Translator:EndlessFantasy TranslationEditor:EndlessFantasy Translation
In the cold desert night, the orcs panted loudly and raised their torches up high, having just successfully ambushed the merchant group.
They spoke in a language that was slightly similar to glacial orcs and walked back and forth within the group’s disorderly campsite, rummaging around and gathering their spoils from the battle.
Meanwhile, at the merchant group master’s camp, starting from Dean and Louisa, Old Hammer, Quick Rope, Mickey, and the other humans who surrendered and were held captive, they all held their heads in their hands and walked in a straight line. They were escorted by heavily armed orcs to see the leader of the orcs.
Thales was also one of them and walked behind Dean. Perhaps due to his age and build, unlike the others, Thales did not have an orc escorting him by pressing on his back roughly. However, walking on the sand, passing by many fierce-looking members of the foreign species, while his enemies’ gazes and weapons bore down on him on both sides still sent a chill down his spine.
The murderous aura of the orcs and their appearances were rather unsettling. Almost all the orc fighters were covered in new and old wounds, and were obviously battle-seasoned, brave men. They glared scornfully at the captives and intentionally tapped the weapons in their hands.
As he listened to the tapping sounds, Thales could not help but recall the time his diplomat group walked past Northland’s infantry regiment beyond Broken Dragon Fortress six years ago. The same anxiety, the same suffocating feeling…
It was just that the current situation was even more despairing.
Three unique orcs stood in front of Tormorden’s goods some distance away from the dozens of orc fighters, and gazed coldly at the approaching captives.
They were not strangers to Thales.
There was an orc with a cold expression, and whose lips were painted white. An abnormally large black bow was hanging from its shoulder. It was the one that had killed Palka the mercenary with one shot in the duel between marksmen from earlier.
There was another ferocious orc carrying a greatsword. Its upper body was bare, it was muscular, and had its forehead painted black. It ran its hand over the wound on its chest and flashed a hideous smile. Kant the Northlander had died under its sword.
And there was that hideous orc who was gently stroking its spiked mace, blue paint on its face. It had been chasing after Thales since the fight. Now, it fixed its gaze on Thales and ground its teeth in hatred.
It mouthed a word at the prince from afar: Freuca. The blue-faced orc clenched its fists and tightened its grip on its spiked mace.
‘Freuca, Freuca again.’ Thales whispered quietly, sensing that things were far from good.
However, these three unique orcs could not conceal the authoritative bearing their leader possessed as it stood behind them.
The pure black orc with the broken hand wore a rare, snow-white fur shawl. It looked at the iron fork on its left wrist with its head lowered, and sat on a large pile of goods in a nonchalant posture, as though it had become one with the silence around it. It waited for the captives’ arrival while the torches shone on it.
From the distinctive height and posture, its status was obvious.
The captives were brought one by one before him and lined up horizontally. The boorish escorts forced the defeated people to kneel before their leader by pressing them down or kicking them. Thales panted a little and kneeled on the sand.
In the darkness, the greatsword-wielding, half-naked orc beside the leader puffed and gestured for its subordinate to toss it a torch.
It raised the torch and cauterized the wound on its chest. It sighed in satisfaction while the merchants gasped and the fire sizzled.
After sealing its wound with fire, the orc walked past every single kneeling captive and illuminated their faces with the light from the torch.
Thales squinted from the brightness and the heat.
The leader who sat on the pile of goods gazing at its iron fork slowly lifted its head and looked at its war trophies.
The number of merchants who survived was much more than Thales had imagined. At least eight or nine of them knelt among the captives. They, too, held their heads in their hands and trembled under the orcs’ stares. Perhaps it was because the fight began too suddenly, and because the opponents’ ambush was too successful, but those who wielded weapons were basically annihilated without mercy during the first round of fighting. The others who did not have time to pick up their weapons were soon left quivering in their boots by the destruction. Under the orcs’ hideous faces, weapons that dripped with blood, and the terrifying growls, they plopped their faces down on the ground, curled up and raised their hands in surrender without anyone telling them to do so.
When he saw their expressions clearly, Thales dared to say that these merchants had never seen so many orcs in their lives.
The flames flickered in the cold wind. Confronted with the orcs’ hideous faces, the captives’ hearts were filled with despair and hopelessness.
The frightening silence lasted for quite a while. During that time, the chilly wind of the night, together with the noise of those rummaging through their belongings a distance away, made the scene appear rather dreary, like an execution ground.
The pure black leader finally spoke. Its words, uttered through its contorted and horrifying lips and teeth, were heavy with the accent of the desert, just like all the others who lived there. It spoke so fluently and authentically in the common tongue that it was unbelievable that those words came from an orc. “Who among you is in charge?”
Many of the captives who knelt on the ground turned subconsciously. Thales saw from the corner of his eyes that the large-bellied Tormorden also held his head in his hands and was kneeling at a remote position.
But that extravagant master of the merchant group, whose ancestor knew the Virtuous King, who was swollen with arrogance, and who talked endlessly when it came to business was no longer around. Instead, occupying his body right then was a pitiful man who shivered nonstop. Tormorden seemed to be frightened by the orcs’ appearance. He desperately shrank his head back and did not even dare to lift it.
The fat Tormorden knelt on the ground and trembled like a leaf, trying hard to curl up his muscles and bones, as though he would suffer more losses with every inch of body exposed.
Faced with the leader’s question, he said nothing.
The pure black orc looked around at the captives, sneered and said with its sonorous voice, “Hmph. So, outsiders, there’s no one among you who’s qualified to negotiate with me, even though I’m starting to think about who to let live and who to kill?”
These words made the captives tremble even more violently.
‘This is an orc who has a good command of the human language,’ Thales thought. ‘This is uncommon. And according to what Dean said, they aren’t exiles who move alone and are scattered all over the desert, but are part of a large tribe?’
When he thought of this, Thales noticed that beside him, Dean had sighed. The latter shifted his knees and prepared to stand.
However, before the bald mercenary could move any further, there was a small commotion on the other side of the group of captives.
“We have surrendered, and you promised us our lives, orc.”
A lady in armor lowered her hands and stood from among the kneeling crowd. She straightened her body and stared at her enemy with a calm expression.
“F*ck.” Thales heard Mickey on his other side curse softly.
“I am…” In the darkness, Louisa’s expression was a little dark and gloomy, but her voice was extremely clear and steady. “I am Louisa Dante, the leader of this troop.”
Totally unarmed, she said softly, “You can negotiate with me.”
There was another commotion. This time, the orc fighters, who spoke in deep and gruff voices, were the ones who caused it. They sounded like they were growling as they whispered to one another.
The facial features of the pure black orc moved a little. It changed its posture, resting its elbows on its knees and leaning forward. It seemed to be very interested in this woman, who stood like a crane among chickens when nobody dared to speak.
“I only promised to let this person and that solnoir live.” The orc pointed at Mickey and Thales with the iron fork on its wrist. “The other outsiders weren’t included. As for you”
The three orcs standing around their leader looked at one another. They flashed their teeth and let out a sonorous bark of laughter that sounded to Thales like the cold wind howling.
“Look, even my Holy Guards are laughing.” The leader turned to Louisa with a smile. “Have the people outside the desert degenerated to the point where they need a powerless female to lead them?”
On the other side, Old Hammer and Mickey cursed softly.
In face of the orcs’ gazes, Louisa inhaled calmly. “Then, you can give me a weapon and an opponent. I can prove to all of you which is more useless: your promise, or my sword.”
The greatsword-wielding, half-naked orc with the torch puffed, patted the wound on its chest and said something. The leader answered and made many of the orcs laugh.
It turned. “You don’t have to prove it, Louisa Dante the valiant fighter. I know very well that in this world, many females are much scarier than males.”
Louisa froze for a moment.
“And according to my loyal Holy Guard, the ‘Unstoppable Lusana’,” said the pure black orc slowly, “He recognizes your ability, and the pain from the blow you dealt him penetrates even down to his bone marrow.”
Louisa shot a glance at the greatsword-wielding orc and noticed that it was flashing its sharp teeth at her.
The leader continued to speak with considerable interest. “He even said that if you were an orc, he would bring you home this instant, make you his most precious wife, protect you with his sword and blood, and also protect the strong cub both of you would birth, until the day his battle soul completes the Desert God’s trial and returns to the land of his ancestors.”
Mickey cursed in a soft voice. However, Louis only sneered.
“…but I’m only a human.”
The leader nodded.
“But you’re only a human, and can’t become one of us.” The pure black orc gestured at Lusana with its chin.
“So, he has no other choice but to eat you.”
‘Eat- Eat?!’ Thales felt his blood run cold. For some reason, he thought of the sand scorpion he ate.
…and the Bloody Thorn Lizard.
Louisa sighed. “This is considered racism.”
The leader seemed amused. It opened its large mouth and let out its horrifying laughter.
“Is this normal?” Thales whispered to Dean who was beside him. “All the orcs who captured humans would joke with them first before they heat up their pots, cook them, and eat them?”
“I don’t know.” Dean’s lips hardly moved when he spoke. “After all, there aren’t many people who can come out alive and tell their stories after being held captive by orcs.”
Thales trembled slightly. Louisa raised her head.
“Then, was it you?”
The female captain fearlessly confronted the orcs who were casting covetous eyes on her. “Was it you lot who killed the desert bandits? …And hunted and killed all living beings in the desert at a large scale?”
The leader narrowed its eyes. His deep voice echoed in the air. “So, you found them those corpses.”
Dean frowned a little. Louisa nodded.
“Many from those campsites were people to be wary of, and some were even exiles from large tribes, but they didn’t have the power to fight back at all.” The captain looked around at the dozens of orc fighters around her. “I’m guessing that all of you slaughtered them with your numbers, fighting skills, battle formations, and brave men from the tribe who are almost as strong as an army.
“Like tonight; for this surprise attack, all of you even took off your heavy armor and came lightly-equipped just to take us by surprise.”
Dean sighed softly beside Thales’ ear. “She’s trying hard to make herself seem stronger It’s said that the orcs, especially those from large tribes, respect powerful people and fighters and value glory.”
The leader of the orcs smiled. It raised the iron fork on its broken wrist and pointed at Louisa. “Well said. Is there anything else you want to say?”
Louisa inhaled deeply, nodded, and continued, “The Shattered Stone Tribe. I know you.”
The leader did not move at all.
In the face of the leader and his three frightening subordinates, Louisa spoke fearlessly.
“You are one of the Eight Great Clans of the desert under the Dragon Skeleton Throne with no choice but to flee into the depths of the desert after suffering great losses during the Desert War.
“But why are all of you taking the risks of leaving the depths of the desert, coming somewhere that’s so near Constellation’s forces, and conducting a mass killing as if all of you have gone insane?
“This doesn’t follow the rules of the desert! Even if it’s you!”
The leader smiled again. Compared to its subordinates, especially the three so-called ‘Holy Guards’, it smiled more frequently.
Its smile was also more unsettling.
“The rules of the desert? Very well. You may live, woman.” The leader of the orcs nodded slowly, ignoring the growling protests from Lusana, the orc with the greatsword. “Because you put up a good fight, and because of your knowledge. As for whether you’re going back with us or we will see later.”
“What about the others?”
“The others? The others will have to prove their worth.” The leader of the orcs turned and swept its gaze over the captives with its yellow eyes. “I only assaulted and captured all of you because I want to find something out.”
The mercenaries frowned in unison.
“What thing?” Louisa asked, puzzled.
The orc leader narrowed its eyes under the illumination of the fire.
“Around ten days ago, I received a report.” It stepped on the sand and straightened its massive body which was as tall as two people. “Many people, whether they were Barren Bone kin, orcs, desert bandits, or those from the small tribes and organizations, were all fleeing from the north and the east.”
‘Fleeing?’ A theory rose in Thales’ mind.
The captives were puzzled as well, but they did not have the time to think too much about it because of their current plight.
The orc walked slowly to the leftmost side of the line of captives. It walked past every single one of them one step at a time.
As they watched the hideous being approach them, many of the merchants were so frightened that they trembled. Thales swore that he could even smell the faintly discernible smell of urine.
“I am very puzzled as to what gave these scums the courage to disregard the authority of the Dragon Skeleton Throne, forgetting how frightening the Desert God’s Altar is and fleeing into the depths of the desert… into the territories of the orcs and Barren Bone people, the personal lands of the Eight Great Tribes and the Five Main Clans, and the forbidden zone where everyone in the desert know is dangerous.”
The pure black orc walked past Tormorden. The latter had his entire body face-down on the ground and looked like a trembling caterpillar. “And according to these refugees, not long ago, an elite troop of a few thousand cavaliers entered the desert.”
Beside Thales, Dean held his breath.
“A few thousand men?” he asked in a soft voice, puzzled.
What Dean did not know was, at that moment, Thales’ heart had skipped a beat.
‘Cavaliers… cavaliers?! Cavaliers have entered the desert?’
The pure black orc walked past Louisa and patted her shoulder with its huge left hand. It curled up the corners of its lips. “During those days, they seized almost all the strongholds at the oasis, chased away all the natives, and slaughtered those who were unwilling to leave.”
All the kneeling mercenaries revealed shocked expressions, looking left and right at one another.
“It was them? Not you?” Louisa said doubtfully, “The ones who wiped out and hunted down everyone in the desert were those cavaliers you talked about?”
‘Those cavaliers…’ Thales fixed his gaze on the sand in front of his eyes. His expression was stiff.
The orc turned. “Just like all of you, we also encountered countless corpses and campsites along the way. We saw even more of them than you have.
The orc walked past Old Hammer and Quick Rope. Its voice became colder and colder.
“That’s not all. Mercilessly and at all costs, the cavaliers slaughtered all two-legged creatures they met on their way, whether they were desert bandits, exiles, Barren Bone people, orcs, or ordinary merchant groups smuggling their goods around. They cleared up the northern periphery of the entire desert. They’ve almost turned half the desert into an uninhabited area.”
‘Slaughtered all…’ Thales felt cold sweat drip down his back.
“This isn’t the end of it.” The pure black orc leader lowered its head and shot a profound glance at Dean. “They didn’t leave. Instead, they stayed where they were and continued to maintain their defense line, which came at a great cost to them as well. They transported supplies day and night and fed their horses water and grass without any moderation, just to stay one more day in the desert.”
Dean narrowed his eyes. “What?”
“They rode everywhere and moved back and forth, killed everyone they saw, and let their horses drink all the water and eat all the grass they came across. The entire northern region of the desert is in a state of unrest because of them.
‘Rode everywhere… moved back and forth’ Thales felt his breathing become slower.
The orc continued to walk forward. His massive feet produced chilling sounds as they rubbed against the soft sand.
“We hunt, put our livestock out to pasture, and obtain food to fill our bellies. However, even our most idiotic tribesmen know that aside from obtaining what we need, we must spare the cubs, and leave seedlings alone.
The somewhat panicking Thales felt the orc’s footsteps approach him.
“This way, we’ll still have food in the coming years but these people? Whether it was water, pasture, firewood or campsites, these killers on horses take them without sympathy and continuously deplete all the resources in the desert. They neither fight nor conquer. They’re only wasting money, food, and manpower disproportionately just to wipe out this godforsaken barren land, leaving behind sand that has no grass to grow in it. Even merchant groups can’t rest anymore in the campsites they have cleared!”
The orc walked past Dean and finally stopped beside Thales, the youngest human standing at the end of the line.
Thales was still holding his head between his hands. From the corner of his eye, he saw the orc’s muscular calf and heard it making noises above his crown.
‘Shit. This means that’
“Based on my experience, for them to behave so unusually, these cunning humans definitely want something… just like how they always do.
“However, since they took action, we also must take our own actions.” The leader of the orcs narrowed its eyes and looked at the captives. “This is the reason why we’re travelling to the north; this is the reason I decided to lead groups of brave men from the tribe to travel east and north of the desert.”
It gritted its hideous teeth. “So, outsiders, over the course of the past month, you are the only ones who have traveled here from the direction of Blade Fangs Dune; who departed from the same place and direction as those mad cavaliers.
“You are also the only ones who might possibly know of their intentions.” The leader of the orcs said coldly, “You also happen to be the only people alive who might know.”
The expressions of the kneeling captives differed. On the sand, the line of orc fighters stood coldly around them and stared at every single human captive who were either trembling or confused.
The three Holy Guards’ expressions did not change. They waited for their leader’s next words.
Finally, the pure black orc extended its hands slowly and raised the iron fork on its wrist. Its tone was cold.
“And all of you will tell me the reason.” He uttered a term that made everyone furrow their brows,
“Constellation. Why are they doing this?”
The mercenaries looked at one another. Even the merchants were anxious and doubtful.
“Why did they dispatch so many troops into the depths of the desert? Why are they almost digging out every inch of yellow sand here? Why are they doing this regardless of the money and food they have to squander and the lives they have to sacrifice? Why are the cunning and untrustworthy Constellatiates doing these arduous but fruitless things?”
In the cold, Thales felt a chill on his neck while still in shock. An ice-cold iron fork was pressed against the prince’s neck.
As the mercenaries cried out in alarm, Thales was forced to raise his head by the iron fork, and looked into the bright yellow eyes of the leader of the orcs.
Thales looked dazedly into its eyes, at the orc’s scar, and its inhuman face. From the corners of his eyes, he saw the armor beneath its fur shawl, and the faded bloodstains and scratches left behind from when it polished its armor. He could only feel his blood run cold.
It was different from the other orcs he had fought against. Those eyes were calm and steady, as if they contained many secrets.
The orc lifted its gaze and looked at the others, but its hand did not stop moving. It still had Thales’ chin hooked with its iron fork.
“Can anyone tell me?”
There was no response, only the whistling of the cold wind in the desert, and the crackling of flames.
At this moment, only Thales knew that the truth this pure black orc wracked its brains to obtain, the secret that caused the desert to be in such a state of unrest
…was quivering beneath its iron fork.
‘What should I do?’ Thales thought desperately.
At this moment…
“Enough. There’s no need for Kandarll Nushan, whose name is renowned throughout the desert, to make things difficult for a human solnoir.” It was a gentle and mature male voice. It sounded the same as on the day the voice’s owner saved Thales.
The moment he said that, the orcs murmured in a soft voice. The name had caused a slight commotion.
Thales felt his neck move slightly even though he was so nervous that he was practically suffering from asphyxiation.
Finally, the pressure on his neck went awaythe fork had left his artery. Thales heaved a sigh of relief and started to breathe again. He frantically thought about what to do about the predicament at hand.
The pure black orc turned. Its gaze silenced all the orcs.
“Who?” He slowly walked past Thales and went beside the person who spoke up. He stared at the bald human. “Who is the one that spoke to me?”
The one who spoke lifted his head, put down his hands, and stood up. He looked up at the orc.
“I am Dean, and you can say that I am Louisa’s assistant.”
The next moment, the orc’s iron fork was right in front of Dean’s neck! Louisa cried out softly in alarm.
The bald mercenary, however, did not move at all, letting the orc size him up. The leader of the orcs lowered its head and gazed at him for a very long time.
“Human, during the battle just now, you left a deep impression on me. You have skills and knowledge.” The leader of the orcs narrowed its eyes. “You know who I am?”
The captive nodded. His expression was indifferent. “I know. I recognize your arm and your skin color.”
Dean fixed his gaze on the orc’s eyes. “You’re not a pure gray mix you’re not a pure desert orc. You have the blood of glacial orcs. That’s why your skin color is different compared to theirs.”
‘Damn ice mixed breed.’ Dean thought.
Thales looked at the orc’s black skin and understood. There was astonishment in the orc leader’s eyes. Dean sighed softly.
“You’re Kandarll Nushan. The ‘foreign blood’ who rose from the position of an exile and dominated the desert for twenty years.”