After a sequence of gunshot sounds, a row of men dropped to the ground.
I stood up. I looked at the soldiers around in silence for a moment before speaking, “Officers who didn’t instantly make a stand and maintain the ranks have no right to live. If you’re an officer, you must fulfil the duty of an officer. You’re the brains of your platoon, yet you ran faster than your men when a problem arose. I killed the first group today. If more of you act this way, I’ll kill a second group, and then a third group. I won’t pardon those who leave their posts without permission!”
The officers below stayed silent, not daring to say a word. I waved my hands for the guards to come forth and drag the corpses away. The corpses were very soon hung up on the pillar in the camp as a warning.
Smoke came from our camp. Nobody got to rest after last night’s attack. We put out fires, rebuilt and everybody became tense, fearing another imminent attack. We only let out sighs of relief, after the sun came up.
I rushed back to the camp immediately after the attack last night. I smelt the familiar stench of blood and smoke again like that of which I once brought to others. I never thought the stench would appear in my territory.
I didn’t think highly of those anthropoids, but their attack came way out of left field for me, making me feel humiliated and frustrated as if a trash can gave me a thrashing. I really wanted to lead my men into the mountains to slaughter them. The group of anthropoids were indeed formidable. They attacked and retreated orderly. They left decisively once the situation wasn’t in their favour. They were clearly elites among elites. I’d say that only my Guard Unit was their match now.
They didn’t intend to drive us back, because they lacked what it took to. Though their attack last night could be considered a success, I managed to see what they had. They were just a small group. Therefore, there was no way they could drive us back. They wanted to throw us into disarray, not strike fear into us. Consequently, I won’t give them the chance.
The corpses of this group weren’t alike the corpses of the low anthropoids. They had very strong and graceful bodies. They had fur on their head. One glance and you could see that they were panthers.
‘Are they the panthermen race? I never thought that there’d be such a smart race among the anthropoids. If I look at them that way, the High Anthropoids are an intelligent race that could even give me a run for my money. However, it doesn’t look as though all four tribes came. If it’s just one tribe, I need to keep pressure on them.’
‘We can’t panic now or get hasty. They don’t have what it takes to drive us off the canyon. It’s just that this battle might have given the four tribes the confidence to win against us. This was also a heavy hit for our soldiers. These soldiers who had never fought with the anthropoids were attacked in their first battle against them. That will make them feel defeated.’
I looked at the officers below. I stood up and with my gaze still on them, said, “Soldiers, you don’t need to be down because of the attack. We haven’t lost yet. We did lose dozens of men, but they, too, paid a price. It was just one attack. They didn’t want to deal a blow to us, and they don’t have what it takes to launch an attack on us, either. They just want to scare us and our soldiers. We don’t need to fear them. They don’t have what it takes to defeat us. As long as we keep our internal structure under control, the anthropoids won’t be able to do anything to us.”
The officers seemed to have misgivings. I knocked on the ground in front of me and shouted, “Have you all gone stupid? Is that any way to respond to me? Don’t tell me you’re scared. Hmm? You’re scared of them now? You’re Her Majesty’s best soldiers. Her Majesty had you come here with me to capture the North, not to screw around! The peace has made you soft, and you can only screw around now, is that it?!”
“Get your spirits together. If I see you slacking off again or scared, I’ll put a bullet in your head! I said it before; we’re here for a war this time, not for a vacation. Do you think the anthropoids in the North are rabbits for you to hunt whenever you please? We’re at war, not on vacation!”
I whipped my cloak then left. My guards behind me looked at them with disdainful gazes and left with me.
My guards didn’t think much of their skills. My guards had faced worse situations and fought with countless anthropoids before, yet those soldiers had their heads down after one attack. I honestly didn’t have any faith in the group.
‘I need to switch out these officers.’
‘Maybe I should kill them instead. I can warn those after them with it, too.’
I went to the rear of the fortress and into my tent. The strategists were in the middle of discussing things with maps in their hands. We were supposed to continue our advance today and capture the valley in the shortest time possible, preventing the enemy from getting a chance to stop us. Unfortunately, they caught us last night; hence, our strategists had been out of sorts. They were questioning whether we should continue advancing or not.
Some believed that we should settle down first then slow down. They reasoned that the anthropoids had prepared, citing that we were attacked. The valley defences should be fortified right now, since they would be in trouble once we get through it. They believed that advancing now would only cost us casualties.
However, some thought that a small group had no means of stopping us. They believed that while we should pay attention after the attack, we shouldn’t shift our focus. The situation at the valley was uncertain at current. If we were to dally, then that could give the enemy the chance to get the upper hand.
I didn’t interrupt their heated argument. Instead, I sat down in my spot and watched them argue. It was worth listening to a discussion between strategists, even if I had my own idea already.
“Where’s Ling Yue?”
I suddenly realised that Ling Yue wasn’t next to me. I hadn’t seen her since the morning, and she still hadn’t appeared. We were now in the North, so I had a bad premonition.
Philes whispered next to my ear, “Miss Ling Yue is burying the anthropoids.”
“Is anyone helping her?”
I stood up and walked past the strategists. They looked at me awkwardly. I waved my hand to indicate for them to continue. I left the tent with Philes and went to Ling Yue.
There were lots of anthropoid corpses left behind. Most of them were corpses of mature and brave anthropoids. They looked almost a size bigger than Ling Yue.
‘How is she going to dig a hole big enough for them in this land where it’s frozen all year round?’
After leaving the tent, I walked on the flat snowy land. Under the snow was ice. I had no idea how many years the water and stones underneath had been frozen for. It wasn’t easy to set up camp here. The wood and deep ditch outside the fortress was the combined effort of many strong male soldiers. They put it in lots of effort to dig them out.
I looked at a red silhouette. It looked as if steam was coming out of her head. Next to her small body were corpses lying all over the place. She gave it her best to dig into the ground with an iron shovel. The iron shovel collided with the tough stones over and over, causing her small body to shiver.
I walked over. Her ears twitched; she turned around to look at me fearfully.
“What are you doing?”
“They’re our enemies.”
“But they’re also my fellow tribesmen.”
I looked at her red eyes and grabbed hold of her hand. She called out, not because she was embarrassed, but because it hurt. Her smooth hand now had blisters on them, and they were frayed due to the friction. Her blood had frozen on the shovel, leaving a trace of what resembled tears.
I didn’t say anything. I removed my scarf and wrapped her hand up with it. I then pushed her aside. She stood aside slightly sadly. Her ears and tail both hung down. She softly said, “They’re dead already. Do you still not intend to forgive them? Why… do your soldiers get to put to rest, while they get left to feed the vultures…? I… I want… to give them a home, as well…”
“Think about your stance, Ling Yue. Do you consider them your friends or your enemies?”
“They were my enemies when they were alive. Now they are my fallen tribesmen.”
“… Is that so?”
I looked at her, and she looked back at me. She tugged on my cloak gently and lowered her head without a word.
I knew that she wanted to ask me for something. I let out a heavy sigh and scratched my hair in a frustrated manner.
“Come on, Philes, give me a hand.”
“What are you pl-”
“I’ll dig; you toss the corpses in.”