Chapter 22 - Stranded
The next morning, the troops stationed on the walls were still on guard as the carcasses of beast littered the ground. Thousands of deep dents and holes could be seen over the lower half of the wall.
"Report!" The General Marquis said with an imposing aura.
"Yes, general! The wall suffered a substantial amount of damage. 12000 rounds of ammunition have been expended in battle. 346 beast carcasses waiting to be retrieved and studied. Contact with the Freebird have been lost and we suffered... two casualties in battle." A soldier reported.
"Two casualties? How?" The General Marquis frowned after hearing the report. Their defenses weren't breached, and troops did not enter close combat. How did they lose lives?
"T-t-this...." The soldier stuttered and sweated as if it was something very difficult to say.
"Y-yes, general! It was death by falling!" The soldier answered, while sweating profusely. He was very afraid of how the general was react to the news.
The expression of the General Marquis immediately darkened at the reason.
They have never had an accident like this since the founding of the wall. Its structural design made it very difficult for accidental fall to occur. Unless one was an idiot, it would not happen. It was embarrassing to die to heights and in battle.
"A-according to the witnesses' statement, the two unfortunate men loss their bearing and fell after the howl." The soldier added.
The General Marquis went silent. The news had become a bit more acceptable. The howl was shockingly powerful. The General Marquis was a 9th step awakener but he wasn't sure he would be a match for the beast.
After being distracted for a moment, he focused on more important matters.
"Never mind then. Pass down my orders. The Swiftbird team is to set out and search for the Thunderbird team. Another team are to head outside the wall and retrieve all the beast carcasses. Remind them to send one to the research department to study."
"Yes, general!" The soldier left.
Each airship was an important asset to the military. They do not have many airships as the manufacturing was complicated and required very rare materials. The most important component of the airship was levitation stones, which contains anti-gravity force and allows the airship to float in the air.
General Marquis Hendrick went back to pondered over the issues of the last couple of days.
The attack on their scouting airships, the attack on the wall, the howl and the retreat. Each move seems planned and organized. The beasts were no longer a disorganized mob. Their intelligence was high, but strength was even higher.
What were the motive behind their actions? A display of strength to intimidate them? A proclamation of war? These assumptions seem very wrong. They were never able to establish communication between their races to even negotiate.
Most likely, the attacks were just a probe to test their strength and gather information. The expression of General Marquis Hendrick's face turned grave, when he thought in this direction.
If such a powerful attack force was only used to probe them, he did not want to think what would happen if they attack in full force. The severity of the matter was beyond what the current force of their military can handle. He decided to pay a visit to the Queen in person to report the matter and request even more resource and manpower.
The beast carcasses appearances did not match their previous knowledge they had of them. Although their animal ancestry could still be identified, through the unique animal traits their bodies possess. Their appearances are beginning to take on more humanoid forms. It was not incorrect to call them beast carcasses and should be called beast corpses instead. Perhaps human beings were the most ideal form of evolution?
The soldiers had all sorts of thoughts as they cleaned up the battlefield. Some soldiers shook their heads. Why think so much? Just leave it to the experts to figure out and just worry about their own job.
"Who's still alive?" Dales called out. He still had no idea what had happen during the battle last night. He just woken up.
They were fending off the aerial beasts as the airship headed back towards the wall, when suddenly their airship suffered a powerful impact from something. The force of the impact was too great to be estimated. It had sent their airship flying into a different direction.
He was very lucky to survive the crash, but he wasn't sure how many were as fortunate as him.
"Cough* I'm still alive." A soldier called out weakly.
Dales made his over to the source of the sound and found a soldier half buried under some debris.
He helped removed the debris and pulled the soldier out. The soldier less fortunate than Dales, who only had bruises and small cuts. The soldier suffered multiple bone fractures and was impaled by a splintered ironwood in his left leg. The only fortunate news was his life was not in immediate danger.
Dales made use of the broken remains of the airship to administer temporary first aid to the soldier.
"Are we the only ones left, Commander?" The soldier asked depressingly.
There were a few bodies of his brothers laying around at the site of the wreckage. They were hard to look at. Some were impaled in the head and chest, while some had become a mangled mess. All were obviously no longer breathing as they have all become cold corpses.
"I'm afraid so."
The numbers present were far from the total of their men, but Dales assumed the rest must've been flung off somewhere.
Dales started digging through the wreckage and stopped after he found what he was searching for.
The long-range communication device was destroyed beyond recognition. They would not be able to contact the military camp. They weren't even sure where they were. Everything was destroyed in the crash. No equipment, no good, no reinforcement. They were all on their own.
"What is your name, soldier?"
"I-it's Tom, sir."
"Well Tom, you can just call me Dales."
"I'm afraid that is inappropriate, Commander."
"Drop the formalities. We are brothers in arm who survived a life and death situation. There's need to distinguish between ranks in the face of adversary."
"Yes... sir... D-Dales..." Tom said awkwardly, clearly wasn't accustomed to the new way of addressing.
"We need to find shelter quickly."
They didn't need to secure food. There was a carcass of an aerial beast near them. They were also stranded in enemy territory. They did not know when they would be surrounded by the beasts.
"I would like to but..." Tom expressed his agreement but he could not do much. He was wrapped like a mummy by broken ironwood and shredded sails.
"I know. I was just stating our objective to survive this god forsaken place."
Dales made a stretcher out of some suitable size ironwood and ripped sails. He then salvaged some edible meat from the aerial beast carcass and wrapped it up. He proceeded to placing Tom on the stretcher before they made way for the forest near their location. The trees of the forest were massive and reached a staggering height of 200 meters.
Dales figured it was the best course of action to enter the forest and stay out of sight. It was a mystery how they did not get attacked and eaten overnight after being knocked unconscious from the crash.
It was stranger that they did not see any beasts in the vicinity as they entered the forest. Although Dales believes the General Marquis would send out a search party for them, it was unknown how long it would take before they were found. Awaiting their rescue at the crash site would be an extremely stupid idea. It would not be much different to waiting for death, as beasts with keen sense of smell would be attracted to all the corpses at the crash site. It was unfortunate, that he could not give them a proper burial.
Military Camp, Research facility.
A bunch of researchers were busy dissecting the corpse of a beast of white tiger lineage.
Bleurgh* A young researcher barfed.
"What is wrong with you? Never dissected a body before?" The head researcher in charge, criticized.
"My deepest apologies, professor Zen. C-could this still be considered a beast?"
Excluding its body of fur, claws, tail and head, everything else wasn't much different to a human. Dissecting it felt like dissecting a human body and made the young researcher feel uneasy.
"Yes and no. The most appropriate term should now be beastmen. But no matter how much they are beginning to resemble humans; they are ultimately not human. As long as you understand that point then you would find it easier to accept." Professor Zen lectured.
"I understand, professor."
The young researcher repetitively chanted 'Not a human, not a human' in his mind as he continued his work.
"Don't forget to clean up your mess after." Professor Zen reminded with a frown. Vomit wasn't something pleasant to smell. But as they were all wearing face masks, it didn't affect them too much.