When I think of that hero dude Maxmillian, the first thing that pops into my head is him ‘slicing through the sky.’
It all started with Maxmillian, always being all hyped up with this goofy look on his face, swinging a sword.
All of a sudden, like he just got some brilliant idea, that goof casually sliced the sky. I mean, literally, the sky.
With one swift move, clouds got sliced and blown away, a huge gust shook the ground like crazy.
As I’ve said before, a hero party is basically an “assassination squad.”
You gotta hide deep in enemy territory, target the head honcho of the demon army, and exchange time for the lives of soldiers still fighting on the front lines.
So, all that loud commotion wasn’t cool.
“Is he totally nuts?”
Enrique, looking all serious, chucked a dagger at the hero. (The hero just smiled and easily swiped away the dagger with his bare skin.)
“So, now we’ve got someone yelling and frolicking, claiming they’re the savior of the United Kingdom. Oh, what a grand show of heroism, ain’t it just something?”
Veolgrin spoke all cold and quickly did some magic. Then he turned around and started sensing the approaching demons.
Meanwhile, Jill Ber, a fancy knight, swung his sword all daringly.
As the clouds the Hero had sliced through shattered into pieces and flew around, causing a breeze, Jill Ber laughed like crazy while fixing his hair.
“Looks like I’ve sliced more demons today. It was good for loosening up.”
“Um… Your wrist seems so loose it might snap?”
“Oops, sorry, Patricia. Please cast a healing spell to make it firm (hard) again.”
“Your words offend me somehow…”
After watching this scene for a bit, Einar laughed, got up, and hoisted his axe.
“I really hope you don’t….”
“A man of Drovian always leaves his mark on the world.”
“What’s with all this nonsense out of the blue? Put the axe down and listen!”
Despite Enrique’s cautious words, Einar moved forward, paying no attention.
“No matter how many times you cut the sky, there’s no trace left. But by doing this, we could always remember Ulric’s son, the great Einar, right here!”
“No, wait, hear me out—”
With big dreams and his axe raised, Einar split a mountain right in front of his eyes.
After that, they spent a week running away from swarms of Wyverns and the demon army, stirring up trouble like poking a beehive.
The Hero Party.
Some guy named Maximilian, apparently, said this with a grin, “I’ll tell you, Ivan, I cut through the sky.”
“I’ve cut down way more demons.”
“Ahem, I cut the mountain! Isn’t it cooler to slice something with a shape rather than something formless?”
“Just spouting fancy stuff doesn’t make you clever, kid.”
Why he was so fixated on the sky, I don’t know. But Ivan vividly remembers that ridiculous escape.
That day, all he probably wanted to see by cutting the night sky was to make sure that even though the demon’s place was covered in dark clouds, the evening sun was still shining unseen.
Man, that hero party was just a bunch of nuts, lunatics, and folks thinking they’re all that.
Out of the bunch, the hero was the craziest and shone the brightest.
Jill Ber aimed to be outstanding and got himself titled as a Tyllesian knight.
Einar wanted to leave a legendary mark and conquered his homeland, creating Drovian’s first unified kingdom.
As for the hero, Maximilian, he probably just wanted to make sure hope wasn’t dead.
So, Ivan doesn’t really dig the hero.
He just sorta looked up to him.
Even when the guy ditched the world and disappeared.
“Did he retire ’cause he got what he wanted, or…”
Did he stop trying to break through the dark clouds ’cause he couldn’t see the sun anymore?
It’s been over four years since that cheerful dude vanished. People still remember the hero, but Maximilian, the guy, was fading from memory.
Episode 11: Morning Sun (I)
Two weeks flew by in a flash. It didn’t feel like a break at all, just like the last holiday season, Ivan thought, staring out the window at the passing scenery.
It’s the road to Tyllese. And this time, he wasn’t alone.
He was with five guys watching his every move.
– Whoa, that was some real terror happening! How on earth did you know the date, time, and place so precisely? Nailed it!
These are agents from the Krasilov Intelligence Headquarters. That pesky junior, Dmitri, roped him into it.
When they got back after stopping Ecdysis’s chaos, Dmitri, apologizing, grabbed his hand and rambled on. But there was no humor in his eyes. Not at all.
A guy who’d been living quietly for four years suddenly predicting major trouble on a national level?
Other folks might’ve said, “Impressive!” But this guy’s from the Krasilov Intelligence Headquarters. He’s a big shot, a lieutenant colonel at the Investigation Headquarters.
So, his eyes clearly said:
– You set this up. Tell us honestly. How did you manage to set up our spy network secretly? Can you pass on your expertise?
Without a proper explanation, there’ll need to be countless verifications and suspicions ahead. Handling the Academy’s official procedures isn’t information monopoly; it’s an unexplainable responsibility.
No need to explain. Mystery adds weight to authority. Ivan didn’t bother clarifying the suspicion that he might have a secret international info organization.
And here they are. Five dull agents tagged along as ‘support.’
Ivan sighed. Do I really have to play babysitter now that we’ve come this far?
His sigh made the agents collectively flinch.
“Petrovich, perhaps something’s bothering you…?”
“All of you.”
At that moment, Ivan made up his mind.
Training rookies wasn’t his gig, but retiring from being his country’s agent (his country was the Republic of Korea) with these slackers was just not happening, right?
Why do intel agents dress alike anyway? What’s the hint there?
And why gather so obviously in such an empty place that raises suspicion for anyone?
This is just intolerable. Of course, their real objective is probably about Ivan, but that’s not intel work.
This can’t be overlooked.
The stern words of the orphanage director (ex-member of the Cleansup Unit, served 18 years in the military, partook in hero party operations, and even has a record of slaying a Dragon) began!
Eighteen long hours to reach St. Mathilde, the capital of Tyless.
The agents were frozen in time.
“Still a no-show….”
Isabelle scanned the platform until she hopped on the train heading to Krasilov.
The higher the hopes, the deeper the letdown.
Despite constant disappointment, she approached people with hope.
Carefully, just in case that person hid among them.
Even when the train released a long puff of steam, the person she waited for never showed up.
“Miss, don’t worry. He always thinks about you…”
“Thinks? Well, maybe he does.”
Isabelle replied coldly and turned away, ignoring the touch on her shoulder.
Her dapper knight, appointed as her bodyguard by the Tyllessian royal family, awkwardly stepped back with a smile.
Idiot. Jerk. Useless!
A pathetic knight, unable to handle even a single insult, trying to laugh it off as if it’s no big deal.
For her, most people are just animals. Not biologically, but in the sense that they’re just beasts.
As the memories of the hero, Maximilian, faded, she mostly stayed in the palace with her mother during his time on the battlefield.
As the hero’s fame rose, people’s faces grew simpler.
All she saw were friendly smiles trying to win favor with the future protagonist.
Naturally. If they believed the hero could quickly defeat the Demon King.
Once the Demon King was gone, all policies would revolve around the hero. Individual strength might not overpower a group, but with immense strength and achievements, the country naturally bends to that individual’s will.
So, the Tyllessian royal family worked hard to win her favor. Unable to reach the hero directly, impressing her became the only way.
Despite all the derogatory remarks and insults, he just kept smiling.
With everyone wearing the same fake smiles, like at a ball, it wouldn’t be great for the kid’s emotional growth.
“Get lost. I don’t want to see you.”
“But Miss, I…”
The knight hesitated at Isbelle’s words, gave a gentle nod, and left the cabin.
Alone at last, Isabelle let out a bitter chuckle.
Just as she was about to close the door, she glanced back.
She caught a twisted expression on the knight’s face, almost like a demon.
Isabelle, the hero’s kid, had an acute sense, way more perceptive than others. She could notice the tiniest shifts in someone’s expression immediately.
That’s why she learned early on that everyone around her felt uneasy.
“Such a jerk….”
She laughed at herself and sank into her seat.
A stubborn child with no expression other than anger and sarcasm.
Someone who finds solace only when others are angry, a self-destructive mess.
A severe lack of genuine affection believing that only others’ hatred is sincere.
Endlessly waiting for a father who’s now just a memory, and at the same time, resenting. Suffering from separation anxiety.
That was her self-diagnosis.
“I guess it’s time to hit the road, Petrovich.”
“We’re about to leave, Captain Petrovich.”
“Still sticking with ‘we,’ huh? Trying to show off that we’re all together somewhere?”
“I always said, be clear with expressions, firm with actions, and keep your intentions well hidden.”
The agents were silently screaming inside.
‘Lieutenant Dmitri!! This guy’s so intense!!’
‘You’re a nightmare, Petrovich!!’
‘I’m never forgiving you, Ivan…’
As the never-ending 18-hour lecture and the looming threat of extra specialized training approached, the exhausted agents exchanged brief farewells and left.
Their task was to protect Oscar, Knight Jill Ber’s son, from potential danger.
Ivan, who was sort of reluctantly guiding them for the job while wanting to shake off those shackles Dmitri put on him, watched Isabelle board the train at the station and thought:
Getting rid of the intel agents and safeguarding Oscar was like killing two birds with one stone.
Ivan hopped onto the train with the feeling of tossing away two big burdens.