Translator:EndlessFantasy TranslationEditor:EndlessFantasy Translation
Thales’ eyes were fixed firmly on Nalgi. He began to inspect the man whom he previously did not spend much energy paying attention to.
Nalgi, on the other hand, clutched the key to the Prison of Bones tightly. He appeared panicky, distressed, and terrified.
As a matter of fact, when Ricky and his Disaster Swords found the prison cells of the former Royal Guards, Nalgi had been the first to say something. His tone was always lackadaisical and carefree, as if everything did not matter to him.
But Thales also could not remember since when the lackadaisical tone started to wear off from Nalgi’s voice, and when his voice became curt, nervous, and uneasy.
Now that he thought about it, his tone should have changed when Zakriel showed up in front of them.
‘But what was it that led to his severe reaction towards the Knight of Judgment’s appearance? Was it pure fear and panic? Or could it have been something else?’
“The key, Nalgi.” Barney Junior only wavered for a second before he resolutely stopped pondering Nalgi’s words, which had an underlying meaning to them. He spoke with an authoritative voice.
Unfortunately, Nalgi was no longer as obedient as he was before. “We have already escaped; the prince is safe, and Zakriel is also free”
Nalgi tugged the corner of his lips with difficulty. The tip of his sword which was directed at the group trembled continuously. He acted as though he could not hear Barney’s instruction.
“Then, what we have to do is hide our identities for the rest of our lives. Zakriel could do whatever he wants. As for the young prince, he could return to his place as the heir of the royal family in Renaissance Palace. He will rule the world one day and become the wise ruler of his generation Is that not good enough?”
Nalgi looked at Thales. There was a pleading tone to his voice, making the latter more confused.
“Let bygones be bygones. Is this not a happy ending?” Nalgi looked like a despairing wife interrogating her heartless husband. He finally turned in Barney Junior’s direction. Resentment and bitter hate showed in his eyes. “But why must you be so stubborn, Barney?”
As Nalgi interrogated Barney Junior, his abnormal behavior brought uneasiness to many people. Beldin’s face was so tense that he looked like he was about to burst in anger the next moment. Tardin seemed shocked and confused, as if this was his first time meeting Nalgi. Naer was engrossed in his thoughts with his face looking down. Samel revealed an expression of surprise that was even greater than when he found out Zakriel was the traitor. Bruley, who could not say a word, shook his head while he trembled. Canon started to mumble incoherently again.
Barney Junior’s reaction was even greater. Based on the vanguard’s trembling, swordhand, Thales guessed that it must have taken him a lot of resolve to hold back the impulse to stab his former comrade-in-arms.
“Why must you return to the capital? Why must you bring up the past again?” Nalgi sounded exhausted and sorrowful, like a sinner suffering from torture before facing execution. “Why must you persist in forcing Zakriel into a corner? Why must you drive things to a point where we can no longer do anything to amend it?”
At this moment, Nalgi, who had transformed into a pacifist, looked frightened. He turned his head around and swept his gaze over the group as if he was looking for help.
In the next second, Barney Junior appeared to have exhausted his patience.
He stabbed Nalgi’s left hand with the tip of his sword in an attempt to snatch the key when Nalgi was distracted. Another sword swung from the side and went straight for Barney’s throat, stopping an inch from piercing into flesh. It glinted coldly.
Quick Rope cried out in alarm.
In the blink of an eye, the few men from the Royal Guards raised their weapons subconsciously and faced each other as the wind howled from their movements.
When Thales registered what happened, he was shocked to find that the situation had become very unusual.
The tip of Barney Junior’s sword was pointed at Nalgi’s left hand, while Samel’s sword was directed at Barney’s throat. Beldin and Tardin reacted in loyalty to Barney Junior by holding Samelwho suddenly turned against themback with their axe, sword, and blade. Canon looked terrified out of his wits. He might have raised his weapon, but he did not know what to do with it. Bruley croaked out some sounds in panic. Naer stood alone and clenched the dart in his hand tightly.
Faced with the Royal Guards who were suddenly divided among themselves, the confused Thales found himself having difficulty in making sense of the current situation. He could only glance at Quick Rope who was equally confused. The rookie mercenary met his gaze.
“What’s the meaning of this, Samel?” Barney Junior stared at the key in Nalgi’s hand, and felt the chill against his throat. His face was livid with rage. “Are you finally showing your true colors?”
Samel’s face was frosty. The edge of his sword held Barney Junior back. The chief vanguard was incredulous, but Samel did not care, neither did he care about the three weapons pointed at his vitals. He stole a quick glance at Nalgi, whose eyes were unfocused.
“Let him finish.”
Tardin pressed against Samel’s vital points on the back of his waist with his blade and sword, while looking confused. “Hold on, Samel. Haven’t you noticed that we’re running for our lives?”
Samel snorted. He moved the tip of his sword a little, forcing Barney Junior to turn to his side. “Do you think I care about running for my life, after I’ve been running for a total of eighteen years?”
His tone was emotionless, and his words disregarded the matters of life and death. It led the rest of the Royal Guards to stare at each other at a loss. The veins on Barney Junior’s neck were about to pop right out of his skin.
Quick Rope looked at the wall behind him, which was said to be the exit but was bare of anything, including a door. He tugged at his hair painfully and spoke to Thales softly, “You Constellatiates are full of sh*t”
As he watched the Royal Guards have an internal strife again, Thales frowned. ‘Yes, indeed. But… it’s not some easy “sh*t”.’
Once he finished speaking, instead of looking at the furious vanguard, Samel turned in the direction of the only man who would provide him the opportunity to continue living.
“Tell us, Nalgi. Other than that song, other than what Zakriel said, what else do you know about the Bloody Year?”
Even though they were not in a very optimistic situation, the topic still aroused many of the people’s interests.
No one lowered their weapons. But at that moment, be it Barney Junior, Samel, Beldin, or Tardin, all of them glanced at Nalgi.
“You said the opposite, Samel.” As he watched them have a falling out with each other even though they swore they were brothers, Nalgi, for some strange reason, chuckled. It was as if he had let go of something.
“What you should ask instead is this: what else do you not know about that year?”
‘What we do not know?’
Puzzlement crept onto Barney and Samel’s faces. This was probably the only thing in common they could find at this moment.
Barney Junior looked at Beldin in confusion. However, Beldin shook his head at Barney, indicating that he knew nothing about it.
Nalgi noticed their interaction and let out a neurotic laugh. “Didn’t realize anything?”
Thales was surprised to see that Nalgi’s face was tinted with madness and elation, but his eyes reflected hopelessness and dreariness.
“Didn’t you realize how lousy Zakriel’s acting skills were when he exaggerated his dissatisfaction about the late king, and spoke about his hatred for the calamities? His explanations were too forced, and his speech was bland and powerless.”
‘His acting skills were lousy… His speech was bland’ Barney Junior paused for a little while.
There was a smile on Nalgi’s face again, and he pointed at Samel. There were tears in his eyes as he smiled. “Did you not realize that Samel has been full of doubts even now, and that he suspects of every single word uttered by our famous and highly reputable watchman?”
A seed of suspicion was planted in Thales as he pondered carefully over “every single word” uttered by Zakriel just now.
‘What does it mean? Was Zakriel lying?’
He was not the only who had this question in his head. Barney Junior and Beldin looked at each other. They were full of confusion.
Then, Samel took over where Nalgi left off. “So his betrayal was not because of those bullsh*t reasons he said” Samel shook his head lightly. Surprise flashed in his eyes. “Was it because Zakriel had no other choice on that matter during that year? Was he trapped in a dilemma and could only go with the flow?”
Nalgi turned around and glanced at Samel with exhaustion in his eyes. He did not utter a single word, but his tensed face had relaxed.
Thales noticed that many of their expressions had become different.
Samel still held his sword up high, but he had shifted his entire focus to Nalgi. Then, while feeling rather dubious, he asked probingly,
“And today, when the truth from that year was about to be exposed to the world, he still found himself trapped in a dilemma and an awkward predicament, and because of this, he found himself more willing to bear the responsibility for all of it.”
Once he said this, Samel’s expression changed slowly. “I still remember that when Zakriel gave that strange order to the main force of the Royal Guards, to lure our enemies away by weakening our own defenses. At that moment, most of the people’s responses were”
Nalgi smiled again. This time, he smiled in an exceptionally happy manner. “Samel, you son of a b*tch. As expected of the Flag Bearer Division.”
Samel’s expression changed completely.
Barney Junior was held captive in the middle of the room. He found himself unable to bear with the atmosphere any longer. He loudly said, “What exactly are you talking about?”
The absent-minded Nalgi seemed to have finally noticed Barney. He snorted softly. “Hahaha… Barney” He watched Barney, who was glaring at him with righteous indignation. He shook his head disapprovingly.
“I am thinking: Just how foolish and stubborn are you to willingly believe that the noble and virtuous Knight of Judgment is the root of all evil, and that he is the mastermind of the Bloody Year?
“How can you believe that he is a man who abandoned his loyalty and caused the death of the late king because of righteous indignation, delusions, and rage? When will you realize that you are deceiving yourself and others by searching for that so-called justice which you so crave from him?”
Nalgi gripped the key and hit his chest heavily while his gaze swept past everyone. There was mockery in his eyes as he did so.
“Do you really think that Zakriel could truly use the title as a watchman to make dozens of Royal Guards, including uswho were born into nobility, have outstanding qualities, and are intelligent and capableobey his orders without thinking further, make us dissolve the defence of Renaissance Palace easily, and allow that despicable assassination to happen?”
Many furrowed their eyebrows tighter.
‘Wait a minute. He means’ Thales’ expression changed as time went by.
Samel wanted to say something but was hesitant. Barney Junior’s expression remained the same, but his thoughts, reflected in his gaze, changed slowly.
“Do you really think the betrayals and assassinations that happened in the Eternal Star City of the past, and which greatly affected the Western Peninsula… could have been completed with Zakriel’s sole power alone? That he really carried out the entire plot with just one order?”
Nalgi was seen panting while the brand on his face grew more unpleasant. All of them were dumbfounded and quietly watched Nalgi, who was on the verge of breaking down.
Then, a few seconds later…
“What do you mean?” Barney Junior snapped out of his daze with difficulty.
Nalgi took a few deep breaths and paused for a second like he was savoring the complicated emotions he felt at this moment.
They all held their breaths subconsciously.
“That’s right.” Right before everyone’s gazes, Nalgi finally spoke; his words were spoken in a low pitch, and his tone was dreary. He sounded relieved, as though he had accepted his fate.
“It was not just Zakriel…” Nalgi lowered his head and said softly, “Back then, there was more than half of our brothers among the Royal Guards who knew about the plot beforehand, yet feigned ignorance, and even participated in the assassination”
Clearly the power of his words was second only to the Alchemy Ball that Thales had just activated. In a total of ten seconds, not a single person registered his words; all of them stared at Nalgi in their daze, and their hearts were filled with shock.
Subconsciously, Barney Junior lowered his sword. The tip of his blade was turned elsewhere; it was no longer directed at Nalgi as its owner’s heart had wavered. It no longer flashed coldly nor filled the air with killing intent.
Samel put his weapon down as well almost at the same time. Beldin and Tardin stopped threatening the back of Samel’s waist, too. However, at this point, they could care less about the animosity from a while ago.
Thales only blinked his eyes desperately, trying hard to organize his chaotic thoughts in that moment.
‘Hold on. Hold on More than half of the Royal Guards…? They knew about the plot beforehand and yet feigned ignorance? Does this mean that during the Bloody Year, the plot to assassinate Aydi the Second was?’
When he thought of this, Thales suddenly felt chills crawl down the back of his spine. He felt like he was suffocating.
“What?” Barney Junior asked quietly in the stillness. The lightness of his tone and the dullness of his speech made him sound like a little boy who hid under the bed to escape the monsters from his nightmare.
But he still awakened the monster, or rather, he snapped everyone in the room out of their dazes.
“Beforehand?” Beldin widened his eyes in disbelief.
“More than half?” Samel uttered the words laboriously.
Almost all of them were stupefied.
As the center of the crowd’s attention, Nalgi snorted again before lifting his head. Clarity shone through his dreary eyes. He looked like a prisoner who was about to calmly accept his execution.
“Maybe even more.” It was hard to tell from his tone whether he was laughing or crying. “When Zakriel gave the order, some among the guards may have sensed that something was amiss. Although they were not involved in the plot, they kept their lips sealed and did not show interest in it. But that makes them no different from being traitors, right?”
No one responded to him, but Nalgi did not need any response. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath of relief.
“Earlier, when Zakriel claimed that he was the one who did it all, I knew that he was only putting up a brave front, pushing his limits, and overestimating himself.” Nalgi said absentmindedly, “He wanted to, as we saw, shoulder everyone’s crimes himself, conceal our disgrace, and cover the scandal. He wants to be the lone hero who suffers in misery and silence.”
‘Putting up a brave front? Pushing his limits? Shouldering everyone’s crimes? Lone hero?’ Thales blinked, trying to struggle free of the shock brought on by the truth earlier.
He recalled a certain expressionless, long-faced man, and tried hard to understand the description Nalgi gave the Knight of Judgment, who was matchlessly fierce and tough, and was filled with a murderous aura.
“But I cannot let him do that.”
Nalgi’s tone became downcast. His hand which held the key was lowered, together with his weapon. He looked like a helpless traveler who slid and fell into an abyss.
“I can’ do that No” Nalgi reopened his eyes. They were lifeless. He mumbled, “Never again.”
‘So, this means that when Zakriel shouldered all the blame, he was… he was’ Thales thought dazedly.
He could only hear each and every Royal Guard’s breaths rise and fall on the other side.
“So, it was only right that King Kessel put us in the Prison of Bones.”
Everyone turned their heads stiffly. In the stifling darkness, Samel’s voice traveled forward with effort.
“Because through some way, he did indeed learn the truth behind the late king’s demise: It was not a coincidence that there was a gap in the Royal Guards’ defenses, nor was it a coincidence that they neglected their duties.”
Samel watched the others helplessly and saw that they could not accept the truth of the situation as well.
“Because it was a filthy mutiny which involved more than a hundred men. They conspired among themselves and with outside forces.”
Samel said his conclusion numbly, “This is the truth of how we, the Royal Guards, ‘communicated with the enemies’ in the past.”