TL notes: OK, so 2 weeks is quite doable for me right now, so I’ll be sticking with this schedule for a while. Also if there are any weird translations, would you like me to add little translation notes right next to it or create footnotes and link to them within the text? It does get a little weird when trying to figure out what exactly is going on. Anyways, this part has quite the tense scene, but how will our heroes fare? I hope you enjoy~
Volume 1, 2-4: The Trap that Obstructed Their Way
Carefree remarks went back and forth as the sun headed west.
“There isn’t a single house to be found….at this rate, it looks like we’ll have to sleep outside on the side of the main road.”
Fin looked around and scowled. Iguros looked up at the sky, disgusted.
“And on top of that, it doesn’t look like we’ll be able to see the glorious Moon tonight.”
Fluffy gray clouds began to multiply in the western sky, which was gradually becoming dyed in a light pink color. Oandus also looked at the sky and said, after smelling the air.
“It doesn’t seem like it’ll rain, but a lot of clouds have appeared. I think we should prepare the fire earlier than usual.”
Nellis and Fauna nervously looked around their surroundings. The main road crossed over several undulating, small hills and was heading towards a shallow valley. The groves of trees stretched out on both sides and one can see how the white road continues towards the next hill between the trees. There were only a few points where the forest obscured it.
Back when the Empire was still functional, the trees were trimmed so that none were a few meters away from the road on both sides. It was so that the road wouldn’t be damaged by roots growing and pushing up the pavement, as well as preventing bandits from being able to hide themselves in the thicket at the edges of the road.
However, it’s now at the extent where one could touch the leaves of the trees if one stood at the edge of the road.
“How many years has it been since they trimmed them?”
Fin muttered and looked down towards his feet at the stone pavement. Sand was between the worn stones on the ground, and thin blades of grass were already sprouting everywhere. It’s the first time Fin has been this far along the road, but the roads going into Nanais were always clean, with their stones tightly packed together.
“Well,” Iguros scratched his head and answered Fin’s rhetorical question. “5 years….or 6. Or maybe 10? Either way, by the time I entered the barracks, road maintenance was no longer our job. Around that time….the imperial capital got quite noisy.”
“Did something happen?”
Fin pressed Iguros as he searched for a suitable place to camp outside. Iguros absentmindedly continued as he too looked left and right.
“The emperor was replaced. The supreme commander resigned and was killed. The Council of Dragon Lords was dissolved. Those types of news were constantly flooding in”
The Council of Dragon Lords was a remnant of the old great war. Humans who obtained the support of the rare and noble dragons—“Dragon Lords”, were so few in number that one could count them on one’s fingers. Naturally, the dignity and influence of their voices increased. Before long, the “Council of Dragon Lords” was formed with the “Dragon King” at its center and they influenced the Human World. However, as a result, they caused division and strife after the great war.
The title was the only thing to remain after the age of fairy tales ended and dragons were no longer seen.
Oandus who was in charge of the rear stuck out his head and groaned.
“That reminds me, I’ve no idea who’s the emperor now. The one I remember is Lord Aedius, who was the last.”
“That old man was stubborn, eh?” Iguros made a disrespectful remark and laughed. “He worked hard to beat into shape those higher-ups of the fat and bloated empire, for better or worse. Although it seemed like he’d succeed, his idiot sons made a mess of things. How many years after the eldest son Genus was enthroned, he was killed and after that, how many replacements were there? Well, we don’t really know who’s sitting on the throne now, as they ain’t telling us anything.”
The simple gossip was gradually becoming something fast-paced. Iguros, himself, didn’t seem like he realized that. Rather, his head was surrounded by a dark cloud.
Both Fin and Oandus understood. He was only pretending to be calm when he really was scared. It’s the same for them as well.
Finally, Iguros couldn’t keep up the facade and stood still. Fin also stopped and placed his hand on his sword’s hilt. Nellis and Fauna turned pale and hugged each other, then Nellis quickly fetched the square lantern from the luggage.
“……Hey, do you think we can go back?”
Nellis whispered a rhetorical proposal. No one answered as everyone knew that it was too late for that.
Right now, the forest hung over their head and most of the remaining sunlight was hidden. The path disappeared into the darkness and further down— a blue light lit like a drop.
Iguros muttered and drew his sword. Fin also readied his sword and scanned his left and right. Oandus replied, “Looks like there’s none behind us.” At that moment, the fire was lit in the square lantern. The blue light flickered and disappeared in a puff.
“Let’s slowly retreat,” Oandus said without a drop of humor. “Back up to a safe place and wait until morning.”
Nellis and Fauna carried the lantern and were already inching backwards. But, the two in front weren’t moving.
“Even waiting is pointless.”
Iguros said in a low voice. Oandus frowned in confusion, and Fin turned around towards him and said.
“The darkness on the path isn’t normal. Even if there’s broad daylight in the morning, this darkness’ll remain. Even though you can still see the bright sky from the gaps in the treetops, beyond here is….”
He pointed at the darkness where one can’t see past. Even the faint shapes of all the trees couldn’t be made out. As the forest overlooking from the top of the hill was by no means dense, it’s unthinkable that this much darkness could be created, even for areas where the forest partially covers the road.
Nellis judged the situation, held her breath, and drew closer to Fin, holding the square lantern.
“In other words, we got no choice but to run through it, right?”
“Yeah,” Fin stiffly nodded. “Aunt, please stay on the horse. Uncle, the torches. Nellis, take care of this horse. I’ll hold the square lantern.”
When Nellis handed over the lantern, she took the reigns of the horse carrying the luggage from Iguros. The horses seemed nervous with their ears down. When Oandus in the back lit the torches and held them up, the darkness seemed like it back away a little.
“Let’s go. Slowly at first……when I give the signal, run as fast as you can.”
Iguros whispered. Everyone nodded and focused in front of them. The blue light still hasn’t reappeared.
The group moved forward, with the vanguard being the two with their swords. Nellis coaxed the reluctant horses and continued onward.
It was quiet. An unnatural silence, without a single sound to be heard. Only the group’s footsteps hollowly echoed.
It was like darkness itself had become an enormous creature. And they were heading towards its stomach. Fin’s hand that held the sword became moist with sweat.
(Where, where will they come from?)
Fin looked left and right, searching for those blue lights. His nervousness swelled, almost reaching the point where he would scream or start running, but then—
Screech The sound of a claw cut through the air.
Fin and Iguros quickly gripped their swords and stood strong. A moment later, the sound of violent grinding was heard and something was rushing forwards.
“Sh*t, what the hell is up with it!”
Iguros shouted as he reflected an invisible hit. The sound of hard steel echoed.
“I can’t see it…..!”
What he groaned about was not a “visible” meaning. That blue light wasn’t visible. He couldn’t sense the distance.
Right beside the cursing Iguros, Fin’s knees trembled, his arms stiffened, and he defended from attacks, relying on sounds and presence. They advanced little by little, but they didn’t know if their enemy was sitting in the middle of the road, or even if it was waiting on either the left side or right, ready to attack.
(If only there was a little bit more light.)
He stifled the foolish wish in the back of his mouth and held the square lantern over his head with one hand while the other hand swung the sword. In the area within the lantern’s light reach, the “Beast” appeared for a moment, or rather, it seems closer to that of a gigantic beetle. It had a thing that resembled an antenna, flexible yet tough as if it cut through the sky.
It looked like it lost control in order to desperately protect itself from attacks. A lone blue dot appeared in their path. And it wasn’t in the middle of the road. It was on the left side.
“Run to the right!”
Iguros yelled as he swung his arm. With Nellis in front, Fauna and Oandus broke out into a run. Fin drove the “Beast” to the left edge of the road, brandishing the lantern in hopes that everyone else can get away. Iguros ran in front quickly as he defended in case the antenna came flying towards him and tried to buy time until the three of them were able to run past it.
They weren’t even thinking about trying to defeat it. Even a special sword blessed with the gods’ good fortune wouldn’t work; no matter how much they poked or slashed, the “Beast” won’t feel any pain in this situation of no light.
When the three people and two horses made it through, Iguros and Fin resumed their advance along the road while defending against any attacks. The blue dot burst into a cold flame and its attacks became violent in an outburst of rage, thinking that its prey was getting away.
“Damn it! Run, boy! We’re gonna get away!”
Iguros yelled. Fin was holding the lamp, but with only one hand. It took quite the effort to advance while protecting himself. On the other hand, Iguros used both hands to swing his sword but had no light. Darkness crept closer to the area around him as the distance between him and Oandus, who was carrying the torch, increased.
“Hurry up, you idiot!”
Immediately after the frenzied Iguros shouted, Fin took a hit to his right leg and fell sideways. The square lantern left his hand and flew through the air. Iguros desperately grabbed it.
Fin saw the outline of a figure in the light from the lantern while he was on the ground. His face grew pale and he felt like throwing up, as he suffered from a numbness as if his right leg, from the knee downwards, was torn into pieces or was even frozen.
Fin was bent in agony as Iguros’ face, lit by the lantern, appeared within his line of sight. A face that has gone pale, with eyes wide open as they stared at their fallen comrade. Despair and horror appeared on his face, and then—
It was a terribly long moment.
I’m going to die. Immediately after Fin resigned himself, Iguros’ extended hand snapped him back to reality. Fin came back to his senses and while limping with his right leg, he stood up with using only his left leg and arms and took the hand of salvation. Clumsily and noisily, the two frantically ran away from there.
Even though everyone somehow made it out of the darkness in one piece and lit a fire in a vacant area where moonlight often shines, they all sat down and no one spoke. Except when Nellis and Fauna discussed in a whisper, “What should we do?” as they treated Fin’s leg. His leg had deep, purple streaks, but there was no blood, just like all the other scars he’d received during his time on duty.
As Fin was receiving peace of mind from his “treatment”, he stared in a daze. He couldn’t recall how he managed to run away and arrive here. What he remembered was that one ominous moment.
(At that moment, it really did look like Iguros had abandoned me.)
Cruelty was clearly visible on that face illuminated by the lantern. Fin was shocked by that, but even he himself knew that he couldn’t blame Iguros.
He might have abandoned him as well.
At that moment, if Iguros had seized the lantern and kept running, it would’ve been much safer than helping Fin up. The Beast would’ve been busy eating Fin and overlook Iguros. In order to survive in this place, whether it’s enduring through the coming nights or the dangers along the way, abandoning fallen comrades was the best policy. No one would blame him for his dilemma.
Fin shuddered as what he understood slowly seeped into his numb mind.
One day, he may abandon someone, like in the inevitable case as today: a case where he would’ve been abandoned. In order to preserve his survival. As this isn’t a problem of selfishness nor cowardice.
—And, this is the reality for the people who live in this world now.
Fin held his knees close and buried his head in his arms. Even the sound of Oandus announcing that he would the first on watch-duty hardly reached his ears.
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