It was evening and a few crows on the trees cawed. The trees were planted on both sides of the road. Suddenly, the crows looked up to see dust gathering in the distance. The earth shook and the sound of galloping horses broke the silence of the evening. The crows flapped their wings and hurriedly flew away from the branches.
Rody was no longer wearing the silver armor. Instead, he was wearing a leather armor. Nicole had ordered Randt to bring the leather armor to Rody. It was also something that belonged to the Tulip Family. Many years ago, Nicole’s father wore that leather armor in the battlefield. Rody doubted that the leather armor could give him any protection. However, it would be impossible to march quickly if he wore the heavy, metal armor. The leather armor was lighter and more convenient.
Rody’s body was soaked in sweat and he felt a burning pain in his thigh. Riding the horses for two consecutive days had caused his legs to tire out.
During the past one and a half days, Rody and the 10,000 elite cavalrymen of the ‘Lightning God’s Whip’ were rushing to their destination. When they felt tired, they rested on their horses’ backs and when they were hungry, they ate their dry food and drank while riding. When their horses got tired, they switched their horses and continued to advance forward. At that moment, everyone had changed their horses twice. Each soldier was riding a horse with another spare following from behind. Both horses were extremely exhausted. Some of the horses were even foaming at the mouth. Even though the horses of the Central Cavalry were the best horses in the Empire, they were also unable to endure nearly two days of running without rest.
The soldiers all looked tired but Sieg and the Wolves Fang Army were really worthy of the title ‘Lightning God’s Whip’. Despite their exhaustion, the soldiers all still held a strong and sturdy expression. Not a single one of them fell behind or complained. The mighty cavalry continued their journey amid the sound of thundering hooves.
“Your Excellency, the cavalry scouts have returned!” The messenger went to Rody’s side and immediately saluted.
Rody gave Sieg a glance. Sieg nodded and said, “Transmit the order. The whole army is to slow down!”
In the blink of an eye, the messenger conveyed Sieg’s order to the others starting from the front. The cavalry started to slow down without falling into disarray. Evidently, Sieg had trained them well.
The scout reported that they were approaching a village and that the village did not look suspicious. That place was already close to the front lines and apparently, the Great Moon Kingdom’s cavalry would also sometimes appear around the area. However, the village in front did not seem to have encountered the Great Moon Kingdom.
Rody sighed and spoke, “Pass down the orders. We will rest at the village in front for a while. We cannot hurry through our journey. Even if we do not need to rest, the horses will still need to rest.”
Sieg nodded. With his background, he naturally understood that the strength of the horses was important for cavalries.
When night came, the Wolves Fang Army finally reached the village. Rody ordered the army to rest for two hours at a riverbank two miles away from the village. He then took Sieg and 200 soldiers with him to the village.
The village was actually part of the Empire’s territory but because it was in a remote region, a few of the villagers felt surprised and fearful when they saw the army.
The soldiers searched for the village head and found him to be a simple and honest farmer. When he saw Rody and Sieg, he started to stammer and could barely say anything. Rody once again split up his soldiers with 50 of them guarding the northern entrance. He and Sieg then followed the village head to his home.
The village head said nothing and silently led the way.
The moment Rody entered the simple courtyard, he felt that something was not right. He frowned and looked around. He saw that the village head appeared nonchalant. Beside him was his young daughter, about 15 or 16 years old with a delicate face.
When Rody also saw a pile of unchopped firewood in the courtyard, he immediately understood the situation they were in.
“There are only the two of you here?”
“Yes, Your Excellency,” The village head lowered his head and spoke with a firm voice.
Rody silently went to a corner. Suddenly, he lifted his leg and kicked a wooden cabinet to reveal a big hole in the wall. The sudden movements scared the village head and he went pale. The girl also screamed in fear. Several soldiers beside him rushed forward with their scimitars. They dragged out a young man from the hole. The young man was wearing simple civilian clothing. His face was pale and filled with despair.
“What is the meaning of this?! You are all actually spies!” Sieg’s face also sank with disappointment.
The village head quickly knelt down and begged, “Your Excellency, he is not a spy! He is my son! He is not the Great Moon Kingdom’s spy!”
Rody waved and signaled the soldiers to release the young man. The young man did not look like a warrior, so, Rody was not afraid that he would resist.
“Speak! What is going on here?”
When he saw all the soldiers pulling out their scimitars, the young man quickly shouted loudly, “Your Excellency, my family has nothing to do with this! Just arrest me and take me back… I am… I am someone who escaped from the front line…”
Rody sighed and nodded. “So, he is just a deserter.” Sieg also relaxed a bit but asked, “Are you one of the Northwest Legion?”
“Yes!” The young man nodded his head and glanced at his father. “I was originally based at the Trier Fortress not far from here. We were scattered all over when the fortress was captured by the Great Moon Kingdom. So, I escaped back here…”
“Hmph!” Before Rody could speak, Sieg spoke indifferently, “In that case, do you know the military law?”
“I know,” The young man said with a pale face. “For desertion, death.”
“Don’t!” The girl at the side suddenly screamed. She wanted to rush forward but she was stopped by two soldiers. She wept and spoke, “Do not kill him! Why must you kill him? I have already lost one brother in the war! Do you still want to kill my only remaining brother?!”
Rody was the leader but he was also young and could not help but feel sympathetic. He sighed and said, “This is the military law of the Empire. If everybody violated the law and was not punished, who would fight for the Empire?”
However, the girl was stubborn. With tears in her eyes, she shouted at Rody loudly without fearing him. “Deserters?! My brother never wanted to be a soldier! It was you all who forced him and sent him off to fight! Three months ago, my other brother was forced to fight and in the end, he died in battle! Last month, you came to take him! We do not want to be soldiers! You came here to grab our food! Now you want us to give you our lives!”
“Wait!” Rody stopped the two soldiers who were about to drag the young man out. He turned around and gloomily looked at the girl before inquiring, “You said your brother was captured and forced to fight in the war?”
Ignoring her own frightened father’s meaningful glance, she stared right into Rody’s eyes and gritted her teeth. “Yes, you all tied him up! My eldest brother refused to be a soldier and then you all beat him up before taking him away! My second brother also refused but you all hit my father and forced him to go with you! Now that the war is over, why won’t you let my brother go home?”
“Is there actually such a thing?!” Rody’s face turned pale and he glanced at Sieg. Sieg wrinkled his brows. He was in the army for most of his life and certainly had heard of such things. In many places, the garrisons often lacked troops. However, they used a normal recruitment process and the recruited soldiers would be paid. But according to the girl’s claims, the officers must have embezzled the recruitment money and used violence to forcefully recruit soldiers. This seemed to be quite common in remote regions.
When Rody saw Sieg’s face, he knew that the girl was not lying. Since Sieg who was most familiar with the army did not say anything, it meant that the girl spoke the truth.
“Let him go,” Rody sighed and was unable to understand his own feelings. He was determined in helping the Northwest Legion to defend his home and country. However, when he saw that the civilians hated the soldiers of the Empire, he had an indescribable feeling.
Sieg wanted to object but, remembering the story that was just related, he also remained silent. The moment that the young man was freed, he immediately rushed over to protect his father and sister.
“Village head, can you prepare us some food? After that, can you also help us to find some food for my soldiers? My soldiers are also hungry!” Rody no longer had the intention of pursuing the desertion issue with the family. He gave one of his bodyguards a meaningful glance and the soldier immediately took out a few gold coins.
The village head looked surprised at the soldier holding the gold coins and he soon shook his head. “Your Excellency, it is not that I don’t want to… but, really there is nothing left to eat…”
“A few days ago, the army of the Great Moon Kingdom came here. They already took all our food and left. Now, we only have a little bit of food left for ourselves. There is nothing left to give.”
“What?” Rody banged the table and stood up. He then shouted, “Why didn’t you tell us earlier that the Great Moon Kingdom’s army is nearby? How many of them are there? Where are they?”
The village head panicked. His face turned pale and he stammered, unable to speak. The young man then replied, “The last time they came here, there were not many. They only had a few dozen cavalrymen. However, it seemed like they spread out to the nearby villages to look for food.”
“Hmph, why didn’t you mention this earlier?” Sieg asked angrily. They were rushing desperately to reach Watt Fortress and join forces with the Northwest Legion without alerting the Great Moon Kingdom. If the Great Moon Kingdom knew that they were there to intercept, Rody, Sieg, and the 10,000 tired soldiers would all be in great danger.
“Is there anything else you have not told us?” Rody signaled for Sieg to sit down and looked at the young man.
The village head’s mouth was wide open but he did not say anything. The young man’s face was pale and his eyes seemed evasive. Rody sensed something was wrong. Without waiting for him to speak, Sieg warned him in a ruthless manner, “I will not pursue the fact that you are a deserter since His Excellency has pardoned you. However, if you hide military information and do not report them to our army, that is the same as being a spy!”
The girl gritted her teeth, stood up and loudly said, “They came here two days ago. They took our food as well as a few of our villagers with them. They also left us a message asking us to be their messenger. They told us that if the Empire’s army passed by, we had to burn some straws so that the chimneys would give out smoke as a signal. If we refused, they would kill the villagers they had captured!”
Sieg’s face changed and he quickly ran out the door. Sure enough, a few of the farmhouses had black smoke coming out of their chimneys.
“Where are they? Where is the Great Moon Kingdom’s army?” Rody shouted at the young man. He may have been sympathetic towards the man who was forced to fight in the war and did not pursue him as a deserter. However, what they just did made Rody furious.
The girl was shocked at Rody’s sudden rage. She shrank back and shouted, “They always came from the north! I… I did not burn any straws… After they left, my father also told the others not to help the Great Moon Kingdom but they did not listen to my father… I really did not burn any straws… I really did not.”
Suddenly the sound of a horn came from the north. It was a warning that came from the soldiers guarding the north.
“Some of you stay behind and watch them! If they make any reckless moves, kill them!” Sieg ordered as he rushed back into the courtyard. After that, Rody followed him outside.