Chapter 68 – Burnout

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12,000 Highserk soldiers, 3,000 former Myard soldiers, 7,000 volunteers, and 81,000 refugees were all humans who had filled the Dandurg Castle.

It had now been reduced to less than 10,000 soldiers and civilians. Men and women of all ages and those who could move were all involved in the battle in some way. In short, it was the result of being involved.

The monsters that might reach 100,000 in numbers have fallen everywhere inside and outside the castle, and the monsters that have been missed were still wandering around.

In the corner of the castle tower that escaped the collapse, those who had been raised to the representative position exchanged opinions.

“It should be a holding up in this castle.
We have destroyed all the monsters, haven’t we?”

Highserk soldiers with one arm hung said so.

“I’m sure we’ve destroyed them, but it’s all thanks to the demon fire, right?”

Deborah, who had been made to be a temporary Platoon Commander, brought the story back to reality.

The success of the defense of the great outbreak, if you focused on words alone, it certainly sounded sweet. But, not for those involved.

Moritz, who had been quietly listening, opened his mouth.

“Yes, we… lost our pillar, Walm-dono.”

Moritz had determined that it was time to face the unacceptable reality.

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Walm’s worth as a military man for Moritz was that of a hero.
To the headquarters which lost the chain of command, Walm organized the confused castle, and always fought on the front lines.

For Moritz, who spent most of his military career as a messenger of the headquarters, he was so grateful for his good luck that he could be in a position of assisting Walm, who was a supportive person even in private life.

The Lord to serve should have been found. Now, it was lost, and Moritz was knocked down to the bottom of his disappointment. Still, 10,000 people survived. He couldn’t afford to stagnate.

“Without Battalion Commander Walm, we can’t talk about defense.”

“We fought together, even though I was behind the scenes.
There were countless monsters that he had killed alone.
That’s the truth.
Can we get the same results without him…?”

“He had killed a Crawler, Tyrant Worm, and Ogre Lord.
Who can do the same?”

Friug, the survivor of Walm’s subordinates, shuddered. Moritz could understand his feelings well.

It was the troops led by both men who searched around the castle to the end.

They fought under a hero whose story would be handed down to posterity, and won the siege battle that was supposed to be their demise. But, the protagonist didn’t last until the very end. Who had the right to scream loudly for victory now? None.

Moritz turned to Ayane, who was participating in the meeting. The effects of physical and mental fatigue on the ghastly battlefield were enormous already, and now, the figure of the person who she barely saved and hoped for his return from unreasonably jumping into the deadly zone, wasn’t there… How much mentally worn down was she at this moment?

The absent-minded figure of Ayane was really painful to see. And the first one who cursed at the cause of it was Moritz.
He thought that his Lord was such a terrible person to make a girl sad and leave her behind.

Moritz was aware that what his Lord did was a stupid act. Although it was to defend the castle from being destroyed, Walm who had been injured to the extent that he was almost dead, after being healed, immediately went back to the battlefield.

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The Dandurg Castle was craving from Walm to return to the battlefield. Those who had looked his back as a soldier were hoping for it.
Even Moritz wanted a hero named Walm.

Rather than the loss of the hero, those who knew Walm were more saddened by the loss of Walm as a person. Though he had a short relationship with Walm, Moritz was one among those people.
But the one who was most saddened by this, must be Ayane, who was the last person to exchange words with him and saw him off.

Despite the relationship between a prisoner of war and the surveillance, there was a sympathetic connection between them that Moritz couldn’t understand. Moritz believes that it was Ayane’s dedication that brought back Walm, who traveled to the Netherworld, to the real world. That was why Moritz thought that the feeling of loss that the girl had right now must be immeasurable for him to even understand.

The last time Walm returned to the treatment center, was with serious injuries. And he didn’t come back this time. Ayane’s shock couldn’t be healed that easily.

And even if it was a sentimental meeting, they must proceed.

“In our beloved homeland, 200,000 monsters are lurking along with the Flame Emperor Dragon, and the other two armies couldn’t be contacted with communication magic tools, even the Imperial City couldn’t be contacted.”

Justus, the only Brigade Commander (Wartime) who escaped the difficulty of the Flame Emperor Dragon’s breath, said so to confirm the status quo.

The thin hair was polished and the dark circles were deeply carved under his eyes. Moritz was well aware that Justus was the shadow pillar of the defense of Dandurg Castle.

A shift in force, distribution of supplies, and guidance for the citizens… without Justus commanding that side, the number of survivors could have been less than half of what it was now.

Moritz thought that the Flame Emperor Dragon, which destroyed his home country, would likely return to its nest in the Demon Territory. If that were to happen, there would be a risk that it would return following the path it came. Only, this time, the humans left in Dandurg Castle would be eradicated for real.

“We have no choice but to go to Celta territory of Myard.
Ask for forgiveness and beg for mercy.”

“No way!! Relying on Myard… even though they also affected, they’re one of the culprits.”

“Brigade Commander, are you serious!?”

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“Until the end, I’ll always be a soldier of the Highserk Empire! Even if the country is going to ruin, I’m prepared to devote myself if necessary to bring it back to glory.
I’ve a family and friends in the Imperial City, but now… they no longer exist.”

Justus scattered the documents he had in his hand on the desk.

“I wrote down the communication history using the communication magic tool.
It’s still not confirmed, so I refrained from telling it.”

The reactions of the Highserk soldiers who read through the scattered documents were mixed.

“The First Army and the Second Army are destroyed, and His Excellency Gerard also d-died in battle with the castle as a pillow.
And H-His Majesty the Emperor…”

“Did the Flame Emperor Dragon invade the Imperial City just one day after overtaking Dandurg?”

“All contact with major cities is lost.
There is no response from any place under Highserk territory by communication magic tools, and the only place where you can contact within the communication range is Celta territory of Myard.”

Justus told so and squeezed his mouth until everyone had finished reading the paperwork. 

Communication blackout… would mean that humans had been lost from the surrounding area. Moritz was once again struck by reality. At the same time, he marveled at the boldness of Justus, who even after knowing the surroundings, personally hid it and continued to take command.

“I don’t want to admit, I don’t want to… But, the Highserk Empire isn’t dying, it’s already died.”

“N-no way, Highserk is, nooo.”

“Did we lose? Then, for what reason, we’re still here…”

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“I can’t.
I don’t believe this, I’ve a family in the Imperial City.
When the expedition is over, I’m going to give them souvenirs.
I, I was going to give it.”

Even generals and commanders who survived the hellish battlefield couldn’t hide their dismay and were weeping.

“Is it, really, not possible? Perhaps, it’s a malfunction of the communication magic tool.”

“Communication is completely cut off, including reserves.”

“Ha, haha.

The general, who was holding back his emotions, held his head while making a meaningless scream. There was no one, no participant of this war who could keep their face.
Not a single one. Even Moritz couldn’t help but shed tears. He was just doing his best to stay silent.

“Do we have no homeland, no war god, no heroes?”

Dead country… these two words were clearly in Moritz’s mind.
Feeling lonely and cold, he quietly put himself on a chair.

“The high-ranking soldiers of Myard, who were taken prisoners and fought together on the battlefield, survived.
They’ve talked to them with the communication magic tool… We’ll head to Celta and go into exile in Myard.
That’s all there is to the Empire.
I will not stop those who are feeling crushed and want to head to their hometown.
Still, as a soldier of the Highserk Empire, I want to save you.
Even if this is something hard to endure, intolerable, You, have to steel yourself… Even if what awaits you is only a series of endless misfortunes, it won’t change the fact that You, brave soldiers, are the only remnants of the Highserk Empire.”

If blood were to flow out of eyes, it wouldn’t be possible except now. Justus clenched his teeth as if wanted to crush them, opening his red-colored eyes. 

Those who keep their eyes on the desk and cry, those who look up at the ceiling as if they were in love, those who just keep quiet and ponder.
In the end, no one criticized Justus.

On this day, people disappeared all at once from Dandurg Castle, and the old castle, which had escaped the fall despite being hit by a great outbreak, fell under the control of the monsters.

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