Translated by Tianic, edited by Grammarly
The second day after my conversation with Carlos, scouts which I had dispatched made discoveries. Chief investigator Steven and Marfa came in together to debrief.
The two’s faces were serious, which contradicted their personalities.
“What happened?” I asked, “Did you two miss supper or lose your wallet?”
“Neither, boss.” Marfa shook his head, “Our scouts have delivered their initial intelligence.”
“Good thing they did.” I chuckled, “Then why are you still looking half dead on your faces?”
“Take a look, boss.” Steven passed over a few pieces of paper, “After reading them, you’ll be looking just like us.”
“Is it…” My eyes swept over the letters on the papers, “…unidentified PUF troops at the entrance of the canyon. It’s expected. What’s so wrong about that?”
“What’s so wrong? Boss, are you joking with me?” Steven said anxiously, “Unknown army! Armies of either side, they do not have the need to hide their identities as per current situation!”
“Marfa, what about you?” I turned to him, “You have the same information?”
Marfa nodded and made a bitter, slight elevation of his lips.
“Gather the other regiment leaders.” I placed the papers, “We have some new arrangements.”
Due to the fact that all of my troops were waiting for intels to come in, most generals and senior officers assembled in my pavilion within minutes. After the men have seated, I told Steven to announce his discoveries.
“Look, our scouts have been investigating along the grand canyon. Here, they detected anomalies. Close to the canyon exit, they’ve found an army of 6, 000 in total, well-equipped. They’ve camped nearby. Nothing goes in or out of the exit. In addition, a massive amount of killed refugees of the 36 Clans crowded there.” Steven said with a finger pointed on the map, “However, in the enemy camp, we did not find any flags or signs of identification. Soldiers or officers were not in uniforms. So far, the only thing we know is that they’re of the Protoss United Forces.”
“Is that all?”
“Marfa, your turn.”
“Yes, boss. As we all know, we’ve lost contact with base Galia City before the Clay City war. During the days we stay in the tunnel, what happened outside is completely unknown to us. That is why my men’s primary mission last night and today is to re-establish contact with my agents. However, we failed to do so.” Marfa continued, “That being said, the agents I had deployed on the P/A Line before the War are all terminated.”
“All of them?” Carlos frowned, “Anything else?”
“Scattered enemy riders are all over the area from the canyon exit to Galia City. Since we cannot risk of being exposed, I did not give the order to go deep. As far as my agents went, they cannot find a single of our men.” said Marfa, “That is why we cannot get anything from the outside world. That is everything so far.”
“That’s enough. Now tell me your views.” I eyed over the room, “You all are excellent commanders, I need you to judge the situation other than leading a battle.”
“Judge the situation?” Jack asked curiously.
“Generally, be perspective.” I exclaimed, “Do you wanna be the first to tell?”
“Me?” Jack touched his nose, “I’ll just sit and watch.”
“Moya, get on with it.”
“Yes, boss. I consider the most suspicious part lies in their identity.” Moya leaned forward to the map, “In a time like this, from my point of view, there’s no need for whichever party to conceal their IDs.”
“Yes?” Moya’s rare opinion had me so I asked curiously, “Tell me more.”
“Look, they’re at the Protoss Alliance side of the P/A Line. Suppose it were PUF who sealed the tunnel, they might as well do it openly and without hesitation. Why hiding? Boss, do you remember the time we were at the headquarters? Those high and low PUF officers did so care their status that they won’t even let a tiny piece of dirt on their uniforms. Concealing the canyon is only a single act to lose that pride.” said Moya, “And there’s no doubt that they’re willing to make weigh the mission by doing so. That being said, their doing(s) must be serious enough.”
“If they were the Asmodians?” Finishing Moya’s words, I can’t be less delighted, “They too, have potential reasons to camouflage.”
“Em, in that way, I think AUF has no reason to come this far here, let alone to close the tunnel behind their leeway.” Moya pondered for a moment, “If AUF needed to cooperate their friendly army who were fighting the Clay City battle, they do have the reason to be here. However, it’s currently 20 days after we had wrapped up the dreadful combat. During which time, a fleet of 6, 000 AUF troop… it’s just not reasonable for them to be in a place beyond their administration.”
Since I knew the origin of this troop, so as Carlos the Chief of Staff, Moya had drawn the right conclusion solely by analyzing the limited information on hand. I shared a look with Carlos while both of us were amazed at Moya’s growth. He was right. This man had eventually discovered his sharp side of the mind.
I was glad he had.
Then, indisputably, my look laid on Wilder.
“Boss, the chance is higher with PUF.” Wilder said after a few breaths of air, “No matter where this army comes from, they’re definitely enemies.”
“Since as early as we had started retreating in Camp, you said the War was about to end. Then during the 20 -ish days that followed, a final result of the War must’ve concluded. According to the agreement between the 2 alliances, once the War is over, all armies from both sides must drop out of the P/A Line immediately.” Wilder poked hard on the canyon exit on the map, “So, at this moment, a mysterious army at the exit on the Line most definitely has sinister business here.”
“Let’s suppose they are as you said, they may not be necessarily targeting us.” I sipped water, “Even if they do, what is your counteract?”
“Nothing but to wipe them out for good. No matter who they are, they are a threat to us.” Wilder’s finger swirled on the paper, “Plus, we’ll have a lawful excuse if someone wanna sue us. It’s them who didn’t wear uniforms during a time like this.”
“Absolutely, they may targeting us; they may not. But, Wilder, if you attack them only because they wear no uniforms,” Carlos cut in, “the excuse stands poorly. We kill them, the temple and the corps will not let us off.”
“Friendly fire, that’s very common. It’s not unheard of, right?” said Wilder, “By the way, boss will cover my ass.”
Having heard Wilder said that, all turned their eyes to me.
“You’re not wrong about I can get off anything, let along an episode like such.” I nodded, “Now, I’m asking everybody to make their assumptions since we’re unable to communicate with the outside.”
“The outside…” Moya said, “I think the War is over now.”
“Tell me about it.” I said with a straight face, “Who’s the winner?”
“AUF won. I can tell by them sending a massive amount of troops solely to target us.” Moya said, “Those soldiers came from the AUF’s 2nd warzone. It’s basically on the other far end of the Line. If they were not winning, they can’t spare to direct soldiers from that far.”
“Needless to say.” Wilder humphed, “PUF must be withdrawing now, better yet…”
“What?” I gazed at Wilder.
“Boss, I wanted to speak up days ago. How could we wind up being surrounded in the Clay City? Who the hell drove those refugees to block our way? We’ve been betrayed!” Wilder said, “Now they’re right in our face. Boss, why the hell are you waiting?”
“And what do you think we should do now?” said I.
“We blow their fucking asses and get back to Galia.”
“Good idea.” I stood up, “We do it.”
Carlos watched me in astonishment, “Sir…?”
“Do it.” I stopped Carlos with my eyes, “Moya and Jack, carry on with the training plan. Staff officers get your hands on operation plan immediately. Marfa, do your job and try to make contact with Galia.”
“Steven, tell you men to enlarge scouting area near the exit.” I made a circle on the map, “Off you go now, everybody!”
“Sir, yes, sir.”
Wilder’s name was not mentioned so he said with anxiety, “Boss, what about me?”
“You?” I began removing my armor, “Get us 2 horses. Let’s take a ride.”
Hence Wilder and I rode for nearly 2 hours until the end of the tunnel. I said nothing on the way; neither did Wilder who followed obediently.
A 1 mile wide woods was there at the end of the tunnel. Outside the woods was flatlands. The landform will enable riders to reach my front base Galia City of Swabia within 3 days.
Two regiments that remained original system totaling 5, 000 were guarding this place. Their leaders were on their way to see me, joggling.
“Back to your posts.” I was not in the mood to listen to them, “Battle station.”
“Yes, sir.” One of the two replied, “We’re always ready.”
I glanced at him, “Are you questioning my order?”
“No, sir! Right away!”
“Wilder,” I dismounted and started heading toward the woods, “with me.”
I told my IGTs to stay put and cross the woods with Wilder. Now we were looking at the plain.
“Boss, what’s our business here?” Wilder was at a loss, “Why are we here?”
“Because you and I are having a talk.” I didn’t bother to look back, talked, “How far are we to the canyon exit?”
“20 miles, no less.”
“20 miles is not far.” I nodded, “We’ll walk and talk. Go!”
“To the exit?” Wilder paused for a second, “What for?”
“To take down the 6, 000.” I threw a look at him, my tone emotionless.
“Say that again!” Wilder yelled, “Say that again, boss!”
“I said, we’re going to kill those enemies.” I turned to him, half smiled.
“Roger that.” Wilder took a moment to absorb my words. Excitedly, his rigid and rough face started glowing vigor of redness, his eyes lightened and slightly swelled, “I’ll gather troops, one regiment is totally enough!”
The way he’s rubbing his fists and itching for a fight resembled a starved man facing a feast.
“No, I said ‘we’, you and me.” I looked at Wilder in his eyes and stated word by word, “No others.”
Obviously, my words cast a chill over the general in front of me. The latter’s thrilling face turned pale instantly.
“Are you joking with me, boss?” Wilder could not believe what I said. I wondered he must be doubting my mental integrity, “The two of us take down 6, 000?”
“Are you insane, boss?! Are you out of you mind!?”
“I’m not.” I said lightly, “You’re an excellent fighter and I know a bit of magic.”
“That’s far from dealing with 6, 000!” Wilder nearly roared. He bounced over and took my shoulder, his sharp eyes gazed at mine as if they were going to penetrate my head, “Madness! You know where that leads to…”
“Yes, I know!” My palm slapped harshly on Wilder’s cheek, “DO YOU?!”
“Boss, why!” A hint of blood streamed from Wilder’s mouth corner, he was completely disoriented. His waggled, dazed head glanced at me with the most dreadful look, “I’ve never taken such a humiliation from you. What did I do wrong!?”
“Wrong? You tell me! Are you fully aware of who they are, the consequence if you rush an attack!? Your reckless act will put everyone in danger! If they’re the enemy’s vanguarding troops, YOUR act will lead to a deadly result! WHAT IF THEY’RE OUR FRIENDLY ARMY!” I said, cold-faced, “Yes, I hit you. You don’t like it! You’ve always been not convinced. Since the day I reached the garden and became the boss, YOU’VE BEEN HOLDING GRUDGES, AREN’T YOU!”
“…” Wilder opened his mouth, but no words. Probably he did not anticipate that I mentioned it.
“I can see you really care about the boss title. Is it REALLY so important to you that you’ve been trying everything to prove you’re better than myself?” I continued, ‘AM I right?!”
“…” Wilder’s throat elevated, he swallowed but said nothing. Though the silence persisted, Wilder’s inner struggle was all written on his face.
“I said, you probably recall, that I hoped you as well as all of my brothers to accomplish way, way more than me. I hoped that all of you can thrill the world with your own name instead of mine. However, that doesn’t mean you can be reckless and do things without considering consequences.” I said, “You’re a year older than me, you ought to know it.”
My confession seemed to have intimated Wilder as his eyes turned fierce, “I do now!”
“You didn’t! You were the one who craved to attack without enemy details, were you not? You wanna kill enemies, earn medals, I’m fine with it. But please, please, please do not send MY troopers on a death mission!” I raised my voice and I intend to intensify the conflict, “Have you EVER looked at a dying soldier in the eyes!? Have you!? Have you marked their shocking, confusing, helpless, DESPERATE eyes in your heart!!!”
This moment, my thoughts went back to that blood-stained Clay City as if the dead men’s sorrowful howlings once again filled my ears. An invisible metal ring chained my chest, which dragged my breath out and my mind crazy.
I was able to cast aside the bloody nightmare and glared my eyes, “As your boss, as your bro, I’ll go with you, conquering, but I’ll never allow a single soldier to die out of your recklessness!”
“They won’t!” Wilder darted to face my eyes, shouted, “I will have the victory!”
“There’s no so-called victory for a meaningless fight! You cannot project your eager for winning onto the others!” I caught Wilder by his collar and nailed every of my word into the ears of the man facing me, “Soldiers die, I can live with it, but I CANNOT let them die in vain!”
“NOT IN VAIN!” Wilder was on the edge of losing himself. He dumped my hands, “I’m a commander. I bath blood with soldiers. How do you call that meaningless?”
“A commander? You’re a 3rd-grade commander at most.”
“So which grade are you? You’re nothing better than me!” Wilder looked aside, his neck was as stiff as an iron-set pillar. Then he said the most heartless words, “You were a dead man if it weren’t for me.”
“You’re right. I’m no better.” I sighed, “Since you’re a mighty general, let the fists do the talk. You still remember how to duel?”
“You tell me!”
“Then what’re you waiting for, you cocky, short-sighted, stupid wimp!”
“Say that again!” Wilder reddened his eyes, fists clenched, “SAY THAT AGAIN!”
With no bullshit, I swung my hard fist onto him. Wilder dodged once, twice at the start; however, my verbal abuse had finally intrigued him to fight me.
The fistfight took long. No one held back, nor was there any watchers.
Half an hour later, both Wilder and I were on our backs like rotten bananas, panting like bulls.
The cost of energy from the fight had eased the fury a bit. Between sounds of rapid gasps, our eyes on each other’s face gradually calmed.
As we retired on the plain, gentle breeze slipped through our hair, drying our sweat-swollen foreheads. Eventually, the two of us burst out laughing after a prolonged period of gazing each other, like when we were younger.
“POOH! Pah! NUTS!” Wilder puked some rotten grass out of his mouth, “Again, shame on you, noble lord!”
Because I cheated in the fight earlier.
“Noble lord? When was the last you see me as a lord?” I grinned, “Being cheated on tastes bad, doesn’t it?”
“Taste for yourself!” Wilder whined while cleaning his face.
“You dare me!” I sat up, eyes rolled at Wilder, “This lord tastes everything BUT a cheat.”
“Curse you!” Wilder helped himself up and beseated beside me, “It hurts…”
“Keep your distance, get away!” I shoved him, “Are you ok now?”
“Quit pushing me! I’m a dead man now.” said Wilder, “What the fuck… is all that about?”
“I meant between us.” said Wilder, “I know you’re my boss and I also know you value our brotherhood. But on the other hand, you were right. I have the eager to do better than you in all the aspects. Damn it, I’ve put up with you for quite a while and I can’t not let it smoke.”
“Human beings are unique because we have emotion, but eagerness is shared by all living beings. Seems like a paradox, actually it’s not. As a human being, the conundrum is nothing more than balancing emotions and desires.” said I, “You’re smart and you know what to do. Actually, I’m in no position to give you advice due to the subtlety of inter-human relationship.”
“What should I do. My head is about to explode.” Wilder, helplessly lied on his back, nipped a root of grass, “Boss, tell me what to do, just tell me already.”
An extended silence passed.
“What happened to me…” Wilder shook his head, “Just tell me, I’m begging you.”
“You, you’re blinded by sick desires.” said I, “Have you ever reviewed your heart?”
“Review my heart?” Wilder murmured. He seemed to be not so interested in the subject and turned away and started inhaling the scent of grass, “I don’t even have enough time to review others, let alone myself.”
“Indeed! We’ve been restless for days, overwhelmed by things. We never got the chance to do it.” I nodded, “My head was on the verge of exploding.”
“No wonder you were absent for days. You’ve gone to review your heart.” Wilder turned to me, “Boss, tell me about your findings. They might come in handy for me.”
“I have to properly deal with things.” said I, “Your problem is not for you alone. In my case, my relationship with Fischer is a huge deal.”
“Fischer and you?” Wilder froze, “What happened between you two?”
This chapter was originally published on Wuxianation, any despicable reposts or copies without proper citings are strictly prohibited.