Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
There were no words that could describe the underground prison at that moment.
Once they sucked in a breath simultaneously, they could all hear the people’s heartbeats for a few seconds. It was as if the act of breathing loudly had become a luxury.
After those few seconds, the torch in Barney Junior’s hand emitted its last sparks in despair before it was completely extinguished.
The prison sank into endless darkness. Only the unpleasant stench of smoke lingered in the air. The few living people in the room acted like they had become corpses; they did not move.
Thales felt like he had returned to the Black Track. Just like this, Thales sensed the barely noticeable sound of breathing in front of and behind him in the silent darkness. In his daze, he lived through the most unique few seconds of his life.
During that moment, he felt as if the darkness had turned into his shield. It buried his fear, numbed his pain, and blocked his view from seeing all kinds of gazes on him.
Eventually, a few rustling sounds arose. Someone among the guards groped about in the darkness, trembling. Then, that person struck tinder and lit another torch.
Thales narrowed his eyes, trying to get used to the light. He felt as though he had just returned to the realm of the living.
“I don-I don’t understand… The calamit-Mystics… Shouldn’t they, shouldn’t they have… a thousand years ago…?” As the resident cavalry scout, Canon, raised the new light source, instinctively lowering his head, his lips quivered and he could not form a complete sentence. His gaze was fixed on Thales and it refused to leave. Beside Canon, Bruley was completely stunned.
However, once Canon reacted to the situation, the people in the room registered what was going on as well, and they reacted like warm water reaching boiling point!
“Your Highness, that joke…” Penal Officer Beldin absolutely could not digest the new information. He stared at Zakriel, and when he spoke, he was completely incoherent. “Watchman, commanding officer! He said that he is-he can-he will… This is another lie, right?”
Tardin’s eyes were filled with astonishment as he stared at Thales. “What… the prince is a calamity? The Jadestar Royal Family… Damn it, what did they do this time?”
Thales quietly stared at the wound on his palm. He ignored the commotion around him.
Strangely, Thales felt incredibly calm at that moment. This was not the calm he gained once he knocked on the Door—which was one that basically made him so indifferent that it made him afraid—neither was it the calm forced upon him by the Sin of Hell’s River when he was in danger. Instead, this was a calmness brought by him letting go of all his burdens and isolating himself from all his uneasiness. It was the calm a chess player would have when he looked at his chess board.
“My god.” Samel’s gaze shifted back and forth between Thales and Zakriel. “Zakriel, all the things you said before… about Queen Fiosa being a calamity, and that you’re determined to complete your mission… not all of them were lies, right?”
But Zakriel remained silent, and only stared blankly at Thales. There was grief and confusion in his eyes.
Samel gritted his teeth. He forced himself to retain his logic and reasoning as shock and fury filled his mind. “Impossible, his age… Is he really just fourteen years old? If he isn’t, then what is his connection with the Bloody Year? Just what is that accursed mission of yours?!”
Thales watched their reactions from the side. As he breathed, he understood many things.
‘So’—the corner of the teenager’s lips curled up—’this is how it feels.’
He could even sense that the gazes trained on his back had already become different.
There was now some other emotion mixed within the acceptance, trust, and respect Thales had gained from them after much difficulty.
‘Fear? Disgust? Suspicion? A gaze directed towards the unknown? Rejection? But that’s important anymore, right?’
“Hey, fake Wya! I’m talking to you, ‘nephew’! You knew about this a long time ago, right?” Tardin had understood something. He turned his head around to stare at Quick Rope, who had bent his head and hunched his shoulders, all in an effort to try and reduce his presence. “Wya? Nephew? Hey!”
Quick Rope was still staring at Thales in shock when Tardin called out to him. He jolted, awkwardly hugged the crossbow tighter, then forced himself to chuckle with an innocent look on his face.
“Oh! I’m, uh, ah… about that, you know… this is the first time I heard about it…?”
Right when the underground prison descended into turmoil, a dull sound came out of the blue!
The sound traveled very far in the spacious storage room. The group immediately fell silent.
It was Barney Junior. He had just thrown away the extinguished torch in his hand when he attracted everyone’s attention. The vanguard’s face was livid with rage as he used his fiercest and sternest gaze to look at all the people present in the room. Then, in the end, he directed his gaze back to Thales.
Thales sucked in a breath, smiled, and turned his head to meet Barney Junior’s gaze.
“I lost my grip on my sword.” After some time, with a face full of conflict, Barney Junior said these words, “When I was about to… just now.”
He stared at the broken sword lying on the floor beside Thales. As Barney Junior said these words hesitatingly, the people began to remember what had happened just now.
“That was not a coincidence, it was you?”
Thales remained silent for a few seconds before he pursed his lips. “Yes,” the prince said in a downcast manner.
Barney Junior opened his mouth and stared at him in disbelief. After a few seconds, he turned to the two corpses on the floor.
“Why… why me…?” Barney Junior stared at Nalgi and Naer—both dead—and his expression became very complicated. “Why did you not… save them?”
Thales paused for a moment. During that moment, the memory where he used his mystic energy during the ‘contactor’ stage after he received Taurus’ teachings appeared in his head.
He had been indifferent, to the point where it simply did not make sense. The floor had also been covered in blood.
The underground prison seemed to have entered a strange state. Every single person in the room was filled with astonishment, and they were also full of questions in their minds. However, in that strange atmosphere, and in a show of tacit agreement, no one spoke. All of them just stared at Thales.
“I wanted to, but I couldn’t.” Thales sighed and lowered his head. “I’m sorry.”
Barney Junior remained silent for a long time, but in the end, he, too, bowed his head.
“Is that so?” A faint wave of sadness had spread; Barney Junior’s words seemed to contain some kind of magic. Thales suddenly felt that the gazes on him were no longer as piercing as before. Then, Zakriel’s voice rose in the air.
“Why?” The Knight of Judgment’s dry and raspy voice attracted everyone’s attention. “Why? Why did you tell them?”
Zakriel raised his head in the darkness and stared at Thales. There was puzzlement, pain, sadness, and disappointment on his face.
“Maybe you are not afraid of death, but at the very least, you should not have to… you should not have to endure this.” Zakriel’s gaze suddenly became filled with grief. “You could have died in their admiration and respect, not…”
While the Knight of Judgment was questioning Thales in his sadness, Thales sighed. “But they will hate you.”
The Knight of Judgment was stunned for a moment. “They?”
Thales stared at Zakriel quietly. He looked at the blood, dust and dirt on his body, at the clear signs of fatigue on his face as well as how he was trying to withstand his pain. And finally, he directed his gaze onto the very prominent and ugly brand on his forehead.
‘Zakriel, this powerful, nearly invincible warrior, I wonder how heroic he had been, and how lively he was when young.’
Thales smiled. “I know that for a certain reason, you would have refused to say anything about my identity, even if you died. You were also ready to keep your lips sealed tight even after this, and you would have willingly died at their hands.”
Thales turned his head around and swept his gaze over the guards behind him. Many of them were still immersed in their shock and skepticism.
Barney Junior was stunned. “Us?”
Thales ignored him. Instead, he turned his head around, sighed, and said to the knight, “They respect me, so yes, they will hate you… again.”
Zakriel was stunned.
“If I refused to say anything, then once I die, the misunderstanding that we finally managed to clear after much difficulty will deepen.” Thales looked a little dejected when he said these words. “Again, you will be abandoned by the companions you once treasured most. You will be hated, and be treated as a lunatic and a traitor. You will die with their hatred.”
Barney Junior and the others listened to the conversation between the two in shock and bewilderment.
Zakriel was completely rooted to the spot. After some time, he said while panting, “I do not understand.”
Thales snorted softly, as if he had understood something. With a heavy heart, Thales said, “Zakriel, to serve the kingdom, protect the royal family, defend your comrades, and guard your beliefs, you shouldered many things of the past, and paid a heavy price over the past eighteen years.”
Thales raised his head and stared at the air. A brilliant, silver figure seemed to have appeared before his eyes.
It was the hero who was forgotten by the people of the world. He also heard that figure’s voice in his heart.
‘”I’ve been dead a long time… It has been so long…. so long that I can’t even remember how long it has been…”‘
Thales became a little absent-minded.
The scene where that silver figure stood in the darkness that had no end seemed to have appeared right in front of him again. Alone, he faced countless souls of the deceased, and he shone with an awe-inspiring yet faint light.
That figure was alone for many years. He sacrificed himself and shouldered the mightiest and most selfless mission to protect the person and things he once loved the most. But no one ever knew about it, and no one could understand it.
Nevertheless, he continued to smile, and harbored no grudge or resentment towards it. He did not ask for redemption, and he treated the entire situation calmly while staying true to himself.
‘”May the mountains be tolerant of your feet. May the earth bless you on your journey.”‘
Thales sucked in a deep breath. He dragged his mind back from the past and, with great effort, returned to the present. His mind snapped back to the Knight of Judgment.
“But you never understood it, you never did. It has been eighteen years, and you could still only bear the burden and pay the price on your own.”
Thales’ heart sank. His expression was rather downcast. ‘You’re just like that lonesome hero whom no one knows. Even if he’s buried deep underground, he did not hold back and had light shining from within himself. Then, in a place where there was no light or hope, he chased away the darkness.
‘Even if he’s doomed to sink into obscurity and never rise from it, he still uses all his strength to stretch his arms upwards to lift up the people who have lost their footing and drowned in the abyss, so that they can see the light again.
‘Even if the days where he lived are already gone, he continues to be stubborn and determined, to keep the promise he made in the past. No one knows about him, and no one cares… And he will live this way with no end, and no redemption.’
‘”Thank you for bringing me her greetings.”‘
He stared at Zakriel with a serious gaze, and he saw the emotions in the knight’s eyes flicker slightly.
“The worst of it all is that in the end, the Knight of Judgment will still be treated as a traitor, a lunatic, and a villain by the people he cares about and treasures most. He will be misunderstood, hated, treated with disgust, and ignored,” Thales whispered softly. The guards behind him registered his words, and their expressions differed.
However, all of them trained their surprised gazes on Zakriel. The knight breathed, dazed.
“The story of your entire life has been centered around things and other people, Zakriel: the kingdom; the guards; your brothers,; your responsibility; your mission… You placed everything on your shoulders.” When Thales said this, he paused for a moment. There was a wave of fatigue and sadness that could not be hidden from his voice. “But you are not there, among the things you treasure.”
Zakriel’s right hand trembled slightly as he continued to hold on to his weapon.
Thales heaved a sigh and said dejectedly, “No one knows all that you have done, and no one will thank you for it. You can only sit quietly through these endless, cold nights, all by your lonesome. You can only think back on the past, and the only comfort you have is the conviction in your heart. And even when the curtain of your life falls to signal your death…”
Thales’ voice was very soft and faint.
“You might not care about it, but… I will be rather saddened by it.”
Zakriel panted in his bewilderment. He stared disbelievingly at the teenager before him.
“Zakriel”—Thales paused for a moment before he continued slowly—”you have already shouldered far too many things. You should not continue to be hated and misunderstood.” A few seconds later. “It is meaningless.”
“Do you think you have made a wise decision? Are you pitying me? Trying to convert me? Shake my motivations?” Zakriel’s trembling, raspy voice echoed. The Knight of Judgment lowered his head slightly, his eyes hidden under the shadow cast by his forehead. He tightened his fist around his axe and clenched his teeth. “You are wrong.”
Zakriel forced his tone to remain neutral, but he could not stop his arm from trembling, even though he did not know whether it was because of pain or because of his emotions. “All that you are doing right now is meaningless to me.”
Thales exhaled. He looked at the darkness under Zakriel’s forehead. He lowered his head, and in his voice there was sadness and sentimentality. “But it means something to me, and to us.”
Zakriel was stunned again. “Us?”
Thales nodded. His smile was somewhat pained.
One second later, Zakriel’s chest started to heave visibly!
Thales looked up again. “If my guess is correct, it was the late King Aydi who appointed you as the Watchman of the Royal Guards. He was also the one who dragged you into the family feud, and ruined your entire life.
“And King Kessel mercilessly sent you into prison in an act of injustice, causing you to fall so low into degradation.”
Thales’ gaze was gloomy. With a sigh, he tapped his chest. “And because of it, eighteen years later, when another Jadestar suddenly came into your life and shattered your peace, he caused you to remembered the nightmare from all those years ago.”
Thales tried to use his most indifferent gaze to look at Zakriel.
“Zakriel, the tragedy on you, no matter who is right or wrong, and no matter what is real or fake, it all came from the most indifferent bloodline that stands as the most noble existence in the kingdom.”
Zakriel still remained silent, but his breathing had become uneven.
“And most ironically, even now you still want to fulfill your duties as part of the Royal Guards, and protect the royal family’s reputation. Even though it might be for various reasons, these reasons caused you to not harbor any grudges against the royal family… It must be very hard for you.” Thales sounded a little dejected. “I think that we, the Jadestar Family, owes you far too much.”
He saw Zakriel clench his fists tighter, but Thales did not pay any attention to it. He continued to stare at the corpses on the floor, and when he remembered how Nalgi and Naer left the world, his voice became rough.
“Did you know? When I face all of you as Thales Jadestar, I can provide comfort for Nalgi and Naer to send them off. I can pardon Tardin and the rest and understand their pain. I can motivate Barney, who could not pull himself together after hearing that devastating truth; I could help him stand up again and face his life.”
Barney, Beldin, Tardin… the people behind the prince watched him in their daze.
“But you, Zakriel…” Thales averted his gaze and avoided looking into the knight’s eyes, as if doing so would make him be more at ease. “As a prince without power, I cannot change the tragedy that happened in the past. I cannot right the wrongs you have suffered, I cannot bring the case, which has already been settled by the king himself, to court again. I cannot give you the justice you should have, I cannot even provide an acceptable explanation to the people you treasured in the past.”
Thales stared at the two corpses on the floor in indignation. When he remembered the countless corpses in the prison, he said sorrowfully, “When I face you, who gave up so much, lost so much, and had to bear so much on your shoulders, I simply do not know what else I can do for you. So, if we are bound to die in this place…
“…then I would want to leave without anything weighing down on my heart, and I would do so by letting go of the fear inside myself, and by putting an end to my regrets for you. I also want you to leave in peace.”
Thales smiled in anguish, and his smile was unpleasant to the eyes. He looked like a patient who had reached his final moments in life. Zakriel did not move.
“I do not want the others to continue hating. I do not what you to continue bearing the crimes that do not belong to you in the darkness. I want to have them understand, or at least try to.”
Thales bowed his head and heaved a long sigh again. Through that sigh, he felt as though he had just let go of all the resentment he felt on this day.
“Compared to this…” The prince raised his head. This time, there was no longer any agony or hesitation on the prince’s face; there was only a relaxed smile that came from releasing all of his burdens. He faced the Knight of Judgment, who looked like he was on the verge of collapsing.
“My secret is no longer that important, right?”
As he stood in the center of the floor, Quick Rope stared dazedly at Thales acting in such a manner. He was not the only one. Zakriel did not provide a response, and neither did he take any action.
Thales shook his head. He pushed the grief in his heart further down into his heart, and forced himself to smile a second time.
“So, I am not doing this just for myself.” Thales looked at Zakriel before he turned his head around to look at the other people around him. “This is also for them.”
“Them?” Zakriel repeated absentmindedly.
Right when he said these words, the guards around him reacted in different ways.
The prince continued calmly and seriously, “They should know that, be it past or the present, their commanding officer and watchman has always been such a person. Immanuel Zakriel was and will never be a traitor who will betray his loyalty for his own selfishness, and neither is he a lunatic who lost his mind because he was imprisoned for years.”
Tardin sighed and lowered his head. Canon’s face contorted in agony. Bruley’s face was filled with gloom.
“They should know that you are still the Zakriel they trusted, respected, and loved; that you are still the Knight of Judgment who upholds his own beliefs, who kept to his sacred duties, and who loved his brothers.”
Samel’s face was conflicted. Beldin had grief on his face.
“They need to know what you have done for them. They have to know of your sacrifice, hard work, and the battles you fought. Even your most unreasonable action is carried out because of your mission. You just wanted to destroy the fearsome calamity, that is all.”
Barney Junior clutched his injured right arm and bit down on his bottom lip. His gaze as he stared at Zakriel became even more complicated.
“They have to know that they owe you, the Watchman of the Royal Guards, an apology and a word of thanks.”
At some unknown point in time, Zakriel had stopped moving in the darkness he had buried himself into.
As Samel listened to all of this, he closed his eyes and turned his head away. Barney Junior, who had just overcome his trauma, stared at Zakriel. There was endless grief hidden in his eyes. The others were in no better shape.
An indescribable silence descended upon them again.
Thales chuckled. It was an indifferent and faint one. “My apologies. This is the last thing I can do for you.” He stared at Zakriel seriously. “At least, you do not have have bear through this alone again. You do not have to grit your teeth and pretend to be strong.
“At least, I can let them see the true you. I can let them understand and see just what sort of burden you have on your shoulders. You have suffered too much injustice, and had too many people misunderstand you. I do not want my death to also be part of the injustice you had to suffer.
“At least, I hope that from today onwards, there will be a little less cruelty and coldness in the darkness that you still have to continue to struggle against.”
Even though Thales said all these words, Zakriel merely continued to keep his head low like before. He kept his face buried beyond the light.
In the end, the teenager sighed when he felt a wave of dizziness hit him again. He quirked up a corner of his lips, snorted, and shook his head.
“So, yes, I am a calamity. That’s the end of the conversation.”
Zakriel seemed to have been struck dumb. The other people, too, kept quiet. Then, Thales sighed and spoke.
“Alright, now…” The teenager stared at Zakriel with a look as if he had been relieved of his burdens. “Let us put an end to this.”
The silence continued for nearly ten seconds. Eventually, Zakriel slowly raised his axe in the darkness. His hand moved very slowly. In fact, it was shaking… yet he still managed to lift it.
Thales closed his eyes quietly and waited for that moment to come. He did not have to wait long.
The dull thud of metal clashing against metal rose up!
Barney Junior’s weak voice then came. “You know, if things are indeed as he said, then everything you did was futile.”
Thales sucked in a deep breath and opened his eyes. Barney Junior lifted the longsword he once attempted to use to commit suicide above him, and parried Zakriel’s axe.
The vanguard’s right arm was broken, and he was heavily injured. Therefore, he was currently using his left arm, which was in good condition, to fend against Zakriel… and he seemed to be struggling.
In front of him was Zakriel, his left arm already broken. They seemed to be fighting on equal footing right then.
Barney Junior cast a glance at Thales, who was as calm as ever behind him. He snorted. “You don’t have a legendary anti-mystic weapon, and you can’t kill him?”
In a corner where no one would notice, Quick Rope instinctively tugged his clothes while drenched in cold sweat. He tried hard to hide the crossbow in his bosom.
Zakriel still kept his head low and made sure his eyes were hidden in darkness. He gritted his teeth and forced words out of his mouth with considerable effort.
“He still isn’t a qualified calamity. The Intelligence Department has records about this. Before he takes the final step and brings great catastrophe, he can still be stopped.”
Thales smiled faintly. He sighed and nodded. “He might be right.”
But Barney Junior retorted unceremoniously, “I did not ask you, young prince.”
Thales’ face froze.
Barney turned his head around and faced Zakriel before he shook his head. “Records from the Secret Intelligence Department? Qualified? So what? You even need to take a test to become a calamity?”
Zakriel’s axe started to tremble. His tone had been unsteady to begin with, and right then, a hint of displeasure seeped into his voice. “This isn’t a joke! Move, you already know he is—”
But Barney Junior suddenly raised the volume of his voice. “So?! Based on what you said, the late king even slept with one!”
In his silence, Thales watched Barney Junior. He gritted his teeth, and felt his heart sink a little.
The vanguard’s arm quivered. The sword and axe that were intersecting each other in the air broke apart.
Zakriel fell silent.
He saw that, at some point, Beldin and Tardin had already fully-armed themselves behind Barney, and had arrived behind Thales. Canon and Bruley also followed closely behind them. They were all watching Zakriel with faces free of burdens.
The knight’s axe shuddered slightly.
“You don’t understand.” Zakriel’s voice was filled with conflicting emotions. “The Empire… the kingdom cannot fall into the same trap.”
Barney Junior snorted, looking as if he had returned to being the Chief Vanguard of the Royal Guards, and found every of aspect of Zakriel displeasing to his eyes.
“I know that even though you are heavily-injured, I will still be unable to hold you off.” Barney hissed in pain and lifted his sword again with great difficulty. “Besides… I am not in much better shape than you.”
Barney Junior raised his foot. With burning eyes, he took arduous steps towards Zakriel, until they were both face-to-face with each other. “But listen carefully, Zakriel.”
Zakriel did not move in the darkness, but his grip over his axe tightened more with each passing moment.
However, against all expectations, right when Barney Junior arrived before Zakriel, all his expressions suddenly fell away from his face, and he sighed gloomily.
At that moment, Zakriel, who was already prepared to fight, was stunned. “Barney, you…”
Barney turned his head around and stared at the ground. He spoke stiffly, as if he was talking to the air. “I have never acknowledged you, but today… ah…”
Zakriel did not speak. He only opened his mouth in slight surprise.
“I have to say, His Majesty and the old captain’s judgment is very accurate,” Barney Junior said unhappily, and in a self-deprecating manner. “You are indeed a much better watchman than I am.”
Barney Junior’s mouth was still agape, and after thinking over the words for a long time, he finally addressed Zakriel with THAT title,
Zakriel shivered a little.
“Also…” Barney Junior stared fixedly at the tiles under Zakriel’s feet, as though he did not dare to raise his head. Barney flipped over his sword and held it with his left hand in a reverse grip. He hesitated, but in the end, still raised his hand.
In the next second, in a very awkward and bashful manner, he punched Zakriel’s right shoulder twice, swiftly and hesitantly.
There came two, dull sounds of a fist meeting a shoulder.
The fist left Zakriel’s shoulder right when it touched him, just like a dragonfly tapping on water-no, on venom. Because Barney Junior looked as though having a longer physical contact with Zakriel would claim his life.
Once he did this, Barney Junior heaved a long sigh, as if he had just completed the hardest task in his life. He turned around like he was fleeing from danger, and with three swift strides, returned to his original spot where he confronted Zakriel.
As Thales watched, he felt his lips quirk upwards.
“Alright, I repaid my debt.” The bashful and awkward expression on Barney Junior’s face disappeared. He stared at Zakriel coldly again. “Let’s fight.”
But Zakriel stayed rooted to his spot; he did not move. The upper half of his face, which he still kept in the dark, still seemed surreal. Then, another person moved past Barney and walked towards Zakriel.
To everyone’s surprise, this person moved his body against Zakriel’s right shoulder, stretched out his left arm, and seized Zakriel’s back in a gentle grip.
“This might be the last time we hug each other, commanding officer.”
Zakriel’s axe swayed slightly. Beldin pressed himself tightly against Zakriel’s right shoulder and patted his back gently. He said sobbingly, “Oh, Sunset Goddess, I really miss the days when I was under your command in the Discipline Division.”
At that moment, Zakriel’s shoulders trembled slightly. He sucked in a deep breath before he exhaled. The sound of the knight’s breaths grew louder.
“You should not have made me penal officer.” Beldin laughed brokenly. As his voice quivered, he turned his head around and tried his best not to look at Zakriel. “You know that I’m horrible… and I’ve never been good at my job.”
He patted Zakriel’s back with great strength, causing the latter to shake badly. Beldin shut his eyes, turned around, and returned to Barney’s side. He did not dare to look at Zakriel.
“I’m sorry, commanding officer.” Canon did not move forward. The scout wept and bowed his head. “That year…
“I’m sorry, it was us who ruined everything. It’s our fault…”
Zakriel exhaled in pain.
“Ugh wooo…” Beside Canon, Bruley let out an indecipherable sound. “Woo…”
“Ah, he’s probably saying that he regrets it greatly,” Tardin said with a sigh. He ignored Bruley’s grunts of protests and revealed his final, pale smile. “But… we’re the ones who dragged you and everyone else down, Commanding Officer Zakriel.”
Tardin stared at the corpses on the floor with a lifeless gaze.
“But now, at least, we can rest in peace beside the Emperor, just like those thirty-something idiots… We will be reunited.”
Zakriel’s axe shuddered even more violently.
“Heh…” It was Samel. “I may no longer be a guard, but I owe you thanks, commanding officer.” The Disaster Sword snorted softly. He made it seem as if he he did not care, but he did not realize that he was acting in the exact same manner as Barney Junior “It’s all thanks to you in the past that I managed to escape.”
For the first time, Zakriel opened his mouth as if he wanted to say something, but could not.
Samel sighed, and his voice became downcast. “And if it wasn’t because I fled, you wouldn’t have had to suffer the torment of solitary isolation. No matter what, I still owe you an apology.”
Samel looked elsewhere, gritted his teeth tightly, and closed his eyes. He said, “I’m sorry. I no longer feel any sense of duty as a guard, but… this child cannot die, so…” Samel shrugged. He did not continue speaking.
Zakriel did not react. The veins in his hand throbbed a little.
Right when Samel finished speaking, the guards sighed as though they just finished a colossal task.
Zakriel continued to remain quiet.
“Now…” Barney Junior lifted the corner of his lips, looked at Zakriel, and said, in a manner like he was relieved of his burden, “Let us settle this with a duel to the death.”
“Wait…” A hiccup that did not quite fit into the atmosphere rose faintly. “I am… I’m also very sorry…”
Thales turned his head around, and right before his eyes, he saw Quick Rope rub his eyes while speaking dejectedly.
A second later, as the group stared at Quick Rope with strange gazes questioning why he was crying, Quick Rope reacted to the situation, and his face tensed up.
His sad expression instantly disappeared, and he instinctively took a step backwards, smiling awkwardly.
“Um… you know… it’s for the atmosphere, you know? Atmosphere…”
However, no one rebuked him this time, no one rolled their eyes at him, and no one stopped him, either.
On the contrary, Barney Junior, Tardin, and Beldin just turned around, dragged their weakened bodies, and, with their greatest resolve, stood beside Thales while they pointed their weapons at Zakriel to begin the final fight of their lives.