The little girl sobbed as she crawled, snot mingling with tears on her little face, and her white dress had long since gone black from mud and blood.
The villages outside Fort Bunuo were covered in blood as demons from the Sulfur River strung the inhabitants who were too late to escape on hooks, dragged them out of their houses, brutally murdered, and hung them from the trees in the village. The little girl screamed and cried out for her father, not knowing if her father has long been one of those unfortunate souls.
The demons seemed to be playing with this little prey, taking great pleasure from the little girl's panic. They left her to struggle in a pool of blood and mud, but every time she tried to climb out, a hellhound comes up to bite her calf and drag her back.
The little girl screamed and struggled, and not far away the little devils let out a sharp laugh in unison. It was like a feast for them, they pulled out a dying maiden from the pile of corpses, grabbed her long flaxen hair with their claws, then cut open her chest with a sharp knife, ripped out her heart and swallowed it in one gulp.
The little girl was completely stunned when she saw this scene. The hellhound who was waiting beside her seemed to have run out of patience and bit her then swung it’s head around with the little girl's lifeless body shaking like a broken doll.
But it was at this time that this hellish creature, which was taller than a person and looked like a giant wolf with dark fur, suddenly raised its head, twitched its ears, and stood in a guarded stance. Suddenly, a sharp arrow whistled through the night sky, separating the wind and rain, and hit its smoky snout. The creature who stunk of sulfur immediately let out a cry and its whole body tumbled backward.
A female knight rushed out of the pouring rain with a sword in her hand and eyes that showed a gleam of hatred. She lifted the entire hellhound by its jaw using one hand. Flames spit out from under the hellhound's fur and burned her fingers, but she gritted her teeth and thrust her sword upward, sending it straight into its body.
"Die, devil, go back to hell!"
The hellhound let out a wail and a scorching lump of blood that came from the wound on its throat splattered on Freya's face.
More knights rushed to the scene afterward and Bessie brought down the distant Imps one arrow at a time with a longbow. These red-skinned villains were nothing compared to the true strength of the Black Dwarves, not even as strong as the Hellhounds that Freya had killed.
The knights passed by Freya, calling out the female knight's name. However, Freya looks as she has lost all her strength while repeatedly pummeling the Hellhound's body. Then she bent down and carefully picked up the little girl, who was a bloody mess from neck to chest, her eyes half-closed and her small mouth spitting out blood and bits of her guts as she mustered up the strength to speak.
Freya bit her lower lip and couldn't stop the tears from flowing. This scene was familiar to her, having happened to her in many places such as Bucce and Eruin. She had experienced the same pain herself. The flames of war scorched the earth, but it is not the nobles of the kingdom who are tormented in the flames, but its people.
For the past year, the kingdom seemed to return to peace, but the same painful memory was repeated once again, this time it was the Kirrultz people and the nobles of the north who brought such misery. Who will it be next time?
Aouine was powerless, just as she was powerless to save the little girl in her arms. Freya felt she could only watch as the little girl died, slowly going cold in her arms.
"Brendel, what am I going to do..." muttered Freya as she gently put her down.
As she looked back, Bessie who had somehow come up behind her patted her on the back. "Freya, this is war, you have to learn to get used to it." She replied with a sigh.
"But when will Aouine end the war?"
"We will have to wait for it to get stronger, so strong that no one can manipulate our fate."
"One day," replied Bessie firmly, "Her Royal Highness will make it, and without the need to rely on those rotten nobles of the north."
Really? Freya couldn't help but think of what Brendel had once told her, but isn’t the King's faction the same? Can those nobles really feel such pain? The more she knew, the darker and deeper history seemed in her eyes, as if a giant mouth was trying to swallow her up. But then she thought of those determined eyes in the midst of Bucce’s sea of fire, how can Brendel always be so confident?
The fear of uncertainty that shrouds everyone and causes fear and unease doesn’t seem to exist in Brendel. Has he seen the other end of history? Has he seen the inevitable end?
The young girl’s mind slowly drifted away the more she thought about it.
Bunuo’s battlefield looks like the charred bottom of a pot, and all across the scorched earth stood a number of sticks, some with tattered flags remaining. The scorching scraps of armor were scattered all over the place, with mutilated human bodies, hands, feet, or some other body part.
The demon's attack finally came to an end, but it brought an unparalleled shock to the hearts of the people. The remnants of the army fell back one after another, finally rebuilding a line of defense after retreating four to five miles. The genius of the port people Viscount Von Dougning looked into the distance and saw crater after crater which fills him with anger and hatred. When the gang of northern coalition lords cried for a retreat, he really should have slaughtered them all, simply a bunch of cowards.
He was fortunate enough to survive the battle of Mar Highland, and although he was taken prisoner, he was quickly traded back, which made him look very bad, so he desperately needed a victory to prove himself. The glory of a soldier is to move forward, especially in the midst of such a war. Killing a few more demons is the basis for future promotion.
But the demon attack was so daunting, Viscount Von Dougning did not know whether he stood a chance or not. Bright flames burned across the horizon, making it look as if it was raining grease and making the flames burn even brighter. Fort Bunuo was sort of finished, he didn't care how many people died there, who died there, none of that mattered to him, but he at least understood that this line of defense had become precarious.
He saw a few knights in White Lion Legion battle robes walking past him and those White Lions seemed to be organizing a counterattack. He couldn't help but spit at them as such a battle was impossible to fight. The commanders were a bunch of fools that don’t even know the enemy's fighting style.
Viscount Von Dougning couldn't help but look up into the sky, he couldn’t see through the heavy rain, but he could still see the shadow of the Royal First Fleet of Aouine hanging in mid-air. He always has fruitful insights but for a moment he didn't even know what to think.
Count Janilasu corrected the time on her pocket watch for the last time, and by that time, the fleet had fully unfurled in the direction of the northern demon army's garrison, all the gun doors on the ship's side had already opened. It looks as if the ship opened countless black eyes. The sun had completely set, and it was pitch black amongst the heavy rain.
But there was still a string of residual light in the sky coupled with the flickering light emitted by the flames.
This light fell on the count’s rigid face, tracing several straight lines. The middle-aged man glanced back at the Kirrultz people and said "Fifteen minutes to go."
Nearly all of the upper echelons of the coalition army were gathered above the deck at this moment. Under the watchful eye of Archbishop Wood, Ciel placed a crystal ball in the center, and on the crystal ball was the image of Brendel.
At the same moment, Brendel was also looking at Wood on the crystal ball that Babasha had placed on the parchment map.
"Brendel, in fifteen minutes, the Kirrultz people will join the Aouine people in a general attack on the demonic hordes from the Sulfur River that are several times larger than they are, and we will draw attention away from you," Wood in his officiating robe looked serious, "but can you really find a way to tear down those Doors of Flames?"
"I can't promise." Brendel replied seriously, "But you and I both understand what will happen if I don't succeed, so we have to go for it."
"Both you and I know, archbishop." He smiled faintly.
Wood looked deeply at Brendel.
This is one the faces that he least wanted to see right now, this time Ampere Seale’s plan was close to being a nightmare for him. The situation in the harbor had completely deteriorated, and if the northern coalition forces were unable to defeat the demons, then the Kirrultz Empire and the Holy Cathedral of Fire were likely to pay dearly for it together.
Those were the three Doors of Flames, and no one knew the situation better than he did. No, there was one person who probably knew at least as much as he did. Wood stared dead at him, wondering how the young man could possibly know so much about the inside workings.
As soon as Brendel opened his mouth, the northern nobility exploded.
"Is this guy passing the buck?"
"Lord Archbishop, if he can't give a certain answer, what's the point of us making a death-like charge at the demons, it's almost foolish."
"Is Her Royal Highness trying to find a way to deplete her allies' strength?"
"It's better to stand firm and wait for help, the Holy Cathedral of Fire won’t abandon us."
And on the other side of the crystal ball, Princess Gryphine tugged at Brendel’s sleeve as well. She looked at him somewhat angrily and asked, "Mr. Brendel, you said we were going to act according to the opportunities that show up."
"They are demons, Your Highness."
"I know, but there is no need for you to take unnecessary risks," said Her Royal Highness, trying to suppress her anger, "Mr. Brendel, we can overcome them sooner or later! I don't support your personal heroism. Although romantic, it’s not the right thing to do!"
Brendel sighed and reached out his hand to gently straighten the tangled strands of hair on the Princess' forehead, a move that stunned everyone around him. Even the princess herself froze, but Brendel didn't care. To be honest, he didn't even know if he'd make it back alive.
He understood what kind of battle he was going to face the moment he made this decision.
"Have you ever seen a real army of demons, Your Highness?" He asked softly.
... "Have you ever seen a real army of demons, you bunch of fools." Wood slowly turned his head back, and everyone could hear the anger bred in the High Priest's tone. The northern nobles were unbeatable, but they had to bow their heads in front of the Holy Cathedral of Fire, and all of them went silent for a moment.
"Demons are the mortal enemies of order and civilization, Your Highness. They are rebellious and untamed, and although they are not under the Twilight Dragon, they are born from chaos. Born to tear everything down, everything that is good and cherished is their enemy. Their pleasures are built on mortal pain and despair."
"The reason the Holy Cathedral fought against cults was not to silence the voices of opposition. Those who obey Twilight are believers of chaos whose faith is to tear the world apart and cause our world to cease to exist. Yet some of the people here today, some of the nobles who should be taking on the responsibility of guiding the people, have foolishly ignored this."
"The demonic scourge of the Wilderness of Four Realms is still well remembered, the demons that gushed out from the portal destroyed everything, an entire kingdom, and almost all living beings were completely exterminated. Who will save them? No one. Not even the Holy Cathedral could do it. Your Highness, have you seen the scene where demons walk over the earth and the flames of sulfur burn everything behind them?"
"I have seen it, and at the time I was not a high ranking bishop of the cathedral. Millions of demons descended upon this world, and it took the Holy Cathedral ten whole years of hard work to completely drive them back to the Sulfur River."
"Today, Aouine is going to face the same fate."
"Back then, the opening was just a crack on the border of Antoburo. And today, it's three whole portals." Wood said quietly that he would not hesitate to divulge the secrets of the temple, for if today’s issue could not be solved, his political life would also come to a complete end and he would become a sinner.
More importantly, the reputation of the Holy Cathedral of Fire would take an unimaginable blow.
On the other side, Brendel was silent for a moment and decided to get the truth out, "Your Highness, Aouine will turn into hell on earth. But there should be a silver lining in this outcome, isn’t there?"
There are millions of lives here, and they probably have nothing to do with him. He would not see them roast in the flames, he would not see them die in agony, and he would not even hear their wails before they died.
Everything seemed so irrelevant to him, and yet he could still methodically carry out his plan to recreate this ancient kingdom on top of the wasteland.
At least Valhalla is still around, isn't she?
Maybe. But Brendel couldn't convince himself to just ignore it. He could tell himself he didn't see it all, but couldn't fool the truest emotion in his heart.
Everyone tries to run away all the time, but there is the truest version of themselves in everyone's heart, which tells them what is right and what is wrong.
No one is born a hero but for now, at least there's a chance to try their absolute best. As he who has been through it all understands, there is only one thing in this world that cannot be made up.
Her Royal Highness looked at him in bewilderment.
"Mr. Brendel, you...."
"Your Highness, you said you’d trust me."
“You…….” Princess Gryphine was slightly angry and struggled for a bit but in the end, she let go. “Alright, I understand……”
Brendel nodded at her, then he looked back at Archbishop Wood on the crystal ball. "It seems that we have reached an agreement. Congratulations, archbishop."
Wood nodded but sighed faintly in his mind. The archbishop couldn't help but slightly lower his eyelids: The way things went has been too rash, and he probably shouldn't have condoned it in the first place.
"May Mother Marsha in heaven bless us, and may Aouine’s luck persist through this disaster." There had never been a moment when he had so much hope for Aouine to continue existing as a Kirrultz, and Archbishop of the cathedral. Today is the day he had hoped the hardest for this country’s survival.
Brendel also laughed, "Yeah, I hope the Holy Cathedral of Fire didn't go against the will of its predecessor, Gretel too much, otherwise wouldn’t it be unjust for me to be involved in this?"
Wood grunted muffledly.