Chapter 39 The Winter is coming
Roland was standing on the city wall, facing the north. This past month, he repeatedly checked the castle, the mine, and the city walls in a kind of three-point loop. He checked them for every possible detail so that he wouldn’t miss anything.
The militia became very adept at handling their weapons. Due to Carter’s repetitive drills, they were able to stabilize the pike until the Militia Captain loudly gave the command to slash with their pikes.
Standing behind the Militia was the Hunter squad. Every hunter who remained in Border Town and was good with either the bow or the crossbow was incorporated into this squad. These seasoned hunters were the backbone for killing the demonic beasts. Standing only twelve feet away from demonic beasts on the city wall, it was nearly impossible for them to miss their target.
The last line of defense were Iron Axe, Carter, and two hunters from the elite team who were under Iron Axe. The parts manufactured by the blacksmiths were enough to let Anna weld four flintlocks. They would only shoot the flintlocks when a mixed species attacked or the hunters with crossbows were unable to penetrate the skin of the demonic beasts. Their location on the wall wasn’t set, so the four of them had to patrol the whole 200 yard long defense line. If there was a need for them anywhere, they would appear.
As for the explosives, they were kept under heavy protection next to the wall in the warehouse . To keep everyone safe, the gunpowder was stored in its three components, and it would only be put together on the city wall when needed – after all, if the powder detonated at the wrong time, the self-inflicted damage would be even greater than the damage from the demonic beasts. The teeth of the demonic beasts may be able to crush the cement, but if the explosives went off, the whole wall would be destroyed.
So far, Roland had organized two test runs, both including the use of the explosives. Thanks to these two exercises, the militia was used to the loud roars of the explosions and were no longer so scared that they threw their weapons away. The other advantage was that when the defenders discovered that the prince held such incredible weapons in his hands, the team morale suddenly began to skyrocket.
“Your Highness,” Barov tightened his collar, “We have already spent most of the ore income in the last half month, so if the Months of the Demons actually goes on as long as the astrologers have predicted, I fear that the food won’t last till the end of winter.”
“Then I want you to fill up the entire vault,” Roland said without hesitation, “Make another deal with Willow Town and don’t make it the only one. The first steam engine has already been transported to the mine, and the gravel from the collapse has already been completely cleaned up. During the entire winter, we can still get a little yield from the mines. Rough stones are especially in demand. Do not emphasize on price. Instead, sell them as soon as possible so that our wheat and meat storages are always as full as possible.”
Barov nodded, “I’ll give out the orders immediately, Your Highness. Just…”
Seeing the hesitant look on his assistant minister’s face, Roland certainly understood what he wanted to say. “Do not worry, I have already arranged a boat. If the line of defense is broken, I will leave the town immediately.”
“That’s excellent to hear.” said Barov, relieved.
Roland smiled at him and said, “You can go. After all, you have enough to do. I have to look for someone else.”
After Barov left, the Prince slowly stepped onto a watchtower. This place was at the center of the city walls and was their highest point. From here, he could overlook the whole front line, parts of the jungle, and the nearby hills. At such a eight, the wind was blowing quite strongly but Roland didn’t care. Only on this high and open platform could he somewhat calm down and forget the coming war.
“You lied to him,” someone next to him suddenly said, “You don’t intend to leave this town.”
“Life is already so difficult, keeping a few secrets sometimes is good for everyone.”
“You’re talking nonsense and don’t understand the situation. If you already consider the identity of a prince as a difficulty, what would you see us as?” Nightingale emerged out of the fog. “Even if you will not be the king, you still have to live through the five-year-long struggle for the throne because you’re one of the main parties. Compared to worrying about such unimportant matters, you should better accompany Anna. I’m afraid… she doesn’t have much time left. “
For a moment Roland remained silent, “I don’t think that she will die during the Months of the Demons.”
“She said that she will not lose to the devil’s bite,” he paused for a second, “And I believe her.”
“You actually believe what a witch says,” Nightingale shook her head, “but we are cursed by the devil.”
“Are you? Well, I also believe you.”
Brian was wearing his civilian clothes and was standing in front of Greyhound’s tombstone.
He gently stroked the surface of the new stone, it was a pure white stone and on its surface were engraved the words: “In memory of one of the silent heroes of Border Town.”
“I’ve already realized my biggest dream. At the end of the Months of the Demons, His Highness the 4th Prince will hold the canonization ceremony for me. But, I don’t want to sit on the bed waiting for my canonization. My wounds have already healed, so the city wall is the place where I should be. The Months of the Demons is near, and the demonic beasts may be strong, but they will have to go through the line of defense the militia established, and will no longer able to advance. I will also take over your part in defending the town, and brandish my sword in your name. All this will not be the end. Your murderer is still alive… But he will not live much longer, His Highness already promised this to me. The next time I come to you, I’ll bring good news.”
Brian bent down and placed a bouquet of flowers at the gravestone.
“So goodbye, my friend.”
“Sister Anna, are you scared?” Nana, who was lying on Anna’s bed, asked her this.
“Afraid of what?”
“The devil’s bite we have to face this winter. I became a witch during the autumn of this year, so it will be the first time I have to face it…”
“Well, the first time,” Anna thought, “will be very painful, and sometimes you think that you can’t wait any longer and wish that you could finally die.”
“Ah!” Nana began to shout out of shock, but she immediately covered her mouth.
“But you will survive, just like me.”
“I do not know…” whispered Nana, “I’m not like you, so strong, and afraid of nothing.”
“I’m not really that strong,” said Anna as she closed her eyes. The scene when she met Roland for the first time emerged in her mind. Down there in the cold and dark dungeon, Roland’s clothes were draped over her body. He softly said that he would hire her – until now, she still got goosebumps when remembering this. “Sometimes you will encounter situations or things that will give you the will to live on, even if you need to struggle hard to survive.”
“For example,meat marinated in soy paste,” Anna sighed, “How should I know what you dream of? – Ah”
Seeing that Nana was entirely staring at her, Anna wiped her face with her hand, “What are you looking at? Is there some dirt on my face?”
“No …” Nana shook her head, “I’m just a bit surprised, you’ve never talked to me so much … Sister Anna, the appearance you had when you just closed your eyes and thought about the past, you were so beautiful.”
Anna rolled her eyes, jumped out of the bed, and went to the window.
Nana followed directly behind her, “What are you looking at, do you want to flee into the forest?”
“The forest is in the West,” answered Anna snappily, “Here you can only see the Shishui River.”
“Sister Anna, look!” The little girl pointed at the sky.
Anna was startled, then opened her window. A surge of wind mixed with little snowflakes came into the room.
She held out her hand, catching the flower-like sparkling snow. She could feel a chill coming from her fingers.
After long silence, Nightingale opened her mouth and began to speak once more, “You actually didn’t lie.”
“Of course,” Roland laughed, “I had very little reason to lie.”
Nightingale said nothing. She only tilted her head, and an unknown look emerged in her eyes.
Suddenly, she felt something cold on her neck, and she couldn’t help herself from shrinking away. She looked up only to find that unbeknownst to her, the snow had begun to fall on the walls. Under the gray sky, there seemed to be an uncountable number of snowflakes. They danced in the wind, flying all over the place, accompanied by the shouts of the militia.
…The Months of the Demons had begun.