Storybooks are Use items that are acquired from dungeons that explain lore not shown in Epic Quests. Each Storybook contains 1 to 5 chapters. Upon using the item, the player receives a side quest, and at the end receives reward gold and experience at chapter completion. After completion, players can re-read the Storybook again on all account characters through the Storybook tab in the Use Item Inventory.
Storybook items can be found from every dungeon's boss, but there are some exceptions. They cannot be found in Mt. Kulun, Forgotten Land, Suju Arena, Special Quest Dungeons, Event Dungeons, and the Valley of Fallen Souls. However, in scenario and adventure mode dungeons, storybooks will not drop if the boss monster is a normal dungeon's named monster.
There are different grades of storybooks ranging from Rare and Unique to Legendary. Rare and Unique storybooks are Account Bound whereas Legendary storybooks are tradeable. Storybooks also have an 2 week expiration date after acquisition.
Note: Storybooks have a level requirement dictating their reward gold and experience. If the player uses a Storybook and is underleveled, it will stay in their Unfinished Quest tab.
Note: If you delete character which started a storybook quest but did not complete it, each chapter of the storybook that the character had in progress will be reset.
- 1 Storybooks
- 1.1 Blue Guardian
- 1.2 Wingless Angel
- 1.3 Way of the Priest
- 1.4 Great Adventurer Karakas
- 1.5 Broad and Shallow Knowledge for Refined Aradians
- 1.6 Alchemist's Friend
- 1.7 Low Ranking Knight Training Journal
- 1.8 The Wind Blowing upon Empyrean
- 1.9 Hidden Bomb: The Cyphers
- 1.10 Children of Chain Peace
- 1.11 Happy Magic Classroom
- 1.12 Last Heir of the Ulus
- 1.13 Old Friend
- 1.14 Talking about Kartel
- 1.15 Young Imperial Knight
- 1.16 Forest of No Return
- 1.17 Black Crusade Report
- 1.18 Taybers's Light
- 1.19 Unexpressed Sadness
- 1.20 New Genesis
- 1.21 Red Sin
- 1.22 Mischievous Homunculus
- 1.23 Interlude: Noblesky
- 1.24 The Wind Blowing upon the Lawless District
Way of the Priest
Great Adventurer Karakas
Great Adventurer Karakas: Chapter 1
Book: In a peaceful time before the Great Metastasis befell, a small boy named Karakas was born in a small quiet village. He was so tine that he fit his mother's skirt pocket.
One day, Mother went out to care for her vegetable patch, with Karakas in her skirt pocket, and found her patch was infested by more moles than usual. Mother, Brothers, and Sisters were so busy hunting the moles that they didn't know Karakas fell out of the skirt pocket into a hole in the ground.
Karakas tried to get out only to fall deeper into the hole.
Karakas landed at the bottom and met a big old mole.
The mole asked, "Baby boy, what are you doing here?"
"Mother dropped me, and I can't go back up."
"I can take you up there, but your family will kill me if they see me."
"I'll ask them not to hurt you."
"All right, then get on my back."
With Karakas on its back, the mole started digging, but it wasn't going upward. It was heading deeper into the ground.
"Stop! Why are you going down? Go any deeper, and I won't be able to breathe!"
"Your family kicked me out of their vegetable patch. I'm going to eat you, and when I'm full, I'll move to a better place to live."
Karakas wanted to get off the mole's back but he was afraid of its big claws.
"All right, but I've been fed golblin meat. I smell and taste horrible. If you eat me, my family will smell me on you and hunt you down, even if you hide deep under the ground."
"Then what should I do?"
"Let me drink some milk. It'll get rid of the goblin odor. You can eat me afterward."
"All right, then where can I find milk?"
"Go over the hill, and you'll see dairy cows grazing in the fields. They can give me their milk."
The old mole wondered if Karakas was lying but it was true that human children drank milk. the mole thought for a second, and then decided to take the boy to the dairy cows.
The fields were far away. It would've been faster if the mole ran across the ground, but moles can't tolerate the sunlight. It had to stay underground with Karakas weighing down on it.
Quickly, the mole got tired and started panting, but Karakas didn't try to run. He knew the mole was faster than him underground. It would catch up with him quickly, even if he ran.
Karakas kept his tight grasp on the mole's whiskers and urged him to move more quickly. He even fell asleep, bored on the long ride, convincing the mole with his act.
When they finally arrived at the fields, the old mole was so winded that he couldn't talk, but he was determined to feast on the child's soft flesh. He slowly but steadily went up the tunnel to get to the dairy cows.
As soon as they came out of the tunnel, Karakas jumped and grabbed the long tail of a dairy cow with all his might. Panicked, the cow started bucking and thrashing her tail. The mole didn't have any strength left in it to avoid the cow's attack.
The cow's hard hooves sent the mole flying. The mole landed on a beehive, upsetting its residents.
The evil mole was stung to death by the bees, and the baby Karakas went back home safely to his mother.
Great Adventurer Karakas: Chapter 2
Book: Time went by. Karakas was a big boy now. His eyes sparkled with mischief and his pocket was filled with toys he made.
One day, Karakas's older brother asked, "Karakas, I lost my kite. It went flying west. Could you find it?"
He asked Karakas because his younger brother was faster than anyone he knew. Karakas decided to find the kite for his brother.
There was a small lake west of Karakas's house. The weather was hot, so Karakas stooped to drink from the lake. There, he saw a red shadow reflected on the surface. He looked up. His brother's kite was there, flying and fluttering.
The kite danced in the sky before it shot toward the forest. Karakas got scared. He heard rumors about a mage living in the forest who used children for his evil magic. But he braced himself and entered the forest.
The mage's forest was thickly wooded with old trees. Karakas didn't know how long he walked when he arrived at the mage's house. It was a small hut with a gray roof.
He looked for a door to knock on, but there was no door or even any windows. All four sides of the hut were hard walls. Karakas wasn't sure if someone lived in there. Suddenly, a booming, thunderous voice was heard.
"Kid, what are you doing here? Stop disturbing me and leave."
"I came to find my brother's kite. I saw it fly into this forest. Have you seen it?"
"Finders keepers. That kite is mine now. Leave!"
Karakas was angry. The mage was no better than a thief. He got so angry that he forgot that he was scared. He decided to enter the mage's house.
There was a small mushroom in front of the mage's house. While looking around the house, Karakas accidentally stepped on the mushroom, and voila--a door appeared in a wall that had nothing in it a moment ago! Karakas was startled, but he mustered his courage and entered the house.
On the other side of the door was a long tunnel with magic torches flickering along the walls on both sides. The air was so musty that Karakas could hardly breathe.
He didn't know how long he walked when he arrived at a big room. Inside the room, he found his brother's kite sitting on a table. And the mage was sitting next to the table.
"How dare you intrude my house?! I'll turn you into a frog!"
"I'm sorry, but that kite is my brother's. Give it back, and I'll leave."
But the mage didn't want to give up the kite. He also needed a servant, so he was unwilling to let Karakas go. Karakas quickly gathered his wits about him.
"All right, I'll give up the kite and I'll be your servant, but only if you make me some delicious cake."
"Not a problem." The mage swung his wand, and delicious-looking cake appeared in front of Karakas. It was as tall as him and decorated with all sorts of fruit and cookies. Karakas sampled the cake and shook his head.
"This is not delicious. I told you I wanted delicious cake. Can't you do better than this?"
The mage got angry. He kept creating cake to prove his ability. Quickly the room was filled with cake. Karakas hid his brother's kite behind his back, but the mage was so busy making cake that he didn't even see it.
The mage, proud of his own work, laughed. "How about now, kid? I bet at least one of them will satisfy your palate."
Karakas tasted all the cake. Chocolate cake melted right onto his tongue. Wine cake was bitter and sweet. Strawberry cake was laden with fresh strawberries. The cake toppled with broiled banana was especially delicious, and it was as big as a bear.
"I suppose noblemen would love this cake. But this cake isn't fit for, say, a king."
Spurred by the boy's insult, the mage made even more cake. The room was filled with so much cake that they had to come out to the hallway.
"How about now? I'm sure you'd like at least one of them."
"These are more delicious than the last ones, but they're only fit for a king. They won't satisfy an emperor."
The mage was so angry that his face reddened. He kept swinging his wand. Cake materialized from the tip of his wand, and they were shaped beautifully.
There was a sculpture of a hero. One was shaped like a river filled with melted chocolate. Karakas was impressed, but he kept urging the mage to make even bigger cake.
The mage and Karakas walked backward toward the exit. Even the hallway was filled with cake. The mage was so preoccupied with making cake that he didn't think Karakas was planning to run.
Exhausted from making so much cake, the panting mage asked, "How about now? At least one of them should be good enough to please an emperor. You can't complain now, can you?"
Karakas nodded and said, "You're right. All of them are good enough to please an emperor. You should try some of them."
Karakas pushed the mage to the mountain of cake behind them. Old and exhausted, the mage fell on his back and lost his magic wand.
Quickly Karakas picked up the wand and started hitting the piles of cake next to him. The cake fell on top of the mage, pinning him to the ground. The mage flailed, but the floor was so slippery with cream that he couldn't get up.
"I'll tell you how to save yourself, but you'll have to promise me you'll leave me alone"
"I promise I'll leave you alone. How can I get out from under this mountain of cake?"
Karakas stepped on the mushroom outside the house. The door started closing slowly. Before the door completely closed and blocked all the light into the hallway, Karakas yelled.
"Eat all the cake!"
The mage thanked Karakas and promised he wouldn't come after him before the door completely closed on him. Karakas escaped safely with the mage's magic wand and his brother's kite.
Karakas broke the wand, so the mage wouldn't be able to use it for evil again. And he gave the kite to his brother. After that day, the children of the village never lost their kites due to mysterious circumstances.
Great Adventurer Karakas: Chapter 3
Book: Karakas was a young man now. He left his home to become an adventurer. He carried an old sword of his father's and went wherever the road led. He climbed mountains and crossed rivers and arrived at a very cold place. He was there to meet an evil dragon that caused blizzards all year-round. But someone already put the dragon to sleep. Karakas was disappointed. He really wanted to talk to the dragon, but he couldn't awaken it, lest it would threaten the peace of the world again.
"I can't help it. I'll have to wait until next time, but I'll have to stay here for the night."
Karakas looked for a place to stay. There was no village. Not even signs of people. He could eat the beef jerky and dry bread he had, but he couldn't sleep out in the snow. Shaking with cold, Karakas searched around and saw a light shining from a ridge of a mountain. The sun was already setting, so he hurried and climbed the mountain.
Karakas expected a warm hut inhabited by an old, kind couple, but it was a bandit hideout. His ears were covered in his hat to protect him from cold, so he couldn't hear what they were taking about. By the time he realized that they were bandits, he was surrounded by them. There were a total of fifteen bandits and they weren't local. They were running from the Empire's bandit subjugation forces when they found this hut and decided to stay for a while. Karakas sighed. He was having a bad day.
Tied up with rope, Karakas was locked up in an old storage behind the hut, of course, without his bag and sword. Inside the storage, he met two boys wearing fur clothes. They were bruised and scratched from fighting their captors. The boys looked at Karakas and talked to each other in a language that he didn't understand.
"Hey, I'm going to get out of here. Can you help?"
Frustrated, Karakas asked the boys in common language. They stopped talking to each other and looked at him. Karakas was relieved that they understood the common language.
"If we stay here, we'll die from cold or starvation. Or the bandits can be cannibals. Say, why don't we join forces and get out of here?"
The smarter-looking boy asked, "But how? We're tied up. Our tribe is too far away to hear us screaming for help."
"So your tribe is looking for you. It's all the more reason that you must get out of here. I've got an idea. You'll just have to trust me."
"All right, we don't trust outsiders, but we'll make you an exception." The smarter-looking boy and the big boy nodded in unison.
Having confirmed their promise for help, Karakas used the trick he learned before he left home to free himself from the rope. He then released the two boys. Angrily, the boys swore revenge on the bandits. Karakas placated them and explained his strategy. Grumbling the boys agreed to get on with his strategy.
It was in the middle of the night. Having feasted on Karakas's food, the bandits were sleeping happily. It was dark with no moonlight and the snow was falling. Suddenly, strange wailing sounds were heard from the outside of the hut, shattering the silence of the night. Startled, the bandits sprang on their feet and ran outside. The noise was coming from inside the storage. But it didn't sound like a human's or even a wolf's. It sounded like the howling of some terrifying monster. The bandits panicked.
One of them mustered enough courage to open the door. As he reached out his hand toward the doorknob, Karakas cried desperately.
"Help! I'm with a monster! One of the boys is cursed by the Ice Dragon, and turning into a monster! He's going to eat me alive! Get me out of here!"
The bandits didn't open the door, lest the monster come out and eat them instead. The howling grew louder and started echoing through the air. The bandits covered their ears. Karakas's pleading voice grew quieter until they could no longer hear his voice.
"What happened? Do you think he was eaten?" "What about the monster? Is it dead?" "He and the monster must have fought and killed each other." The bandits decided.
"Should we set the storage on fire?" "What are you talking about? I'm sure we can sell the monster's claws for good money. If we're lucky, we might even be able to retire early."
Carefully, the bandits opened the door and saw a flash of lightning that illuminated the entire mountain. It wasn't lightning, but a magical light that Karakas summoned. The eyes of the bandits that had gotten used to the pitch-dark surroundings couldn't bear the sudden flash of light. The bandits fell with their hands covering their eyes. The two boys shouted and lunged at the bandits. The bandits ran, thinking the monster was coming at them. There was no monster in the storage. The two boys howled like wolves and Karakas used his magic to amplify the sound. The quiet of the mountain further amplified their howling.
After the blinded bandits ran, Karakas entered the hut and retrieved his belongings. The two boys found their stolen weapons. They thought they could run before the bandits returned, but then they heard the sound of footsteps. And these footsteps weren't coming from just a couple of bandits.
"This is bad. I'll keep them busy. You guys should run." Karakas readied his sword. He knew how to use a sword and cast magic, but he couldn't fight fifteen bandits and protect two boys at the same time. The boys from the north were younger than Karakas, but they were already fierce warriors. They said they would fight with him. Karakas knew then that he'd found great friends. Ready to fight, the three of them got out of the hut and stood dumbfounded. The bandits returned, but they weren't alone.
The boys cheered. "It's the Chief! He came for us!" Their tribe, while searching for the boys, encountered the bandits and fought them. All the tribesmen were big and fierce. They captured the bandits and came to find the boys. At first, they were wary of the stranger, Karakas, but after listening to the boy's explanation, they smiled and offered their hands.
"Thank you. This is my brother and this one is my friend's. They sneaked out to hunt wolves and didn't come back. Who knew they'd be kept in such a place? If it weren't for their loud howling, we would never have found them."
The tribesman followed their howling amplified by Karaka's magic. They pronounced that Karakas was their friend and invited him to their village. Karakas was fed and entertained for three days and nights before he went back on his journey with everyone's blessing.
Broad and Shallow Knowledge for Refined Aradians
Broad and Shallow Knowledge for Refined Aradians: Chapter 1
A race that has been around since the genesis of Arad along with the Elves. With their short lifespan and frail bodies, the Humans have a number of weaknesses that they endlessly strive to challenge and overcome.
After the Elves have disappeared, the Humans have taken over the continent of Arad, becoming one of the most powerful races in existence.
A race with notably long limbs. The Empyreans reside in the world located above the Middle Ocean. Not much else about this race is known to Aradians since they lost their connection to Empyreans a thousand years ago.
A tribe of Elves with dark skin and silvery white hair. The Dark Elves live underground, avoiding all contact with the Humans and other races.
They are seclusive and belligerent, but their number is not big enough to pose a threat to the outside world. Physically superior to the Humans and capable of magic, the Dark Elves inspire fear and awe in their enemies.
The Dark Elves have a keen sense of sight which allows them to see at great distances, even during nighttime. Ruthless and nimble by nature, many Dark Elves make their living as assassins in various places on the continent.
The recent Great Metastasis upset gravity and caused their capital city Underfoot to rise above ground, which drew attention from Human adventurers and traders from different places, marking the beginning of a new era for the Dark Elves.
Underfoot is now opened to the outside world, and its Dark Elves, once a minority, are now exerting their influence worldwide.
A term that collectively refers to the small sub-tribes near Stru Mountains. It was named after an ancient hero who once conquered what is now known as Bel Myre.
Although the Bantus are currently divided into multiple tribes, they reunite and climb over the mountains to seek food when times are tough: during lean years or when Skasa, the Ice Dragon, wakes up from hibernation. The Bantus are bigger and stronger than average Humans.
Having lived in the cold for so long, they are pugnacious and tend to indulge in excessive drinking. Their settlement was destroyed when Mount Thunderlime collapsed from the impact of the Great Metastasis, killing most of them and chasing the small number of survivors away to the Northern Shelter.
A flawless tribe that once graced Arad with its existence. The Elves existed since the beginning of Arad. They possessed immense mana and vast knowledge, and were capable of complex magic spells. Their beautiful facial features, slender figures, translucent skin, and elongated ears with pointy tips have long been standards of beauty.
The Elves volunteered to keep the Arad Continent beautiful and taught the Humans myriad knowledge and magic. But some greedy Humans attacked their forests and set them ablaze in a frantic search for treasures.
The fire killed a great many Elves and turned the verdant forests into a desert that continued to spread.
The great mage Myre built great pentacles in the middle of the desert, and the surviving Elves gathered in Grand Flores and warded around the forest to keep Myre's pentacles safe.
When his pentacles were destroyed by the Great Fire, the Elves sacrificed themselves to restore the pentacles and disappeared from Arad forever.
The Dragons have a greater capacity for mana than the Humans and use their own magic system. They have two forms that they can take at will: Human and Dragon.
They lived in the depths of Arad to avoid conflict with warlike Humans, but the Empire, worried that the Dragons might pose a threat to Arad in the future, tracked them down, killed any dissidents, and kept the remaining Dragons under strict surveillance.
Less aggressive Dragons choose to live among the Humans and pursue peace in Arad, whereas those who are furious at the Empire have become terrorists, working to tip Arad and seize power.
An all-encompassing term for demihuman races and other creatures that have undergone mutations during the Great Metastasis. All monsters are naturally violent and wicked, but some people believe such traits are the side effects of the Metastasis effects.
A less-intelligent demihuman race that existed in Arad before the Great Metastasis. The Goblins are characterized by their vicious-looking appearance and small frame. Their society focuses on physical strength to such a degree that weaker members are ostracized and, in worst cases, killed.
Their society is strictly hierarchical, and they divide clothes and weapons that they seized from the Humans by social rank.
It's suspected the Goblins were extinct when their main habitat Grand Flores, was bombarded by the Great Metastasis.
A race that has existed in Arad long before the Great Metastasis. They are believed to be creatures of magic, and their physiology is yet to be known.
The Elementals are characterized by the natural elements of the world, and each type of Elemental possesses different properties from the others.
The Elementals are considered less intelligent than Humans, but the ones that have lived for a long time are stronger than the others and possess knowledge beyond the Humans' capacity.
Broad and Shallow Knowledge for Refined Aradians: Chapter 2
Myre's Great Pentacles were destroyed by the Great Fire that burned Grand Flores to the ground and then restored by the sacrifice of the Elves, but they were never recovered from the initial damage. They continued to grow weak and eventually allowed an interdimensional rutpure, which led to the great explosion of the Metastasis.
The explosion sent the Metastasis energy spreading across Arad, causing mutation in monsters and Humans alike, turning places upside-down with its anti-gravitational impact.
Underfoot, the subterranean city of the Dark Elves, rose above ground, and the ground water started soaring through the sky and merged into the Middle Ocean.
The Metastasis energy that exploded during the Great Metastasis still remains in Arad, exerting its influence.
A blanket term that refers to everything (including creatures, buildings, and regions) which has been transported over to Arad due to the phenomenon of the Dimensional Warp.
No one knows how or why the Metastasis came about, but it is responsible for most of the chaos and confusion that currently occurs in Arad.
Screaming Cavern Incident
Before the Great Metastasis, Giant Nugols crawled out of an ominous cave named the Screaming Cavern and terrorized the neighboring areas. Investigators were sent, and they found out that something stronger than the Nugols took up residence in the cavern and scared them away.
The Empire sent a subjugation party. It was wiped out, before it even set foot in the cave, by Apostle Sirocco, a name the party learned before its annihilation.
The Empire set up a great reward for defeating the monster. A great many mages and warriors worth their salt entered the cave, but only four blade masters survived and killed Sirocco.
They were Siran, Bwanga, Aganzo, and Vaughn. They were named the heroes who saved Arad.
Battle of the Ghost
A battle that helped Del Los seize the throne from the last king of the Pelos Empire and establish its legitimacy as an empire. Fought in a city named Cantion, the battle left an impression in history as it lasted over 300 years.
20,000 Pelos soldiers fought over 300,000 Del Los soldiers to defend their city. Priest Sieg, the last patriot of the Pelos Empire, employed ghosts to make up for the lack of soldiers.
The Del Los Army was superior in number, but it was helpless in the face of the ghosts. It was only able to conquer Cantion because Sieg was killed by the power of the ghosts he summoned.
A mental breakdown named after Kazan, the god of destruction. As the symptoms progress, the patient's pupils change color and his physical capabilities improve, but his anger also overwhelms his reason, eventually turning him into a mindless monster.
Kazan Syndrome is incurable, and avoiding emotional distress is the only way to slow down its deadly effects.
Some patients experience mutation in one arm, which makes their condition apparent to the people around them.
Demons in the disguise of man. Ozma, having become a god of chaos through the contract he made with the Reaper, wielded the power of the Curse of Blood, which turns its victims into Imposters.
Those who are attacked by Imposters also became Imposters. Because the Imposters are not distinguishable from normal people by the way they look, mistrust was once prevalent among the general populace and not a small number of people were killed in the witch hunt.
Only Priests can identify Imposters. Most Imposters were eliminated during the Black Crusade, but some survived.
Broad and Shallow Knowledge for Refined Aradians: Chapter 3
De Los Empire
An empire which has risen from the remains of the Pelos Empire. It's a centralized state governed by an emperor, and its capital city is Vitalon, the City of Gold, in the 1st Province.
Centered around Palo Bay, the De Los Empire is divided into south and north, which are commonly referred to as the 1st Province and the 2nd Province, repsectively. The two provinces differ in their political philosophies in that the 1st Province, where the central military base is located, is focused on political stability and defense, while the 2nd Province supports liberal democracy.
However, the two share a long-standing bond and are currently working towards unification.
More than anything, the citizens of Del Los come together as one empire when in politically sensitive situations, and they are patrons of peace and order.
The long-standing kingdom of the Dark Elves. It was built underground around its capital city Underfoot by Goontram the Great. The Senate was added later to complete the kingdom's government system.
Since Underfoot rose above the ground, Queen Maya, a direct descendant of Goontram and a member of the royal family, took the throne and has been ruling the kingdom with assistance from Elder Saffron and other members of the Senate.
Principality of Bel Myre
The capital city is Hendon Myre. The name, Bel Myre, comes from the Elven Language which can be roughly tranlsated as "the principality of the virtuous." Empress Skardi Valour governed the state with assistance from three senators.
Its territory went as far as the Red Forest bordering the Empire and Suju. Blessed with fertile lands, Bel Myre never wanted for food.
The people of Bel Myre were optimistic and enjoyed artistic endeavors: painting, music, literature, publication, and many more.
Bel Myre took the brunt of the Great Metastasis that spread from Grand Flores, and fell after 500 years of history as most of its land became uninhabitable.
A small country located in the northwestern region of Arad. Suju's national historians insist that their country has at least two thousand years of history. The current ruler of Suju is Shonan Kay, who resides in Shonan, the capital of Suju. In addition to their extremely distinctive language and culture, the citizens of Suju look slightly different than those in other Human countries. They generally have smaller frames, and are nimble and adept at manipulating Nen. Although the people of Suju tend to be mild-tempered, many powerful Nen Masters com from the mountains, valleys, and caves gather to defend their country when they sense an impending invasion.
Young Nen masters run modest Nen institutes at the borders of Shonan, and high quality Katanas can be purchased at affordable prices in Suju. It is recommended that non-natives stay out of trouble, as even the most frail-looking old man in Suju may have skill that rivals a professional swordsman.
The former empire of what is currently known as the De Los Empire.
Much like the De Los Empire of the present, the Pelos Empire, where Kazan of Destruction and Ozma of Chaos once lived when they were still Humans, was one of the most powerful empires with notable military strength.
It was an empire with promising attributes, but it gradually declined and fell due to the Imposters when Ozma became the God of Chaos.
Broad and Shallow Knowledge for Refined Aradians: Chapter 4
A religious order whose goal is to collect and study all the knowledge available in the world and use it to achieve ultimate knowledge.
Leslie Bagrans discovered an ancient civilization on the back of the Behemoth and became engrossed in the depth of knowledge she found in that civilization. She rode Behemoth and traveled to collect knowledge and wisdom around the world.
Upon realization that her mission could never be accomplished in her lifetime, she established GBL (Grand Blue Lore) in hopes that her followers could carry on her mission.
After Leslie's death, her followers' deification of Leslie evolved into a religious organization, though the central focus of the GBL faith seems to have seems to have shifted since then from Leslie to the knowledge she sought after.
An order of Priests formed to protect the world against Ozma, the god of chaos, and his army of Imposters. They were instrumental in sealing Ozma and winning the Black Crusade.
Its original headquarters was the Lemidia Basilica cathedral in Bel Myre. After the cathedral was destroyed in the Great Metastasis, the surviving Priests moved to Underfoot and built the new headquarters, Remidia Kathedra.
The Priest Order values justice and sacrifice in the name of their god, and offers training to aspiring Priests from various places.
An organization created by Karakas to unite and support adventurers scattered across Arad. It offers unlimited support and advice to all adventurers.
Those who need help from adventurers can contact them quickly through the Adventurer's Guild. The general populace welcomes this organization since it was created to manage those troublesome adventurers.
The Four Blade Masters
All the heroes who defeated Sirocco in the Screaming Cavern are now recognized as legendary Blade Masters (Siran of Suju: Katana Master, Bwanga of the Bantus: Mace Master, Aganzo: Greatsword Master, Vaughn of the Empire: Short Sword Master).
Imperial Alchemist Guild
A group of researchers sponsored by the powerful national policies of the De Los Empire. It's dedicated to developing lethal weapons.
A workshop located in the capital of Suju. Employment here is coveted by people who are manually adroit and crafty, as only the best weapons and armor are manufactured at the Shonan Workshop.
The products manufactured here are mostly light and durable, and they even have mysterious powers. Their products are popular amongst adventurers, and all renowned blacksmiths strive to compete with the products of this workshop.
Every single product is a masterpiece, and the rarity of wares from the Shonan Workshop means that only selected adventurers can own them.
Broad and Shallow Knowledge for Refined Aradians: Chapter 5
The current queen of the Dark Elves. She has a reputation for rationality and composure, two rare qualities found in someone so young. After Underfoot rose above ground from the impact of the Great Metastasis, she opened the city to the outside world and transformed it into a hub for adventurers.
Skadi Valour Myre
The queen of Bel Myre was the daughter of an affluent merchant who married the Crown Prince. She began governing the kingdom shortly after their marriage, when the prince quite suddenly fell ill.
After her husband's untimely death, she gathered her following and rose to the throne. She is considered the most charismatic political leader in Bel Myre's history.
She disappeared when the Great Metastasis destroyed Bel Myre, and remains missing.
A Blade Master of the Empire. He was the Short Sword Master who fought Sirocco in the Screaming Cavern. He was made a baron when he returned to the Empire after defeating Sirocco.
Currently, he is the leader of the Iron Wolves, a group of knights under the direct command of the emperor.
The Katana Master among the Four Blade Masters who fought Sirocco in the Screaming Cavern. In his youth, he traveled around Arad and made his name known. Despite his reputation as a great Knight Master, he has only one student.
The Greatsword Master among the Four Blade Masters who fought Sirocco in the Screaming Cavern. He is quiet and likes to keep to himself. Before the Screaming Cavern, he wandered arond the continent on his own.
The Mace Master among the Four Blade Masters who fought Sirocco in the Screaming Cavern. The chief of the Bantus. This hulking giant carries a great mace that he has inherited from the former chief.
He is proud and amibitious, and reputed as a magnanimous hero.
The current queen of Suju. Born with a great aptitude for fighting, she has attained the title of Nen Master early in her life. When she was twelve, she left on a journey to see the world and put herself to the test against worthy opponents.
She ascended to the throne after the death of Shonan Kay the Wise King, and has been trying to abolish the long-standing isolation policy of her country.
Blade Master Soldoros
A legendary Blade Master who is believed to be apt with thousands of weapons. He was the owner of the Weapon Selector that is rumored to resonate with a surrounding weapon and intensify its power.
His favorite sword was Agathas Clararis, which identified itself as female. Soldoros's sole purpose in life was to master his swordsmanship and pit himself against worthy opponents.
A great mage best known for creating the great pentacles that turned Hendon Myre from a desert into a paradise. His incredible powers were the envy of even the Elves, the original practitioners of magic. He had a great appreciation for the color white.
When he first revealed himself in public, he took the form of a young man, but he spoke in the manner of an old man, confusing the people around him.
He was optimistic and loved nature. Having taken pity on the Elves who lost their forests because of some greedy Humans, he created the great pentacles that transformed the barren land of the Elves into a verdant paradise.
The work was so exhaustive that he forever lost his magic power and could no longer maintain his youthful appearance.
Before he disappeared, he was believed to have written a grimoire known as the Anti Enbi. His great pentacles were destroyed in the Great Fire along with Grand Flores.
Michael of the Holy Eye
The first saint who received a revelation from his god, and one of the Five Holy Men who led the Priests to victory in the Black Crusade. He created the Divine Combat Techniques, the art of combat unique to the Priests.
He was blessed by his god to remain young, and his blue eyes are believed to see through disguises.
He rallied Priests, taught them how to distinguish the Imposters from ordinary people, led them to victory in the Black Crusade, and restored the world order.
He disappeared, but the Priests believe that he will return when disaster befalls Arad.
Low Ranking Knight Training Journal
The Wind Blowing upon Empyrean
The Wind Blowing upon Empyrean: Chapter 1
Book: "Archpriest Beldron, who commanded the Empyrean Royal Army and fended off the onslaughts of the Kartels, passed away. His death was another tragedy that struck the people of Empyrean before they overcame the damage from the Kartels. Many people wore black in honor of the dead priest, and some wailed and beat their chests as if their own parent died. But the leaders of Empyrean couldn't afford to grieve. They need to find Beldron's replacement for the stability of their nation. Usually, the next Archpriest is designated by the predecessor, and the succession ceremony was a festival that the people couldn't wait to celebrate. This time, it was different."
Petra Noiman: "It's been ten days since Beldron's passing. We have to start making arrangements for Lady Erje's succession ceremony. The position must be filled quickly, so we can get on with recovering from the war."
Anje Wane: "I agree, but... we need to wait."
Petra Noiman: "Sir Wane, what's the delay? Beldron designated her as his successor. Are you going to ignore his wish?"
Book: "Wane's eyes narrowed angrily at Noiman's accusation."
Anje Wane: "When did I say that? I just think she's too young to shoulder the responsibility of cleaning things up after the war. She's smart, but she lacks the experience."
Book: "Sighs echo around the spacious meeting room. Being the Archpriest comes with great responsibility, and the position cannot be left empty. But is a girl, who grew up sheltered in a noble home, the right choice?"
Petra Noiman: "...But no one else can replace her."
Theresa Schultz: "Do we... really need an Archpriest right now?"
Anje Wane: "What are you talking about?"
Theresa Schultz: "...It's just a thought. When the ruthless Kartels invade our capital city, what we needed wasn't a priest."
Book: "Everyone in the meeting room instantly tenses at Schultz's overt complaint."
Petra Noiman: "Beldron knew the Kartel would be a threat, and when the war broke out, he led an army and drove away the enemy back to where they belonged: the Lawless District."
Theresa Schultz: "You're right. He was a great commander."
Nevillo: "Now, everyone, please calm down. I know the matter of filling the Archpriest position is important. Each one of you have your own opinion on it, but I say we should finish his funeral first."
Book: "Nevillo Jurgen, leader of House Jurgen, intervenes and breaks the tension among the others. Everyone except one person represents his house, but none of them is as influential as Jurgen or his house. Jurgen, instead of speaking his opinion, continues to cool down the heated atmosphere in the meeting room."
Nevillo: "Lady Erje is young and she's already upset at this whole thing. By arguing among us, we're only making things worse for her. I propose that we discuss this matter at a later time."
Anje Wane: "I agree with Sir Jurgen. And excuse me, I must go now."
Theresa Schultz: "I myself have to go, too."
Nevillo: "Sigh, everyone has his own opinion. I knew this, but it's still exhausting to deal with. I'm sorry, I shouldn't complain in front of you, General. You just returned from a battle, and you haven't even gone home yet."
Jackter: "I'm all right."
Book: "Everyone else left the meeting room, leaving Jurgen and Great General Jackter Elrox alone. Jackter has been appointed the commander-in-chief of the army after Beldron's passing, but the look on his face is anything but arrogance and self-satisfaction. No one from the Lawless District has been as successful as he has. When Beldron brought him to the Imperial Capital, everyone thought that hillbilly wouldn't last long. But the Eagle Eye quickly rose through the ranks as if to disprove those who didn't believe in him, and he finally reached the highest position a soldier can achieve. Jurgen doesn't know how to deal with this man. Even with his political prowess and experience, he can barely read Jackter."
Nevillo: "By the way, Beldron would've loved to attend you inauguration ceremony."
Jackter: "No, he would've hated the noise and garishness. Excuse me, I should leave now."
Book: "Jackter answers like the curt soldier he is as he stands up. Jurgen follows his suit and speaks affably."
Nevillo: "Are you returning to HQ? I'm heading in the same direction. We should go together. ...What a wonderful day! If it weren't for Beldron and you, General, I wouldn't have been able to enjoy a walk through a garden on such a beautiful day."
Jackter: "Don't thank me. Thank the soldiers."
Nevillo: "Hah hah. You're humble. Our soldiers are brave, but without your leadership..."
Book: "Jackter stops striding and turns."
Jackter: "Sir Jurgen, if you have something to say, just say it. I'm a soldier. I'm not familiar with the conversational nuances of the nobility."
Nevillo: "I just wanted to tell you that I'd like to enjoy the day now that the clouds are gone and the sun is shining."
Jackter: "Clouds disperse of their own accord. Impatience cannot change that."
Book: "They are not talking about the weather. Jackter is smart enough to know Jurgen's hidden meaning: he just wants to survive this struggle. But Jackter has been a soldier for all his life. He's learned not to show his feelings. He responds to Jurgen curtly but not unkindly. Jurgen nods."
Nevillo: "I understand. General, I'm heading this way now. I'll see you again. Maybe we should play chess together sometime."
Book: "Jackter responds a second too quickly, as if he can't wait to get away from Jurgen. Jurgen is left confused."
The Wind Blowing upon Empyrean: Chapter 2
Book: "Fifteen days after Beldron's passing, Jackter stands in front of a girl's chamber. He is alone without his retinue. He knocks on the door."
Jackter: "Lady Erje, this is Jackter Elrox. may I come in?"
Erje: "Yes. Give me a moment. Let me open the door for you."
Book: "The rich mahogany door opens quietly. A girl, whose height barely reaches the waist of the towering general, appears behind the door and nervously looks up at the general."
Erje: "Hello, General. Are you not busy with your shooting training today?"
Jackter: "I've done it for so long that my fingers are stiff. They need a break sometimes."
Book: "Erje looks surprised."
Erje: "Huh? Your fingers are stiff? How long do you shoot your gun for your fingers to get stiff?"
Jackter: "Hah hah, longer than I care to remember."
Erje: "All right."
Jackter: "I came to see how you've been since Beldron's passing. Are you all right?"
Erje: "...I want to go home."
Book: "She sounds small and resigned, like a saddened child she is. She hesitates, then adds."
Erje: "This place is scary."
Jackter: "I often want to go home myself."
Erje: "Mister? I mean, General. Where's your home?"
Jackter: "In Wespeace. I haven't been home for a while."
Book: "Jackter debates if he should tell the truth to a little girl, then decides to be honest like he always is."
Jackter: "I wanted to bring my wife and daughter to the Imperial City, but they didn't want to leave. I regret leaving them."
Erje: "Mm. You're the commander-in-chief. Can't you send your soldiers to fetch your family?"
Jackter: "That's a good idea, but the war just ended and I can't mobilize soldiers for personal reasons. They're exhausted from the fighting. They need to go home and rest."
Erje: "Good for them. I want to go home, too."
Jackter: "Lady Erje, how long have you been in this place? Six months? You must miss your family."
Erje: "I do. But you're not going to send me back home, are you? Mom said I have to stay here."
Jackter: "She's right."
Book: "Jackter doesn't try to gloss over the facts. He knows she already knows the truth."
Erje: "I knew it beforehand, that I'd come here. I don't know how, but I knew that I'd be sitting in a big room, alone."
Jackter: "You won't be alone. We're here with you."
Book: "Erje just answers halfheartedly. She's tired of insincere consolation. Jackter continues."
Jackter: "But we can't make things less hard than they are for you. Sadness and loneliness are a given. For now, you can cry when you're sad, and laugh when you're happy."
Erje: "For now?"
Jackter: "Later you might have to cry when you're happy and laugh when sad. Being a leader is a lonely job. You'll have to hide your feelings, or others will walk all over you."
Erje: "I don't want to be a leader."
Jackter: "Neither do I, but I don't have the power to change this reality."
Book: "Jackter pauses and debates if he should continue. It's risky to do so, but Jackter decides to bet on Erje's intelligence and Beldron's decision in designating her as his successor."
Jackter: "The Archpriest is an unstable position. It's supposed to be the center of this empire, but it doesn't come with the authority expected for such an important position. The Archpriest is always questioned and has to assume responsibility that no one else wants. But that's a burden you'll have to shoulder."
Jackter: "People will call you a puppet, a tool. You need to learn to ignore them. Don't become an Archpriest whom they can manipulate easily. Be the empress."
Erje: "The empress?"
Book: "Erje blinks her eyes in confusion. She's never heard of the word empress before. Jackter nods to emphasize what he's about to say."
Jackter: "This country has the structure of a sand castle. There are too many noblemen. All the power is diffused. Empyrean will collapse if another formidable enemy like Bakal appears. And your family and friends will die. You must unite this country and keep it solid. I'll help you."
Erje: "Um... I don't know. Why can't you be the emperor?"
Book: "Scared Erje is all but whimpering. Jackter shakes his head."
Jackter: "I can't. I've been a soldier for so long that I can only see black and white. And if I rise to the throne... Well, maybe I have the power to do so, but that'll leave a bad example: people will think anybody can overthrow the government if he has the power. And there's a more important reason."
Jackter: "I hate being tied down by the rules. When I'm off for the day, I want to go to see the ocean and talk to my friends over a drink. Emperors can't do that."
Book: "Jackter sounds as if playing is more important than anything else. Erje giggles."
Erje: "But I like to play, too."
Jackter: "If you want, you can find your replacement and run. Do you want to do that?"
Book: "Erje tilts her head and thinks. She sticks her tongue out, then smiles."
Erje: "Then someone else has to sit in this room, alone. No, I don't want that. And Mister? Oops, I mean, General. You're the strongest man in this country, right?"
Jackter: "Yes. I happen to be that person."
Erje: "I'll do that if you help me. If this country is in danger, then so are the people I love. I'll make sure there will be no bullies. By the way, is the empress friends with the Archpriest?"
Jackter: "It's a title that once existed a long time ago. The Archpriest connects God with us people, and the empress unites and leads us. Empyrean is also called an empire because it was ruled by emperors and empresses a long time ago."
Erje: "The empress sounds scary. Isn't there a title below empress?"
Book: "Erje sounds serious. Jackter is at a loss: what's a title below empress? He is also an Empyrean who has never served under an emperor."
Jackter: "Um, maybe imperial princess?"
Erje: "Then I want to be called Imperial Princess."
Jackter: "But imperial princesses are the daughters of empresses and emperors... Well, you can become the empress when you grow up. We haven't had an empress for a long time. No one will care what you're called before you become an adult."
Book: "It suddenly hits Jackter that Beldron would've been laughing at their conversation if he was here. He determinedly shakes off the sadness and stands up from his seat."
Jackter: "I'm glad we've agreed to do this together. I should go now."
Erje: "Are you going to skip work again?"
Jackter: "I'd love to, but there's no one else who can do my work. If you find someone who can, then let me know."
Book: "Jackter raises his hand in salute and Erje imitates him in response. Jackter is about to open the door, when Erje scurries to him and pulls at his jacket hem. Jackter kneels and Erje whispers to his ear."
Erje: "If I become the imperial princess, I can fetch your daughter. Then can I be friends with her?"
Jackter: "My daughter is older than you. You can play with her, but she'll probably act like your older sister."
Erje: "Whoa, I'd love that! I've always wanted an older sister. She can be one, can't she?
Book: "Jackter snorts at Erje's seemingly innocent request."
Jackter: "No. I know what you're trying to do. If my daughter becomes a sister of the imperial princess, that'll make me the emperor. No way. I'm already tired of pushing paper all day."
Erje: "Beh, you're boring."
Jackter: "All grownups are. Now, don't go out too often. It's cold outside. I can't have you sniffle at your coronation."
The Wind Blowing upon Empyrean: Chapter 3
Jackter: "...So I propose that we crown Lady Erje as imperial princess."
Book: "The meeting is to decide Erje's succession of the Archpriest. Since there is no replacement for her, the meeting is just a formality. It should have been a quiet, solemn gathering, but Commander-in-chief Jackter's almost ridiculous proposal has caused an uproar in the meeting room."
Petra Noiman: "Imperial princess? Imperial princess..."
Book: "The attending noblemen were so stunned that they're unable to speak, but Jackter remains nonchalant, almost shamelessly so. The noblemen explode with anger. Schultz angrily asks Jackter if he's insane, and then cowers quickly at Jackter's intimidating glare that has given him the nickname, Eagle Eye."
Theresa Schultz: "*Ahem* I don't doubt you've thought this through, but it's unheard of."
Jackter: "What's unheard of is the Kartel's all-out attack. At least, since the tyrant Bakal ordered to burn all history books, it was the first biggest incident in history."
Petra Noiman: "Making her imperial princess means she could become empress in the future. General Elrox, don't you know why this country abolished the title?"
Jackter: "Because of the tyrant Bakal."
Anje Wane: "That's right. We suffered under its tyranny for so long that we decided we would never want to follow one person's lead, and you've just proposed that we should go back to what we've been working so hard to get rid of. And are you sure Lady Erje can handle such responsibility?"
Jackter: "She's young, but she's smart and kindhearted. With proper guidance, she'll make a great leader. And what do you mean, if she can handle such responsibility? She was going to be the Archpriest, anyway. She already carries great responsibility. You almost sounded blasphemous."
Anje Wane: "I-I didn't mean that. But the Archpriest and the empress are two different things. We abolished the emperor's power because it did more harm than good. Why should we take it back?"
Book: "The leaders of nobility in the meeting room are stunned for the moment, but they didn't earn their leader positions by being stupid. They counter Jackter in the sharpest and most meticulous way. Some even manage to twist Jackter's intention without making it obvious. Jackter thought he'd covered all the basics before he entered this meeting, but there was only so much he could prepare against the barrage of questions. Jackter is about to run out of answers, when Jurgen, who has kept quiet until that moment, speaks quietly."
Nevillo: "I understand what you mean, Elrox, and that you won't bend. But this matter needs to be further discussed among the members of the Council of Nobility. Give us some time."
Nevillo: "Then this concludes today's meeting. Councilmen, I'll contact you with the meeting date to discuss the General's proposal."
Petra Noiman: "Okay."
Book: "After the other noblemen leave, Jurgen sighs and stretches his neck."
Nevillo: "Sigh. You were more aggressive than I thought. A little circumlocution would've been nice."
Jackter: "I know I'm not a good speaker, but I didn't want to beat around the bush."
Nevillo: "General, you've shocked the entire Council of Nobility with your proposal."
Jackter: "But it's only the title. The Archpriest governs the empire, anyway. What does it matter if we call her priestess or empress?"
Nevillo: "There's a huge difference, at least to politicians, and your proposition shakes the entire political groundwork. And don't insult my intelligence. It's not only the title that changes."
Book: "Without a word, Jackter stares at Jurgen. Nevillo Jurgen is a man who has seized the Council of Nobility at a young age. Since the Archpriest is a nominal leader, Jurgen is the actual power of this country. Jackter can't figure out what this man wants. The intention of his proposition is clear and controversial. He thought Jurgen would object against the proposal more vehemently, and he was wrong. But he doesn't think the leader of High Society is agreeing with him on the monarchy. Jackter hates being involved in politics, but he has no choice. Even if it isn't for Beldron's will, this country, or there will be another Kartel, another invasion. He has to win this battle, and he needs to know which side Jurgen is on."
Nevillo: "You should've told me what you were going to do. Things would've been easier."
Jackter: "Does that mean you're with me?"
Nevillo: "Your proposal is based on Beldron's will isn't it?"
Jackter: "...Yes. How did you know?"
Nevillo: "I figured when Beldron decided to give Lady Erje the name Vega. Vega is the name of the greatest emperor in our history who brought prosperity to his country. Not many people know about her, though, these days. I didn't know when, but I knew you'd step in. I didn't think you'd choose the hard way."
Book: "Jackter accepts Jurgen's criticism without protest."
Nevillo: "Could you leave this to me? I'll see that Beldron's wish is honored."
Jackter: "(Nevillo Jurgen... What is he up to? He knows Beldron wanted a monarchy because he hated the Council of Nobility having its way with the government. But I don't know much about politics, and Erje is too young and doesn't have a big enough following to turn this man into her enemy. Geez, I'd choose fighting in the battlefield over dealing with intrigues of the Court any day of the week.) I can't ask for a better ally, but there can be no mistakes."
Nevillo: "Of course. Are you still busy these days? I'd like to have you over for a drink. How about tonight?"
Book: "Jackter really doesn't want to visit a nobleman's house, but he has no choice."
Jackter: "I don't have a good enough excuse to decline your offer. I've got some good liquor. I'll bring it with me."
The Wind Blowing upon Empyrean: Chapter 4
General Populace: "Long live the princess! Long live the princess! Bring us prosperity!"
Nevillo: "Just smile and wave your hand. You'll speak someplace else."
Book: "Her coronation has reached its peak. Young Erje's face is as pale as a ghost, her body as stiff as a corpse, but she acts as she practiced, and the one-of-a-kind ceremony that combines the inauguration of Archpriest and the coronation of Imperial Princess continues to go smoothly."
Meryl: "Things are looking good. I thought a lot of people wouldn't be happy that a little girl was appointed after Beldron. Did you plant some attention diverters among in the crowds?"
Jackter: "No, we didn't."
Meryl: "You didn't, but maybe Jurgen did. Open ceremonies like this are all about creating the atmosphere. A little girl for the Archpriest and imperial princess. That's a recipe for disaster. But condition the general populace before an idea is formed in their heads, and things will go as you planned."
Jackter: "Not everyone is so stupid to let other people think for himself."
Meryl: "Do you really think everyone in that crowd is really happy about her coronation? That's a load of crap. Only overly optimistic fools believe that. And you're not one of them, or are you? You've been working for the nobility so long that you can't think for yourself anymore. Is that it?"
Book: "Meryl Pioneer of the Seven Shards and Jackter have known each other since Jackter was in Wespeace. When they first met, Meryl demanded Jackter help with her research, and her attitude toward him hasn't changed, even after he was appointed commander-in-chief. Jackter is so used to her that her rudeness doesn't seem to bother him anymore."
Jackter: "I'm not going to listen to some self-styled adventurer who causes trouble wherever she goes. If you really want to meddle, then why don't you join my army? I can use a good professional like you."
Meryl: "Are you insane? Scientists and armies don't mix. You soldiers are impatient consequentialists with a tendency to nag. You don't understand it takes countless attempts of trial and error to yield great results."
Jackter: "I've heard you have a student now."
Meryl: "Naen? She's not my student anymore. I've taken care of her for long enough. She's on her own now."
Book: "Meryl thumbs ground tobacco leaves into her pipe. The chief lady-in-waiting scowls at her, displeased, but Meryl points where they are is hidden form the outside, as she takes a puff."
Meryl: "Oh, right. I've heard Herman's student is in the Coast Guards and he's hell-bent on revenge. How long are you going to keep him? He's bad news. He looks nice and easygoing, but he's burning with bloodlust on the inside."
Jackter: "He's made many great contributions to the army. I don't have a good replacement, or proof of your claim. I'll keep an eye on him, though."
Meryl: "I don't like him. I can't believe Herman accepted him from the beginning. Tsk, tsk. At least I'm not the one who has to deal with that troublemaker. I don't have time anymore to talk to a guy wearing medals all over his chest. I've got to go now."
Jackter: "But the coronation ceremony..."
Meryl: "I don't care. I don't like being stuck in the crowd and I can't stand the sight of that poor girl dragging around heavy clothes that don't fit her. How many years are you going to be away this time? Wherever you are, try not to die."
Jackter: "You'll die before me, hag."
Book: "Meryl guffaws at Jackter's snarky answer."
Meryl: "Hah hah hah! Being older doesn't mean I'm closer to death, and you stand here breathing only because of your young soldiers."
Book: "Meryl disappears into the crowd, leaving long trails of cigarette smoke. The woman is eccentric, but she is smart and has a wide network of friends. She would be a great guardian for Erje, but she didn't want it. Jackter asked many times. Watching her leave, Jackter wishes athlete's foot upon her, just out of spite.
Jurgen fills in for Meryl."
Nevillo: "People are responding to her more positively than I thought. She'll be able to rise to the throne without opposition."
Jackter: "This wouldn't be possible if it weren't for you, Sir Jurgen."
Nevillo: "Not at all. All I did was let the general populace know that you're backing the Imperial Princess. I didn't know you were so popular."
Jackter: "Please, you're embarrassing me."
Book: "Jackter stops Jurgen before he goes on. Jackter's mind is in turmoil. Other than waving his hand at Erje whenever she turns to look at him, he keeps to himself, thinking."
Jackter: "(As Beldron said, the Council of Nobility needs to be reformed. A new era should begin with new people. The invasion of the Kartel was a result of deep-rooted caste discrimination and power dispersion. It's time we break the ceiling and grow taller. Make everyone under the Imperial Princess enjoy equal opportunities. Beldron, you left me with a difficult task.)"
Nevillo: "(The general populace has lost trust in the nobility. If we can't change the concentration of power in the Archpriest, then we have to make the best of it. Not all the Kartels are apprehended, and the remnants will continue to trouble us. I'll keep the army on my side for a while, but I'll let the Imperial Princess take all the responsibilities. Now that she's the Archpriest and the Imperial Princess, she can be held accountable for almost everything. I'll wipe out the ridiculous priest administration system along with the Imperial Princess, and crown a new leader who is powerful and have a legitimate bloodline. It's the only way this country can survive.) What a beautiful day today, huh? It's a perfect day for a new king to rise."
Book: "Jurgen and Jacktor look up to the sky."
Hidden Bomb: The Cyphers
Children of Chain Peace
Children of Chain Peace: Chapter 1
Book: Maywin is sitting on her hospital bed, reading a book. She looks up from the book as someone knocks on the door. Reflexively, she tries to get off the bed and open the door, but then realizes she can’t move her legs. She yells for the visitor to come in. Maywin has no family. The only visitors she has are the members of her unit, and all of them visited her already. The visitor enters the room after a moment’s hesitation. Maywin quickly salutes.
Colonel Woon Lyonir is standing in front of her, his face grim. Woon puts down a gift next to her bed as he asks after her in a subdued voice.
Woon: "How are you feeling?"
Maywin: "You don’t have to worry about me. The doctor said I should be able to walk with some physical therapy."
Woon: "I see."
Maywin: "Thank you for coming to see me. I know you’re busy."
Woon: "No, I’m…"
Book: The young colonel who is usually confident doesn’t seem to know what to say in a situation like this. Maywin sighs knowingly.
Maywin: "Gosh, you’re a colonel. Can’t you think of something to say? Do I really have to ask you to talk to me like you would outside work?"
Maywin: "Take that chair out and sit. I hope you aren’t as nervous as you are with other soldiers you visit. You look like you’re uncomfortable breathing even."
Woon: "…This doesn’t just happen when I visit someone in the hospital."
Maywin: "Commander Eagle Eye makes you unable to breath in different ways, I see. How is he doing?"
Book: They talk about trivial things. Most times, Maywin asks and Woon answers. This quiet young man was no longer the mischievous little boy she remembers. She smiles ruefully.
Maywin: "You’re a soldier through and through. Don’t you smile any more? You like like you’re wearing a mask."
Woon: "I’m sorry."
Maywin: "Sigh… How long are you going to stay in the army? Are you still looking for Rebecca?"
Maywin: "You need to give up. It’s been over ten years. Even if she escaped from the site, she couldn’t have survived in the desert by herself. She could’ve been captured by the Kartel, or…"
Woon: "She’s alive. She was the one who dragged me out of that collapsing cave."
Maywin: "Then where is she now? Where did she go after she saved you? If she’s alive why hasn’t she shown up? Let’s say she’s alive. I wish she was alive. She was the leader of Chain Peace and my friend. But Woon, you used to be scared of soldier uniforms. When you said you hated soldiers, I knew you were scared of them. You’re not in the army because you like it there. You don’t have to sacrifice yourself to find her."
Woon: "I know I may be wasting my time, but I promised Rebecca that I would help her find her father."
Book: Maywin is struck dumb. Suddenly the ten-year-old scars start throbbing.
Maywin: "All right, if you really want to help her find her father, then knock yourself out. But we shouldn’t see each other anymore. Before Rebecca returns… No, even if she does, it wouldn’t do us any good to see each other. At least that’s what I think."
Book: Woon doesn’t respond. Maywin is annoyed by his impassivity. If her legs were still working, she could’ve gotten off the bed and slapped him senseless. She wonders if screaming would make her feel better, then thinks better of it. Nothing she does can change the nightmare that is called reality.
Ten years ago, she was so young and naïve that she thought that she could get rid of the Kartel. She was wrong. Every failure is painful, but that failure hit her the hardest. All she wanted to do was cry, but her country was already at war.
When the enemy abducted the Imperial Princess, Empyrean sent child soldiers, even the wounded ones, back t the battlefield. There were not enough grownups, even children had to fight. No one complained. Villages were wiped out of existence on a daily basis.
After a long time, the war ended and people lost their friends and families. She couldn’t change any of that, even if she wanted to, and the old pain that she tried hard to ignore has come back with vengeance.
She knows she is taking her anger and guilt out on Woon. Instead of encouraging him to forget the nightmare, she’s yelling at the youngest of them all because he’s changed.
Maywin: "…You’d better leave. Leave. Will you leave if I salute?"
Woon: "I’ll go. Take care, and… I’m sorry."
Book: Woon leaves her room. Maywin nonchalantly pats her comforter smooth and holds her book back up. The tragic story of the main character is about to reach its climax. Starting from tomorrow, she’ll have to prepare for her retirement. She’s determined to forget about Woon and enjoy the rest of her day.
Book: Maywin drops her book. After she was injured, she finally has the time to read this tragedy novel, and it’s boring.
Nothing is more tragic than reality.
Children of Chain Peace: Chapter 2
Book: Rebecca was young. Her father was a great man, but he didn't know what to do with his daughter whom he had later in his life. He could've been a good adviser if she was older. But she was too young to understand her father's situation. She was angry with him for staying away from home all the time.
Father was recognized at his work and transferred to the Imperial Capital. He wanted to take Mother and Rebecca with him, but Mother was born and lived in the desert all her life. She didn't want to go. She said she'd rather deal with the Kartel than with society's deep-rooted hatred toward the residents of the desert. Father left alone, and Mother acted as if he was dead. Their neighbors laughed about Father's stupidity to move to the Imperial Capital. Father disappeared from her life, but that didn't affect Rebecca. She stood her ground against the older boy Jay over being the leader of their gang.
Jay gave her many noogies, annoyed by the stubborn girl, but Rebecca, even as she cried and sniffled, didn't budge until he surrendered. Father kept in touch with Mother and Rebecca. He sent thick, technical books. Mother sold them for food and weapons. Mother believed in the safety of weapons. Rebecca was always on her mother's side, but sometimes she stole one of the books Father sent to read it. Mother pretended she didn't know. Their life changed when the war broke out.
The Kartel, having been acting suspiciously for a few years, crossed the sea and attacked the Imperial Capital. The villagers hated the Kartel, but they hated the Imperial Capital just as much. Some of the grownups said the Kartels were a proud rebellion army. Their hatred toward their country ran deep.
There was a child of another soldier in the village. He was Woon. His father beat him, and the kids in the neighborhood made fun of him for being covered in bruises all the time. Rebecca always defended Woon, and he followed Rebecca as a puppy would its owner. They were like an older sister and her brother.
As the war dragged on, the Kartel's abuse on the people of the desert worsened. Rebecca's mother was the leader of the village militia, and one day was gravely injured while trying to protect the village against the Kartels. Before she died, she saw her husband's image in the misty eyes of her daughter. Since that day, Rebecca was no longer a little girl. She didn't know where her father was or cared to find him. She found the weapons that her mother hid and planned her future.
She came up with the name, Chain Peace. Jay laughed at her when she explained the name meant small rings of peace linked to form a greater peace. "Let's try not to break the chain before it's even created." The initial members were Rebecca, Jay, and Woon. Being as tall as a grown man, Jay naturally became their leader. Rebecca and Woon gathered information and Jay planned operations.
At first, their operation was mere child's play, but as time went by, they became very useful to the government army that was barely surviving in the Lawless District. They became famous. Teenager that had nowhere to go joined Chain Peace. Maywin was one of them. Grownups who were tired of the Kartel supplied them with weapons and food. The Wespeace Army also increased its support for Chain Peace. As their numbers grew, the army wanted them to take on more various and dangerous missions. They got hurt more often the more they accomplished. They thought they really had a chance at defeating the Kartel.
They were wrong. Things weren't so easy. An electric-eating monster appeared, and again the Kartel crossed the sea. The news was that the Empyrean Royal Army was losing. Everyone in Chain Peace couldn't sleep. Around this time, Jay had changed. He and his close friends were always up to something, and one day they beat up a friend to "discipline him." Rebecca was always away on a mission, and by the time she knew what was happening, things were bad.
Two had a big fight, Jay left Chain Peace, leaving Rebecca to lead it. The kids liked having Rebecca as their leader. She was more moderate and serious about their cause. After Jay left, the Kartel's operations to catch Chain Peace became more elaborate and accurate. Several times, they almost got busted. They really hated it, but they knew they had a mole among them. They were right.
Feeling threatened, the members of Chain Peace insisted that the traitor be killed. After much consideration, Rebecca decided to move their headquarters to a remote place. During their move, they picked up a man named Roy dying in the middle of the desert. Roy was eccentric, but he was good with his hands. He created many useful things out of junk, and his inventions saved Chain Peace more than a few times. Roy stayed with them for several months, and soon after he left, they heard the news of the Imperial Princess's abduction.
Many grownups who fought the Kartels with them dropped their guns and surrendered. The children of Chain Peace were disheartened and despaired. The friends that they had yesterday became enemies today. But they couldn't stop fighting. The Kartel wasn't satisfied with the abduction of the Imperial Princess, so it decided to destroy the Imperial Capital. It drafted people of all ages and genders to fill its army. Chain Peace had to fight to survive. There was no time to relax. The children of Chain Peace grew weary and fought each other over trivial things. The existence of Chain Peace was at stake.
Rebecca was still strong and confident in front of her friends, but when she was alone, she often thought about her father. She missed him, but she wasn't sure if she could meet him before she died. She didn't blame Mother for refusing to go to the Imperial Capital with Father. Rebecca tried to think her mother simply decided to go her own way, and that she was doing the same thing.
Rebecca was worried about her friends, most of all, Woon, who was losing his smile. Woon was like her brother, and it was hard to see him sit in the corner by himself for hours. He was too young to fight in the battlefield. She thought about sending him to a remote village, but no one was willing to take in a child. Things were hard for them as it was. The only thing she could do for Woon was give him her mother's keepsake necklace on his birthday. She wanted to cheer him up, and she also had a sense of foreboding that she couldn't seem to shake off.
Bad feelings can never be wrong. Rebecca was hurrying out of the cave filled with fire and screams when she encountered Jay after a long time. A corner of her mouth lifted in a soundless snicker. At that moment, she looked just like her father, but, of course, she didn't know it.
It was the last day that anyone in Chain Peace ever saw Rebecca.
Children of Chain Peace: Chapter 3
Book: Jay was an orphan. He didn't have family, but he liked singing and performing in front of an audience. He thought he'd be a singer one day. Among his friends, gunslingers were more popular than singers, but he didn't like the loud noises of guns.
One time, he went to a neighboring village to watch a famous singer sing, and almost got drafted by the Kartel that thought he was a grown man because of his height. He realized survival was more important than anything else. He burned his music scores. He was twelve.
Jay was the leader among his friends. Those who were older than Jay were busy learning how to shoot, leaving Jay to lead the younger kids. Things changed when a girl named Rebecca decided that she wanted his place. That spunky tomboy changed the pattern of the little war that took place among the children in the neighborhood. Instead of brawling, they split into teams and played a make-believe war that was fairly impressively planned. The grownups chided at them, but they took the war seriously... although it always ended with everyone covered in mud, tears, and snot.
Jay was known as a troublemaker, but he followed a rule: be romantic. It was the rule set by the famous gunslinger, Sandstorm Varracht. Jay first thought it would make a good song, and then decided it would be his rule in life. He did things that he thought were romantic: he led his friends. He fought a drunken man who was kicking a six-year-old. He joined Chain Peace to fight the Kartel with Rebecca and others. But deep inside, he knew he was using romance as an excuse to hide his real intentions. He wanted to lead his friends because he wanted to be better than them. He joined Rebecca's Chain Peace to survive.
The Kartel dragged away children when they became old enough to work. His villagers had been able to keep the Kartel away from their village, but that wouldn't last long. After they decided to create Chain Peace, the three left the village and realized they had nowhere to go. They called themselves gunslingers, but they were just teenagers without guardians. They didn't want to join the militia of a village lest they'd become cannon fodder, but they couldn't wander the desert forever.
Jay contacted the Wespeace Army who was pushed back to the Imperial Capital and barely returned. The army was isolated in the Lawless District. The residents were afraid of the Kartel, but they refused to cooperate with the army. Jay hired innocent-looking girls and boys to collect information around villages and sold useful information to the army. The army needed local agents, so it reluctantly accepted Jay's offer. Negotiating with the grownups was tough, but Jay was doing better than he thought. He was going to save the money he got from the army and escape from the arid island.
But the Wespeace Army wouldn't let go of such a great agent. Jay started keeping secrets from Rebecca. It didn't take time before the executives of the army changed their affable attitude to overt threats. Jay thought about using Rebecca's father, but he was afraid of losing her. Things could get worse. The leaders of Empyrean didn't want to spend too much money on maintaining peace in the Lawless District. They wanted to keep the Kartels desperate and low on supplies. The Wespeace Army was desperate to get more support from the government, and if they recognized who Rebecca was, they wouldn't let her go to her father. They would use a dirty scheme to sacrifice Rebecca and get what they wanted from their headquarters.
While Jay was dealing with his own dilemma, Chain Peace became famous, and it was making him uncomfortable. The Wespeace Army wanted to use the children for their propaganda against the Kartel. The Wespeace Army demanded Jay that it wanted a model for their propaganda. Jay had to hide Rebecca from the army, so he sent Woon instead. The picture of the small child carrying a gun as tall as he was featured in many newspapers with provocative titles. People on the other side of the sea were selfish, but they had a soft spot for children. Support flooded in, and the happy Wespeace Army saw that Chain Peace was put to good use.
Maybe it was because of her personality or upbringing, but Rebecca was ignorant of things that took place behind the curtains. She thought all she had to do was accomplish her missions and save people. She was a great tactician and an even greater marksman, but she wasn't a politician.
Because of the Wespeace Army's propaganda, children came from different places to join Chain Peace. The army executives urged Jay to grow Chain Peace quickly, so it could take on more important missions. The army's support for Chain Peace increased. Jay hoped he would soon have an opportunity to escape from all this.
But things don't always go as you plan, and sometimes they go in the completely opposite direction. The news was some giant monster had appeared in Eaton and was feeding on all of Empyrean's electrical power. At first, Jay thought it was a joke. It wasn't. Support stopped coming to the Wespeace Army. Things went badly.
The Kartel saw an opportunity. After exhausting every resource the Lawless District had left, which included the drying wells of mountainous villages, they marched back to the Imperial Capital. No news of the regular army's victory was heard. All news that Jay heard was about the army losing, and soon news stopped coming altogether. Jay felt like he was suffocating under the weight of his friends' expectations of him.
Jay started moving again for his survival. He and his close friends stole from others to make their living until they were caught. The Kartel soldier who caught him was a grownup from his hometown. He barely escaped, but for a while he couldn't sleep at night. Then he got caught by Rebecca and they had a big fight. Rebecca was as stubborn as she was when they fought over the leader position among their friends. He hated her for it, but he was guilty at the same time. He didn't apologize. His pride didn't allow it, and he also thought it was too late to change things. Then he saw Woon, who became frightened as soon as their eyes are met. His heart sank. Woon was like a brother to him, and he made that kid afraid of him. He didn't want to make Rebecca and Woon sad. He fought to survive and protect.
He hated the Kartel and hated cowardly grownups, but he had become one of them. He was so devastated and ashamed of himself that he had to leave Chain Peace. Those who worked as thieves with him followed him. The night he left his friends, Jay looked up the night sky and wondered. What if he stopped Rebecca from forming Chain Peace? What if he pursued his dream of becoming a singer? What if he was born somewhere other than the Lawless District?
All the what ifs were meaningless now. The merciless sandstorm stung his eyes and nose. He wouldn't be able to see Rebecca and Woon again. Come to think of it, those two were his family. Jay prayed for their safety and moved on.
Children of Chain Peace: Chapter 4
Book: Woon’s father was a hunter. He couldn’t remember exactly when he first learned how to approach game without alerting it, but he remembered that he learned to shoot a gun before his teens and that his father was a good hunter. The makeshift bullets that even petty thieves wouldn’t want were cheaper than a bottle of alcohol. Woon hunted small animals to support his father’s drinking habit. His mother was a soldier but she didn’t come home often.
He didn’t remember when Mother became a soldier, but it was probably after Father lost his left leg. When Father got drunk, he often beat Woon and kicked him out of the house, forcing him to sleep under the roof. His skin was always blue and yellow with bruises and scabs over scratches from animal claws. The village grownups weren’t unkind, but they weren’t caring either. None of them tried to stop Woon’s father from beating him.
Jay, the oldest boy in the neighbourhood, defended Woon against his father, and the strong, righteous mother of Rebecca took him home and bathed and fed him. Rebecca acted as if Woon was always bothersome, but she’d always wanted a younger brother, and Woon was affable and charming. She and Woon got close quickly. Rebecca took good care of him and didn’t mind sharing her mother with him.
But Little Woon’s good behaviour and cheerful personality were the results of his father’s violence and his mother’s negligence. Woon was afraid of being abandoned, so he was desperate to please Rebecca and her mother, and that saddened Rebecca’s mother. The happiest days of his life ended with the death of Rebecca’s mother. Rebecca and Jay decided to fight the Kartel, and Woon insisted that he’d be included. He couldn’t imagine fighting grownups, but he was afraid of losing the two.
On the day they left the village, Rebecca said that they should take the same family name. Jayu scoffed, but he came up with myriad family names. They bickered over the name for a while, and then decided on Lyonir. Woon became Woon Lyonir. He was happy because he felt like he’d become their real brother. He would later learn that Rebecca wanted a different family name to avoid her father.
Chain Peace had a good cause, but its existence was precarious. The Wespeace Army thought the children could serve as a good tool to sway public opinion. It provided Chain Peace enough support to continue its existence. It also gave jobs. Woon was an excellent marksman. He was afraid of fighting, but he soldiered on. He didn’t want to be a burden to Jay and Rebecca.
The news of the young heroes fighting the Kartels became a great issue among people on the other side of the sea. It was around this time that he earned the nickname, Little Lyonir. The more children bled, the more sympathetic the general populace became.
Woon couldn’t understand. If they felt so sorry for the children of Chain Peace, they should come over and help. Instead, they watched them from the other side of the sea and wept for them. Jay brought Woon with him whenever he had a meeting with the Wespeace Army. War correspondents he met at those meetings made him bleed from his knees, so he became afraid of soldier but he hated to show it.
For a while, he tried searching for his mother by asking the soldiers. None of them knew where his mother was. Even now, Woon doesn’t know if his mother is alive or where she is.
Woon was the youngest among the members of Chain Peace. Age was a deciding factor of the ranks among the members, so Jay and Rebecca forbade Woon from calling them Brother and Sister. They also made him present in every strategy meeting. Some members objected at first, but they shut up. Woon was one of the most talented marksmen in Chain Peace.
After their leader Jay left Chain Peace, Rebecca became the leader. Then reality started pressuring Chain Peace. A monster named Anton appeared and the Kartel abducted the Imperial Princess. Some good things happened, but things were mostly tough. The kartel continued to close in on Chain Peace. Its members ran and reappeared as its enemies or corpses. The children of Chain Peace were their losing reasons to live. The only thing that kept them from going was their leader Rebecca. She took care of all the dirty work and stayed up all night strategizing to find food and fight the Kartels. Rebecca was a born hero.
Countless times, Woon thought the war would’ve ended more easily if that incident didn’t happen or if he saved Rebecca that day. But he couldn’t, and Rebecca was still missing to this day. He tried to remember something that could help him find Rebecca, but he couldn’t put together the fragments of his memory of that day.
Red sky. Shouts and explosions. Faces of dying friends. He was bloody, and Rebecca carried him on her back. Those were the things he could remember. He didn’t know who betrayed them or who threw the bomb. Actually none of them mattered now. He lost anger, sadness, and happiness that day. Woon thought he died that day. He hated that his body was still breathing. He pointed his gun at himself more than a few times, but didn’t pull the trigger because of what Rebecca said.
She once gave him her mother’s keepsake as his birthday gift. She patted Woon on his head and smiled sadly.
“It might be too late, but I miss my father.”
He wanted to grant her wish. He could hardly remember what happened to Chain Peace on that day, but he could remember Rebecca’s voice like he heard it just yesterday.
He didn’t know if she was alive, but there was no proof of her death. He refused to let go of that little bit of hope. Woon would continue to fight until Rebecca, still the teenage girl in his mind, could be happily united with her father.
Children of Chain Peace: Chapter 5
Book: Anton was defeated and the Empyrean Royal Army was back in Ghent, but the soldiers couldn't rest. The war was over, but the safety of the Imperial Capital was still precarious. The main duty of the Empyrean Royal Army wasn't dealing with external threats, but maintaining internal peace. Empyrean was geographically isolated, and its population was small enough for a single military organization to manage up to now. Ghent had been dealing with small and big conflicts. From adventurers from Arad to thieves that became prevalent in the ravage of war, all the problems were the exhausted soldiers' to deal with.
Jackter didn't know what to say to his aid who had to return before his two days of vacation even started. He wanted to force him to go back home, but for the brief moment his aid was gone, the Ghent headquarters was thrown into chaos. Woon, oblivious of his boss's dilemma, reported his return and immediately got to work. Except a few of his subordinates who got grumpy over their boss's unexpected return, everyone breathed a sigh of relief: finally things could get done. Woon worked for three days straight, except when he was eating and showering, to catch up with work. When he was finally done, he staggered to the documentation center next to his office, and then laid down on the bench. He was going to take a short nap before his subordinates came to work.
In the afternoon, he would accompany the general officers to the hospital. The general officers were planning to demand more hospitals from the Council of Nobility. As their escort, he would have to be on his guard every minute, watching for any possible attack on the important figures. He must have strained himself. The injury that had not yet healed throbbed. He didn't mind the pain, but the throbbing triggered the voices that he'd been hearing for the last ten years. He heard many voices in his head. Some were of fallen soldiers of his and others were from the enemies he killed. A lot of soldiers of this country experienced the same symptoms, having gone through a war that lasted for years.
Woon listened to his soldiers' complaints, but he never told anyone he had the same problem. He couldn't afford to look damaged. It would interfere with his plan. He also didn't want to disgrace his commander, and he must stay in the army to accomplish his lifetime mission. He had been trying to act normally. While leading his army, he gritted his teeth and reminded himself that the soldiers behind him were not his enemies. When he heard stories about Chain Peace, he tried to breathe normally. Acting tough, but he did it with grim determination. At first, he didn't think he could pretend to be normal. But he saw the survivors of Chain Peace devolve. He didn't want to be one of them. He was almost perfect with his acting except for one thing.
Book: Woon jolted awake. Someone was with him, and he wasn't sure if this was real or if he was dreaming. In his blurry eyes, the brawny man looked looked like a Kartel soldier one moment and then a Tartan the next.
Lukas: "Um... Colonel Woon? I'm Second Lieutenant Lukas. I'm sorry to disturb you. I've brought some letters for you. I was just going to leave them with you and leave..."
Woon: "...Are you new?"
Book: Woon asked curtly as he loosened his grip on his gun. The magazine he removed before he took a nap dropped onto the floor below the bench.
Woon: "I'm sorry. I'll be out in a minute. You can leave now. And call me by my family name, will you? I won't be able to recognize you by your voice."
Lukas: "Huh? Yes, sir. I'll leave the letters here for you."
Book: The lower-ranking officer who was older than him hurriedly left the room. Woon breathed a long sigh. His back was wet with cold sweat. According to the clock, he slept for about three hours. He was still tired, but not as much as before he took a nap. He must have been tense since he paid Maywin at the hospital. It was understandable: one of the survivors of Chain Peace was hurt. He diagnosed his condition as if it was someone else's.
Listening to the birds chirping outside the window, Woon checked the letters Second Lieutenant Lukas left for him. One of them was from Maywin. He tilted his head. Maywin was the one who didn't want to keep in touch. She must have been in a hurry when she wrote the letter. The handwriting was sloppy and the message was short. She thanked him for his visit and wrote her new address in case he wanted to see her.
Woon: "(Should I be grateful or sorry about this?)"
Book: Confused, Woon opened the next letter. It was a request to approve the recruitment of boy soldiers aged thirteen to sixteen to restore public order more quickly. The request was sent from the Wespeace headquarters, and must be reported to the commander-in-chief. Woon read the letter several times, and then slowly crumpled it. He was hearing the voices again.
Chain Peace Child 1: "Woon, help me!"
Chain Peace Child 2: "Woon! Woon! My leg... It's gone... It hurts..."
Chain Peace Child 3: "Woon, please help me! It hurts so bad... I don't want to die!"
Book: Woon Lyonir grabbed his head in anguish. He didn't come out of the documentation center for a long time.
Happy Magic Classroom
Last Heir of the Ulus
Linus: "Hey who's this? Long time no see!"
Aganzo: "Linus. You're still in this village."
Linus: "And you're still adventuring. How are you?"
Aganzo: "Fine. Thank you."
Linus: "Let's go have a drink. You're not busy, are you?"
Aganzo: "Not at all. ...How do you like a blacksmith?"
Linus: "It's not as exciting as being an adventurer, but I like hammering and turning metal into usable things. It's quite rewarding. If you're interested, why don't you try yourself? Who knows; you might uncover your life's true calling, like I did."
Aganzo: "That sounds interesting, but I'll have to say no for now."
Linus: "I've always wanted to ask you this. What are you hanging on to?"
Aganzo: "What do you mean?"
Linus: "To me, you look like you're wandering without a purpose."
Aganzo: "Well I didn't think an adventurer needs a purpose."
Linus: "I'm saying, you look like you need a purpose. In a way, I think you're wandering to find a purpose."
Aganzo: "To find a purpose... Maybe. For some time I've been trying to stop the Metastasis, but frankly I don't know why I'm doing it. I've been telling others that I'm trying to stop another Screaming Cavern incident from threatening Arad, but sometimes I wonder if the world's peace is really important to me."
Linus: "Maybe you're just feeling burned out."
Aganzo: "Maybe. Or maybe this is just me. I don't think I've ever had passion for anything."
Linus: "Passion! Just hearing the word excites me. Travelling Arad once was my passion. *Sigh...* The Metastasis has killed countless people. I don't thin it's stupid that you're trying to stop it. Actually I admire you. If you don't do it, someone else has to. Because of people like you, I could choose the hammer over the sword."
Aganzo: "Stop. You're not drunk already, are you? If you're not going to stop, I'm leaving."
Linus: "Geez, man. Do you think it's easy for me to say such embarrassing things? Many things have happened around here lately, and they just got me thinking. I was just trying to be honest with you."
Aganzo: "Man, you're gotten old and soft."
Linus: "So have you. Time doesn't discriminate."
Aganzo: "Right. A lot of time has passed since we first met. Who's that goblin hovering around over there? Do you know him?"
Linus: "Huh? Man, he came back. I told him not to come back because goblins and humans don't mix."
Aganzo: "The world has changed, more so than you and I think. Like that young goblin, some of the things that used to be serious in our time no longer matter."
Linus: "You're right. Even I've noticed that the world is changing, and this place is far away from civilization. I can't imagine how rapidly things must be changing in big cities. Say, how'd you like to make an acquaintance with a goblin, in celebration of the coming of a new era?"
Aganzo: "I have to go. I'm happy to be friends with someone who's friends with a goblin."
Linus: "Hmph, don't treat me as if I'm a child excited to introduce one friend to another. And don't thin you won either."
Toby: "Linus, want to play Rock-paper-scissors with me?"
Linus: "...You're not helping, kiddo."
Old Friend (Season 3)
Aganzo: "Linus? I didn't know you were on Behemoth."
Linus: "I didn't know you were here either. The Adventurer arrived a while ago, followed by the Imperial Knights, and now you. Has something serious happened?"
Aganzo: "I don't know yet. It could be just Vaughn blowing things out of proportion. What are you doing here? Are you playing blacksmith because of what happened a long time ago? Well, I'm really in no position to judge you. But really, why are you here?"
Linus: "If I start talking about myself, we'll end up staying up all night, drinking. I came here because of Cinda. I've been learning smithing from him. The Great Metastasis made him think. I guess he was worried that he had no one to pass down his skill. He asked if I wanted to be his apprentice. I've decided to become a blacksmith, and I'm lucky to have such a great teacher. He told me not to call him Master, though. Anyway, he wanted me to come here, so I followed him. I also wanted to see some minerals unique to this place."
Aganzo: "I see."
Linus: "Enough about me. How have you been? The Magathas are the only source of news from Arad, and they don't come here often."
Aganzo: "Things are not good in Arad."
Linus: "...I see."
Aganzo: "Linus, I don't know how valuable those unique minerals are, but don't you want to return to Arad?"
Linus: "This is not a bad place to live. It's filled with mysterious minerals and the scenery changes every minute. And I like listening to the GBL doctrines. They teach me new things."
Aganzo: "Linus, you've changed a lot."
Linus: "I have. Since the Great Metastasis."
Linus: "I'm just worried that you're dwelling on the past."
Aganzo: "You're not the first one to tell me that."
Linus: "And I won't be the last."
Aganzo: "I have nothing to say about that."
Linus: "I see."
Aganzo: "I'd better leave. I have someone waiting for me."
Linus: "All right. How long are you going to be here? When you're done with your business, you should come by. I've got some good liquor that I'd love to share with you and your friends."
Aganzo: "I will."
Siran: "Are you done talking? Who's this? A friend? Don't worry. I have poor hearing. I couldn't hear what you were talking about. Anyway, what is he doing here?"
Aganzo: "He's a blacksmith. What do you think he's doing?"
Siran: "Don't snap at me. Why are you angrier now that you've met an old friend? I don't understand you."
Aganzo: "Sometimes it's hard to accept that your friend has changed and there's nothing I can do about it."
Siran: "I've never seen you so worried about someone else. He must be so important to you."
Aganzo: "We've been through a lot together. ...I don't know why I'm telling you this. Let's go. Vaughn is waiting."
Siran: "All right. You can tell me more over a drink later. He looks like he likes drinking, too. Didn't he offer you some good liquor by chance?"
Aganzo: "Are you sure you didn't hear us?"
Talking about Kartel
Talking about Kartel: Chapter 1
Book: "The Kartel we know now is different from the Kartel when it was first formed. Back then, the Kartel was just a ragtag bunch of hotheads looking for trouble. They indulged in excessive drinking and violence, a deadly combination that always led to drunken shootouts. It's been only ten years since the word Kartel was recognized as the name for these outlaws, but the history of the Kartel dates back further.
Some twenty years ago, two young men, Enzo Sipo and Sandstorm Varracht, led Edon's Brotherhood together. They were the most famous gunslingers of the Lawless District, and because they kept the streets peaceful, the residents didn't mind having them around. Of course, they were ruthless to their enemies, and this gentlemanly yet cold-hearted killer image that they established was attractive to friend and foe alike.
But it wasn't just their charisma as individuals that inspired the organization of the Kartel. All outlaws live by their own rules and refused to be tied down by the constraints of society. They often exist in small groups, but they can never make an army that requires myriad rules for its management. How did these outlaws who are individualists to the core gather forces and grow so big as a group? How did they turn themselves into a well-organized army? To understand them, we first have to think about the deep-seated sense of inferiority and anger within the people of Wespeace, also known as the Lawless District.
The Lawless District is a barren land once used as a prisoner camp. For a hundred years, the descendants of the prisoners were forced to remain in the land by the government. When the residents were finally freed from the sins of their fathers and allowed to move anywhere they wanted, outside society refused to take them in. In the eyes of the society, they remained synonymous with failure.
That's why the story of Brigadier General Jackter Elrox, born in the Lawless District and rising through the ranks in the Empyrean Royal army after he moved to the Imperial Capital, drew so much attention. Regarding the most successful case of Archpriest Beldron's recruitment out of the Lawless District, Elrox said this in an interview: "...There are people who crossed the sea, but when their accent and mannerism give them away, the discrimination begins and they became more miserable than they were when they left the Lawless District. They return, and their stories discourage the rest from getting out to the larger world."
That became an endless cycle, and the residents of the Lawless District developed a yearning and resentment toward the society outside their world. The government initiated policies to embrace the residents, but they were still in its infancy. The residents of the Lawless District drank and fought to temporarily forget their anger and frustration. After days and years of meaningless destruction and hopelessness, a question came to their minds all of a sudden: "Why does it have to be us?"
That was a valid question on their end, but it was the prelude to disaster for us."
Talking about Kartel: Chapter 2
Book: "Now, let's move our focus back to Edon's Brotherhood. Twenty years ago, the Kartel didn't exist. Instead, a myriad of big and small gangs fought and killed each other in turf wars. No one dared united them into one group.
Meanwhile, the question that crossed someone's mind became a movement and spread throughout the entire district. Some were tired of endless violence. Some wanted to grow in power. Some just wanted a reason to fight. Everyone had a different goal, but they rose in arms together. It was a chaotic time. Intense battles were fought everywhere in the district. Those who couldn't fight crossed the sea because being alive and discriminated was better than being dead, but they weren't many.
Everyone in the district, regardless of their gender and age, had deep-seated anger that they exploded at each other. Edon's Brotherhood had been absorbing weaker, smaller organizations that failed to survive the competition. Brigadier General reminisced about those times, shared the following.
"While other gangs and organizations advocated great causes, Edon's Brotherhood carried the banner for romance. It was a smart strategy. It helped them evade persecution by the Wespeace Army that regarded Edon's Brotherhood as a group of posers. Outlaws, tired of the great causes of other organizations, sought refuge in Edon's Brotherhood because it let them be the carefree outlaws they were. Also, gangs that were too weak to survive the competition wanted to ally with Edon's Brotherhood. Edon's Brotherhood continued to grow, and by the time other organizations realized the threat that it posed, it was too late."
The leader Sipo was a great tactician. Varracht, who claimed to be the second-in-command, was high-handed, but had charismatic leadership. These two worked together for a long time. In the beginning, Sipo and Varracht wanted the same thing: a romantic, carefree life. But as their organization grew, their goals had to change, and with the absorption of Rangelus's Guerillas, Sipo began entertaining the idea of dominating the whole country. Rangelus, leader of the Guerillas, became Sipo's right-hand man, promptly pushing aside Varracht, a romantist to the core, and Sipo let that happen. He abandoned his friend of ten years. Varracht continued to support Sipo and tried to turn Edon's Brotherhood back to what it used to be, but he couldn't stop the change of the tide. In the end, he left the organization by himself."
Talking about Kartel: Chapter 3
Book: "To prevent your confusion, I avoided using the word, Kartel. Kartel is a variation of cartel whose dictionary definition is "a written agreement between belligerent groups." Edon's Brotherhood led by Sipo has formed an outlaw cartel with various other organizations. After Varracht's withdrawal, Edon's Brotherhood expanded rapidly, until there was no other cartel left standing in the Lawless District. Ironically, the end of Varracht's involvement in Edon's Brotherhood, which he created with Sipo, marked the beginning of the Kartel.
For the next ten years, the Kartel has transformed from a gang of outlaws into a well-trained army. equipped with advanced military technology. Of course, the Kartel cannot compete with Empyrean's scientific advancement led by the Seven Shards or with the time-tested structure and strategic strength of the Empyrean Royal Army, but nevertheless the outlaw army has continued to grow and already has a number of victories against us under its belt.
Some intellectuals have voiced their concerns about the Kartel, but a majority of the general populace is being more optimistic, believing that the Kartel will die out naturally once it runs out of resources. Such belief has a point, given the disadvantageous environment of the Lawless District. Also it doesn't bode well for the Kartel that its growing violence has caused it to fall out of favor with the residents of the district. Now, can we really count on the Lawless District's "self-purification ability?"
Doctor Gizel Logan, Empyrean's greatest scientist and a member of the Seven Shards, has visited the Lawless District several times for his research on the Galaha Desert. His answer to my question about the Kartel's longevity was:
"It's true the Kartel has great influence over Wespeace Island, but the locals said it'd been suffering from internal disputes and it's clearly evident, even to a stranger like me. I don't doubt the scarcity of supplies is a major issue. Belonging to an organization means you have to follow rules whether you like it or not, but outlaws don't have the discipline or want to live by other people's rules. The Kartel will never last long."
Brigadier General Elrox, with whom I've had multiple interviews in preparation for this book, has a different opinion.
"The Kartels have survived the harsh conditions of the Lawless District. They're as resilient as they're vengeful. All of them are angry at the social structure of Empyrean, and their aggression has been further aggravated by the rules set down by their organization. But Sipo is good at distracting his soldiers from directing their anger at him. Once he conquers Wespeace, he'll point his gun at the outside world. And there will be blood. We need to prepare for that time."
It wouldn't be the first time the Lawless District revolted against the rest of society, but all its attempts at rebellion were frustrated more quickly than they started because of its perpetual lack of supplies. The optimistic point of view on the Kartel is valid, but I have to agree with the pessimists that the Kartel is growing too quickly. Maybe I'm worry too much, but I'm a firm believer that prevention is better than cure. Maybe it's time we take the threat of the Kartel seriously."
Young Imperial Knight
Young Imperial Knight: Chapter 1
Book: "Vaughn Walshuted, having defeated the evil monster Sirocco that terrorized all of Arad, just returned home and was bombarded with attention. The people of the Empire praised and blessed the young Blade Master who accomplished something that all the others couldn't. Women threw flower petals at the boy hero, and men applauded as he passed by. Children followed Vaughn in procession, shouting excitedly. The sounds of trumpets and shouts echoed in the air. Vaughn, dazed from all the attention, entered the palace and knelt before the emperor."
Vaughn: "Vaughn Walshuted reporting his return, Your Majesty."
Emperor Leon: "Welcome back, and congratulations on your great accomplishment. You're young, but so strong. Even the most skilled court mage lost his life to that heinous monster Sirocco."
Vaughn: "I couldn't have done it alone. If it weren't for the other Blade Masters who were there with me, I would also been killed."
Book: "Vaughn speaks in a firm, clear tone. He could've taken the credit to himself, but he didn't forget to mention the other Blade Masters. The emperor smiled."
Emperor Leon: "You're humble. But today's your day. You can enjoy the compliments you deserve. You're a proud knight of the Empire."
Vaughn: "Pardon? Um, I'm not a knight."
Book: "Vaughn lowers his head, worried the emperor might get upset at his pointing the mistake. The emperor's smile widens."
Emperor Leon: "You are now. As of this moment, you will serve me and your country as a knight. Come closer and kneel."
Book: "Vaughn lifts his head, surprised. He couldn't take the knight training. He was a great swordsman, but he didn't have the backing to get him into the knight apprentice program. But he doesn't have hang-ups about it. He's content practicing his swordsmanship on his own, and he doesn't need the knight title to prove himself. He's already a Blade Master and that's enough for him. Well, that's more than enough, actually, when it comes to swordsmanship. But if the emperor wants to knight him, he's all for it."
Emperor Leon: "Vaughn Walshuted, do you swear that you will observe chivalry, follow justice, and protect your country and people against any and all threats?"
Vaughn: "I do."
Emperor Leon: "Vaughn Walshuted, I hereby pronounce that you're an honorable knight of the De Los Empire. Do you promise conspicuous gallantry and selfless dedication to your duty to your country?"
Vaughn: "I do."
Emperor Leon: "Vaughn Walshuted, do you swear your fealty to me, Leon Heinrich, the First Knight and the legitimate ruler of the De Los Empire?"
Vaughn: "I do."
Emperor Leon: "Your loyalty will be rewarded with my trust, and your betrayal with my wrath. Your pledge to me will remain effective until the day you die, and only then you'll be freed from your responsibility. Now lift your head and rise. You're now a knight and baron of the De Los Empire."
Book: "The entire Court stirs. The courtiers gape at the emperor, unable to believe what he just has announced. The emperor doesn't even bat an eye. He's just knighted and baronized someone who is only good at swinging a sword."
Schuman: "(Has His Majesty gone insane? I thought Vaughn would only be made baron. He can't knight and baronize a goon with the Ghost Arm!)"
Book: "Even Vaughn is stunned by the emperor's announcement. The only other person who remains calm is Conrad of House Krueger, a prestigious family of warriors."
Conrad: "(A baron and knight. The emperor can be mischievous if he wants to be, but he's just made a lot of people angry. Still, Walshuted can hold his own. He's better than any of those corrupt knights.)"
Book: "Krueger is the only person who welcomes Vaughn's unexpected knighthood. Vaughn, unaware of the quick, furtive exchanges of gazes behind his back, swears his fealty to the emperor in a firm voice."
Vaughn: "Thank you, Your Majesty. I'm now yours to command."
Young Imperial Knight: Chapter 2
Vaughn: "Emily! Emily!"
Book: "As soon as he left the Court, Vaughn ran to a quiet garden where a girl was waiting for him. It was difficult to get through so many people that wanted to see the great hero from close range, but he plowed through with determination to see his girl Emily, whom he thought about every day during his long journey. She was waiting for him in their special place. She turned as he approached, calling her name. She was startled at Vaughn's unkempt appearance (from the people grabbing at his hair and clothes as he passed by), but the surprise was quickly replaced with a big, beautiful smile, as she ran to her lover, her skirt bustling and fluttering behind her. Vaughn picked her up and spun with her in his arm. Emily tightened her arms around his neck."
Emily: "Vaughn, you're back! Oh, Vaughn!"
Vaughn: "Yes, I am! I came to see you as soon as I left the palace. Ah, Emily! Something great happened today! Guess what I am now."
Emily: "You've been knighted, haven't you? *Shriek* Oh, I'm so happy for you! You're so great!"
Book: "Vaughn put Emily down. Emily continues to chatter excitedly, but Vaughn looks disappointed."
Vaughn: "What? Who told you? Gah, I wanted to be the first one to tell you that."
Emily: "Everyone was talking about it. Even Father said you were good enough to be knighted. So did Uncle Conrad!"
Vaughn: "Sir Conrad von Krueger?"
Emily: "Yes. Uncle Conrad said you'd be made viscount, too. This is great! Now Mother can't object to our marriage anymore!"
Book: "Looking down at Emily in his arms, Vaughn grins."
Vaughn: "Viscount? I'm a baron now. A baron!"
Emily: "...Really? Really?! Baron Walshuted! That sounds perfect!"
Book: "Unable to contain her happiness, Emily starts jumping with her hands around his arm. Vaughn also jumps, laughing. It seems even the sun is congratulating these two lovers. It takes a while for the couple of young lovers to calm down, but they keep their hands linked together as they walk to a tree and sit under the shade."
Emily: "I was worried."
Book: "Stroking Vaughn's hand, Emily says in a quiet voice. After her fiance left her, determined to defeat the monster, she often stayed up at night, praying for his safety. Feeling a rush of guilt and gratefulness, Vaughn impulsively kisses her on the cheek. Emily blushes and pushes off from Vaughn's embrace."
Emily: "Wh-why did you do that? Someone could've seen us. You fool!"
Vaughn: "Why not? We're engaged. Ah, I can't wait to marry you!"
Book: "Emily, her face red from embarrassment, tries to cover his mouth with her hand, but she's not strong enough to stop the excited boy."
Emily: "Stop it! Someone could hear you!"
Vaughn: "I want to marry you!"
Vaughn: "...Oh. I'm sorry. I'll keep my mouth shut. I'm just so happy. Please forgive me."
Book: "Vaughn grovels. This lovely girl can be scary when she's angry."
Emily: "Keep doing that, and I won't see you for a month."
Vaughn: "All right, I'll stop."
Book: "Vaughn looks crestfallen. Emily glares at him for a second, and then bursts into laughter as she holds his arm and rests her head on his shoulder."
Emily: "By the way, how was that monster? I heard it killed a lot of people. Was it so strong?"
Vaughn: "It was. I almost died trying to kill it."
Emily: "You fool, I told you not to go."
Vaughn: "I know, I know. But I've learned a lot and seen a lot. That Apostle had incredible powers. If we can understand what it's capable of, it'll help our country immensely."
Emily: "You said it was a scary monster."
Vaughn: It was as powerful as it was scary. Its influence on people's minds was so great that even the most powerful court mage couldn't resist it. Now, think of it this way. If we can employ its power to our advantage, our country will become stronger than anyone else's. No enemy will dare threaten our country, and we'll have the power to stop dragons and other monsters with the least amount of effort."
Emily: "But the powers of monsters are evil."
Vaughn: "No, monsters are evil. Their powers can be used for good purposes at the hands of the right people, just like swords."
Emily: "I still think that's a dangerous idea. You already have the Ghost Arm to deal with. Let other people handle things like that. If you get hurt... Oh, I think I'm going to cry again."
Book: "Emily's eyes get misty. Panicked, Vaughn waves his hands and fidgets on his seat."
Vaughn: "Please don't. I don't know what to do when you cry."
Book: "Emily wipes off the tears and tries to get her mind off the worries that never seem disappear. She looks up at Vaughn pleadingly."
Emily: "Then stop making me worried, okay?"
Vaughn: "Okay, I will."
Book: "Vaughn nods reluctantly."
Young Imperial Knight: Chapter 3
Book: "It's a sunny day in spring. The breeze is warm and the air is redolent of flowers. The fields are green and the sky is blue. People are enjoying a beautiful day everywhere except in the small city: thick plumes of acrid smoke are rising from somewhere there."
Vaughn: "Emily! Emily!"
Garrison Soldier: "You can't go in there! You're going to die!"
Vaughn: "Get off me, damn it! My fiancee is inside there!"
Garrison Soldier: "Firefighting Mages are on their way. Just... Ugh!"
Book: "Vaughn shakes off the garrison soldiers and rushes into the mansion. He pushes in through the crowd of coughing and running people. He doesn't see the familiar chestnut brown hair of his fiancee. Vaughn runs this way and that way, not caring if his clothes catch fire or get sooty.
Before their wedding, Emily decided to go on a vacation to a friend's summerhouse. Emily wanted to introduce Vaughn to her friends, so Vaughn came on horseback as soon as he finished his training. On his way to this place, he was worried about embarrassing his fiancee. He didn't have to. Emily and her friends were trapped in fire. Vaughn has a reputation for cool-headedness among his peers and seniors in the Blade Master community, but when he heard Emily was still inside the burning house, he froze, his mind blank.
He frantically searches inside the mansion until he feels dizzy from the lack of oxygen and almost falls. Vaughn shakes his head, draws his sword, and shouts as he swings his word in the air. Vaughn shakes his head, draws his sword, and shouts as he swings his sword in the air. The wind from his sword pushes back the smoke and breaks the window. Vaughn leans over the window and breathes deeply, trying to lower his heart rate."
Vaughn: "(I was told Emily was resting alone after lunch. But where? The maid said she wasn't in her room. Then...)"
Book: "Vaughn thinks about the structure of the mansion he observed from the outside, Emily's personality, and what he heard from the rescuers. He reenters the hallway and starts running. He can run without breathing for a while. This fire is nothing compared to the vicious curse that filled the Screaming Cavern. Vaughn, having reached the other end of the mansion, breaks the heavy door of the study."
Book: "The smell is so strong that it instantly paralyzes Vaughn's nose. It's the odor of blood. Trying hard to ignore the foreboding that crawls up his spine, he searches around the study that is as big as a library. Vaughn remembered that it was books that connected him and Emily in the first place. He's hoping his guesswork will pay off."
Book: "He finds Emily behind a big hardwood bookshelf. She is not alone. All the bookshelves behind the bookshelf are on the floor, all their books scattered on and around them, indicating a struggle. And two men with their faces covered in black cloth masks are lying on the floor, dead. Emily is lying unconscious behind a garrison soldier who is bleeding from his stomach. Quickly Vaughn holds up Emily. Her pale arm drops as if it belongs to a lifeless marionette. Vaughn gently shakes her, but her body remains limp. She drops a small silver knife from her hand.
Vaughn checks the garrison soldier. Emily is breathing, though shallowly, but this guy is really dead. He must have found Emily and died protecting her from the assassins. Vaughn closes the garrison soldier's eyes and prays for him. He then holds Emily in his arms and throws himself through the window out to the other side, barely avoiding the blazing fire that has reached the inside the study."
Young Imperial Knight: Chapter 4
Book: "A few years went by. Vaughn has just returned from the northern expedition. He's on his knees, reporting to the emperor."
Vaughn: "I have subjugated the barbarians in the north as you commanded. They'll never dare intrude our territory. Their leader..."
Emperor Leon: "How many soldiers did we lose this time?"
Vaughn: "A hundred twenty-six, Your Majesty, but the enemy lost--"
Emperor Leon: "That's too many, don't you think?"
Book: "The emperor's interrogation was disconcerting. There were fatalities, sure, but the number wasn't so high compared to the enemy's. But the emperor is right. A loss is a loss. Vaughn lowers his head and answers."
Vaughn: "Yes, Your Majesty."
Emperor Leon: "That's not good. If we keep losing so many soldiers each time we fight, then one day we'll run out of soldiers to protect our empire. My queen can't sleep at night, worried that one day the barbarians would come and ax her to death."
Vaughn: "That will never happen, Your Majesty. I'll do everything--"
Emperor Leon: "All right, I'll trust you. For now. I've got no one else to trust, anyway."
Book: "Emperor Leon interrupt Vaughn midsentence. Stumped, Vaughn further lowers his head."
Emperor Leon: "Ah, that reminds me... How's your wife? Oh, wait. I forgot you're not married yet. I'm sorry."
Vaughn: "Not at all, Your Majesty. Thank you for your concern. She's doing better now. Thank you for your concern. At least now she knows who I am and can eat by herself."
Book: "Emily survived the fire, all thanks to the garrison soldier who died fighting for her, but she bled a lot. The arsonists were some adventurers who were not happy with the Empire. When Emily woke up form a days-long coma, she screamed at every man she saw and threw things at them. Vaughn wasn't an exception. Emily's parents suggested breaking off the engagement for Vaughn's sake, but Vaughn didn't want any other woman as his wife.
But he couldn't marry her. She'd been kept inside her house to protect the honor of her family. And the Empire's marital law requires both parties to enter into marriage voluntarily. Emily barely remembered her name, let alone the concept of marriage."
Emperor Leon: "I'm sorry that I had to drag you away from your ill fiancee because of national matters."
Vaughn: "Not at all. It's my duty to protect you and my country against any threats. You've put so much trust in me, and I'd like to repay you every chance I get."
Emperor Leon: "Thank you for saying that, but don't you want to have children and settle down now? You've been engaged for a long time. Most people at your age have a couple of children already."
Vaughn: "...I don't have a family plan, just yet."
Emperor Leon: "I see. Well, that's great!"
Book: "Vaughn lifts his head, confused, Does the emperor want to select a wife for him? The emperor is one of a few people who knows the situation Vaughn is in with Emily, and he's an emperor. He can select wives for his knights if he wants to. The emperor's face, which has been stiff and emotionless until this point, relaxes into a smile, as if he's figured out what kind of thought was crossing Vaughn's mind."
Emperor Leon: "Don't get me wrong. I said great because, since you don't have a child, you wouldn't feel sorry for young prisoners. I hate people who can't separate business from emotions."
Vaughn: "...Oh. Well, you don't have to worry about that, Your Majesty. Prisoners are prisoners. Even if they're young, they know what they've done is wrong and they must be punished. I don't sympathize with criminals."
Emperor Leon: "That's why I know you. You're clear-headed. If others were as competent as you were, I wouldn't had to worry about losing a couple of hundred of soldiers. Ah, that is meant to be a compliment. So, let's talk about your precious Emily. Even if she hasn't recovered from the mental trauma, you need to marry. You were about to marry before the accident."
Vaughn: "I'd love to, but Emily is not in a condition to have a wedding. Our marital law requires both parties to enter into marriage voluntarily. I'm not sure if she understands the concept of marriage."
Emperor Leon: "Hm, how many people know about her condition?"
Vaughn: "A handful except the house staff."
Emperor Leon: "You know, you've been engaged for a long time. People are getting curious as to why the great hero Vaughn Walshuted is not marrying already. They think there's a problem."
Vaughn: "Emily is the only one I want to marry. And... If I break off the engagement, even Sir Krueger won't be able to stop Emily's family from abjuring her."
Book: "The only reason Emily has been allowed to stay in the main family mansion is because she's Baron Walshuted's fiancee. If it weren't for her uncle, Sir Conrad Krueger, Emily's parents would've abjured her before she woke up form the coma. As things stand, Vaughn is the only one in the world who can keep her safe."
Emperor Leon: "So I was thinking, maybe I should make you exempt from the law. Your fiancee wanted to marry you before the tragedy happened, didn't she?"
Book: "Vaughn perks up at the emperor's offer. He'll be able to marry Emily and bring her to his home. The only obstacle was the law, and the emperor is willing to bend the rules for him."
Emperor Leon: "You'll still want to keep her from the public eye, so a big wedding is out of the question. Have a small wedding in a remote city and come back. Leave Emily there until she fully recovers. People will want to see your wife, but you can use me and your mission to avoid telling them the truth. *Chuckle*"
Vaughn: "I can't... I can't thank you enough, Your Majesty."
Book: "Vaughn is choked up with emotion. Pleased, the emperor looks down at him."
Emperor Leon: "You're welcome, and I really have to send you afar on a mission. It's something only you can do."
Vaughn: "What is it? I'll do anything you ask."
Emperor Leon: "I'll take you up on that. Now, let's go back to the subject. In order to secure the safety of the Empire, we need strong soldiers. So I've built a research center to strengthen our soldiers. It's hidden in some remote place. I didn't want the nobility to make a fuss about it. Do you know what that means?"
Vaughn: "You want me to watch the perimeters. As you wish. When should I leave for the research center?"
Emperor Leon: "I'll let you know later. You need to focus on your wedding for now. Don't get your hopes up about marriage, though. Once you're tied down... Ah, you can figure out the rest on your own. *Chuckle* You must be exhausted. You can leave. I'll keep you updated on the details of your mission."
Vaughn: "Thank you. I'll leave now."
Book: "Vaughn leaves the audience chamber. The emperor waves his hand, dismissing the other courtiers. After everyone else leaves, the emperor remains on his throne and thinks for a moment. He then speaks."
Emperor Leon: "Can you believe that man? He's still in love with a damaged woman. Stubborn fools like that are only good as cannon fodder. Why do you want him so badly?"
???: "He knows about the powers of the Apostles better than anyone else in your country, and he admires them. He'll do what you want."
Book: "A woman appears from behind the curtains behind the throne. She's clad in a black robe that casts a dark shadow over her face. She exudes magical power that is incomparable, even to that of the greatest court mage in the empire's history. The emperor turns his head toward the woman."
Emperor Leon: "Is he also part of the prophecy?"
???: "Yes. Everything is for the safety of the Empire and Arad. Vaughn will be your greatest supporter once he learns about your great cause."
Emperor Leon: "He doesn't know what is necessary for the world to develop. Do you think we can change him?"
???: "I do. Everything is as prophesied."
Book: "The woman in the black robe smiles at Emperor Leon as if to reassure him."
Forest of No Return
Forest of No Return
Book: The beautiful forest Grand Flores was inhabited by multiple races. Among them are the Elves, a race of superior intelligence that had existed since the beginning of Arad, and the Taus, a race of giants who were as strong as they were innocent and wise.
All the habitants of the forest coexisted peacefully, protecting the Great Pentacles created by Myre. Sometimes they had uninvited guests, but their forest made sure that those guests left without causing too much trouble.
It was a peaceful day as usual. Umtara, the king of the Taus and all beasts, was searching for someone.
Umtara: "There you are. I've been looking for you."
Book: Umtara was looking for an elder of the Elves. The Elves could sense each other through their magical connection, but Umtara, incapable of magic like everyone else in his tribe, had to do legwork to find her.
Seria: "Good day, Umtara."
Elder: "Long time, no see, Beast Tau King. What can I do for you?"
Umtara: "Um, I came to consult you about some concern of mine."
Book: The Tau usually speaks his mind without preamble, but today there's hesitation in his voice. The tactful Elf girl who is with the Elder quickly stands up.
Seria: "Oh, I almost forgot that I have books to return to the library. Excuse me, Elder. Beast King."
Umtara: "I'm sorry I interrupted you."
Seria: "Not at all. Enjoy your conversation."
Book: The elder waits until the girl is so far that her keen Elven ears cannot pick up on their conversation.
Elder: "So, what is it?"
Umtara: "I've been seeing more Human visitors these days. I don't mind the adventurer and traveler kinds, but the people I've been seeing are clad in iron and that doesn't bode well with me."
Elder: "I'm aware of that problem. I'll assign more archers and guard the forest."
Umtara: "Please do. That'll make our job easy. By the way, do you have any idea what those Humans are?"
Book: Umtara sounds wary. He doesn't know why, but his instincts is warning him of a looming danger.
Elder: "Soldiers. I think they're here to do some kind of research."
Umtara: "They'd better not touch the Great Pentacles."
Book: The Great Pentacles around the Grand Flores forest were made by Myre, a Human mage whose selfless act had gained him eternal respect from the Elves and other habitants of the forest.
The Elves have been pushed out of their lands by the greedy Humans, and the Great Pentacles are the only thing that keep them safe from the outside world.
Grand Flores isn't the home only for the Elves. This vast ancient forest houses myriad animals and trees, and therefore is a crucial part of the ecosystem of Arad.
Elder: "I don't think they would, unless they're suicidal. There will be worldwide consequences if Myre's pentacles are destroyed."
Umtara: "I'd really like to believe that, but the Humans always have been looking for opportunities to destroy and plunder our forest. Some of them might try to do anything to satisfy their greed, the hell with the consequences."
Elder: "That's why we've stayed vigilant. This forest has us Elves and you Taus, the strongest of us all. Nothing bad can happen to it as long as we work together to protect it."
Umtara: "I hope you're right. I just can't seem to shake off this bad feeling... Ah, forget it. I'm only embarrassing myself by talking about intuitions in front of an Elf."
Book: Umtara stands up and hefts his greatax, which takes several Humans or even Elves to lift it off the ground. The Elf Elder admires his incredible strength.
Umtara: "Then I'd better go look around the edges of the forest, in case there are more suspicious people than those soldiers."
Elder: "Then you'll be gone for a while. I'll pray for your safe return."
Umtara: "Thank you. See you later."
Book: The Elf Elder watches Umtara's hulking frame disappear into the trees. This quiet forest is thickly wooded with trees that are bigger and taller than the king of the Taus. Whatever the Humans are up to, they cannot destroy this forest as long as the Elves and the Taus exist.
The Humans, however, are the most unpredictable sort. Even with the Elf Elder's wisdom and experience, it's almost impossible to predict what they will do.
Young Elves think they must go to war with Humans, but they're too inexperienced and proud to see the fact that the Humans are the mainstream of Arad. They can overwhelm the Elves by sheer force of numbers.
The Elf Elder hopes that the Humans will be able to have a better outlook, that they will become at least smart enough to see the future more clearly, like Myre who sacrificed himself for the peaceful coexistence of all races.
This Grand Flores must be protected not just for its habitants, but also for Arad. The Elf Elder hates to even imagine what will follow the destruction of the Great Pentacles.
Forests, once destroyed, can never be restored to their original beauty. The Elf Elder prays that Umtara's worries will not come true for the sake of Grand Flores and the rest of Arad.
Black Crusade Report
Black Crusade Report
This Document is confidential and accessible only by those approved by the faithful representative of Remidia Kathedra. No part of this Document may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means. Failure to comply with these standards is grounds for expulsion and punishment, and violators may be detained for an indefinite period. The following content must be preserved without omission or modification. Annex notes may be added if they can be supported by credible proof.
The Anti-Ozma War, also known as the Black Crusade, was fought by the holy priests with Michael of the Holy Eye in the lead, to save every life in Arad from Ozma. The war cost numerous lives, but it was meaningful in that it helped clear the world of the Apostle and his army of Imposters.
The Priests who were instrumental in the victory of the war were made saints. Their leader Michael of the Holy Eye was made a patron god so he could inspire bravery in the followers of God, but the decision was only made to prevent confusion among his followers. (Refer to Material 1.)
Dear God, please guide us! Michael, believed to be one of the most faithful, wisest servants of God, was in fact a demon who led many of his followers astray. Michael was a follower of Satan. He used God's name to deceive and corrupt us. The wisdom that we thought he had was mere trickery he used to entrap us. We must pray and repent. We must be ashamed of our foolishness and praise God's mysterious ways. No one knew the truth until that evil Michael revealed his true colors, and when he did, all of us were devastated. (Refer to Material 2 and 3 for the proof of Michael's identity as an Apostle.)
Magar Rosenbach, the Archpriest of the Priest Order and a great Crusader, had to officiate Michael's inauguration ceremony with grim determination. (For the reason of his uncancelled inauguration, refer to Material 4.) Magar Rosenbach, however, decided that this report be opened to public when Arad is finally at peace, so that the truth can be told to His followers with minimal damage. Everyone who reads this report, regardless of era, must do their best to honor Magar Rosenbach's wish.
Book: "The golden planet Taybers was filled with vivid colors. Jewels of all imaginable colors were as common as rocks, and trees with giant rocks in the center of their trunks traveled through the sky, following their sun. There was no concept of season, and day and night were one. Everyone, when they were tired, slept in the shades cast by the trees in the sky, and their wings tucked under them, and ate ripe fruits when they were hungry. Children flapped their dainty wings and played in the golden water of the tranquil sea. Young men raced against each other against the strong winds for the biggest tree that they could find. But none of them were as fast as the Highest One.
The Highest One was the greatest of all. He soared through the sky despite the chill that froze everything, and fell asleep listening to the lullaby the stars sang for him. Countless men fell in their attempts to follow him. More men were blinded by the sharp feathers of the Highest One. He could see the farthest. He could see the future beyond the starlight. He drank the water of the Light Spring. He glowed more brightly than the golden planet itself. People called him the Sun in the Sea. Everyone loved his song and his beautiful wings.
Then purple rain began, tainting the beautiful world with its ugly color. The rain tasted bitter and it turned every fruit it touched bitter and sour. Angry waves rolled up from the golden sea. The yellow plains cracked and cleaved. Something was wrong. Lupsong, Mother of Blue Fire, summoned the Highest One and asked him to investigate the strange phenomenon. The Highest One flapped his wings and reached the red sky at once. He discovered a fragment of some sort that flickered ominously among the stars. That strange fragment was heading in the direction of his home. Without hesitation, he headed for the fragment.
At first he thought it was a meteor that needed to be destroyed. But the closer he got, the more convinced he was that something sentient inside the dark, nasty fragment was looking at him. He changed his course and returned to Lupsong.
"That dark fragment is dangerous. I'll go get rid of it. If I don't return, then I want everyone to evacuate."
Lupsong tried to stop him, but he was adamant. Everyone wept as they bid farewell to the brave man. A day went by. Two days went by. Three, and four days went by. On the fifth day, Lupsong unfolded her wings.
"Children, let's fly. Isis-frey, who can soar higher, see farther, and is more powerful than anyone else, is in need of our help."
But he was too far away. Slenikron, who had the strongest beak of all, was so tired from the long flight that he lost all his feathers. (Reaver Rossol picked up the feathers and used them to adorn his tail. It's believed Rossol keeps himself inside the Cave of the Night in fear of Slenikron.) Those who flew too high had their wings pierced by icicles that were sharper than a razor, or they fell, their wings too frozen to move. Red Leg Arketo-frekses even had his wings tear from his shoulders and fell into the sea. Arketo-frekses hit his head as he landed on a small rocky island on the sea, but he survived. The imprint of his head still remains on the island to this day.
Lupsong, having realized that she could not get to Isis-frey, let along help him, wept and sang her grief. Everyone else joined her and watched the dark fragment that was visible behind the clouds. Suddenly the air in front of us rumbled, and then the fragment disappeared as if sucked into the rumbling air. Soon the purple rain stopped, but Isis-frey never returned. The people of Taybers are still waiting for the return of the Highest One, believing he will repel the sadness that fills the world and bring back happiness with him.
Book (Woo): "It's been a fortnight since I brought him with me. I'm glad he's making a fast recovery, but the grim expression on his face worries me. I get anxious whenever he strokes his sword yearningly.
A part of me is happy to be so close to him, although I'm too shy to look him in the eye. I'm also so sad and depressed that I can't focus on anything. I've been making many mistakes, but if the Master has taken notice, he hasn't told me. I've pretended that I don't care if he cares or not.
Every time I catch him looking up at the sky with longing in his eyes, my heart sinks. I hate the couple of birds chirping happily outside the window. He said he'd lost his appetite, so I cooked porridge for him. He barely had a few spoonful of his food. He said he thought he forgot someone and he couldn't remember who it is.
My lips quivered, and he demanded I tell him what I know. That made me angry: it was for the first time after a while that he spoke to me. I told him that he forgot someone who died. He wanted to know the name. I lied that I didn't know, but I could never forget the name of the woman I envied so much.
If I could move the sun from the western mountain to the east sea, would my wish be granted? If my mother gave birth to me earlier, would I have been able to be with him? I'm helpless when it comes to my feelings for him. I felt as if I'd been abandoned. The moon shone brightly as if mocking of me. If I was abandoned, I could've cried myself to sleep. The night was long and sleepless.
My room was cold and dark, so I lit a candle. The candlelight swayed and flickered in the wind, breaking my already frayed mind, bringing tears to my eyes. I told the Master that I would leave as soon as the sun comes up. The heartless man curtly bid me farewell, and then asked me the same question that I'd dreaded.
I hesitated and fidgeted. His penetrating eyes and silenced urged me to answer his question. I realized I was a wildflower that could never take root in a rock who is the Master. Resigned, I told him the name. His face instantly brightened, cutting me deep. If she was so precious to him, he shouldn't have forgotten her in the first place.
He thanked me and walked away, leaving me with his shadow that grew as he went. I turned and walked the other way, trying to smile away my sadness."
Book: "At the end of the world, the Great Will birthed myriad gods. They were one, infinite, omnipotent, and ubiquitous. One day, one of them lamented,
"We are omnipotent, but no one worships us. We can go anywhere we want, but we have no place to call home." And the other gods lamented with him. Another opened his mouth and spoke,
"We could create something that will worship us and build a place that we can call home."
And the other gods jumped for joy. The latter speaker had two faces behind which he hid luminous dew. In a saddened tone, he added,
"But creation can only follow destruction. Some of us have to sacrifice themselves for the creation of our desires, but who will want to return to the embrace of the Great Will?"
The other gods sighed in tandem and discussed between them. Soon ten gods were selected and stepped forward. The god who was hiding dew lifted his eyes and examined the ten gods. One was afraid of death. One breathed fire. One moved without stepping on the ground. One had steel soaked in blood. One had hundreds of faces, but none of them were visible. One had risen from his grave. One could hold thousands of weapons at once. One bled dirty blood. One was as tall as the world. One touched the earth without a word. One could see the truth. And last but not least, one knew all secrets.
The god with two faces shouted,
"Your sacrifice will be appreciated. Let it be known we will not kill each other, and only a blade that is forged in hardship can penetrate our hearts and send us back to the Great Will. Your sacrifice is true. Your extinction is another's creation. From you, our followers and our home will be created.""
Becky: ""Since ancient times, there was a castle as tall as the sky standing on one end of Pandemonium. The name of the castle was unknown. No one who entered the castle came out alive to tell about it. Because the castle was so tall, people thought it was connected to Heaven where the gods resided. Strong and brave warriors who wanted to meet the gods entered the castle.
The castle was infested with strong monsters. The warriors from the outside were strong, but the monsters were stronger. All of the warriors were killed. When no one returned from the castle, people believed those warriors had reached the gods. So warriors continued to enter the castle. One day, a crazy dragon appeared in front of some warriors who were about to enter the castle. 'I'm the owner of this castle! Only I can get to the gods!.' The dragon was big and immensely strong. The warriors couldn't dare challenge it. Snickering, the dragon entered into the castle.
The monsters attacked the dragon, but it wiped the floor with them. It defeated the giants, and even the old clown. The dragon was invincible. The dragon reached the highest floor of the castle, which no one else had ever seen. There, it found a beautiful blonde girl. The girl was super strong.
The dragon lunged at her, but she swatted it aside like a fly. She swung her fist, and the dragon was flattened. The dragon was a wimp compared to the girl. She's still living in the top floor of the castle. She's the strongest girl in the world, so she'll never let anyone else take her castle. But one day she'll destroy the castle and come out for world domination. Her name is Becky."
The end. Yay, finally my novel is completed! I'm going to make many copies of it and spread it all over the world. Then one day... Tee hee!"
Gold Clown: "What are you doing?"
Gold Clown: "Oh, geez! Did you really have to yell? Iron Aim could've activated the alarm system!"
Becky: "Did you hear me reading? How much did you hear? And why were you eavesdropping.?"
Gold Clown: "Starting from the dragon entering the castle. What kind of novel is that?"
Becky: "When I go outside, no one will know who I am. I'm thinking if the people of the outside world get to know my story, they'll worship me like a goddess. Then I can eat delicious things, wear pretty clothes... Tee hee!"
Gold Clown: "You're strangely ambitious for a homunculus. Maybe Luke shouldn't have modified you so perfectly. How many times do I have to tell you that you cannot get out of here? If you're so bored, I can teach you some magic, but I doubt homunculi have the intelligence to learn magic. Hah hah hah!"
Becky: "...Red light!"
Gold Clown: "Pardon?"
Becky: "I said red light and you moved. Now Golc, you're the tagger. Catch me if you can!"
Gold Clown: "Wha... What?! Golc? Me? I like that... Ah, stop!"
Book: Becky runs from Gold Clown, out of the watchtower, through the hallways in the Castle of the Dead. Puncher, startled by the sudden whizzing noise, punches Bubble Buffer on the back of its head. Bubble Buffer shoots clear bubbles in retaliation, taking down three Lampers in its way. Web Spider leaps as Becky approaches, to catch her, but she crouches and rolls past the spider, breaking an innocent Blue Lamper's bulb along the way. Becky mocks Web Spider and continues to run.
But she can't go too far. As soon as she reaches the Salamander's Furnace, an alarm goes off, alerting the activation of Iron Aim. That means Iron Aim has entered the combat mode. Becky likes to play, but not with something so dangerous. She tries to use the emergency stairs to return secretly from everyone else, but Giant Argos catches her.
Becky: "Get off! Get off me!"
Giant Argos: "Becky, loud. Becky, causes trouble again. Becky, I throws!"
Gold Clown: "Arrgh, Argos!"
Giant Argos: "My name is no Arrgh, Argos!"
Gold Clown: "Argos, put the kid down! Without her, Luke's dimensional navigation system cannot function!"
Giant Argos: "Grr... You. Make noise again..."
Becky: "All right, all right! Let me go! Blood is rushing to my head! I'm going to puke!"
Book: Argos huffs and drops Becky. Becky hits the ground headfirst, and groans. Argos ignores her and returns to his post.
Becky: "Sheesh, it hurts, you stone head!"
Gold Clown: "I thought you could kill a dragon."
Becky: "Hmph, Argos would've been dead if I had my sling!"
Gold Clown: "If you say so. *Chuckle*"
Becky: "Don't laugh! I may be a homunculus, but I can be strong, too! Hmph! When I become strong, I'll spin you in the air so hard that you'll puke!"
Gold Clown: "Well, just be patient. The King of Hebron will recover soon, and you may be able to get out of the castle. The world will be his."
Becky: "I'd rather it be mine, but... Well, I owe that geezer, Luke, so... Ouch! What was that for?"
Gold Clown: "You can do anything you want, but don't call Luke a geezer."
Becky: "All right, all right! I'll call him just Luke. Satisfied now? Sheesh. Sigh, I'm tired of hide-and-seek. I'm really bored. If I can't go outside, then I want someone to come in."
Interlude: Noblesky 1
Erje: What was I supposed to do?
The bridge of Empyrean's warship Noblesky was no longer bustling with the soldiers who fought Anton. In the middle of the empty space stood Princess Erje, her eyes reflecting the blue ocean outside the ship.
Erje: What was I supposed to do? Should I have set the Lawless District ablaze like they insisted? Should I have let them accuse the Commander of something he didn't do? Should I have left Empyrean for Pandemonium, like the Imperial Princess? Should I have gone against what my heart was telling me?
The Colonel, who had stood by the Commander all this time, was quiet. He'd been in and out of consciousness since he arrived, and everyone was worried about him. Looking at his pale face, Erje was worried and relieved at the same time. Having him there, she felt as if the Commander was with her. But Jackter was far away, locked up in Ghent. She should've let the old general retire like he wanted. He wouldn't have been disgraced like this, then.
Erje: What is it?
Woon: I'm sorry. I wasn't sure if I was expected to answer.
Erje: You are.
Suddenly, Woon knelt on the ground, supporting his body with his hands. Given his sickly condition, he shouldn't be standing, let alone kneeling on the cold floor, but he didn't care.
Woon: The nobles abandoned their duty to this country and ran from the war. They're not in a position to demand anything, and yet they act this way because you didn't punish them for their cowardice. Like criminals who have managed to evade prosecution, these nobles think that they're untouchable. And the people are angry with you because you gave them a free pass. That was what triggered all this.
Erje pursed her lips. She wanted comfort and got reprimanded instead. Most times she welcomed criticism, but not when she felt cornered and so desperate. Jackter once told her the same thing, that she must arrest all the runaway nobles. She refused. Then, she let herself be captured by the Kartels. She felt responsible for their abandonment... She regretted it now, and hearing her mistake through someone else's mouth brought tears to her eyes. When she spoke, she couldn't help but sound sullen.
Erje: They have so much influence on this country's economy. At that time, most of my soldiers were wounded and out of commission. I caused my country grief by letting myself be captured by the enemy. I felt that I must forgive their misjudgment and give them a chance to redeem themselves.
Woon: But what about Nevillo Jurgen? He couldn't fulfill his ambition because he was born a man, so he attacked the chink in your armor more persistently than the others. Why do you think he remained in Ghent when his peers ran? Why do you think he volunteered to lead the expedition of Zelba? One who has power never leaves his office for long, lest someone else might seize the opportunity to replace him. He wanted to set himself apart from you and the other nobles so badly. He would have risen against you if the nobility didn't beat him to it. And once this is over, the general populace will side with him, and that would further weaken your authority.
Erje: The nobility is trying to protect their own interests. Don't you think it won't be able to check Jurgen?
Woon: The people remember who fought for Ghent in your absence. They don't care about the rest of the nobility. The nobles abandoned them when they needed them the most.
Erje: Then they surely remember Commander Eagle Eye fought for their country. Why don't they accept him?
Woon: I can't tell you, but you know he and I are both from the Lawless District.
Erje closed her mouth. She already knew the answer before she asked the question. It was all but her fault that the citizens of the Imperial Capital and the nobility became so wary of Jackter. The old prejudices against the Lawless District still held strong, and her implicit trust in the most successful man out of the district was a threat to the rest of Empyrean. Woon just couldn't bring himself to point that out.
Erje: But what about the false accusation of the Commander? I spent a lot of time trying to stop the nobility from spreading rumors about him.
Woon: If I were you, I would've tried him in the court of law to openly discuss the possible transgressions that others say he has committed. The nobles blamed him for leaving Ghent, letting you be abducted by the enemy, and going on a wild goose chase after Anton. But Anton had to be stopped, and the commander succeeded. The way he went about doing it may have been flawed, but that wasn't serious enough to cost his life. I would have publicly forgiven him and emphasized how he defeated Anton and made it possible to defeat Luke. According to our Constitution, he can't be tried twice for the same crime. The trial would've permanently put the matter to rest. You succeeded in emphasizing his exploits, but you failed to use them to justify his mistakes. As a result, more people turned against him. And now he's in their hands, at their mercy.
Woon coughed frequently, but he didn't let that interfere with his speech. At the beginning of their conversation, Erje all but resented this young colonel, but now she couldn't help but admire him. He was still in his twenties, and he was already being mentioned as the next brigadier general, and that wasn't just because of his military exploits. But Erje felt resistance to his suggestion. His solution would have brought disgrace -- albeit temporarily -- to the great hero.
Erje: We're not the Kartels. We don't repay honor with disgrace. Our soldiers fight to protect their country and honor. Trying such a great general for something he didn't do is not what we stand for. You have a point, but I would never bring disgrace to the Commander's name.
The Princess's tone was not as harsh as it was before, but still, there was underlying resistance. If Jurgen was here, he would've called out on her ethical hypersensitivity.
Erje: But now I understand why the Commander thinks so highly of you. I considered appointing you an envoy purely based on others' opinions. I'm glad I didn't, and I wish we had this conversation a long time ago. Colonel, Jurgen wants to change Empyrean. But he's involved with the Empire. The moment Empyrean falls into his hands, our country will never be free from the Empire's influence. We must stop Jurgen. To do that, we must return to Ghent. What do you recommend for me to do.
Woon: I'd recommend that you call for reinforcements and leave the rest of the planning to others who are more experienced than I am. I'm not good enough to assist you in this matter.
Erje: Do you mean, call Wespeace and Etten for reinforcements? They've been ignoring this situation for so long. I doubt they'll respond to my summons.
Erje gripped her skirt, but she couldn't stop the tears from falling. The sense of betrayal and sadness that she tried so hard to bury had resurfaced. She would have broken down in tears if Woon tried to console her. But he didn't. He kept his head lowered and gave her time to regain composure.
Erje: ...We don't have time to wait for them. Jurgen isn't the only problem. The nobility will kill the Commander. The Adventurer risked his life to save me. I have people waiting for me in Ghent, and I can't disappoint them. We must move now.
Woon: I'm not equipped to make that happen. Order me to assassinate Jurgen instead. I can get it done, even if it kills me.
Erje: I can't lose you. And I'm not going to order you to assassinate anyone. We're different from the nobility. I won't do things that I'll later feel ashamed to admit to my people. They've been through enough as it is. I can bring him to justice without shedding blood. He's committed treason -- that's enough to keep him locked away for the rest of his life. There has to be another way. We're just unable to figure it out at this moment.
Erje was adamant. Prostrate, Woon looked up at the Princess, and let his head fall, feeling helpless.
Erje: I'm sorry if I'm being unreasonable, but we can't respond to violence with violence. That'll only further push the people away from us. I have a plan. I haven't had a chance to achieve it because of the nobility, but once we get over this, I'll see that it comes true. That plan will help me and the Commander make Empyrean the world that we've been dreaming of. In that world, the nobility won't be as unruly as they are now. The Commander thinks of you as his own. If anything, you should do this for him.
Woon: ...I will, Your Highness.
Woon answered after a moment of hesitation. Erje thanked him and left the bridge. The sudden wind from the sea startled her, but she quickly straightened her shoulders and opened her eyes wide. She wasn't the princess who shook and wept a moment ago. Her innate intelligence and will, which helped her endure when she was at the mercy of the Kartels, gave her new strength.
Erje: (...I may be cornered, but I'm not dead. So long as I'm alive, I must fulfill my obligations to my country and my people. I'm not going to fail the Commander and the Adventurer.)
Erje was no longer looking out at the sea. In the meantime, Woon was panicking. He was tormented by self-condemnation, a fear of failing again, and self-doubt that kept whispering to him that things would've been better if Jackter was there instead of him. Left alone on the bridge, Woon remained kneeling on the floor, unfeeling of the cold that slowly seeped from the floor into his body and unaware of time passing, until his men came to find him.
Interlude: Noblesky 2
The Princess was nowhere to be seen in the Palace of Ghent. Nevillo Jurgen walked into the old palace, barely suppressing his rage at having to see parts of it destroyed here and there and even burned to the ground in some places.
He dismissed all the others around him, entered the princess's study, and called for his daughter Marianne. It was a long while before his daughter showed up with Coast Guard Captain Hiram in tow, and Nevillo was so angry that it was all he could do not to strangle his daughter.
Nevillo Jurgen: How can you be so stupid? How could you do this to your own father?
Marianne: ...Father. You came earlier than I thought.
Nevillo Jurgen: Is that all you have to say?
Marianne: I don't understand why you're so upset. I've captured Jackter the Eagle Eye and banished the princess for you.
Sometimes you're so upset that you're at a loss for words. That was the case with Nevillo. He was next to none when it comes to speech and persuasion, but his daughter's cheeky remark left him feeling as if he was choking.
Hiram, who stood behind Marianne and had observed the father and daughter's conversation, broke into a grin.
Hiram Klauf: Don't be so upset. Your daughter led this operation with flying colors. She's no longer the child you have to take care of. That should make you happy.
Nevillo Jurgen: Captain Hiram, what are you up to? Why did you encourage her to do this? We're no better than the Kartels now.
Hiram Klauf: No, we're not. We can't be more alike. Besides, it was you who said we shouldn't wait for an opportunity to present itself--we should create it on our own. The Coast Guard has been waiting all this time.
Hiram sounded nonchalant, but he couldn't hide the scowl on his face. Fortunately, Jurgen was too angry to notice.
Nevillo Jurgen: But the timing was wrong! And the people saw you chase away the helpless princess! Now they think the nobility and the Empire are no better than the Kartels! Sympathy is a great weapon. Why do you think the people still love that incompetent princess? The time that the people bowed to their ruler out of fear has gone. They still love her because they're a sentimental lot. Public sentiment is what kept her in power so far. The princess hasn't done anything good for the country, but she didn't do anything wrong either. The people know that. They feel sorry that she became a leader so young. They already think of her like their own child, and we drove her away like the Kartels did!
Jurgen was now screaming, but that didn't faze Marianne. Her gaze on him remained cool and sarcastic.
Marianne: What do you mean, "we?" You never took part in this.
Nevillo Jurgen: What are you talking about?
Marianne: Where were you when we drove away the princess and captured the Eagle Eye? Oh, that's right. You were in Zelba. It was Sir Verta, The Coast Guard, and I who saw this through. You have no right to be angry with me.
Nevillo felt as if someone poured cold water on his head. This wasn't the obedient Marianne he knew. He felt as if he didn't know the woman who stood proudly in front of him.
Marianne ignored the pang of guilt she felt and lifted her chin defiantly. She still respected her father, but she was tired of being called a little girl who hid behind her father.
Marianne: We couldn't have done this if it weren't for you. I know that and I'll make it up to you, but I can't live in your shadow forever.
Nevillo Jurgen: ...Everything I did, I did it for you. You could've waited a little longer. You could've done all this without blood on your hands.
Marianne: You're only thinking I was impatient because you're a man. But I'm a woman, and in my opinion, the timing couldn't have been more perfect. The Eagle Eye will pay for costing this country so dearly, and the princess will soon follow suit.
Nevillo, who felt helpless until that moment, lifted his eyebrows and glared.
Nevillo Jurgen: This is why I kept you from the Council of the Nobility for as long as I did. You're going to punish the princess, but for what? Were you listening to me when I said the princess did nothing wrong? You could say anything you want, and the people will still think she's innocent. Incompetent, yes, but not guilty. Incompetence in a leader is a reason for impeachment. But everyone knows the princess was too young and unprepared when she ascended to the throne. Why do you think I attacked Eagle Eye? Insisted that soldiers like him are a threat? It's because I didn't have a choice. He was her wings and her shield. When you catch a bird, you break its wings first. I went for the Eagle Eye for that exact reason. I was going to separate him from her, so I could pressure her into handing the Imperial Seal over to me. I was going to send her away to a small temple in a remote village, so she would be a constant object of ridicule until she dies. Well, thanks to you, she's become the fragile little princess again.
Marianne: Are you saying we shouldn't kill her? But she won't stop fighting as long as she lives.
Marianne argued. Nevillo felt wearier talking to her than fighting his enemies.
Nevillo Jurgen: What you really have to worry about is Anton. Anton is strong enough to decimate our army and destroy the Power Station. All the princess has is sympathy from the people. If the Eagle Eye didn't go after Anton when he did...
Nevillo stopped himself from firing off. He remembered Hiram was still with them.
Hiram Klauf was the captain of the Coast Guard and Herman's student. Nevillo knew he wasn't the friendly man he wanted others to believe.
He needed him. He was the sharpest weapon he had in his arsenal. But he couldn't be trusted; having faith in a bomb's destructive power is one thing. Thinking it wouldn't kill you is another.
Nevillo breathed deeply. On the inside he was a whirlwind of emotions, but his face remained a mask of calmness, a self-defense mechanism he developed during his years at the Court.
Behind this mask he quickly calculated his odds, and then spoke in a brittle tone that worked like a charm on his daughter every time.
Nevillo Jurgen: Go. Give away food to people and make them happy. Convince Zeldine Schneider and Marlene Kitzka that you mean the princess no harm. Don't hurt either one of them. They're your ticket out of this.
His tone worked on his daughter just as he expected. His resignation unsettled her more than his anger ever could.
Marianne was already agitated by the Adventurer's intervention that ruined her complete victory. She couldn't leave the study faster to do what her father said.
Hiram Klauf: You should be proud of her. She could've made a great soldier if she had a mind.
Nevillo swore inside.
He cut down the military enlistment budget, claiming that they didn't need many soldiers, that soldiers were no better than the Kartels except that they had the license to kill, that civilians could help in states of emergency. It was clear what Hiram just said wasn't meant to be a compliment.
Nevillo Jurgen: You instigated my daughter and other impatient nobles into creating this mess. What the hell are you up to?
Hiram Klauf: I told you before. I hate the Eagle Eye. When we were dealing with Anton, he only pretended to trust me. He was ready to throw me out the first chance he got. I only beat him to it. I'm just trying to survive here, just like you. That's good enough reason, isn't it?
Nevillo Jurgen: You should've been more patient. I would've given you the chance.
Hiram Klauf: Please, I knew your plan. You were going to dispose me and the rest of the Coast Guard once our usefulness ran out. I couldn't let you do that.
Nevillo Jurgen: ...
Hiram Klauf: Anyway, I see that we've come to agree that the princess should live. At least for a while. The Adventurer, hero of Empyrean, is on her side. That's been disconcerting to both the nobility and the general populace. At least the Eagle Eye gets to die. You were thinking about sending him into exile instead, weren't you?
Hiram sounded cynical and frustrated at the same time. Jurgen hid the surprise in his eyes by pretending to adjust his glasses.
Nevillo Jurgen: ...We might need him in the future.
Hiram Klauf: Pick your side. You either get rid of him or keep him alive. But now that things have changed, trying to save the old eagle will only get you in trouble. I'd better leave now. We couldn't have done this if it weren't for you, true, but also there are things we have to clean up because of you. We'll settle our debts later.
Hiram left, leaving Nevillo alone in the princess's study. He stood up from the chair and paced about the room.
Nevillo Jurgen: (Hiram needs to die. I picked him because I thought he was useful, but who knew he was a loose cannon? He has to die. He has to. The princess is not a problem. Neither is the nobility, so long as it refuses to accept the fact that times have changed. The problem is that rabid dog.)
Nevillo was so angry that he was gritting his teeth, but he still took care not to speak his mind, lest someone might be hiding somewhere, spying on him.
But his head was filled with all kind of bloody images at that moment. For a while, he thought about possible solutions to his problem. Then, when he finally found just the right one, he smiled.
Interlude: Noblesky 3
Navarre: What should we do?
Biyan: What should we do what?
Navarre: Should we go rescue the Princess, or stay put?
They were sitting in a corner of the training ground at the Etten Headquarters. Navarre stopped drinking his soda and asked nonchalantly. Biyan didn't feel as relaxed as her companion might have been.
She almost strained her neck, trying to make out if her superior was drunk or something from drinking too much soda. For a moment, she even wondered if she was talking to a different person.
Navarre turned his eyes away from the flock of clouds in the sky and smiled at Biyan, whose face was closer now that before.
Biyan: You smell like you've been drenched in soda. You're Lieutenant Navarre, alright. How many cans have you had today?
Navarre: No one gets drunk by drinking soda. By the way, can you really smell soda from me?
Biyan: Yes, because you drink it so much. Keep drinking like that, and you'll lose all your teeth before you're forty.
Navarre: ...Don't treat me like an old man. My teeth are fine.
Biyan: I was just saying because you asked a strange question. You've always been fighting for the Princess.
Biyan closed the book she was reading. The afternoon was quiet. No one had passed them by. In the official Army setting, they were superior and subordinate, but when they were alone, they talked like when they were just two mercenaries.
Navarre: That's because she symbolizes the resistance against the Kartels, but now... I'm tired.
Navarre: I don't mind fighting, but I don't want to fight forever. We just got out of a war with the Kartels, and then a revolt broke out in Ghent. Will there ever be peace?
Biyan: The princess had nothing to do with the Kartels though.
Navarre: In a way, she does. The Kartels rose from the ashes after the priestess who preceded her died. Anton is as unstoppable as a natural disaster, but everything else happened after was because of our leaders.
Navarre started to ponder, and Biyan took the soda bottle out of his hand and took a long drink.
The soda tasted warm and flat, rather than sweet and cool as she imagined. She grimaced, and Navarre gloated.
Navarre: This is why I can't emphasize the importance of prompt supplies enough. Whoever has better logistics wins the battle, always. And we're not them.
Biyan: You and your soda and your logistics. But why? What did the Commander say that got you in this weird mood?
Biyan was talking about the commander of the Etten Headquarters. Navarre furrowed his brow.
Navarre: She thinks maybe we should go independent this time.
Navarre: The electricity that feeds all of Empyrean is produced in this place. Its infrastructure is not completely restored, but now that the engineers are back, it's producing enough electricity for Etten. We don't need help from the Seven Shards anymore.
Navarre: The Coast Guard has gone to Ghent. The nobility will be too busy dealing with the situation in the capital city for a while. The same with the Imperial Army. She thinks we could use electricity as leverage to demand our rights.
Navarre: In other words, our lady commander wants to become the governor of Etten.
He said it so casually that it took a while for Biyan to feel the impact of his statement. Wide-eyed, she repeated the word governor for a while. Suddenly, she started hitting Navarre on his shoulder.
Biyan: Are you crazy? Why didn't you say anything to stop her? This is why people call you the nepotism hire!
Navarre was quiet for a moment. She was telling the truth, and he had nothing to say to that.
Navarre: She's just daydreaming about it for now. I didn't want to goad her, so I just played along. Ouch--stop hitting me!
Navarre: Etten is at an important turning point. We have to decide if we look out for Number One, or stay loyal to the rest of the state.
Biyan: Don't get any stupid ideas! This country is smaller than you think. If something goes wrong, we'll die--oh.
Navarre: Yes, things have changed. We can always run to Underworld, and we don't have to go through Ghent to get there. Underworld is much bigger than Empyrean. It'll be harder to find us there.
Biyan: So what seems to be the biggest challenge to this country is the greatest opportunity to the ambitious.
Navarre: So I asked you, whether we should go rescue the Princess or stay put.
Navarre: We could choose the Princess and stay loyal to her, but we'd get stuck. The others might refuse to join us, and we could even get caught by the Commander before we leave Etten.
Navarre: Or we could stay here and keep the aspiring governor in check. But that would leave the Princess helpless.
Navarre: We could stay here and still express our support for her, but then the Commander wouldn't leave us alone. We'd better keep our mouths shut, or she'll make us go to the end of the land and force us to dive into the ocean.
Navarre: She's a smart lady. She's plotting treason, and she's not leaving anything that could incriminate her. What I told you about her wanting to become governor didn't come out of her mouth. Say that to anyone else, and I'll be court-martialed for defaming my superior.
Navarre grumbled, but Biyan was relieved to know he was still the same man he was when they first met as mercenaries.
But Navarre was just one man, and there is only so much one man can do.
Biyan: Many Imperial soldiers remain in the Imperial Capital. Our soldiers there are inferior in number. Our weapons are old to begin with, but they're practically all worn out after fighting the Kartels. Cut off the electricity, and things will get worse. Restoring the Princess to the throne wouldn't be the biggest problem then.
Biyan: What about the Lawless District--I mean the Wespeace Headquarters? It hasn't moved either. What's their stand?
Navarre: We should leave it out of the discussion. It has enough on its plate--Kartel remnants, the militia, anarchists, oh, and Neil. Thank the gods, I wasn't sent there.
Biyan: I wish Commander Eagle Eye were here... The nobility ruined his reputation, but he's the greatest man I know.
Navarre: Those who believed the rumors that the nobility spread about him are also at fault, even if they didn't actively participate.
Biyan: I don't know how things went so wrong...
Navarre felt the sadness in her tone, but he didn't know what to say.
How did things go so wrong? Some say things went downhill the moment Anton showed up. Some blame the reappearance of Underworld.
Navarre agrees with neither. He patted Biyan's lowered head. The sun finally came out from behind the thick blanket of clouds, but it was about to disappear below the horizon.
Navarre: The Adventurer opened a path to Underworld. He came with the Imperial Army, and took care of the Kartels and Anton. And even Luke. Maybe all this is just part of the change that the Adventurer has set in motion.
Navarre: Whether it's a new change or simply a side effect is yet to be seen, but he didn't cause this conflict we're having. It's always been inside us.
Navarre: I don't know what's going to happen, but I'm glad I have choices.
Biyan: What do you choose?
Navarre: I'm staying. You?
Biyan: Do you have to ask? You know I won't go anywhere without you.
Biyan smiled gently behind the curtain of black hair that fell to the side of her face.