“Yes, councilman. I understand.” Admiral Mavuto sighed as he ended the communication. He turned to his vice admiral, “Give the orders to regroup at harbor on the mainland.”
Admiral Mavuto sighed again, sinking into his chair in the captain’s quarters. If they could afford to, he would have been court-martialed for his failures, or at the very least demoted. All for following orders. They had been the ones to state that he was to use any means necessary to destroy the Demon King. He had been criticized for losing to the Demon King in a battle where he was the only opponent… but that hadn’t really been what happened. They’d never fought at all. Instead it had been more like a raid, with the Demon King coming in to cause as many problems as possible before retreating.
If it had been an actual battle… they would have won. That had to be the case, because otherwise they would be dead now. Admiral Mavuto wasn’t going to say the Demon King was a coward for refusing to face an entire fleet alone- and he didn’t just run, either. For a short moment, at least, he defeated all of the fleet’s magical forces combined. Sure, they didn’t have any archmages… but there weren’t so many of them they could just bring them everywhere. The Demon King had already killed one. They weren’t going to go anywhere near him. Of course, the Demon King had also killed an admiral, but Admiral Mavuto still had to face off against him.
He was glad to be leaving. Though his fleet hadn’t taken severe amounts of casualties, the damage to their morale was unmanageable. Nobody liked firing on their own men, and while he had agreed it was worthwhile to defeat the Demon King… in the end, they couldn’t even say if they even scratched him. Not being able to do anything with their superior numbers and combat power had been the most frustrating part.
Then there were the damn rumors. Criminals being sacrificed for some sort of magic ritual? Admiral Mavuto was all for the death penalty if the crimes were sufficient- but that wasn’t the same as sacrifices. A good clean kill and cutting out someone’s heart with a dagger were completely different things. At least, that was the sort of sacrifices that came to mind. The rumors said something about using souls.
The council assured him that there was no such thing, of course. There was no magical basis for such a thing. They said that… far too much. Enough that it almost started to sound true. They also wouldn’t tell him what actually was on the island in question. Oh, sure, they ‘declassified’ some documents and sent them to him… but they were a bunch of crap. Admiral Mavuto’s two year old son could weave a better story than the documents told.
Admiral Mavuto didn’t like being lied to and then having the responsibility of someone else’s orders dumped on him. He didn’t mind bearing the consequences for his own actions- but they made it sound like he’d gone off the rails with what he’d done. They said it was his last chance… and maybe it was. But they didn’t really have enough people of admiral calibur around to do anything right away… so he’d have some time to think.
Oh, sure, they could promote any old sod to admiral… but they’d seen where that got them. They might have been making progress on other fronts, but they didn’t talk about how many men died to make it so. They might not have even realized that the demons now had free access to their western coast. Sure, there were fleets to patrol around, but with their abilities to pop up anywhere, sometimes ignoring the magical detectors they had set up… it didn’t mean much.
Besides, they didn’t need anything more than a tiny little raft to make it through for it to be a big problem. The Demon King was a serious threat. He’d been taking out an entire fort by himself- there was no telling how much trouble he could cause in a city. Sure, he could be killed just like anyone else… if they could shoot him enough times. But he wasn’t sure how they were going to do that when the man could make over a mile of something like fog and moved faster than anything he’d ever seen. And, if Admiral Mavuto’s instincts didn’t fail him… that wasn’t all he could do.
William was glad to be in a bed, if one of the tiny bunks in the submarine could really be called a bed. He could have likely lasted on his own for another day until his own fleet arrived, but there was no point in risking it. The enemy forces had already been thrown in sufficient disarray. They were now left with a mostly destroyed fort on an island, surrounded by a number of mines that they had to avoid. Now that they were floating free they could spot them and detonate them safely for the most part, but it would make everything more difficult.
They were also going to have to explain to the men on the island why they bombarded them. Or- more likely- they would just finish the job. However, it was already too late for that to solve everything. There had still been men in the fort’s communication center when the bombardment started. They should have had more than one contact point… so the word should be out New Eclea was attacking its own forces. They would do their best to suppress that information, but they wouldn’t be able to completely prevent word from getting out. That would help with the rumors that were already spreading, helping to destabilize things for Uzoma Idowu to take over. This island was the final barrier from the mainland… and an army full of New Eclean soldiers wouldn’t immediately raise suspicion if they did everything right.
Then William was going to destroy everyone he could get his hands on- everyone from a certain set of people, anyway. People he knew were explicitly involved with the soul destroying formation they had set up. William was going to make it very clear what would happen to anyone who tried anything like that. Weaponizing souls just to use as a power source? That was debatably worse than what the Demon King had done. But it didn’t have to be worse. The Demon King and the lords with him were already bad enough. Now, William supposed some of those involved- such as the researchers- might have been forced into it. For that, he would have to search through the memories of those he was going to destroy. If they hadn’t been willing participants… then they could die normally. However from what he’d gathered there were at least a few who were titled as archmage involved, and none of them had been forced to be involved. Likewise, those on the council- though there were some of the archmages on the council as well.
So far, William hadn’t regretted any of the souls of people he’d had to destroy. He regretted it being necessary, but not that he’d actually done so. The Demon King and the old lords behind him had been destroying souls of both humans and gevai for the sake of power, even going so far as to intentionally destabilize the normal reincarnation of souls by destroying mages in particular. They had deserved everything that came to them.