Translator:EndlessFantasy TranslationEditor:EndlessFantasy Translation
Samel listened to Barney Junior’s words in the dark hall. There was a blank look on his face. His eyes swept over every corpse and skeleton in the prison, but in his eyes there was only emptiness and bewilderment, just like a prodigal son who finally returned home after being away for many years, only to find that he had lost everything.
“Seven,” he muttered.
For some reason, when Thales listened to their conversation, he, too, felt an emptiness in his heart, and he felt horrible.
Stake coughed softly within the crowd. He strode to Ricky’s side and pointed at the area above him.
“My people can’t hold on much longer above. We also have to prevent any possible accidents…”
Ricky ignored him, but Stake attracted the attention of the prisoners.
“Samel, who are the people who came with you?”
Barney Junior approached the bars, put away the mournful expression on his face, squinted, and stared at the Disaster Swords in the distance. He said warily, “They don’t look like officials, none of them look like nobles in charge of governmental affairs, neither do they look like soldiers of Blade Fangs Camp. They look more like mercenaries?”
Ricky frowned, stretched out his arm, and pushed Stake back, indicating that he should be calm.
In the other cell, Beldin became vigilant. “They also don’t look like they’ve captured youa fugitive. Nor do they look like they’re sending you here to be imprisoned.” Beldin seemed to remember something. His expression became stern. “How did you come down here, Samel?”
Samel frowned slightly. He was uncertain as to how he was supposed to answer.
In another cell, Canon, who had been holding his head while curled up, suddenly shook and leaned against the wall, letting out a pained cry when he saw so many people outside the cell.
“They’re helping me,” Samel finally said. He calmly looked into the scrutinizing gazes of his former comrades. “They’re the only people who were willing to lend a helping hand when I had nowhere to go.”
Samel looked at the Disaster Swords, and his expression was calm. “Like us, they are also a group of pitiful people who have their own wants and needs.”
Klein snorted lightly and patted Josef beside him.
“This group of people, too, don’t want to be mercilessly forgotten by history.”
Ricky did not move.
“Fate brought us together.” Samel turned his head around and stared at the imprisoned Barney Junior. The words he spoke next contained an underlying meaning. “And since fate brought us together, we are able to fight against it.”
However, his former comrades did not respond enthusiastically. Perhaps it was because they had suffered too much.
Barney Junior tilted his head, and looked askance at Samel with a rather hostile posture.
“Why are you here, Samel? What identity did you use to come here? How did you manage to enter the Prison of Bones? As an exile? Prison breaker? Rescuer?”
As Barney Junior spoke, his gaze shifted onto the people behind Samel, and he began to examine the group of uninvited guests.
“I don’t see the light often, my vision has deteriorated a lot, but I can at least see… a group of fiends armed with various weapons, they don’t look like friendly people who came in with an invitation.
“As for those who don’t have weapons… they are the ones who were kidnapped by them, right?”
When Samel was rendered speechless, Barney Junior continued on faintly. His tone grew more and more doubtful.
“And who is that boy? Why do you have to place so many people around him? And the person with the hood as well as the person in formal attire are subconsciously looking at him, too…”
Barney Junior suddenly gestured with his chin at Thales and looked at him indifferently, making the prince tense up.
The aforementioned Stake and Lasalle were slightly startled. Under Ricky’s gaze, Stake was forced to order his subordinates to move a little further away from Thales.
But when, at that moment, an idea came to Thales, a weight was suddenly added to his shoulder and a chill came to his groin.
“If you dare say more than what’s necessary, kid, you’ll lose something important below,” Marina said coldly as she pressed down on his shoulder, and the tip of her blade rubbed against Thales’s pants.
Thales felt only a chill down his spine. He did not dare to speak.
“No, they don’t seem to be guarding him.” In the cell, Beldin also observed Thales. He frowned even more tightly.“I can see that the boy was also kidnapped.”
Ricky’s face was tense. The remnants of the Royal Guards exceeded his expectations. They have been struggling for many years in captivity, but the moment they saw light again, they could see the crux of the matter with just a glance.
Samel’s expression was a little unpleasant, and he moved his eyes away from Thales.
“Barney, Beldin, as expected of the vanguard and the penal officer. Your observation skills are still amazing.”
Barney Junior snorted. He continued to stare at Thales.
“Who the heck is he”
“By the way!” Right then, Stake suddenly jumped in and interrupted their conversation. “Honorable Crassus, is it your plan to help the former Royal Guards catch up?”
Ricky’s eyebrows moved a bit. Stake and two of his men walked up with smiles to stop any form of dialogue the former Royal Guards would have about Thales. At the same time, they slowly approached the prince.
“For a number of reasons, I don’t think it’s a good idea for your men to spend so much effort on these gentlemen.” Stake winked at Ricky. “Perhaps I can escort this item back. After all, he does have a very sensitive identity…”
Thales saw Stake’s hand reach out to him, and was instantly on his guard… until a longsword with a groove-like fuller moved as quick as lightning to stop in front of Stake.
“If you touch him, Stake, you should be prepared to lose your hand.” With Twilight in his hand, Klein stopped Stake, preventing him and his subordinates from getting close to Thales. His tone was unfriendly.
Stake’s smile froze. Lasalle coughed awkwardly. He was forced to mediate the dispute.
“Everyone, I think Stake is suggesting for us to hurry.”
The Northlander quietly pushed Stake back. He then made a gesture to the two assassins beside Stake to put away their weapons, which they had drawn at some unknown point in time. He reminded the Disaster Swords of one fact with a solemn expression.
“Unexpected accidents can happen at any time. Do not forget our current circumstances.”
Ricky’s gaze moved away from them. He snorted.
“Of course.” The leader of the Disaster Swords whispered, “Samel, focus on the task.”
“As for you…” Ricky looked at Stake. He said with a displeased tone, “We need time.”
Stake raised his eyebrows slightly, as if he was thinking of something. But in the end, he smiled, and moved back slowly.
“Very well, of course. Then, it’d better if I wait for you outside. Besides, I am also quite concerned about the situation above. I will need to make sure.”
Stake raised both of his hands and took two steps back. Under the Disaster Swords’ hostile glares, he walked out of the hall with his men.
Lasalle gave Ricky an apologetic smile. “They are sometimes anxious.”
The mercenaries who had surrounded Shadow Shieldat some point in time loosened their hold on their weapons. The murderous look in their gazes disappeared.
The prisoners and Samel watched the short conflict silently from the other side of the hall.
Samel sucked in a breath. He seemed to be adjusting his emotions. “Barney, I’m very happy to see”
Barney Junior rolled his eyes. “Who’s that?”
The prisoner in the cell watched Stake’s back, despite the distance between them. “The man in the hood he doesn’t give me a good feeling.”
Naer stared at Lasalle and gnashed his teeth from the other cell. “And that person who practically has eyes growing on his head He has the thrice cursed Northland accent. He’s definitely not from around Cold Castle, but further north, from Eckstedt.”
Lasalle immediately froze.
As he watched his two suspicious comrades, Samel sighed. “It doesn’t matter”
However, a panicked shout suddenly broke the tense atmosphere!
Everyone became nervous. Their first reaction was to hold their weapons. Then, they registered what was going onsomeone in the prison was yelling.
“No, no! Barney!”
Barney Junior frowned and turned around.
In another cell, the one who previously reminded the prisoners that the iron curtains had been drawn, Canon, shook constantly while still holding his head, and was still curled up into a ball on the ground. He convulsed and screamed in pain, “Barney, I can-I can hear it, just like what I see in my dreams every day…!”
His cellmate, the formerly lackadaisical Nalgi, walked up very quickly and swung an arm around Canon’s shoulders, his movements were so swift that it was clear he had a lot of experience in this. He whispered words of comfort to him, “It’s okay, Canon, it’s gone, it’s gone. Everything is fine, everything will be fine, those terrible pasts don’t exist. We’re fine, just like this…” As Nalgi spoke, he, too, spaced out and stared blankly at the ground.
Nevertheless, Canon still struggled desperately. His eyes were shut tight, and he screamed madly, “Their footsteps! They step down with the balls of their feet. Their heels only touch the ground briefly. They’re like cats… Those steps, those sounds, those who only appear in the dark… just like, like those people! Those people!”
Samel looked upset as he watched Canon have a fit. Barney Junior frowned tightly.
“They’re coming, Barney, they’re coming!” Canon yelled in anguish. He tossed his dirty, matted hair everywhere. “They’re coming to kill them! Just like how they did in the past…”
Canon’s screams lasted for nearly a minute. He only quieted down when Nalgi began to console him just like how he previously did with Naerby humming a small tune.
Samel exhaled quietly as he watched Canon, whose eyes were wide, badly shaken, and chest heaving. With great sorrow in his heart, he asked, “When did he become like this?”
Barney Junior shook his head, but there was uncertainty in his eyes.
“Don’t know. It felt like he became like this when I woke up one day, but it doesn’t matter. Canon’s symptoms are considered mild.”
Samel was silent for a while.
“Listen, Barney, all of you shouldn’t be here.” Samel gritted his teeth with a determined gaze. “You are all respectable warriors, powerful fighters, fearless and brave men, sharp knives, you should not fade away in silence here, or die in grief…”
Barney Junior slowly lifted his gaze, making the somewhat worked up Samel stop in his speech, but he persisted in telling Barney Junior his suggestion. He looked at the others with hope in his eyes.
“Follow me. Join us. I can give you back your freedom, maybe even enough power to make up for the mistakes that were made, and even change this f*cking world.” Samel’s tone was filled with strength. “What do you think?”
When he said those words, the prisoners were quiet for a moment.
Barney Junior looked at Samel indifferently. Tardin and Bruley both frowned. Nalgi continued to comfort the trembling Canon. There was no reaction from Beldin and Naer.
Tardin tossed his head around, which made him look like a clown in the circus. He raised his hands in a dramatic fashion, waving them in the air, and the corners of his mouth curled up in an exaggerated arc. He laughed out loud. “Everyone, he said… he wants to give us freedom! Hahahahaha…”
He smiled was quite exaggerated, and even a little fake.
Samel looked at his former comrades in puzzlement. “What’s the matter?”
No one answered him. Barney Junior shook his head and sighed. “You know, Samel… That year, all of us insisted that we were not guilty,” Barney Junior said. He bowed his head and said carefully, “We refused to plead guilty, that’s why we were sent here.”
Samel’s breathing changed slightly.
“Unfair treatment and trial.” He nodded, indignation showing up on his face. “This was the day they imposed these things on us”
But Barney Junior swiftly raised his head.
“No, you listen to me, Samel! We sinned. We neglected our duty. His Majesty and His Royal Highnesses were killed under our care… but we did not conspire with the enemies, we were not traitors, the Royal Guards did not betray the late king. I always believe that we are innocent in this regard.”
Barney Junior went near the bars, almost touching the dangerous magical creations. He was still glaring at Samel, his gaze almost neurotic.
“Everyone, including myself, believes in this, so we clenched our teeth and refused to plead guilty no matter how much torture we had to endure. That is why we can be filled with righteousness, even when we’ve had to bear the burden of accusations and slander. We can walk into prison with our backs straight, like real men. Because we didn’t do what we had been accused of doing. We’re not guilty.”
Samel looked back at him with a blank gaze. There was puzzlement in his heart, but it vanished when Barney Junior said his next sentence.
“Until you, Samel.” Barney Junior’s face suddenly contorted. He stood up and gritted his teeth in hatred. “Until you escaped from the team that carted us off to prison, and disappeared from our ‘firm belief’.”
Samel’s eyebrows rose and fell. He clenched his fists. “Barney”
Barney Junior suddenly jumped forward and grabbed the bars with both hands!
Everyone, including Samel, was shocked. Samel subconsciously took a step backwards.
“Tell me, Samel.” Barney Junior grabbed the bars tightly, his fingers trembled unceasingly, as if he was enduring great pain. Nevertheless, he still watched Samel with resentment. “Why did you run away that year? Why did you leave all your comrades and your brethren behind?”
The bars flashed. Barney Junior screamed in pain and fell back to the ground. But he did not care about it. He just raised his smoking hands and stared at Samel coldly.
“Why should we act like cowards and add to our alleged crimes? Why should we confirm that we are guilty?”
Samel looked at Barney, unable to believe his eyes. He turned around to look at the other prisoners, only to find that they all watched him with an unfamiliar expression.
‘Confirm that we are guilty…’
Samel looked at the numerous skeletons. He closed his eyes in agony. “I”
He gulped, wanting to speak, but stopped. In his hesitation, he said, “I’m sorry. You know why, Barney. You know why.”
Samel trembled, and lowered his head. “Eighteen years ago… I could bear all the consequences brought forth by that tragedy, whether it was demotion, punishment, torture, exile, or even death. But this?”
Samel’s eyes snapped open. He lifted his torch and illuminated their surroundings. The skeletons, the cell, the dust…
“To rot, to decay, to be forgotten and forever silenced, not even capable of making a splash for the remainder of your life in this bottomless underground prison? Letting our shame and stigma be buried in the ground forever, and never getting the chance to fix things?”
Samel’s expression grew more twisted. He looked like a drowning man struggling in the water. After a long while, the ‘drowning’ Samel twitched and spat his words through his teeth.
“No… I refuse,” he said firmly, and stared at Barney Junior. His eyes were full of pain and resentment.
“You said this yourself: We didn’t do what we were accused of doing, we shouldn’t bear such torture. That’s the reason.”
Then, unexpectedly, Barney Junior laughed, quite happily.
“Is it? You just say that you refuse to, and ran away just like that. But now, you came running back to perform a prison break.
“So where is your pride, dignity, and honor as a Royal Guard?” Barney Junior raised his hand, shrugged, and said in a mocking tone, “Where is your passion and devotion from when you swore the ancient oath as a praetorian guard?”
For a moment, Samel was quiet again. After some time, he slowly opened his mouth.
“I have not been a Royal Guard since a long time ago.” This time, Samel’s voice was low, and his voice was dejected since he was talking about something he was ashamed of.
“Our dignity and glory got trampled to nothing that day by the new king and nobility who sat high above us.”
Samel clenched his fists. The muscles in his arms tensed.
“Kessel, he was just a playboy before he was crowned. He shouldn’t have pushed all the Royal Guards into this dark abyss with a crude trial. He shouldn’t have used that trial to label us, who were once loyal to the crown, as traitors who collaborated with the enemy. He was even less qualified to deprive us of the right to prove our innocence.”
When Thales heard the familiar name, his heart became dejected. Samel’s breathing grew quicker.
“He didn’t.” Samel looked up and stared at his unrecognizable, sallow, and emaciated comrades. Indignation showed on his face. “He was even less qualified to make us, to make all of you become the way you are now.”
The Disaster Swords turned to look at each other, at a loss for what to do. Klein wanted to interrupt Samel, but was once more stopped by Ricky.
The silence in the prison cell lasted a long time. Then, Barney Junior laughed out loud. “The way we are now?”
Barney Junior stood up and took a few steps back with a rueful bark of laughter. He then spread his arms like he was showing off his home.
“Hahaha, you know nothing.” With a chilling smile, he slowly said, “Nothing.”
Samel was taken by surprise. “What?”
Barney Junior snorted. “You don’t even have the slightest clue to how we spent our days here.”
Barney Junior stepped forward and spoke, each word was laced with hatred.
“You haven’t endured the boundless silence and darkness; you haven’t heard everyone mourn and cry in despair; you haven’t seen your companions die one by one in this endlessly dark cell; you haven’t eaten the putrid cockroaches that crawled out from the corpses; you haven’t tasted drinking water that smelled like shit.”
With every word he said, the prisoners would respond differently. Some gritted their teeth, some clenched their fists, some convulsed, and some pounded the walls in pain.
Barney stared at Samel with resentment and pointed at the neat piles of corpses in the cells.
“You’ve never been a vanguard, and neither have you been locked in prison despite being a guard with the highest status possible. You’ve never stood here with bars separating you from your comrades, and have never bade farewell to them as they died one after another.” Barney Junior practically gritted his teeth so hard they shattered. “I did it a total of thirty-seven times. Thirty-seven!”
The prisoners turned to Samel simultaneously with still gazes that showed no emotion. It caused his face to turn pale. Barney Junior adjusted his breathing and shook his head apathetically.
“In the end, when I sent away the last few people, I no longer had anything to say.” Barney Junior turned his body to the side so that the tomb of the people who were only skeletons now was revealed to Samel.
“It’s not only because I lack the words to illustrate my thoughts, but also because I’m already numb to it. Their smiles in the past under the sun have gradually faded from my memories, and the only things that remain in my mind are their tears before they died, and their dispirited wails. I can no longer watch another person sink into this endless hell.”
Barney Junior stood in his spot with an absent-minded look. Thales bent his head down and sighed soundlessly.
In his daze, Barney Junior lifted his head. The dazed look in his eyes slowly turned into hate. “And you, you’re an indisputable coward who ran while we were on the way here. What right do you have to come here and ‘save’ us like some kind of Messiah?”
Samel looked as if he had been punched heavily in the gut. With a stunned look, he took a step back before he started taking large gulps of air.
“Barney, I can only say that I’m very sorry, and I can still fix things”
But Barney Junior suddenly roared, “No!”
When he saw the stunned Samel, Barney Junior lowered his voice and shook his head slowly. “No, Samel. Around ten years ago, I have thought about this for a very long time, and I finally understood some things. Just then, you reminded me of something else as well.”
As he spoke, he walked absentmindedly towards the wall.
“That trial eighteen years ago was unfair to certain people, but it was not completely without reason”
Samel frowned. “What do you mean, Barney?”
Barney Junior snorted with the ghost of a smile on his lips. On his face was an indifference that spoke of his lack of interest towards life.
Barney Junior pointed casually at Canon and Nalgi’s cell.
“Perhaps Canon went mad. He became sensitive, paranoid, crazy, and manic. He causes a ruckus from dawn till dusk, and we can’t sleep properly because of him. It’s seriously annoying. But you can’t blame him; it’s been eighteen years, and every single time he dreams, he will dream of the day the assassins tore off their disguises and jumped out from the crowd, of them charging into the palace, flashing their blades, and fighting against us”
Barney Junior said flatly, “They were just like shadows.” Then he repeated one word, intentionally placing emphasis on it, “Shadows.”
Thales suddenly came to a realization. ‘What he just said’
As Barney Junior spoke, Canon shrank back again and started tearing at his hair like he was in pain. Bruley let out moans filled with indignation, but whatever he was about to do, he was stopped by Tardin. Only Nalgi and Beldin remained silent and listened quietly.
Barney Junior shook his head slightly and interrupted the puzzled Samel.
“In this endless darkness, Canon dreamt for a total of eighteen years.” Barney Junior leaned against the wall and sighed dispiritedly before he said, “He was originally a cavalry scout, and he had good hearing as well as great eyesight. His vision may have degenerated after being locked in darkness for eighteen years, and his mind may also have become so sensitive that he would be sent into a fit at the slightest trigger, but his hearing is still present.”
As Barney Junior spoke, he suddenly turned his head around, and his eyes shone with a fierce glare. “And I believe that, with how deep an impression they had left him, he can still recognize the murderers’ footsteps even in his dreams.”
Canon hid his face in his own palms and let out a scream that sounded like a cry. Samel seemed to have remembered something. He stared dazedly at Barney Junior.
“Now, tell me, Samel…” Barney Junior pushed himself off the wall and stood straight again. “Why did you follow that man with the hood?”
He lifted his head coldly and walked forward. When there were only bars between him and Samel, he slowly extended his hand and pointed at the Disaster Swords in the distance.
“…Why were you walking with a despicable assassin from Shadow Shield? Why did you mingle with him?”