153. Chapter 153
Standing in front of Walm, was Friug, a company commander (wartime), who spoke to him with a carefree smile.
“Seems like, you still remember my name.”
Both of Friug’s feet were firmly on the ground, and the veins that could be seen on his skin were also normal. Definitely not a wraith, nor was an undead with a foul odor.
Joy and confusion mingled in the healthy appearance of the compatriot who shared the death ground called Dandurg Castle. At the same time, questions swirled up.
By the time Walm crawled out of Tyrant Worm’s belly, the old castle was already in the grip of monsters. All kinds of death and monsters were spreading in the castle, and the way back to his hometown and the capital of the Highserk was also occupied by them.
“You’re still, alive?”
Therefore, what was in Walm’s sight, was unacceptable. To the point, that even hallucinations and delusions felt even more real than this.
“Yes, I fought under your command, Wartime Battalion Commander, in Dandurg Castle and survived.”
“When I crawled out of Tyrant Worm’s belly, there were no living creatures left in Dandurg.”
Walm’s words, squeezed out under painful memories, left Friug strongly exuding regret.
“That damned worm ruined the castle, and we were unable to find you in the rubble. It’s a shameful, regretful story. Sure, the time was limited, but still, we just assumed you had died… After a way out was made by you Captain, we fled to Celta, the only place where we could communicate with the communication magic tool, under the command of Brigade Commander Justus. Excluding Dandurg, that place with mostly natural borders, was the only human sphere left in the nearby area.”
Such was an answer to Walm’s easy question.
Under the command of Brigade Commander Justus, most of the survivors went to the diametrically opposite side to where Walm ran, the last area of Myard, the peninsula in Lake Celta. There was no way Walm, who had fled to the capital of Highserk, would find any trace.
Even with the former Ferrius Front, led by Gerard Berger, the war god, the attack on Celta had been switched to the starvation strategy, as it would result in great losses if they tried to capture with the usual means. The topography of the Celta territory of Myard, which Walm had heard about during the war, was a natural fortress. At the base of the peninsula protruding into the vast lake, steep mountains extended to either end of the lake, and the ridge acted as a natural rampart.
The only way to capture the peninsula was to take the heavily fortified area or defeat the Myard Navy, known as the most elite navy of the northern countries, in a naval battle and invade by boat from the lake.
Considering the information, Walm could understand that the area could repel not only an army of people, but also of monsters.
“After the situation calmed down, not just a few were naturalized into being Myard citizens there, but sure enough, more than half of the soldiers returned to Highserk. The reason I’m here now, is to request Walm the Escort Captain, to return to Highserk. I’ve been looking everywhere for you. Luckily, I’ve a letter of introduction from Viscount Edgar. In addition, I heard that Captain did great help in defending Belgana during this turmoil. Thanks to that, Marquis Trio Borgia willingly――”
Walm held back Friug’s speech with his hand. He tried to digest the words, but he still couldn’t catch up.
“Wait, I can’t follow the story. Did you say, return?”
Friug began to explain the situation to the bewildered Walm.
“Yes, return to Highserk. The Highserk Empire has fallen low, on the verge of a complete collapse in fact, after losing more than half of its territory, His Majesty, and also the Imperial Family… Right now, the generals are raising soldiers in various places. This is just on the surface. In reality, the last child of His Late Majesty, is still alive and is now being used as a pillar, to unite the remnants. In fact, the reformed Eastern and Southern Armies have been connected……”
Walm continued to listen carefully.
“……As you may know, the Carorolaia Mithril Mine is being used as a funding source, and Highserk is preparing to make a comeback. But, Liberitoa started to have a suspicion, so we are now in a critical situation―― the day of the rematch isn’t far away.”
While Walm was drowning in alcohol and closing his eyes to reality, the reformed Southern Army of Highserk was developing the Carorolaia Mithril Mine. The ones who sought a comeback as a force, he knew about them in the clash between Viscount Dalimarx and Count Meisenav. So, it was a surprise to hear that the surviving regional armies were united in various places with a single purpose, trying to recover as a nation under the last pillar of the Imperial Family, the last child of the late emperor.
Even a year after completing his role as a soldier of the Highserk Empire, the impact Walm had caused recently wasn’t small for Highserk.
That said, now, in Belgana, the Labyrinth City, far from Highserk, a place to call home slowly began to form in Walm’s heart.
“Are you asking me to return, to the battlefield?”
A place where young and old, men and women died without distinction and in absurd ways. Whether one was a soldier or a citizen, one’s position or family background didn’t matter much. All were equally thrown into purgatory.
The bodies of the refugees were devoured by monsters, the hometown burned down in blue flames, and the Imperial Capital was overlooked by those who hadn’t died. Walm hadn’t forgotten them. He simply couldn’t forget them.
“Just like that war, Liberitoa and Craist will refuse the existence of Highserk. In the place of those who crossed over to the Netherworld, we, the survivors, must protect our country and people. I, don’t want my fellow countrymen to suffer the same ravage of war again…”
Walm listened in silence.
“……The ideology of the military’s higher-ups has been firmly established… No matter what sacrifices we have to make, no matter what we have to throw away, this time, we will protect our country. For this reason, we need you, Captain.”
It was Friug’s honest thought.
“As you can see, I’m like this. These eyes aren’t that compatible with me, and if things continue like this, they’ll rot in the not-too-distant future.”
“We, have learned from the mistakes of the past. Relying on forces too much and neglecting diplomacy, was one of the reasons for the defeat of the previous war. Now Highserk has good neighbors. The Dalimarx family from the Archipelago and our former enemy, the Principality of Myard. Highserk and Myard, were both oppressed by the monsters, and now we are joining hands. Of course, there were opposing opinions. But, we, the Highserk soldiers who fought through the battle in Dandurg, and those of Myard whom we protected there, were the bridge that connected the two countries.”
For Highserk, which was surrounded mostly by demon territories and hostile nations, this would be a major breakthrough. Though, without the deadly drug of the nation’s downfall, the alliance wouldn’t have been possible.
In order to find out the intention of the story, Walm urged Friug to continue with his gaze.
“Our current sworn friend, Myard, has a rare healing magician. She’s a girl that Captain knows very well. If it’s her, those eyes could be healed. But more than anything, I’m sure she’ll be very happy to know, that you’re still alive.”
Friug was alive. It wouldn’t be surprising if others were alive. Nevertheless, Walm couldn’t hide his dismay at the mention of the existence of a girl who was most likely had the same roots.
To make sure that he didn’t make a mistake, Walm mentioned the girl’s name.
“That’s right. The girl you promised to meet again.”
Walm made a promise to Ayane that he would return alive. And that vow could still be fulfilled.
If this was proposed to Walm immediately after the end of the outbreak, he would happily go back, and return without thinking much. However, for Walm now, there were people who could be called his companions.
Friug didn’t rush Walm, who was at a loss for an answer and fell silent. And so the time passed in silence for a while.
“Walm, you should go.”
Walm turned around when he heard the words hurled at him from behind. The owner of the androgynous voice was Merrill, who was standing, leaning half of her body on a stick.
“Until my body heals and the Labyrinth entrance is cleared up from the rubble, there’s no guarantee that Walm’s eyes will hold till then. If there’s a sure way to heal them, that’s better than waiting. Besides, I’m not that weak, don’t worry.”
Merrill opened her mouth again, but no words followed.
Walm didn’t know if it was Merrill’s true intentions or bravado. In any case, he had no way to respond immediately.
After much deliberation, Walm spoke his thoughts, with no regret.
“To be honest, I wanted to complete another dragon slaying with you all. There are just no other adventurers that I can trust with my life, than you four…… This may sound cheap. But still, let me say it, Merrill, you guys are the best adventurers I’ve ever met.”
Merrill accepted Walm’s choice wholeheartedly.
“We’re not called the Trimagitack for no reason. Still, it’s a nice word to hear. Once Walm’s eyes have healed and things have calmed down, let’s challenge the Labyrinth together once again, the five of us.”
Memories of the time Walm had spent in the Labyrinth City flashed through his mind. The rambling conversations, the meal after exploring, and even the touch of the Labyrinth floor where he rested shoulder to shoulder with the Trimagitack party felt so endearing.
Walm let the memories pass before nodding.
Walm opened his slightly closed eyes and turned to his compatriot waiting outside the door.
“Commander Friug. I, will return to Highserk.”
A simple answer. Nevertheless, Friug nodded slowly but powerfully to Walm’s decision.
Four adventurers gathered in the guest room set up in the guild facility. This large room, intended for long-term stays, was decorated with silver ornaments and stucco, and designed to match the quality of the room.
Originally, it was a room where five people could easily live. No wonder it felt so large now that there were only four people.
Right. It was a room arranged for the Trimagitack party.
Merrill tried to tell herself that four or five people didn’t change the fact that the room was big, but she couldn’t suppress her feelings. Even though there was only one person missing, the room felt so deserted, and the loneliness that bubbled up inside her couldn’t be popped away.
“Merrill, are you really sure?”
Said the usually quiet Yuna to Merrill.
It was a word that lacked context before and after, but the intent of the companion with whom Merrill had shared misfortune was easy to understand.
“As you can see how this body is now. Besides, I don’t want to take advantage of the fact that he’s mentally weakened after losing the woman close to him. Also, in his homeland, there seem to be people with whom he has separated…… Perhaps I really am an idiot, but I haven’t given up yet. For now, I’ll devote myself to healing. The next time I see him, I’ll really surprise him. That’s my plan.”
The faces of Merrill’s companions were slightly disappointed, perhaps because they had been adventuring with her for long enough that they could guess the problem wasn’t so simple. Or perhaps, because they were just worried about her, and wanted her to be more honest.
In any case, after looking at their faces, Merrill took a deep breath and decided to be a little more honest and show her weakness.
“But well, even though you’re an adventurer with two new titles, “Dragon Slayer” and also “Hero”, life still isn’t going your way, huh? Like always, you can’t get what you really want.”
“No way, Merrill…”
Marianthe, realizing the true meaning of Yuna’s words, contorted her face.
“I mean, Marianthe, think about it, he used the crimson grass he wanted so bad, for me. Not only that, even though there was a chance that his eyes would rot faster, he used his 《Demon Fire》 to injure the Undead Dragon. Above all, he even took my first (kiss)…… Not enough? You want me to say more than this, straight from my mouth?”
Merrill, who was terribly embarrassed as she narrated, avoided giving any more details and turned her face so that her vermilion cheeks couldn’t be seen.
“Then, wouldn’t it be better to tell him?”
Merrill shook her head at Marianthe’s question.
“I’d rather have his eyes healed, for sure. Also, I can’t just leave my hometown when it’s like this. Besides, isn’t it cowardly to approach him, just after Lisi died? ……Other than that, it seems like I’m scared, more than I thought.”
Merrill couldn’t help but smile wryly at the last words she said herself.
Merrill rarely felt fear in the Labyrinth. Still, just the thought of what would happen next caused pain in her chest and made it difficult for her mouth to articulate what was going through her mind.
This complicated conflict Merrill had was conveyed even to the dull warrior monk, who crossed his arms curiously.
“Not being able to speak openly, is sure a problematic thing in its own way.”
“It would have been nice if your mouth could speak what’s in your mind directly, like Hari.”
“Yeah. Of course, it is.”
Hari nodded as he felt praised, though it was actually sarcasm.
Seeing Hari’s overflowing self-confidence, even Merrill couldn’t help but laugh.
“Fufufu, really, I’m so amazed at you Hari that I can’t even say another word…… Well, I’ll bother you all for a while, but don’t worry, I’ll return this favor. For sure.”
Merrill’s companions nodded without thinking.
Raising her crippled half, Merrill slowly closed her cramped fingers. Her muscles tensed, and a dull ache radiated from them as if they were in conflict with what was going on in her head. Hari and the guild’s healing magician had told her that her healing training would require much pain and effort. In fact, just closing her fingers was painful enough.
That said, Merrill’s two different colored eyes never lost their luster. Not until the day she met him again.
TN: So, this is the end of Arc 2.
Before starting next Arc, I’ll post another glossary.
And just a personal opinion, but if you like Arc 1, you’ll most likely enjoy the next Arc as well.
Also just information, I’ve updated the quality of the early chs, up to ch 50. Might have missed here and there, but it should be, in overall, about the same quality as recent chs. I’ll continue up to ch 109 (if I’m not mistaken, after that ch, I started to heavily edit each ch more than ever.)
TN: Join my discord channel if you want.