The dark race army seemed endless in the eyes of the defending army, almost like a swarm of migrating locusts.
Their bodies were already numb, and their minds were gradually becoming so as well. They would simply slash at the nearest enemy silhouette out of instinct. It was as though they were experiencing a nightmare that would never end. Even if they would only wake up to find themselves dead, it was also a form of release.
Combat and death were the only fate left for the living.
They watched as countless familiar faces fell before their eyes, their bodies gradually turning cold. They saw one dark race soldier after another charge toward them before turning to corpses.
The ground was covered in lifeless remains, leaving almost no room for one to set foot on. From time to time, an arachne would get stuck in a narrow passage-way.
Whenever that happened, an Imperial soldier would jump onto its back with suicidal intent and hack the arachne’s spine with an axe. They would then die to the arachne’s attack or be killed by other dark race members.
The fortress was like a black hole devouring soldiers from both sides.
After an unknown span of time, a commotion broke out in the dark race army. A vampire squad actually turned on their comrades in an attempt to leave the battlefield.
The dark race army split into two units and quickly suppressed this small squad from both sides. It was just that the riot caused a sharp drop in morale, and the dark races found it difficult to continue the assault. Finally, the bugle call sounded for the retreat.
Most Imperial soldiers stood dazed as the dark races retreated, waiting for the next wave of enemies to come.
Zhao Jundu appeared on the walls, the black fire around him so dense that it was almost tangible. The flames would occasionally emit some sparks, and the dark race corpses that came in contact with them would immediately burst into flames.
All Imperial soldiers stayed far away from him. No one dared risk touching his flames.
Zhao Jundu made his way through the fortress, patrolling for survivors.
He slowly retracted the black flames during this time. Only when the black blaze was entirely contained within his body did the generals dare approach him.
One of them said, “Sire, we have less than a thousand soldiers remaining. Are there no reinforcements?”
“There will be no reinforcements. Clean up the battlefield, we withdraw afterward.”
“What?!” The generals couldn’t believe their ears. They had never heard Zhao Jundu say anything remotely similar to retreat.
“Sweep the field within the hour, then we will retreat.” Zhao Jundu repeated his order.
The generals immediately dispersed to do their work. An hour was too tight of a schedule, so they couldn’t afford any mistakes.
One hour later, the Imperial soldiers began withdrawing from the fortress. There were only two trucks left in the entire unit, and even then, they were barely operational.
All airships and military supplies, along with the turrets, cannons, and kinetic towers had been destroyed in the battle just now. These two trucks were pieced together with available parts from the rubble.
The Imperial forces had just left when a fire broke out from within the stronghold, growing into a raging flame that devoured everything. All items that could not be brought along had been torched, along with the corpses from both factions.
Some of the generals traveled alongside Zhao Jundu on the way back and proceeded to report the results of the sweep.
“Sire, a rough estimate shows that we lost around six thousand men while the enemy lost close to forty thousand. The death ratio is almost one-to-six, a glorious outcome.”
A different general sighed. “We had eight thousand comrades at first, but now, we barely have a thousand left. Such a bitter victory, sigh!”
“What? Are you questioning the sire’s commanding ability?”
“Of course not, I was just thinking how to explain things to the family.”
This silenced everyone.
The combat environment in the new world was unusually cruel. Most of the Empire’s regular soldiers did not meet the requirements, so a large number of elite private soldiers from the aristocracy families had to join the fight.
Many of these generals were leading their clansmen and friends into battle, a true family force. Now that eight of ten were dead, it would seem their hometown was soon to be full of people in mourning garbs.
Zhao Jundu had been silent up until this point. “You’re going to find it hard to explain, but the dark races have it even worse.”
The generals understood this reasoning, but that didn’t make them feel any better.
The conference hall of the main Imperial base. Song Zining was standing before the map, facing a group of dukes, generals, Imperial ministers, and elders from the nobility.
He said slowly, “Just as I said before. We’re having a hard time, but the dark races are having it worse. We have reached the cruelest phase in the war. Both parties are bleeding and will continue to bleed! If we shrink back now, all the sacrifices from before would’ve been in vain. The only path right now is to keep draining the dark races. We must let them see our determination, faith, and hope!”
A commotion broke out below as people whispered to one another.
Moments later, an aristocratic elder stood up. “What’s the exact strategy?”
Song Zining pointed at his feet. “We will remain here and fight a fortress defense battle.”
Conversation erupted once again.
Someone said without much thought, “Doesn’t that mean we’re giving up our mobility advantage and playing in the enemy’s field?”
Song Zining said calmly, “We no longer have the mobility advantage, nor can we remain ahead of the enemy.”
That person was stunned. “Does that mean, you…”
Song Zining nodded. “I cannot divine Nighteye, I assume you’re all aware of this.”
“Nonsense! What qualifies you to be the commander if you cannot stay ahead of the enemy?”
Song Zining was calm as ever. “I’m indeed barely fit for this role, but I had no choice but to take it out of consideration for the Empire. Feel free to recommend someone if you think they can do better. I’ll be happy to relinquish my post.”
That person said loudly, “The Empire is vast and full of talented people. There’s no way you’re irreplaceable. I already have several recommendations in mind.”
Song Zining said, “The army is in a critical state at the moment. Whoever the commander is, they will have to guard this fortress to the death and never retreat. You know very well what the punishment for failure is. So, which commander were you going to recommend? Pray tell.”
That person’s face went red, not knowing whether to sit or stand. He was just about to offer some polite words when Duke Wei snorted heavily. “A clown with no self-awareness!”
Knowing that he had angered everyone, that person sat down with his tail between his legs.
Actually, everyone knew that Nighteye was a great enemy, someone whom the Profundity Monarch couldn’t seize and Song Zining couldn’t divine. She had already injured two dukes and defeated countless generals. Holding this fort meant that the commander was more or less carrying his coffin into battle.
Moreover, the guilt from failing this defense was not small. It was fine if Song Zining continued his duties since his accomplishments were sufficient to make up for a mishap. Those taking over midway wouldn’t have that luxury.
Besides, Song Zining already proved himself as one of the top rising powers in divination. If even he couldn’t divine Nighteye, who else could say they would surely succeed?
Back when people started comparing Song Zining to Lin Xitang, many divination geniuses began to spread gossip about him. All of that stopped when the Profundity Monarch’s assault met failure. Only divination experts understood how dangerous the trajectory of fate around peak experts was.
People discussed back and forth but arrived at no better strategy. The Empire’s airship production was at its limits, and the supply line from the door to the base was already quite strained. There were no more reserves to draw from. Under such circumstances, a fortress defense would at least give them a basic advantage.
When the plan was finally decided, Song Zining started discussing the matter of resources. It would seem that he had already prepared the topic well in advance. With everything settled, there were no more ignorant people who dared to cause trouble in this regard. Hence, everything Song Zining requested was passed without a hitch.
Many of the elders left immediately after the meeting since every minute in the new world was an extra moment of danger. They weren’t being cowardly—it was more because the fall of these powerful figures would cause great damage to the Empire.
Holding this meeting on the front lines was also to let these people see how cruel the battles were.
Everyone’s heart was heavy, be it those in the base or those rushing back to the Empire.
The Empire might hold a slight advantage in a defensive battle, but they understood that the casualty rate would only rise and never fall. And the previous rate was already enough to make one gasp for air.
At this point in the war, many people were already prepared to accept any outcome.
From today onward, there would surely be a shockingly long list of casualties every day. People would have to get used to looking for the names of their loved ones on that list.
There was a question in everyone’s hearts. Was this sacrifice worth it?
Clearly, the true upper echelons of the Empire and people in important positions like Song Zining knew what they were doing. Yet they chose not to utter a single word.
Where did the tunnel in Blacksun Valley lead? What exactly was inside? Everything was an enigma at this point. The Empire would rather pay a painful price than let the dark races approach the sinkhole, or at least hold onto the right to enter as well. It was apparent that whatever secret was inside was earth-shatteringly big.
The only good news was that Song Zining had not lost his skill. He had no intention of defending blindly against an enemy attack. Instead, he was planning to build a group of interlocked fortresses. Small mobile units would operate under their cover, launching surprise attacks whenever the opportunity arose. There was still some hope since they wouldn’t just be sitting there to be attacked.
At this point, all they could do was trust Song Zining’s strategic decision and skill.
In the skies above the burning fortress, a strong gale kicked up all of a sudden, extinguishing the flames with its shocking chill.
Under the company of numerous dark race experts, Nighteye set foot on the land Zhao Jundu was defending.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
TL: Legion ED: Moxie