Translator:EndlessFantasy TranslationEditor:EndlessFantasy Translation
Dragon Clouds City. ShieldDistrict. Dawn.
The golden morning sun had just dyed the sky red, chasing away the slight bit of cold night air. The dim street brightened gradually.
Some people were finally seen in the seemingly abandoned Shield District. The number of people walking on the streets and passing through the alleys increased.
This street in Shield District was right where the calamities arrived in the past. The houses were scattered, and the terrain spacious and empty. There was practically no shelter, and there were even rumors of ghosts haunting the place during the night.
“Look at the dispirited, careless way they’re conducting themselves.” Gleeward hid behind a low fence, then extended his head to look at a very small patrol outpost in the distance. He stroked his wheelchair in discontentment. “You want to catch the prince like that? Does that dead-face know that his orders are being executed like this?”
A few soldiers from Dragon Clouds City’s patrol squad leaned against the wall of an abandoned house at the center of the street. They yawned, extinguished the fire they lit, and waited for their comrades to arrive so they could change shifts. From time to time, they would glance at the passersby around them. They would even greet acquaintances if they saw them.
“Because this is Shield District. The guards at the outpost leading to the city gates and city gatehouse don’t act like this. They even wish they could search through all the ladies’ cleavages,” said the cleanly dressed, moody seamstress who was also behind the low fence with Gleeward while she chewed on a piece of straw in her mouth.
“Besides, isn’t this a good thing? Makes our plan even easier.” Kurtz crossed her arms very unhappily and turned towards a teenager by her side.
“So, you’re really not considering women’s clothing?”
The face of that handsome teenager clothed in a coarse sackcloth by her side reddened. He shook his head frantically.
“I’ve said it a few hundred times over”
Thales, who sat leaning against the low fence, turned red. “We only have one night. Even if the makeup was done to its best, a lady’s manners, habits, bearings and mentalitythese things are all acquired step-by-step throughout their lives. It’s carved into their bones. How is it possible for me to succeed if I haven’t practiced or have those habits ingrained in me?”
Kurtz put on a disappointed expression. The straw in her mouth rocked up and down.
In the end, under Thales’ vehement protests, the ‘proposal’ in Kurtz’s house the night before regarding him disguising himself as a girl had ended up being ignored.
“How about we think this through again”
Kurtz was apparently unwilling to give up that final bit of hope, even if it was just a few minutes before the operation. She propped herself up with her arms up, just like she did before, and moved her head towards Thales. She looked at Thales with a hopeful look. “My father was a coroner. I grew up among piles of corpses and am an expert at putting on makeup for dead people”
“Stop!” Thales extended a hand resolutely and firmly pushed away the seamstress’ cheek which was about to touch his chest, allowing him to curb her senseless action of scratching his ear with that piece of straw.
“I definitely don’t have a habit of sacrificing myself to satisfy your bad tastes.”
Kurtz stared at the young prince wistfully, yet he still refused to comply to her wishes.
“Besides” The wary Thales ground his teeth in vexation. “Haven’t we tried putting makeup on me yesterday night? It simply won’t work! I couldn’t even look in the mirror! Rather than pretending to be a ‘man lady’ who would have his disguise seen through after he takes just a few steps”
‘Tried putting makeup on’
When he remembered what happened the night before, Gleeward could not help but cough softly. Both he and Kurtz looked in a different direction as if nothing had happened, but their shoulders quivered as if they had great difficulty in resisting their laughter.
Thales, who found it hard to eliminate his rage, was still immersed in his own world. While he was still bothered by the nightmarish experience from the night before, he became even more enraged and embarrassed when he saw the two people’s reactions.
In a foul mood, he yanked on his own hair. “And my hair Look, I just cut it up yesterday into this mess. And what about my voice?”
Thales crossed both his arms over his chest, moved his hips and used the voice of a boy going through puberty and made a few sounds with a falsetto, which really sounded like a drake. “I’m sorry, don’t judge me by my relatively rough voice. It is a sickness that I got when I was mining and younger. I’m actually a girl… What is wrong with you?!”
When he said this, the prince’s expression changed drastically. With indignation burning in him, he glared at the two people beside him with strange expressions.
Gleeward stroked his nose awkwardly. Beside him, Kurtz shook her head faintly and clicked her tongue.
“If someone told you that a man who had never received any training, nor had any daily experiences of being a woman, could disguise himself as a woman so perfectly that no one could see through his disguise, and can even be so beautiful that he charms all those who see him, makes those of the same sex be jealous of him and those of the opposite sex be completely enamored with him, then he must have read too many clich novels about knights, or hasn’t had a girlfriend in a while!” Thales looked furious as he waved his fists vigorously in protest.
Gleeward and Kurtz sagged dispiritedly, one into his wheelchair, and the other against the wall while remaining seated with her legs crossed, leaving only a fuming Thales, still trying to nurse his grievances.
In the distance, a group of ten patrolmen walked slowly towards the patrol group at the inspection outpost, who had been on duty since the night before, to take over morning duty.
Gleeward’s eyes met Kurtz’s and he nodded. The veteran put on a serious expression. “Are our brothers ready?”
“Yes, I called twenty people over. From the blacksmiths to the farmers. They’re all people who can’t leave the city for the time being because of the lockdown.” Kurtz rubbed her hands together with a look that said there was no need for either of them to worry since she was the one handling matters. “There’s no need to be worried. They think that this is a trap to deal with those little bastards from the bazaar.”
“Well, they’re not wrong.” As he thought of the night before, Gleeward huffed through his nose indignantly. “Once we’re done settling this matter, I will”
“Alright, alright. When the time comes, there will be a brawl here.” Kurtz looked at the situation around her and interrupted Gleeward. A rare, cautious look showed up on her face. “We’ll drag that outpost into the brawl as well.”
“Hey, you.” Gleeward motioned to Thales with a jerk of his chin. “We will then go to Black Track while chaos breaks out in this place.”
Thales glanced at the distance, swept his eyes over the outpost which was not very strictly guarded, and nodded.
He suddenly noticed that their destination was right under the cliff in the distancethe Cliff of the Sky.
It was where King Nuven perished.
When he thought of this, Thales’ anger was abruptly extinguished.
“After we’re done sending him away, many people will be locked up.” Kurtz sighed.
“As if they haven’t been locked up before.” Gleeward licked his lips. His eye flashed. “They can use the opportunity to hide from the storm that is to come.”
“I understand.” Kurtz shrugged and shot a glance at Thales. She clicked her tongue in resignation. “What a pity.”
Thales, who felt anxious at heart, glared at her ferociously. He was certain the seamstress was definitely not feeling pity towards the people who were about to be locked up, but was actually feeling pity towards not being able to see ‘Constellation’s male princess’.
Thales cleared his throat and prepared to change the topic. He looked in the direction of the cliff and asked curiously, “What is this Black Track the both of you have been talking about?”
Kurtz snorted lightly. The straw in her mouth turned a full circle. “That’s your only way out of Dragon Clouds City.”
“Why this name?”
Gleeward turned his head to him. “It has been named as such since my grandfather’s generation. He said his grandfather used this name, too. As you can see, one of the entrances to the Black Track is below the Cliff of the Sky. The pathway is complicated and it’s absolutely impossible for someone who is unfamiliar with it to find it.
“We once used it to transport illegal goods in the past, but it’s too narrow and inefficient.”
‘Below the cliff.’ Thales frowned as he stared at that familiar-looking high cliff. His line of sight trailed up the silhouette of the mountain and, just as he expected, he saw Raikaru’s gigantic statue.
‘Six years ago, right there’
“So Black Track is a trail that passes through the inside of the mountain? And it leads outside the city?”
Thales narrowed his eyes as he tried to see the picture clearer. “Is it natural, or cut artificially?”
Kurtz looked at him in disdain. “Perhaps only a great dragon would be able to clear a tunnel that penetrates through the Cliff of the Sky, and leads from within Dragon Clouds City to the area outside.”
Thales clicked his tongue and did not say a word.
“The previous generation held that place in reverence and did not dare to approach rashly.” Kurtz snorted lightly. “They say that it’s considered off-limits in Dragon Clouds City, and it’s the place where the Master of Mountains resides. Not even the nobles know what’s in there.
“But eighteen years ago, the men all followed the king to battle against Constellation. Once it began, they fought for over a year. During that period of time, nobody farmed, hunted, or let their livestock out to graze. Taxes and military donations grew more and more heavier on the people.
“Forget the farmers and hunters. Even the old, the weak, the women, and children were unable to make a living. The winter that year was especially cold. There wasn’t even enough firewood for us. We even had to prioritize supplying firewood to the nobles. Even the gifts from the mountains were not enough.”
Thales became quiet. ‘Eighteen years ago. Going to war against Constellation’
“Gleeward first beat up that disciplinary officer of Shield District who was in cahoots with the nobles and bureaucrats, then put on a disguise to empty out the warehouses of several unethical merchants who had plenty of supplies stored in those places.
“Then, he broke tradition and brought us all into the Black Track. He began transporting prohibited goods and everything you can imagine: Crystal Drops, Eternal Oil, firearms, even marijuana, and all the foodstuff, firewood, and medicine robbed from the supplies that were supposed to be transported to the frontlines.
“It was because of this that the women and children of Shield District and Hammer District could survive through that winter, while plenty of other people from other districts died.”
Kurtz watched the silent Gleeward with a complex expression. “This is the Black Track, and also the story behind why a poor leader of the slums could become rich.”
Thales felt awfully upset at heart. He looked at Gleeward, but the veteran just snorted coldly as if he was very dissatisfied with Kurtz’s words. The prince coughed loudly.
“After you go in, keep a proper hold on your Everlasting Lamp. Watch where you move your feet and be on the lookout for the spots above your head.” Gleeward looked sullen, as though he was recalling something bad from the past. “The passage there is too old. Moreover, six years ago, the calamities and the hydra wrecked massive havoc on the city together. The earth quaked, the mountains shook. More than half of the Black Track has collapsed… I don’t know when the rest will too.”
Thales felt his heart freeze. ‘Calamities. The calamities again.
The three people behind the low fence stayed quiet for a while.
The prince then started speaking resentfully, “The calamities wrought great disaster, haven’t they?”
Gleeward’s grip on his wheelchair tightened.
“Disaster?” Kurtz let out a mocking laugh. “Disaster?! You can take a look at your surroundings”the seamstress’ face turned cold”but even then, you wouldn’t be able to imagine what it looked like that day.”
She kicked away a pebble beside her foot furiously. “Those sons of b*tches.”
Thales lowered his head. He did not look at the rubble and broken pieces of wood, the ruins with layers of dust and garbage accumulated in them, the abandoned buildings, dusty wells, collapsed rotten wood, and the ground that was still cracked.
He could even detect a faint, foul stench still lingering in the air.
‘This is Shield District.’
“I can,” Thales said in a low voice, “I’ve said it before. That year, I was right here, I saw how Shield District was devastated, I also saw the people who died”
Before he could finish, he felt an itch in his ear. Thales was startled. Subconsciously, he turned and moved away from the wall, evading Kurtz who was tickling his auricle with a blade of grass.
“There should be a limit even when you’re bragging.” The seamstress waved the blade of grass at him with an amused grin. “How old were you six years ago?”
Thales was stunned. “I”
“You even ‘saw how Shield District was devastated’?” Kurtz continued in a mocking tone, “Why don’t you just say that back then, it was you who single-handedly, heroically, and fearlessly got rid of the Blood Calamity? Isn’t it more impressive if you brag this way, PRINCE Thales?”
Thales’ face turned pale, then he blushed in embarrassment. “I” Like a deflated balloon, he slipped down and leaned against the low fence. “Never mind.”
At this moment, Gleeward started to speak languidly, “Devastation was never the problem.”
The both of them were stunned and they turned their heads to the veteran.
“What the calamities harmed were also not those people who died. To a certain extent, the victims were lucky to be able to forever leave the realm of the living in the blink of an eye.”
The eye of the man on the wheelchair was firm as he gazed at the area in front of him. “They What those calamities left behind was the torment they inflicted on the living.”
Slowly, Gleeward raised his left hand, which lacked three fingers, and his gaze became unfocused. Both Thales and Kurtz turned around subconsciously.
“Do you remember that boy from yesterday night who drove the carriage? The one who kept throwing a fuss?”
Thales paused for a moment.
“He’s called Kevin.” Gleeward let out a faint snort nonchalantly. “Six years ago, he was an apprentice of a blacksmith workshop.”
Kurtz heaved a sigh. “Cripple”
However, Gleeward ignored her and continued speaking, “On the day the calamities showed up, Kevin came to Shield District happy. He brought a bouquet of flowers with him to meet his lover in private.”
Lost in thought, Gleeward stared at an abandoned well in the distance. That well only had an outline left. By its side was a collapsed stable, air-dried manure could be vaguely seen there.
“They were discovered by her father. I know that old man, he served in the Glacial Sentries before. His skills were the real deal, and what’s even worse was that he had a horrible temper. He also cared deeply about his daughter.”
When he said that, Gleeward laughed softly. The laugh lines beside the corners of his eyes appeared naturally.
Thales and Kurtz listened in silence.
“The poor Kevin screeched as he was whipped by a leather belt from Shield District to Hammer District. All the people living in more than ten streets around the area knew about it. Laughter shook the skies. Even that big yellow dog belonging to Big Leather Belt chased him for several hundred meters.”
Gleeward’s laughter was filled with joy.
“Kevin came to me and said a bunch of nonsense with a pitiful expression. Something about how much he liked that lady, how he wanted to be a good blacksmith, open a shop, save enough for his bride price, and then tell the truth to his lover’s father.”
The veteran shook his head, his face was filled with disdain.
“Heh, I still remember that stupid look he had on his face when he said those words. I also remember how angry Big Leather Belt looked when he came to deal with him. I still remember when Big Leather Belt left after I deceived him, Kevin crawled out from the back closet, and he had a face filled with indignation as well as great ambition.”
Gleeward paused for a few seconds.
“And yet…” The smile on the veteran’s face slowly faded away, like ice under the sun.
Gleeward gazed into the distance, there was not a single person in his line of sight. He spoke quietly while he let his mind wander, “But when Kevin returned to Shield District the next morning, everything was gone.”
From afar, Thales heard the loud voices unique to Northlanders when they bartered. A rooster cried at the sky indignantly, matching the early morning twittering of birds, making it seem as if Shield District was extremely peaceful.
Gleeward’s teeth chattered slightly. “The lady Kevin liked, the ‘future father-in-law’ that he hated so much, and also the Northlanders who watched him make a fool of himself on the streets”
The veteran’s eyes darkened. His voice became hoarse. “And that horrid, big yellow dog that barked over twenty hours every day…”
Gleeward looked at the brightening sky absentmindedly and said dazedly,
Thales and Kurtz leaned against the low wall and remained still. It was as if time had frozen.
“All of Shield District… Everything was gone.”
The veteran lowered his head and picked up a piece of rubble from the ground. He could still vaguely make out what it was made out of. “This is the only thing left. This is what they,those calamities, left for the survivors.”
Gleeward let go of the rubble and watched it fall with a numb expression. He watched as it crashed into the dust and rolled around weakly before it stopped moving altogether.
Thales exhaled slowly. His expression was stiff.
“In the future, when you see Kevin laugh to his heart’s content again, don’t forget that this is his background story.” Gleeward’s eyes turned serious, burning with a flame that had extinguished since a long time ago. The veteran snorted coldly.
“So, please, if you met the people who survived through their encounter with the calamity, don’t say that you can imagine what happened, don’t say that you understand their pain, don’tsay that you feel as if it happened to you Even if you’re really the Messiah.”
The veteran turned slightly and looked at the silent Thales with an ice-cold expression. “…Because that’s very fake.”
Thales opened his mouth to say something, but in the end, he found himself unable to say even a single word.
*Clap.* Gleeward seized his shoulder with a firm grip.
“Also, if you really become the king in the future…” Gleeward’s expression was very solemn. Thales could even feel his hand tremble slightly. “If you become one of those ‘men of influence’ who stand high above us
“I know that nobles like you know something. Whether it is about those calamitiesand I refuse to believe what the legends say about them being envoys sent down by the gods to punish the worldor those legendary anti-mystic equipment, you will definitely have a way and a method to deal with them.”
Thales stared at the veteran before his eyes with a dumbfounded expression.
Gleeward’s expression was fierce. “Remember: Gather all your manpower, all the forces you can muster, all your weapons, and search for those calamities. No matter which corner they’re hiding in, you have to find them. Locate them, uncover them all!”
The prince’s heart was in chaos. All sorts of emotions rushed through him simultaneously and it was rather unpleasant.
In that moment, Gleeward gritted his teeth, and spoke in a freezing tone that chilled Thales to the bone.
“Exterminate them all, every single last one of them and leave none alive.”