TL notes: It gets confusing to translate the point of view. The story is narrated by Fin, but at the same time, it’s third-person. At first, I thought that the thoughts were enclosed by parentheses, but in this story, Fin’s thoughts are written just the same as part of the story. Not sure if that makes sense to readers, but I’ll try my best to make it understandable. If you have any tips to make it more understandable, feel free to let me know. Also, in case you’re wondering what a “leather strop” is, it’s pretty much a leather strap used to grind/file things. Anyways, this is the end of the first chapter, so enjoy~
Edit: I confused the city’s name. It’s supposed to be Winea instead of Vitia. Vitia is the providence
Volume 1, 1-8: A Wager on Fate
Fin dragged his body, painful and creaking from all that intense physical labor as he returned to the barracks, and the fatigue doubled as the commander graciously came out to meet him all of a sudden.
“Don’t make such a happy face”
Masod said pleasantly, used his chin to motion to Fin to “Follow me“, and immediately started to walk away. He looked the same as always, with an uncomfortable attitude. “Well….” Fin frowned, but his eyes twinkled after he realized.
If this was normal, then Masod would’ve sent someone else to get Fin. After all, if he needed to go to the commander’s quarters, then there was no need for him to come himself.
Suspicious, Fin entered the room and Masod ordered him with a gesture “Close the door“. This too, was something out of the ordinary. He had a bad feeling about this.
When Fin stood at attention, Masod nimbly held out a piece of parchment.
“A mission,” he said in a quiet, yet overbearing voice. “I want you to deliver this for me”
In response to Fin’s question, Masod jerked his chin, as if to say “Read the contents“. While hesitating with a Is it alright for me to look?, Fin’s eyes fell upon the parchment. Ugly yet legible characters and military-like, concise sentences. It was a cry from the Winea-stationed army corps, requesting for reinforcements.
There is an outbreak of a large amount of deserters who didn’t receive their salary, and with our hands full trying to push back the Beasts of Darkness, we need to rely on those in the city walls of Nanais. The daily distress of securing food provisions increases, and insecurity and despair spreads amongst the citizens.
We’ve repeatedly requested reinforcements since, but has this document not reached you? I would’ve at least liked to inform you of our situation—
After Fin had finished reading until the end, he stared at Masod in shock. The man in front of him looked like a completely different person now. It wasn’t like he was doing nothing. He was struggling. Even when Fin was falling into numbness and wasn’t aware of anything outside of his small, narrow world. Even when many of the residents were desperately looking for places where they could secure food.
Masod noticed Fin’s look of fear and respect, smirked, and turned away. He gave an unnatural sigh and scratched his head.
“I’ve written the same thing over and over again that I can even recite them from memory now. This time might also be a dud. But, I’ll only let a ‘revived’ person to go”
“Why is that?”
“You idiot. Do you think a dead person can survive a night outside?”
Fin shuddered at his quick response, like someone had poured cold water on him. It became dark before his eyes and many blue, bright spots emerged.
(Can I overcome that? I’m only a single person with a bonfire at most)
When he thought about how he is the one to undergo this challenge, he trembled from the bottom of his heart.
“Without any hope, can a man even carry out his desperate mission? It’s probably the same situation in Winea. Everything thrown out, fires extinguished, fields turned over, and in the morning, it’s a different world. We don’t need this to be that troublesome. The only one to win against temptation is a guy who’s still livin’, boy”
He took back the parchment and twirled it around a wooden pole as he continued on indifferently. He wrote down the campaign mission, wrapped it in a red ribbon, and dribbled sealing wax and pressed the stamp. One could see the remnants of a former soldier in his movements.
Fin couldn’t immediately understand the thing that he was presented. *Gulp* He held his breath and stared at the edge of it.
Anyhow, Nanais will fall. I have to get out of this place— That is the reality. However, all alone and right now?
Masod gave a sarcastic laugh, looking at Fin who had been seized by fear.
“What? You gonna return back to your grave? Fine by me. But if you’re going, I’ll arrange for stuff like food, a horse, a sword and bow for you. If there’s a person willing to volunteer, I don’t mind letting you bring one or two more people with you, but I won’t guarantee their stuff. Besides….”
And he looked up at the old map stuck on the wall.
“If you go all out by yourself, you can probably reach a safe village by sunset. Or maybe not. I’m not even sure myself”
Fin also looked up at the map he was talking about and was startled. It was a map of the outskirts of Nanais. Small villages were dotted along the main road. How many of those are still holding out? His family’s own windmill tried to hold out as much as they could, so a village with a surplus of manpower and supplies could possibly…. But, if he dashed by himself during the day, totally exhausted, only to finally arrive at ruins…
(At that point, it’s the end)
Unless some miracle was to happen, he would say good-bye to this world by dawn. In that case, he should increase the number of people with him, even if it takes more time, to survive through the night by alternating shifts.
While thinking of such, his dread subsided and he began to calmly work on a plan.
“Are there any soldiers that look like they’re willing to volunteer?”
“Iguros might go. I haven’t told him about the new special envoy, but he got some relatives in Tetna and it looks like he wants to check up on ’em. It’s on the way to Winea anyways. But he’d probably didn’t wanna go by himself”
Masod gave a broad grin. With a blatant expression of contempt. Fin ignored it and continued to ask.
“What do you think of my plan? Lady Fianera kindly said that she’ll try it”
“In that case, don’t worry ’bout it. Either way, we gotta do something ’bout the food supply. The soldiers got their hands full keeping watch, but if we can get the temple to help, then maybe we can get those dead villagers up and movin’. I can prepare some rice seeds and whatever’s available……and after that, at best, you gotta scatter those seeds of hope everywhere”
Another sarcastic comment. Fin counted to five in his mind, suppressing his irritation, and slowly breathed out.
“….Would you mind if I met with my family?”
“Aah. I don’t care when you depart, as long as it’s before the next time on shift. I won’t give you a farewell party though”
“Here”, once again he held out the scroll. Fin accepted it and grasped it firmly as he prepared his conviction.
Once his determination had been resolved, Fin didn’t linger around. First, he went at a brisk pace to the storehouse and took the essential clothes for traveling, and then he returned to his own room and quickly began to clean up.
Even though Fin came to the barracks by himself, he got his hands on various things within a little less than a month there. Essential personal belongings such as a small whetstone and leather strop, a razor, and a fragment of soap. Charms he inherited from soldiers who died the same time he was on duty, but they don’t look like they’re that effective. A small knife that looks less useful than those charms. And a thin string to tie up his ever-growing long hair.
He gathered those belongings and skillfully put them in his bag.
He gazed out the window and when he realized that dusk had already fallen, he began thinking.
(Leaving at dawn the day after tomorrow sounds good)
He planned to pay a visit to Nellis and her family tomorrow. And after that, he’ll go to the temple and receive Lady Fianera’s blessings……..If they leave at the same time as dawn, then they could probably gain some distance within a day. If Iguros is the only one he’s bringing, then they should be able to proceed considerably. And if there is a safe village on the way, then they won’t have to push themselves and could spend one night there.
Alright! Fin was content with his plan and tied the string on his bag.
It’ll be fine, we’ll definitely make it. If they dispatch reinforcements from Winea, then I’m sure that Nanais’ circumstances will improve. In that case, Uncle and Aunt, Nellis— and even that girl, they can return back to their normal lives.
Even in his head, he didn’t use words like “maybe” or “perhaps”. Or “if this happens”. Besides that, nothing else.
Fin persuaded himself and believed in the actualization of the plan.
To his surprise, as soon as this “unshakeable” plan was put into action, a stumbling, staggering setback happened.
Fin was completely at a loss as he stood still in Kunad’s garden. In front of him was Nellis, whom no one could do anything about her anger. Behind was Oandus, standing like a rocky mountain with his arms folded. Moreover, Fauna smiled like the Mother of the Sea Audia and restrained from getting involved. To break through these three “walls”, Fin couldn’t just rely on the sound of his own voice.
“Don’t say such foolish things, Nellis”
“You’re the one who’s stupid”
Her reply was like a slap to his face and Fin grimaced as if it actually happened.
“No matter how much Big Bro Fin has become stronger nor if your partner is a soldier, there’s no guarantee that the two of you by yourselves can make it all the way to Winea. Even I can understand that much. Sure, if it’s just one night, you could manage with two people. But, how many days do you think it takes to get to Winea? What if your partner gets taken out by the Beasts of Darkness, or gets sick or injured, leaving Big Bro by himself? I’m not an idiot, you know. Nooo, you’re the idiot! I’m ver~y disappointed in you!”
As one would expect, Fin grimaced at the relentless comments she forced on him. If this were the usual sibling fights, then his adoptive parents would also appropriately scold Nellis, but this time, he couldn’t count on them to do so.
“I’m also disappointed in you, Phineas,” Oandus said seriously. “Without consulting any of us, you left us alone and already decided that you were going to leave by yourself”
“Uncle….But this time, this is different than any time before”
“It’s not different. When you left for the barracks by yourself, I could do nothing but pathetically be silent and watch you leave. Do you intend to do the same thing to me? No, I’m going with you”
Fin raised his voice. They don’t know; they’re ignorant about the horrors of keeping watch at night. It’s different from the time when they were in the windmill at night, huddled together around a light. There are no walls to protect you but there are winds that extinguish the fire that you depend on. And if rain were to fall…..
Losing his family is something that he couldn’t bear. If that were to happen, then he would rather separate from them.
Although Fin didn’t use words, Oandus understood the fear in Fin’s stiff face and his own expression showed hesitation. Still, he put on a forced smile.
“I understand that we may be a hindrance. But, we can at least take turns watching the fire. We can even throw rocks at those Beasts to drive them away. If there are more people, then the chances of surviving increases, you know”
“……..Then, only Uncle can”
“No way!” Nellis interrupted all of a sudden. “Do you intend to leave me and Mom behind? Even Big Bro should know how dangerous of a situation it is for women without relatives in this town”
Fin flinched at her sharp, whispered retort. That’s right, leaving them behind and going is too self-serving. It’s just that it’s easier to avert one’s eyes and deceive those for their own benefit, rather than to expose them to the danger in front of them.
“If you need enough food to reach Winea, then I’m sure Lady Fianera would graciously lend us some”
Fauna said tenderly. Within less than a month, her usual plump face became completely thinned, but the tenderness in her smile hasn’t changed.
“To tell you the truth, I have a little secret stash”
“Eh!? When did you do that, Mom! That’s totally unfair!”
“A secret stash is a given for any clever housewife, Nellis. Keep that in mind. And, in times of need, use it. Such as a very important family matter”
“Or when you become disgusted with your husband,” she quietly added. Oandus made a complex face and Nellis cackled. Fin was touched by the warmth of his family, a feeling he hasn’t experienced in a while, and his face broke out into a smile naturally.
“….Thanks,” the words were caught in his mouth. “Truthfully, I want….to go…together”
Also, unconsciously tears streamed down. Fin cast his eyes downward in a panic, and held back by biting his lip. Oandus put his arm around such a son’s shoulder, and gently brushed his head without saying anything.
On the other hand, Nellis wanted to say such things like “If you’d just be honest with yourself, then it would’ve be fine!”, but instead, an embarrassed smile appeared.
” ‘If you’ve settled on that decision, then we have to hurry!’ is what I’ve said before, right?”
Fauna smiled at Nellis’ sudden joke.
“That’s right, Ms. Impatient. Although now we don’t have the same necessary provisions as before, let’s make preparations before our troublesome girl starts to grumble. Come now, you have other things to do, right? Go now. But, please don’t keep quietly leaving us behind, ok?”
Fauna gently held both sides of Fin’s face and softly kissed his forehead. Fin nodded and hugged her in response.
“Departure is at dawn tomorrow. Until then, I’ll go negotiate with the captain to see if I can get one more donkey or horse”
He separated from them and showed a mischievous for the first time in a while.
“In any case, if we’re thinking about leaving at the end of tomorrow, then I can easily ask for such an unreasonable request! After all, the captain said he didn’t mind. See you!”
Fin jokingly said and simply raised his hand to wave good-bye, then light-heartedly headed off.
In the end, the group that would go outside of the gates the dawn of the next day consisted of 5 people—Fin and his family, along with Iguros, and two horses.
There was no one to see them off. There were only the half-dead men who were on duty, but they were now lending each other their shoulders and passed by them as they sluggishly made their way back inside the walls.
The main road which stretched toward the twilight looked like faintly white, making him wonder if the other side continued all the way to the underworld.
Fin shook his head, trying to shake off that association. It’s different. That road runs above the ground. And, they will go far southwest, all the way to provincial capital of Winea and stop at Tetna along the way.
“All right, let’s go”
He said in a quiet voice, but his strong conviction was conveyed.