Translated by Tianic, edited by Grammarly, contributing editor: Tana N
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“[dropcap]S[/dropcap]ir!” A swift horse whinnied and made an upright standing to hold back the momentum. The animal stopped and remained steady as the knight on it saluted Major General Brandon, the supreme commander of the AUF 26th Legion, “The enemies have entered the clay city!”
“Good, you’re dismissed.” Brandon laughed and talked to the one beside him, “Such an impressive plan from the HQ, it’s flawless!”
“I’ve seen the map; the clay city is only as tall as 2 adults combined.” A young officer beside asked, “Sir, are we initiating an imminent attack?”
“Negative,” Brandon said, “our mission is to watch and keep them where they are while waiting for the follow-up troops.”
“Why not? They’re not too remarkable as we’ve seen.” The young officer asked curiously, “Won’t we stand out if we exterminate the Phantom Legion before the other legions arrive?”
“Not too remarkable? Do you have any ideas what price we had to pay in order to trap the Phantom Legion here?” Brandon said gravely, “The reason why Marshal Valerian accept the PUF’s ceasefire parley was mostly aimed to surround and annihilate this very enemy army!”
“To capture the Phantom Legion, our military headquarters have drawn a thorough operational plan. No matter where they run, they cannot escape the fate of extinction.” Brandon talked word by word while laying his eyes on the vague clay city wall in the distance, “More than 20 legions have taken part in the plan. Just to prevent them from running further into the our friendly allies territories, we’ve deployed 9 legions to defend the two empire borders neighboring Camp! The rest legions were ordered to form big or small clusters to guard the peripheral area. There are 3 legions deployed specifically to drive the refugees on the Protoss/Asmodian Line.”
“Are they that good?” The young officer was astonished, “Do we really need to send in that many forces?”
“Suppose you have 5, 000 soldiers including 300 Scorpion Warriors,” General Brandon looked at the young officer, “how many PUF soldiers can you handle?”
“20, 000!” The young officer said, “At least 20, 000! Kill me if I can’t!”
“Kill you? I’m afraid you’ll need more than one head to die with.” Brandon shook his head, “They vanquished this troop with a casualty of less than 2, 000!”
“It’s true, let alone causing a general turmoil in Camp all by itself.” Brandon said hatefully, “Owing to the headquarter’s determination to catch them, they’ve ordered to burn every hiding place behind the border, or they’ll mostly keep staying here, no one will capture them!”
“If they’re so imposing like you said, are all the refugees combined in the canyon enough to keep them here?”
“No matter the reason, this is the plan the HQ gave us. And yes, they’re indeed trapped here.” Brandon made a faint smile, “As we’ve driven the enemies in, there will be people to keep them here. Our friendly troops are mobilizing for this single enemy legion on the entire Line. PUF wants to get away from the War; we want to wipe out the Phantom Legion, it’s a win-win.”
“How’s that possible?” The young officer can’t help but shook his head, “I cannot imagine PUF would backstab their own friendly troops.”
“Son, this is the result of the parley, try to remember that. Besides, there’re no good men in the Protoss Alliance.” Brandon said, “So much for the talking, I need to keep my eyes on them before other troops arrive. You’ll bring a report for me to Xawin!”
“But, father!” The officer said, “If I go, I’ll never be part of the fight!”
“Glenns, this is an order.”
“Yes, father, if you insist.”
Glenns took the papers from his father and parted reluctantly with his horse.
“Silly boy, the War is not a joke. When can you grow up, you’re already 20.” Brandon retrieved his vision and turned to his duty officer, “All units, stand guard! Mages take turns to float and monitor the enemy! Report any unusual activities!”
Meanwhile, on the clay city wall, Cohen Kheda’s pre-war meeting was taking place.
“Obviously, we can’t enter the canyon.” Marfa, the Chief Liaison Officer, said, “Our wingman scouts have investigated along the canyon. The refugees in the canyon have not shown any signs of moving forward. This is to say, even if we kill all the people here, we can’t go through the canyon, not a chance.”
“Don’t even think about killing them. I just saw many of our soldiers ran to the back wall and tossed their food to their families.” Jack, the Lord Justice said, “Even some of my LAD staffs did the same. My men took pains to order them to come back down. If we were to force our soldiers to kill their own relatives, I’m very sure they’ll rise and mutiny.”
“My guess is someone sealed the entrance on the other side of the canyon.” Cohen Kheda talked while gazing the map, “They must’ve wanted to encircle us here and wipe us out for good.”
“Sir, are you suggesting,” Moya said under his breath, “they’ve betrayed us?”
“Not necessarily. There might be other reasons.” Cohen glanced the officers around him while considering it was not a time to investigate the reasons behind, “Send wingmen and see what you can do regarding the refugees in the canyon. It’ll take time, let’s plan the defense.”
As the men were having the meeting, a scouting officer came over and handed in a piece of intelligence paper.
“We’re having a tiny problem.” Cohen glanced the writing, “The enemy’s reinforcements have arrived. It’s yet another team of light cavalries. They’ll be here in an hour.”
“Send my order, let there be 4 regiments in the front of the clay city. Let the rest cover them while they set the snares. Fortify the city wall, destroy all the irrelevant structures in the city. Gear regiment will hurry up manufacturing defense equipment.” Cohen made a paper ball out of the intelligence, “Logistics regiment, check out the operations inventory. Restrict the rations from this moment forward, duration 10 days.”
“Sir, yes, sir!”
“Sir, 10, 000 enemy troops are dressing down the clay city wall!”
“Any signs of the main enemy force mobilizing?” Brandon asked.
“Where are my reinforcements?”
“The nearest troop is the 27th Legion,” Brandon’s deputy answered, “they’ll be here in an hour!”
“Give my order to deploy formation and prepare for battle.” Brandon said, “Push slowly to a distance of 3 miles from them. No further actions will take place without my order!”
“Sir, yes, sir!”
Not long after, the whole legion has split into 3 with a mile in intervals. Each side had a front, a middle and a rear part. Among horn blowings, all units were proceeding patiently in order.
The AUF 26th Legion was actually the Welsh (adjective form of Wells, an Asmodian empire) 2nd Imperial Guarding Troop of the Asmodian Alliance.
It was a legion of glory and outstanding achievements. The army was robust in style and excellent in long-ranged march. During each Protoss/Asmodian War, the AUF 26th Legion has always been utilized to seal the enemy’s route of retreat. It was a convenient door-locking bar. In contrary, it was the first time for them to run after their enemies like this.
As a commander, Major General Brandon acted cautiously during this operation.
He had a clear mind that it was his own fight to win honor for his own Wells Empire. The other legion commander of the empire, Major General Hamptons already died because of the Phantom Legion.
Wells was a vast territory with a sparse population. It can barely deploy more than a few legions to actually contribute to the War. Marshal Valerian has been jeering them since Wells afforded to send only 2 petty forces during this war.
At this moment, Brandon’s deputy officer rode over and asked, “Sir, the enemies are building defenses! I think we should disrupt them.”
“Let them be.” Brandon didn’t turn a hair, “The original operational plan does not require us to initiate any sorts of active attack.”
“But…” The deputy officer said, “Their completed defenses system will mean trouble for our attack.
“Just do our job.” Brandon said lightly, “As for the strike, that’s the reinforcements’ job. I’ll leave the trouble to their commanders.”
Indeed, the order from the military headquarters for Brandon required him only to inspect the Cammish area of the Line. If they spotted enemies, they needed only to stick to the enemies and wait for reinforcements. As long as the enemies did not slip, Major General Brandon won’t need to consider anything else in case of mishaps, which would make him end up being captured and hang.
Thus, both parties all formed good formations and entered a standoff. No matter the AUF troops on their horses or the pikemen from the Phantom Legion down the clay city wall all remained silent. No one on the empty ground can hear a thing except for the sounds of the wind blows and armor clashing on the wall.
An hour later, AUF reinforcements have arrived.
The one that came was the AUF 27th Legion. It was a rather unusual force. Although the soldiers in the 27th legion were mounted, they were not a team of calvaries. They were more accustomed to riding to the battlefield and fighting as infantries. Why? Because they came from the Brooks empire whose wealth spoke louder than others. It consisted of 2 elite Champion regiments.
“Tell their commanders that we can stay alerted for another 3 hours.” Brandon told his deputy, “Take their time to rest.”
“Sir, why are we giving them 3 more hours?” The deputy said, “The 27th Legion is a group of asses. They robbed my victory last time.”
“You don’t know that. Our frontline commanders operate with the 28th Legion. And the 28th Legion is less than a 3-hours ride from here.” Brandon said, “As soon as the commanders come, they naturally wanna play rough on the enemies. He can’t let a team of light cavalries who’s been standing for the entire noon do the job.”
“I see!” The deputy saw the light suddenly, “The ones who rested should lead the attack!”
“You need to remember, the war ain’t no easy job.” Brandon habitually shook his head, “We’re faced with not just the enemies, we’re faced with anyone but ourselves.”
After the commanders of the 2 legion officers communicated, the 27th Legion dismounted and started resting, the rest of the soldiers dropped wood and began building fences and camps.
The striking sounds became even denser from the wall.
The Asmodian United Forces military headquarter, Foxburg, Capital of Brookes.
“Sir!” A colonel dashed into the intelligence department with a piece of intelligence paper dancing crazily in his hands, “Major! Major Swiss Hepburn! We’ve surrounded the Phantom Legion!”
“Alert the other commanders, tell them to gather at Marshal Valerian’s!” Swiss dropped the documents in his hands and grabbed the paper from the colonel then rushed toward Marshal Valerian’s chamber.
The senior officers in the AUF military headquarters have never gathered at the same place in such a short period. When Major Swiss was half way into his report to Marshal Valerian, the heads and commanders of the headquarter have crowded the Marshal’s chamber. For a short while, many golden stars glittered in the room; Swiss was the one with the lowest rank.
“… the Phantom Legion have been evicted from Camp. The 26th Legion spotted them when they were falling back.” Swiss said as his finger moved on the map, “The 26th Legion is the most rapid light cavalry legion in the united forces; they will not lose them! Behind the 26th is the 27th and the 28th! These 3 legions all come from the 2nd war zone. Their communication and cooperation should not be a problem. In addition, 5 more slave armies are on their way. Our enemies are in a dead place. The Phantom Legion is in our bag since we’re fighting 60, 000! with 350, 000”
“Around these time, I’ve never been any happier, not even when the PUF admitted their failure and signed the treaty. That sense of achievement only occurred moments ago. Vanquishing the Phantom Legion is truly a thing to be happy for!” Valerian stood up from his chair, “Do you know, Swiss? You have brought me the greatest news during this War! I want to express my thank to everyone. You’ve drawn a perfect period in the last war of my military career!”
“Marshal, you should buy us a drink!” An Admiral General said.
“As soon as the news of their annihilation is confirmed, I’ll give each of you 10 barrels of top-class wine!” Valerian roared and his face was full of radiant of vigour, “And 3 top bayaderes each, and 5 Uruke maidservants!”
“Haha, those 3 main battle legions are the best in the 2nd war zone!” A Lieutenant General laughed, “Plus the 5 slave armies, Marshal, you’ll be throwing a hell of money this time!”
“I have to order a new suit…”
“Mr. Staff Officer, Marshal has promised us 3 top-class bayaderes! I’d say you need to stop screwing around since now judging from your body status, or you’ll have to find a guy to help you…”
“Do you want a race?”
Major Swiss retreated from the Marshal’s chamber among the generals’ teasing. He rambled in the porch, head lowered, fingers flicked on his rapier hilt. A sense of pitiness added to his overwhelming excitement.
As one of the masterminds behind this series of plans, no one knew better than him how much the AUF has paid in order to capture this Phantom Legion: they not only had to purposely spare an Asmodian empire for the Phantom Legion to ruin, but also ended the Protoss/Asmodian War ahead of time.
“They all proved worthwhile…” Swiss reached a piece of document from his chest. He would read the letters in it almost every day recently that he could basically recite what’s on it.
Classified: An overview of the PUF’s 9th Legion.
The 9th Legion of the Protoss United Forces was a transitional legion established a year ago before the War based on the combination of the former PUF 22th Legion and the 19th Legion. Its soldiers consisted of all drafted/hunted slaves before the War. Most of them came from the Protoss/Asmodian Line. The 9th Legion’s troop composition is incredibly complex. Likewise, their combat effectiveness was below average. The commander of the 9th Legion is Knight of Protoss, Earl Cohen Kheda.
Cohen Kheda, 18, a Swabian hereditary nobility of the Protoss Alliance. He attended the Swabian Royal Academy during his early years. He was later expelled due to his vile deeds. Cohen Kheda was titled a Baron at the age of 16 and became the first Viceroy of the Swabian Dark Province. During the defending battle of the royal trial in Porta Empire, Cohen Kheda was granted an audience by the Protoss race and later titled a Knight of Protoss due to his excellent performance.
The man lusts for women. He has 3 wives at the age of 16. His behavior is notorious and his nature tyrannical, he has once slaughtered 300 -ish military officers under his 9th Legion establishment. Cohen Kheda is so insolent and arrogant that he once insanely robbed his friendly forces dozens of times. He even marched down and surrounded the PUF military supply warehouses. Cohen Kheda is outstanding in personal abilities, he has a unique view on army management and training…
The document came from the PUF military headquarters. It included the general information of this army, biography of Cohen Kheda; it even consisted the letters Cohen wrote to the PUF headquarters.
The number of copies of the whole set of the documents including this one did not exceed 5. These things were the only offer from the Protoss United Forces when they signed the armistice. They’ve avoided the fated doom of at least 10 legions with it.
“A commander at the age of 18, he’s even younger than I.” Swiss stopped reading. Instead, he made a pitying sigh, “I wish I could meet this peculiar guy…”
“WATCH OUT!” A hoarse voice resounded on the clay city wall, “Incoming magic attack!”
At the alert, Cohen, who wore a set of silver Protoss Knight’s armor, raised his head as a medium-sized magic sphere launched over from the enemy front crowd toward the clay city wall. It bumped onto the protective screen and dispersed.
The PUF soldiers who were fortifying the wall didn’t even bother to spare a glimpse. With their mages’ protection, they were perfectly safe to take the time and do what mattered the most at the moment.
As the commanders have said, the thicker the wall, the greater the odds to win. The higher the wall, the more the enemies will die. These soldiers were without much education, though they could deal with simple math.
In as short as 2 days, the once 2-men high clay city wall has become as high as 5 adults combined. Likewise, the buildings in the city were all demolished to build a labyrinthic ground out of the messy streets.
It was not an overstatement to call it a labyrinth because the whole inner city was divided by dust walls alike. These walls had twists and turns as well as countless odd corners. Whoever came in will surely be lost.
On the other hand, the AUF’s reinforcements were arriving continuously. Puffs of dust could be seen from afar during the day. When at night, an endless number of torch lights flared. The lights combined in the thin mist to form a vast stretch of rouge in the darkness.
On the first day of the siege, AUF troops had a tentative attack, which ended up with thousands of death before they even reached the foot of the wall. After the first strike, more physical attacks mixed with spells of various scales persisted.
However, Cohen’s soldiers were the definition of the words ‘tough’ and ‘flexible.
Whenever the enemies charged, the fielding troops fought a bloody battle; whenever the enemies retreated, logistics staffs quickly took over the wall and started urgent repairs.
AUF troops cannot see anything from outside of the clay city, but within it, the 9th Legion was like a machine with thousands of parts moving in accordance with the enemy’s movements.
“Sir,” Colonel Carlos, Chief of Staff of the 9th Legion came by Cohen’s side and said, “The defense system is almost completed.”
“What about the wingman squad you’ve deployed? Have they brought any news back?”
“There’s no way out within a hundred miles in radius.” Carlos lowered his voice, “And the wingmen I sent to investigate the canyon exit didn’t make it back.”
“What’s your view on the current situation.” Cohen underplayed his wording and asked.
“I… I can’t be any more optimistic.”
“Actually, I’m more or less the same!” Cohen’s laughter made a few IGTs share their glance, “Nevertheless, we still need to fight this war, and we have to figure out a way to win!”
Carlos’ vision flew across the empty space between the city and the enemy camps. His mind was already taken over by the countless enemies instead of Cohen’s words.
As a senior officer, Carlos knew the dim odd for them to win under such a circumstance; as a subordinate, he has made up his mind to stay beside Cohen until the last moment.
“Looks like they’re commencing an all-out attack.” Cohen gazed upon the distance, “Prepare to meet head-on!”
Carlos followed Cohen to reach their commanding center where located a tower conveniently built higher than the city wall in order to overview the whole battlefield.
Among the army bugle sounds, the Asmodian troops were lining their soldiers outside catapult’s range. Quite a few duty officers were riding between lines as teams of Asmodian soldiers running out of their tents and gathered behind the attacking troops. The scale of attack this time exceeded any other prior to this one. There were just too many soldiers.
The frontmost line consisted several slave armies. Suppressed by the commanders, the ragged slave soldiers stayed absolutely quiet. Behind them, their supervisors were loading their enhanced crossbows on the horses.
In the middle of the formation stood the champions from the 27th Legion. Covered in exquisite armors, they were gazing coldly at the clay city from a distance.
These proud champions lost out on their first day of the attacks. Many brothers died under the Phantom Legion’s traps. Though dying on a battlefield was an honor, dying in traps was most irritating. In their words, “The enmity is so raged!”
The very last force in the crowd came from the 28th Legion. There were quite a few special forces among the animal skin-wearing savages. Their weapons and armors messiness among the united forces was second to none: long, short, thick and thin, you name it. Some soldiers were holding giant maces taller than themselves; some were holding giant single-handed axes, some with meteor hammers.
The green and flowery outfits can not conceal the killing desire that were coming out of their eyes. In truth, the 28th Legion was the most furious and capable combat army among all other legions from the 2nd war zone. These soldiers were currently stretching their bodies with clenched teeth, vowing to teach the Phantom Legion bastards a lesson.
Hundreds of bannermen rode to the frontmost of the formation carrying fire-red flags. Instantly, all noise in the AUF crowd seized save for slight touching sounds of metal.
After the high-pitched sound of army bugle, came the ear-shattering sounds of whoop among the AUF mess. The yelling was like the sound of surge during a tsunami and the howlings of boundless raging sand in sandstorms. All rose and spun overwhelming toward the clay city. Even the wall of the city wouldn’t stop shivering by the roar.
The ground trembled. AUF initiated their strike!
The soldiers from the Protoss United Forces emerged their eyes between the arrow mounds on the wall, watched the incoming hostile waves in the distance.
After days of harsh fights, they were able to tell the dull, roaring sounds of steps out of the disordered noise. They watched silently while tightening the hold on their weapons.
Cohen was standing on top of the commanding tower. He gazed motionlessly on the closing AUF troops. Pieces of orders were coming out of his mouth and were passed further with gestures by the officers downstairs.
All archers and marksmen were gathered and commanded to stand behind the wall.
“Mark 10 knots, draw!” The commander’s hoarse yellings saw thousands of arrows aiming the sky at the exact same angle.
“Steady, steady…” The officers lingered the last sound while glimpsing the commanding tower.
Cohen saw the AUF marching troops were closing into arrow firing range with trails of dust behind them. Suddenly, his right hand that has leveled over his chest slashed downward hard!
“LOOSE!” Seeing Cohen’s gesture, the officers shouted eagerly. The depressing air before the battle was so insufferable that the soldiers were much relieved once the war started.
By the TWANG sounds, a dense cloud of arrows scrambled the sky sharply. Elegantly, they crossed the wall, and the dark mass of the arrows darted toward their shooters’ target. The bolts twisted and strived all the way into the bodies of the AUF soldiers.
The ones in the front were the slave soldiers who were without enough protective armors. Actually, they had nothing except for the much-ragged piece of cloth.
They also saw the arrow rain, the clouds after clouds, vague yet conspicuous rain of arrows. But they wouldn’t dare to stop. If they rush forward, they still had a chance to live, nervously standing will end up killed by the supervisors though.
The arrows knew nothing about misery, they were nothing besides a wooden stick with feathers attached and a piece of metal on their heads. Their only mission was to swiftly dash away from the bowstrings according to their masters’ will. Sticking into human flesh made no difference than falling into dust for them.
Hence, blood splashed on the terrain, screams soared straight up into the sky.
As a row of slave soldiers fell, another row of slave soldiers advanced forward to face the arrow rains. They ran as some of them fell or dodged, screamed timidly or crazily. None of them were not welcoming the cold arrows with their warm chest and blood.
Orders shouted out, arrows were flying, blood was splashing, and the souls were failing…
The slaves’ formation has collapsed. In fact, none of them had the slightest hope to reach the wall. They were nothing but a moving human shield. The 27th Legion soldiers pushed their own slave expendables forward, letting their bodies be penetrated by sharp arrows and blood stain the ground.
Thanks to the slaves’ sacrifice, the 27th Legion who stayed in the rear was able to keep their formation. Thus these well-armored troopers closed the wall in the sequence of blades and shields, pikes, arrows, and bows.
As a countermeasure, massive stones kicked by the catapults from the inner wall landed in the 27th Legion crowd, making the enemies cried and fled.
The stones were not able to tell the demeaning slaves from the honored champions. In this case, a single landed stone will result in many folds of broken arms and legs in number. Under such attacks, those AUF soldiers who were lucky to avoid the lethal stones still had to face thousands of enhanced arrows from the wall.
After paying the ultimate price, AUF’s first siege ladder had finally been placed on the top of the targeted wall, then came the second and the third. AUF soldiers howled while starting climbing. Behind them, their own archers finally fired their first round of arrows.
However, the PUF soldiers on the wall were well-prepared for the coming challenge. They immediately started pushing away the ladders along with the men on them by utilizing long hooks.
Countless enemy soldiers fell as the ladders fell with the falling stones, they were never able to reach the wall. Nevertheless, by the constant replenish of AUF reinforcement, the PUF’s enhanced bows achieved little on short and medium ranged attacks.
Soldiers of both parties went crazy. No one cared about his miserly life any longer. Archers on the wall started pouring arrows continuously without evening aiming. Any random stones could land on a big pile of enemies’ bodies. Such a fast depletion speed made the logistics soldiers broke their leg as well.
As the bodies under the wall piled and raising, no one seemed to care among the AUF troops. Dying on the battlefield will be an honor. They even started building siege ladders with corpses instead of wood.
The soldiers climbed while biting their blades in their mouth. Though such a foolish method did not contribute much to the strike, their fierce spirit was worth calling.
As the second batch of the siege ladders had arrived. In the meantime, the AUF archers have started supporting in order. Before this moment, they’ve been targeting randomly and scatteredly. Now, after a few officers corrected them, they were able to focus the targets and gain a bit of advantage on a piece of short wall.
The support came out successfully: an AUF soldier tenaciously reached the head of the wall while puking blood after a few stones bumped his body. Although he immediately fell because several spears made some deadly holes in his body, a burst of cheerings echoed from the AUF crowd.
The cheering brought an unnamable excitement for the other soldiers, so naturally, a growing number of AUF soldiers followed and reached the wall top.
What welcomed them were numerous cold spearheads and war blades. PUF soldiers howled to try to drive their enemies away from the wall.
In the chaos, quite a few barbarian soldiers that reach the wall brought significant damage to the wall defenders.
In the glint and flash of cold steel, people of both parties meddled in a fierce battle. The twisted crowded gushed while shaking spears, slashing with blades, biting with mouths and knocking with their heads.
The moment after an AUF trooper who climbed onto the wall was cut in half before he could even stabilize himself, the armed PUF soldier who did the job was knocked away by another AUF barbarian champion.
Bathed in blood, an arrow hit the barbarian’s forehead then a wooden beam smashed his chest. He instantly fell in a blood pit whilst lingering on his last breath of life.
The following barbarian roared while waving his pair of giant ax to fight tensely with a few PUF soldiers. Barbarians were extremely tough since his giant weapon axes have brought countless casualties. When he slashed the 3rd PUF soldier on the chest and made that man into 2 pieces, he has discovered he was unable to move. After a dazzling flash of light, the barbarian became a pile of ashes floating in the air.
The killer: a PUF mage turned away and ran to other critical sectors with 2 sergeant officer escorts.
It turned out the Asmodian United Forces struck the wall again and again, only ended up being driven down time after time. And the cycle continued.
During the undisguised slaughtering, no gimmicks were serviceable, neither did righteous war watchwords. Soldiers were cheering themselves with the most old-fashioned roaring and keeping themselves alive with the directest method.
Fragmented bodies were everywhere on the rather narrow wall top. The sanguinary smell of sticky scarlet red liquid condensed and streamed down the wall with a mix of dirt, making the several miles wall nauseating scarlet.
Three hours later, the attack ended with the AUF’s retreat. Both parties were exhausted.
Cohen said only one sentence to the ebb-like enemies, “Relieve the garrison and treat the wounded. Prepare for their next attack.”
Neurotic soldiers were switched by others. They were carried down the wall while muttering quietly and their faces paled.
Some of them sprung at the wells viciously for water; some stared at the sky speechlessly with dull eyes; others just kept question about their friends’ whereabouts.
A day has passed, 2 days have passed. From day to night, AUF’s attack never seized.
During the enemies’ swelling attacks, the depletion rate of the PUF’s weapons and armors was enormous. Even under the circumstance that the gear regiment has exhausted themselves to work on the issue and every piece of resource in the clay city was made into ‘weapons’, the consumption overtook the replenishment.
Many soldiers’ damaged weapons could not be repaired. Catapults were out of stones. Even the use of archers was limited.
The petty clay city was already a teetered one that could not hold much longer, but surprisingly, it lived out every attack.
A few horse whinnies brought a drained officer down his ride. He handed the rein to his guard and entered the largest tent in the AUF camp.
“Lieutenant General,” He roared, “The 3-hour attack has finished. I’m here to debrief!”
“What’s the situation?” A lieutenant general at his 40s asked in a soft voice.
“Sir, the situation ain’t good. Our loss is much greater compared to that of the Phantom Legion.”
The lieutenant general flapped his palm. The latter exited the tent discreetly.
“Gentlemen, we’ve been striking for quite a few days. The enemies are still resisting stubbornly.” The lieutenant talked to 3 legion chiefs beside him, “The entire alliance is watching us. What should we do?”
“We’ll have an even higher casualty rate if we keep on like this.”
“General, we should not initiate another round of strike given the high morale.”
The 3 legion chiefs came to an agreement that the lieutenant general should ease the attack.
“Gentlemen, our injuries and deaths are severe, but the Phantom Legion’s are even greater! We have backups, but they do not.” The lieutenant smiled, “We should keep on striking. We should give them no time to rest. Now, destroy their defense with the readied catapults. After 2 more days at most, we should be able to initiate the final attack after the next slave armies came.
“You’ve made up your mind already, and yet you asked us, you son of the bitch!” The 3 legion chiefs cursed in their hearts while complied in words.
“Go and prepare yourselves. From now on, each attack will be personally commanded by one of you three.” The lieutenant kept on smiling, “You will sustain the attacks, days and nights!”
Thus the AUF army horns sounded once again. The order made the AUF troops stand in formation again. The finished siege engines were deployed. Major General of the 27th Legion mounted while talked in profanity and urged his troops to advance.
As for the defenders in the clay city, they took turns to defend days and nights. Although everybody has exhausted their last breath of energy, they could only keep the wall from being breached. They never had the chance to patch the wall anymore.
Stricken by the powerful AUF catapults, the outer wall was already dilapidated. Before the start of every attack, AUF soldiers were all so sure that they will certainly breach the targeted wall this time since it was so thin that a single forced finger will poke it through.
Nevertheless, an army named the Phantom Legion was in control of the city. As long as the Phantom soldiers were still on the wall, the barrier was given a life and a soul!
This animated wall stood towering. Countless AUF soldiers have died in front of it. Numerous AUF officers have cursed it. Even, countless teams with brilliant histories have returned from defeats.
No lives or souls will result in running blood.
The Phantom soldiers have poured their hearts and warm blood into the wall. They have forged their flesh together into one body with the clay barrier. The cost, however, was huge.
Thousands of cold bodies were lying quietly down the other side of the clay city wall. These corpses were fresh and live days ago.
Although these bodies were washed and dressed in new clothes, to their comrades and commanders, they were more likable when alive. Despite that fact that these people were on dirty, stinky and constantly doing foolish things.
More injured soldiers were placed at a nearby spot. Due to the lack of personnel on the war front, the care of these injured was trusted to the refugees in the city. These refugees came from various places. Often the whole village fled from their hometown. There was no lack of people who excelled in medical and magical skills.
During the fierce battle these days, the refugees have shown an outstanding quality of self-discipline. No one made troubles or revolted.
Whenever there was a battle on the wall, the refugees stayed put while gazing the scene with their silent eyes. Whenever the fight on the wall was over, they moved quickly to carry the wounded or helped to bring the beams with their bare upper bodies.
Among the refugees, hundreds of clan leaders and village chiefs gathered in order to allocate their poorly supplied food.
Thus the hungry people searched for every digestible thing between the battles: birds, ants, bugs. Everything that moved and things from thin leaves to poisonless grass won’t escape their eyes.
The miserable battle has made Cohen’s heart as cold as steel. The memories of his previous life have been vividly remembered. After seeing the starved looks from the refugees’ eyes, Cohen sent 2 battalions to guard the soldiers’ bodies.
This day, the temporary chief nominated by hundreds of thousands of refugees came to see Cohen. He wanted Cohen to take back the guarding soldiers for the corpses.
“My Lord, during a war,” The old man said, “your weapons should point to the enemies instead of us.”
“So tell me, how can you make me believe you?” Cohen answered coldly, “My brothers are good fellows. Even after they’ve sacrificed their lives, their bodies value a thousand times more than your petty lives!”
“My Lord, I know what you’re worrying about.” The old man raised his eyes and said in a calm voice, “Indeed, we’re low and inferior, but at least, humanity remains within our souls. We don’t eat men.”
Cohen closed his eyes. He nervelessly swung his hand to let the old man go. What the old man did not know was that food was also not going to last any longer for the Phantom Legion. Cohen has even considered slaughtering the refugees to feed his army. Although it was one of Cohen’s last resorts, it will have to be done once the situation deteriorated.
“But at least, humanity remains within our souls. We don’t eat men.”
The old man’s words knocked away Cohen’s intention completely.
By nightfall, Moya entered Cohen’s tent, his lips were severely dried and uniform ragged. Through the holes on his uniform, the armor under it was significantly bruised.
“Boss, the enemies have withdrawn. Looks like they’re not going to attack tonight.”
“I saw it earlier.” Cohen said calmly, “Walk with me. Fetch Jack and Marfa together.”
The four walked by the wall between random conversations. Each of them was with a heavy heart.
At a gray and dark corner, Cohen stopped.
“You know,” Cohen stared at the night sky of a few lonely stars, “tonight… might be our last night.”
“Boss, you…” Cohen’s words made his three brothers astonished. Since entering the clay city, Cohen had always been fearless and confident as if a falling sky will not kill him. Such downcast comment will never come out of his mouth.
“The front wall is collapsing. The enemy’s reinforcement has arrived.” Cohen’s voice then turned disregarded, “Food has depleted. The show is closing.”
“Boss…” Moya licked his lips. He wanted to speak, but he couldn’t find any suitable words to calm his friends.
“Do you ever regret following me?” Cohen asked, “Will you ever regret following your boss?”
“I don’t!” Jack said first, “You’re the best leader of us! I’m supporting you till the end of time!”
“You lovely fool…” Cohen tapped Jack’s head, “Now go back with Marfa. I wanna talk to Moya.”
“Let us stay with you a bit longer!” Marfa said.
“Forget it.” Cohen refused Marfa’s goodwill, “Tomorrow… tomorrow will be AUF’s last attack. Let’s get dressed. Don’t spare your armor from the Heaven Island.”
Having said that, Cohen stood up then walked with Moya to the place where the wounded were emplaced.
“Moya, I need a favor.” Cohen said in a voice only the two could hear, “I need your promise! You’ll promise with your little brother’s life that you’ll finish it!”
Moya paused for quite a while before he replied yes.
Cohen smiled. He tapped Moya’s shoulder and continued, “Tomorrow, you’ll take Jack and Marfa. When the time is right, I will give you a signal. Break through with them. You will send a few letters for me as well.”
Moya widened his eyes. Then he firmly shook his head. Though Cohen kept smiling and stuffed a few envelopes in Moya’s pocket.
“The letters are of critical importance. You must deliver them to Fischer by yourself.”
“It’s a lie! You’re a liar! Those letters are blank papers!” Moya shook his head harshly, “I’m not smart, but I ain’t stupid. I AIN’T STUPID!”
“Sure, I know you’re not.” Cohen appreciatively made a thumbs-up, “These writing papers are to fool Jack and Marfa. Or I doubt they’ll leave obediently.”
“Oh, I see.” Moya said, “I know what to do. Don’t take me as a foolish person, boss! I will never leave…”
“SHIT!” Cohen was so furious that he cursed. He knew that once Moya has made his decision, no one will alter it.
“Boss, let me stay with you, aye?” Moya said, “I know you always have a way to drive me away, but I really do want to stay with you till the end.”
Cohen stared at Moya for so long that Moya started to chill. Then he nodded slightly.
“Boss,” Moya instantly eased then immediately he shouted excitedly, “promise!”
“Bullshit, I always keep my promise…”
Moya sensed something was amiss at his boss’ words, though his train of thoughts was interrupted by a string of drumbeats coming from afar.
The low and deep beat sound started gradually. A desolate sensation echoed everybody’s heart.
Cohen kept listening, his head sided. He grew an increasing discovery that the sounds of the drumbeats summed together to make a rhythm. How could he not find it in the earlier days? Perhaps he had a different state of mind tonight.
Cohen hinted Moya then the two started walking toward the refugee crowd where the drumbeats were occurring.
“The Lords are here… Lords are here…” The refugees retreated to make a 2-men path with profound fear and humility.
Nearby, Cohen surprisingly found that the drummer was the old man: the temporary chief elected by the refugees, who he met earlier. The old, thin and weak figure stood by a giant drum. His silver hair danced by the wind. His mummified hands had a pair of drumsticks.
God knew what was powering such an old monster who hadn’t been well-fed for several days to sound this giant drum. Drumming required physical strength.
Cohen brought Moya to sit down. He listened quietly because he had decided to fight to his death in order to help his brothers to break through the siege tomorrow. As of now, the known fate has made him undisturbed and calm. The drum sounds suited his mind.
Not long after, the sound seized. The old man carefully put the drumsticks back to where they belonged with a set of ritual movements. Then he came to Cohen to bow.
“Have a seat, you. Don’t bother manners.” Cohen said, “Does the rhythm have meanings?”
“My Lord,” The old man replied with great respect, “this is a chapter named Homecoming from the Ten Movements of the Vagabonds.”
“Homecoming?” Cohen asked, “What’re the Ten Movements of the Vagabonds? I’ve never heard of it.”
“My Lord, it’s normal that you haven’t because the Ten Movements are only circulated among us vagabond clans who live on the Protoss/Asmodian Line for generations.”
“Every Protoss/Asmodian War has occurred on the Protoss Asmodian Line. But even between wars, nobilities from both alliances will come to plunder us from time to time, let alone local bandits and cutthroats. As for us, we don’t have any power to resist. In order to live, we can’t but run, from place to place, from time to time.
“Thus we named ourselves the vagabonds. The Vagabonds’ Ten Movements are not just melodies; they’re tools to communicate between our clans. During a run, we use the movements to call and gather our tribe people. We use the movements to encourage our men and women. We, we use the movements to tell enemies from friends…”
“It does have so many utilities?” Cohen asked with great curiosity.
“Yes, My Lord, it has been evolving and circulating for thousands of years. Every person, no matter races, is so familiar with the movements because they grew up listening to the rhythm. The Ten Movements has blended into their bodies, their blood, and their souls.”
“Continue.” An epiphany struck Cohen.
“The Ten Movements, namely ten chapters.” The old man was a bit surprised at Cohen’s curiosity, but he continued, “They’re ‘Sunrise, Travel, Enquire, Merger, Hunt, Threat, Safeguard, Tearless, Encamp, Homecoming’ respectively.
“May I hear them as a whole?”
“I… okay!” The old man cannot refuse Cohen’s eyes that revealed firm. He nodded then instructed a few of his clansmen, then turned to Cohen, “But it’s to repay your kindness because you’re different from other Lords.”
“Ha!?” Cohen paused for a moment then laughed 3 times to the sky, “What’s so different?”
“At least you did not choose to slaughter us. Other Lords would massacre every last one of us on the first day.” The old man said, “Besides, most of your soldiers are my clansmen. We know more or less about what kind of person you are.”
A young man stopped by the drum excitedly. He also took over the drumsticks with a set of peculiar movements. Hence, the drumbeats sounded gradually once again.
“This is Sunrise, the chapter to wake people to gather their things and prepare to go.”
“This is Travel, the chapter to guide and remind the large fleet during a long march.
“This is Enquire, whenever we run, we run to a great scale. We will inevitably meet other clans. This chapter will help us to tell friends from enemies and communicate.”
“This is Merger, at a run, the more we are, the more danger we can deal. Thus 2 or more clans will merge temporarily or permanently.
“This is Hunt, hunting during scarce seasons has to take the whole tribe. This chapter is to provide direction. It also requires horns besides drums.
“This is Threat, the chapter to alert other clansmen and also to seek help from other tribes. The threat is either natural disasters or human-made hazards. But they made no difference.”
“This is Safeguard, since we do not possess any power to resist natural disasters or human threats. We’re only able to encircle and protect the young and the weak with our bare bodies…”
“This is Tearless, it has 2 parts, the first part is Sadness, the latter part is Tearless.” The old man said at last, “Whenever our people are enslaved or perish, we will remember them by playing chapter Sadness. But our lives have to carry on. We don’t have the right to stay sad for long. Thus came chapter Tearless. We use this chapter to urge the clansmen to get together and ease the pain with it…”
This chapter was originally published on Wuxianation, any despicable reposts or copies without proper citings are strictly prohibited.