Chapter 53

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– Splash, splat.

The summer rain begins to fall, a cool rain that increases the density in the darkness of the night, cooling the hot air.

Ivan stared at the dark house, raindrops hitting him.

Though the sound of rain mixed with lowered visibility, it was certain. There was no sign of life inside this house.

“Tsk.”

He remembered Dionar. In fact, he memorized the closest aides to leaders of various countries, including many of Einar’s old Husclas whom he had never met in person.

Some of the Huscals, including Mord, had been watched closely by the United Kingdoms. ‘Reserves.’ Promising individuals expected to fill vacancies in the hero party.

Ivan, including himself, had reserves prepared for each role. Among them, Dionar was considered a strong successor to Einar.

Had he already made a move? Ivan hesitated for a moment and shook his head.

Unlikely.

Including Ecdysis, the ‘guests’ in Frechenkaya are attached to the Counterintelligence Headquarters. The level of surveillance is not very high, but it means they are protected targets.

Moreover, the Counterintelligence currently identifies the ‘Drovian rebels’ as likely terrorist suspects. Even if Dionar from Drovian entered perfectly, he would be caught in the surveillance net the moment he appeared next to Ecdysis.

So, the reason the house is empty now… suggests that Mord and Ecdysis willingly moved somewhere together by themselves.

It’s unlikely, but it’s possible. Let’s just say they took a nighttime stroll.

“This is bad.”

Ivan immediately turned and ran.

The raindrops became increasingly intense.

***

Enrique wiped the bloodied knife on her sleeve, her face frowned.

“Stay behind.”

“But, Master! Shouldn’t I do something too?”

“Observing and learning well. That’s your task.”

In the darkness, bright red pupils flickered. The blood-scented, frenzied pupils of a vampire.

Frechenkaya’s underground canal. Older than the history of this country, the city had canals that had expanded into a complex maze over the years.

Through the gaps, small shadows emerged one by one.

-Krkrkrk!!

Beneath the canal’s dim light, faint ashen skin was revealed.

Cave goblins. Miners.

Enrique muttered with a frown.

“I should have expected it since dwarves appeared on the outskirts.”

Dwarves burrow through underground passages, specializing in rear infiltration and disrupting enemy lines.

As long as there is earth, there is no place dwarves cannot infiltrate. That’s the common knowledge. Of course, considering supply lines and maintenance costs, it may not be the absolute truth, but anyway.

It was reasonable to assume that in an area infiltrated by dwarves, they had laid their own passages. It meant more than a few dwarven partisan soldiers engaged in terrorism in that region.

This country had finally tasted peace after just four years.

No. Not really. She herself was the same. This simply meant that humans were now forgetting about war.

Instinctively, people tend to avoid negative memories. War was an event akin to historical trauma, and humans were quickly covering history with positive memories.

Thanks to this, civilization was being rebuilt at an astonishing speed, and it couldn’t be entirely negative. However, she was an exception.

As much as her. The one known as the ruler of Frechenkaya’s underground canals, an assassin of the Hero party, and before that. The one who slaughtered the Elder and became the vampire queen of Frechenkaya, she was.

“Lucia, watch closely.”

Enrique whispered, gripping two daggers in a reverse hold.

Krkkrk, krk. Twisted screams echoed throughout the canal.

The goblin miners were a dwarf slave race, and the fact that dwarven special forces were hiding somewhere in the darkness meant goblins had emerged on the front lines.

This ends here. Not a single demon dares to invade above the city.

Enrique, after taking a breath, leaped like a phantom. Amidst countless flashing red eyes in the darkness. Through the forest-like formations and buzzing multitude of demons.

-Krk….

-Skraak.

The approaching goblins froze in an instant.

What echoed was a bone-chilling, cutting sound.

-Kwajijijijik!!

The heads of the goblin horde that filled the front exploded simultaneously.

In the suspended time, a lightning bolt flashed alone, finally returning to the flow of the world.

The delicate brushstroke of a skilled swordsman. Death woven with light smoothly continued, seeping into the sheath.

Amidst blood pouring like rain, Enrique walked out, loosening her shoulders.

“This is how the hero party fights.” (Enrique)

“My eyes can’t keep up with it yet…” (Lucia)

“If you can’t see it, just feel it. You’ll get there one day.” (Enrique)

Enrique gave her disciple’s shoulder a reassuring tap and moved on.

***

-Kugugugugu….

The street rattled. During this season, the road, paved for carriage traffic, was made of polished brick blocks.

The bricks were vibrating against each other, making a trembling sound. Cracks appeared, revealing the road and building exteriors.

An earthquake? No, not at all.

This was the sound of excavation. Ivan furrowed his brow, quickly kicked the ground, and leaped up.

Tap, hit the wall, throw his body back, hit the next wall, then the next, back again.

Like a lightning bolt, he swiftly ascended until he found himself hanging from the railing of the tallest building’s rooftop.

-Kugugugugu…

Dust filled the air, vivid even amidst the falling rain. Buildings shook, and the ground twisted. The road writhed like a snake.

Excavation sounds. Assault on a major city, the main base.

Dwarves.

“How…?”

During the previous Demon War, the Dwarven ‘Excavation Main Base’ was thoroughly trampled upon. It was one of the most threatening legions of demons, the Wyvern Assault Battalion of the sky and the Dwarven Rear Guard in the underground – those who forced tactics into a different dimension.

Therefore, there wasn’t a single legacy left of the Dwarven ‘Earthbreaker Excavator.’ Ivan vividly remembered the mission to destroy the last excavator.

However, for an operation of this scale, an assault that could cover an entire city, an Earthbreaker Excavator was needed.

That was impossible. Firstly, Dwarven excavation technology was now lost, and secondly, until an attack force of that size penetrated the ground, it couldn’t go unnoticed.

The reconnaissance headquarters were not incompetent. Moreover, even Krasilov, not to mention the frontline, was not a target.

How many countries and cities must be crossed to reach Krasilov? There was no reason to attack this city in the first place.

“No.”

Except for the hero party. Ivan nodded. There was a reason.

However, still, the ‘how’ remained unresolved.

Other countries—well, it’s the pre-modern era. Let’s assume that, by avoiding legion bases and major urban areas, they could skillfully infiltrate without being noticed.

No matter how the intelligence units fly around the world, how do you catch moles digging underground?

But this country is different. Krasilov must not be kept in the dark.

Just a few days ago, dwarf terrorism occurred right next to the capital. Considering such signs, there’s no way the military, especially the Capital Guard Division, did not attempt to probe the roots.

The military absolutely, definitely knew about this situation.

“Central Bank, Circular Theater, Yansk University, St. Cheleta Cathedral, North-Prachenko Central Police Department…”

Ivan quickly scanned the epicenter of the earthquake in the urban area. Assuming there are tunnels underground and excavation artifacts are in operation beneath the ground.

By inversely detecting the epicenter and traces appearing on the ground, analyzing the intensity of the earthquake spread out like a spider web, the epicenter can be pinpointed.

So, these five places are the center of this attack.

And most likely, all of this is a deception.

The key is the children of the hero party.

“Lucia, she’s with Enrique, she’s out.”

“Isabelle and Oscar on hold because they’re in the same district.”

“And Elphiera.”

Other children of the Hero party can stall for some time, either against dwarves or rebels, due to their residence locations and characteristics.

That momentary delay should be enough for the reconnaissance headquarters to react.

So, Ecdysis. This little one is the most dangerous right now.

-Boom!

Ivan kicked off the wall and descended.

He doesn’t know Ecdysis’s scent. However, assuming Mord is with her, he does remember Mord’s odor.

He has memories of fighting that guy more than twice, shedding blood and sweat. In the first place, Drovian men don’t bathe well. The rain only delays the time; it can’t scatter his senses.

***

“Why… why, brother… why…?” (Mord)

“Have you never thought it’s strange?” (Dionar)

Dionar laughed with the unconscious Ecdysis draped over his shoulder.

Mord, with a sword plunged into his stomach, collapsed on the floor, reaching out with a gasp. His dropped axe is out of reach. Nonetheless, he doesn’t stop.

Because he must protect his niece.

Because she is the daughter of his brother.

And because I am the brother of my brother.

That is the sole reason. It’s the duty of a Huscal. He staggered towards the distant axe, muttering with trembling hands.

“If the divine right to rule, bestowed by heaven, is the right for kings and rulers to dominate someone, why is the rule of those who hold the divine right so different from the paradise in the scriptures?” (Dionar)

“What is that…?” (Dionar)

“Bullshit.” (Mord)

Dionar chuckled, looking down at the lifeless face of Mord.

Those who don’t understand, those who can’t even fathom, are nothing more than cattle and sheep. If they can only eat grass under the shepherd’s whip, they’re nothing more than carrion in the slaughterhouse.

“Is there any other reason? My father was a serf, but there’s no law that says I can’t become a lord.”

“My brother wouldn’t forgive you for that…”

“He won’t forgive me. Oh, well, I don’t intend to ask for forgiveness either.”

Dionar shrugged and walked away, carrying Ecdysis through the alley.

Kugugugug… The earthquake continued. Mord sighed, feeling his blood chilling in the rain.

He couldn’t protect Ecdysis. He was dying without a proper battle, allowing himself to be ambushed.

He probably wouldn’t qualify to join the eternal struggle in heaven. He would fall to the depths of hell, and this… yes. It would be a fitting punishment.

“Relax.” (Ivan)

“…?” (Mord)

A low voice echoed above him.

Raising his blurry gaze, under the dark night sky, he saw the face of a rain-soaked man.

“I have last words…” (Mord)

“That’s something you say when you’re dying.” (Ivan)

The man reached out, tightly grasping the sword embedded in Mord’s stomach. With a gruesome sound, the blade was pulled out.

Blood spurted out. Amidst the puddles, red blood mixed and flowed.

The man looked down at Mord’s wounds, touching them with his hand.

“It will hurt.”

“Ivan…”

“Yeah.”

“My niece, my niece…”

“I’ll protect her.”

Ivan opened the healing potion cap.

Even during the process of pouring the potion thoroughly into the abdominal penetrating wound, Mord endured without screaming, his eyes swollen and bloodshot.

When the emergency treatment finally ended, the exhausted Mord mumbled softly with his cracked voice.

“I… trust…”

Ivan carried the unconscious Mord, seated him under a rain-free eave, and covered him with a coat.

As long as the internal magic power was robust, the superhuman who had received enough healing potion to close the wounds wouldn’t die from hypothermia.

He removed the torn sleeve scrap clenched in Mord’s fist, likely grabbed hastily during Dionar’s attack. Fortunately.

-Ssuuup….

The scent, he remembered.

Ivan closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and then raced into the darkness of the city.

-Kugugugugu…!!

The earthquake continued.

***

“Today, we will empty the throne of Krasilov. Prepare the troops.”

“Yes, Your Highness. No…”

Dmitri bowed deeply towards the rain-soaked terrace.

Three times, he lowered his head to the ground, raised it again, correcting his own misspeak.

“Your Majesty. I accept your command.”

That person’s silver hair, soaked in rain, shimmered brilliantly under the terrace lights.

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