Message from translator: So far, in terms of thinking of insulting ways of addressing someone, I got ‘brat,’ ‘bastard,’ and ‘punk.’ Got any others that aren’t explicit curses? This is for purely educational purposes >.>
Volume 1, 5-3: Pursuit
“Where the hell did that boy go!”
Varte had a blatant rebellious face on as he was suddenly being yelled at without a chance to explain himself. He wanted to return with, “Who are you referring to?” but uttering that might be a bit too dangerous, so he revised his reply.
“If you’re talking about Phineas, then he’s currently outside collecting Iguros’ remains. Of course, he should have already received the Commander’s permission.”
“Then why hasn’t he returned; the sun’d already set! Don’t play dumb!”
“He might be back already, as you didn’t give him the order to report right after he returned to the barracks. Shall I send someone to check?”
“I said that he hadn’t come back, Varte.”
Dirgius’ voice was wrapped in an ominous echo. Varte was clearly tense.
“In that case, perhaps he wasn’t able to make it in time for the gate’s closing and is currently sleeping outside?”
“Cut it out!!”
Dirgius shouted and threw the nearby wax board. Varte promptly raised his arm and blocked it.
“That boy’s family members in the orphanage have also disappeared. If this ain’t planned desertion, I don’t know what is! And you knew this and helped ’em! Spill it. Where is he!?”
“I did have some concern that he might desert.”
Varte answered honestly, picked up the wax board, and returned it back to the desk. That aloof attitude made Dirgius continually squint his eyes, insecure. But Varte didn’t falter.
“I had thought that I didn’t need to worry about him leaving his family behind and disappearing. It appears that I have misjudged him. However, Commander, he was only a soldier who hadn’t received formal military training and didn’t have much in terms of fighting potential. Surely, losing him is not that regrettable?”
“Blatant lies spewing out from the mouth of a coward!”
Dirgius leaned forward and grabbed Varte’s collar, lifting him up.
“Did’ja honestly think I was clueless ’bout the rumors that the boy holds some special power? Not only that, that damned annoying punk!”
Dirgius pushed Varte away and kicked the floor. If this mood were to continue, everything on top of the desk would probably be thrown to the ground. Varte watched the commander’s angry outburst with a sober look, but he just stared in wonder as the man continued to scream.
“He stole a child from my nephew’s place! He threw mud on my face. I don’t care what you do; bring him here!”
Varte almost let out a surprised voice but quickly swallowed it back. He hadn’t heard anything about a child from Phineas. “That idiot, doing something unnecessary,” Varte stifled the groan to the back of his mouth.
“That’s quite the outrageous story. However, if you want to know his destination, I may have some inkling as to where.”
“What ‘inkling?’ You’ve been known about it!”
“It’s not like I clearly heard it, Commander. Anyways, I had heard him before, mumbling at every chance that he wanted to go back to Nanais. Although he and his group couldn’t return by themselves, he couldn’t stop worrying about the condition of his hometown. So, that’s why he’d been slacking at his job. The rumor you’ve mentioned has also reached my ears, but regardless of a dragon or not, if he had obtained something useful, then surely he would be relying on it to return back to his home in the north.”
Varte said smoothly then took a short breath. He sensed that Dirgius’ head had cooled down a little before continuing on.
“If you are going to pursue him, my subordinates and I shall guide you, since we’re fairly familiar with the area’s terrain. But then again, I’m not sure how far we can chase him or what he had obtained. As such, I would like to request the appropriate amount of food and a platoon to be deployed.”
“….What are you planning?”
“Nothing to note, really,” Varte played dumb and shrugged his shoulders. “I know that you hadn’t taken this matter seriously before, Commander, but I would like to a sweeping purge of the northern main road while I’m there; it would be best to push the Beasts of Darkness even the smallest amount further away. Even the job of patrolling around the walls at night has become quite the frightful task. Ah, but if this does not please you, feel free to rephrase it as cleaning up the vagrants and bandits.”
“This little scoundrel.”
Dirgius grit his teeth and groaned. Varte was obedient and silent, but there were curses being violently thrown around in his head. If stubbornness and foolishness are considered evil, then yeah, surely I won’t stand a chance against your big-shot attitude.
In any case, Varte’s plan succeeded. Dirgius immediately wrote up an order, so early the next morning, Varte dispatched a party in pursuit.
“Look there, signs of a fire being used. This may only be a pretext, but it really does seem like they were here. Plus….there are footprints. And they continue north.”
Locating the traces of a small altar and traces of a fire, Varte pointed to the ground, as if to say, “Told ya so.” The scattered footsteps left behind by several people merged together at the main road. The captain of the pursuit team nodded his head in acknowledgment and signaled for the group to head out again.
Varte and his subordinates allowed the leader, whose only thoughts were to quickly catch the escapee and return back to the town, to walk ahead of them as they hung around the back. They continued forward while pretending to search their surroundings without missing anything.
But before long, a soldier from the rear of the platoon went over to them. Varte raised an eyebrow and met the arrow-wielding acquaintance with a sarcastic grin.
“Yo, it’s been a while, Plast. I’d thought that you’d broken up with us.”
“It’s not like I came here because I wanted to.”
The lean archer replied indifferently and quickly asked, hiding his voice.
“Do you really think he’d return north?”
“Whether I think it or not, the footprints say all.”
“Footprints aren’t left behind on cobblestone, though. There’s the possibility that’s he’s pretending to head north, and is actually backtracking as soon as he left the main road.”
“Ah, I see. Guess you can use your brains, heh. Well, even if I do get it, let’s supposed the boy really did take the kidnapped brat and backtrack on the main road. Where would he go? South? Would he cross the Calsum Pass and head for the warm kingdom? But that place’s crawling with army corps soldiers. A deserter would be arrested in a single breath. Then, west? Could he leave from either Vertia or Comillis and escape somewhere by literally pulling a sail out from his ass? But surely, he doesn’t have enough money to afford to ride on a boat. After all, we haven’t been paid our wages for several months now.”
Varte let out a strained laugh and slapped his pockets. Of course, the other man didn’t play along. Even though he looked embarrassed by the silence, Varte continued to speak.
“The only way left is east, but the locals there aren’t kind to strangers. Unless you got at least one acquaintance, you can pass through fine, but it’s definitely not fit for staying. Not a suitable place to escape with a kid. Any way you look at it, he’s only got the north to return to.”
Varte showed the opened palms of both of his hands as Plast took a hard look right at him.
“…..I can’t bring myself to believe it. Even if he’d been born and raised in that town, or even if there are still people he knows of alive left, he ain’t sane if he wants to go back into that darkness.”
“‘There aren’t any Beasts of Darkness.‘ Ain’t that what you’d claimed?”
Varte’s sarcasm was bitter, but it didn’t get through to Plast. He only looked with cold eyes at Varte, at a former comrade. Then, he switched his gaze to the vast land north and frowned just a bit.
“Still, I don’t wanna spend the night outside the walls.”
His whispered words were much too dark, his voice giving a glimpse of the night. As expected, Varte was silent, unable to spit out anything foul.
Then, Eutis suddenly raised his optimistic voice from behind them.
“I completely agree. It’s all fine and dandy for him since he’s got a dragon with him, but we got nothing of the sort.”
Seeing how blatantly indifferent Eutis was as he just blurted that out, Varte looked up at the sky while each member of the patrol unit looked fed up with him. Plast wasn’t surprised, but he frankly asked in return.
“You saw the dragon?”
“Stop, Plast. There’s no way such a thing exists,” Varte replied.
“I wasn’t askin’ you. So, Eutis?”
As Varte and his comrades next to Plast were glaring at him, Eutis had no choice but to shrug. Afterwards, he gritted his teeth and answered poorly, as if trying to gloss over it.
“That’s the rumor, isn’t it? I’d thought that everyone knew ’bout it.”
Plast furrowed his eyebrows and had a stern expression, but he’d suddenly noticed that he’d fallen behind the rest of his platoon. He turned on his heels without another word and quickened his pace, returning back to his position.
Varte and the others were also silent. Surrounded by a stone-like silence, Eutis was alone in his self-defense.
“I mean, it’s true, isn’t it? It’s unfair. We’re just a bunch of normal humans….so, to run away in spite of knowing the outside situation is just…..”
His monologue fell upon deaf ears as it faded into a whisper until the words were just being chewed then swallowed in his mouth.
Before long, the sun had set and twilight was approaching when the pursuit platoon began to set up camp. At Varte’s and Plast’s advice, they lit the fire a few ways off from the main road.
“It’s do-or-die now.”
Varte muttered and looked around at his subordinates.
“We might be seeing an old friend. Gotta make preparations for their welcome.”
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