silently downstream. People on both sides of the banks depended on this river as it was the source of food for many poor people. Simultaneously, it was also the place where boatmen of several generations worked for their entire lives.
The role of the Shawob River became even more pronounced now that there was a war going on. It was the lifeline in people's eyes. To go beyond it meant survival and to get obstructed by it meant death. Titans who had fled along the way have seen the misery created by the invaders. Although Shawob River might not be able to stop the pace of the invaders, however, it could provide a chance for those who were reluctant to leave the world.
Buzaberg Jetty was the geographic demarcation point between the middle and lower reaches of the river. The river valleys on both sides were exceptionally beautiful. However, the locals were too occupied to enjoy the rare summer sight at this time. The ferries were busy for several months. The Imperial Guards, the crowds who evaded the war, and the various supplies that were withdrawn from the rear could be queued up to a dozen kilometers. The large traffic was sufficient to keep the boat dispatcher occupied for a lifetime.
During the day, probably sometime at noon, several harassing troops of the invading army appeared one after another on the national route leading to the jetty. However, these uninvited guests were driven away by a group of soldiers in practice who appeared out of nowhere.
Soon, the foreigners learned their lessons and grew wiser. They gave up probing after they encountered resistance, and they cut off the national route as well as sealed all exits to the region near the jetty area. However, it was said that these guys shot and killed any local resident who fled along the way as they wished.
Excluding everything which interfered with the jetty's operations, old man Buzaberg was still considered a qualified scheduling officer.
He was the eleventh Buzaberg scheduling officer – the only scheduling officer in the entire history of Titan Empire which held a hereditary title. His ancestors used to fight bravely to guard today's military ports, and so the Emperor of Titan named the jetty with the surname of Buzaberg.
However, at present, it seemed rather difficult for old Buzaberg to continue the brilliant record of his ancestors. He had already received the final retreat instruction which came from the other side.
The entire jetty fell into a complete chaos after old Buzaberg issued the order of retreat. The refugees pushed each other as they had to take the last boat to retreat to the actual controlled territory of the empire. Burning bonfires silhouetted these desolate and helpless faces with sharp clarity, which revealed all their anger and desperation. They made a huge scene as they strived to keep up with each other in order to fight for a position on the boat.
Lords were to be excluded, and Barons would give way to Viscounts, while Viscounts had to be degraded by Counts, and the Counts rushed toward the guards of the boat with their sacks full of money. The noblemen of Titans had lost their modest rituals of the past. They shouted loudly, cursed madly, and threatened or intimidated to urge everyone in the vicinity. At last, a team of soldiers shooed them to a place away from the bridge.
Captain Panitigol Asgan got rid of a nobleman who couldn't stop bothering him and saluted to the gloomy face old Buzaberg.
"Forget about that, you little lad!" old Berg waved his hand. After a long day of getting along, he had known the young soldier's tricks well by now. But still, old Berg asked, "Who is it this time?"
A smile washed over Captain Asgan's face, "A mother with two children! Both of them are very young, you can place them under the bed of the wounded."
Old Berg sighed helplessly, "Call the children over!"
Once again, Captain Asgan saluted and waved his hand to his soldier. A cavalry directed the haggard-looking young mother from the crowd, but they met with some troubles while trying to pass through the human barricade formed by the Imperial Guards. Like a madman, a noble whipped the poor woman with a leather whip and threatened her to give up her seat to the boat.
Panitigol's face went cold. He grabbed the lord's whip and knocked the person's head with the hilt of his sword. The fat nobleman fell to the ground immediately, but he was still yelling, complaining how a whore and some small bastards should not replace the position of an imperial count. Panitigol became impatient at his rambling, so he cut off the guy's hair with a long sword. As a result, the count shut his mouth finally.
"Who else wants the position of a mother and these two children?" the reserve captain shouted to the crowd. Several nobles eagerly stepped up, but the idiot who fell to the ground made them reconsider their options. On the other hand, the wealthy businessmen who were left behind by the nobles tried their best to widen their small eyes that were burned by the brilliance of the gold coins, and secretly shoved some heavy sacks filled with money into the hands of that mother who had already become a target.
"Let's make a deal? Exchange these for your seat?" the merchants pleaded with utmost sincerity as they tried to sell off their life. "Is this not enough? Another kilogram more?"
The mother threw away the money bag as if it was a ball of burning fire. Her eyes fell on the back of the crowd, where the poor and miserable gathered. The aggressors destroyed their homes and took everything from them. They did not have prominent identities or purses full of gold coins. What they had were only empty stomachs and eager aspirations.
"Anyone else wants the seats of a widow and the children?" Different answers broke out among the crowd, but the poor remained silent, as they blinked desperately at the woman with envious eyes.
"Go on..." a strong hunter suddenly shouted to the woman, "May the Gold of Light bless you!"
"Yeah...go on! Hurry!" the crowd echoed. By then, the mother had already burst into tears.
"Thank you! Thank you..." the woman made continuous deep bows to the crowd. She was well aware that she and the children would be the last passengers, and those stranded at the jetty would have to face the bleak, unknown fate.
Led by the nobles, the rest of the people began to cry when the boat finally left the loading bay. These lords wearing various titles were like conductors, controlling the rhythm and volume of the crying with the most hysterical performance. Then there were businessmen; these people were distressed not about their lives, but about the money they had in their waist bags. They were afraid of the upcoming mugging. Those were even more terrified than the thought that they might lose their lives. In fact, taking away their wealth were equivalent to taking away their life. Finally, the poor had the most reasons to cry. They obtained no wealth or valuables, what they had was only their cheap life. However, at a moment like this, life worth nothing to them anymore. Although they were accustomed to having their life controlled by other people, the desperation deep down in their heart still needed to be vented out.
The boat moved unstably on the river as it sailed to the opposite bank slowly. There were only a few sailors on board, and the rest were the wounded Imperial Guards. The young mother felt that she should give something for her own luck, therefore she volunteered as a nurse. The wounded soldiers quickly nicknamed the young widow as "Chocolate Candy on the Shawob River". It was the reserve captain who shoved those chocolate candies into the children's hands, but their mother took the delicious candies from them for the purpose to appease the wounded who were being tortured by pain.
This method was indeed rather effective. The sweet taste awakened the nerves of the soldiers, and they finally stopped crying and struggling. They were carried away by the calm taste of these rare indulgences.
The two children were placed under the bed of the wounded. The girl was slightly older, but she had the courage of a lion! She stretched out her hand to catch the blood which had flowed through the gap in the bed, and when it was full, she climbed out from under and spoke to the wounded rested on the bed above, "Uncle! I'll return them to you!"
The soldier was naturally delighted with the girl's innocence. He used his remaining arm to stroke the little girl's blond hair and replied her kindness with a "Thank you!"
Sir Klaslaw picked up the little boy who was too young to understand what was happening around him. Being a well-known sketch artist, Klaslaw quickly portrayed the occurrence in his cabin on his papers with a slight emotional touch. The dried-up blood between the cracks on the floor, the soldiers whose faces distorted with pain, the sweet innocent girl, and the miraculous effect of "chocolate candy". The artist constantly searched for moving, passionate, wonderful and heroic images around him, until he was fatigue of the visual aesthetics, then eventually he laid down his brush as he issued a satisfying sigh.
This noble gentleman in his righteous age was dressed in a well-trimmed outfit. His boots and walking stick were very clean, he was not accompanied with a younger family, and there was no wound on him that seemed to be eager of immediate treatment. The soldiers surrounded him were all rather skeptical. They all wondered how much the man spent to be sent to the ship.
Sir Klaslaw knew he would be misunderstood by the rest, but he could not be bothered. He liked his public identity as an artist, and he enjoyed his work in the secret field. As the Operation Chief of Military Intelligence Front-line Control Center of First Contingent, inside Klaslaw's cloak, was hidden with enemy's military disposition, in his boots were stashed with final confirmation of the enemy's situation gathered by countless secret agents, even his portfolio folder. The little boy who looked at the painter's work intently did not know on the back of that page was full of first-hand background analysis reports on the warfare situation.
The little girl was called Ayana. She would be the most famous soprano in the history of the Titan Empire, and her songs would touch the heartstrings of thousands of Titans.
The little boy was called Midelski. When he grew up, he would be the most famous court painter cherished by the Great Andrew. Nearly two-thirds of the portraits of the Great Emperor produced during his late-life would be created by this man's hands.
As for the mother of the children, she was just an ordinary woman. People would not remember her name, but always, a disabled or seriously injured veteran would tell their future generations or comrades that the "Chocolate Candy on the Shawob River" was synonymous to all the mothers in this world. She was also the embodiment of the motherland and god!
Last but not least, Sir Klaslaw, the scheduling officer at Buzaberg Jetty, a simple-minded but ferocious hunter Tolsak, and the countless unlucky faces, all these people were at the moment playing out a wonderful show according to the fate of the script. Take the reserve captain of Imperial Guards, Panitigol Asgan, for example, everyone knew that he was a good young man. This young soldier with a promising future ahead of him had chosen a full stop for the ending of his fate, or maybe...just an ellipsis.
In short, when the boat was far away from the port, Panitigol Asgan jumped onto the bridge and shouted to the crowd. "Is there a local person among us? Does anyone know how to arrive at Caven Fort by avoiding the national route?"
To tell the truth, the simple-minded hunter, Toslak, did hesitate for a while before he did what he did next. He came to the port to seek refuge, not to give up himself as a sacrifice of Caven Fort. There were more than a hundred thousand dog bastards over there. To kill them all would probably need the time span of about half a month.
Panitigol gave out a sigh of disappointment. Did he really have to lead these remaining new soldiers to break through the blockade of the invading army? By doing so, he was certain they could be wiped out before they even managed to step foot in Caven Fort.
Toslak also had no idea why, but he actually presented himself forward. "Hey, soldier! I know the way, I'm extremely familiar with the nearby region!"
"Can you ride?" the reserve captain pulled the young hunter over with excitement.
"Of course!" Toslak turned his head away in annoyance. Soldiers were all rogues, and he certainly did not want to assist these guys, but he had just volunteered himself. What on earth was he thinking?
Panitigol led his knights and the simple-minded hunter to get on the road and all the way they engaged in trivial small talks. Toslak was rather surprised when he discovered the guy with two bottomless dark circles hanging under his eyes was, in fact, a paladin. On the other hand, Panitigol couldn't help but felt deep reverence when he noticed the young leopard in the hunter's arms. He was visibly moved by the story of Elba and Hays.
"You have extraordinary talent. Why did you not join the army?"
Toslak shrugged, "Good men don't end up as soldiers!"
His reply offended almost all the knight surrounded him!
Panitigol frowned, "Who said this?"
"My father!" Toslak recalled the teachings from the old hunter, "My father's buttocks had suffered much from the boots of the military officers."
"Hahaha!" the soldiers laughed, "All of us have been through this!"
The hunter introduced this team of knights consisted not more than seven hundred people to a valley using one of the unknown paths. With the glimmer of the setting sun, the knights cut down few trees beside a deep ravine.
Another simple bridge was built. As the knights walked over the cliffs with their horses, the sky had turned completely dark. The sight of the burning Caven Fort entered their sight as they took a turn into the corner of the mountain.
"We'll part here then! Thank you for your guidance!" the Captain of Imperial Guards saluted the young hunter.
Although the hunter had a simple brain, he had figured out that the young man in front of him was seeking for death.
"You guys...are you guys crazy? Those are the dogs from the west! The amount of their men is…uh...more than ten thousand than yours!"
"Oh! Not so much!" Panitigol laughed. He realized that the hunter was not very good at maths.
Toslak did not say anything further but remained silent as he watched these knights, who were young and had no beard, ventured into the mountains. The young hunter was unsure what this was all about! He did not know that there was a word in his mother tongue that meant "risking one's life", nor did he know the reason behind the soldiers' madness and determination. He thought that if he just left like this, he would repeat his mistake again like when he turned a deaf ear to the good girl's cries for help! He couldn't bear to see the death of the Elba couple, but could he bear to watch hundreds of young soldiers enter a fight that was destined to lose?
Toslak began chasing after the troops and finally intercepted the young knights on a platform near the fortress. The knights team really should have stopped anyway. They were already in a stone's throw away from the burning fortress, the laughter of the invaders was right there below where they stood.
Panitigol did not care about the young hunter's nagging but remained focus on inspecting the image presented through the monocular. The first that entered his sight was undoubtedly the raging fire, then came the military flag that hovered above the fortress. It was not the familiar rhinoceros flag of the Twelfth Military Regions, but the White Cross Flower Flag of the Kingdom of Hoilland.
The reserve captain turned the monocular away in disgust, then he observed a sea of corpses and the wooden stumps erected on the walls. The remaining surviving soldiers were tied up to the stumps, among all one of the most prominent was a soldier who had been stripped to his skin. The damned dog bastard had sewn the flag of the Twelfth Military Region and wrapped it around the lower half of the body of one Imperial Guards general like a woman's skirt. Did they think that by doing so they could humiliate a hero?
Panitigol laughed out loud! He saw General Bencil Donnis who was covered in blood shouting loudly and spitting on every enemy that passed by him.
"Hello! Hey!" Toslak pulled at the young man's horse reins, "Young man! What the hell are you thinking? This is not the time to fight with the dogs! Don't you guys have parents, wives or children? Take a minute to think about them! Are they destined to lose you..."
"Come on..." Panitigol looked at the hunter mockingly, "If we do this, our parents, wives and children will be tied to the stakes like those soldiers over there."
Toslak was speechless, but still, he could not understand. His simple mind told him that these young men were brainwashed by their calling as a soldier.
"Is the calling as a soldier so important to you? Do you even know what that means?"
The reserve captain shook his head, "It means nothing!"
"But it also means everything!" a knight as young as Panitigol continued the sentence. He put on his visor, and then his comrades followed suit.
Panitigol pointed to the starry sky, and then his arm fell violently, his chest flat. The knights' troop finally began to move, and soon enough the stunned hunter was left behind all alone.
The horses galloped across the mountain ridge. The knights' visor completely covered those young faces, revealing only their eyes which shone brightly with passion.
A knight who could not stand the silence before the war suddenly sang the military song, and this sound trumped even the call of a bugle. The horses galloped on the ground at the rhythm of the song in neat steps like dancers. The voice of the song decelerated from fast to slow as they gradually approach! When the sound of the hoof awakened the quiet night when the sound of the hoof roared between heaven and earth.
The melody still lingered in the air with passion.
"We are the young Imperial Guards on the battlefield, we are the youth who blow the horn of charge. In the season when flowers bloom fully, we send swords and spears to the enemies who attacked our motherland. Listen to our screaming, Imperial Guards! Advance, Imperial Guards, advance…"