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Zelle hurriedly limped away from Valhayle.
He looked at her injured leg and furrowed his brows.
But soon, he relaxed his facial muscles and appeared contemplative again.
It seemed like he was fully aware that trusting a bird was insane.
But…It was probably difficult for him not to believe in what Zelle was trying to say.
No, in fact he would be dying to believe it was true.
‘So just trust me.’
Zelle hoped the cold and logical commander-in-chief would make an illogical decision this one time.
Valhayle finally pulled the map closer to him.
She observed his every move carefully.
If he understood what Zelle was trying to show and believed it, he would call for a meeting with the other commanders; if he did not, he would clear away the green stones from the map.
Zelle held her breath and waited for his next move.
It was neither.
Instead, he pulled out a thin paper.
When he placed it over the map, the green stone could be seen through the thin paper.
He marked the spots where the green stones were.
When he finished marking them all, he stared down at the paper for a long while before he spoke.
“I have something to ask.”
Zelle flinched as she scooted away from his reach.
His finger graced his eyebrows.
“If you really did go through there…”
Zelle realized that he was starting to believe her and moved closer to him.
“You would have seen a big tent there. Did you see that?”
She studied the size and location of the camp but she didn’t exactly measure the size of each tent.
But she felt like she could remember it.
Valhayle spoke in a resonant, low voice.
“It’s the general’s tent. In our country, it would be similar to the commander-in-chief’s tent. They call it the ‘Jweng’. Granoir always sets the general’s tent on the frontline so if you can locate where the Jweng is, we can find out where the army is headed to.”
A big tent… The biggest tent…
Zelle remembered something.
Ah, right. The spear.
Unlike the other tents that were built from wooden poles, one tent was built from remarkably long spears.
She saw the deadly shining spearhead so she knew the exact location of that tent.
Thinking about it, that tent did seem bigger than the surrounding tents.
Zelle approached carefully and pointed at one of the spots Valhayle had marked on the paper.
“This one, huh.”
Valhayle placed his finger over the spot and checked tacitly.
Then, he made the mark a little bigger.
“Then their destination could only be the upper stream of the Vishen River.”
He muttered as he folded the thin paper neatly and kept it in his pocket.
Zelle thought it was strange how he didn’t call for a meeting.
‘It seems like he took me quite seriously, so then why isn’t he…?’
Valhayle leaned in and spoke with anger still in his voice.
“If you were caught this time, the enemies would have known about the 8th princess since her name wasn’t encrypted.”
He glared down at Zelle with intimidating eyes.
“Because of you, the 8th princess was almost in danger.”
Technically, Zelle put herself in danger, but Valhayle didn’t know that so obviously the value of life of a bird and a princess would be very different.
I guess I’m getting punished after all.
There were previous cases where animals were punished during the war.
For example, a horse punished for making the commander fall or a dog punished for exposing their location by barking.
If a horse and a dog were punished before, a bird could be punished too.
What happened to soldiers when they disobeyed a military order…?
Hmm…. I think they were lashed or executed. Or the direct superior decided their fate.
But I don’t think they will tie a bird and lash it so…
Zelle hunched her shoulders and hid her neck.
‘No, I don’t want to die.’
She looked up to Valhayle, nervous.
Valhayle’s hand came towards her. Zelle unconsciously closed her eyes and cowered.
He lifted her and placed her on the yellow flag.
Then he tied the other end of the rope around her leg to the post.
Zelle peered through her half-closed eyes and assessed the situation.
H—he’s not going to kill me?
Valhayle spoke to Zelle who was trembling in fear.
“I will not allow any more irrational things like this to happen.”
His tone was stern.
“So for that reason, there is no next mission for you.”
Zelle widened her eyes.
What does that mean?
Valhayle kindly continued.
“It means I am no longer using you as a messenger bird.”
Zelle looked up at him utterly with dumbfounded eyes.
Valhayle rechecked the tightness of the rope around her leg and left the tent.
Zelle flopped onto her legs from the relief.
I didn’t… Die.
Although she should be more relieved, she somehow felt uneasy.
I thought I feared dying the most. No, I still do but…
Somehow, she felt angry.
It wasn’t because she thought she deserved to be punished. She had risked a punishment the moment she decided to disobey him.
Zelle curled up into a ball.
‘He said he will no longer use me as a messenger bird.’
It was the only thing I could do for my country without having to avoid other’s eyes.
She was angry but she didn’t want to make it known.
This anger came from despondency.
As she suppressed her anger, she started justifying it.
‘At least I delivered useful information.’
While that was true…
Zelle clenched her beak.
It wasn’t enough.
It could be arrogant of her to think that but to Zelle, it was nothing close to enough.
It felt like something was cut off from her.
Zelle let out a sigh with downheartedness.
After punishing the bird, Valhayle headed straight for Sir Luke’s tent.
The weight of the thin paper he carried in his pocket weighed down on him.
The location of the Granoir camp.
He still couldn’t believe it and he still thought he was insane.
If he hadn’t seen that bird limping, he wouldn’t have believed it.
After all, this information was crucial to the enemy.
Valhayle flung open the entrance of Sir Luke’s tent.
“Ah, you scared me!”
Sir Luke, who was carving an apple inside, jumped.
He hurriedly stood up and paid his respects.
“You could have called for me. Why did you come here?”
Valhayle glanced at the sign Sir Luke carved on the apple and sat down.
“…Don’t engrave military codes in pointless things.”
The other man scratched his head.
“I’m going to eat it up anyway. Plus, this barely means anything.”
Valhayle looked at the apple again.
He thought for a short while what it meant to be able to have apples for the soldiers.
They successfully recaptured the Black Defense Wall so part of the Central region was now Roymonde’s again.
This apple must be from the farms on the recaptured lands.
Before this, apples had been a luxury.
To the soldiers who only had porridge and dried meat, the apples would be a good stimulant for them.
Most of Roheneim’s soldiers were from the Central region where most fruits were farmed.
So, just having a bite of this sweet apple would remind them of home. This would motivate them more to get their country and family back.
Then he suddenly thought of the bird that must have flown past those farms.
Blood as red as that apple bleeding out from that arrow wound…
He felt a sudden surge of anger so he let out a hoarse sigh to calm down.
I should order the soldier to feed it more often.
I wonder if birds like apples too….
Sir Luke called again.
Then Valhayle came back to his senses.
‘I’m worried about a bird in this situation?’
“Why are you here?”
Instead of answering him, Valhayle pulled out the thin paper from his pocket and spread it on the table.
A few dozens of dots were scattered irregularly over the white paper.
“What is this?”
Sir Luke blinked with confusion.
Valhayle answered bluntly.
“It’s the map of the Granoir camp.”
Sir Luke’s jaw dropped.
Valhayle silently arranged a map under the thin paper.
Sir Luke stared in awe and was soon in shock.
“I—is this really…”
Valhayle nodded with seriousness.
The other man gasped and brushed his chest several times.
“Where did you get this?”
“From a trustworthy source.”
Sir Luke’s eyes widened.
It was because he had never heard his superior say that before.
The Lumares Valhayle whom Sir Luke knew was the type to clearly state his source if he was sure of the information; if he wasn’t sure, he wouldn’t even say it out loud.
But he spoke of this source so vaguely? Valhayle felt the suspicion in the other man’s eyes and ran his hand through his hair.
“It’s hard to explain. But I decided to trust this information.”
Sir Luke scrutinized Valhayle’s face briefly and lowered his head.
“At your command. Please, continue.”
Valhayle pointed at the chair next to him.
“Sit. It will take some time.”
Sir Luke dragged the chair and took a seat. Valhayle started talking.
“This camp location was last seen 4 days ago, so it shouldn’t have changed much.”
“How do you know it’s been 4 days….”
Valhayle waved his hand dismissively/in dismissal and Sir Luke shut his mouth.
“There is a high chance that they will maintain this formation until their reinforcement arrives. So we need to plan based on this information.”
Valhayle pointed at the big dot marked on the thin paper.
“This is the ‘Jweng’. They went up north from the downstream of the Vishen River.”
Sir Luke nodded.
“Yes. They must have suffered damages from the flood. Since they aren’t very familiar with Roymonde’s weather patterns, they must have considered the northern downstream dangerous and evacuated upstream.”
“That’s right. But we know our country well.”
“You’re right. The typhoon won’t return so the northern side is safe now. But the Granoir army would still fear the flood.”
Valhayle drew a line from one point to another with his finger.
“So we must secure a supply route on the northern side.”
And he concluded.
“A supply route that connects Lopecce and us.”
Sir Luke stayed silent for a moment before parting his lips.
“Sir. If this information is wrong and Granoir actually maintained its large camp on the northern side… This is mass suicide. After all, they have 50,000 men while we have 38,000.”
“Yes. But our current situation is as bad as it is. We need supplies.”
“It will be a reckless plan.”
“Fortunately, soldier morale is high due to our recent victory. I think this is the best time for it.”
Sir Luke bowed.
“Understood. Anything you’d like to command?”
“I’m calling for a meeting at midnight. Come to my tent with the other knight commanders.”
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