After another half a month passed, the war was now in its cruelest stage. Near half of the hundreds of thousands of Hockian soldiers had perished and even more of the trained warriors fell on the battlefield. A few years later, the historians' research revealed that the Tide of Death cost the continent a third of its human population. To protect their own nation, half of all Chinoan males were sent to the battlefield. When the battles were finally over, the number of males that remained was thirty percent smaller than that of females.
It was precisely due to this crisis that Hocke made it legal for a man to take multiple wives and reward the family for each male child born as a measure to improve the demographic of the population. In other words, after the war was over, it was as if men had stepped into heaven. They could pick and choose from many potential candidates to be their wives and held a much higher position in the relationship. There was no worry at all for the women in their harems to be dissatisfied. If they dared lash out, they'll be left out and the men could easily find other women to take their place. Quite a number of men held the notion that they were the ones who fought for their nation and protected their lives, so now it was the women's turn to pay them back!
What the female historians found even more insulting was how the brave men that went to fight were all dead, and the ones who remained were cowards who refused to fight and hid with the women in a safe corner. Yet, now they enjoyed being treated like brave warriors and those that actually paid the price were reduced to nothing but a pile of bones.
However, this was something to happen in the following years. At present, everyone, male or female, was embroiled in the hellscape plagued by corpses.
The newly conscripted warriors set out for the battlefield once more. Compared to the previous wave of reinforcements, these warriors were far inferior. While the last two waves of reinforcements were mostly youths, this wave was not only filled with rather aged fighters, there were even some women among them. There wasn't much of a fight left in Chino and those that fought were resisting out of desperation. Even as they couldn't see any hope for victory and didn't know how to deal with the disaster, they all shared one thought: to protect their families and loved ones. If giving their lives could buy them a day or two more of time, that would be well and good.
The soldiers conscripted from Melindor were about to leave. Quite a number of citizens came to send the warriors off. They brought rations, money, and newly tailored clothes and stuffed them into the hands of the warriors. Even though they don't know them personally, they knew that they were about to head to the battlefield towards their own destruction for their sake.
But most of the warriors refused the gifts.
"Granny, it's better to leave these fine shoes for your children," a young fellow said as he returned the shoes an old woman gave him. "Someone about to die has no use for this."
"My child… my child perished on the southern battlefield…" she muttered.
The youngster was taken aback. He saluted her and said, "My utmost respects. Your son was an honorably fellow who gave his life to protect us. Now, it's my turn to protect you."
He left after saying that, leaving the old woman to watch him in his wake.
Scenes like this were all too common. Even though they were fresh reinforcements for the frontlines, everyone still despaired. They knew that the Tide of Death was a black hole that couldn't be filled up with any number of human lives!
Leguna watched from his tall building and sighed. "Xeno."
"Sir, I am here." Xeno stepped out from the shadows.
"Please tell His Imperial Majesty I have something to say. Call Grandmaster Myr as well."
Half an hour later, Leguna and the rest gathered in Larwin's study.
"What is it?" Larwin asked, his expression grim.
"Your Imperial Majesty, please send us the best assassins from your investigative department. I hope to go with them to… assassinate Nidhogg."
Larwin didn't seem to have much of a reaction, merely furrowing his brow. "Nidhogg?"
"Your Imperial Majesty must be aware of what happened during the founding war," Leguna said, not bothering to go in circles any longer, "This nightmare won't end unless Nidhogg dies."
"Are you confident?" Larwin said without beating around the bush.
"No, but it's the only way."
The emperor rapped his fingers on the desk nonstop.
"Your Imperial Majesty, the citizens of the empire have paid too high a price. It's time for us to act."
He couldn't bear to see the warriors of the empire perish one after another, but that wasn't reason enough for him to go on a risky mission like this himself. The real reason he could no longer stay put was the number of bureau agents that died protecting Annelotte skyrocketed lately. Most of them were killed by wraiths and other undead creatures, and it was a really telling sign. If he didn't act now, who knew what the myth-realm magus would resort to?
There was something else that bothered him. The undead that attacked the agents weren't that much of a threat to Annelotte herself. Not to mention, she herself didn't come under any attack, only the agents protecting her did. Leguna saw it as a signal from Nidhogg, perhaps even a threat. Nidhogg seemed to be beckoning him to act with the threat of escalating the danger she would face. Leguna's first reaction was attempting to assassinate Nidhogg. He simply had to die. Or… perhaps Nidhogg wanted to have a meeting with him?
Even if that was the case, there was no way he would actually go to see him alone.
So, he wanted to assemble the most powerful forces he could. With their help, perhaps their mission would stand a much greater chance of succeeding.
Larwin gave it some thought and slammed his table. "Come out!"
Three slender assassins appeared out of nowhere, clad in all black and masked. Only three pairs of red eyes stared at Leguna. Larwin's little intelligence outfit was rather hostile towards the bureau. It wouldn't be weird for them to feel conflicted about seeing the bureau head there.
Three 18th-stratum assassins? Leguna's pupils dilated. Lately, he had been training nonstop and thanks to his efforts, his abilities grew exponentially and his impetus was at a stable 19th stratum. Though he was more powerful than they were, he was still really wary of them.
[See for yourselves. These assassins are the real deal,] Gahrona muttered. The way she saw it, Leguna had strayed far from the proper path of an assassin. A real assassin had no fixed way of killing his target. They could fight, poison, set traps and even use others to make the kill for them. They had varied and diverse methods of killing and would never show themselves before their enemy. True assassins wouldn't even let their target know how they died.
Leguna, on the other hand, only had one trick up his sleeves: surprise attacking a target. If it didn't work, he wouldn't leave immediately to concoct a new plan. Instead, he would use Host of Darkness and brute force his way until his target died. Gahrona felt that rather than an assassin, it was more apt to call Leguna a swordsman who knew how to hide really well.Previous Chapter Next Chapter