Translated by Tianic, edited by Grammarly
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[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he rookies were able to ease their tense bodies around a warm campfire after a day’s ride. Compared with the average end-of-the-day meal, today’s supper was a treat. Rut was currently busy with his mouth movement.
“You have questions.” Before Ranger opened his mouth, Anemia noted the intention on Ranger’s face, “Now it’s time to ask.”
So Fallen poured his doubt for Ranger.
“Hmm, it’s an easy one.”
Having heard Fallen’s question, Commander Anemia tossed a piece of wood into the bonfire and said, “But before I answer, tell me your side of the enemy image.”
Anemia seemed to be in a good mood, so the rookies expressed their opinions one after another. In their minds, the enemies mostly resembled the kind between weirdos and ugly, or a mix of the two.
“You remind me of when I was a rookie.” Anemia obviously talked more after entering the battle station, “I’ve inquired for these answers from my commander… 20 years ago.”
The rookies were astonished. Judging from their impression on Commander Anemia, he was not one to ask such questions.”
“It’s not surprising.”
Anemia continued at the rookies’ faces, “I became who I am from an army rookie. Although being a barbarian forbid me from being afraid, I cannot help it. No one is born to fight a war.”
“Therefore, what answers did you get?” Fallen asked with much expectation.
“The enemy’s look? You might not like my answer.” Anemia replied coldly, “They’re just like us, as a matter of fact.”
Scarlet immediately said otherwise, “But sir, that’s not what the priests have said.”
“The priests are just talkers.”
A sense of real smile revealed on Anemia’s pale face, “They’ve never been onto the battlefield, so they like to decorate their talks with their own imaginations. Never mind, anyone looks the same once he’s dead.”
“So… will we encounter them this time?”
“It’s hard to tell. The enemy will also send their scouts, which I hope we don’t encounter. Nevertheless, no matter the result, they’ll bring inevitable harm to you sooner or later.”
Anemia swallowed some water, “At encounter, there’ll be casualties. For such a fight between 2 hostile squadrons, it is rare to have a single living soul in the losing party. So I do not wish for an early event for you guys.”
“What if we do?” Fallen said his most anxious words.
“Fallen, I don’t care why you’ve become a soldier. But the first thing you’ll consider in a fight is to put down the enemy and secure yourself.”
Anemia told Fallen seriously, “If you don’t do it, your teammates will pay the price. I assume you don’t want them to die because they’re distracted, right? It’s one thing to be kind, it’s another to fight the enemy. Your sole purpose in a war is to survive. And you cannot expect your foes to have mercy on you. The choice is in your hands.”
Fallen lowered his head and only answered after a long while, “Yes, sir.”
“Now, all of you remember, kill on sight. Treat your enemies like treating the targets on your training ground!”
Anemia warned, “Disregard their whinings, don’t look at the blood spilled. Kill them and terminate any enemies that move.”
“Now rest, tomorrow is gonna be a tough day.”
After the night’s rest, the rookies were well relaxed by the next morning. Even, a few of them were starting to expect the initial encountering.
Although Anemia’s comments contradicted the rookies’ lifelong imagination, they valued and were willing to follow the things that were passed down from dozens of years away.
Anemia noticed his subordinates’ little thoughts, he remained silent except for necessary commandings. He knew exactly what was on the rookies’ minds since Anemia was once a rookie himself.
Once a young soldier’s blood was boiled, nothing can stop them considering the liquid has been boiling for decades.
“Early encounter, I hope not.” Anemia looked up at the morning sun and sighed. He understood that what he said cannot overturn the priests’ feverish propaganda.
Something doomed will actually happen.
After leaving the horses on a post, all the Samgha members formed a small, reversed triangular formation and started advancing on foot. They have thrust into the endless wasteland.
Fallen was ahead of the formation. The werewolf’s both ears were standing upright with alert and turning like the most accurate radar chasing for any suspicious sounds. Scarlet was on the left followed by another rookie. Rut and Baham were on the right. Anemia was in the center. The team’s rear was guarded by Ranger with a warbow in his hand. He was in charge of potential enemies movements from all directions.
After advancing for a period of time, Commander Anemia will halt the team and check his map. Whenever they traveled to places of misguided terrains or scenes, he would mark the errors on the map: heavy or easy-going roads, water sources of vital intelligence.
Slowly, the Samgha Squadron has entered deeply into the Protoss/Asmodian Line.
By the third afternoon, the Samgha members have arrived on the edge of a dense forest that stretched dozens of miles apart. A few low peaks have formed a tiny valley at a distance. A large river divided the wood into 2 parts. Wild grass as high as an adult’s waist was all but everywhere. It was a suitable place for Samgha to reside for the day. Thus they planned for an investigation ahead.
As they were going along the forest, Fallen’s ears quivered hastily, his nose wings flapped. Then he immediately lowered his body and alerted Anemia quietly, “Sir, smell.”
“Duck!” Anemia also commanded the men behind and crawled by Fallen’s side, “You’re sure?”
“Positive, sir.” Fallen nodded.
“How many targets?”
“Far. Horses don’t smell strong. Less than 10.” Fallen said quietly, “Zero clops.”
“Stay alerted for now.”
Anemia observed the surroundings then gathered his subordinates.
“Ranger and Fallen, you two search forward until Fallen can make sure of the enemy number and position.”
Anemia scrolled a map, “But remember, do not engage. The woods can conceal your traces, you’ll be both dead if you cross into the grassland.”
“Understood.” Ranger unloaded unnecessary loadings on his shoulder. Then he went into the woods with Fallen.
Seeing the two have successfully penetrated the grass and disappeared, Anemia turned to the others and said, “During such a time, the enemies might as well be scouts. They’re probably resting or on other jobs. We need to wipe them out in order to carry on this operation, or we’ll be damned.”
The rookies all nodded. Thus guided by Anemia, they started observing the landform trying to figure out the enemy’s approximate location.
Now long after, Ranger and Fallen returned with accurate intelligence. The enemy’s approximate locations and number accorded with Anemia’s conclusion earlier, which made the rookies admire.
“You, take one with you to the mountain. Keep it quiet. They must have at least 1 sentinel there. Pay extra attention to the hillside. After you’ve acquired the top, initiate the assult with a whistling arrow.”
After Anemia told Ranger, he turned to the rest, “We’ll sneak in utilizing a circling formation. Rut, take 3 with you over there on the left; Scarlet, 3 on the right. I’ll be in the middle. Remember, go as close as you can and attack with absolute violence!”
“The enemies are close to each other, so I assume they’ll have 1~2 watchers on the outer perimeter. Find them and take’em down.” Anemia said, “The watchers should be here. Initiate you attack from these 3 directions, understand?”
“Let’s move out.”
Thus all mobilized. Ranger, as well as one more rookie, went up on the hill covered by wild grass.
Just as he has barely made it to the hillside, Ranger glimpsed a hint of light on the mountaintop. That was an armor blink.
Ranger squatted. He identified carefully of the enemy’s figure.
“For my dream, for traveling the world…”
Ranger whispered then, backhanded, he fetched a spiky arrow from his arrow bag. Ranger kissed the arrow then said, “I need tons of PUF scumbags.”
Arrow loaded, Ranger could clearly hear his beating heart. He continued, “Mighty Dark Lord, bless me. You guide me with your power. In the name of the Dark Lord, I fight, I kill!”
As the bowstring quivered, a sound of light trill echoed. The arrow that took off and made a beautiful curve. A burst of blood splashed under a tree on the mountaintop.
Nervously, Ranger called the other rookie to go with him.
Under the tree on the mountain, a body was twitching violently in the mud. The man’s lung that was pierced by Ranger’s long arrow was making useless sounds. Under his bloodstained armor, red has painted a large area of the grass.
“Clash!” The rookie that followed penetrated the struggling body with his long sword. Ranger tried to not look at his companion’s act. He looked down from the hill, a dozen PUF soldiers were resting.
“Back to the unit!”
Ranger told the rookie then loaded another arrow on the string and aimed a moving enemy soldier down the hill.
“For the Dark Lord’s glory, I’m willing to offer!”
The whistling arrow made a shrill sound in the air then blood burst immediately on its target.
“Attack!” Commander Anemia who has been lurking in the bushes bounced toward the targets with his men.
Commander Anemia applied a pair of giant swords which were extra tricky for ordinary people to handle. Now they were so flexibly handled and waved vigorously like a fierce tiger using its sharpest claws. Anemia was able to tear down the first enemy with one strike.
Scarlet bounced out from another bush with a harsh cry. He first made a hole on the target with his long spear, then tossed the weapon forward to safe Claypool who was surrounded by 3 more enemies. Scarlet later drew his saber to engage a close combat with an enemy beside.
Rut was dealing with an enemy as high as 2 dwarfs combined. Eye reddened, he was actually utilizing his long-handled war ax as a war hammer, which gave the formidable enemy no choice but to stay in place and negatively shield Rut’s attack with his armor. Once the hammer was destroyed, Rut then yelled to smash the ax into the target’s chest.
Ranger’s arrow also roared to land accurately on enemies’ bodies in the chaotic fight.
Fallen was not so in his luckiest day as he was confronted with a small-figured opponent who was supposed be the fastest in speed.
Both of them were equipped with a single-handed long sword and moving rapidly around the earth, forgetting themselves. They were so fast that the nearbys couldn’t lay a hand to help.
Up until the moment where the two’s sword intertwined and Fallen’s opponent bounced off the counterpart’s helmet with a swing of his fist, Fallen stabbed his opponent with a dagger. The combat finished.
“It’s done.” Commander Anemia’s face was glowing full redness, “Watch out for each other for wounds.”
The rookies were all down the hill, they shook then eased their trembling hearts by a glance of the battlefield. More than half of the rookies started barfing to the reddish and whitish broken flesh and bones.
Ranger climbed onto the hilltop, gasped. He can’t help turning his vision to the enemy beside who he shot earlier.
The man was still alive and struggling.
Ranger gave it a thought and removed the dying man’s helmet.
He had a clean face, a rather young face resembled Ranger’s age. His vision slacked. Blood was streaming down his mouth.
Ranger’s heart tensed.
The man’s short period of time before he closed his eyes was staring Ranger with an inquisitive look. His eyes seemed to have contained many complicated things, but they were pure. His gaze was as if they’ve penetrated the armor around Ranger’s body and projected into the azure sky.
Ranger’s first kill should be worth celebrating. Though he was neither cheerful nor excited.
After packing the trophies, Ranger was down in the dumps, and he went off the hill. He too, barfed at the bloody scene down the hill while Fallen sat by his side, weeping.
“Why did cry?” Ranger asked after he was done with the puking, “Were you hurt?”
Fallen shook his head and blushed, “I stabbed his neck with a dagger. How painful…”
“Spare that…” Baham came closer, wiped his mouth, “He didn’t weep for hitting you in the head. You ain’t owe him.”
Commander Anemia didn’t barf. He examined all of the rookies in order to make sure they were no wounds. Then he summoned all, “Pack you stuffs, we’re leaving.”
Thus the rookies finished this recon mission with their respective mixed feelings.
On their way back, the team of men slumped into an even more profound silence. All of them have given up eating any meat. After returning the camp, the rookies merely huddled up in their bunks gazing each other as well as the ground.
They stayed this way until Commander Anemia returned from debriefing.
“Get up on your feet. The mission has been completed.” Anemia tossed a dozen tiny medal on the table, “Tier 3 medals. One for each.”
“Ti… tier 3? Medals?” A hoarse voice asked with a tiny voice.
“Yep.” Anemia nodded, “10 tier 3 medals for a tier 2, 10 tire 2 for a tier 1. And most of your wishes can be done by a tier 1 medal.”
The medals were silver, shining, on the table.
“And, you’ve each got 3 days for vacation.” Anemia turned his head at the door, “Anyone wants to hit the town?”
A medal was the best way to judge an excellent soldier.
The Samgha Squadron was the first squadron to win medals.
The tiny, silver, triangular medals that set alone on the Samgha member’s chest have earned much jealousy from other soldiers as well as the tense, horrifying combat the rookies have fought on that day.
Standing at the camp gate, the rookies watched each other’s face. All had the least intention to consider how to spend their vocation.
“Sir,” Ranger stepped behind Anemia, “can we just find a peaceful place and sit?”
Anemia nodded then took the whole team to a lonely hill not far from the camp. Here had the lovely view of half of the camp.
“Forget those things.” Commander Anemia found a young tree and leaned against it, “Learn to forget things will give you more chance to survive.”
“Sir, what are you like in the old days?” Scarlet asked, “Can you tell us?”
“Me?” Anemia raised his eyes to the sky, “I was a rookie at those times…”
Anemia won some chucklings by saying that. After going through the test of life and death, the relationship between the rookies and their commander have improved exceptionally. Even Commander Anemia’s trademark, scary pale face was not so pale to the rookies like it used to be.
“Just tell us, sir.” Immediately came more boos and hoots, “Count your story as an reward for completing our first assignment!”
“Well!” Anemia sighed, and he didn’t reject, “What do you wanna hear?”
“All of it!” Ranger shrieked.
“In your dreams.” Anemia glanced Ranger and answered listlessly.
“Half!” Claypool said, “Just tell us the key parts.”
“The Samgha Squadron during the last War was led by a human lieutenant. My training phrase was close to your current condition.”
Anemia recalled the things hiding in his deep memories, “On the graduation day, we were taken to a pleasure house without prior warning…”
The rookies chuckled and sat closer.
“I still remembered only very few of us have finally made it into the house. Several of my brothers including myself just remained standing in the yard, blushed and stood still. My CO was so ashamed of us.”
As Anemia told the story, his face turned extra gentle, “I just didn’t get it why commander took us to such a place right before the War. We were the best in our clans.”
“Then? While my CO and a few others were having fun under the roof, my other brothers and I were fighting outside.” Anemia said, “I memorize that one of my friends have beaten down the one who mocked him about having fun with women. He waved his fist and yelled about what he would do the next time. But he didn’t make it back from a mission the next day…”
The rookies’ funny faces faded.
“After living together for such a long time in the same squadron, we’ve become friends. Now they fell right in front of you one by one. Then their faces started to fade in your memory. Their names were taken by others. Especially during a hardcore battle, the elite squadrons will have backup teams. Today, you call a name, and your friend will hail back. Maybe a stranger’s voice will answer if you call that same name an hour later. Such change was breathless that made people numb…”
“So, your brothers, they all died?”
“It’s not a good idea telling you all these. But you ought to understand, we cannot always be the luck side. You don’t know what will happen to you the next moment. On the battlefield, one can’t count on glory, fame or family. Life and death and survival are all that matter. You can only rely on weapons and your comrades.”
“Many of the comrades… will die?”
“It’s very common. During the last War, I was ordered to defend a key spot. Eventually, only 300 survived out of the original 4, 000.”
Anemia’s hand swirled, “After fighting the war and I found whoever was beside me were all strangers, it was like tasting shit in my mouth.”
The rookies gazed each other.
“I was the weakest soldier in the squadron during the last war, but I was also the only one survived. The reason was simple: I wasn’t a talker, I had a weird personality, I had few friends. So I pretend that I was dead once on the battlefield…”
Anemia concluded, “I didn’t wanna talk about all these before because you’ve never met death. You’ll have a hard time understanding. Now that you’ve met, so put away your shit concept about dreams and start thinking about surviving on the battlefield. Put on your damn medals. You earned those with your lives.”
This chapter was originally published on Wuxianation, any despicable reposts or copies without proper citings are strictly prohibited.