Titan Beneath the Heavens
Chapter 241: Twenty-sixth Episode: Chapter 5-2
Chapter 241: Twenty-sixth Episode: Chapter 5-2
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
Sunshine once again covered the earth. The river caressed the embankment gently with small and irregular waves. The Imperial Guards on the road had dispersed as the vast world fell into silence at dawn. The morning breeze blew away the rubbish left on the road to the grass beside the roadbed. Fallen yellow leaves gathered into piles. This was the fall the road of the countryside was full of unattended ripened fruits. Apples on the ground have already begun to rot, releasing a miserable smell as the fall wind gushed through.
An Imperial Guards officer walked down from the embankment. He happened to encounter an apple that had not been touched by a field mouse as he wandered around the abandoned countryside. The officer picked it up, wiped it on his uniform, and took a big bite at the juicy fruit.
The officer made a gratifying noise as a fruity scent filled his mouth and nostrils. He looked north at the faintly visible horizon, but his vision was still limited by dawn. The sun seemed unable to reach the end of the horizon, causing the other side of the earth looking like a sea of white.
As the river turned southeast, a solitary wooden bridge connected two banks. The wide and long bridge allowed four horses to gallop side by side across the river more than 30 meters wide.
There was no one on the bridge, only the sound of flowing water in the river could be heard. On the southeast end of the bridge, Titan soldiers built a barricade with rocks and logs to obstruct the cavalry. Certain parts of the bridge had also been removed.
Two soldiers were guarding behind the fortifications. One dozed off with his spear in hand, whereas the other was reading a booklet while carrying bows and arrow on his back. The officer had returned from the field. He bypassed the fortification on the river bank and jumped directly on the bridge.
The officer's disheveled uniform was stained with dirt. The badges signifying his military ranks were nowhere to be seen. However, both sentries seemed to recognize him. They performed a respectful military salute to the officer, but the latter did not return the gesture. Instead, he picked two apples from the pannier behind him and threw them at the soldiers who had been awake all night.
The soldiers indulged in the sweetness of apples, all while smiling and chatting with their officer. Moments later, the soldier carrying bow and arrows suddenly kept quiet. He narrowed his eyes to inspect the other direction carefully.
Flags, the sound of gallops, clouds of dust trailing off ground.
The sentry turned to glance at his officer. The latter scoffed as he stared at the other side of the bank enveloped in smoke and dust, "Whistling arrow!"
As the whistling arrows shot across the sky, clouds dispersed as if they were frightened by the wails. The sun immediately peaked from behind the clouds.
The temporary stone wall established on the embankment suddenly came to life. Initially, two or three soldiers staggered to their feet, and then the rest of them began shouting series of passcodes and various orders in the rear.
Numerous Titan soldiers lying on the grass field below the embankment shot their eyes opened either of fatigue or fright and began rushing toward the embankment with weapons in hands.
Next to the officer, a flag bearer unrolled the army flag representing Titan Empire Imperial Guards Northern Army Group Fourth Integrated Infantry Corps. This was the designation unit of this team, and Major General Leigh McCaren was the army commander of these soldiers. He bit into another apple. The pannier filled with apples had been passed on to the frontline. Soldiers modestly declined the offer as if nobody was interested in having this monotonous breakfast.
The Deiss were here. Dozens of Teutonic Knights bearing the White-eyed Buzzard Flags rushed onto the bridge. The bridge trembled slightly. The invaders had to stop and turned around when they came to the parts of the bridge that had been destroyed. They inspected the Titan soldiers who were on the opposite side with careful eyes.
Leigh McCaren threw away the apple core and looked around his surroundings. The army of Fourth Corps seemed to be at a loss. They executed blocking actions right after experiencing a fierce battle. Initially, the soldiers complained about the arrangement of the army group. However, arriving at this peaceful river bank after being chased to retreat by the Deiss for more than a dozen kilometers, the Fourth Corps was completely exhausted mentally and physically.
"Let this be the last fight..." the northern soldiers exclaimed. They were tired and irritated of being chased after. It was not they stood upright by the river bank after a long nap that it suddenly occurred to them – this was their motherland, Titan. They should not let the Deiss soldiers achieve their goals so easily.
The Deiss soldiers came and went. Dozens of Teutonic knights left the wooden bridge and hurried back to the other side of the river. Soon they disappeared in the blink of an eye, most probably left to inform their officers.
The soldiers of the Fourth Corps did not waste time. They all knew that there were more than tens of thousands of dark devils on the other side of the river waiting to slaughter their people. Arrows and tinders were carried onto the embankment. Some shallower sections of the river were filled with logs and stones. Lastly, the final war resources were distributed to the soldiers. Judging from the poor amount of stale bread and cracked blades, everyone knew this was going to be the final battle of the Fourth Corps.
The sun was still hanging up high in the sky just moments ago but now the clouds were getting denser. The sun only showed its round outline from behind the clouds, then after a while, it simply disappeared.
Feathery snowflakes fluttered around and landed softly on the river surface. The quick current carried the snowflakes downstream rapidly. Snowflakes also landed on the soldiers' armor. This made the Titan soldiers felt inexplicable sorrow. It was the same as before – snowflakes danced around in the dark sky as Deiss soldiers charged and crashed into the defense line of the Imperial Guards. They had been chasing after them until here and it seemed like they were not planning to stop.
Major General Leigh McCaren was irritated by the snowflakes that dropped into the collar of his uniform. Finally, he simply removed his armor and tore open the collar of his military uniform. His soldiers looked at him with strange eyes. He was indifferent to the stares and even stripped off his military uniform which he thought was also a burden. With his bare upper torso, he stepped on the fortification with one foot while carrying his long-handled sword.
The river carrying snowflakes flowed forward in a steady stream. The dam that had experienced hundreds of years of hardship stood motionless at the soldiers' feet. The water took away its glorious appearance but not its spirit to guard the water and soil.
The Deiss were here. Their regular army marched in unison in accordance with the commands.
Titan soldiers looked at them with a blank expression. The enemies' phalanxes were in neat formation. They looked like moving blocks of black woods as snowflakes landed on their glittering black armor.
Deiss soldiers on the opposite of the quiet river ceased hostilities. They were massive in numbers. These black forests generated white puffs of air as they exhaled. The breathing of tens of thousands of people gradually grew denser to a thin fog. Titan soldiers lifted their bows and aimed at the front row of soldiers.
The army commander of the Fourth Corps was checking his battle line by the riverfront. Every brick and stone was a result of his sweat and blood. Someone just informed him that more than a dozen of deserters ran away last night. Leigh McCaren was troubled for a while. He had long known that people were different, just like on the other side of these army ruffians were the good brothers who followed him to fight a deadly battle. If fate was destined since the start, why was it not those bastards who died?
"Raise the shield as high as possible…look between the gap...try not to waste the arrows..." the commander of the Fourth Corps reminded his soldiers as he paced around. The soldiers looked at their commander in awe. They loved their commander. If it was not for his intelligence, they would have long been captured by the enemies who were much larger in numbers than their own troop.
Snow fluttered from the sky. In front of them was a river, and the tall dam was right under their feet. On the opposite side were those Deiss devils who were cracking their heads trying to figure out ways to break through the obstacles. Although they were lacking in supplies, the soldiers were satisfied as they had the upper hand at the moment. Those who want to cross the river had to ask for permission from the things in their hands.
All of a sudden, the Deiss campsite burst into an uproar, and a team of heavy-armed ax wielders rushed out from the mighty army formation. They dashed forward like a black horse whipping forcefully on the bridge. Their bodies were protected by shields. The soldiers responsible for repairing the bridge began transporting large tree trunks to the bridge.
The black team marched forward incessantly. The Imperial Guards on the opposite finally responded. It started with rounds of overwhelming cheer, followed by the arrows which danced wildly across the sky. Snowflakes increased the weight of these fatal weapons and these arrows flew past the soldiers' heads in a close shave. The arrows almost landed on Deiss' shield at the same time. Some drilled into the gap between the shields and instantaneously took away the life of a Deiss soldier.
The soldiers that fell to the ground left the shield wall on the bridge constantly exposed to the opposite party. The Titans seized this opportunity and continued shooting more arrows into those gaps. The Deiss soldiers who had no choice fell helplessly and desperately into the turbulent water.
On the frontline was a team of exceptionally skilled archers who were responsible for shooting the soldiers who tried to repair the bridge. They aimed carefully and released their bows quickly. As those Deiss soldiers in front fell, the ones behind hurriedly took up their spaces as if they were ignorant to the idea of death. Dead bodies without armor scattered everywhere. Bridges and rivers were continuously filled with arrows and bleeding corpses.
The snow was still falling. Deiss' phalanges consisted of thousand people could only spread out to a dozen people front on the bridge. One after another they fell in front of the Titans, but then soon appeared before their eyes.
Halfway through repairing the bridge, Deiss long-range attack forces on the river bank finally opened fire. They utilized artillery made of scrap iron and sub-three bow crossbows that could fire three arrows horizontally at once. Fortunately, the weapons used were of low precision. The smoke and the whizzing giant arrows only added some terrifying atmosphere to the battlefield.
Titans responded to the enemy's offensive with the simplest catapult mechanisms. The catapult was filled with stones and fragments of broken swords. As soon as they released the hooks, the awful mess in the basket would be sent to the other side of the bank.
The Deiss soldiers' protective shields and armor were wide and thick. They stepped on the corpses and continued to advance albeit the shower of stones and arrows. Finally, Titan soldiers saw the enemies' faces. Shields down and spears out. The enemies in front were pierced through, but more of them came rushing from both sides of the spears.
Both sides of the bridge fortifications were caught up in hand-to-hand combat. Due to the limitation of bridge width, there was always only twenty or so soldiers who could greet one another with weapons. These twenty or so people could only last three to five minutes. Every time someone fell over, their space would be filled by their comrades.
More Deiss soldiers were pushed down the bridge. Their heavy armor made them struggled in the water. Many were shot and killed with precise arrows while some had their life taken away by the river that nurtured northern Titans. However, there were still countless of them who rushed to the embankment. Titans on the embankment stood behind the fortification used various objects to kill the enemy. There was no time for compassion, doubt, or thinking. It was as if both sides were in a competition to find out who could kill quicker and more violent.
The fierce battle was raging with anger. The chaos under the snow sounded even louder than ever. Miserable wails synchronized with the sound of killings like how the water gushed to the rhythm of assault bugle call. Everyone was wielding weapons in the air, everyone was fighting for the final little room of survival between the river, embankment, bridge and hell.
Deiss people on the bridge gradually became sparse. After waving his weapons around in the air, General Leigh who looked ferocious was stunned to realize the bridge was empty with no more Deiss.
The Titans lifted their damaged weapons aloft and shouted in the sky and in the direction of the retreating enemy. Pale snowflakes fell on the body but the originally iced-cold armor immediately melt the feathery snowflakes.
Above and under the bridge, inside and outside the river and both sides of the embankment. Thousands of horrified dead bodies were scattered all around. Soldiers fell over each other with their blood oozing freely. The snowflakes that fell in the pool of blood became little white spots, looking as if like some unknown wildflowers. One after another, they grew quietly in the battlefield, blooming silently in the pool of bloody despair.
The ice-cold river water was filled with thick red blood. The rippling waves slowly pushed the dead bodies and gathered them underneath the dam. The flowing blood hence added a dazzling bright red to the ancient walls of the embankment that was first covered with dark brown wrinkles.
The Deiss did not allow the Titans on the other side of the bank to rest for long. They had countless thousand phalanxes to deploy into the fight. However, this time was somewhat different from the last. Imperial Guards trying to demolish the bridges repaired by the Deiss was sent behind the bridge fortification by a sudden rain of arrows.
The world shuddered violently, and the snow-covered ground was covered in waves of smoke and dust.
"It's the cavalry! It's the cavalry!" a Titan soldier stood on the commanding point of the embankment yelled. The commander of the Fourth Corps was quick to respond. When the enemy cavalry troops rushed to the bridge, Leigh McCaren had already deployed a team of spearmen to guard the end of the bridge by pointing the sharp spikes on the other direction.
The lone wooden bridge trembled violently as the enemies got closer gradually. The Titans could already see the ferocious warhorse continuously issuing long white puffs of air from their nostrils.
"Hold it! Hold it!" General Leigh yelled. He did not know whether his heart was trembling, or the bridge was shaking.
The collision took place in a split second! Deiss knights pulled on the reins and leaped through the simple fortifications but their hearts were pierced through by chilly spears the next moment. The cavalry that arrived afterward rushed past their comrades and into the crowd of Titans who were obstructing their way. The narrow bridge once again limited the impact. Imperial Guards cried out in their hoarse voice. They pushed and squeezed their way desperately. They greeted the horses' iron hooves with their chests and torso. They threw knives, axes, fists, teeth and every other thing that could kill at the Deiss devils.
A Titan soldier was pushed into the bloody river under the bridge by a knight's spear. Another Titan rushed up with red eyes. He first cut off the forelegs of the horse with a knife, and then took the life of the knight on the horse with a second cut. This brave soldier's helmet was knocked off by the enemy that came rushing from behind. Just as he was still staggering trying to find his balance, a third Titan soldier who was already impatient launched the long sword in his hand. Then, he picked up stones on the ground and started throwing them at the enemy.
The third soldier grabbed at every weapon around him and kept on attacking. Only until when he picked up a piece of bloody object and threw it at the enemy that he realized he had just thrown away his bloody broken arm.
The Deiss knights were besieged into the crowd. They did not know why the Titans in front of them were endless. Their knights who had entered the fortifications had all ended up as dead bodies while those knights who were stuck on the bridge became live targets for the Titan archers.
"The river...Captain...the river..."
Leigh McCaren turned to the source of the sound. He realized that the Deiss on the other side managed to find a beachhead with the shallowest water level. Two thousand arrays were gathering on the embankment, waiting to fight their way across the river.
The commander of Fourth Corps wiped his face which was full of bloody mud. He first picked up the oil bucket donated by the nearby villagers. The soldiers suddenly realized what was going on and they quickly rushed to the side of the bank.
The Deiss soldiers who were waddling through the water could only look in fear as the Titans on the other side of the bank ignited the logs and burned the hot oil. Some of the wiser ones tried to stay behind. On the other hand, the ones who were not as smart rushed forward while yelling, "Long live the Kingdom."
Imperial Guards threw long spears at the surface of the river thickly dotted with human heads, while the artillery from the other side sent part of the fortification and several Titan soldiers up into the sky. The commander of the Fourth Corps was slightly alarmed. Deiss had already pushed forward their artillery and long-range crossbows to the front.
The enemy surging forward had finally boarded the shallower water base. Titan soldiers guarding on the embankment shouted and the burning woods and hot oil were sent down without a word. Miserable screams were heard immediately. The rolling woods pushed the Deiss back into the river. Soldiers with broken limbs could only let their lives to be tortured in the icy river. The hot oil accumulated in a thick pool near the water level was instantaneously ignited by the burning logs.
Fire engulfed the surface of the water. Within the flames were a horrifying sight of flaming bodies while underneath the water was struggling souls. Fate forced them to experience multiple trials with water, fire, pain and despair. Death had shockingly become a luxury at this time, even unattainable. Everyone who was trapped in the sea of fire wished to reach the other side of Hell as soon as possible. Death was within reach but impossible to realize without suffering.
Unsure of the exact time, the Deiss finally retreated from the battlefield. Thick smoke spiraled upward in the battlefield. That was the remaining temperature of hot blood lingered in the cold snow. The Titans guarding the bank queued up in a line. This was the last row of soldiers remaining on the hundreds of meters long defense line along the river. There was nothing behind the soldiers, only wilderness which the dam had been guarding for past centuries.
If one would like to understand the soul of the river, take a walk along the upstream and downstream. The iced water flowed from the upstream passing through numerous obstacles to meet the downstream which was carrying corpses and dense blood. However, the river still embraced everything silently. Even if the soldiers she nurtured would be defeated, she would still heal the wounds of soldiers with her blood and relieve the thirst of the soldiers with milk.
Also, there was the embankment that embodied all the virtues of the river. It was silent, loyal, and its body was pierced through with burning feathered arrows. However, it still stood tall, taking in all this pain without a word.
The moment he received the order to block the enemy, General Leigh McCaren had already understood that the Fourth Corps would be another unit of the Northern Army Group to lose its designation. Yet, he had no complaints. Soldiers of the empire were born in Titan hence they should return their lives and souls to Titan. This was the glory built on dignity. There really was no need to complain.
General Leigh shook hands with the last row of guards on the striker's line. He embraced the warriors who defended the motherland with his strong, blood-filled arms. Every time he passed by one of them, he said, "See you again!"
Some soldiers kept quiet while some soldiers were full of passion. They hold the commander's hand and replied this brave general, "When we meet again, we will still be your soldiers, the soldiers of the empire!"
When the army commander of the Northern Army Group returned to the front line, the engineers deployed by the army headquarters had already finished burying explosives. They were right below the fortifications at the bridge and they were enough to send this 10-meter-long bridge to the sky.
The sun dangled to the west when the sky began to clear. This made all the soldiers breathed a sigh of relief. They stayed at their post throughout the day, hopefully even the wounded had already withdrawn to safety. The soldiers could not help but feel dejected at the thought of this. Behind the defense line, they also had children, parents, and many other reasons for them to stay alive. However, the Deiss had already sounded the horn. Fourth Corps had no more bows and arrows. Even the swords and spears in hands were all snatched from the enemy. There would always be times where survival become a luxury. It was depended on them to be calm and at ease while treating this matter.
Attacks, resistances and repeated struggles happened around the bridge. The sounds of shouting and killing began to weaken, the comrades around them had gradually turned into the faces of their rival enemies. General Leigh McCaren ignited the lead of the explosive just as the enemy's saber almost cut into his body.
The edge of the blade did not cut through his body. Instead, his body twisted out of his control and he fell into the icy river.
Looking up from under the water, a huge light of fire took everything away in a flash. The shock of the explosion made the surface of water rippled violently. Just as General Leigh was about to lose his consciousness, his flag and the fragments of bodies fell from the air. The flag eventually landed on him. His body was pushed by the current away from the battlefield. Finally, feeling gratified, he closed his eyes.
His eyes shot open. The excruciating pain from the wounds caused General Leigh to frown. He was confused to discover the embankment was going backward. After what seemed like forever, the Imperial Guards general who gradually gathered himself realized he was in a carriage. His military flag was also being placed on his body.
A beautiful young woman suddenly lifted the curtain of the carriage, "You're awake! Our village people saved you from the river!"
General Leigh nodded gently, "Thank you...devils...where did they go?"
"Don't worry!" the young woman pointed to the other side of the river bank, "There are many soldiers deployed by the road for defense! We'll arrive at Bron Fortress in two days!"
Leigh McCaren did not say any word. On the other hand, the beautiful lady rushed into the carriage and placed her hand on the general's shoulder intimately.
"Hey! Which unit are you from? Do you know my husband? Captain Rock who's great with shooting arrows?"
"Rock?" Imperial Guards Major General remembered the young archer who was trampled over by the Deiss cavalry beyond recognition.
"He...he's walking in front!"
Sweet dimples surfaced at the corners of her mouth when the young woman smiled. She kissed the cheek of the soldier as she did last time, "I knew it...all of you are the good guys!"
The river remained calm as it flowed its way through.