Mandras tells the reader that Pelagia, Dr. Iannis, and Drosoula all talk about him as though he's not there. He spent all his time away thinking of Pelagia, but he knows now that his dream of her is better than the real thing. He knows she's disgusted and he wants to leave so that he can do great things and make her proud. Mandras says he needs to leave again anyway, as he wasn't supposed to come home after his unit was wiped out. However, Pelagia visited him in a vision. He looted a pair of boots and started walking.
Just as Mussolini attempts to create his own reality about the course of the war, Mandras creates his own version of Pelagia that exists only in his head. It's worth keeping in mind that it's unlikely that the real Pelagia will ever measure up to the one in Mandras's head, as Pelagia is far too independent and Mandras's Pelagia is nothing but adoring.
Mandras walked for days and felt as though Pelagia lay next to him at night. He was aware that his body was failing and he was going mad, as monsters chased him. Finally, he came to a stone hovel inhabited by an old hag. She was repulsive, but she fed him for two days. Then, on the third night, Mandras dreamed that he and Pelagia had sex. As he climaxed in his dream, he woke to find the hag underneath him. Horrified, Mandras called her a witch and kicked at her, but then he laughed. He realized then that God had abandoned them all, and humans are blameless. He lay with her until morning and left her in tears.
Mandras's interpretation of sex with the old woman seems to be one in which he realizes humans are actually less than human--by accepting this, he's able to accept that he wanted to have sex badly enough to not recognize who he was having sex with. However, this dehumanization of all people is dangerous, as it means that Mandras will be far more likely to behave cruelly to people he doesn't think are worthy.
Mandras hitched rides on trucks and then walked the final miles to Pelagia's house. When he arrived, however, she was disgusted. He was disappointed that Psipsina was the only one who recognized him. Mandras says that there was also great beauty out there: once, when it was extremely cold, the Italians set off a shell that exploded like a blue firework. He wants to go back to the front so he can experience how beautiful and god-like war can be.
Just as with Velisarios's cannon, Mandras implies that explosions are inherently beautiful regardless of where they occur. It's important though to recognize that the shell is a weapon that can cause death and destruction in a heartbeat; in other words, it's beautiful, but not at all innocent.