This can't be!
I must've misheard.
The capital can't have fallen!
Why else would we be out here, holding back the Koreso?
We would've noticed any force walking past us.
But... I need to think logically.
There's just one other option left to be considered.
"Messenger, what exactly happened in the capital?" (St)
"The insects, general. One of their princesses has been abducted, and in retaliation, they took the whole capital." (messenger)
The general's mood turns dark, as is to be expected at such a revelation.
It was one of our greatest fears that the insects could turn against us.
But hearing that a princess went missing, it's not too hard to figure out which side caused this outcome.
An argument only a few here will allow to stand.
"Quiet, soldier! Not a single further word out here. Report in my tent." (St)
A bit too late.
The damage is already done.
The murmur among the ranks is spreading and soon the whole camp will know.
And next probably the whole army.
Yet it's still better than discussing such things out in the open.
The general gestures for me to follow and I obey.
So it comes that only seconds after leaving I'm once again in the general's tent.
With visible unrest, its owner ushers in the even more distressed messenger.
"First things first. What is the exact situation within the capital?" (St)
"The insects have full control over it. They decide who enters and leaves, and traffic is a mere trickle. Fortunately, most people survived." (messenger)
Something about this has to be elaborated on.
"You're saying thee capital was taken and wieth it all our leaders. If that ies thee case, then who sEnt you?" (T)
There are some particular noble figures who'd like to take advantage of this situation and who I'm not willing to serve.
"Lady... The king, he's still alive. The insects force him to act in their stead. So I'm bringing the king's orders which..." (messenger)
...Essentially are the insects'.
"So the message you bring comes from these monsters?" (St)
"Y-yes. They're saying that they'll abstain from killing the people in the capital. Also, I'm supposed to say that they'll guarantee ongoing deliveries for the army as usual and abstain from impeding our war effort as long as we don't threaten their efforts in retrieving their princess." (messenger)
Why would they want to keep us from stopping an enemy that might very well be theirs?
Even more, as long as they can maintain this situation we won't be able to send any troops back to the capital.
That's a fine plan.
Which kinda confirms that the one missing is Erys as I doubt very much that she would be capable of such strategic thinking.
At this revelation, the commander grows increasingly irritated.
"I wish for a full report. How could it happen for the whole capital to fall just like this?" (St)
"Sire, they took it as a flood, spreading from the center and continuing outward. After they controlled the palace, the rest followed swiftly. By the end of the day it was already over." (messenger)
"They managed to bring down the capital in mere hours? How could they accomplish such a thing?" (St)
While I have no doubts about the insects' capabilities, this seems truly to be quite a feat.
Several places within the capital can act as fortresses and we had a considerable garrison there.
The different districts are separated by massive walls.
Which probably doesn't mean too much with these tunnels.
However, I'm still somewhat doubtful they could achieve such massive coordination to use their troops so effectively that they could overcome any opposition.
Wait, maybe the reason is that there was none!
"You said thee king is still alive? Does this link to how thee capital was conquered?" (T)
"The king ordered everyone not to resist. His very own guards spread this command to all the soldiers stationed outside. It prevented most of the bloodshed." (messenger)
"So there wasn't any resistance against them conquering our very home!?" (St)
It might become a problem if he becomes too emotional about this.
"All of the limited resistance was quickly snuffed out. Most of the nobles were present in the palace on the day of the incident and are now under house arrest. Currently, everyone who fought back lost their life." (messenger)
I saw more than once how on edge the insects were when it was about their princesses.
Even if it was for the purpose of taking all of the population hostage, I need to ask myself how this frenzy was prevented.
The only explanation I can come up with is that the other princess is exceptionally scary.
"So what are their demands now that it has come so far?" (St)
"None. Only that the capital will remain under their control until they retrieve their princess." (messenger)
Pretty clear demands if you ask me.
Not like it helps to hear this.
The people we are obligated to protect are at the mercy of another power, the very thing we were trying to prevent with our battles in this place.
After those first questions, we ask the man in more detail about the current state of the country and whatever he knows about the incident.
The summary would be nothing too dire, nothing too great.
The insects don't care about oppressing people or committing any atrocities that don't align with their purposes, but they also don't care about trade, traffic, supply lines, or even the necessary administration.
This corresponds to the current state of affairs in the country.
Everything's continuing on in some way.
Things aren't too dire but neither are they great.
However, now we need to figure out how to work with this situation.
The general doesn't look too pleased.
"This is a disaster. Commander, your thoughts on this?" (St)
"Sir, I think thies is the culmination of the attempts to use the insects for our war. Someone abducted the princess and they reetaliated in accordance. I doubt thEy'll do anything else other than look for theeir princEss. What we do is of no interEst to them, as long as wee don’t interfeere with that. Theeir upper caste may veery wEll hold a grudge against us now, but if thEy didn't slaughter us yEt, I doubt it wiell happen without further provocation." (T)
"I see... Whoever holds the princess captive decides how long this will go on. I don't like being dependent on such outer factors. As of now, all we can do is prevent the Koreso from gaining any room because of this." (St)
I guess I worried too much.
The general's reaction is composed enough.
"However, you need to take care of another issue." (St)
"That would bee, sir?" (T)
"Your unit. First, we need to confirm their loyalty. It's questionable at best to proceed using an unreliable tool, yet the same applies for not doing so when they're doing so well. But this brings us to the second problem. After this revelation, the 'regular' soldiers will have reservations about fighting at their side. As their commander, it will be on you to quell any turmoil. An ungrateful task, I know, but it has to be done." (St)
Sigh, he's right.
I'm the one in charge, so it is my duty to take care of this.
I need to reach the compartment of the army camp where our troop was placed.
Now it pays off that our leaders were wise enough to make arrangements to avoid unnecessary tensions.
Yet when I arrive there's already a commotion.
Foremost from the human personnel against the insects.
"What are you planning?!"
"Out with it!"
From what I'm looking at the guardians seem to be fine, which is good in a way, as they're confused but not aggressive yet.
What worries me more is how they treat the nurses.
Those are a little too frail to really endure an inquisitory hearing.
I gather my breath and shout at them.
<SCREEAK!/QUIET! EVERYONE!> (T)
Oh shit, that was the wrong kind of speech.
Particularly wrong as the insect didn't even say anything.
At least I now have their attention.
"Everyeone at attEntion! I don't want any of you acting out heere!" (T)
Well, if nothing else they stopped harassing the insects.
"What ies thee meeaning of thies?!" (T)
Damn, controlling my voice while shouting is still tricky.
Yet albeit intimidated one soldier steps forward.
"You know exactly what is wrong! Those things attacked the capital! My family is there and they're the ones holding them captive!" (soldier)
I kinda suspected an answer like this.
Not like I can say much to alleviate such worries.
"Coming from our intEl the civilians aren't targeted at thee moment. Yet that could change if you do somethieng stupid. Asiede from that, those are meere subjEct. All they know ies to follow instructions. Iet's stupid to expEct them to know anyething at all. How did you even intEnd to make any sEnse of their screeches?" (T)
"She's even talking like them! What if they're conspiring?"
Oh, for fucks sake!
"Ie have thieees voice beeecause I drank a potion for thee sake of myee peeople! If thies iz what qualifieees as conspirieeng I'm goieeng to shove ieet down your throat as wEll!" (T)
Not like I have anything left of it, but seriously, these people!
"Wee'll now cleear up where their loyalty liees!" (T)
I turn towards the middle of the field and shout the command.
The simple reason for this act is that I as well need to confirm if our insect troop is still on our side.
After all, it's almost impossible for them not to have heard about what happened.
A moment later the workers and guardians have assembled.
It's a good sign that they're still listening to me.
Now I should ask them specifically.
These insects can't really lie, especially with the transmission of their corresponding emotions.
<Sriekric!/You're probably aware that due to recent events we are at the brink of a conflict with your kind. Under these circumstances, will you still follow my orders?> (T)
<Orders?> (insect troop)
I think they mean they're awaiting my orders right now.
Yet this doesn’t really confirm all that much in regards to if they'd turn against us.
The issue is that especially the guardians as our heavy hitters aren't the smartest folk so complex answers are slightly beyond them.
Suddenly a nurse approaches me from the side.
The present soldiers almost take her down at her sudden appearance as nervous as they are.
<I might be able to assist in providing insight for your questions.> (nurse)
Hm, nurses are smarter than other drones.
Though, I'm not sure if that means they're also capable of lying.
<What do you want to say?> (T)
<Commander. Is that right? These units were granted to you humans by Princess Honiu. She isn't such a fickle being that she would go back on what she agreed to. Currently, the command to follow the orders given to them by your faction ranks second. It would require a direct reassignment from Princess Honiu to change this.> (nurse)
That sounds fairly certain.
But I should confirm any uncertainties.
<What ranks first?> (T)
<Not to harm or contribute to harming the queen or any princess of our swarm.> (nurse)
As terrifying as it is, now is not the time to dig further into the part that she said 'our' swarm.
At least this means that they might only turn sides if that insect princess personally shows up here.
That one is apparently quite cooped up in the capital at the moment.
So I think I can ease up to a degree.
"What is she saying to that creature?!"
"Are they in cahoots?!"
"I'm still saying, we have to get rid of them before we all pay the price!"
It was a nice dream.
"What is the meaning of this!"
Suddenly a booming voice is heard.
Full of vigor and the erratic strength of young men.
I look toward where it came from and stand surprised.
"Commander Fennec, please! I worked to this rank through my contributions!" (F)
What kind of contributions?
Since I'm usually sent on my own missions I wasn't aware that he's here as well.
It doesn't seem like he intends to deal with me and instead turns to the soldiers.
"May I ask what you think you're doing here?" (F)
The man in question apparently needs to think for a moment before turning back to his superior.
"Sir! We're protecting our own, sir!" (soldier)
"Interesting. And who gave you the order to do such a thing? As I see it, this disturbs the campgrounds." (F)
Why is he taking my side?
Lord Fennec was one of the greatest enemies of this collaboration.
"Sir! These creatures are a threat to every one of us!" (soldier)
"I agree with you on that matter, but that doesn't mean you can act out as you wish." (F)
"Listen! While I respect your personal engagement this can't be tolerated! I know the complex art of strategy might be above the common soldiery, but are you truly unable to understand that it's better if these things die fighting Koreso instead of in a bloody brawl with our men? We can't afford to be so stupid!!" (F)
After this, the soldier can't respond in any way.
"Now that this is settled, you may continue observing their encampment. If these insects show any kind of unusual behavior, you may first inform your direct superior and only if there's no time for this, act on your own. This is how things work in an army!" (F)
Without waiting for an answer Aledor turns back from the soldier and approaches me.
"I hope you have control over your pests, Lady Lorata." (F)
"I do. Thank you for askieng." (T)
"Don't misunderstand me. I'm not trusting those things one bit. However, their military value is obvious and I'm no idiot to think we can take on both Koreso and them at once. However, you can be sure that you won't find a single soldier willing to work with your unit anymore." (F)
As if I wouldn't know this.
It became clear that with this distrust going around it's gonna be an issue to have my insect troop fight side by side with the regular soldiers.
And apparently, their success in battle isn't making things better.
There's far too much bad blood, so it's only a question of time until someone turns against our own to seek revenge.
Even if not all of them are as hostile as these were, there's still peer pressure and some might plan something to get rid of them.
Yet alone the tactical value of the insect troop is too great to simply give up on it.
"ThEn what would you suggEst?" (T)
Probably that I should send them on a suicide mission without backup.
"What do I know? Ask some mercenaries or whatever." (F)