Chapter 38 [War]
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“Are you mad?” Victor was stunned by the request Yemen asked of him.

“Please… it’s the only way to avoid any more conflict.”

“You are asking my people to flee from their lands. No, I don’t think it’s the loss of lives that concern you, It’s something else, what is it?”

“No matter how messed he is. He is still my brother, and we are bonded by blood.”

"I see..."

With gritted teeth, Victor stood up but Yemen unsheathed his sword. He pointed the tip at the man he once considered his ally. Undisturbed by the sword, Victor stood tall nevertheless and glared at the man.

Kenn broke in between them, trying to calm both of them. “We’re comrades. We shouldn’t fight amongst ourselves.”

"Should I consider you an enemy then?" asked Victor as he placed his palm on the pommel of his sword.

"If I have too then bloody hell I won't hesitate."

"What about Haruhi?"

"I'll save her in my own bloody way."

A faint tremble plagued the sword, but hard to notice by anyone except for Victor and it was through luck that he was able to notice it. He turned his gaze at the unconscious girl near the fireplace. His heart was aching; there is nothing he could do for her now; for every path, he chose only led to more pain.

“Kenn, please take care of her.” Victor dugs his fingers into his palm then walked away toward the door.

"You're leaving again?" Kenn's question hit a mark in Victor's heart.

Victor wanted to explain, but he doubted any words could change anything. Silent and action make a better answer to this situation. So an answer he gave, he left the room and greeted the snowy landscape outside. The first thing he saw was a bird hovering above the shack before it leaves his sight. Afterward, he finally noticed that the sky had begun roaring in the faint distance.

"How are you, my lord?"

“I’m guessing you heard all of that?” Victor cast his gaze at the foliage. Issac circled the border of the wood, ever vigilant of any sign of the enemy.

“I ask you again, my lord: How are you?”

Victor began walking while Joshua followed his strife. “Unwavering. My objective seems to be adding up.”

“I presumed Haruhi is a girl, and that name, she from Yakawa?”

“Correct.”

“Moving on. Several good news and bad news.”

“Bad news first.”

“Our reinforcement from Coldcliff and Northwall has arrived. They are marching toward the hill that we saw earlier, but it seems the coming blizzard could slow them down.”

“Why did you pick the hill?”

“I will gladly explain it to you, my lord, but we need to move. I had ordered our men to gather at our earlier spot and we shouldn’t make them wait.” Joshua nodded at Isaac and the young man quickly jogged toward them.

The three of them left the shack behind and hiked their way back to their scouting position. As they followed the path, Victor started coughing heavily, he covered his mouth, but still, the cough only got worse and when it ended, it left a foreboding mark. A couple of drops of blood smeared on his palm, he wiped it off and cleared his throat before moving again. It wasn’t just him, Joshua; and the same cough plagued even Isaac.

As they arrived at their earlier scouting position, the three of them were greeted by twelve men alongside Duchess Noah and Duke Zacharias. Victor turned to the crate of steel armor beside the tree and raised his eyebrow.

“We found them in the basement of the temple, and we thought it might be useful to you.” Noah crossed her arms as she stood beside Joshua.

“Steel plate armor, we haven’t made this kind of armor since your grandfather ruled the throne. During the civil war, it proved to be useless dues to its weight and failure to keep our soldiers warm,” commented Zacharias as he stroked his double chins.

“This just might work,” said Joshua.

“I know what you are thinking, Commander. It will be suicidal.”

“It will be the best bait tactic, I ever concocted. Duchess and Duke, you both need to lead your army there at that hill over there, make sure your forces are spread out, but stay hidden until the signal is given. Make sure to not come at us, no matter what happens. Break the line of defense and once you are in there, they can’t use that weapon, that will give us an advantage, but it doesn’t end there. our priority here is that weapon, tore it down no matter what the cost.”

“While our men donned the armor and bait them so we could give you and your forces a shot to break the enemy defense.”

“That would be suicide,” spoke up Noah.

“Joshua will not lead the charge. I’ll be,” said Victor.

“My king? You can’t.” Joshua turned his furrowed gaze at Victor.

“I will. I am a king. Though, I have another task for you, commander. A line of steel armored warriors will not be enough to catch the enemy’s attention.”

“What do you have in mind?”

“Burn all the provision storage. The smoke would block the sky and lower their line of sight.”

“All of them? That is a risky move, my king. If we win, we would have trouble feeding our people,” The Duke voiced his concern.

“We need every advantage we can get. Joshua, take four men and make sure everything goes according to plan.”

“As you wish, my king.”

This was it. Frozehaven’s last hope.

“This your land. Your home. Your ancestor spills their blood so we could build a nation here. Fight not because you have to. Fight because we want to.”

“Long live, King Victor Lawson, the last of the last.”

“Long live, King Victor Lawson, the last of the last.”

“Long live, King Victor Lawson, the last of the last.”

Victor nodded his head and turned his gaze at the destroyed city. Despite the rain, the enemy had managed to fortify their position. Towering wood and spikes blocked every street leading to the docks. They had used the collapsed building as their vantage point and defense.

“King Victor.” The Duke kneeled before Victor.

“If things were different, it would be a great honor to serve under you. For you had shown me your dedication and unrivaled determination dispute the despair plagued over us.”

“Please stand up. I’m no great man. I’ve had help, mainly from the commander.” Victor raised the Duke.

“Humble. A fine trait. Are you a drinker, my king?”

“Unfortunately, I am.”

“I’m glad to hear that. After this, the drink is on me.”

“I’ve never known you to be such a man.”

“Oh, my king. I have lived long enough to keep my shortcoming a secret.”

The Duke took off his robe and revealed the hard leather armor he wore underneath, he wasn’t a muscular build man, but the way he handled his sword showed his experience.

“My king, no matter what people said. Your father had always been proud of you.”

“How do you know that?"

“I was his drinking buddy.” He nodded to the rest of the men and rode off with his entourage to his army.

In the corner of Victor’s eyes, without even realizing it, Duchess Noah is embracing Joshua and letting her lips meet his. Victor turned away and toward the city to give them some space. Noah broke away from her embrace, a tear ran down her cheek.

“I don’t deserve you,” said Joshua as he lowered his gaze.

“Don’t say that. Come back to me,” said Noah as she left him and rode on her horse to her army with her entourage.

Joshua took a moment to gather himself before joining Victor as they gaze over the devastated city. As the men wore the steel plate armors, Victor took off the leather armor he wore and put on one of the steel armor. Joshua stood behind him, clenching his fist and tightened his lips.

“You can voice your concern, Commander.”

“Don’t take this wrong, my king, but you don’t have to worry about me, I can take care of my own on the battlefield.”

“That I don’t doubt.”

“Then why did you put me on the sideline?”

“I kept telling people that I was no king. I'm not smart enough. Not strong enough. Not brave enough. However, I managed to live my life as true as I can. I’ve been where you are. I‘ve seen it. I will admit that it was subtle. I would have almost missed it If I didn't pay enough attention. Tell me, Joshua. Why do you fight?”

“For our country, for you, my king. For my family’s honor. What more could I fight for?”

“Those things are only half the truth. You were planning to throw your life away, but for what reason could it be?”

Joshua gritted his teeth then relaxed his shoulders, “It was my decision. My decision to dock every battleship we had here. I thought...I thought it was a good plan. Show the enemy our strength. Make them wary of us, just enough to make them call off the war. Oh, how I dread my decisions, thousands of good men perished in a blink of an eye.”

Victor lowered himself, he sat on his legs and calmed his breath. “Sacrificing your own life is worthless. It doesn't benefit anyone. It may end your pain, but it won't end other people’s pain.”

“What do you know about pain?”

“I know pain...my life has been about pain and loss. When I was young, I chased after knowledge, I peered into the unknown, my cause was just and my heart was pure, but in pursuit of knowledge, I failed to realize that knowledge without wisdom is meaningless. I was not wise enough to see the snake that snuck into my home. I failed to realize that people fear the unknown. So I was cast out by my father and then betrayed by my people.”

“I lost hope. I fell ever deeper into despair, but then someone taught me about hope. Teach me to keep on living, but to keep living on I need strength, so hope without strength is wishful thinking. I lost my teacher, swept to an unknown shore. But this time, I sought another teacher to teach me strength. I found one. One who I cherish the most.”

Victor unsheathed his sword to check on the blade, he saw his reflection, he let out a sigh before pushing the blade inside its scabbard.

“Yet, she never taught me anything about strength. She never taught me how to fight, but she taught me how to get up. To get up every single time I fell. To get up no matter how painful it is.” Victor stood once more.

“Sooner or later, I lost her too. However, she did teach me the last lesson: to never be like her. I never understood what she meant by it. Then I realize strength without forgiveness is nothing more than a rampaging animal. I learn to forgive.”

“You need to learn to forgive, but to learn is to live. Don't cut your life short. Learn to forgive.”

A soldier walked up to both of them.

“My lord, the men are ready.”

Victor nodded at the soldier before turning back to Joshua.

“Recently, I learned another lesson that no matter how painful life is, it’s all worth it for that every moment we spent with the people we cared for.”

“My king, I meant no disrespect, you preach me these lessons, but look at you? Throwing your life away.”

“Unlike you, Joshua. I'm not planning to die. I'm planning to end this war and come back because there are still people waiting for me.”

Heavy rain of snow began, a strong wind enough to freeze someone's toe moved through the trees. A blizzard was upon them, yet they waited. A moment passed, the enemy defense was getting better by the minute. Victor gritted his teeth and rode his horse with eight men on horseback, donned in the same armor he was in.

“We need to execute the plan now.”

“But, my king. Our forces are not in position.”

“We can't wait for them or we will miss our opportunity to attack. Move now.”

“Yes, my king. Four men with me. The rest of you with King Victor.”

Joshua and Isaac whipped their horses and strode down the hill toward the provisioned storage along with four men. Victor marched down the hill with his horse and eight men on horseback.

In the distance four of the provided storage had been light on fire. A cloud of thick smoke rose, covering the sky and darkening the city. Victor stopped the march just enough to not enter the enemy range of attack. With his gaze, he could see the Sultan with his ten thousand armies looking at them from afar. Their weapons are aimed at Victor and his eight fully armored men.

“Honor. Your honor is guaranteed no matter what decision you make so you have my permission to leave. You will not be punished nor your name will be disgraced because I understand. So leave! Leave if you want!”

Not a single inch of muscle was moved.

“You may have my permission to leave, but you don't have my permission to die. We will fight! And we will live!”

Nine fully armored men, hardened at heart with courage charged toward their enemy encampment on horseback. Never has the enemy seen so much unrelenting will that it reminded them of the battle of the bridge. Roaring their hearts out, Victor and his men were closing in on the enemy, but as expected, they released a volley of fire.

To the enemy's surprise, the metal balls did not penetrate the armor, instead, some of them merely ricocheted off them while some buried themselves above the plate. For once in their life, they did not expect that their armor had such toughness. A regular steel armor would fail against their rifle, but this was not a regular set of steel armor. This armor was made from Frozehaven’s metal, forged in the fire of the Gidona, the toughest metal to ever exist on these lands.

Victor and his men were getting closer and closer, but the enemy did not relent of their attack. Reinforcement from other parts of their defense makes its way to support the frontline of the enemy. They were scared because there is a possibility that Victor and his men can make it. The possibility grew as they were getting closer by the second.

Volley after volley of fire, Victor's unrelenting force began to diminish as the armor they donned had sustained damage beyond its capabilities. Bullets began piercing through the plate, but the one who sustained the most damage was the horses, they went out first, tossing their riders onto the hardened dirt.

His body slammed against the ground, shoulder first. The armor was able to protect him from the laceration, and yet, it wasn't enough to lessen the impact. In fact, the weight only made it worse. Piece by piece, the plate that covered his body came off. Not just Victor who suffered the fate, eight of his men that rode with him dropped to the ground like flies.

Gritting his teeth, Victor looked upon his devastated men. He mumbled quietly to his men, but enough to be heard through the gunfire. “Stay down.”

The attack stopped, a cloud of smoke dissipated from the makeshift battlement. A glint of light reflected from the hill, he turned his gaze to his side, one of his men lay beside him, gasping for air. A ditch beside him seems a good place for cover. He waited for the signal, and there it was, a blaring noise of a horn sounded from behind him.

A rain of arrows was released from the hills while a hundred strong men charged down the hill toward the battlement. The enemy was confused just like they had planned. Amongst the panic, Victor roared his strength causing another volley of fire directed at him, but none of them managed to hit anything. As Victor rushed to the ditch, he grabbed hold of the soldier beside him and dragged him toward it.

Victor tripped over a rock causing him and the soldier to roll down the ditch into the muddy puddle below. The enemy had lost sight of them, instead, they focused on the new threat, but as hard as they tried to defend against the charging force. It was a futile effort when the army of men broke through the battlements.

A large battle erupted inside the city, sword and metal clash, gunpowder ignited in the distance. Row after row of gunfire seems endless.

Setting the pain aside, Victor took off the soldier’s chest plate, giving him air to breathe. On further look, one of the bullets had dented the plate into his chest causing a restriction of air. After saving the soldier from choking to death, Victor took off his armor, pain, and all. Checking on his wound, it had gotten a bit worse. Yet, it did not deter him as he took apart the armor and used only the small pieces to protect himself.

“Take a breather. Help the other,” said victor at the soldier before climbing out of the ditch.

He peeked out, seeing his chance to rush in, he took it. Victor ran up the battlement with a sword in his hand, cutting down any enemy in his way.

It was nothing but chaos in the city as he stood above the battlement. However, he could see that his army was outnumbered, but as long as they maintained the distance between them and the enemy, they could still fight. A small number of his force are heading toward the massive weapon and that where Victor wanted to be.

Cutting down ten enemy men along the way, Victor was getting closer to the force. However, a messy battle had blocked the direct way to his men. Seeing the duke was about to be struck down by an enemy rifle, Victor ran toward the enemy and cut the weapon in half. He stabbed his sword into another enemy and left it there. He took an enemy rifle and let it rip at the closest enemy.

“Sword!” shouted Victor and one of his men tossed him one. With a single swing, he cut down another. The enemy forces were dwindling,

“Appreciate the help, my king,” said The Duke as he heaved his breath.

“Just keep yourself alive. I don't want to lose my new drinking buddy, do I?” Victor and Zacharias retreated inside his allies' area of control and tossed the sword back to the soldier.

“Hahaha, I got a perfect bottle for us.”

“I can't wait.”

He pulled his sword out of the enemy’s body but failed to see a sniper hidden amongst the toppled building. One-shot was all it took.

The bullet was buried into his stomach. He dropped to one knee

Victor was shocked to find Zacharias in front of him. The sniper was shot down by a bow and arrow from one of Zacharias’s men. Victor was about to step closer but Zacharias stopped him.

“It’s fine!”

“But?!”

“GO!”

Victor gritted his teeth and with a heavy heart turned away and joined the small forces that were heading toward the weapon. They needed to move quickly because the massive weapons had set their sails and were ready to leave the port.

With a calm breath, Zacharias rose like a lion. He stared down at the enemy with a deadly frown. “NO ONE WILL BREAK THIS LINE AND THAT IS THE TRUTH!”

With a battle cry, Zacharias charged into the enemy, keeping the line that separated their forces and the enemies. Crossing the canal and turning his gaze at the enemy's battleships, Victor noticed that they were turning and that is when he realized the inescapable fate.

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