“Salute to our commander!”
The injured and bandaged soldiers refined their lines and took their courtesy to the man. It was the first time for Chloe, who only went in and out of the tents for the patients, to actually see him. The tall blonde man was dressed so neatly that anyone could believe that he had just attended a ceremony at the royal palace. Chloe blinked blankly and secretly opened the curtains a little bit more.
“This afternoon, I heard the obituary of the first-tier commander who was heading south.”
The space that had always been noisy suddenly became quiet; so quiet was the surroundings that the sound of cuckoos sitting on the tree seemed so loud.
“As everyone knows, the commander of the First Army of the Kingdom was my father, Duke William Fawn Teece.”
Chloe held her breath for a while before letting out a small gust of air. Her hand holding the curtain flinched nervously.
“It is said that he was hung from a wall and beheaded by the enemy.”
There was no agitation in his voice announcing his father’s disastrous death. In the five-year war, the man who had achieved the commander position was said to only be twenty-two years old. Chloe felt overwhelmed by the calmness of this man who was only three years older than herself.
“Do you all want to go back home?”
All the soldiers who were asked this sudden question by their superior could not give an easy answer. The commander approached them and asked once again:
“Does this mean you all do not want to go back?”
“…we all want to go back!”
After a short hesitation, all the soldiers shouted loudly.
Some soldiers responded to the obvious question asked by the commander.
“My pregnant wife whom I left for the war is waiting at home. She gave birth to a child with no one to help her, and I have never been able to see my son!”
“I see. Do you want to go back, too?”
After being asked, the second soldier raised his voice even louder.
“It bothers me that I left my sick mother alone. Without me… she can’t even move on her own.”
“I must work so that my younger siblings do not starve!”
Chloe could clearly hear the sorrowful cries in the soldiers’ voices, and her eyes soon became moist with tears. After hearing all the stories one after another, the commander finally raised his voice.
“Here we have plenty of reasons why we have to end the war and go back home, and I’m no different. Even though I was unable to recover my father’s body nor could I set a funeral for him, I still need to stand tall and hold my gun.”
The sounds of the soldiers gasping quietly as if swallowing tears were heard from here and there.
“In two days we will cross the mountain range again. We raise our guns even though we are tired, injured, cold, and hungry. Is it for the country? No! It’s to protect those precious to us!”
Chloe had the illusion that the commander’s words resonated throughout the entire castle. She gently took her hand to her chest, feeling her heart beating hard. The man’s words had the power to captivate his audience.
“Are you desperate? Do you want to go back?”
“How desperate are you?”
“Desperate enough to give my heart to you!” shouted the youngest-looking soldier—a bandage around his arm and his face a mess with tears.
“It is not God’s will nor decision to win or lose the war. If we lose, it means only one thing! It is only proof that our enemy is more desperate than we are!”
The soldiers now shouted with all their might, shaking the castle with desperation.
“I will not back down. I will not give defeat to my soldiers. I will add another flag of victory to the Teece family under the name of my dead father. It’s not for the country. It’s only for myself!”
It was dangerous for the commander of the royal army to say such words, but no one could object to him. His eyes and voice were filled with overflowing sincerity.
“No commander is superior to me. I’ve been proving it every moment and it will be the same this time. I will do anything to bring victory to my army, because it is the Teece family’s pride and dignity. So it’s time for you to prove the desperation you told me.”
Now the atmosphere among the soldiers changed completely. Eyes that had been filled with despair and resignation now shone with a sense of victory. Their voices vowing to remain loyal resonated here and there.
‘Is this a speech?’
Chloe has seen the word “a great leader is a narrator” in a book but never actually experienced it. In this situation, there was only one thing she could definitely recognize: that person was dead serious. Her two cheeks which were always pale flushed with a bright fever. She was concentrating on the young commander, unknowingly pulling back all the curtains and opening the window.
“Let’s go back home with the flag of proud victory in our hearts. People will praise the achievements of the great soldiers who win the hardest battle, and your families will be honored for generations. And this will all apply to me as well!”