154-2. Chapter 154 – Unexpected Meeting (Part 2)
The sheet that caught Hugo’s attention was a confidential document describing a truly troublesome Highserk soldier. A summary of the details about the 《Demon Fire》 user who caused a stir during the war.
Having a general grasp of the contents, that said user was in short, a candidate for the next generation of the War God, and therefore, careful attention should be given to the military power possessed by this individual.
Though important, it was a low-priority information for Hugo, who was now thinking about things in the big picture.
Hugo tried to push the existence of the sheet into a corner of his brain, but he suddenly felt a sense of incongruity.
As if invited, Hugo took a bundle of documents out from a drawer and flipped them over with all his might.
“Not the naturalized Myard adventurers. Where, where is it?”
Halfway, Hugo found what he was looking for.
Liberitoa was a flexible country. Even those who came from hostile countries would be given a collar if they were useful, and of course, they would be heavily used.
What Hugo skimmed over was the evaluation of the naturalized soldiers.
“Birthplace, family structure, name…… no doubt about it, I guess? Seriously, if only they were all born in Liberitoa, it won’t be so troublesome. Well, nothing you can do about it… I’m sure that 《Demon Fire》 user, Walm, will be very pleased.”
Leaning his back in the chair, Hugo took out a cigarette and lit it with the fire of the candle.
A faint, sweet smell of beeswax filled his nostrils. He inhaled the purple smoke that flowed into his mouth and exhaled it slowly. The smoke drifted into the room and dissipated.
“Indeed, such must be used to the fullest.”
Hugo, having a scheme in his mind, twitched his burned cheeks and smiled.
A man, in charge of scraping the Demon Territory, was summoned from the front line to a strong fort located on the Liberitoa Trade Federation border. Since the border had changed after the Great Outbreak calmed down, the fort now functioned as a branch castle to support the troops deployed in the annexed former Highserk Territory.
The man entered a training area with a barracks. His name was Haze, a Liberitoa soldier, once a helpless farmer but reborn as a soldier through bloody forced training. He returned the land trampled by monsters to humans again, more than a few times.
Countless amounts of sweat and blood permeated the flattened ground, and one corner of the training ground remained plowed due to magic and skills. This meant that the site was still used for training recruits.
Haze averted his eyes from such a landscape and entered a tent that seemed to have been recently installed.
“Forgive me for the intrusion. I’m Haze, a Company Commander. Following the order, I’ve taken those under my command to Paldocia Castle.”
Haze’s Company wasn’t attenuated enough to be called for a retreat or reorganization. Rather, considering the scraping and maintaining the Demon Territory that must be done, it was a mysterious order. So why?
The answer was held by the man with a burned part on his face in front of Haze.
“Thank you for your hard work, and for coming fast.”
Haze was greeted by Hugo, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who played a leading role in the military affairs of Liberitoa.
In front of such an important person as Hugo, Haze’s brain rang an early bell to warn of danger.
One fact, the facilities at Paldocia Castle, which was expanding in scale, were expanding faster and faster. Haze wanted to believe that the tent he entered was part of this, but it was hard to imagine that they went to the trouble of preparing a tent and a long table in the middle of the training ground as part of the expansion.
“Come in, and sit down.”
Only one option was given to Haze.
When Haze sat down, as he was told, the entrance to the tent was closed by the soldier who was standing by.
Then, Hugo started a light talk with Haze, as if they were acquaintances.
“Congratulations. It looks like you’re going to have a second child. The future of this country looks bright with more people inheriting such excellent blood as you.”
“Thank you very much.”
Hugo threw words at Haze like a performance actor, very professional.
There was no way that a man as cunning as Hugo, who had spent his entire life fighting against the now-deceased War God of Highserk, could have summoned Haze for the sole purpose of small talk.
“Your family, will soon become three people.”
“That’s the case, I believe.”
Haze’s sense of danger grew even stronger.
The Foreign Minister, who also served as the leader of the strategy officers, seemed to know Haze very well. He had three soldiers by his side as escorts. One of them was a Company Commander, who sent many soldiers back to their homeland during the Great Outbreak. And the other two were ex-adventurers who showed their talent in the Demon Territory Recapture Battle.
In order to clean the aftermath of the monsters’ rampage, the three fought side by side on the battlefield. They had not only experience, but also powerful skills and magic, and depending on how they were used, they could do as much as a company unit. Including Haze, they were among the most elite of the Liberitoa Army.
Suddenly, Haze sensed a slight presence from outside the tent. Not one or two. About a platoon size. So many people were waiting without him knowing their exact position.
Then a word came to Haze’s mind. “Purge”. Even if that was true, he didn’t know why he was chosen as a target. But, one thing he was sure, that if a purge was to take place, it wouldn’t end with his life alone. As the word “family” was mentioned by the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Considering the possibility, Haze had no choice but to make his mind work harder and faster to answer any question without making any mistakes.
“For your family, for your country, you have done the work that’s worthy of a Liberitoa citizen. Surely you will continue the good work?”
“Yes, I’m willing to be loyal to Liberitoa, as I’m indebted.”
Although Haze was encouraged in this annoying situation, his words weren’t deceitful at all. Once was an enemy country that he fought against. But it was the enemy, Liberitoa, that protected him from the rampaging monsters.
Now that Haze had become a Liberitoa soldier, he had the education, knowledge, and even family he couldn’t have hoped for when he was a poor illiterate farmer. At one corner he felt nostalgic for his past, but he now had a sense of awareness and resolution as a Liberitoa soldier.
“That’s, very reliable. That being said, I heard you had a family when you were in Highserk. Do you remember how many siblings and parents you had?”
Haze couldn’t grasp the intention of the question, but he answered obediently.
“Father, mother, and two younger brothers.”
The farming village where Haze lived was ruined in the Great Outbreak, but there was just no way he would forget the family he had spent most of his life with, ever.
“Have you confirmed who’s dead, and who’s still alive?”
Haze tried to keep an expressionless face, but he didn’t think he could hide his bitter expression at this question.
Thus, memories of the past flooded into Haze’s mind.
The Great Outbreak happened when Haze, along with some people from his village, were on their way to sell agricultural products in the nearby city. His second youngest brother, the second son, was killed by a monster, the same as the village’s young people. Even now, he couldn’t get his brother’s scream of agony out of his head.
Though barely, by the time Haze reached his hometown, the village had already turned into an undead den. The whole village was full of moving corpses. That scene was etched in his mind, especially when his parents tried to give him death’s embrace.
Haze’s youngest brother, the third son, went to war in place of him the eldest son, and also the second son. And never came back. Although it was customary for the second son or younger to go to the battlefield, there was never a day that he didn’t regret sending his cute and slightly bratty youngest brother, whom he was very affectionate with, to the battlefield.
“……My father and mother became undead in the village, my second youngest brother was done in by a monster, and my youngest brother died somewhere in the Principality of Myard.”
“Hmm? That’s a funny story.”
Haze spoke to the Foreign Minister while suppressing his discomfort.
“Forgive my rudeness, but what’s so funny?”
“Because the dead, is still alive and kicking well.”
“Certainly, my father and mother turned into undead, but it’s not like I’m comfortable with that fact. One day, I plan to exterminate the monsters from there and mourn them properly.”
“Ah, it seems you didn’t get what I meant. Well. Your parents may still be kicking, but they’re dead. The problem is your youngest brother.”
“My youngest brother, should’ve also turned into an undead, so…”
Undead born on the battlefield tended to be more powerful. Abundant food called corpses, and lingering attachment to life and regret bind the soul to this world. It was quite possible that Haze’s youngest brother had turned into a mighty undead.
“That’s not, completely true. Well, if what you assume is correct, in a way, that’s good news for me. If only…… The fire that will open the gate of hell, some call it. 《Demon Fire》, the user of that blue flame, is your youngest brother. And soon, he may come into conflict with Liberitoa, us.”
A shock went through Haze as if he had received a hard blow to the back of the head. A bad joke, he wished.
“Walm is…!? Impossible. No way. He should’ve died!!”
Unfortunately, there was no way the Minister of Foreign Affairs would bother to convey false information to Haze. After all, it was the solid security system that supported his survival.
“The eldest brother, a Liberitoa soldier, will be reunited with the youngest brother, a Highserk soldier.”
There was no way Haze could spit out meaningful words.
There wasn’t enough time for the confused Haze to calm down, for Hugo forced him to confront reality here, right now.
“You have two options. One, persuade your youngest brother to become an honorable Liberitoa citizen.”
Hugo admonished Haze like a holy priest.
Haze wanted the Foreign Minister to stop there, but the word of curse didn’t stop.
“Two, if you fail to persuade him….. I’ll have to “kindly” ask your brother to disappear.”
What was meant by the sarcastic words was the murder of Walm. And Haze to be used as bait to lure his youngest brother, Walm, out of hiding.
“I expect a good result. For the sake of Liberitoa, your compatriots, and your family. You know what to do, I believe.”
There were no options for Haze from the beginning.
Teeth grinding on each other and fists clenched made sounds.
The older brother couldn’t even be happy that the younger brother was still alive. How much muddier did reality have to be, to be satisfied?
For self-preservation and for the sake of the new family, Haze had to think about plotting against his own brother, or even killing him.
What could be done in the face of such an event? Haze could only silently curse the Foreign Minister, the world, and the God who had abandoned him.
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