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Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
‘Turn against… each other?’
Barney Junior was stunned. His gaze was unfocused… as though he was remembering the past.
When they heard this, the Royal Guards responded differently; Samel sneered, Beldin and Naer remained silent, Tardin snorted coldly, Bruley made an anxious sound, and Canon even gasped after he lost his composure as he walked at the rear.
An agonized Nalgi held the torch. The fire flickered constantly.
“Barney, please… After we go out, can you just let this all slide?”
The more Barney Junior frowned, the more puzzled he became.
“Let it… slide?”
Nalgi let out a hum of acknowledgement. His words traveled in the tunnel. There was a barely noticeable emptiness in his voice.
“You know, find a place and live through our remaining days quietly. We can just forget about Zakriel, forget about him…”
As he listened to the conversation between the two, Thales suddenly felt that the atmosphere had turned strange.
Just as expected, in the next moment Barney Junior raised his voice.
“Forget about him?!”
His footsteps came to a stop for a few seconds. The team behind him was also thrown into disorder.
“Then what about our thirty-seven brothers who died in prison?” Barney Junior huffed in anger. “What about those who died in Renaissance Palace that year? What about the old captain, Tony, my father, what about them?”
He gripped his sword and shield tightly. There was inexpressible rage and sorrow in his voice.
“What about His Majesty and the princes? What about those whom had their blood shed in the kingdom that year?”
Nalgi was rendered speechless. He fell silent for a moment.
Beldin patted Barney Junior’s back worriedly. The latter shook his head, signalling that he was fine. He continued to follow Samel.
However, as Thales watched in worry, thinking that everything had returned to normal, Nalgi’s faint voice traveled into their ears again.
“But Barney, have you ever thought that those who died, maybe they…” Nalgi paused for a moment before he continued in a tone that suggested he did not have the heart to finish his sentence. “Maybe they do not wish to see us seek revenge in such a vicious cycle and turn against each other…? Maybe they just want to rest in peace; maybe they want us to live peaceful lives. They only want to let everything fade away into obscurity…”
Thales frowned. The atmosphere was getting stranger.
Tardin could not help but say, “Nalgi… say no more.”
Nalgi went silent.
Barney Junior’ soft snorts came. “Let everything fade into obscurity…” He gazed deeply at the torch by his side. His gaze slowly became lost before a firm look settled in his eyes again.
“When my father broke both his arms and had his blood drained from his body, he opened his eyes in pain like a stray dog by the roadside. He lay quietly on the red-stained tiles and was buried under a pile of corpses. He did not look like he wanted to let everything fade into obscurity.” Barney Junior’s words were filled with anger and pain.
The sound of breathing in the tunnel was in disarray.
“And the torment, pain, everything the forty of us went through over the past eighteen years… For eighteen years, the illusions you saw when you closed your eyes, and even when you opened them, the past you dreamt of, the future you imagined…
“Think again, Zakriel is to be blamed for all of this, but he escaped his due punishment. He deceived the world and lived free…
“Ask yourself, Nalgi, can all of you let this entire matter fade into obscurity? Can you really live through the rest of your days with your mind at ease, and be confident that this will not haunt you?”
Every word he said made the Royal Guards’ expressions change slightly.
“No… At least, I know I can’t. And this is not my turning against all of you…” Barney Junior whispered, “When he… when Zakriel broke his oath, betrayed the late king, and raised his sword against us…” Barney Junior drew his sword out and spoke coldly, as though he had just thrown away his last shred of emotion. “…he was no longer our brother.”
His words were cold, making Nalgi shiver slightly.
“We will try our best to locate him, capture him, and kill him, regardless of whether he is on land, sea, at the corners of the world, or in a place that is hell on earth…” As he walked, the tip of Barney Junior’s sword touched the wall, bringing with him a frictional sound that was as terrifying as his tone. “We will force Zakriel to give us an answer, we will make him witness his own fate, and we will let him see how he will be repaid for the crimes he committed that year, and for all the debts he owes…”
Barney Junior gritted his teeth right then and said, “The traitor must pay.”
Nalgi’s voice rose again. This time, there was a hint of desperation and panic. “But, Barney! Regardless whether it was your father or the old captain, they don’t want anyone to take revenge for them like this—”
“Nalgi!” Tardin seemed like he could no longer tolerate Nalgi’s untimely advice. “Shut up!”
Nevertheless, Barney Junior sounded like he had been triggered. He laughed coldly and said, “Revenge? No, this is no longer just revenge.” Barney Junior looked at the darkness ahead with a pair of icy cold eyes. “This is the responsibility, duty, and burden of us as survivors. This is the meaning of our lives now. Only then can we face ourselves without shame or regret from this day onwards, every day and every night.”
Nalgi no longer responded seriously. He just gulped and said low-spiritedly, “Is it…?” There was a sense of befuddlement and melancholy in his voice.
At that moment, Samel stopped walking. “We found it,” he said hoarsely.
Thales was startled. He immediately raised his head, and only then did he discover that they had come to a new room.
The group also snapped out of the mood brought on by the unhappy conversation. They looked around in amazement… even if they were prisoners, they never did get the chance to visit the lower floors of the prison.
Under the bright illumination, this room appeared very spacious. Other than the fallen logs and stones, there was nothing; only an empty bookshelf made with of unknown material leaning against the wall in the corner. Obviously, this place once had countless shelves used to store all kinds of precious resources—the storage room of Alchemy Tower.
Barney Junior looked at the empty room and asked in puzzlement, “Where is the exit?”
Samel’s face was stern. He walked straight to the wall across the tunnel. “See this wall? If Ricky was right, this is a door.” Samel exhaled. Excitement rose in his eyes. “The exit is hidden here. When the entire underground fortress was delivered into enemy hands, the remaining wizards could retreat to this storage room. This place could still serve as their final escape route.”
Everyone including Thales walked forward in astonishment. They touched that piece of wall covered in dust. The texture was rough. It had been around for a long time. This large and wide wall that had no gaps was actually… a door?
“Now, we just need to find that special, hidden keyhole to open this door.” Samel’s tone was hopeful. He turned to Thales. “Since you can release them, Your Highness, I believe the key is with you.”
Everyone looked at Thales. Samel’s penetrative gaze made Thales very uncomfortable.
However, there were more important matters at hand. The teenager just snorted gently and took out the weird-looking key from his bosom before he handed it to Samel…
An accident occurred at that moment; just when Thales stretched out his hand, another hand swiftly came out from his side! Under the many eyes belonging to the Royal Guards, it snatched the key.
The sudden turn of events stunned everyone.
The person who grabbed the key did not hesitate in moving. He pushed Naer and Tardin away, and after he widened his distance from them, he turned around and raised his sword. He panted and watched the surprised crowd.
‘What?…’ Thales stared at that person in shock.
He believed that the Royal Guards were surprised not because they had not registered the situation, but because they had completely not expected this to happen.
‘Why… is it him?’
Barney Junior was still the first person to react over this. He instinctively shouted the name of the one who stole the key,
“Nalgi! What are you doing?!”
In his shock, Thales saw the chatterbox of the Royal Guards hold the key in one hand, while his other hand held his longsword. Nalgi, who had constantly seemed very lively, and had been an interesting person all along their way to this place, was shaking as he looked at the other Royal Guards.
It was as if he drew a boundary separating him from them.
Tae Nalgi… It was him.
“I’m sorry, Barney.” Nalgi trembled. His face was filled with pain, hesitation, and a complicated hatred as he looked at Barney. “But…” Nalgi’s breaths quivered, and his gaze was empty. “But I can’t-I can’t let you open this door.”
In his surprise, Thales noticed right then that Nalgi was acting quite abnormally.
It was the opposite of the joy and optimism he showed when the prince first met him. As of right now, Nalgi’s face had paled and his eyes dulled. It was as if he had changed into another person.
Barney Junior stared at him in disbelief. “…What?”
Nalgi took a deep breath. His eyebrows shifted and his face contorted as if he was fighting against something. The words he said next were disjointed and had no logic.
“I’m sorry! Everyone!” He shouted to the point where his voice broke. The tip of his sword trembled as he pointed it at the group. “But I can’t let all of you, especially Barney, go up…”
This change completely stunned the rest of the Royal Guards. Samel’s brow was furrowed deeply, Tardin and Naer looked at one another worriedly, Bruley’s grunts grew more frantic, Canon looked as if he had seen a ghost, and Beldin gritted his teeth.
“Nalgi… what happened to you? Are you having an episode again?” Tardin tried hard to suppress the anxiety in his voice as he asked tentatively.
‘Having an episode?’ Thales was nervous.
Nalgi looked at the anxious Tardin. Pain and bitter remorse appeared first in his eyes. After a second, his twitching face morphed; his lips curled up, and he began to laugh eerily.
“Haha, maybe, but I think that I… I can no longer endure this.”
‘No longer endure this?’
As they watched Nalgi act in this incredibly abnormal manner, the Royal Guards burst into uproar for a moment. Beldin wanted to approach him quietly, but he was forced to back down by Nalgi’s shaking sword.
“Nalgi, what happened?” Naer asked seriously.
Nalgi shuddered again. He stared at the key in his hand for a while, and then looked at Barney again. “What happened? What happened?” He raised his head and revealed an agonized grimace. “I just-I cannot-I can’t let Barney, this dumbass, ruin everything… Everything was going on so well, I can’t just let him go up like this… and do everything he just told me to… whether it’s for the living, or the dead.”
When Barney Junior heard this, he stared at Nalgi with a face that burned with rage. Thales continued staring at Nalgi in shock.
In this rescue, Nalgi was the first former guard who arrived right in front of him. Just a moment ago, he was still of sound mind, was he not? He was still debating with Barney about whether he should let it go or to take revenge, but now, why was he…?
“Nalgi?” Thales acted based on his experience to placate Zakriel just now. He handed his longsword to Quick Rope, and carefully raised both hands to show that he was not a threat. He said gently, “Listen to me, stay calm, okay? What do you see—”
It would have been better if he had not said anything. Once he spoke, Nalgi shuddered again. He swiftly turned his head towards Thales!
“Your Highness, why?” Nalgi’s face twisted up. The sentence spoken with a quiver, making him sound as if he was about to cry.
Thales was stunned. Before him, Nalgi watched him with an expression he could not imagine.
It was like… he was a believer pleading for salvation. It was also like… a helpless mortal who was disappointed in life. There was only desperation and conflict in his eyes.
This bewildered Thales.
“What do you mean, why?” Thales retorted subconsciously.
Despite the face of despair, Nalgi forced himself to chuckle. He said in a miserably sad tone, “We were already prepared to live the rest of our lives in this hell filled with despair. We were going to die quietly…” His voice grew hoarser. There was anger in his words, like he wanted to scream until his throat was raw. “But why, why must you be so cruel, so cold? Why must you appear here, in this hell? Your Highness, why did you come to us?!”
As he continued to speak, Nalgi grew more agitated. The tip of his sword shook constantly. Beldin had no choice but to pull Thales back a little.
“Why did you have to deliver us once more… to this unbearable, ugly, mortal world?”
Thales stared at him with a dumbfounded look. ‘Why? What is he talking about?’
Once he got over his shock and puzzlement, Barney Junior found it impossible to bear with the situation any longer. His annoyance slowly turned into anger. “Give me the key… Don’t forget, we’re running out of time! We have a great responsibility on our shoulders!”
Barney Junior’s eyes were burning. He said through gritted teeth, “I don’t care what fit you’re having right now, but we didn’t stay in this place for eighteen years for ourselves! We didn’t live for our own feelings! If you still harbour an ounce of respect for our brothers and the dead—”
But against everyone’s expectations…
“Enough, Quill Barney, you son of a b*tch!”
All this while, Nalgi had always been fearful of Chief Vanguard Barney and obeyed his orders, but at that moment, he suddenly erupted!
Nalgi was incredibly worked up. He roared hysterically back at Barney, “You cowardly bastard! You thrice-cursed extremist! You’re the most ruthless murderer among us!”
Barney Junior was instantly rendered speechless.
‘Murder… murderer?’ In that instant, the resolute and firm vanguard felt his heart get thrown into chaos.
Under everyone’s disbelieving gazes, Nalgi’s expression turned savage. He moved with difficulty.
“It has been eighteen years…” Nalgi raised his sword and forced his words out of his mouth through gritted teeth.
“I’ve had enough of your self-righteousness and presumptuousness.” Nalgi glared at the shocked Barney. His sword was directed at the vanguard. “I’ve had enough of the endless lectures and declarations you spew day and night.”
At that moment, Nalgi sucked in a deep breath. It was like he wanted to vent all his displeasure and anger. He roared loudly, “I’ve had enough of your resolute, firm, unyielding, exemplary behavior that keeps on despite the weight on your shoulders!!”
Nalgi’s eyes were red. They were filled to the brim with tears. He panted, and sounded like he was crying, but also like he was angry.
The Royal Guards had apparently never seen this side of Nalgi before; they were all caught unawares.
But when Thales watched Nalgi act this way, questions rose in his heart.
‘Something’s wrong.’ The Sin of Hell’s River rushed to his brain. Thales began to force himself to remember all the abnormal things that happened since he came to the Prison of Bones.
All the elements, all the incidents, all the logic…
The moment they met Zakriel, Nalgi’s behavior had been off…
‘No. It’s not just that, it happened even earlier… even earlier than that!’
At that moment, Thales spoke like he was in a trance, “Nalgi… that song.”
The expression of pain and conflict on Nalgi’s face froze. “What?” His shoulders shook violently. There was a drastic change of expression on his face, and his breathing was completely erratic.
It came to Thales; he finally knew what was wrong.
The teenager breathed absentmindedly in front of the group. He voiced his assumptions clearly,
“What Zakriel said just now… about him be the only person who knew the truth, about how all the misfortune started because he did not manage to persuade the late King Aydi, to stop him from marrying that ‘former acquaintance’ of his who was really a Mystic, Queen Fiosa…”
When Nalgi heard this, he shuddered.
“But…” Thales’ voice also trembled slightly. He seemed to have remembered something terrifying, and he stared blankly at Nalgi. “But that song, the one you sang to comfort Canon when we first met with the bars between us…”
Barney Junior, Samel, Beldin, and the others all frowned.
“That was not a coincidence, right?”
At that moment, it was as though someone had pushed down on the air to allow smoother airflow, which also caused Nalgi’s breathing to slowly calm down.
In the span of a few seconds, Nalgi’s expression turned from despair and pain, to melancholy and liberation. He shut his eyes, allowing his tears to flow.
In the next second, the corners of Nalgi’s mouth twitched.
“You are observant, Your Highness.” Before everyone’s disbelieving gazes, Nalgi wept and chuckled crestfallenly. “No…
“…it was not a coincidence.”
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