68. Chapter 68 – Burnout
12,000 Highserk soldiers, 3,000 former Myard soldiers, 7,000 volunteers, and 81,000 refugees were all humans who had filled Dandurg Castle.
Now there were only less than 10,000 soldiers and civilians. Men and women of all ages and everyone who could move were involved in the battle in some way. In short, it was the result of being involved in this all.
The monsters that might reach 100,000 in numbers had fallen everywhere inside and outside the castle, and the monsters that had been overlooked were still wandering around.
In the corner of the castle tower that had escaped collapse, those who had been raised to representative positions exchanged opinions.
“It should be, holding up in this castle. We have destroyed all the monsters, haven’t we?”
Said a Highserk soldier with one arm hung.
“Sure we’ve destroyed them, but it was all thanks to the demon fire, no?”
Deborah, who had been appointed temporary Platoon Commander, brought the story back to reality.
The success of the defense of the great outbreak, if one focused only on the words, certainly sounded sweet. But not to those involved.
Moritz, who had been listening in silence, opened his mouth.
“Yes, we… have lost our pillar, Walm-dono.”
Moritz determined himself, that it was time to face the unacceptable reality.
Walm’s worth as a soldier for Moritz was that of a hero. For the headquarters that had lost the chain of command, Walm organized the confused castle, and always fought on the front lines.
For Moritz who spent most of his military career as a messenger of the headquarters, he was so grateful for his good luck that he could be in a position of assisting Walm, who was a supportive person even in private life.
The Lord to serve should have been found. Now, such an existence was lost, and Moritz was knocked down to the bottom of his disappointment. Nevertheless, 10,000 people survived. He couldn’t afford to stagnate.
“Without Battalion Commander Walm, we can’t talk about defense.”
“We fought together, even though I was behind the scenes. There were countless monsters that he had killed alone. That’s the truth. Can we achieve the same results without him…?”
“He killed a Crawler, Tyrant Worm, and even the Ogre Lord. Who can do the same?”
Said Friug, the survivor of Walm’s subordinates, quivering. Moritz could understand his feelings well.
It was the troops led by the two who searched the castle to the end.
They fought under a hero whose story would be handed down to posterity, and won the siege battle that was to be their demise. But the protagonist didn’t survive to the end. Who now had the right to shout loudly for victory? Nobody.
Moritz turned to Ayane, who also attended the meeting. The effects of physical and mental fatigue on the ghastly battlefield were already enormous, and now the figure of the person she had barely been able to save and hoped would return from unreasonably jumping into the deadly zone wasn’t there… How much was she mentally exhausted at this moment? Only she knew.
The absent-minded figure of Ayane was really painful to see. And the first to curse the cause of it was Moritz. To make a girl sad and leave her behind, he thought that his Lord was such a terrible person.
Moritz was aware that what his Lord did was stupid. Although it was to save the castle from destruction, Walm, who was so badly injured that he was almost dead, immediately went back to the battlefield just right after he was barely healed.
Dandurg Castle longed for Walm to return to the battlefield. Those who had looked at his back as a soldier hoped for it. Even Moritz wished for a hero named Walm.
Rather than the loss of the hero, those who knew Walm were more saddened by the loss of Walm as a person. Although he had only a short relationship with Walm, Moritz was one of those people. But the one who was most saddened by this was probably Ayane, who was the last to exchange a few words with him and bid him farewell.
Despite the relationship between a prisoner of war and the supervisor, there was a sympathetic connection between them that Moritz couldn’t understand. Moritz believed that it was Ayane’s devotion that brought Walm, who traveled to the underworld, back to the real world. Therefore, Moritz thought that the sense of loss that the girl felt at this moment had to be immeasurable for him to even understand it.
The last time Walm returned to the treatment center, he was badly injured. And this time, he didn’t return. Ayane’s shock couldn’t be healed so easily.
And even if it was a somber meeting, they had to move on.
“In our beloved homeland, 200,000 monsters are lurking along with the Flame Emperor Dragon, and the other two armies couldn’t be contacted with the communication magic tool, even the Imperial City couldn’t be contacted.”
Said Justus, the only Brigade Commander (Wartime) who managed to escape the difficulty of the Flame Emperor Dragon’s breath, to confirm the status quo.
The thin hair was polished and the dark circles were deeply carved under his eyes. Moritz was well aware that Justus was the shadow pillar of the defense of Dandurg Castle.
A shift in force, distribution of supplies, and guidance for the citizens… without Justus commanding these, the number of survivors might have been half of what now.
Moritz thought that the Flame Emperor Dragon, which had destroyed his homeland, would probably return to its nest in the Demon Territory. If that happened, there was a danger that it would return the same way it had come. Only this time, the people remaining in Dandurg Castle would be truly eradicated.
“We have no choice but to go to the Celta territory of Myard. Ask for forgiveness and beg for mercy.”
“No way!! Relying on Myard… even though they’re also affected, they’re one of the culprits.”
“Brigade Commander, are you serious!?”
“Until the end, I’ll always be a soldier of the Highserk Empire! Even if the country is on its way to ruin, I’m prepared to devote myself if necessary to bring it back to glory. I’ve a family and friends in the Imperial City, but now… they no longer exist.”
Justus scattered the documents he was holding on the desk.
“I wrote down the communication history using the communication magic tool. It’s not confirmed yet, so I’ve been refraining myself from telling it.”
The reactions of the Highserk soldiers who read through the scattered documents were mixed.
“The First Army and the Second Army have been destroyed, and His Excellency Gerard also d-died in battle with the castle as a resting pillow. And H-His Majesty the Emperor…”
“Did the Flame Emperor Dragon invade the Imperial City just one day after messing up Dandurg?”
“All contact with the major cities is lost. There is no response from any place under Highserk territory by the communication magic tool, and the only place where you can contact within the communication range is the Celta territory of Myard.”
Said Justus as he squeezed his mouth in wait until everyone had finished reading the paperwork.
Communication blackout… would mean that humans had disappeared from the surrounding area.
Moritz was once again struck by reality. At the same time, he marveled at the boldness of Justus, who even after knowing the situation, personally hid it and continued to take command.
“I don’t want to admit it, I don’t want to… But, the Highserk Empire isn’t dying, it’s already dead.”
“N-no way, Highserk is, n-nooo.”
“Did we lose? Then, for what reason are we still here…”
“I can’t. I don’t believe this, I’ve a family in the Imperial City. When the expedition is over, I’m going to give them souvenirs. I, I was going to give it…”
Even generals and commanders who had survived the hellish battlefield couldn’t hide their dismay and were weeping.
“Is it, really, not possible? Perhaps, it’s a malfunction of the communication magic tool?”
“Communication is completely cut off, including the reserves.”
“Ha, haha. HAAAAAAA, AAAAHHHH. FAAAHHH!!!”
The general, holding back his emotions, held his head and uttered a senseless cry. There was no one, no participant in this war, who could keep their appearance. Not a single one. Even Moritz couldn’t help but shed tears. Just that, he was doing his best to remain silent.
“We have no homeland, no war god, no heroes…”
Dead country… these two words went clearly through Moritz’s mind. Feeling lonely and cold, he quietly sat down on a chair.
“The high-ranking soldiers of Myard, who were taken prisoners and fought together on the battlefield, survived. They’ve talked to them with the communication magic tool… We’ll head to Celta and go into exile in Myard. That’s all left, of the Empire. I will not stop those who are feeling crushed and want to head to their hometown. Still, as a soldier of the Highserk Empire, I want to save you. Even if this is hard to endure, intolerable, You, have to steel yourself… Even if what awaits you is only a series of endless misfortunes, it won’t change the fact that YOU, brave soldiers, are the only remnants of the Highserk Empire.”
If blood were to flow from the eyes, it would only be possible now. Justus gritted his teeth as if to crush them, and opened his red-stained eyes.
Those who kept their gazes on the desk and cried, those who looked up at the ceiling as if they were in love, those who just kept silent and pondering. In the end, no one criticized Justus.
On this day, people disappeared all at once from Dandurg Castle, and the old castle, which had escaped the fall despite being hit by a great outbreak, fell under the control of the monsters.
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