Chapter 238 How could I possibly regret this?
A week later, the expedition of the First Army and witches finally returned to Border Town. From the date of their departure until their return, the mission had almost lasted half a month, five days longer than expected.
The main reason for the delay was that on the day the fleet had set out on the way home, Longsong Stronghold Acting Duke Petrov’s messenger arrived in Border Town, reporting the outbreak of an unknown plague in the stronghold.
Due to Roland’s previous warning, the moment when Petrov became aware of the disease, he took measures to isolate the patients as well as possible, and completely closed down the city, then immediately send a messenger over to Border Town.
After receiving the report of an outbreak, Roland sent Maggie out, and had her fly with great speed eastwards along the Redwater River, looking for the fleet carrying the First Army, to give them the order to change their route and take the fork to Longsong Stronghold. Later, after the eradication of the demonic plague, once more set out to return home.
On the day of their return, Roland led all the other members of the First Army and the families of the expedition members to the docks to celebrate their smooth return. Accompanied by the sound of the familiar army march, the soldiers excitedly saluted the Prince, while many other people imitated the knighting ceremony and went down on one knee to loudly shout out ‘Long live His Highness’. After they had walked down the pier, they fell into the arms of their loved ones and tightly hugged them, accentuated by Echo’s timely gun salute. The atmosphere of the scene became so lively that it attracted the refugees and the serfs to soon come join them.
Back in the castle, Iron Axe gave a full report on the mission.
"You mean to say, that the enemy attacking the First Army had a witch within their ranks?" After thinking about it for a moment, Roland continued. "It's unlikely that she was part of the street rats."
"Theo thinks the same thing; he even believes that the rats belong to an other force. Otherwise, those scum would almost never leave their nest and try to operate outside of it. The only forces in King’s city that can control the rats and could also possess a witch are the Church and King Timothy.” Iron Axe said, “Even those other powerful nobles would be unable to force the largest street rats organization to move at full strength, and leave their nest vulnerable."
"But Timothy is actually in the Eastern Region, and I don’t believe that he is daring enough to send a witch out to fight alone, I think that the Church is more suspect." Thinking of Wendy and Ashes’ encounters with the Church, it wasn't surprisingly to Roland that the Church had trained a group of witches in secret. "Are you sure she's dead?"
"Nightingale’s shot hit her in the chest, breaking her thoracic cavity into pieces," Iron Axe said while nodding, "we buried her in the wheat field, at the place where we found the remains of our sentry.”
At the end of their last day, their team of three hundred people had met an attack of a vast number of rats with the final result of one dead and four injured. The only victim was the soldier who died by the hands of the witch, the other four injured had been hit by lucky crossbow shots from the approaching rats. With their revolver rifles greater firepower, the fight was already over before it even came to the melee combat phase. The wounded soldiers had immediately been properly bandaged and sent back to Border Town to be treated by Nana – it was due to the presence of Lily that their injuries showed almost no sign of infection. As long as the crossbow arrows did not hit vital organs and they were able to stop the bleeding soon enough, the chance for the injured to survive was very good.
In general, seeing the First Army acquiring this kind of result during their second expedition, made Roland feel very satisfied. As for how to hinder the enemy from successful attacking the sentries, Roland knew very little about that. The only thing he did know was that they needed to set up the posts so that they could always monitor one another, but how to do it exactly, was a task better left to Iron Axe to handle.
"You have worked hard; I will hold a ceremony at the central square of the town, tomorrow. You should go and notify all members of the First Army about it."
When Iron Axe finally retired, Roland let out a long breath.
"Well done," with this words, Roland took a bag of grilled fish from the drawer and put it on the table. "If it hasn’t been for you, I'm afraid they would have been in great danger."
At his words, Nightingale’s figure appeared at his side and with a smile accepted the dried fish. "Like I said before, I had everything under my control."
"How was the strength of the other side?"
"She was very agile and acted very determined; I think she should have been in training for several years. If it wasn’t for her trying to resist at the same time as I entered my fog, I can’t say for sure if I would have been able to avoid being hit by her fine powder." Nightingale just shrugged it off and tried to seem casual during her report of the following events, but he still became aware of her discomfort when she told about the shooting. "but, when I saw the look in her eyes when she stabbed at Wendy, I came to an understanding, that with the exception of death there was nothing that would stop her."
"..." For a moment Roland was silent. "Do you still remember what you said to me on the way back after the defeat of Timothy’s militia?"
Nightingale thought back, " ‘This is not your fault’ ?"
"That's it," he nodded. "If she were a witch who was raised by the Church from early on, she would always treat you as a traitor, a fallen, even after a few years of coexistence, it would still be tough to cure her of that way of thinking... At least with her death, you were able to save Wendy’s life.”
Nightingale began to laugh "Are you trying to comfort me?"
"Ke..." Roland coughed twice, "Those were my real thoughts."
"Feel relieved, I won’t feel sad for the enemy, although she was a witch, the path she chose was entirely different from the one I desire to see in the future, this is the same I already said aboard during the journey back." Nightingale picked up a piece of dried fish and put it into her mouth, "I just knocked the enemy down while protecting my sisters, I only fulfilled my duty, nothing more.”
"It is good if you can think like that," Roland said happily. It seems that he had still underestimated her, with his thought that she would feel lost and confused after personally killing another witch, never expecting that she would be able to adjust to it in just a short time. It appears that in both mind and belief, Nightingale was coming close to reaching maturity.
She swallowed the fish, hesitated for a moment and then opened her mouth to say: "But there is one little thing I want to ask you."
"What were you and Anna doing during these days?" Even though Nightingale's voice became lower and lower, her eyes kept their focus on the Prince, "...you know what I'm talking about."
Roland almost knocked the cup over in his hands, "Keke, asking this so suddenly, what do you... during these days I have been occupied with finding a place to settle the refugees, there wasn't much chance to be alone with her.”
Immediately her eyes began to lit up. "That wasn’t a lie.”
"Of course not, I was –"
Before another word could escape Roland’s lips, Nightingale suddenly vanished into thin air, immediately following which he felt a pair of soft lips on his mouth, after a fleeting touch only leaving behind the light flavor of salty fish. It took him a long while until he realized what had just happened.
Once more he couldn’t finish what he wanted to say. This time, two slender fingers sealed his mouth, even though he couldn’t see her, but he knew that Nightingale was still standing at his side.
"I know what you want to say..." she whispered next to his ear, "I do not want to change anything, I don’t intend to put myself between you and Anna, I merely hope to be always stay by your side, that's all. Forgive me for not daring to show my figure to you, because right now, I also don’t know what kind of expression I should show when facing you. Your Highness, you don’t dislike me?”
"..." Roland opened his mouth, but it seemed that saying he disliked Nightingale was impossible. The barrier that kept him from accepting her was not something about like and dislike, but rather ethical, shaped by twenty years of social experience before coming to this world, by now, he could no longer deceive himself.
"That being the case," she whispered, "do not say anything. It's not your fault; I only did what I wanted to after all."
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