Wizard! Chapter 535
Uzoma might have said he was surprised when they found that the cannons were gone and the battalion transporting them routed. If anyone important asked, he would have said that… but personally he wasn’t that surprised. It wasn’t that hard to sneak a relatively small group past their forces. However, they seemed to be on some sort of deadline, so the general was in a hurry.
Uzoma knew he could have run the army better… but that was only if he were actually in charge of what they did. Frankly, if he were in charge, they wouldn’t be where they were at all. In that case, it was sort of a moot point. He wasn’t in charge, and probably wouldn’t be able to do what he wanted if he were nominally in that position. The ones really giving the orders were back in Eclea… New Eclea, countless miles away. Some of them hadn’t ever even seen the continent he was currently on.
He wanted to be happy about the loss and the retreat. Retreating meant they wouldn’t be fighting… but he just couldn’t be happy about it. Some men he knew died, but that wasn’t the end of it. Just because one assault had failed didn’t mean the war was over.
Everyone was woken up in the night by a loud whistling sound and a bright light. Something appeared in the middle of the camp. In the morning they were told it was a new type of enemy weapon, a failed attack… but Uzoma knew that wasn’t the truth. He’d been on night watch and seen the arrow flying… and one arrow did not equate to an attack.
More importantly, an arrow designed specifically to make everyone know it was coming, that had no point on it and carried parchment wrapped around it wasn’t a weapon, but a message delivery system. He couldn’t have been the only one who noticed, but the general said it was an attack… so it was an attack.
Uzoma had known it was a message even before he stood outside the command tent, listening. He wasn’t assigned to that position, but the soldier he’d bribed with a bottle of wine to switch positions was told he wanted to be more in the middle of the camp close to all the fires. That wasn’t even a lie, but he wouldn’t have traded a bottle for it most nights. He only heard bits and pieces, but he didn’t like it. “… elven council… ultimatum… immediate removal of troops…” Those words were well and good enough, but the vague words he heard through the phone ruined them. “… orders to continue with the operation.”
Uzoma didn’t like that at all. He heard what sounded like a perfectly reasonable excuse to pull out, and then orders not to. That meant the war was going to get bigger… or they were on a suicide mission. Possibly both. Uzoma didn’t like either option. Personally, the suicide mission was worse, but putting himself in the boots of someone who cared about others… a larger war was definitely more of a problem. How many more people would be like him, a soldier who cared nothing for the war but had to fight it anyway?
Unfortunately, there wasn’t anything he could do about it. Even personally, the best he could do was hope he didn’t end up in the part of a battle where real fighting happened. What was he going to do, desert? He could see how that was going to go, alone in demon lands. It would be almost as bad as getting into a deadly battle… if he was lucky and they killed him quickly anyway. On the other hand, if he was caught by the Eclean army his fate would probably be worse. Punishments for deserters weren’t pleasant to watch, and they would be much worse to experience.
William appreciated having the support of the elven and dwarven councils. Hearing they stood with him was refreshing, even if he couldn’t see them having much practical effect on the war. The dwarves were a whole large ocean closer, and even then they still had the width of a continent to deal with. Then there was another ocean between them and the elves.
On the other hand, maybe they could help, if the war dragged out. Personally William hoped that they would stop with their current attack and let the war fizzle out… or even respond to the diplomatic attempts. Eclea had informed New Eclea that Cruonia was willing to open up diplomatic channels, but they refused. That didn’t exactly fill William or anyone else with confidence.
New Eclea was geographically smaller than Cruonia, but comparable in population. New Eclea had a population explosion after their initial founding and expansion. Meanwhile, Cruonia lagged behind, though the immigration from other nations and their natural population growth since had barely managed to keep them close. Recently Cruonia had been growing more quickly, but it had taken dozens of years before people were actually comfortable with immigrating, putting them quite behind. Not that it was necessarily a race… but population was important when considering military prowess.
Cruonia also had gevai, which meant their military prowess was theoretically considerably higher, even with guns involved… but William didn’t want to know that they would eventually win a war of attrition, or any war. He wanted to not have it to begin with. The death toll would be far too high even if they ‘won’.
The question was how to go about achieving the optimal scenario. He wanted the war to be over without too many of his own people dying… and even too many of the people in New Eclea. Deaths weren’t the worst possible thing that could happen, but outside of soul destruction territory they were still rather concerning, especially in large numbers.
If William went by how large wars had ended in the past it was… large amounts of death, large amounts of death, and large amounts of death. Also destruction of cities and infrastructure. On Earth, things hadn’t been much better. World War II… had ended only because of the development and deployment of superweapons. William really didn’t want to be responsible for that.
Who would even build it? Theo was right out- he didn’t work on weapons of any sort. Stefan wasn’t the type either. Lila would surely be against it… and William himself didn’t want to work on it. Lorelei… could do it, but William didn’t think even she would appreciate it if it came to actual usage. Besides, he didn’t want to be the one responsible for something like nuclear weapons. Cruonia wasn’t going to be the first to begin development nor the first to deploy them, no matter how bad things got.
Besides, there were much better alternatives. Killing enemy leaders didn’t require something that would make William debatably worse than the Demon King. Diplomacy was the first best option, of course, but since that didn’t seem likely… well, something had to be done. Besides, the people in charge couldn’t just be absolved of responsibility.