"That's basically the situation," Leguna reported to Larwin as he sat down.
Andro hesitantly asked, "Sir Leguna, you mean to say… Stok is completely obliterated?"
"From the reports, Stok does indeed seem to be wiped out. The millennium capital is now an undead fort and the corpses are spreading throughout the whole continent. According to our estimations, about a third of all southerners died from the corpse wave."
"It sounds just like a fool's errand. Did all our efforts fighting Stok last year become nothing just like that?" Geoffrey expressed his doubts about the truth of the reports.
"No, that's far from the case, Your Highness," Leguna said without arguing with Geoffrey senselessly. He leaned in on the table. "Stok is completely gone. I heard the fella you all call the undead Jilroan was the first to go. The whole Stokian imperial family is wiped out and not many magi from the magic academy they're so proud of managed to escape. As for the nobles and officials, they weren't prepared for the crisis either. Not only that, the informants we installed in Stok over so many years have all lost contact with us. I believe they weren't able to escape even after they sent us word on the disaster."
"A disaster?" Larwin repeated.
"Yes, a disaster. The war between the two empires is nothing but a human conflict. However, this is no longer a simple conflict, but rather, a threat to all life on the continent. It's not wrong to see it as a plague that will engulf the whole continent or a giant earthquake that'll destroy us all. If the corpse wave isn't dealt with, there'll be no southern or northern empire in the future. Humans will completely vanish from this continent. Your Imperial Majesty, I hope this incident is regarded with the urgency it deserves."
"Sir Leguna, why do you think so much about the corpse wave?" Alfreid, the premier, asked.
"The reports I got all highlight how important it is for the empire's administration to take this disaster seriously. The few brothers of ours that managed to escape the corpse wave described how it looked like, and I think they're not lying. If it was just a normal disaster, why would Stok be wiped out so quickly? Perhaps you should see all the southern refugees we have if you still don't believe me."
"Alissanda has also sent word of encountering the corpse wave. They didn't know about how contagious it was and had a few regiments completely wiped out. But after a week or two of familiarizing themselves, the army is now able to put up an orderly resistance," Larwin said, nodding to acknowledge Leguna's point.
"Your Imperial Majesty, with the war coming to this point, there's no need for us to sacrifice our soldiers pointlessly," Andro suggested, "Since Stok is over, there is no longer a force that can threaten our empire. We should let our warriors come home."
"The corpse wave is also a threat," Leguna reminded, but it was still obvious that he supported Andro's decision to withdraw. There was no way to be certain of the scale of the wave and how long they would be sustained. Letting the army advance carelessly might result in horrible losses.
Larwin began to hesitate once more. He knew that the war had drained the empire considerably over the past few years.
However, conquering Stok and flying the flag of the mighty eagle over the millennium capital. Stok was an empire that had lasted through thousands of years and the names of countless rulers had been forgotten in the sands of time. However, everyone knew the name of its founder, Bernard Stok, because he completed a feat nobody was able to do for all of history: uniting the whole continent.
Would he really have to give up? Larwin narrowed his already small eyes.
"Your Imperial Majesty…" Alfreid said.
"Alfreid, what's your opinion on this?"
"I believe Sir Andor is correct. Stok is now gone and we no longer have to send our troops further south into unknown dangers."
"Are you suggesting we retreat too?"
"No. While I don't support the troops going further south, I believe Sir Leguna speaks sense. The threat to the empire still exists despite Stok's elimination. The corpse wave is worth being wary of as well."
"Alright, tell it to me straight."
"Your Imperial Majesty, with Stok wiped out, uniting the continent is something that will happen sooner or later. But now, we face an even larger obstacle: the corpse wave that appeared out of nowhere. Sir Leguna called it a disaster, so we must pay it huge heed. While Stok is gone, the war hasn't ended. What we have to do next is to fight a defensive battle."
"The lord premier is correct." Leguna had to admit that while he held a grudge against the man, he was truly loyal to the empire. Over the years, Leguna collected quite a lot of information on Alfreid's backroom dealings, and he was sure Larwin's secret investigative department knew about it too. However, Larwin had never pinned any of them on Alfreid. The reason for that was his loyalty. While he had harmed quite a number of people, his talent and loyalty were not to be doubted.
"There are many things we aren't certain about with the corpse wave. To prevent it from encroaching upon our border, we must have our forces stationed in Stok," Alfreid said, "I believe this is what we have to do next. We have to stop all undead creatures at the southern border. As for how we can use the terrain for an even more effective defense, I'm sure His Highness Alissanda knows how to achieve that better than I do. When the corpse wave is gone, the forces can continue southward."
"What is the corpse wave doesn't take the initiative to come north?" Larwin asked.
Alfreid smiled. "Your Imperial Majesty, undead creatures have an innate sense and hate of the living. With so many refugees coming from the south, the scent would no doubt leave a trail for the undead to follow. That, I can be certain of. Am I correct, Miss Annelotte?"
"That is so." Annelotte, who had not said a word the whole time, nodded.
After getting her agreement, Alfreid bowed elegantly to her and continued, "Additionally, we have to develop tools that can deal with the undead. I will personally get into contact with the Church of the Bright Sun. They can provide holy water infused with the sun god's power. Light and fire are the undead's natural enemies. That's why I believe we should procure even more war fuel. I hope Sir Andro can help me out on this."
Andro's face dried up like a bark when he heard about having to spend again. However, he had no choice but to agree when faced with Alfreid's unrelenting glare.
"Your Highness Geoffrey, Miss Annelotte," Alfreid continued, "We still don't have a clear picture on the degree of threat the corpse wave poses to us. As such, I believe the empire should make preparations for the worst-case scenario. Hypothetically, if our forces aren't able to resist the corpse wave, we'll have to rely on the two magic academies' power. The army might need more magi support."
"A few of the corpses have been sent to the academies. The elders have begun research and we'll soon be able to gain some results," Annelotte said.
"Good. Then, let's go forward with this plan," Larwin said, "We'll also have to make word of the corpse wave public."
"Make it public? Won't it cause mass panic?" Geoffrey asked hesitantly.
"Our subjects aren't that weak. Not to mention, those southern cowards have begun spreading rumors. If we try to cover it up now, it'll look even more obvious. Tell them that a corpse wave that obliterated Stok is moving north, but make sure to let them know they shall not set foot in our homes. The warriors of the empire will form the greatest wall ever to stop them."Previous Chapter Next Chapter