VOLUME 3: CHAPTER 178 – THE BLADE THAT DOES NOT ROT(1/3)
The Goblin King’s advance guard, Gi Gi Orudo the ancient beast tamer, Gi Zu Ruo the mad lion, and Gi Ji Arsil the Assassin were advancing toward the south . They have made it their policy to meet together once a day .
Presently, they were not moving but were instead searching their surroundings as the king had instructed them .
“I wonder if the humans aren’t going to send someone to hunt today too,” Gi Zu said unhappily .
“You don’t look happy,” Gi Gi said as he stuffed his cheeks with the meat his tamed beast handed him .
“Do you have a problem with the king’s orders?” Gi Jii glared sharply at Gi Zu .
“No, but there aren’t a lot human villages here, so…”
“And the beasts also need to be—”
“The scouting too, no matter how many people we have—”
Gi Zu groaned as he watched Gi Gi and Gi Ji’s eyes twinkling .
The kings orders were for the three of them to report on three different matters .
Gi Gi was to report on the condition of his beasts as well as the food, Gi Zu was to report on the condition of the human villages, and Gi Ji was to report on the geography of the area up ahead .
The goblins were skilled walkers, and they could reach the territory of the Kushain believers within 8 days, but the king had explicitly told them to slow down their pace and gather information .
Territories in the free cities weren’t clearly defined, and soldiers had to patrol along the villages that were built along the borders .
The Kingdom of Germion had never gone past the borders of its western region . The western region may have boasted a population of over 10,000 humans and flourished under Gowen’s rule, but its scope was limited only to the area from the western capital until the colonial city .
In the same vein, the territories connecting to the borders of Germion Kingdom were ruled by the small feudal lords of the free cities . People living in such lands could be a group of pioneers who reclaimed a land, cultivated it, and started living on it; they could be a group of settlers sent from a nearby village; they could also be the supporters of a noble who’d lost in a power struggle . There were all sorts of reasons, but in general, people who lived in the borders were usually people with little power .
Of course, if they’re able to lead a group of pioneers, then they must have some degree of leadership; or if not, then perhaps a powerful sponsor . But regardless, the distance between the people and the feudal lord in such lands wasn’t big .
Even the bigger pioneer groups would usually only have 300 people at most, so they were few enough in number that they could see each other everyday . And naturally, even if you don’t like the person, if you see them everyday, you’re bound to know them .
As such, emotions naturally form between the feudal lord and the people . Unlike the aristocrats in the big cities, aristocrats in the borders rarely treated their people harshly .
The people also have more power, as they are able to see the disposition of the next feudal lord . If the next feudal lord is too cruel, then there would be a trend to prefer a different one .
After 2 or 3 generations, the feudal lords living along the borders have finally started to become a little bigger . Growth meant more villages under them, as well as small feudal lords wanting to throw their lot with them, but there were also people who would want a growing feudal lord to fall before becoming trouble .
Life along the borders was harsh .
Feudal lords would sometimes come warring, thieves were prevalent, farming did not make enough money, but the most problematic of them all were the monster beast attacks .
In the early days, the feudal lords in the borders were most concerned about monster beasts and farming .
Conflict among humans was their second biggest concern, and in fact, even Gowen, who ruled the western region, shared this sentiment . Because of that he didn’t try to provoke them, and instead focused on developing his villages toward the north .
He then decided to try and make use of the Forest of Darkness’ wealth . After which, upon becoming stronger, he would then try his luck at conquering the south .
Gowen did not share his plan with words, instead he executed it . His actions were able to fool even King Ashtal, and for a moment, there was friction between the two of them, friction that would quickly be settled as the goblin threat grew too big to ignore .
For over 10 years, Gowen and the free cities focused on dealing only with the natural calamities and the monster beasts, allowing them to successfully increase their strength .
The first generation feudal lords were still in active duty due to their ability and popularity, so they were able to create many brilliant successors .
The Goblin King was not able to see that far, but inferring from his experience and knowledge, he figured that a human who could cultivate unexplored lands like the humans of the Forest of Darkness would surely not be incompetent .
Looking at the previous battle, there was Gowen Ranid, who was an old but powerful enemy, and looking toward the south, there was the giant country that was the free cities . Naturally, he would consider such nations neighboring his Forest of Darkness to be the end of his borders .
Having thought to this point, the Goblin King had no choice but to act prudently . What he feared the most was the appearance of a 2nd Gowen Ranid . He didn’t want a powerful warrior as an enemy either, but a powerful ruler was an even bigger problem .
Despite that what made the Goblin King decide to move for the south was the existence of the Kushain believers . He saw a path through his chance meeting with the patriarch, Benem Nemush .
This was information he got from the Leon Heart Clan, his human allies .
The free cities had been split into two sides, the north and the south, and was in chaos due to Nemush’ holy war . It was still a mystery how their conflict would affect the borders, but the Goblin King believed that it wouldn’t be a problem .
The Germion Kingdom to their east had several small fortresses on their side of the border . But they were by no means infallible should the Goblin King decide to gather his forces . That being said, destroying them would only serve to make his relations with Germion Kingdom irreconcilable .
The goblin forces numbered approximately 2000, that included both the elves and the demihumans . Adding the newly added Leon Heart Clan, they had no more than 3,000 soldiers .
The Goblin King did not believe it was possible to conquer Germion Kingdom with only 3,000 soldiers .
Because of that he decided to set his sights on the free cities to the south instead . He would conquer them and increase his allies, and then he would conquer Germion Kingdom .
Having thought that far, the Goblin King was faced with another question: How would he accomplish that?
The humans were unlikely to submit to him were he to merely take them by force . What would be most preferable was if they approached him instead and clung to him .
If so, then what would he have to do to make that happen?
There were three things .
One, he needed to rid them of prejudice; two, he needed an enemy that was more atrocious than the goblins; and three, he needed to show his power .
The hardest of the three was the issue of prejudice . As for the remaining two, he could deal with them later . Showing his power, in particular, was quite easy .
All he would need was war .
Moreover, he would not be waging war on the small feudal lords, instead he would be waging war on the enemy that is more atrocious than the goblins .
Such an enemy was currently making its presence felt in the northern part of the free cities . The Goblin King felt bad for them, but unfortunately, he needed them as a stepping stone . The Goblin King believed it would be possible to show his might by waging war on them .
As for the last remaining issue, the issue of prejudice . This was indeed the most difficult problem . But unless he solves it, it wasn’t likely that the small feudal lords would come to rely on them .
If there isn’t a way to solve an issue in one fell swoop, then he would just have to take it slowly .
Not killing humans needlessly, even going as far as seeing them off to their territory, not imposing unreasonable taxes on them, and not making them suffer… Everything was for the sake of solving that last problem .
And the ones who have been tasked with that important task was the Leon Heart Clan, who accepted even demihumans and elves into their ranks .
If they weren’t around, the Goblin King would have worked alongside the elf, Felbi, to realize his plans, but now that they’ve come, it would be a pity to waste such good pawns .
Would humans refuse a helping hand in time of need? The answer is no . It doesn’t matter what their intentions are, when a helping hand is offered during a crisis, the humans will surely take it .
The Goblin King’s long arm stretched toward the borders of the small feudal lords .
The Red King Clan had a wizard . His name was Grave Neil, an old wizard who made his name as an enchanter .
He was born as the second son to a smithing family, and it was not until he’d turned 14 that his talent was recognized . Since then he has been wholeheartedly honing his talents, and after over 40 years, he has finally become an accomplished wizard .
The enchantment that he uses could imbue all sorts of elements into armor and weapons . For example, he could enchant a spear with the element of lightning, and it would possess the power to paralyze those it cuts . He could also enchant a sword with fire, and enemies wounded by it would suffer burns .
He could also enchant armor .
An armor enchanted with the element of wind would become as light as feather and a pair of boots enchanted with the element of iron would be extremely hard .
“Hey, Saldin! The army is moving too fast! Don’t you have any respect for your elders!?”
“What the hell you going on about, gramps? Didn’t you just tell me not to treat like you an old man!?”
“Don’t you know how to accommodate others!?”
“Don’t you know how to not spout sophistry, gramps!?”
Although his personality could use some work, he was an experienced adventurer with a wealth of connections and the skills to get him named as one of the best of the Red King Clan .
“Come on, you two, let’s not fight . We’re going to be negotiating with some people now . If we show up in a foul mood, they’ll look down on us,”” Carlion said .
The muscular Saldin cut him . “Is there even any point in negotiating? What’s that clan called? Flying Swallow? I know they’re famous, but…”
“Sigh, this is exactly why having a squad of nothing but muscleheads is a pain!”
“What did you say?”
Saldin glared at the old wizard .
“You’ll regret it if you look down on the Flying Swallow Clan . As their name says, they go around the world freely like swallows . We can’t just charge into their headquarters like we did to the Elks Clan . Besides, they also have many famous adventurers within their ranks that are renowned throughout the world,” Grave said before reminding Carlion that they’re the last clan they should be making an enemy out of .
“Don’t worry, we’re not going there to pick a fight,” Carlion said .
“…I’d hope so . ”
“Well, aren’t you an amazing pessimist, huh, gramps,” Saldin said to mock Grave .
At that, the old wizard took the staff in his hands and started chasing after Saldin all over the place . Unfortunately, for the old wizard, Saldin was a warrior in charge of the frontlines while he was an old wizard in charge of the rear guard . It did not take long before the difference in stamina started showing .
“What’s the matter, gramps? Did ya break your hips or something?”
“You little… GAH!?”
Grave desperately chased after Saldin despite his ragged breathing, but no matter how hard he ran, he just couldn’t catch up to him .
The place they were headed to was south of Elrain Kingdom, the mid-sized city of Sapnir . It was located midway to one of the founding nations of the Free Cities, the merchant nation, Pena .
“Long time no see, Lord Wyatt!” Grave said .
The tall man smiled and bowed . “Sorry I wasn’t able to write . You seem to be doing well, old teacher . ”
After the Herculean, Wyatt, left the Holy Shushunu Kingdom, he went to the Free Cities . One reason was because of the clan request, the other was because of his personal interest in the Red King Clan .
“The clan leader (Arcs) gives his regards too . ”
“For poor old me? There’s no need, really…”
Wyatt led them into a trading company, causing them to all raise their brows up .
“Lord Wyatt, that’s…”
“It’s owned by a childhood friend of mine . Don’t worry, it’s a trustworthy place . ”
Such places were usually used by influential merchants .
“As expected of Lord Wyatt,” Grave wryly smiled, and Wyatt smiled back .
The influence of the Flying Swallow Clan had not only reached the adventurer’s guild but also the merchant’s guild . That was made obvious just now, and everyone from the Red King Clan couldn’t help but become confused . Of course, not one of them allowed that to show on their face .
Neither Wyatt nor the people of the Red King Clan wasted their time and they immediately started talking . After all, time was a precious commodity to every one of them .
“A treaty of nonaggression?” Wyatt tilted his head upon hearing some unfamiliar words .
“Yes . Our Red King wishes to form an alliance with the Flying Swallow and its associates . This is the first step to realizing that goal,” Carlion spoke politely . He was singlehandedly responsible for Red King Clan’s negotiations .
“Hmm…” Wyatt became thoughtful .
Carlion continued . “We are new to the south and would like to avoid conflict with the influential Flying Swallows . ”
At first glance, his words might seem humble, but considering what happened to the Elks Clan, they could also be taken as a threat .
“Very well . I shall personally propose it to our clan leader,” Wyatt replied .
The people connected to the Red King Clan were all shocked . Who would’ve thought that talks would go this smoothly?
“But I have a condition,” Wyatt added .
“You don’t have to be so nervous . I just think it would be best if we also shared human resource on top of our cultural exchanges . Will you accept these terms?”
When Wyatt suggested that, Grave and Saldin turned to Carlion .
Carlion nodded with that ever smiling face of his . “But of course, if anything, to have such terms with the famed Flying Swallows is our honor . ”
“I see, but you won’t get anything out of me flattering us . ”
Wyatt laughed heartily and Carlion smiled back .
After Carlion and the other two left the trading company, they talked about Wyatt’s terms as they walked .
“Was that a good idea, genius adviser?”
“We have no choice but to accept it . At the very least, that’s what I believe . ”
The most important part in this trade was to form good relations with the Flying Swallows Clan . This was a plan to try and change the Red King’s image by forming good relations with other powerful clans . This was a necessary step now that they had several clans under their banner .
After all, no one would actually want to approach an ill-reputed clan that did whatever it pleased .
“The war with the Elks Clan allowed us to show our strength . With Lord Grave’s connection and Lord Saldin’s abilities in war, so long as our clan leader is able to gain popularity, the Red King Clan would surely flourish . ”
“Then why did you have to pick the Flying Swallows?” Saldin asked unhappily .
“Because I believe it would be best to avoid friction with others while we’re trying to stretch our wings . Power is something one should use only when necessary . Don’t you agree?”
“Well, yeah, but…”
“Besides, this is also a good opportunity to see the internal affairs of the Flying Swallow . ”
“…If we are able to, anyway,” Grave added as he and Saldin both tilted their head in puzzlement .
“Gramps, how much can that Wyatt uncle be used?”
“Well, his personality is what you’d call ‘firm’ . As a warrior, he’s only really good at defense, but he could probably stop Lord Shunrai . ”
“That seemingly good-natured uncle?”
Saldin couldn’t believe his ears as he imagined that black-haired swordsman from the Red King Clan .
“He’s pretty calm now, but he used to be a demon in the battlefield . He would wreak havoc with Congo, a halberd made out of blue-silver steel, in his right hand, and Fudou, a magic steel shield, in his left hand . You would have peed your pants if you were there,” Grave said as he thought back to the past . “Ah, but lately, I hear that he’s already sealed both those weapons and has shifted his focus to bettering himself as a person . He must have calmed down a lot with the years . ”
“…Let’s hope that’s true . ”
That day, the Flying Swallows Clan and the Red King Clan formed a treaty of nonaggression and promised to share the profits of the east and the south . They also promised to share human resource and to send exchange students three at a time .
With this agreement, the Red King Clan has firmly rooted themselves into the southern region and the Flying Swallows clan was able to avoid having an all-out confrontation with an up-and-rising clan . As for which of these two mid-sized clans took the upper hand in this treaty, it was still a mystery .
Belthazar the Almighty Spear and the other bounty hunters left the fortress and headed north .
“If the goblins are ruling the humans, then we’ll take advantage of that . ”
Every one of these bounty hunters had a guilty conscience; hence, it only stood to reason that the person leading them would be someone like Belthazar whose skill was the real deal .
“Will we really alright with an uncle like this leading?”
That being said, there were still people who weren’t happy with his leadership . Especially, the young and talented sore losers .
The one who said that last sentence was a young swordsman .
“If you have a problem with me, get out and fight on your own . It’ll do you good to remember that we’re not comrades,” Belthazar said sharply .
The young swordsman stood up, pulled his sword out, and pointed it at Belthazar .
“I don’t see why I have to obey you either,” he said in a provoking voice .
As Belthazar stood up and took out his short spear, the other bounty hunters egged them on .
“What a troublesome uncle…”
For a moment, it looked like the young swordsman would simply sigh, but then in the next instant, he suddenly came slashing down for Belthazar’s neck .
The swordsman’s face twisted into a demon’s as he slashed down sharply . The sharpness of his blade was a testament to his unpolished genius .
But Belthazar stopped down and easily dodged his attack . At the same time, he used the butt-end of his spear to hit the swordsman in the chin and send him flying .
Whether he’d accidentally bit his tongue or simply cut his mouth, blood suddenly came spurting out of the swordsman’s mouth .
Belthazar’s attack didn’t stop there . After hitting the swordsman’s chin, he spun his sport spear and struck at the swordsman’s shin .
The swordsman screamed and squirmed, but Belthazar sent another strike toward his arms .
The swordsman glared hatefully at him, but Belthazar coldly received that hateful glare as he kicked the young swordsman away .
That last kick landed right at the swordsman’s solar plexus, causing him to spill his last meal .
As the swordsman squirmed on the ground, Belthazar quietly approached him and kicked him on the face .
Even the bounty hunters egging them on finally became quiet upon seeing Belthazar’s skill and cruelty .
But even as they went quiet, the sound of beatings never ceased .
The swordsman had his nose broken and the interior of his mouth cut before he could no longer move at all . Only then did Belthazar leave him alone .
“Anyone else has problems?”
That concluded the introductions, and Belthazar became the leader of this group of bounty hunters .
After that they left for the western capital .
Pale Symphoria went with the gnome warrior, Berk Alsen, to the small country of Fenis from the small nations .
Pale felt sorry for getting the rookie adventurer, Shurei, and the goddess of healing follower (Zenobia), Rue, caught up in her problems, but they insisted in coming along, and in the end, it was decided that it would be safer for them to be beside a strong ally like Berk than to be by themselves now that they were being pursued .
“We’ve formed a contract, right!?”
“I said until we save my brethren—”
“But at this rate, Ms . Pale will fall into danger again!”
“That’s true, but…”
Surprisingly, after Pale left the two, they immediately ran for the adventurer guild and looked for someone who could act as a guard . But they had too little money on hand, and no one was willing to accept their request . Especially, since their enemy was the Dagger of Webrus .
It was then that Berk appeared, fresh from the southern desert with barely any idea how human society worked . He was charmed by the thought of saving his brethren, so he accepted the contract .
After saving Pale, it was decided that Berk would talk to his clan leader first . Pale meekly obeyed, as the fatigue from the last battle had made her realize just how foolish it was to challenge an entire clan alone .
“…Ahh, a word of advice . ”
The place they came to was the small country of Fenis, a country renowned for protecting elves . For some reason, Berk became fidgety the moment they stepped foot on it .
He spoke to his three traveling companions . “…The clan leader is extremely strict and tends to resort to violence easily . The clan leader is what you call your stereotypical thug . I’ll explain everything, so you guys just quietly listen . ”
At that explanation, Pale and the others glanced at each other .
“Will this really be ok?”
It was Pale who asked that .
Unfortunately, her worries only received an unsure reply of ‘maybe’ .
Passing through the main street, and then the back alleys, they found themselves before a declining bar . After Berk confirmed that it was the right place, they entered .
“…Heaven Restaurant . ”
That suspicious name left Rue looking like she was about to cry as she glanced pitifully at Shurei .
“What are we going to do, Shurei?”
“W-We have no choice but to go!”
When they entered the inn, they saw a black-haired woman in revealing clothes, sleeping as her feet laid brazenly on the table .
As Berk approached her, young Shurei was left staring in wonderment .
But of course, such a reaction was only normal considering Shurei was a healthy young boy in the presence of an almost naked woman who was blessed with both beauty and assets .
She wore a pair of leather sandals known as Ganika, a skirt with a slit long enough to show off her thighs, and a strip of clothing just enough to cover her abundant breasts . Her clothes were so revealing it was enough to make wonder if she had actually forgotten to put on her clothes .
If that revealing tunic of hers was indeed her real clothes, then it was doing a horrible job of covering her honey-colored skin .
“…Shurei . ”
As Shurei felt himself stabbed by glares, he woke up from his moment of stupor, and immediately turned the conversation to Pale .
“Is that woman the clan leader?”
Meanwhile, Berk was shaking the woman’s shoulders . As the drooling woman opened her eyes, she saw Berk’s face . In the next moment, she frowned and sat up .
From Shurei’s perspective, the clan leader was an extremely beautiful woman . The way she looked as she folded her arm and listened to Berk was just like that of a brave heroine .
But as soon as their conversation ended, the female clan leader stood up, grabbed Berk by the chest, and headbutted him .
Berk cried out in pain as he crouched down .
“You idiot! Why did you bring a job that doesn’t pay!!”
Her angry voice resounded throughout the entire bar, and immediately after, she turned to Pale and the others . For a moment, they thought for sure their hearts would stop .
Her pair of lifted eyes were sharp like that of a predator eyeing its prey . They were beautiful indeed, but that only served to make them even more terrifying .
“Idiot! Don’t you understand how dire our financial situation is!? It’s precisely because we don’t have any money that we ended up in Fenis!”
“B-But that’s because you…”
“What did you say!? Are you blaming me!?”
As the woman went on and on, Berk’s voice gradually became weaker . After a while, the woman, who had been spouting abuse from start to finish, turned her sharp predatory eyes from Berk to the three guests .
At this point, Pale and the others had already been petrified by the entrance of the inn .
“Eek!?” Rue inadvertently screamed out loud .
Unfortunately, there was no more running, as the female clan leader was telling them with her finger to come .
The three approached the female clan leader with much fear . In response, the master of fear sat herself on her chair, and brazenly placed her right leg on the table .
“So, how much did you bring with you?” The female clan leader said as she sighed and yelled angrily at the workers to bring more liquor .
Shurei and Rue looked at each other . To them, it felt like they were being told to hand over their money .
“I take it you are willing to accept our request?” Pale asked as she took off her hood .
“Hah? Well, in that case—”
As if to stop the clan leader from speaking, the doors of the shop suddenly opened, and 10 seemingly vulgar men entered one after another .
Clicking her tongue, the clan leader frowned as she looked toward them .
“Can’t you see I’m talking with someone, shitheads!? Didn’t your mothers teach you to shut up when people are talking!?”
“…Hey, who’s the target?”
The person who looked like the boss of the 10 vulgar men ignored the female clan leader and asked that question . When he saw Pale, he drew his sword .
“…Berk, bring me my sword . ”
The female clan leader’s face twisted into a smile . Her pupils were wide open with anger and her smile was equally evil .
Berk rubbed the part where he’d been headbutted as he handed an odd sword that was both thin and curved .
The female clan leader took her sword without turning to Berk, then as she exhaled, she assumed her stance .
The female clan leader played with the sword in her hands as she smiled like that of a predator eyeing its prey . At the same time, she viciously licked her lips .
“Woman, if you get in our way, we won’t show you mercy . ”
Unfortunately, that warning only served to rouse her anger .
“Come, underling . I’ll cut you into pieces . ”
In response to the assassin’s warning was a heavy-toned sneer that seemed to make one’s long black hair stand on end .
Immediately, the assassins came leaping for the female clan leader . These assassins were unlike the ones that Shurei and Rue fought . These were real assassins, without the slight waste in their movements .
The female clan leader compressed her body and rammed it into the assassins, then in the next moment, three flashes flashed in the span of one breath, the curved sword moving out of its sheathe, and suddenly, the assassins that had attacked her had all been cut down .
Seeing that, the assassins couldn’t help but be shocked, but the female clan leader didn’t even pause for a moment as she took a step forward and attacked another three times . Each time her blade flashed, the assassins’ numbers would dwindle .
“Ha . ”
Her beautiful smiling face twisted even more, as blood spurted everywhere according to the trajectory of each slash . On the floor, on the walls… Everything was being dyed in blood .
It was an unfamiliar sword style, but her black hair would sway with every stroke swung, blood spurting to the air with each flash . It was almost as if she were dancing, and that fact, only served to accentuate her beauty .
While Shurei was captivated by her swordsmanship, before anyone knew it, there was only one assassin left .
“Who are you!?”
“Hah? Did you pick a fight without knowing who your enemy was? Trash . ”
Brushing off the blood from her curved sword, she sheathed her sword once more . As she assumed her stance again, she smiled cruelly .
“Come, it’s time to die . Know that the one who killed you is Vine of the Burning Bright Moon . Send the goddess of the underworld (Altesia) my regards!”
“You’re the mad blade of—”
Without giving him the time to finish, Vine’s sword cut him from the stomach to his chest . In an instant, the assassin’s life was severed .
“Hmph, small fry,” Vine spat as she sheathed her sword and briskly walked back to where Pale and the others were .
“Now then, where we’re we?”
The way Vine looked as she licked the blood of her foes from her cheeks was truly like that of a laughing demon .
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