Translator:EndlessFantasy TranslationEditor:EndlessFantasy Translation
At that moment, it was as though someone stopped time in its tracks, not letting it move forward in this dim, remote and dilapidated corner of Shield District.
The three of them stared at one another in silence. The stagnant atmosphere caused those unspeakable emotions in their hearts to become even stronger inside them.
“What is going on?” Thales said loudly and questioned the other two in disbelief. “Hicks, and you… What in the world are both of you talking about? Both of you know my mother?”
The prince’s face was filled with surprise under the moonlight. He stared straight at the veteran who was still trembling slightly, and at the old man who supported himself with his walking stick with his head lowered in dejection.
“When? How did you know her? Where?”
But they did not answer.
Hicks sighed and said slowly, “How about that, Drew? Is this reason enough?”
The trembles in Gleeward’s breathing finally subsided.
It was as though a long time had passed.
The wheelchair moved a little in the darkness, crushing a few stone pieces that were scattered on the ground. The person on the wheelchair exhaled arduously and raised his head laboriously under the illumination of the dim moonlight.
“You can’t.” The veteran’s tone was stiff and his gaze wavered between Thales and Hicks. “You can’t… You can’t do this”
Once he said this, Gleeward’s wavering expression froze for a moment. But Hicks simply continued to stare at him gently.
“It’s been some twenty years. I am Gleeward. I have my own territories, brothers, and everything in Dragon Clouds City. They’re all counting on me, you can’t”
With a contorted expression, Gleeward clutched his wheelchair tightly, as if he was about to go to war in the next moment. “You can’t appear all of a sudden like this, and, and bring up a shitty bunch of ‘touching incidents from the past’ in hopes that I would do this and that for you. Those are all in the past, Old Crow!”
Gleeward waved his hands about. His words seemed to be flowing out of his mouth with increasing fluency. “So what if he’s her son? I don’t care”
Hicks replied Gleeward with his indifferent, firm, and old voice, “It’s because those are all in the past, Drew. That is why they exist forever.”
Gleeward’s words died in his throat, as if he was choking on something.
“Since we can’t change them…” Hicks’ gaze was still. “We can’t run away from them either.”
Gleeward trembled a little while he remained seated in his wheelchair. The veteran slowly loosened his grip on the wheelchair. He clasped his hands tightly together and gritted his teeth. “Shut up.”
Thales looked at Hicks, then at Gleeward. He was extremely confused.
‘Some twenty years ago? The past? Both of them know TherrenGirana, my mysterious mother.’
He was all ears. He wanted to know as much as possible.
“No one wants to recall that nightmare of the past, whether it was before or after that fateful year.”
Old Hicks sighed softly. “But at least think about it. Who was the one who brought people like us who were struggling and at the end of our lives out of Caligri? Who brought you out of Caligri while you were like a walking corpse after you gave up on living?
“…Who brought you out of that dark, bottomless cage and out of that traumatizing and bloody arena?”
“Caligri” This name seemed to make Gleeward recall something. He closed his eyes, and his chest began to heave up and down.
Questions rose in Thales’ mind. ‘Caligri? What kind of place is that?’
“Yes, my dear Drew.” Hicks looked at Gleeward, who was lost in his memories and whose facial expression kept changing. “This is a debt we owe.”
Gleeward opened his eyes and inhaled deeply with great effort. “Shut up.”
Thales could not hold it in anymore.
“Pardon me for interrupting you, but” He took a step forward. There was a hint of anxiety in his voice. “Who is my mother”
Gleeward suddenly raised his head. “I said, shut up!”
The veteran clenched his teeth hard and widened his one eye. He stared at the teenage prince with a twisted face as if he was being tortured by something.
His hackles were raised and he forcibly suppressed his emotions. When he saw Gleeward’s current state, Thales swallowed his words.
“There are some things that-cough, cough you can neither deny nor forget.” Hicks coughed, a little in pain. But he waved, refusing Thales’ assistance. “Isn’t it?”
The Old Crow took a short break before saying slowly. He yelled out a nickname that Thales was extremely unfamiliar with,
“Bloody Thorn Lizard”
*Thud!* Gleeward punched his wheelchair.
“Shut up, shut up!”
The veteran leaned his body forward. He glowered fiercely and intently at Hicks.
“F*ck you, old man. You’re never f*cking allowed to call me that! You know that I f*cking hate it the most!” His voice was filled with hostility and pain, and he struck the wheelchair with his palm, making a loud noise. “You know that!”
Thales stared at the way Gleeward acted in surprise. The prince was growing more puzzled about their relationship with Therren. At the same time, he was filled with worry regarding where he would be going next.
However, Hicks only supported himself on his walking stick and stood indifferently. “Then send this child away, Drew. This is all that your past asks of you.
“Then you can come back and be the local tyrant with a clear conscience. You can show off your position as the chief of a gang.”
Gleeward leaned back against the backrest of his wheelchair and let out a few violent pants, as if the conversation just now drained half of his strength.
A gust of wind blew past them. The huge temperature difference between day and night in Dragon Clouds City made Thales shiver. He could not help but let out a soft sneeze.
“No.” Gleeward’s pained but firm voice echoed beside his ears. “Don’t even think about it. I’m not taking this deal.”
Thales was shocked. ‘What?’
“Just like that? Not taking it?” Hicks’ gaze was cold behind his monocle. He said in a steady tone, “Is this your answer, Gleeward?”
Gleeward’s chest rose in a very prominent manner. “Just like that!”
The veteran on the wheelchair raised his head again, gritted his teeth, and said furiously, “Both of you Leave.” He hissed a few words through gritted teeth, “Get out of my territory! Immediately! Now!”
His boorish voice rose in that remote corner and echoed in the ruins.
Hicks said nothing, he only looked quietly at Gleeward.
Gleeward whose face was contorted, and the desolate looking Hicks, stared at each other while they were illuminated by the moonlight. Their stances in this situation were completely different from each other’s.
The atmosphere made Thales feel rather unsettled and it temporarily overrode his curiosity towards his mysterious mother. He also felt even more lost as to how he was supposed to escape.
After a long while, Hicks sighed slowly. “I see”
The veteran pinned his gaze on the old man in front of him. His eyes carried plenty of emotions that Thales could not understand.
“Chi-chief?” Kevin had approached with the carriage from a distance away when he heard Gleeward’s roar. He asked in a rather nervous manner, “What happened?”
Gleeward panted a few times and regulated his breathing. He then composed himself.
“Kevin,” the veteran said stiffly to the young man on the horse carriage. “Send them back to wherever they came from.”
Kevin was stunned for a second. “Huh?”
Gleeward closed his eyes before he immediately opened them again. “F*ck it.”
The Chief of Shield District gritted his teeth in a tense manner and punched his wheelchair. “Ask. Them. To. Leave. Immediately!”
His voice was boorish, and his tone was cold.
Thales sighed internally.
Kevin was extremely shocked by the way his chief was acting. He trembled slightly and then immediately nodded. “Al-alright”
Gleeward snorted coldly. He shot a rude and piercing glance at Hickswho remained silentas though the Old Crow was an absolutely irreconcilable enemy of his.
The next moment, the veteran moved with haste. He pushed his wheelchair in a direction opposite from Hicks.
On the way, he crudely pushed aside a corpse that had blocked his way, and with a complicated expression, he shot a glance at Thales’ direction. But he averted his gaze the instant before he met with the latter’s eyes.
“F*ck you, Old Crow.”
Then, amid the sounds of wheels grating against the ground, Gleeward and his wheelchair disappeared into the night. He left without delay while having his wheelchair run over the countless rubble along the way.
The sound of the wheelchair slowly faded. Thales stared quietly in the direction Gleeward went. He felt confused and disappointed at the same time.
“Erm, sir, and” After making sure that Gleeward had gone far away, Kevin rubbed his hands, feeling that he had just been given a very troublesome task. He glanced awkwardly at the Old Crow and Thales. He recalled his chief’s attitude towards them and considered the type of tone he should use as he pointed at the horse carriage.
“Maybe we should”
Hicks knocked his walking stick on the ground and flashed a friendly smile.
“Just a moment, young man. Please wait for me in front, we need to say goodbye.”
Kevin skeptically drove the horse carriage away in the face of Hicks’ polite and friendly smile. Thales gazed intently at his teacher, a little dejected.
“You saw it, Thales.” Hicks turned and looked apologetically at Thales. “I’m very sorry. I’m afraid that I can’t help you. And you can’t follow me back to Axe District like this, it’s too dangerous.”
Thales stared at him quietly. He shook his head and tossed the slight remorse he felt out of his heart. In truth, Thales noticed that he was not as emotional as he had imagined.
The information the other two revealed in their conversation just now had, to a greater extent, overridden his worries regarding his own safety.
‘Therren. This name again…’ When he thought of this, Thales could not help but let out a soft sigh.
“Hicks… Mister Hicks.” The prince inhaled and stared intently at the Old Crow. “Was it really just because of Putray and Gilbert’s recommendation that you were willing to travel a great distance to Eckstedt to become my teacher?”
The Old Crow froze for a moment.
“Who knows?” Hicks reacted very quickly. He chuckled. “Maybe it’s for the great salary they offered?”
“Hicks!” In the end, the prince still could not contain his curiosity. “Don’t you have something to say about my mother?”
Of course, the biggest doubt in his mind was far more than this.
Hicks froze on the spot. Both of them stayed silent for a while.
After a very long time, the old man slowly opened his wrinkly mouth. Hicks said languidly, “Shouldn’t you know better than I about her?”
Thales held his breath. “I I’ve never met her,” he said, a little embarrassed as he recalled the few memories he had that were related to Therren. “I’ve only heard descriptions of her from other people.”
‘Yes,’ Thales thought, ‘And then there are the peculiarities of my body that I was born with.’
In Mindis Hall, the king and Gilbert had told him, with certainty, of this strange name. The Head Ritual Master Liscia, with her fierce voice and a stern expression, had also mentioned her. Even Queen Keya, who became mentally unstable after the Bloody Year, had mentioned her. The Queen of the Sky who descended from the skies with peerless majesty spoke of her as well.
Every bit of information about his mother made him even more confused. ‘Who in the world is TherrenGirana? What kind of person is she?’
“Is that so?” Hicks looked at Thales and sighed softly. “Such a pity.”
Thales shot him a questioning look. “So?”
Hicks stared at Thales for a long time before smiling slightly. “When I was not this old, but still not very young, I went through a rather unlucky period of time”
Hicks sighed with pause as he recalled the past. “What happened was too complicated anyway. In the end, I was robbed of everything I had and sold to the Great Desert as a slave.”
Thales was startled. “The Great Desert?”
Hicks nodded with a smile. “Yes, the place you are about to go to The Great Desert.”
The Old Crow sighed faintly. His gaze shot past Thales, he seemed to be looking somewhere else. “It’s a really big place. There are only three things left in the world over there. You, sand”
The Old Crow narrowed his eyes. “…And more sand.”
Thales could not help but furrow his eyebrows.
“No matter how far you go, how long you walk, and how fast you walk, you will not be able to reach the end. All rules, morals, order, justice, the difference between the strong and the weak, and even time in the world mean nothing there.
“As for slavery.” Hirk slapped the back of his hand and lamented. “Haha, it is hard to imagine that this system, which had disappeared together with the Ancient Empire, still exists in the Great Desert even now.
“Go on and let your imagination run wild with how miserable I was during that time.” Hicks’ gaze was indifferent as he recalled the past, but his tone provided much food for thought.
“We were a group of people who had lost all hope, who threw away all our dignity and lost most of what made us… us. Prisoners of war, criminals, alcoholics, cripples, prostitutes, beggars, lunatics, and exiles. Just like that, like wild beasts and livestock, we were locked in dirty, cruel, despairing, and pain-filled animal cages, and given all sorts of code names as slaves. We endured every imaginable hell and waited for death.”
Thales listened earnestly and suppressed his intention to ask questions. He searched in his mind for information that could be relevant.
Hicks coughed softly. His eyes shone with a strange light. “And there was where I first met your mother, TherrenGirana.”
Hicks’ voice was very soft, as if he was comforting an adorable child. Thales watched him intently and quietly.
The Old Crow said in a sentimental tone, “I still remember Therren’s flaming red, waist-length long hair, her exquisite and bright skin, her beautifully curved lips, and her light gray eyes that were just like yours.”
‘Flaming red, long hair.’ Thales frowned. Throughout these past few years, this was the only description of Therren’s appearance that he had obtained.
“But these are not the most memorable things about her.” Hicks could not help but smile. “Until now, I can’t forget this about Therren: she would look extremely enigmatic and mysterious when she turned her head to look at you, but she gave off a playful and mischievous impression when she grinned or snickered.
“That woman was sometimes quick-witted and passionate like fire. But sometimes, she was sagacious and calm like water.”
Thales stilled for a moment and asked, puzzled, “What?”
“Yes, I know that it is very contradictory.” Hicks seemed to understand the puzzlement in Thales’ mind. He waved and could not help but smile. “But this is how I felt. Madness and rationality coexisted in her unique gray eyes, but they blended together perfectly. She was like one of us, yet at the same time, she was like a higher being compared to us. That was Therren, the enchanting, mysterious and elusive Therren.”
Hicks could not help but shake his head in dejection. “I’ve always been quite confident in my choice of words, but I cannot help but admit that in face of that woman, my words are pitifully meager, without the ability to even begin to describe her.”
Thales was startled. ‘Madness and rationality? Like one of us? But also like a higher being compared to us? What in the world…? Therren is’
The more the Old Crow talked, the more unfocused his gaze became, as though he was looking at a corner that normal people could not see.
“‘The Magical Therren’. This was the nickname the cage masters gave her. She was the only slave who got to retain her name.”
A thought came to Thales’ mind. “Slave?” There was surprise and bewilderment in Thales’ eyes. “Are you saying that my mother was a slave in the desert?”
‘How is that possible?’ Doubt appeared in his mind. ‘According to what the Queen of the Sky said’
“She was.” Hicks raised his voice, as if he did not want Thales to continue down that train of thought.“…Until she proved that she was not.”
‘A slave. The Magical Therren.’
Thales pondered and responded subconsciously, “What do you mean?”
Once he said this, the Old Crow exhaled and paused momentarily. He shut his eyes slowly. A warm smile spread across his face.
“Your mother She was very intelligent and convincing. That woman spent two or three years pulling countless slaves who had lost all hope and who lived like walking corpses out from the abyss, from that hell, from the mire, from despair She gathered all of us.”
Thales listened carefully, sensing Hicks’ countless memories of the past contained within those simple words from the slight rise and fall of the Old Crow’s emotions.
A few seconds later, while lost in his memories, Hicks opened his eyes and heaved a long sigh. He ended his narration with a few words,
“Finally, we found a way to live and escaped.”