Chapter 3326: The Human Cost
The infighting within the Vulcan Empire grew worse. Even with leaders such as the Grand Regent of the Vulcan Empire urging their fellow dwarves to take a step back in consideration of the greater good, the religious fanatics on both sides refused to take these calls seriously.
In their opinion, they were already fighting for the 'greater good'! It was just that their opponents happened to adhere to a different interpretation of what this actually meant.
Since the followers of both the Vulcan Faith and the Dwarven God Cult believed that they were absolutely in the right, a compromise was out of reach! Due to doctrinal issues, it was unthinkable for the dwarven fanatics to walk back their fervent opinions.
With their friends, their peers and their leaders advocating for purity, any dwarves who showed insufficient piety would no longer fit in with the crowd!
It was for this reason that even the less devout and more reticent dwarves were pulled into the conflict. Perhaps they originally didn't pay much attention to Vulcan in their daily lives, but when their entire neighborhoods and workplaces became swept by the same fever, there was no escape!
More and more incidents, battles and tragedies took place under Vulcan's name. The news emerging from the Vulcan Empire got so bad that Ves no longer checked the news portals.
A part of him felt troubled at what he had unleashed upon the state. Not every citizen had it coming. There were trillions of average dwarves who just lived a normal job and went about their day without bothering anyone. It was the influencers and decision makers in their society who truly called the shots.
Ves would have preferred to keep his revenge action more proportional. If he had the choice to target the leaders and cadre of the Dwarven God Cult, then he would have chosen this option without a doubt.
However, he didn't possess the power or ability to do so. His only means of attack required the cooperation of both the friendly dwarves and the unfriendly dwarves.
"After all, a civil war can't be waged if only one side is willing to fight." He muttered.
Since the believers of the human Vulcan and the dwarven Vulcan were both riled up at once, neither side was able to overpower the other! This was the best way to produce a damaging internal struggle where total strength of the Vulcan Empire was being consumed on a continuous basis!
It became increasingly more difficult for onlookers to remain composed when they heard about the events unfolding in the dwarven state.
The Empire of the Lost accelerated its mobilization efforts. More reservists were being activated than ever and the budget allocated to the armed forces had jumped by 50 percent. Several mech divisions were being moved to the border every couple of days and regular consumer trade began to grow increasingly more scarce.
The Lost were both afraid and eager at what was happening. They were ecstatic to see the Vulcanites beating each other up, yet they were also afraid at the possibility the dwarves would suddenly make up and direct their aggression outwards!
While the humans in the star cluster geared up for war, the discussion within the Larkinson Clan also became more heated.
As the people who worked with glows on a daily or even hourly basis, the Larkinsons couldn't be more clear who had single-handedly messed up the Vulcan Empire! No matter whether Ves denied responsibility for what was happening, the clansmen knew better than to believe the Larkinson Clan had nothing to do with what was happening over at the next star sector!
Opinions differed on whether it was proper to retaliate this way.
"The dwarves deserve to get punished! They attacked us with the intent to wipe us all out. Why do they deserve leniency when we are simply returning the favor?"
"You bigot! Not every dwarf deserves to get killed. There are entire planets filled with innocent civilians who are losing their lives and the lives of their loved ones due to the expanding crossfire."
"Aren't we doing something illegal? From what I can tell, we've been brainwashing their leaders through the use of our glows. I don't know how you can justify such an act!"
There were many clansmen who began to develop a guilty conscience over what 'their clan' was doing to the Vulcan Empire.
Others were much less sympathetic towards the dwarves.
Though Ves was able to avoid meeting with outsiders while this incident grew worse, he couldn't do the same to his own clansmen.
Some of them insisted on speaking with Ves in person! Just as expected, Venerable Jannzi managed to get a hold of him first!
"Ves! What are you doing?!" Jannzi asked as she stormed into his office.
"Ugh, I'm not in the mood to enter into a moralistic discussion with you." Ves tiredly said as he leaned back on his chair and began to throw a chunk of mineral in the air.
Lucky darted upwards and caught the little snack with excellent skill. The gem cat eagerly enjoyed his prize as he continued to drift away.
The female expert pilot ignored the cat and marched over to the desk before she pressed her hands on the surface. She leaned forward.
"Your vindictiveness is going too far. Do you even realize how much of loss of life your stupid statues have caused?"
"The Vulcanites are our enemies, Jannzi. Did you see them hesitate in trying to take down our ships? If we hadn't received advance warning and evacuated our civilian population to our capital ships, then thousands more clansmen would have died! If the Ferril Provincial Army succeeded in defeating our mech army, then I have no doubt that the dwarves would have killed every clansman they came across regardless of their threat!"
"You can't stoop to their level! We're better than that. We're Larkinsons. Even if you care nothing about our reputation, our honor demands we do not unnecessarily endanger civilians. What you're doing right now is butchery instead of honorable combat!"
Ves sighed and shook his head.
"This is war, Jannzi. We're not the ones who provoked this fight. We're not the ones who acted dishonorably first. Besides, this is the only way a clan as weak as ours can fight against a powerful second-rate state. Do you want us to commit suicide by heading back to the Vulcan Empire so we can fight a traditional battle again? We'll get crushed by superior numbers!"
The expert pilot looked frustrated. "You didn't have to pick a fight against the Vulcan Empire to begin with! Look, it is true they attacked us, but that doesn't necessarily mean we should enter into a vendetta with them. It's best to let go and leave the dwarves behind. Prolonging our stay here will only lead to further avoidable bloodshed. Just look at what the Vulcanites have been doing to each other as a result of your actions."
She activated her comm and projected some sordid news stories.
[DWARVEN GOD CULTISTS BURNED DOWN A PRIVATE SCHOOL WITH STUDENTS INSDE - 600 CHILDREN DEAD AND COUNTING]
[16 MECHS OPENED FIRE ON A DENSELY-POPULATED SLUM TO DESTROY SEVERAL HIDDEN REBEL BASES. 12,000 DWARVES HAVE DIED FROM COLLATERAL DAMAGE.]
[PASSENGER SHIP CARRYING SENIOR PRIEST OF VULCAN FAITH HAS BEEN HIJACKED AND CRASHED, RESULTING IN LOSS OF LIFE OF ALL CREW AND PASSENGERS]
Jannzi not only showed him the headlines, but also ran some footage.
"My baby! My baby!" A dwarven mother kneeled in front of a collapsed house in a random town.
The fighting on that planet had not spread to the smaller towns, but the reason why the mother lost her infant was because a fight had taken place in orbit. A piece of space debris had fallen from the sky and crashed onto the woman's house, leading to a tragic loss that should have never occurred!
This was the least impactful consequence that Jannzi brought up. She also presented more disturbing footage.
"Look at what your actions have wrought, Ves. I'm not letting you get away with this by pretending that your actions are only hurting the bad guys."
The next footage displayed a much larger tragedy. Hundreds of fallen mechs littered the streets of a major city. This was a large and densely populated region that was packed with urbanite dwarves.
In its prime, the city was a bustling financial and creative center. Millions of dwarves either lived here or commuted to this city to go to work.
Now, the gleaming skyscrapers had collapsed and entire apartment complexes burned into blackened husks. The collateral damage resulting from this unrestrained battle between two opposing groups that just happened to possess a lot of mechs had reached apocalyptic levels!
Tens of thousands more parents were digging through the ruins or pleading to the emergency services to help rescue their loved ones from underneath the rubble. The fighting had been so intense that the entire city district was totally ruined!
Few people and organizations based in this area had much relation with the ongoing struggle. Only a fraction of the citizens who lived and worked in this bustling metropolis consisted of militant fanatics. The overwhelming majority of dwarves who failed to evacuate to the underground emergency shelters in time were merely implicated because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time!
It was hard for Ves to remain indifferent when his least favorite expert pilot in the clan confronted him with the living cost of his far-reaching ploy.
"Tragedies like these aren't one-off incidents." She stated. "They happen over and over at different planets because there are too many dwarves out there that are convinced that 'Vulcan' is cheering them on, and they're right! Even now, I sense the smugness leaking from your body."
"You're going too far, Jannzi!" Ves barked back as he grew indignant at her judgemental behavior. "We live in a complicated society and we can't always ensure that the innocents remain unaffected. I don't like what is happening, but the statues did not force the Vulcanites to turn their weapons against their fellow brothers. Those impulses came from themselves. If they weren't harboring thoughts about fighting against their own kind, the tragedies they caused wouldn't have been so enormous."
He stared up at her. Jannzi's will continued to press down on Ves in an attempt to make him acquiesce.
It didn't work. Ves faced tougher circumstances before and his mental strength had grown since he gained his new incarnation.
"I can't tell you the full story, but there is a good reason why I've been trying to get into the Vulcan Empire." He softly replied. "What I'm doing at the moment is meant to accomplish a specific purpose. As soon as I get what I want, I'll leave the Fermi Star Cluster and all of its stupidity behind right away."
Jannzi narrowed her eyes. "Really?"
"Hey, what do you take me for, a sadist? Do I look like a heartless bastard who gets happy whenever he hears the screams of parents who lost their children? Do you think that I am rooting for the Vulcanites to slaughter each other en masse until the entire Smiling Samuel Star Sector is depopulated?"
"You're not going to change, are you?"
He shrugged. "I have a plan. It's still on track. I see no need to change any details. The dwarves could have prevented all of this if they just let us travel through their space without plotting to kill us all. They can still prevent further tragedies from occurring if they just put down their extremism and accept that regular humans don't deserve to be killed."
"That's impossible, and you know that. You can't just make an entire culture turn its back on its traditions and sincerely held beliefs."
"Then maybe the culture in question shouldn't have existed in the first place." Ves retorted. "Not every state and culture are good. Some are so reprehensible that we would be doing a favor by wiping them off the map!"
"And who gets to decide which ones get to exist and which ones need to be eliminated? I sure as hell hope it isn't you, because the galaxy will become a darker place if you are in charge!"