Mariana’s brow lowered. “And what is it that you want to do?”
“Only to survive and continue protecting people,” said Salazar.
‘By working with Ex-Abolish,’ said Shenado.
“Well, I didn’t say it was ideal.”
Mariana glowered. The more she thought about it, the less she was surprised by Salazar’s decision. There was a reason this person was Mariana’s previous commanding officer. When she married Zeff, the couple had been confronted with a choice, because a Vanguardian family was not allowed to have split allegiances. It was either Zeff’s commanding officer or Mariana’s. And it was not a difficult decision for her. Rather, it was one of the things that had motivated her to finally tie the knot with Zeff.
The memory of that old mission was abruptly vivid in Mariana’s mind, a mission that had shaped over a decade of conflict to follow.
The president of Vaeland had only just won his election by a small margin, and his first act was to outlaw the practice of slavery. Noble, perhaps, but foolish, because he did not have the strength to support it.
And so the Vanguard came to his aid. Salazar was the first to arrive in the capital with thirty servants under her command, Mariana among them. The goal was only to hold out until their reinforcements could break through the Abolish-controlled southern isles and link up with them.
From all reports, progress was good. Jackson’s men were estimated to arrive in less than ten hours. Salazar’s troops had not even seen any fighting yet.
Then a name reached them.
Gohvis. Bearing down on them from the north.
And that was enough to make Salazar retreat without putting up any resistance. She allowed him to take the capital with ease, allowed Abolish to take root in the heart of the country. To the ruin of all its people.
Mariana wasn’t a fool. She knew they wouldn’t have been able to stop that monster. But they only needed to delay him until Jackson arrived. Yes, it would have been difficult. Yes, many of them would have died. But that was the Vanguard’s purpose. Sacrifice was what it meant to serve.