Chapter 353: A Monstrous Disaster
In the midst of the falling death snow, I could see a figure with long hair swaying in the chilly air. A familiar figure who should have been in Garoua Maria.
「…I feel like I haven’t seen your face in a long time, Lugis. Did you increase the number of your wounds again? C’mon. 」
I arrived at the majestic gate of the puppet city of Philos. In front of the gate, Saint Matia of the Heraldic Order spoke to me with a graceful smile.
The way she laughed was strangely unique for her. She even looked like a child who successfully pulled a prank.
Seeing Matia’s expression like that, my eyelids, which had been distorted by the coldness of the death snow, opened wide. I handled the horse’s reins with force.
I probably had the same expression as Ann, who was lining up the horses.
When I sent the messenger, I heard that someone would come to pick me up at the gate. But that was all. I hadn’t heard that the Saint, who was the head of the Heraldic Order, would show up in front of the gate to pick me up personally.
Since Caria, Filaret, and the allied monarch, Eldith, who were pivotal figures for the Heraldics, were coming with me, I wouldn’t say it’s strange for the Saint to personally welcome us. Even so, I didn’t do much except escorting the Heraldics who were previously imprisoned in Prison Beulah.
Thinking about it, wasn’t it a rather excessive welcome? When I said those words, Matia lifted her lips and responded.
「It’s not just you who are good at making people panic. Sometimes it’s necessary to understand the mind of the person who makes others panic.」
Matia said while waving her lips mischievously. Her expression and words were quite soft.
As it should be.
When I looked into Matia’s eyes, my cheeks twitched unconsciously. There was a terrible dull color in the depths of her eyes. Her eyes were dark as opposed to her peaceful smile.
Her secret was showing a quiet demeanor, while having a hidden fury.
The reason I could easily read her hidden emotions was probably because Matia had no intention of hiding the emotions that emerged from her heart.
It tasted bad. Oh no, the rotten roots were deeper than ever.
I immediately tried to find the reason why her roots were so rotten. Was it because I had stepped into Prison Beulah with Vess? That was the only reason.
When I thought deeply about that option, I realized that I didn’t tell her the details about the Prison Beulah’s case in the letter. Still, I had written my intentions to some extent.
I couldn’t help but feel that the closer Matia approached me the more intense the color of her eyes was.
I instinctively turned my back and lowered my face. A feeling appeared around my elbows that made me think that I had done something shady.
Matia said with a smile on her face as she twisted her lips to continue her words.
「…Anyway, it’s cold out here. Hurry up and get inside. It will be foolish to catch a cold while standing in the death snow, wouldn’t it?」
At the same time as I heard those words, Matia’s expression and eyes finally became relaxed. As a Saint, Matia always had her expression tightened to some extent. Being relaxed was unusual for her.
Matia threw her gaze behind my back. Ahead of her line of sight stood several carriages.
Inside the carriages were the Heraldics who were imprisoned in Prison Beulah. With the exception of the seriously injured people who could hardly move, all the others wished to go to Philos at once in carriages, even if it made them feel a little cramped.
It was difficult to prepare clothes and equipment that would fight the cold weather under this ruthless death snow. In that respect, at least we could prevent the cold wind from entering the carriages. Moreover, since the people were gathered together, freezing to death would not happen recurrently.
I saw Matia’s moistened eyes as she looked at the carriages, and finally understood her intentions. She didn’t come to pick me up. She came to pick them up.
Prison Beulah was called the Burial Prison. Those who were violently thrown in there suffered the worst of fates. And yet, they didn’t give up their faith.
They lived as Heraldic followers in different places and were sent to the prison just for that fact. Their dignity was trampled, their thoughts and beliefs were denied, but they still resisted. They were unreasonably persecuted, stoned and continued to suffer every single day.
Saint Matia must have once raised the flag for them. She became a Saint for the sake of those who could not be saved.
If so, it would be natural for her to welcome their return in person. Perhaps that was the reason why the Heraldics greatly respected her.
Her gesture was absolutely gorgeous. I couldn’t imitate it. After all, I was an extremely selfish person.
This time, I saved Mrs. Ninz, who was my relative as opposed to the prisoners, so perhaps I wasn’t that selfish.
Even so, saving Mrs. Ninz wasn’t because I thought dearly of her. I just wanted to help her for my sake. In fact, it was nothing but a greedy deed to satisfy myself.
Because of that, a feeling of guilt was still swirling inside my head. Therefore, I still couldn’t talk with Mrs. Ninz personally.
When I stood in front of Matia, those feelings began to show even more. I took a light breath.
In order to check the carriages that came behind my back, Matia advanced her horse forward.
When she crossed paths with me, Matia glanced at me with rippled lips.
「Lugis, there’s a lot to talk about. But…right now, I have my hands full. 」
That was an honest statement. While widening my eyes for a moment, I caught her words. Then I shrugged my shoulders and spoke.
In that moment I wanted to slap my cheeks.
「I told you before. I just do what I’m capable of. I can only do that much…」
「…Then, you and I want the same thing. My hero. 」
As usual, Matia had a burning feeling in the back of her eyes. Still, she portrayed a very nice smile while talking.
I wanted her to stop that habit completely. I was not used to being praised like that. I raised my hands lightly and let her go.
「First of all, let’s organize the information that’s in our hands. 」
Ann said in a room in the city of Philos while lining up the usual phrases in a meeting.
It was not a place meant for many people to gather together. In this slightly cramped space, Saint Matia, Eldith, Caria, Filaret, and other pivotal members of the Heraldic Order were lined up.
Philos Trait, who was once the ruler of this city, was also sitting in front of me.
I wondered why, but Philos was wearing her monocle while staring at me with a strangely sharper look than usual. I didn’t remember doing anything to her in particular.
「It’s well known to everybody in here that a messenger has arrived from the Gharast Kingdom to the Heraldic Order.」
Ann said that the main point was that the messenger talked with her as if he were chatting, as he carried no letter. Ann described the content as something consequential.
For example, it said the Bastion Beast Zebrililith appeared in the northwestern part of the Gharast Kingdom. And then, the magical beasts gradually appeared in each country.
They simply ate people with their fierce will, said the messenger, and are trampling on human civilization without hesitation. Then, although it seemed like a chat, the messenger added the following.
If necessary, each country will have to join hands against this catastrophe.
If the person who sent the messenger was just a Gharast nobleman, it would end up being just a chat and nothing more. Were we going to be sad or happy? Maybe neither since nothing would change. Therefore, Gharast had to endure on its own.
However, the person who sent the messenger was the Protector Jace Brackenberry. The Hero of the Gharast Kingdom and its National Protector.
As soon as I heard that name, I realized that Caria’s expression had clearly strengthened. Her silver eyes were frowning strangely, and she was unusually tense.
For Caria, who was originally a Knight of the Gharast Kingdom, hearing the name Protector felt heavier in her heart. At least in this place, the ones who could actually feel the weight of that name were Caria and Philos.
I knew that name and its meaning, but I couldn’t share their feelings.
Ann continued her words while confirming everyone’s reactions.
「When I gathered information from each country, I confirmed the messenger’s contents, and it did not contain any errors. The Gharast Kingdom was bitten at its knee by a Bastion Beast named Zebrililith, and each country was struck by the fangs of the magical beast disaster.」
I searched for words while distorting my inner cheeks. Unknowingly, my fingertips were looking for the chewing tobacco.
The age of death snow was an age of misfortune where monsters roamed freely.
During the beginning of that age some people mentioned that something called “magical beast disaster” would occur.
However, the population just saw it as common tragedy, for example, when one or two villages and settlements were blown away on a whim. No one really cared back then.
The nobles, who always walked around the territory with their egotistical faces, pretended not to see it, using an excuse that it couldn’t be helped because of the death snow.
That’s why the age of death snow became the worst era in all human history.
Not just because of that deadly threat but also because of humans’ disregard.
While I was immersed on my own thoughts, Ann said that the scale of the upcoming catastrophe continued to spread too far.
「The magical beast disaster was originally just a group of magical beasts that moved around without purpose. So to speak, it was just unguided actions that expanded a little more than before during peacetime. This time, however, the magical beasts are continuing to swallow cities and villages as if they’re led by something.」
Among the members of the Heraldic Order present at this meeting, a man with a wrinkled face asked what was leading them. Contrary to the impression given by his hoarse voice, this man was quite honest.
Ann nodded in response, prefaced by the fact that it hadn’t been known yet.
「I heard that their existence would lead to the appearance of demonic beings.」
…Demonic beings. That’s what they called in each country.
When I heard those words, the treasure sword and the white sword at my waist tilted slightly. As if wriggling, there was a sound of iron that reverberated.