Chapter 1011 Change of Leadership Part 1
"I have many things to say, but too little time so I'll limit myself to one thing. A Captain that has the guts to issue the 'stop the enemy' order instead of formulating a strategy is worth to be added to the list of jokes the Association tells about the army.
"Captain Phloria, you're now in charge of the mission. Since I'm forced to change plans due to Kortus's manifest incompetence in leadership, I'll invoke the second-in-command protocol.
"Now put the Prospectors' foreman through. I need to inform her of my decisions. Reinforcements are already on their way." Berion said.
Those words made Kortus's eyes water. Usually, the second-in-command protocol was applied only when the commanding officer went mad during a mission, forcing his subordinates to replace him.
The protocol implied that whatever went wrong with the mission would be his fault, whereas every success would be to Phloria's merit. It left no space for politics or power plays. Even if Phloria willingly killed everyone, it would still be his fault.
"With all due respect, General, I wasn't done with my report. Permission to speak freely, sir." Phloria Said.
"Granted." Berion nodded for her to continue.
"Something doesn't add up. The undead clearly knew the caves well enough to stage an ambush, so we can assume that Ghouls mined the crystal veins undetected until recently.
"Yet this raises some questions the answers to which may prove vital for the success of the mission. If really this really is a crystal mine, then how could Belin of Feymar find red raw gemstones?
"Ghouls would never be so sloppy, quite the contrary, their presence shows carefully planning and preparation. I considered this to be a set-up, but putting a crystal mine at stake just to kill random soldiers makes no sense.
"Back when they left the scraps, the undead had no idea who would have found the gems or who would be sent here, so it can't be all part of a bigger scheme. Last but not least, why didn't they detonate the mines after we defeated them?
"It takes but one Ghoul and one spell to turn this place into a huge crater, yet the mines are still here for us to take." Phloria looked with worry at Friya who was talking with the members of the Crystal Shield guild that had finally returned.
"I'm glad to see there's someone capable of using her brain." Berion drummed his fingers on the black mahogany desk, asking himself the same questions yet finding no plausible answer.
"Requesting permission to join the conversation, your honor." Friya said while raising her hand.
"This is no classroom and I'm no judge, Mage Ernas. Permission granted anyway." Berion chuckled.
"My men brought good and bad news. The good news is that following my sister, I mean, Captain Ernas's instructions they found several hidden caves filled with prisoners…"
"Their codename is life banks, for short." Berion cut her short.
"Several life banks. My men were taking care of the survivors and collected some information. Based on what the prisoners said, the life banks were there for a while and before the oldest prisoner got turned into lesser undead, they talked about a mine." Friya said.
"Excellent job, both of you." Berion's smile was sincere now. "Captain Ernas, your cunning allowed us to confirm the presence of a crystal mine and to cut off the enemy's supplies.
"Mage Ernas, if not for your guild, the incompetence of the previous commanding officer might have been fatal. It was you who ordered the barrier array to be strengthened and then sent them to empty the life banks, securing our victory. What about the bad news?"
"There were also beasts in the blood banks, which means that today we didn't fight the main force. I suspect they were just probing our defenses." Friya said.
"Don't worry, they will find you ready. I've been updating your reinforcements the whole time. They will come in force and prepared. Rest until their arrival and then focus on finding the crystal veins." Berion said.
Phloria had nothing more to say, so she put Tlea through and went with Friya to help the wounded. All soldiers capable of using magic knew at least tier two healing spells and first aid, yet there was a lot to do.
Quylla was working hard on those in critical condition and was already sweating bullets. Small injuries required but a spell to be healed whereas life-threatening injuries required either the Healer to share their vitality or blood transfusions and complicated surgical procedures.
Tier four light magic was something only a specialized mage could use, which made every single Healer a priceless asset.
"You've done enough, sis." Phloria delicately pushed Quylla away, taking her place.
Friya silently thanked Phloria for doing what she couldn't. Using so many dimensional spells had taken a toll on Friya and she couldn't heal so much as a scratch without fainting. She was soldiering on to keep the morale high and an eye on Quylla.
"You are safe now. Just eat and rest." Phloria said to a soldier whose liver and stomach had been ruptured by ice spikes.
He had been deathly pale until a second ago, but after the healing magic had mended his holes-ridden abdomen, color had returned to his face. He managed to say thank you before falling asleep.
"Well done. You just need to learn tier five to become a full-fledged Healer." Quylla was pale as well.
She was happy to share both the Forgemastering lesson and the Healing specialization with her sisters, yet Quylla felt envious because she was incapable of fighting.
"Let's move to our next patient." Quylla needed help even to stand up.
"I don't think so." Friya stopped Quylla in her tracks. "We're both dead tired. We need to rest instead of making the patient list longer."
"You don't understand, we…"
"What's on your forehead?" Phloria cut her short and poked Quylla's head while activating a tier one healing spell. It healed her bruises and made her fall asleep.
"I love you." Friya said with so much sincerity that many turned their heads.
"In a non-sexual way." The bystanders lost interest in the scene and returned to their activities.
"Perverts." Friya said while covering Quylla with a blanket and putting a pillow under her head. "Thanks again. I would've done it myself but I've got no strength left but to talk for a few minutes. Quylla needs help. She almost endangered her life earlier.
"One of the first things they taught us at the academy along with tier four magic was to recognize our own limits. A dead Healer means hundreds of lost lives that could have been saved if the mage just took a break."
"I noticed that something was wrong with her since we started spending more time together." Phloria moved Quylla to their private tent so that no one would disturb her sleep or the ongoing conversation.
"She acts awkwardly whenever we are alone, has trouble speaking her mind even in your presence, but the worst thing is that she seems to have emotionally regressed to right after Kulah's events.
"She has never been scared of caves nor been so reckless while healing strangers outside the heat of the battle. Being a dedicated healer is one thing, acting as if the weight of Mogar rests on your shoulder is another."
"Agreed. We need to talk to her before it's too late." Friya nodded.