Volume 1 – Between Daybreak and Evernight, Chapter 28 – Death Quota
The Red Scorpion squad leader caught the horse whip in one motion. With a light tug, that young officer was already dragged down from the horse, heavily smashing into the ground. The few close guards of the young officer were shocked as they pulled out their guns in a fuss, and from what it looked like, they were actually about to shoot.
Bang bang bang! The sounds of gunfire echoed, the tempo of each shot clear and distinct.
Such clean and efficient burst fire naturally couldn’t have come from the hands of these private military men who hadn’t ignited even a single origin node. Before Qianye even acted, a veteran had already pulled the trigger. One shot for each person. He shot all of the five reckless guards dead.
“You lot wish to rebel?” The squad leader coolly swept his gaze through the private army who were gathering from all directions.
Those private soldiers looked at each other in dismay, yet their hands didn’t stop loading their guns. There was actually some hint of a desire to attack in their eyes, making Qianye very much puzzled by it.
Someone who could use origin power could be considered as creatures of an entirely different world compared to the people who hadn’t ignited their origin nodes. This wasn’t a difference that a higher quantity of people could make up, just like how a hundred lambs wouldn’t be able to kill a lion. The difference between these private military men and Red Scorpion soldiers was even greater than the difference between lambs and lions; where did they get the courage and confidence to challenge the Red Scorpion Corps?
Could it be that this mission was actually a trap?
Qianye seemed to have realized something as he immediately pulled out the origin rifle from his back and begun to charge it with origin power, instantly forming an origin bullet within the gun barrel. Against strong experts behind the scenes, only an origin gun would have any threat.
The young man on the ground almost fainted from getting the air smashed out of his lungs. Recuperating with difficulty, he let out a blood-curdling scream the moment he raised his head. He stared with his eyes wide open as the Red Scorpion squad leader expressionlessly lowered the gun’s muzzle at him, pulling the trigger.
Gunshots roared as all four limbs of the young man were shot, blacking out on the spot.
Only now did a middle-aged man run out of the crowd as he wiped his forehead full of sweat with a terrified expression on his face. Repeatedly brown-nosing and bowing, he said, “I’m the mayor in charge of this small town, also the former butler of my respected lord. Milord had instructed me to come here to greet your lordships, and also to report some information to your lordships.”
The squad leader sized him up from head to toe and then said, “Speak!”
The middle-aged man smiled flatteringly as he took out a portrait from his pocket. Passing it over, he said, “This woman is milord’s fiancee, she was kidnapped by the rebels. We ask your lordships to please bring her back, by any means, not harming her as much as possible. Milord said that other than the already paid military expenditure, he has also prepared a generous number of gifts as thanks!”
The squad leader took the portrait and looked at it.
It was an incredibly distinct portrait sketch of an extremely beautiful girl. Her two eyes naturally carried a faint charm, awfully captivating and mesmerizing. She looked to be around sixteen or seventeen, yet the clothes she wore were ordinary, similar of the local commoner’s style.
The squad leader passed the portrait around for everyone to see, then put it away in his own pocket. He then spoke to that middle-aged man, “I got it. Do you have any last words?”
The middle-aged man was greatly appalled as he cried out involuntarily, “Wh-what last words! My lordship, might you be jesting?”
The squad leader spoke coolly, “I never jest! I don’t know who this young man is, and don’t know what grievances there are between you people either, for you to want to borrow the hands of our Red Scorpion Corps to eliminate him. I have not the slightest interest in the politics between you nobles, but since you people wish to exploit the Red Scorpion, then you have to pay the corresponding price! Getting rid of you is merely a warning to that master of yours. The blade called Red Scorpion is too sharp, it’s not something he can afford to play with! Overstepping his bounds, he should be careful that he doesn’t get his own head sliced off!”
The squad leader pulled out his pistol right after his words fell and, without any pause, aimed at the middle-aged man’s forehead and pulled the trigger!
A bloody hole instantly appeared between that middle-aged man’s eyebrows. With a shocked face, he slowly fell down.
Qianye knitted his brows as he asked a veteran beside him in a low voice, “Is this okay?”
The veteran spoke, not giving a damn, “It’s fine! We’ve got a death quota for every operation!”
“Death quota?” It was actually the first time Qianye had heard of this phrase.
“Which is to say when we mobilize, we can ‘accidentally harm’ some locals. To be precise, nobles,” the veteran explained.
Qianye took in a deep breath, not knowing how to react for a moment.
At this time, the private military’s imposing manner had completely vanished. Some even began to slowly retreat. Soon after, a few officers who were originally hidden in the crowd began to shout out orders, maintaining the ranks.
The squad leader sneered at them, “Red Scorpion will do this mission alone, there’s no need for your cooperation. I don’t want to get shot in the back when the time comes.”
The officers in the crowd remained silent. Whoever dared to open their mouth would be courting death.
The Red Scorpion squad very quickly disappeared into the vast mountainous forest. The tracks that the rebels left behind were abnormally obvious, so even rookies like Qianye wouldn’t lose them. Just like that, the Red Scorpion squad directly pounced upon the rebel’s base, trapping all of the rebels inside the camp.
The rebel’s camp was established on top of a mountain peak, with three sides surrounded by cliffs and only one side had a path for entrance and exit.
This place was extremely well hidden. Short shrubs and wild grass as high as one’s chest covered the natural path. If not for someone who had gone through recently and didn’t understand how to erase their tracks, it would’ve indeed been very hard to find. However, the shortcomings of this kind of topology were also very obvious, which was that no one could escape once the path was blocked by Red Scorpion.
There were about over a hundred people in the camp, and all of them rushed out after hearing the noise. However, when they saw the Red Scorpion soldiers who slowly pressed closer, their faces were instantly full of despair.
“So this is the rebel army?” When seeing these people, Qianye couldn’t help feeling skeptical.
Out of these hundred-odd people, half were the elderly, frail, women, and children. Their clothes tattered, every one of them was thin to the point that their bones were visible. Most of the weapons they carried were primitive gunpowder firearms, even to the extent of using cast-iron blades and swords. Before seeing them, Qianye had always thought that iron was only used to cast everyday utility tools. He thought that the metal used to forge weapons should at least be made of copper alloy.
Qianye noticed three warriors who had ignited their origin nodes, but all of them only had ignited one node. One couldn’t even find a single origin gun in the entire encampment.
Could such a rank of troops really be the rebels? Those rebel armies that could tenaciously hinder Lin Xitang in the Western Frontier to the extent of being unable to resolve the situation?
To say that this was a camp of refugees would be more fitting.
Nonetheless, the squad leader seemed to have already anticipated that this was the case. Stepping forward, he took the portrait out of his pocket and waved, “Where is this woman? It would be best if you came out on your own!”
“It’s me! What are you going to do?” A young woman squeezed herself out of the crowd as she stared at the squad leader in anger.
The squad leader took out his notes and read the mission instructions, “Mn, your father was the owner of the mine here, and it is said that he secretly supported a rank of rebel troops financially. Also, according to the lord here, you are his fiancee?”
The girl was furious as she shouted, “He’s talking bull! There’s nothing between him and me. Only that I was accidentally seen by him, and he forced me to follow him! I wasn’t willing, so he caused the death of my father and my real fiance, and then said that our family were rebels! Since my great-grandfather’s times, our family has served in the Empire’s military, and our kinsmen sacrificed themselves on the battlefield in every generation. Could it be that we displayed absolute loyalty and dedication to the Empire only just to end up like this?”
The squad leader was expressionless, as he spoke in an indifferent manner, “Perhaps the truth is really as you speak, and perhaps not. However, since we are already here, you should already know that the nature and outcome of this matter cannot be changed.”
“Don’t tell me that a mere viscount can already single-handedly blind the truth in the Empire?” the girl shouted with grief and indignation.
The squad leader was still calm, the words he spoke were incomparably grim, “At least on this sole issue, yes.”
Despair emerged on the girl’s face. She slowly calmed down, and asked, “Then what would you like to do now, kill us all?”
For the first time, the squad leader fell into deep thought. His gaze swept through the people in the camp; the elderly, women, and children were clearly the servants and residents under the girl’s family.
He thought for a bit, then said, “According to the mission’s requirements, you should come back with me, but I personally do not suggest you do so. Of course, if you are able to endure and persevere, and feel that there might be a chance to gain vengeance and reversing the outcome, you can also try that.”
The girl naturally knew what would happen to her if she went back with the squad leader. Hence, she spoke without hesitation, “I won’t let that pig touch a finger of mine even if I die!”
The squad leader nodded as he tossed over a finger-sized bottle. “Very well, then end your own life. Drink this, you will die without feeling any pain.”
He also pointed at the two others who had ignited their origin nodes, “You must die too. As for the others here, I’ll regard it as I saw nothing.”
After a moment, three corpses were set before Qianye.
“Carry them, let’s go. Mission’s complete!” the squad leader spoke.
Qianye threw one of the corpses on his shoulder and followed the squad in silence, returning along the path they came.
The mission this time was completed with exceptional ease, so much so that there wasn’t even a real battle. However, the mood in the crew was very solemn, including the squad leader. No veterans were talking either.
After returning to the town and passing the three corpses to the local private military, Red Scorpion’s airship took off into the air, returning to headquarters.
On the airship, Qianye looked to the skies outside through the ship’s window. It was unknown what he was thinking. The bald captain also seemed to have lost his vigor. “Scorpion Tail” was flying with incredible stability as though it was an entirely different airship.
At this time, the squad leader who was sitting on the side suddenly spoke, “Rookie, did you see? This is the reality. That was all we could do. You will understand in the future that politics aren’t the domain for the likes of us. As soldiers, we are nothing more than a blade in the Empire’s hands. Wherever we are told to pierce, there we will stab. As for whether it’s right or wrong, that is not something we should care about.”
Qianye let out a long breath of air, but his mood was still downcast. The so-called politics really wasn’t a domain that could be solved with weapons and force.
Even in this insignificant corner of the Empire’s border, Qianye was able to experience the muddiness of politics. That man far away at the Western Frontier who was quelling the entire game board by himself, just how much heavier was his burden?
After returning to the Red Scorpion, Qianye immediately applied for missions.
Only in face-to-face confrontations against the dark races was Qianye able to find the worth of his own existence. Compared to something like politics, battling and slaughtering the dark races were much simpler.
However, the application this time was delayed by an entire week before he received a response. Qianye was transferred to participate in an important mission.
This was an important mission labeled first class inside Red Scorpion. In one of the cities of the Empire’s Western Frontier, a secret base of dark races was discovered.
Because of that, the Red Scorpion’s deployment was a rare luxury; Colonel Wei Lishi personally lead the troops, mobilizing the entire thirty Red Scorpions and two hundred Black Scorpions, while Qianye was the only rookie in the ranks. This arrangement wasn’t unusual by any means. As the number one within the rookies, Qianye’s military accomplishments could already prevail against many Black Scorpion ranked veterans.
The mission site was right next to the two provinces that Lin Xitang was overseeing. Qianye had already heard the rumors that some rebels were colluding in secret with dark races. This mission could perhaps indirectly provide assistance to Lin Xitang.