Translator:EndlessFantasy TranslationEditor:EndlessFantasy Translation
Thales sat at the bar counter and looked at the Western Desert Altbier in his hand. He was in a gloomy mood for quite some time.
During this period, Quick Rope, went back and forth in the tavern while drenched in sweat. He flipped through his ledger, checked the numbers, and was busy dealing with the property Kant left behind. During that time, Louisa, Dean, Mickey, and Dante’s Greatswords came one by one into the tavern and went up to the first floor to have a meeting with Simon and Old Hammer.
“Wya, are you sure you have no problem sitting here?”
Dean squeezed his way into the noisy tavern to cast a puzzled a glance at the pouting Thales sitting at the bar counter before he went upstairs.
“Yes.” Thales lifted his face out of the glass, burped, then, with an unpleasant look, glared at Tampa standing on the other side of the counter. He gritted his teeth furiously. “I am very familiar with the tavern owner.”
“That’s good.” Dean cast Tampa a skeptical look. “Tampa is one of the more reliable mercenary agents. He knows a lot of people. If you are looking for a way home, maybe…”
Thales nodded stiffly.
Dean shrugged and went upstairs to attend the mercenary group’s internal meeting.
Time passed, and soon, night visited Blade Fangs Camp.
The people in the tavern come and went. They toasted to each other.
Many people noticed Thales sitting at the corner, but most of them were forced back by Tampa’s stare.
The bards smiled and sang songs to attract businesses while watching their competitors warily. The girls who were dressed scantily sashayed their way between the tables, revealing the curve of their breasts to attract money from time to time. There were people with their faces hidden or with mysterious gestures hidden behind their tables. They gestured wildly and argued in whispers where they sat. Perhaps they were negotiating to make certain unlawful trades which Thales did not know and did not dare to know.
Thales has seen how Sunset Pub in the streets belonging to the gangs operated. Just like this place, that pub was also always filled with noise and people coming and going, but everyone knew that was the Brotherhood’s territory. Even if the place was chaotic, not many people dared to stir up any trouble.
My Home was a completely different case.
When Thales saw guests at the third table fighting because of an unfair business trade, even smashing the entire table, he finally could not help but open his mouth to speak to the owner. “You’re just going to look?”
“What else am I supposed to do?”
Behind the bar counter, Tampa waved his hand lackadaisically and waved, gesturing to a worker to deal with the mess and settle the bill.
“This is Blade Fangs Camp. The people here only care about their personal interests. This place is full of schemes, opportunities, and dangers, and law as well as morality will only occasionally appear. It would be strange if people don’t fight.” Tampa opened his ledger and quickly recorded something. “Don’t worry, the people in Blade Fangs Camp are simple and honest folks. Don’t you see that they still paid after smashing the tables and chairs?”
‘Simple and honest folks’
Thales cheek twitched.
“What if they don’t pay?”
Tampa looked up, and the scar on his neck moved.
“If they don’t pay?”
Tampa’s eyes shone with a freezing glare.
“Everyone knows that I know a lot of mercenaries and adventurers in the camp and often introduce them to some business opportunities,” said the tavern ownerwith a polite smile. “And among them, there are many professional debt collectors who would only charge a small fee out of respect for my feelings, and they help clean up the aftermath too.”
Thales nodded slightly with a face of understanding. “I see. So you have a lot of talented personnel here.”
‘Simple and honest folks my foot.’
As he thought about his next move, Thales asked the tavern owner absent-mindedly, “So, Kohen saved money here? Why?”
“This used to be the practice. At the end of the Bloody Year, the soldiers who went for war asked the rear personnel to keep their monetary rewards, and they would later come back to take them… If they managed to come back alive, that is.”
Tampa sat behind the bar counter with an agreeable look. He watched his workers working themselves hard while Tampa himself had an air of superiority that made him seem as if this had nothing to do him. “Later, Baron Williams promised to double the savings of those who died in order to motivate the warriors. After the Battle of Elimination was over, I also retired. Hence, I took upon this practice and hoped to make a business out of it.”
“But judging from the current situation…” Tampa sighed helplessly as he watched Quick Rope sit in front of a merchant and count coins.
“Battle of Elimination?” Thales asked, “Is that a part of the Desert War?”
“I guess you haven’t seen the Desert War ten years ago?”
Thales shrugged. “Obviously.”
Tampa nodded with a look as if to say he knew it. “Then it’s only logical that you haven’t seen the Battle of Elimination that lasted for several years after the Desert War. The fights during that time ranged from skirmishes to full on battles.”
“What do you mean?”
Tampa narrowed his eyes and casually glanced at a pair of customers who were drinking in the distance. He watched them throw their arms over each other’s shoulders and acted like brothers before they started hurling insults at one another while fighting with their fists. He seemed to have already grown used to this sight.
“The overwhelming victory of the Desert War has always been exaggerated. The ruined Constellation motivated the mourning soldiers and the remaining heroes to march into the desert boldly. They faced the Barren Bone tribes and orc tribes who marched east en masse during the Bloody Year…”
He snorted coldly and said,
“But you know, for us, the hardest part was not how to defeat the mixed breeds and the Barren breed. If you can chase them out once, then you can chase them out many times. The difficulty lies in how to constantly remain the victor of the war after defeating them, how to hold on to the army flags they left and handle the exaggerated boasting of the main force who returned home to their children after their glorious victory, how to clean up every single enemy that is hiding in the deep sand dunes and caves bit by bit, and annihilate those remnants of the brave soldiers belonging to our enemies waiting for a moment to strike, how to use minimal military force to guard our travel routes, how to fight back against the mixed breeds who will grit their teeth and fight back desperately time and again, how to make the tribes in the desert, especially the stubborn orcs, get used to your existence, to respect your strength, like rogue hyenas getting used to the new territory of the lion king.”
“This requires a process.” Tampa’s eyes slowly drifted into the distance. “There were no decisive battles worthy of being written into historical books during this process, no final battles where the soldiers march forth to war, completely unafraid of death, no earth-shattering bloody battles… but the level of devastation and the number of sacrifices we suffered is as great as those historical battles.”
“The victory is won with blood,” he said faintly, “And in order to secure our victory, we have to pay with more blood.
“This is the Battle of Elimination.”
Tampa pointed at the wall behind the bar. There was an old but still sharp axe hanging there.
“Were you also in it?” the prince asked with a solemn expression, “In the Desert War and the Battle of Elimination?”
“The Blade Fangs Camp then was not the Blade Fangs Camp now. During that time, we have yet to recover from the Bloody Year, but the main force of the Desert War had already withdrawn. We do not have recruits who would come from all over the country as if they have too much time in their hands. There are private soldiers belonging to nobles with their glittering and sparkling armor, no logistics and food for the military by merchants and the royal family. There was no groups of cavalries with their thunderous horses, and there was no confident and encouraging voice to lead the whole army into the desert.”
“We only have ourselves, Constellatiates of the Western Desert. We were an army made out of farmers. Mercenaries came together to form shock brigades. Suicide squads were composed of scums… Even the main force of the Duke of the Western Desert, the Skull Guards from the Ruins were all so poor you couldn’t hear any coins in their pockets. Our Crow Guards had more saddles than people who knew how to ride a horse. The first row of the Black Lion Infantry Battalion only had one row of fully trained veterans. The Baron of the Stardust Unit even has to replenish his manpower using the prisoners from the Prison of Bones. There are many aristocrats exiled for their crimes after the Bloody Year, and quite a few of them have quite the influential family background, and were trained.”
“But we could only clench our teeth, depend on a scarce amount of medicine and small amount of supplies, and venture into the barren, endless sand dunes. We had to search every corner from Blade Fangs Camp to the depths of the desert. We had to fight against small groups of mixed breeds and Barren breeds who try to return without caring about the number of men we sacrifice. We had to keep fighting until they felt the pain of sacrificing their people, experience the price they have to pay to return to their land, and admit to the fact that they have lost. We had to fight until they no longer dared to send their people here to die, much less strike back in a big group.”
Thales stared at the axe on the wall in a daze.
It was hard to that the barren wilderness wrecked by wind and sand he had trudged through had experienced such a devastating war.
“In this battle, silly Kohen is a weirdo,” Tampa said with a snicker, “An aristocrat who is so stupid that people wouldn’t even want to hurt him.”
“Kohen?” Thales said, slightly surprised. “He fought in the desert? The Battle of Elimination?”
Tampa snorted through his nose and seemed to find what Thales said quite funny.
“He is a fighter as tough as nails.”
Nostalgia appeared in Tampa’s eyes.
“A tough man who was born for the battlefield. In three years, he beat up those bunch of orcs until they were half dead and were panicking mess.”
“Why?” Thales asked in surprise, “Kohen’s identity… He’s the heir to the noble Karabeyan family. He had the entire Walla Hill waiting for him to takeover, right?”
“How would I know how those nobles work?” Tampa said with a chuckle, “I don’t know what screw went loose in his head that he would come here and suffer instead of living a good life.”
The image of that silly man emerged in Thales’ mind, and he sank into his thoughts.
“You know, we were ambushed once.”
Tampa seemed to be quite emotional. “The gray mixed breed of the Deadly Iron Tribe waved its hammer-and-chain like a storm, leaving only stumps of meat and torn limbs wherever he passed. When it brought its mixed breedsso many that they covered every inch of the landto charge at us”
Thales remembered the orc Kandarl as well as its nigh unstoppable night raid, and he instantly felt lingering fear in his heart.
“We were separated. We lost contact with the light cavaliers. We panicked, and fled.” Tampa sighed. “That stupid man and the others were forced into the desert by those orcs, and we lost all contact with them for half a month.”
“We all thought they wouldn’t come back.”
“The battalion even collected the things they left behind. According to Frank, the baron even had a headache figuring out how to write a letter to Kohen’s noble father announcing Kohen’s death. ‘Our deepest condolences and apologies, your boy died, and we can’t find his body.”‘
The noise in the tavern was as chaotic as usual, but Thales just listened intently to Tampa’s story.
The boss exhaled.
“Then one day… a dozing guard outside the camp suddenly noticed that in the distance, on the horizon between the setting sun and the desert was a figure.”
Thales’ gaze focused.
“A lonely figure walking in solitude. His body swayed as he moved, and he was covered in injuries.”
Thales sucked in a short breath. “Kohen?”
Tampa nodded slowly.
“The whole Blade Fangs Camp… all of us, including the guards of Baron Williams, stood there in a daze and watched the aristocratic young man wobbling all the way back to us absent-mindedly. He was limping, but in his hands he held the damn head of the gray mixed breed, the infamous killer, Meat Grinding Hammer Xisa Deathiron.
“Just like that, with a bare conscious mind, with blood all over his body, and with a trembling body, he walked into the camp. He couldn’t even recognize Felicia, who was the prettiest woman among us, when she stood in front of him.
“He just walked forward without stopping. He was in a daze, and he continued mumbling to himself, until his strength ran out and he fell.
“The baron took Xisa Deathiron’s ugly head from Kohen ‘s hands and tied it to a flagpole.”
Time seemed have frozen at that moment. Both Thales and Tampa fell silent.
Then the owner grabbed a bottle of wine, and casually took a big gulp from it.
“From that day on, no one in the camp called him ‘Young Master’, and no one spat into his kettle again.” Tampa put down the bottle, took a deep breath and sighed before he said, “From that day on, he became a stupid boy among us.
“Stupid Kohen, great warrior of Blade Fangs Camp, a real man.”
Thales remained silent for a long time.
He did not expect that the big man who laughed in such a carefree manner and who seemed to be a simple-minded idiot would have such a thrilling and exhilarating past.
“It’s good story.” The prince nodded. “It’s worthy to be written into a song for the bards to sing.”
Tampa snorted. Thales had no idea whether he was in a good mood or whether the alcohol had gone to his head, but he actually took the initiative to bring out a plate of food and placed it between himself and Thales before he began eating. “How is he doing now?”
The image of Kohen promising that he would support Thales to fight his way back into Heroic Spirit Palace while they were in Bright Moon Goddess’ temple six years ago appeared in Thales’ mind.
“As far as I know, he didn’t go home. He was still a police officer in the capital, but I haven’t seen him for a long time.”
“The capital…” Tampa pondered.
“I know that he is an aristocrat, and the nobles are very complicated creatures. They have a whole lot of issues with them.”
He shook his head.
“I guess that stupid boy has his own responsibilities and troubles as well.”
Thales did not speak.
In the end, the boss sighed slightly. “I hope he is still that real man, and is as stupid as always.”
Thales nodded and finished the slightly bitter beer in his glass.
“He will definitely be the same.” The prince showed an energetic smile.
“And he will be a fool for a lifetime.”
Tampa stared at him for a long time before he finally laughed.
“Yeah, I hope so.”
“So,” Thales coughed. “After the war, Kohen went to the capital, can you come here to open this tavern?”
“No, I just took over… Did you see the words on the sign board? My Home has been opened for two or three hundred years.” Tampa waved his hands.
“When you are tired of seeing blades flash and their shadows on the ground… You know? Ordinary life is much more attractive.”
Thales snorted sarcastically.
The prince said brusquely, “Believe me, based on my experience and the people I know, a guy who can be a tavern owner in this place is not leading an ‘ordinary life’.”
“Enough with it. It’s just a ‘first lesson’, don’t take it to heart.” Tampa glanced at him disdainfully. “You’re like a sissy… You sure you aren’t Quick Rope’s girlfriend?”
“I just don’t like people scheming against me…”
“Hah, looking at your face, I can tell you must have been duped a lot growing up.”
Thales also gave him a polite and fake smile, then looked down at his food.
“Say, are you going to stay here for good?”
Tampa furrowed his eyebrows. “You know that you have to pay for the food, right?”
“I am waiting for Dean and the rest… Wait, pay?” Thales choked. “But you served this!”
“So that’s why you have to pay, if you brought your own food, why would I want money from you?”
Thales looked at the boss, flabbergasted.
“A Mindis silver coin, thanks for your patronage,” Tampa smiled and said, “On behalf of that idiot, I gave you a special discount.”
After reluctantly handing over a few Shawlon silver coins, Thales helped himself and took a vicious bite of the foodit was already served, it would be waste if he did not eat it. He watched the tavern slowly quieting down, frowned, and asked, “It is just me, or are the number of guests dwindling?”
“Usually, the later it is into the night, there will more customers in the tavern.
“But it’s different recently. Every single part of Blade Fangs Campbecame more complicated, and we have a curfew every night.” Tampa yawned, “If you stroll around the streets during the curfew, you’ll be caught by the soldiers who are patrolling… you know, this is the first time many of the temporary recruits arrived in Blade Fangs Camp. They will take charge of the defense when the regular soldiers of the royal family are not on duty. They don’t know what it means to turn a blind eye. You have to either to pay a princely sum or to go to jail.”
Tampa shook his head. “Just last month, many of the members of the famous hundred-man mercenary group Blood Whistle were caught. It’s useless even if I spoke to those people on that side. Those new soldiers refuse to show even the slightest bit of consideration.”
Thales frowned. “So you must be pretty reputable that you could plead mercy for someone in jail?”
“My Home has been providing supplies for the Prison of Bones for years, so it’s only natural that we have our own ways.” Tampa snorted with a smug air. “Just who do you think got that foul-mouthed Quick Rope out of prison?”
“And then you introduced Quick Rope to Dean and he joined Dante’s Greatsword?”
“You know, they weren’t going to accept that kid with that Camian accent of his.” The tavern owner smiled. “But he seemed to have a friend who knew the old Dante family…”
“So, Quick Rope and Kant…” Thales asked, though no one knew whether he did it deliberately or not. “Did Dean get into Dante’s Greatsword because of your recommendation as well?”
Tampa shook his head.
“Dean was saved by Old Dante in the desert. Many of them in the team joined this way. Because of this, Dante’s Greatsword has not disbanded even after so many years, and even if Old Dante had passed away.”
Thales became absorbed in his thoughts.
“He seems very smart I’m talking about Dean.”
Tampa seemed to agree with him.
“To tell the truth, it’s a waste for people like him to be a mercenary. With his talents and insights, if he was in the army, his performance wouldn’t be far off from those noble commanders with their big bellies. In just a few years, he made Dante’s Greatsword earn a good reputation.”
A thought struck Thales’ mind.
“You seemed to know these mercenaries very well?”
“After all, this is ‘My Home’,” Tampa said quite arrogantly, “The mercenaries come here to search for business deals, or businesses will come here to find these mercenaries.”
Thales looked around. He looked at the fierce and aggressive guests, and he seemed to be thinking of something.
At this moment, several armored figures walked into the noisy tavern.
Tampa’s eyebrows rose upwards.
“My dear Ricky!”
The boss happily reached out to the guests who were walking towards him. “How long has it been since you dropped by?”
“It’s just been a few months.” The mercenary named Ricky said faintly, then extended his hand and held Tampa’s.
Tampa grinned as he stared at Ricky, then turned his attention to the middle-aged man with a saber. “Newcomer?”
“This is Klein, he’s from the north, and he’s good with the sword. By good, I don’t mean just your average level of being good.” Ricky pointed at Klein casually, and the middle-aged man nodded slightly at Tampa amiably. “Don’t even think about it. He’s already with us, he won’t take on personal jobs.”
“A pity.” Tampa shrugged regretfully. “You know that there are a few jobs where we lack a person good with a sword.”
Thales shifted his gaze away from the middle-aged man. Ever since he fought in the Land of Barren Rocks, his senses had improved due to the Sin of Hell’s River, and it provided him with rare information right then. There was a strange and restless energy surging in the middle-aged man’s body.
As he watched the new mercenaries, Thales suddenly felt the center of his brow twitch.
The masked man to Ricky’s left was staring at the prince coldly. The wrinkles on his forehead were deep, and they seemed to have been there for some time.
He swept his gaze past the Crossbow of Time beside Thales, and he narrowed his eyes.
Thales felt his heart jump.
“As for this one best that you don’t know him. He just came to the camp, but he has a criminal record. He doesn’t have a clean past.” Ricky sighed and shrugged at the masked man to his left. “It’s not convenient for him to show his face.”
In the end, the masked man slowly moved his gaze away, and Thales felt a chill etch into his bones while he stared at the man.
‘These people are very dangerous.’
Thales suppressed the uneasiness in his heart.
“Of course. I only care about my business.” Tampa raised his eyebrows, completely unconcerned. “How many tables do you want? Are you here to negotiate businesses or to look for girls?”
Ricky shook his head.
“Honestly, several tables aren’t enough.” Ricky fished out a money pouch from his waist and signaled the other people to sit down at the tables. Only the middle-aged man and the masked man remained behind him. “We’ll be booking the whole place tonight. Tampa, I’ll give you two hours to clear the place. That includes your employees. Besides wine and food, leave nothing behind.”
Tampa furrowed his eyebrows.
“But there’re only three hours left before curfew.”
Ricky smiled faintly. “Then we’ll drink till daylight. We won’t be leaving. We’ll only be leaving when curfew is over the second day.”
Tampa narrowed his eyes and looked at him.
“It’s impossible.” The owner shook his head resolutely. “You know that I still have to conduct business. And tomorrow morning, I still have to send replenishments to the Prison”
Ricky placed his money pouch on the counter. His smile remained.
“Twenty silver coins, one night. You have to understand, we have around a dozen people here.”
Tampa’s expression froze.
“This place is My Home.” He lifted his head and became stern. “We have principals”
“Which is why we gave you a huge leeway of two hours.” Ricky continued putting on a look that he was very open to negotiations, but he did not back down at all. “Thirty silver coins. We need your place to speak about certain things.”
Tampa cast a glance at the money pouch, then shrugged. “We have to close shop and rest. It’s impossible for us to remain open for so long”
The middle-aged man behind Ricky smiled.
“But the slogan on your sign reads ‘We will never close.'”
Tampa looked towards him, then he lifted a finger. “You know, if the words written on slogans had always come true then they would never be written on slogans.”
The middle-aged man cocked an eyebrow. “Makes sense.”
As if he could no longer bear with their dilly-dallying, the masked man took a swift and firm step forward, fished out his money pouch, then slammed it on the counter.
“Fifty silver coins. No more than this.”
Tampa snapped his fingers.
“Done!” He put away the money pouch swiftly.
By the side, Thales sighed and rolled his eyes.
‘I knew it.’
Ricky shook his head, and in a resigned fashion, he brought his comrades to one of the wooden tables.
“So, you got yourself a major business deal?” Once he rented off his place for a good deal, Tampa looked at Ricky’s back with a grin. “You intend to party all night?”
Ricky did not even turn his head around. “On the contrary, after tonight, we will leave Blade Fangs Camp. You saw it as well, the Constellatiates are sending their army to the desert as if money is nothing to them. There’s no longer any business to be conducted in this place.”
Tampa shrank behind his counter, then shook his head regretfully. “Really? That’s really bad news, to me and to you.”
Thales stared at their backs, then asked in puzzlement, “They are…”
“Blood Whistle.” Before he finished asking, Tampa said airily, “They’re the same as Dante’s Greatsword, also mercenaries, but it’ll be best if you don’t provoke them. That is a group numbering to the hundreds. Their top leaders and goons number to a total of three hundred men. There are more than one hundred of them who are warriors fully equipped for battle. They are not militia. All of them are like Dante’s Greatsword. They are professional killers.
“They will only take on work involving battles or businesses specially approved by the royal family merchants. Even the baron has to regard them with respect.”
“Blood Whistle? Hundred man group?”
Thales was shocked. He stared at the few people from Blood Whistle, and somewhat understood where that shocking murderous aura and threatening feeling came from.
Thales seemed to be deep in thought. “The likes of Dante’s Greatsword and Blood Whistle gathered here So, the borders of the desert is really a heaven for mercenaries, huh?”
“Heaven?” Tampa was momentarily stunned. “It was once.”
The owner sighed and said, “About twenty to thirty years ago, when I was still young and foolish and before I took an arrow to the knee, that was the golden age of mercenaries. Constellation’s army kept to their own business, the tribes in the desert kept to their principles. There was a constant stream of merchants, adventurers who came searching for treasures, brilliant bounty hunters, and priests who came to spread their religion. Everyone tried to search for a chance here.
Tampa shook his head. “Even the brilliant Dante’s Greatsword suffered such a great loss, and the powerful Blood Whistle is searching for another way to survive.”
“Times are changing.” Thales said quietly, “And so is the world.”
“That’s right. Twenty to thirty years ago, Constellation’s army cannot come into the depths of the desert.” There was nostalgia and a yearning look in Tampa’s eyes. “This was a unique privilege to adventurers and mercenaries. They generously came into the desert in great excitement, and those who survived and returned would tell their wondrous tales or wait for bards to weave their stories into songs, spreading it to the entire world.
“I still remember that there was once a very good mercenary group around the desert. They moved from Blade Fangs Camp to the Three Kingdoms of the Lost Ocean, from Revol City to Steel City, from Dragon-Kissed Land to Thornland. Be it the desert or the forest, lakes or rivers, their footprints spread through the mercenary’s heaven. I wanted to join them as well, in the past.”
Thales was not really paying attention. He saw Dante’s Greatsword coming down the stairs.
“What was the name of that mercenary group?”
Tampa was immersed in his own world. He sighed nonstop. “Name, huh? Heh, they only had nine people in the start, and they gave themselves an incredibly stupid name
“They were known as the Nine Powerhouses.”
1. Took an arrow to the knee: A reference from Skyrim.