~Chapter Twenty Five- The Battle in Norino Part 3~
~The following morning~
Sunlight starts to shine into the wood with the dawn. My troops are exhausted but have to keep up their pace to stay out of range of Victor’s army. I feel dizzy from hunger, but I have to keep up my composure in front of everyone. I try at least. I find myself stumbling and gripping a tree to keep from falling, and my soldiers scramble to support me.
“Are you okay?” A soldier named Andres asks.
“I’m fine,” I say, steadying myself until I stand upright again, “Keep moving.”
As I try to stride forward, I find myself losing my balance slightly and putting a hand on another tree. I hear my soldiers murmur.
“Miro sir, when did you eat last?” One of them asks.
When did I eat last? Did I eat at all yesterday?
“I’m not sure.”
Andres pulls out a solid block of protein from his pouch which serves as a ration, “Eat this.”
“Save it for yourself. I’m fine.”
“You’re clearly not. We need you to keep leading us. Please eat!”
I stare at the ration and feel the emptiness in my stomach. I’m sure everyone else is in the same condition. But he has a point. I need to be able to lead them.
None of my soldiers have ever seen my face. Not even Miguel. I hesitate a moment before reaching undo the clasps on my helmet and lifting it off. My eyes adjust to the light outside of my helmet. For the first time, one of my soldiers is able to look me in the eyes. Andres hands me his ration.
Not wanting to slow us down anymore, I continue walking as I eat. Everyone takes glances at my face. I’m sure I’m not what they expected. Andres is less subtle about it and openly stares, “You’re younger than I thought you’d be.”
I take the last bite of the ration and quickly put the helmet back on, “Does that matter?”
He shrugs, “Not really.”
In the distance, we see a hill with a sharp slope leading to the edge of the woods. We must be in Illesto by now. Once we leave the woods, our exit point will be a few miles northwest. Unfortunately, I’m sure the military is waiting for us outside of the woods. My soldiers are exhausted but continue with faith that Miro will find a way to save them.
We certainly don’t have the strength to fight what will be waiting for us. I suppose we could stay at the edge of the woods and travel north, but I was sure that Victor’s army will catch most, if not all of us. The same goes for heading south.
I hear gunfire behind us. It’s close. I glance back and can see white and blue uniforms through the woods. They’ve caught up to us! There’s no way we can defeat them in our current state... But might as well go out fighting.
“Everyone, hurry to the top! We’ll take a position there!” I yell, and the soldiers follow my lead up the sloping hill. A few bullets strike around as we climb and some tumble down the hill. At the top of the hill, I see silhouettes coming into view, some of them wearing Survival suits.
My mind races as to what to do. A lot of us will die if we try to charge the hill and get past the Survival Suit soldiers, and who knows what will be waiting for us when we get up there. If we try to run, we’re dead. If we try to fight, we’re dead. There’s no way out.
I’m sorry mom. I’m sorry Melissa. I’m sorry everyone.
A rocket is ignited at the top of the hill and I dive to the ground. It flies overhead and strikes Victor’s army, and they fall back. I look up at those silhouettes again and see soldiers in the black uniforms of Miro’s Revolution. More come into view and they stream gunfire down at the military.
I hurry up the hill with everyone to meet our comrades. The General’s army retaliates, but our comrades at the top of the hill cover our retreat. When I reach the top, I see countless soldiers of Miro’s revolution have come to our aid. There has to be over a thousand in the plains of Illesto. The Survival Suit Soldiers are on our side as well. A tank christened in black passes us and takes position at the top of the hill, firing down on the General’s forces. I recognize the tank as one my stepfather gifted us.
Without another order, my soldiers position at the top of the hill alongside our comrades and join in. The military clearly isn’t prepared for such a counterattack. Before long, General Victor’s army is forced into retreat, and our forces cheer in their victory.
How is this possible? How did so many of us assemble here?
“Soldier,” I stop one of those in a survival suit that had saved us, “Who assembled you all here?”
The soldier removes his helmet and I see that it’s commander Cecil, “I commanded the soldiers here. When we heard that you were being pursued after the battle Norino, we were ordered to support you here.” Cecil explains.
“Who gave the order?” I ask.
“It was... Miro sir.” Cecil states uncertainly.
Of course, that explains it. “Where is Miro?” I ask.
“At Illesto’s base. We were ordered to return to the base once we had saved you... Miro.” Cecil says Miro again with uncertainty.
“Illesto’s base? Why there?”
“Come and see.”
We travel westward, past our exit point and towards Illesto’s military base. As we travel the landscape, I see that battles have been waged in Illesto. Soldiers from Miro’s revolution are manned everywhere as we travel the rural region.
We arrive at a nearby train station in Illesto to see that soldiers from Miro’s revolution are manning it as well. Typically, the Blue and White flag with a symbol representing the sun would be hanging over train stations. But now, there is a black and white flag with a crescent moon adhered on it. The symbol of Miro’s revolution.
We take the train further west until we reach Illesto’s military base. It bears the Black Flag of our Revolution and is being manned by familiar soldiers in black. All military personnel are gone. The walls surrounding the gate had clearly taken fire and had a few bodies surrounding it. I could smell smoldering fire in the air. Another battle took place here, but when?
Overlooking the gate, I saw a black- cloaked figure in a helmet similar to my own, awaiting our arrival. It was the one who had truly set this revolution in motion. It was Miro. The True Miro.
I meet with the True Miro inside the base. I was wearing the original Survival suit we had stolen; the suit they were wearing must’ve been one of the newly created ones painted black. Many of the soldiers look confusedly at the two of us together.
“Welcome back,” The True Miro says.
“You saved us back there,” I say graciously.
“You would’ve done the same for me. I need to speak with you in private for a moment.”
We find a private office in the administrative district of this base, the General’s room. Last night, all of our forces from Illesto and the western region of Desi led a concentrated strike on this base with orders from the True Miro. With our newfound strength we’ve built up, they were able to purge the military from this base. Most of the military in Illesto fled south to the region of Desi. With that victory, Miro effectively took the region of Illesto for our own.
“I didn’t imagine we’d start attacking the military head on yet,” I say removing my helmet.
“It was the only way to save you.”
“The military from other regions will come to try to take Illesto back.”
“They’ll be busy in other regions for awhile.”
“What do you mean?”
“This wasn’t the only attack I ordered.”