Translator:EndlessFantasy TranslationEditor:EndlessFantasy Translation
The flames illuminated the dark sky, and there was bright red blood. The fight began very suddenly, but ended abruptly and silently, forming a sharp contrast to each other.
Unknowingly, the fighting noises and the roars became scattered and sparse, almost inaudible. The movements of the fighters went from quick and forceful swings, to accurate thrusts, to last hits.
The frontmost orcs fled further and further away. They ran across the sand dunes, through the resistance from the sand and hills, under the illumination of the flames, and disappeared into the night.
Meanwhile, those from the Stardust Unit who were charging back and forth slowly stopped. They turned their horses around on the ground covered in corpses and blood, then inspected and verified the outcome of the fight.
On the other side, the Kroma Family’s cavaliers had already dealt with the orcs who were acting as rearguards. They went forward like a mighty flood to meet with those from the Stardust Unit.
Nevertheless, all this had nothing to do with Thales and the other human captives who were being brought along by the cavaliers. They were not neglected.
After the fight ended, the cavaliers who had the image of the Single-Winged Crow on their garments and shields charged up the small sand dune and drove the merchant group off it by rudely snapping at them.
Thales believed that if they showed the slightest hint of objection or dissatisfaction, these determined-looking cavaliers would not mind drawing more blood with the weapons in their hands.
Hence, everyone in the merchant group, including the mercenaries, were held captive for a second time. Under the close watch of the Kroma Family’s cavaliers, they walked obediently down the dune towards and the disorderly battlefield.
“Walk faster, desert bandits!”
A knight wielding a longspear urged them forward impatiently.
Tormorden straightened his collar and objected solemnly, “We are not desert bandits, good sir.”
Perhaps due to the fact that he was no longer facing hideous and evil orcs, the master of the merchant group recovered much of his courage. “We are a merchant group! A legitimate, legal, and qualified merchant group! My ancestor was”
The spear-wielding knight laughed. “I’m not a sir or whatever you call it. For seven or eight generations, all my ancestors were probably farmers. As for you lot
“The people in the desert be they desert bandits, merchants, or exiles…” He shook his head while he sat on his horse. “Do you know what the differences between all of you are in my opinion?”
Tormorden tilted his head a little to one side, showing that he was listening intently. The knight said coldly,
“The answer is that I don’t know, and I don’t care.”
Tormorden’s smile froze for a moment. Then, the knight whipped Tormorden’s buttocks hard with his longspear.
“So move your arse, desert bandit!”
As Tormorden let out a shrill scream, all of them anxiously arrived in the middle of the battlefield. The massive flame lit with Eternal Oil had become a lot smaller. But it was still burning and illuminating everything around it.
The Kroma Family’s cavaliers joked brazenly as they cleaned the battlefield. Many of them looked at the captives and their malicious gazes frightened the merchants.
“Wait here.” The knight withdrew his spear and dismounted. He said coldly, “The higher-ups will decide what to do with all of you.”
“My god.” Tormorden panted, holding his arse with one hand and wiping off his sweat with the other. He whispered among the captives, “They’re practically barbarians Listen up, we have to match up our statements. We’re not from Blade Fangs Dune and are, instead, traveling south from the Tower of Eradication. Therefore, we don’t know about Constellation’s blockade order”
“Oh for Desert God’s sake, Seth.” Dean sighed. “You think that they don’t know our details?”
Tormorden was a little startled.
“They have two units: the Kroma Family’s cavaliers and the Stardust Unit. One of them lay waiting a distance away and both had attacked from different directions. This means that they’d planned it beforehand.”
“These Constellatiates might have discovered us earlier on. I’ll even bet they know that our merchant group came from Blade Fangs Dune.” Dean glanced at the cavaliers around them.
“They only followed the trail of the campsites we left behind from a distance so that we’ll lure those cunning orcs into the trap… and they did it. Our merchant group made those orcs let down their guard. If it weren’t for the fire, this would have been a perfect net. They would have captured all the orcswho would be sleeping soundly on top of the spoils of warin one go during the night.”
Louisa’s expression was unpleasant. “They used us as bait?”
Dean sighed and nodded. “So, I suggest that you tell the truth without hiding anything.”
Tormorden widened his mouth in disbelief. “But our goods”
“Who cares?” Mickey cut him off coldly from aside. “Do you know how many people we’ve lost? We shouldn’t have made this journey; we should have turned around yesterday.”
These words silenced everyone in the merchant group.
The knight headed towards a group of soldiers who held torches and encircled a piece of land, forming a clearing. Two military officers, whom were obviously dressed differently from usual soldiers, stood on the ground. They led their horses by the halter and discussed something loudly.
It was worth noticing that the Constellatiates stood on two different sides and were clearly divided.
On one side, the men under the Single-Winged Crow Flag stood around a stern-looking young noble. The other party, including the freak squad, raised the Stardust Battle Flag and followed another military officer who was in his prime. Thales recognized him. This military officer’s left arm was slightly thicker than his right arm, and he was the freak squad’s ‘boss’ who killed the orcs’ Holy Guard with a single punch.
Thales let out a long breath and thought of what to do next.
‘Constellation’s army is right in front of me. According to the original plan, the people from the Secret Intelligence Department would have brought me into the desert to meet up with Constellation’s army, but now
‘The Kroma Family’s recruits and the members of the Stardust Unit who are the regular soldiers of the royal family Can these people be trusted? If I reveal my identity now, would it be a wise choice?’
“What are they saying?” Quick Rope narrowed his eyes. “They look like they’re arguing?”
Thales lifted his head and saw that the argument between the two military officers was becoming more and more intense.
Old Hammer stared at them for a while and shook his head. “I don’t find it strange. At the Western Frontlines, the recruits and the regular troops have never gotten along.”
“Is the relationship between them very bad?”
“Let me put it this way.” Old Hammer coughed, it was obvious that he had not completely recovered from the injury he sustained just now. “At Blade Fangs Camp, if a suzerain’s recruit and a regular soldier of the royal family are using neighboring latrines, under normal circumstances, only one of them will come out after he has wiped his butt clean.”
Puzzled, Quick Rope asked, “But all of them are Constellatiates on garrison duty at the same camp. Why’re they so”
“Even the current King of Eckstedt shares the same mother as his elder brother.” Old Hammer snorted softly. “You don’t see him being soft-hearted when he stabbed his elder brother to death.”
The Barren Bone man shook his head. “Bloody Thorn Lizard.”
These words reminded the captives of something. Soon, no one made another sound.
The argument between the military officers finally ended.
“So, this is the merchant group?” came a gentle voice. The ‘boss’ who swore very colorfully on the battlefield clapped and came forward.
Thales noticed that all the members of the so-called ‘freak squad’ stood behind this military officer.
“The bonfire night was very lively, filled with ‘sound’ and ‘color’.” The so-called ‘boss’ spoke in a native Western Desert accent. With a mature and calm expression, he waved at the burning Eternal Oil in the distance. “Who among you is in charge?”
At that moment, Thales thought that he was back to that momentdozens of minutes agowhen Kandarl the orc was interrogating them.
The captives looked at one another.
The master of the merchant group finally exhaled. He smiled and took a step forward. “My good sir, I am Seth Tormorden. I often take the trade routes from Blade Fangs Camp to the Three Kingdoms of the Lost Ocean. My ancestor once served the Virtuous King”
“I’m Duro.” The leader of the Psionics stared at Tormorden, and then swept his gaze over the ten or so wary-looking people in the merchant group. He tactlessly cut Tormorden off. “Kusak Duro, but I’m not a ‘sir’. Three generations of my ancestors were farmers until Baron Williams chose me to lead a squad as one of his vanguards.”
Tormorden was immediately quite embarrassed, but he adapted quickly. He hastily clasped his hands together with an expression of admiration. “Ah, so, you are the baron’s”
At that moment, the young noble on the Kroma Family’s side exhaled impatiently. “Hurry up, freaks. Don’t waste time; have we not already wasted enough of it today?
Thales suddenly realized that this was the knight who ordered to “leave no one alive” on the sand dune. It seemed that he was the commander of the Kroma Family’s troops.
When he heard the word ‘freak’, Captain Duro turned to the young noble. His smile did not fade, but his gaze was cold.
“Baron Gurtz, as what we agreed on earlier, may I be the negotiator?”
Gurtz the young noble shrugged. “Whatever.”
Duro nodded. He turned, narrowed his eyes, and carefully evaluated the merchant in front of him.
The Psionic’s next words made Tormorden shudder a little. He pointed at the burning campsite in the distance. “Tenny, how much oil did you bring to light such a huge flame? Ten barrels? Twenty barrels?”
Right then, Tormorden flashed an awkward and obsequious smile. He looked around, gaze flickering between the flame and Duro. “Sir, we we ran into some unlawful smugglers on our way and bought the oil from them. I mean, we can’t just let the oil go into the desert, can we? But I swear that I didn’t participate in any”
Dean sighed quietly behind him.
“Bullsh*t. Apart from the orcs just now, our people have gotten rid of everyone around here.” Duro snorted coldly. “All of you went against the blockade and the embargo, and brought the Eternal Oil out of Blade Fangs Camp, Tenny.”
Tormorden’s expression stiffened. He did not even care that Duro got his name wrong.
“I can see that all of you aren’t a small merchant group of five or six people. I’ll bet that if we ransacked your possessions, we’ll find more contraband goods.
“Smuggling goods that are obviously banned into the Great Desert while going against the blockade” Duro sighed. His gaze turned fierce and forceful. “I don’t think this is legal trade behavior. You know, you can get convicted for this.”
The captives scowled in unison.
Tormorden’s expression became panicked. “My good sir, we”
The leader of Psionics raised a finger and stopped him from speaking.
“But all of you did help us by diverting the attention of those gray mixed breeds a little.” Duro lifted his head slowly, flashed a warm smile, and nodded approvingly. “Making a tiny contribution to our victory.”
There was hope on Tormorden’s face again and he got a little worked up. “It is my duty, my duty, to be able to help you about I am very ashamed So”
On the other hand, Baron Gurtz said coldly, “But the leader of the orcs still escaped” He sounded like a person who was not open to negotiations. “Thanks to your ‘heartfelt’ cooperation when it comes to military tactics, Stardust Unit.”
The smile on Duro’s face disappeared. “We’ll discuss this issue later, Baron Gurtz just not now.”
Gurtz snorted coldly.
Thales was deep in contemplation as he watched the two groups that stood on two sides and looked as if they were about to fight each other. He then looked at the two commanders who, judging from their words, got along rather badly.
Duro turned and looked at Tormorden who was at a loss for what he should do.
He smiled and said. “So, even though it’s abhorring that all of you broke laws and brought chaos to order, Tenny, I am willing to say good things about you in front of the judge, and give you a chance to choose.”
‘A chance to choose?’ Thales frowned a little. He noticed that the freaks behind Duro were staring at each other and smiling mysteriously. Opposite Duro, Baron Gurtz looked away in disdain. Tormorden sucked in a breath and was almost in tears.
“Sir! Thank you so much By the way, my name is Tormorden, not Tenny.”
The leader of the Psionics accepted his thanks with a smile. “So, Tenny
“Collaboration with the enemy, or spying? Between these two charges, which one will you choose?”
All the captives were stupefied upon hearing those words.
‘Collaboration with the enemy, or spying?’
Even Thales could not help but freeze, and he wondered whether he should announce his identity.
Tormorden’s eyes widened. “What?” Duro sighed.
“Don’t be shocked, Tenny. From this large pile of goods you have that’ll be used as proof of your crime, all of you are definitely going to be charged with these two accusations, enough for you to be sent to the Prison of Bones.” The freak captain of Stardust Unit looked at them with a troubled expression. He then flashed a smile. “But I’m still giving you a choice; you can choose one of them. How good is that?”
Tormorden’s face went from red to white. “No, no, no, sir, I swear we’re not All of you can’t our tiny contribution”
As Tormorden stuttered, Duro raised a finger again.
“However!” The captain’s gaze flickered slightly. “If there isn’t enough proof of the crime, I think that it’ll be hard to place a charge. The judge will have no way to go about it.”
“Not enough proof of the crime? What what do you mean?” He stared at Duro, clueless to what was going on.
Duro sighed and pointed at the burning campsite in the distance. “Look, almost all your Eternal Oil has been fed to the flames. Without proof, I don’t think the judge can still make things difficult for you when it comes to you smuggling Eternal Oil.”
Tormorden stared at him with a dumbfounded expression. Duro walked forward and put his sturdy left arm around the merchant’s shoulder. Not allowing the merchant to resist, he spun three hundred and sixty degrees on the spot so that he and Tormorden could see everything around them.
It was the campsite where the merchant group had pitched their little tents, the piled-up goods were shattered during the fierce battle, and the place was a mess.
“Look around at your goods. You smuggled them, went against the blockade, and possessed contraband items. In the name of the Sunset Goddess, there is so much proof of your crime. Even if I want to set you free, it’s hard for me to prove your innocence” Duro tapped his shoulder with a solemn expression. “Do you understand?”
The moment he said that, Dean and Old Hammer’s expression immediately became strange.
Tormorden looked at the goods around him. His lips trembled and he was rendered speechless. Duro gazed at Tormorden with eyes sparkling with great emotion as his arm remained around Tormorden’s shoulder as though the merchant was his brother.
A few seconds later, Snake Shooter shrugged behind Duro. “I don’t think he understands, Big Boss.”
On the other side, Baron Gurtz laughed in spite of himself. The Psionic was immediately embarrassed, but only a little.
He sighed and let go of Tormorden, pushing him back to the line of captives in disappointment. His sturdy left arm made Tormorden stagger. “Alright, then, two charges: collaboration with the enemy, and spying”
As Duro spoke, the soldiers of Constellation beside him placed their hands on their weapons. Thales was shocked.
At this moment, Dean took a step forward. The mercenary stepped on Tormorden’s foot hard and whispered into his ear, “Give it to them!”
Tormorden trembled violently and immediately registered what was going on.
“I understand!” he shouted loudly like a pig about to be slaughtered and lifted his hands up high. “I understand! I understand, sir!”
His voice was so loud that it echoed throughout the sand dunes around them. The soldiers who were cleaning up the mess turned to look at him.
With his hands on his waist, Captain Duro froze for a moment. He slowly lifted his gaze.
“Do you really understand?”
“Yes, sir!” Even though Tormorden’s face was at that moment woeful and mournful, he answered without hesitation. He threw his arms open to gesture at the campsite around him. “Goods all of our merchant goods, everything belonging to the sixteen merchants from pots and utensils to spices and seeds, from clothes and jewelry to valuable items; you can have all of them, all of them! We don’t want anything! As long as-as long as you spare us”
The expressions of all the merchants immediately turned downcast.
However, Duro did not reply with the smile they expected. The captain of the squad sighed in agony and slapped his forehead, looking as though he was exasperated by Tormorden’s failure to understand what was going on.
“Argh No, you still don’t understand!”
The captives stared at him in surprise and bewilderment. Duro put his hand down, he had a disappointed expression.
He raised his voice. “Let us have all your goods?”
Duro sighed sorrowfully, tapping his sword hilt and armor continuously with his hands, producing sounds that frightened Tormorden so much that he staggered backwards. “You think that we, the king’s soldiers, would go after your things, your belongings, even if it’s just one copper coin? What do you take us for? Corrupt officials who accumulated wealth through unfair means and shameless bandits?
“It’s hard to imagine that this is the impression all of you have on the mighty army of this kingdom! Oh Sunset Goddess… We are Constellation’s soldiers, and have our own rules and creeds. We exist to protect the kingdom and its people!”
The leader of the Psionics walked back and forth, looking as if he really could not fathom the captives’ thoughts. His dignified and righteous manner made many people ashamed of themselves. The more he spoke, the angrier he became.
“Can you not insult us like this?!”
The captives stared at the leader of the Psionics who spoke sternly and forcefully in a righteous manner. Their eyes were wide and their mouths hung open.
“What now?” Dean asked softly in a puzzled tone within the group, “Does he think it’s too little?”
“I don’t know,” Old Hammer answered with a cough. “That’s everything the merchants have.”
Tormorden looked at Captain Duro who was flying into a rage while simultaneously sighing with sorrow and aggrievance, then he looked at the others for help with a panicked expression. However, the other cavaliers of Constellation just stared indifferently at him.
“If you are not satisfied with this, then when we return to Blade Fangs Camp, I have another sum of money”
Duro stopped walking. He spread his arms wide open and stared at Tormorden incredulously, as if he had just seen the most unbelievable thing in the world.
“What are you doing, Tenny? You’re actually attempting bribery? You’re bribing me? Bribing the honorable army of the kingdom, His Majesty’s soldiers?
“Do you think that we only protect all of you for money? We have our own salary and rewards. More importantly, we have our own dignity!”