142. Chapter 142 – Balance
Hot air and shock hit Walm’s skin. Reflexively, he curled up to cover his vital points. The sight that met his eyes as he peered through the gap between his folded arms was completely different than it had been a moment before. The remains of the scattered people turned to blood and flesh and covered the great hall.
The sense of reality had still not reached Walm.
Those present, who until just now had believed in the glory of Belgana, simply lay down on the floor and groaned. The path of light shining through the stained glass was tinged with dark, visceral colors.
“Ex-explosion…? What’s going on?”
Walm made his addled brain work hard. The people in front and behind him became exquisite shields, leaving his body remained unharmed. The guests, on the other hand, caught in the explosion flames, confided helplessly to him.
“Oi, hang in there!”
Shouted Walm to the drooping man, but received no response. The glittering clothes were dirty, and the boundary with the skin was ambiguous, somehow stuck. Still, he was far from instant death.
To check the condition of the injured man, Walm grabbed the man’s shoulder and turned the man’s face upward, but he noticed something unusual.
“uh, aahh, a, uh, haagh…”
The face was purple overall, and convulsions with vomiting occurred repeatedly. For Walm, who was used to seeing injured people and even burned people, this was the first time he had seen the symptoms. Looking closely at the skin, he could see a white foreign substance stuck in the metal pieces. It wasn’t just an explosion. The explosive that must have been planted on the vice-guild leader and the other people was laced with metal shards and deadly poison to increase its lethality.
The man being held by Walm arched his back as if to mimic a bow and stopped breathing. He was beyond help.
Walm laid the body down and let his gaze wander to gather information. As the view cleared, the full extent of the damage became clearer. Half of the guests and the guards were still lying on the ground.
“CALL A HEALING MAGICIAN!! The Marquis is injured!”
“This is bad. The breathing is…… Damn it, what’s this? Deadly poison? Where is the guild leader!?”
“The guild leader was caught in the explosion of the vice-guild leader, and died instantly.”
The glorious voices of praise and the melodies of instruments were replaced by screams and groans. The attendants and soldiers tried desperately to save the injured, but to no avail.
Soldiers scurrying around the room, guests calling for help, and guild employees disappearing into the exit, pale with fear. These were the scenes Walm’s eyes saw.
In the midst of this commotion, Walm’s gaze lingered on one particular person. One particular person…
Walm felt thirsty and forgot to breathe, as if time had stopped. He gasped for air and ran through the hall, only for his feet to get stuck on the wet floor. His heart was pounding fast. The more he told himself that he shouldn’t be like this, couldn’t be like this, the more his breathing was disturbed.
Walm, who reached the wall, put his knees on the ground as if he were repentant and called out.
“Li, Lisi! Oi, LISIII!!!”
“u… ah, uuuh… a…..”
Walm’s vision wavered as he carefully lifted Lisi’s weak body. Fist-sized shards of metal pierced her throat and chest, and she spat copious amounts of blood from her lips. Her eyes were blurry. And her eyelids were closing, as if she couldn’t bear her fatigue. Faced with such a serious injury, she didn’t, she couldn’t respond to Walm’s call, but moved her fingers and lightly shook the silver bracelet on her wrist. She felt as cold as a corpse when Walm clasped her hand.
“Healing magician, is there a healing magician out here!!?”
With over a hundred people writhing in agony from the poison, there was no one but Walm who would prioritize saving Lisi, the guild employee.
Removing the poisoned metal pieces should have been the top priority, but Walm’s experience as a soldier set alarm bells ringing. If the metal pieces were pulled out of Lisi, who couldn’t put up a magical barrier, the equilibrium would be lost and she would definitely bleed to death. Even if he tried to cauterize the bleeding, could she endure the pain of having her throat and chest burned? No way a normal person could.
“Don’t sleep, stay conscious!”
It’s not a time to grieve, don’t panic, think, think of a way…!!
Walm continued to try hard to control the thoughts that were being dragged by his emotions, which tried to deviate from the logical path and jumped into the sorrowful past.
Even if Walm removed the metal pieces, Lisi would still bleed to death. Besides, he had no way to remove the poison at all. Even healing magicians would have a hard time curing it, indeed, some wouldn’t be able to demonstrate their abilities in the face of a deadly poison.
While swimming in the sea of thought, the existence of “it” passed by. It was one of the Three Hidden Treasures of Healing, the crimson grass that was said could heal all kinds of diseases and even prolong life. Walm had risked his life at the bottom of the Labyrinth to obtain it. Now, a dying benefactor needed it. Immediately.
The calculating mind rose and cried out, but immediately its lip was shut and it was buried to death.
Even if Walm pretended not to see all this, blaming his muddy eyes, it would only add a new curse of regret.
“Wait, I’ll help you now―― “
Walm grabbed the bottle he took out from the magic bag and popped the cork. The unchanging flower remained in its form, just as when he had retrieved it from the bottom of the Labyrinth.
Walm threw words of encouragement to Lisi, while his mind was hesitating about how to get her to ingest it, but then the voice he heard made him freeze.
Even at the bottom of the Labyrinth, Yuna’s unsettled voice shook Walm’s eardrums. Even more so now.
Awkwardly, Walm bent his heavy, rusty neck. Familiar faces gathered at the end of his line of sight. The only difference was that Merrill, the party leader, lay on the ground. She was bathed in poisonous shards that made her body shake uncontrollably. To the side, the corpses of the prominent figures of the Labyrinth City were tragically lined up. Unlike them, Merrill had escaped instant death, perhaps because of the difference in how direct the hit was or the difference in the defense provided by the magical barrier.
“Merrill, don’t give up!!”
“Yuna, stuff her mouth with cloth and makes her bite it… Aaahh, even though I’ve used my bestowing magic, why the detoxifying doesn’t work!?”
“Ah, aaaahh, this is, Hydra’s poison!! It’s so poisonous, enough to knock down the descendants of the giants of the Republic. And that amount, is enough to kill an ordinary person five times over.”
Which one should be saved? The comrade-in-arms with whom he shared joys and sorrows in the Labyrinth, Merrill. Or, the benefactor who had shown and helped him many things since he arrived in the Labyrinth City, Lisi.
While weighing the two, the reason Walm cultivated as a soldier called out to him.
“Ah, huu, AHH, HAAAHHH!!”
Dizziness attacked Walm, making his vision even blurrier. A sour taste rose in his throat as he suppressed his sobs.
What to do…? What should I do…?!!
Walm’s emotions were on the verge of bursting. On the contrary, his reason as a soldier ruthlessly perceived the facts. Lisi’s wounds were too deep. Would the crimson grass be enough to save her? His emotions denied the truth.
Who should be saved?
In front of the two people caught in a balance, time passed without giving Walm an answer.
The screams in the noisy hall had decreased one by one. In such a hall, Walm was forced to make a decision, but he couldn’t choose.
Meanwhile, in Walm’s indecision, Lisi’s mouth moved slightly as she was suffering in his arm.
“What is it?! What do you want to say?!”
Lisi’s mouth moved slightly, but no sound came out. Walm tried hard to figure out what she was going to say from her mouth movements so as not to miss a single word, but he failed.
No more chances. Lisi’s body stiffened for a moment before her relaxed arm fell to the floor.
The silver bracelet made a sound. The high-pitched reverberation of the metal lingered in Walm’s ears. He felt as if he had heard it continuously for hours.
“O-oi! Lisi? LISI!!?”
Walm understood. Meaningless and unproductive. That was what he was doing. Nevertheless, he continued to throw words around.
“It’s, a lie. It’s not supposed to be, like this.”
Words would never come out from Lisi again, for life had slipped away from her cold body.
Walm couldn’t choose between the two on the balance. The result was Lisi’s death. The process wasn’t important. The results spoke louder in the end.
How could he be forgiven? No sane person would. Walm didn’t choose her after all. Still, he couldn’t help but sob in an apology.
Walm closed her eyelids with his trembling fingers, placed Lisi on the floor, and walked forward as if crawling. His distorted vision reflected many tragedies.
Walm took several shallow breaths and sorted his messy consciousness. He realized he couldn’t stay still and drowned in grief. So he made a decision.
“Walm!? Merrill is…!”
Hari, who was concentrating on Merrill’s treatment, tried to explain her condition, while being surprised by Walm, who jumped in without considering whether he would fall.
“At this rate, she will die. Right?”
What an open-minded way of speaking. Even so, knowing the appearance of Walm and the weight of the thing he held in his hands, no one dared to criticize him.
“Walm, what about your eyes?!”
“I know. But it’s just eyes, life is more important.”
“Is it really okay?”
At Hari’s insistence, Walm turned his bloodshot eyes.
“……I, can’t go back anymore… Can you hear me, Merrill? Swallow the crimson grass.”
Walm opened Merrill’s tightly closed mouth with his fingers and pushed in some crimson grass, but she just coughed and couldn’t swallow it at all.
“She doesn’t even have the strength to swallow…”
Marianthe was at a loss for words at Merrill’s deteriorating condition.
No more lament. Walm took out the rum from his magic bag, poured it into his mouth, and immediately stuffed his mouth with the crimson grass. He continued to chew, leaving his stunned companion aside. The rusty bitterness of the crimson grass and the sweet taste of the rum mingled in his mouth.
Then Walm put one arm around Merrill’s nape, and with the other hand, he put a finger on her chin and poured the crimson grass into her mouth. The liquid flowed through the overlapping lips without a gap. Merrill coughed. He pressed his lips further, tightly to keep the liquid from leaking out. Her throat rumbled, saying that the crimson grass had passed.
The effect was dramatic. The convulsing body slowly calmed. The drowning breathing came to rest again.
The exhausted Walm sat down on the floor. It had a bitter aftertaste. Feelings that couldn’t be explained swirled deep inside.
At that moment, a person grabbed Walm by the shoulder. He looked back with a dumbfounded face.
The guild employee Lavinia, who normally worked next to Lisi at the reception desk, was about to contort her face and scream.
“Why, why didn’t you help her? Why did you abandon her!!! If you had used crimson grass, Lisi…… might still be alive. That girl, held a feeling for you, so why, WHY!?”
Walm listened in silence.
It was a very good point indeed. Lavinia, who was close to Lisi, couldn’t accept Walm’s choice.
“In this situation, no one can stay calm. And you bastard, should better watch your mou――”
“Hari, stop. I didn’t choose, I couldn’t choose, I killed her. Nothing’s wrong.”
Hari, his face colored by anger, shouted at Lavinia, but Walm stopped him. Lavinia, whose eyes crossed with Walm, lowered her face and simply hit the ground with her gaze.
“The one to blame, shouldn’t be Walm! He, even disregards his rotting eyes just to――”
Marianthe was about to continue, but was interrupted by soldiers rushing into the Great Hall. The soldier, who must have been a messenger, reported to the surviving general.
“1000-man Commander Edoardo, a message was sent using communication magic tool!! Similar necromancy magic-style human bombs exploded at the labyrinth-related facilities, the staff room, and the main castle. And the damage is enormous. In addition, in the old castle, the city area, the castle gate, and many more, a large number of undead and armed forces of unknown affiliation have been confirmed.”
“What’s the total number!?”
“It’s unknown, but the number of undead alone exceeds several thousand, and a lot of the equipment clad in their rotting body seems to be from the era of the Unification War.”
The general, whose name was Edoardo, gritted his teeth and let out a yell.
“This kind of tactic, is from the era of the Unification War. Did the dead, really crawl out of their grave!!?”
“Ma-Marquis-sama, and the eldest son have passed away. Even the guild’s high-ranking officers and also the soldiers at the command post―― what should we do?”
Edoardo looked at the messenger soldier and raised his voice.
“Don’t panic!! First of all, mobilize all the soldiers and adventurers who can move in the vicinity and assemble the numbers. Regardless of affiliations or units. We don’t know the exact casualties of the higher-ranking people in the chain of command… Gather those who can take control, the first priority is to remove the threat!!!”
The soldiers who had received the scolding scattered outside the room. There were no lives left to save.
Walm heaved a small sigh. He thought Edoardo’s voice was really good. One of the exemplary voices of those who could move people.
Ironically, Walm’s spirit returned to reality at the command of a general from another country.
What should be the priority was the elimination of the worst, the fatal, the one who had caused the situation that made the heart vomit pain.
Walm wholeheartedly agreed with the command.
“… I’ll leave Merrill in your care. I’ve something to do.”
“What are you saying?”
“Where are you going?! Walm!!”
Walm ignored the voices of his companions trying to stop him. He dodged the frantic guild staff and guests and walked down the hall. Not necessarily, but Walm had an expression on his face that he didn’t want to show them, the proper adventurers, if he could.
Fortunately, Walm had an idea. While the victims fell into confusion and grief after being struck by tragedy, he didn’t overlook one person whose face turned pale with fear. It couldn’t be unrelated at all. After all, this was a man who also served as Raffaele’s escort.
When Walm was under house arrest in the guild, the man was always with the Vice-Guild Leader. And when he saw his precious owner burst, he just trembled with fear without being sad or confused. So the answer was obvious. Walm was convinced that he was in a position to know the culprit.
“Yeah, sure. If that’s what you want…… I’m quite good at both, killing… and war.”
For the community to which he belonged…
For himself in the name of self-defense…
Walm had killed countless people with such justifications.
“I won’t blame anyone. I won’t make excuses. It’s me, all with my own will, the one who will kill you all. Every single one.”
With these words, Walm put on the demon mask.
The emotions that had been so turbulent now blended with the mask. As if to confirm and show the murderous intent of its owner, the mask trembled greatly. And to such an excited mask Walm gave a confirmation.
“Yeah, I know. Don’t make such a fuss. I can’t wait either.”
Author’s Note :
The Crimson Grass, in the language of flowers, means Sacrifice, Compensation, and Balance.
TN: It seems the Author was inspired by Poppy Flower. Since it has those kinds of meanings.
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