Episode 2: The Old Soldier Needs a Break.
The St. Basilicia Orphanage is a prosperous orphanage even within the kingdom.
Typically, for an orphanage to become prosperous, it needed a few conditions. It had to be located in a favorable administrative area of the capital or have the political symbolism of being the ‘first orphanage for war orphans’ when a war-torn kingdom begins its reconstruction. The orphanage director had to have connections with influential people and nobles in society, among other reasons.
By the way, St. Basilicia Orphanage met all of these conditions.
Ivan scrunches up his brow while he casually scratches his arm. His time in the military taught him not to ignore weird vibes.
“Kids, throw some salt around.”
The little ones dash off, giggling, and he lets out a deep sigh.
It’s been a good four years since they knocked off the demon king, but this game ain’t calling it quits. If the ending’s takin’ this long, somethin’s fishy.
Is there some other rule? Is the ending like ‘hero kicks the bucket from old age’? Nah, that can’t be it. He wants to head back home ASAP.
Right about now, Ivan’s daydreaming about the good stuff back on Earth, making a list.
Canned brews, hot spicy rice cakes, honey butter chips, nachos with cheese, tuna mayo, and kimchi stew.
Oh, man, kimchi stew deserves three bold lines. It’s been a hot minute since he had some kimchi. Can’t forget kimchi jjim and stir-fried kimchi either.
And all kinds of booze, except vodka and wine. He’s all in for some liquor from the Far East.
After chowing down with creatures who snack on pickled cucumbers and dried shrooms, even puffed-up snacks start soundin’ fancy.
Ivan, walkin’ like he’s got weak knees, suddenly stops.
He hears footsteps in his office, where nobody should be. Grown-up steps, and what’s more, from a pro soldier.
Just a moment ago, his chill demeanor turned on a dime. He walks cautiously this time, no more ninja steps, aiming for a more natural approach, and heads straight for the wooden door with ‘Director’s Office’ on it
“There’s only one person.”
His instincts are dialed up to animal mode. After a few years in a special ops unit, anyone could pull these moves.
The noise behind that wooden door came to a sudden stop. Ivan cautiously reached for his holster and slightly hunched over, positioning his head in a way that would deflect a bullet if the door were to swing open. It was an old habit.
“Long time no see, senior!”
As the latch on the door turned, an unfamiliar guest cheerfully greeted. That indicated no intention of harm. Hearing the voice, Ivan quickly identified the person and relaxed his stance.
Upon opening the door, a sharply dressed military man stood there, extending his hand for a warm greeting.
“How have you been? Oh, I should have visited more often!”
“You should’ve used the front entrance.”
“Oh, when have we ever been that formal?”
The soldier let out a short laugh, stepped back, and briefly inspected Ivan’s waist and sleeves.
“No need to rush! Let’s have a drink and chat first, and then we can get to business.”
Even as he said that, the guest pulled a small letter from his pocket and carefully placed it on the table.
High-quality paper, sealed with wax, and bearing a chrysanthemum-shaped seal. Ivan instinctively took a step back when he saw it.
“Wait, isn’t that sacrilege?”
“Why would Colonel Kirilovna want me to…?”
“She’s the Royal Chancellor now. When you retired, she was already a Major.”
“So, why’s she looking for me? As far as I remember, when I left the service, she was quite adamant about me leaving.”
“Yes, you did follow her advice to retire and live quietly. I admire your trust in that, senior. Her Highness went without food for three days, you know?”
(TN: So, it’s a tsundere type, huh?)
He chuckled and pushed the letter, which had been pushed to the end of the table, back toward Ivan.
“Read it. If it’s a letter from Her Highness, it’s worth its weight in gold even at an antique auction.”
With the same caution he’d use to disarm a magical device on the verge of explosion, Ivan carefully reached out to gently break the wax seal, taking great care not to crumple it.
With a satisfying “pop,” the letter opened smoothly. When the golden-flecked paper came into view, his hand froze.
“What’s wrong, His Highness might just be asking how you’re doing.”
Elizaveta Kirillovna Krasilov. More familiarly known by her nickname from the front lines, “Riza of Steel.” This woman, back in the days of the full-scale front, wouldn’t send an emissary just to check on someone’s well-being.
It wouldn’t be surprising if the letter was poisoned.
I hope there’s no poison in here…
“Dammit, just read it.”
Ivan hesitated once more before gathering the courage to open the letter.
The letter was written impeccably, in precise and elegant handwriting, almost as if it were typed on a typewriter.
[Vanka, how have you been?]
Ivan didn’t want to read it anymore. He swallowed hard.
[I’ve heard about you from time to time. You seem to be doing well.]
At first, I thought I was fortunate, but that was a while ago.
[Sadly, I’m not doing well now.]
Whoever it was, they must be a bastard to have made this woman ‘not do well.
[Do you remember when we worked hard to cultivate the garden? I hoped we could have a banquet together, but you left without looking back.]
The days when you burned down demon colonies and set up military offices to ‘discipline’ the ‘pacified’ demons?
Of course, I remember.
[Afterward, I thought like this for a moment. Well, fine. Even if you’re not here, the garden you worked so hard to cultivate will not wither away like this. Winter has passed, and when the snow melts, it will be the season of blooming flowers.]
[Then, maybe one day, you might come to visit the garden you created.]
Ivan muttered without realizing it.
“Me? Back to the military? Why…?”
[But the seasons have come full circle, and winter is approaching again. The idlers who are well-fed and lazy no longer care about the garden. No more wild flowers grow among the gardens, where weeds and wild beasts thrive.]
This winter would certainly be colder and quieter than the last.
[Somewhere, I see it covering the branches of the barely surviving bushes.]
Only now did he grasp the purpose of this letter.
Before reading the last paragraph, Ivan let out an automatic sigh.
[Vanka, my most trusted gardener.]
[If you have a wish, I will surely repay it threefold. If the price is not enough, we will pay with our friendship. If that is still not enough, we will pay with our memories.]
[The kingdom still needs your dedication.]
[As it has been until now, and as it will be in the future.]
[With fondness, Kirillovna.]
After rereading the relatively short letter multiple times with great care, he pressed the corners of his eyes that had stiffened and turned his head.
– Tap, tap, tap.
He drummed his fingertips on the table, lost in thought for a moment.
“First, tell me about the situation.”
“It’s very complicated. The military keeps pestering us every day for assignments, and Crown Prince Alexander is dead set on dividing and selling the country. Our ‘Great King’ remains silent.”
The man continued with a sigh.
“But guess what! Do you remember St. Jan’s Academy? The international academy that was established during the war?”
“I got an early peek at the list of this year’s new students and faculty, and guess what? The Saintess is among the faculty, teaching theology. And then… these names, they’re pretty darn familiar, aren’t they?”
– Hero Maximilian’s daughter, Isabelle.
– Knight Jill’s son, Oscar.
– Mage Veolgrin’s daughter, Elpheira.
– Paladin Ainar’s daughter, Esideth.
– Rogue Enrique’s apprentice, Lucia.
And to top it off, Saint Patricia herself has become a professor this year.
It’s like something out of a storybook, the ‘Hero Party Members.’
“And here we are, thanks to our Great King, who abolished the age limit for admission to St. Jan’s Academy, saying age doesn’t matter, as long as you pass the entrance exam, you’re in. This is the result!”
St. Jan’s Academy, a renowned institution in the entire United Kingdom, doesn’t care about the age of its students from this otherworld.
Whether they’re super young or, well, very mature.
As long as they ace the insanely tough entrance exams, interviews, and meet other conditions, including a guarantor’s recommendation, anyone can enroll.
This is where things get tricky.
After slaying the Demon Lord, the Hero Party returned to their respective hometowns.
Some became nobles, others went into hiding. But they all shared something in common.
Each member of that party became a legendary hero in their hometowns.
This means that their actions could lead to international conflicts, especially for those who sent their kids to study abroad.
“Our prince wants to sell the country, oh my goodness. This happening right in the capital? What’s gonna happen?”
If someone from that group dies or gets hurt, it could spell doom for the kingdom.
“What should I do?”
“We’ve got a spot reserved for you on the faculty. Not as a professor or teaching assistant, but as a gardener. Well, academies have trees too, right?”
The man pointed to the list in his notebook as he spoke.
“Keep an eye on these folks until they make it back to their home countries without a scratch. It might even be shorter if they drop out.”
At this point, Ivan had it all figured out.
Colonel Kirilovna… I mean Her Highness, the Royal Chancellor, urgently needs an operative not currently tied to the military.
Using an active-duty agent would leave a trail that the prince’s faction could uncover, and hiring any retired agent without knowing their allegiances wasn’t a safe bet.
But voila! The perfect candidate was right near the capital.
Loyalty was unquestionable, skills were proven, and the person had retired quietly with no political ties, easy to locate and contact.
The miraculous candidate was none other than Ivan himself.
Ivan, who’d been waiting quietly for the end to come, ready to head back to Earth and relish the joys of modern life, suddenly grasped an astounding truth.
It wasn’t the kind of scenario where the Demon Lord gets defeated, and the Hero Party rides off into the sunset with a happily-ever-after ending.
Amidst the turbulent international scene and the ominous domestic politics, the abrupt appearance of the ‘International Academy,’ where world-famous figures eagerly enrolled their kids…
After 30 long years, a genre that any South Korean would instantly recognize came to mind.
Kim Sunwoo, who had been napping for many years, suddenly woke up.
“Damn it. Is this turning into a school setting?”
The man stared at Ivan with beads of cold sweat forming on his brow.
This was a sight that had been scarce even during Ivan’s active-duty days: that intense expression of suppressed anger.
And naturally, as someone who had known him from those active-duty days, the man was taken aback by the fierce and controlled fury in Ivan’s demeanor.
With a cold sweat, he wondered what Ivan meant by those words.
By the time he had finished pondering, Ivan had forcefully repressed the sudden eruption of Kim Sunwoo’s seething rage.
With beads of sweat forming on his own forehead, Ivan closed his eyes and spoke.
“Ivan Petrovich… I accept Her Highness’s command.”
“Now, let’s get going.”
He had already waited 30 years, so what was another three years in the grand scheme of things?
If he could just hold on for three more years, he would finally reach the ending.
And that’s how a gardener found himself working at the Academy.
In Russia, they enjoy pickled mushrooms and cucumbers as accompaniments to vodka…
A truly unique culture…!
See you in the next episode.