160. Chapter 160
Wishing that he had heard the words wrongly, Walm asked his eldest brother, who was looking at the ground.
“Hey, Haze, tell me. Are you, a Liberitoa soldier, even now?”
“……That’s right. Even now, I’m still a Liberitoa soldier.”
To escape the monster’s rampage, more than a few Highserk citizens had absconded to other countries. Even now, when the plan to rebuild the country was on board, the situation remained the same. They overcame discrimination and prejudice, put down roots in a foreign land, and were ready to bury their bones there. This must have taken a lot of effort and patience. And certainly, they were forward-looking and productive people compared to the waste rotting in the Archipelago. Nevertheless, Walm couldn’t tolerate the country in which his eldest brother, Haze, had wandered.
“Are you still sane?! That, Liberitoa?!”
The main cause of the Great Outbreak was the despair of the self-destructing King Ferrius. This was only one theory, another said that this catastrophe was the result of the initiative of Liberitoa, which was believed to be the schemer of the Four-Country Alliance, but the truth hadn’t been clarified. At least Walm, who was the leader of a squad-sized unit, couldn’t have a way of knowing. Still, there were some definite facts. Liberitoa was part of the alliance that was the cause of Highserk’s downfall, and still, a country that wanted to force Highserk to surrender.
“Yeah, totally sane, I believe…… Walm, I went looking for you so that, I could ask you to go with me and live in Liberitoa. Unlike before, this time I can support at least my younger brother. If you want, I can introduce you to a job other than those related to violence. You don’t have to work in the military anymore.”
Had it been the remark of a random person from Liberitoa, it would have felt like a provocation to enrage the Highserk soldiers. However, the one who had spoken was his eldest brother, and it was clear to Walm that those words had been spoken with the exact opposite of malice, with good intentions. However, the choice of words was extremely poor. Of course, the effect was appropriate. Anger swelled out of nowhere in Walm and continued to swell.
“I. I know what happened, to father and mother…… I went back to the village and killed the undead, our parents, with my own hands. Not only our family, I also burned our neighbors. Even now. I can still remember it. No way I can forget those feelings. And yet, why did my only remaining brother, work as a soldier under the culprit?!”
“…..So it was you, Walm, who sent them off. Sorry for letting you go through such a terrible experience alone. Really, I’m sorry.”
Haze must be very sorry. His clenched fists were creaking as claws digging into his skin.
After expressing remorse and apology to Walm, who had clearly left his mouth to his emotions, Haze began to explain, breathing heavily.
“The reason I became a soldier after escaping to Liberitoa was because, I thought Highserk had no future. On the west side, the Army was collapsing, and I alone couldn’t take on the monsters that were flowing in with rage. There wasn’t much room for doubt. Liberitoa was the only destination I could escape to in desperation… There was no place to return to, no family left. Only a few limited jobs for people who had been driven out of the country. There were no other options. If I had been hesitant and stayed still in confusion, I’d be dead by now.”
Walm, who had retreated from Dandurg Castle to the Imperial City, saw the tragedy in his way. He had no way of denying Haze’s words.
This made the story Walm had heard even clearer. The Jaff Cavalry Battalion was indeed lured part of the Great Outbreak to the Liberitoa Trade Federation. The Liberitoa Army substituted the lacking frontal force. From a military point of view, this was certainly a wise decision. Highserk, having a moment of respite, evacuated manpower to the south and east, which later became the cornerstone of Reconstruction. It was probably a necessary move. However, it was clear as day what was happening in the west and north, including the hometown, which was fed to attract and contain the rampage.
Unfortunately, it had already happened, and thinking too much about such an event now only brought dark thoughts to Walm’s mind.
“Haze, go back to Highserk. You, we can still start over together.”
Walm admonished his eldest brother while suppressing his swirling messy emotions.
“I really wish I could. If only, this happened a year and a half earlier. I, I can’t do it now―― I, I have a family. My wife is a Liberitoa citizen. And soon, my second child will be born. I can’t go back anymore. I just can’t. Now, I’m one of Liberitoa people.”
Said Haze as he contorted his face bitterly.
A marriage that should be congratulated. The presence of nephews or nieces. Sadly, these only added complexity to the already not-good situation.
Walm finally understood what was behind Haze’s heavy breathing. His eldest brother was tormented and torn in choosing between the family, the Liberitoa one or the Highserk one.
“Maybe they are the culprit. Believe me, any day, this thought makes me sick to my stomach. Still, it was the Liberitoa soldiers who helped me when I was on the verge of death… And as I engaged in scraping away the Demon Territory, I found some comrades-in-arms whom I could entrust my back to. I, I don’t want to fight my blood brother. Other than Liberitoa also fine, just… just leave Highserk.“
“Haze, I can’t. I can’t do that.”
Haze continued to persuade Walm, who bit his lip and rejected the suggestion.
“Think about the difference in country’s power. Next one, will be different from the Sarajevo Fortress battle. Unlike the expedition, where logistics are stretched, Liberitoa will be able to focus all their effort on Highserk. The garrison along the border will definitely be deployed as well… How many soldiers can Highserk send out now? Liberitoa, which had absorbed the wandering Ferrius and Highserk people, can raise an army of over 50,000, you know.”
Yet, Haze only strengthened his tone towards Walm, who had become silent.
“By gaining experience and lessons from actual battles, from the Great Outbreak and the Four-Country Alliance campaign, the gap in skills is closing, and on top of that, the difference in overall military strength has only widened. Are you planning to die in the line of duty?! For the dying country?! You’ve already done enough. Sure, to you, Liberitoa’s bad side must be sticking out like a sore thumb. But hey, they’re not completely ruthless. Also, there must be some calculation going one behind, or else they wouldn’t have taken in former Highserk people, like me.”
Feeling he had heard enough explanations, Walm revealed his true feelings.
“Sure, if it becomes a full-scale war with Liberitoa, the chances of winning, may be slim. I could die for sure…… But listen, I don’t wish to die without a fight.”
“First of all, I can’t abandon my community, my country. More than that, I can’t leave behind my comrades and the people who still believe in this community. Though it has become a mere shell now, I’m a “knight”, you know. And also… What did they die for in Sarajevo, in Dandurg? Their sacrifices, I don’t want them to have died for nothing… Not that I’m wildly declaring Highserk as a good country. Poor, barren soil, and on top of being tasteless, food is scarce. There’s even a custom of military service. Even, systematic looting in enemy countries is like a given. Many must have made some terrible mistakes, even I… Still, it’s human nature to learn from past mistakes and continue to mature. I don’t wish to give up without doing anything.”
On that day, when the sun was setting as if to close Highserk’s story, Walm wished so on the hill overlooking the Imperial Capital. And now, without looking away from his eldest brother, he conveyed his sincere wish.
Haze dropped his shoulders on thinking the disappointing reality, that they had to walk on parallel lines that seemed to never come close to each other, and let out his words in a trembling voice.
“Why did things turn like this?”
Walm, too, had the same thoughts as his eldest brother. If he could, he would love to laugh innocently with his siblings and family, just like he did when he was a child.
“I wonder why, really… I don’t know if today would be the last time. We may meet again. But one thing’s for sure, I don’t want to see you on a different side, as an enemy.”
Said Walm as he stood up.
“Wait, the talk isn’t over yet!!”
Walm frowned at Haze who suddenly yelled, so passionately that hisface trembled.
“Wait then what? With this circumstance, this situation, we just can’t come to terms with each other at this rate. Any more will only make both of us miserable… Just being able to live and meet you again like this, is enough, I’m happy… I won’t run away. Just let me chill my head alone for a whi――”
Not wanting to argue with his eldest brother, Walm intended to leave the place once to calm down. If he had a cold head, a good idea might come to his head.
Before Walm could finish his words while walking away, Haze, who was looking to the side, interrupted him with an angry roar that was uncharacteristic of his eldest brother.
“Wha――? STOOOOPPPP!!! …WALM, NOT OUTSI――!!”
Bloodshot eyes, desperate voices… very different from the earlier conversations, as if they were in the middle of a battlefield.
Walm frowned at Haze’s cry, but finally noticed what was happening behind the swelling uncomfortable air, albeit slightly late. To the fact that the stop call wasn’t directed at him. But what to say, calling him foolish for letting his guard down at this moment was quite unreasonable.
Most of Walm’s consciousness was devoted to Haze. Just seeing his eldest brother alive had shaken his emotions so much, not to mention having a conversation.
The uncomfortable air caused by the swelling bloodlust and mana, finally revealed its true appearance.
Right. Walm was now surrounded by a group of Liberitoa soldiers who weren’t supposed to be in this place.
The attacks of the Liberitoa soldiers, who had thrown away their camouflage, were frighteningly fast.
The older brother ran and reached out to the younger brother. Tragically, as if this action was the catalyst, a dizzying amount of attack magic flooded at once.
And in a short moment, a torrent of magical attacks turned into unmanageable pain, mercilessly swallowing Walm.
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