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Published at 27th of December 2018 03:16:53 PM

Chapter 22

In a village near Solon, Western Region

`The scent of burning corpses filled the air with dread .

Evil . Only this word can describe the scene in front of Henry . And the worst part? He was responsible for this sinister act .

He closed his eyes . He can still hear their screams . Their wails horrify him beyond belief . And the children…especially the children .

A single tear fell from his eye .

This…this was not the way a knight should act . Knights protect the weak . Knights defend justice . But this act does not protect the weak nor defend justice .

He mumbled the Knight's Oath .

I am the wall of the people,

the refuge of the weak

I purge evil

and vanquish the unrighteous

I am the sword of justice,

the spear of morality

I am the banner in which the truth stands

Even in a cruel world

Even if I'm alone

Even for all eternity

I will always be

Because I am a knight

Lies . Sinful lies .

He once believed in Knights . That was the reason why he became one himself . They were the Knights of Tulosa, and they were supposed to be the defenders of righteousness . But now, he doesn't know anymore . Their hands were already dirty with the blood of innocents .

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He felt disgusted with himself . For the past days, he kept telling himself that this is war . Casualties were normal during conflicts . He was just following orders . But the more he tells himself of this, the less he believes it .

General Rickard had commanded General Sigurd to lead a portion of the army and raze the villages around the City of Solon . The villages around the city had long provided Castonia with a steady supply of iron . General Rickard wanted to erase these villages so that Castonia would suffer in the long run . Without the iron, Castonia can't support a long war .

Henry thought that their only job was burn the villages . That's why he readily agreed when General Rickard ordered him to accompany General Sigurd . But General Sigurd seems to enjoy his task so much that he slaughters every man, woman and children in the villages . He butchered them like they were animals . This was the third village to fall under their villainy .

But he can't stomach this anymore . This is wrong . Everything they did went against his principles and he was not alone . Many knights had also expressed their dissatisfaction . He had pleaded with General Sigurd multiple times to just burn the houses and let go of the innocents . Their enemies were the soldiers of Castonia, not these people . They had nothing to do with this war . Wars were supposed to be between soldiers . But the General won't listen to him . He even threatened Henry with demotion and even execution .

Now, Henry could only watch as the Castonian villagers burn in front of him .

"Don't feel sad about them Prefect . They deserved it . " General Sigurd said as he walked towards him .

" I apologize General, but my views are still the same . This is just too much . " Henry's voice was trembling as he turned towards the General .

He saw Sigurd's profile . The General was a big man, a head taller than most people . His long and unkempt beard gave him an intimidating appearance .

"As long as you do your job, then it's alright . " General Sigurd said to him . There was not an ounce of friendliness in his voice .

The wind suddenly changed direction and the air around them was filled with smoke . Yes, smoke from the burning bodies and houses . Henry almost flushed his lunch when the revolting aroma filled his nostrils with horror .

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"But can't we let them go General? General Rickard's orders were to burn the villages, not kill the people . " He forced a reply with coughs in between his words .

"No Prefect . " General Sigurd disagreed "General Rickard's orders were to destroy Castonia's main source of iron . If we merely burn the villages, then the Castonians could just rebuild them . We need to kill every single one of them to make our mark permanent . I told you not to question my orders . " The General's voice was firm as he looked at Henry examining his expressions .

But Henry doesn't care even if the General discovers his resentment . He knew that this is wrong and he must convince the General to stop this carnage . They are Knights, not barbarians . He became a knight because he believes in the ideals of a knight .

"We are Knights, General . Keep us out of this . Other soldiers may find this barbarism tolerable, but we don't . " He protested . He doesn't really care that he General would find him disrespectful . What can the General do? Unless he violated his orders, the General couldn't do anything to him . Henry knew that General Sigurd's threats were just that, threats . He was too important to execute or even demote .

Henry was the Prefect of the third cohort of Tulosan Knights . There were about a thousand Tulosan Knights in the Cohort and he was the one in charge of them all . Not to boast, but his abilities were actually quite good, earning him the nickname 'First Spear' . His nickname actually came from the Battle of Mesali three years ago . The charge of the Tulosan Knights under his command tipped the scale of battle . His knights formed in a wedge formation with him at the very front . The charge was so powerful that it broke the enemies' morale and won them the battle . Since then, people started calling him First Spear, a testament to his courage and abilities . He wasn't just a Prefect, he was also the face of the Tulosan Knights .

The Genaral was silent for a while, clearly annoyed by his insistence .

"I was there 15 years ago at Kimpler, or Knightsend as what the Castonians like to call it . " General Sigurd said as he looked at the burning bodies

"So I've heard . You were just a centurion back then . "

Henry already had heard that the General was a veteran of the failed first Tulosan invasion of Castonia . The defeat was, and still is, one of the darkest moments in Tulosan history . General Kingston took 20,000 Tulosans with him 15 years ago to invade Castonia . Less than a thousand were able to go home .

He was 10 years old when news of the failed invasion spread throughout Tulosa . The King that time actually wanted some quick victory against the Castonians to further cement his shaky rule . But the invasion ended up to be the straw that broke the camel's back . Instead of cementing his rule, the invasion ended it . A civil war in Tulosa followed which would last for 12 years . Henry grew up in a messed up Kingdom because of the failed invasion .

" Do you know what they did to those soldiers they captured?" Sigurd asked him .

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Henry shook his head

"They killed the half and enslaved the other half . Many of my brothers died in these mines . The Castonians forced them to work in these mines for more than a decade . Most of them should have been dead by now . "

Henry grimaced after hearing of the General's words . It's not that he doesn't understand the General's pain and anger . He does . General Sigurd probably lost many of his friends and even family members . Additionally, the civil war that followed put Tulosa in chaos for more than a decade . Many people lost their lives . But Tulosa was the aggressor . Furthermore, these people had nothing to do with the invasion 15 years ago .

"I'm sorry general . Maybe I'm too young but I still don't think these people deserve to be slaughtered" He said firmly . What they did was evil and nothing can justify it .

" As long as you follow your orders then I don't care what you think . You already have blood in your hands anyway . "

These words struck Henry's heart . It was true though . He was not clean of this war crime so he shouldn't act innocently . He was part of the massacre even if he didn't like it . Even if he detested what he did, even if it haunted him every night, even if his conscience was being ripped apart, nothing will ever change . He did it . He led the knights to slaughter the innocent .

"By the way, our scouts just reported that there is a camp of refugees nearby . There were at least a few thousand of them . It seems that they are heading to Solon . We won't let them reach the city . Prepare some of your knights . We'll leave in the morning . " General Sigurd ordered

Henry was afraid the General would again give him an order like this . The refugees only wanted to escape with their lives . They only wanted to survive . Why couldn't they let the refugees go! His mind was in chaos . Torn by a sense of duty and his own conscience, he remained fixated for a while . But at the end of the day, he was still a Tulosan soldier . He must follow the orders .

He gritted his teeth .

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