Dawn comes earlier in the desert than other places. However, I felt this dawn came too late. Perhaps it was because the heavens saw how bright this place was and decided to ignore it, since it was already so bright.
But the heavens didn’t catch the stifling smell of smoke and blood spraying forth from people choking. They didn’t see the mountain of corpses， which dyed the large area red. The golden sand was now dyed red. Step down into it and the blood would gurgle. The darkness nearly covered the entire sky. The wind blew the clothing of the corpses up into the air and took the stench of blood away with it.
Previously, we felt this place was hell.
Now, it really had become hell.
I sat on the empty ammunition barrel, feeling exhausted. I looked at the guards in front of me, who were lying on the wet ground in all sorts of postures and spaced out. I then looked up at the sky above. Just half an hour ago, this place was rowdy with roars in all different languages, the sounds of guns fired and blades clanging. The entire desert quaked at the frenzy. But it was now silent as if nobody ever existed here.
I have no idea how many bullets I fired nor do I know how many people I killed last night. I didn’t even make sense of last night’s situation. I’ve never witnessed such a chaotic battle. The teams that attacked us weren’t united. In fact, they got into a fight right outside of our camp. More and more teams entered the fray. There was no alliance. If they weren’t the people who came with you, they were your enemies. I don’t have the foggiest clue as to who attacked us. Actually, I think it’d be more accurate to say, everyone was attacking us.
We relied on just barricades about the height of a human being and our guns to push back the waves of enemies that came at us. After one hectic slaughter, the darkness before us had been replaced with a mountain of corpses. My guard unit was exhausted, too. About twenty of our men died in the battle, while the others suffered either severe or minor wounds. Luna was coming over helping bandage the soldiers.
We had emptied our barrel of gunpowder. The ammunition we brought had been used up. I was originally planning to fight another battle at the ruins, but I’ve played all my cards already, and for nothing. Instead of calling it a defence battle, it’d be better to say we got pulled into a pointless battle royale.
We killed enough people, but we got nothing out of it. If anything, we lost our resources for survival in the desert. Our guns are different to theirs. Their bullets are completely different to ours. Even if we were to take their guns and ammunition, we’ve completely lost the ability to put pressure on the enemy with our firepower.
We’ve lost almost half of our fighting power. Of the remaining half, we need men to escort the severely wounded out of the desert, as well. In other words, I only have thirty men to dispatch now, and I had some minor wounds myself.
‘Shall I leave?’
If we leave now, we will be able to reach safety. The smartest choice in this situation is to leave. If you had a brain, you’d leave now. The desert is an extremely dangerous place. Continuing to stay without weapons and men is the equivalent of marching to your own death.
“Your Majesty, this is the child.”
I heard a fatigued voice from behind. I spun around and Tarak led a young kid up to me. The kid had dark skin and wore tattered clothing. He wore a pendant which was the tooth of some animal I was unsure of at his chest. He was evidently covered in filth.
I wonder how long he’s been running around in the desert.
He looked at Tarak and he looked back at me. He suddenly dropped down to his knees before me with a thud. He grabbed onto my leg and cried about… I don’t know. I looked at him blankly and then looked at Tarak. In a tired voice I asked, “Tarak, can you understand what he’s saying?”
Tarak bent over and stroked his head gently. He comforted him in the same language. The kid wiped his tears and then murmured for a long while. He grabbed Tarak’s arm and said something. Tarak nodded as he listened in. He then looked up at me with a serious look and said, “Your Majesty, he said that his tribesmen are stuck at the ruins and he was hoping we’d be able to go rescue them.”
I chuckled in a ridiculing tone. I then hopped off the gunpowder barrel and lifted the kid’s arm up. I didn’t care if he could understand me or not. I pointed at the messy camp and empty barrel. I then said, “Look. Look, kid. Take a good look at this place and then you tell me. Does it look like I can go to your tribesmen’s rescue?”
Tarak didn’t translate it right away. He, instead, looked at me and frowned. He asked, “Your Majesty, would that be… too cruel of us?”
“Cruel?” I stood up while looking at Tarak. I made an open hand gesture to say, “whatever you say,” and exclaimed, “Tarak, how do you think we’re going to go rescue them? You tell me. You witnessed first hand last night’s events and you know about our current circumstance, with our regards to our resources. You tell me, do I have spare manpower to go and rescue someone? What I’m thinking about right now is how to return, not how to advance! If you want to be justice’s sidekick, please replenish my resources for me, so that I can go and save them!”
The kid seemed to understand what I said. He grabbed my arm and pulled out a sheet of paper that was so old I’d virtually tear it if I touched it and handed it to me. I picked it up and took a look. It resembled a treasure-map. However, this should be years ago. It must a treasure from ages ago.
“Your Majesty, he said that this is the location of the mine everyone is searching for.”
Tarak looked at me and I detected rays of hope in his gaze. I was stunned at first. I looked at the sheet of paper. The problem was the sheet of paper wasn’t complete. There was only half of it. The direction the arrow pointed was missing. In other words, I have the useless half. As for the other half…
I smirked and then looked at the map in my hand again. It was the first time I felt my dream was so close to me, yet impossible to get my hands on, just as the stars in the sky. They’re right in front of you, but reach for them as you may, you can’t touch them.
‘I’ve stargazed countless time. Does that prove my point?’
“Your Majesty, what are we going to do? Are we going to continue forward or are we returning now? If we return now, we can still make it. We can come back at another time…”
“Do you think the trapped people will last until we come back?”
I sighed. I then stood up and pinched the map in my hand tightly. This was the tribe’s way of pleading for help. They handed over half of the map and kept the other half, so I must save them. I now understand why that group chased this kid. They were trying to snatch this half.
Or maybe this was a deal with the tribe. Kill them and you won’t get the complete map. That would explain why they chose to trap them in a siege, yet not harm them. After trapping them, they could obtain the complete map if they could strike up a deal.
;What should I do? I’ve already obtained half of the map. Am I just going to return like this? If I return like this, I can’t get the other half and this will just be a pointless piece of scrap paper.’
“What do you want us to do then, Your Majesty?”
“… Let me have a think… let me have a think. Call Lorana and Philes here. I need to have a think… We can’t be hasty about this… I need to have a think about it.”