Under the Oak Tree - Chapter 334 - 95
Chapter 334: Chapter 95
Maxi stared at Richard Breston in horror. “Are you saying… those soldiers were used as cannon fodder to assess the monsters’ attack range?”
“Did you think we would order an all-out assault without first understanding the strength of the enemy’s defenses?” Breston drawled, leaning back in his chair. “That knowledge is crucial before we dive in, hence the experiment.” Maxi hugged herself as a chill ran down her spine. The man seemed to regard the soldiers as nothing but pawns on a chessboard.
“This siege is going to be more troublesome than we thought,” Breston added apathetically. “The front and west walls are loaded with catapults and crossbows. The east wall is relatively weak, but access is limited by a steep valley. Positioning our siege weapons there is out of the question. And even if, by some miracle, we were able to get close enough, our weapons would be razed if we don’t find a solution for those blasted flaming arrows.”
“Which means our only option at present is to bombard the ramparts from a safe distance,” said Kuahel, breaking his silence.
The paladin appeared unperturbed by Breston’s chilling remarks. In a flash, Maxi realized that the Knights of Phil Aaron had not acted alone in sacrificing the convicts.
After gazing down at the map with a pensive expression, Kuahel added calmly, “There is also the problem of the night raids. The enemy will wear down our soldiers if they persist.”
“What about a makeshift wall?” Princess Agnes suggested. “There is no shortage of stones in the mountains. If we have the rear unit transport them, we could have one up in a few days. Even just a ten-kevette structure would help. It would also allow the mages to take turns resting as they wouldn’t be required to maintain a barrier around the supplies all night.”
The princess turned to Maxi as though asking for support.
Maxi composed herself and replied calmly, “A-A wall would be nice, but… where would we source the clay or the plaster to build it? And even if we did succeed in building such a thing, 1 doubt it would be strong enough… t-to withstand attacks.”
“There will be an elite unit standing guard outside it, so it does not have to be too sturdy,” replied Agnes. “It only needs to stop goblins from sneaking into camp.”
“Very well,” Kuahel said, stroking his chin. “Since the war is not going to start in earnest anytime soon, we can assign part of the rear unit to construction duty.”
The discussion shifted to the reassignment of the soldiers. Maxi felt like an outsider among a group of strangers. Was war always this ruthless? The commanding officers’ blatant disregard for the lives of not only their enemy but their own men horrified her.
As if sensing her wandering attention, Kuahel tapped the table. “We will position the catapults at the center and the ballistae on either side. A three-pronged attack should make defense a little more difficult for the enemy.”
Maxi snapped her head down at the map and carefully studied the formations. Now was not the time to be distracted.
As soon as the meeting concluded, the army reorganized as planned. While the Remdragon Knights and the Knights of Phil Aaron guarded the camp, some of their forces moved west, and the siege weapons were repositioned.
At long last, they were ready for the second attack. This time, the task of assisting with the catapults fell on Ben and Armin. Thirty catapults inched their way up the hill, and giant crossbows formed rows along the east and west sides. As soon as the tense preparations were complete, the coalition army launched their attack from multiple angles.
Maxi readied herself to cast a shield around their supply wagons in case of wyverns. Though a counterattack came promptly, as Richard Breston had estimated, it fell short of the coalition army’s ranks. On the other hand, the monsters seemed hardly affected. By the end of the hours-long siege, the coalition had barely made a dent in the enemy’s forces.
It was evening when they reorganized the battalions, forming a defensive line of spearmen and cavalry on the front to prepare for a possible night raid. The soldiers withdrew the siege weapons to the rear and went about lighting fires around the camp.
Thus, another day passed. There were minimal casualties in the second attack, saving the mages from staying up to look after the wounded all night, but Maxi still awoke feeling exhausted. Between her concerns for Riftan and fears of a night raid, she had only managed two hours of sleep. She dragged herself to the infirmary to check on the remaining patients, then had her fill of onion and bacon soup.
As the sun rose, the soldiers who had stood the night watch retired to their tents. Their well-rested comrades emerged carrying weapons. This time, the central battalion attempted to approach the city gate while the catapults assaulted the ramparts. The soldiers rushed up the hill brandishing siege hammers even as flaming arrows rained down on them.
Maxi busily tended to the wounded as ear-splitting blasts tore through the air. The coalition army charged again, ending in another dismal failure and filling the infirmary with hundreds of soldiers.
There was no bone in the human body Maxi had not seen or touched. Crushed legs, cracked skulls, and organs spilling from abdomens were familiar sights by then, and she spent more time in blood-soaked clothes than clean ones. The more she worked, the more numb to it all she became.
Her arms moved mechanically, and she had no idea how much time had passed when Anette came up behind her.
“Let me take over now, Max. You should get some rest.”
Maxi looked up at her friend through heavy lids and rasped, “Wh-Who is assisting with the catapults?”
“The mages in the offensive support unit volunteered. You’re free to rest for the remainder of the morning.”
“I doubt I can sleep, though.”
“Just look at yourself. At least try, or you’ll end up collapsing.”
Anette forced Maxi to her feet and swung her around toward the exit, just in time to meet soldiers helping a wounded man into the infirmary. The color drained from Maxi’s face as she recognized Garrow.
Recovering from her shock, Maxi rushed over to the young knight. “W-What happened?”
Ulyseon, who had entered the tent behind the group, whipped off his helmet and flung it to the ground. “The fool stubbornly fought all night despite a head injury,” he explained through clenched teeth.
After looking up at Ulyseon in surprise, Maxi hastily led Garrow to an empty bedroll. Garrow teetered as though he was dizzy before falling unconscious.
Maxi felt her heart shrivel with fear. She desperately prayed that he had not suffered any damage to his brain. More often than not, such head trauma resulted in debilitating disabilities even with healing magic.
As soon as Ulyseon gently lowered Garrow, Maxi knelt to inspect his wound. A cry of despair escaped her lips. There was a visible depression above his right eye, where the bone near the socket was completely bashed in.
“S-Someone bring me hot water and clean linen!” Maxi cried, then gingerly opened Garrow’s eyelid. His eyeball was terribly swollen.
“Goddammit,” Ulyseon cursed.
He sank onto a chair and roughly scrubbed his face, no doubt aware that vision loss from an injury could not be restored.
“How’s the wound?” Anette asked, placing a kettle and a stack of linen nearby.
Maxi soaked a strip of linen with water without replying and began wiping the blood from Garrow’s face.
“Could you not heal him with magic first, my lady?” Ulyseon said anxiously.
“I-I must right the bones first. If I don’t, they will set in the wrong place.”
After gingerly feeling the upper part of Garrow’s forehead, Maxi motioned to Anette, who promptly fetched an array of medical tools. Maxi took a barber’s blade from the leather pouch, wiped it with wine, and made a long incision from the right corner of his forehead to his temple.
She had almost drawn the incision down to his cheek when Garrow suddenly jerked awake. After asking Ulyseon to restrain his friend, Maxi pried apart the skin and began to position the broken bones with tweezers. Fresh blood spilled from the open wound, and Garrow twisted in pain throughout the harrowing process.
Maxi was soaked in sweat by the time she finished reconstructing his skull. She was about to cast healing magic over it when Anette laid a hand over her shaking fingers.
“Let me do the healing. You should rest, you look almost blue.”
Maxi anxiously looked down at the unconscious Garrow before conceding. She struggled to her feet and made to leave the tent when, all of a sudden, her stomach wrenched. She raced outside and around the corner to hurl in private.
Her throat burned, and her limbs felt heavy. Panting, she wiped her lips.
He might lose sight in his right eye.
It would be fortunate if his vision was the only thing the young knight lost. If his brain was indeed damaged, he might never wake again. And even if he did, he could very well find himself crippled. Maxi pressed her face to her knees. The fear she had kept at bay came crashing down on her like a tidal wave. 𝗇𝑶𝓋ℯ𝗅𝞰𝞮xt.𝓬𝓞𝓂
Ulyseon or Hebaron could be the next person rushed into the infirmary, not to mention Elliot, Ruth, or Riftan. No one was safe. The sobs Maxi had been suppressing burst forth, racking her whole body. She ached to see Riftan.
She wanted to confirm with her own eyes that he was well and feel his comforting arms around her..