Einar asked Ivan to guide him to the Basilica Orphanage, wanting to witness his brother’s living conditions firsthand to ease his conscience.
“An orphanage! This is truly remarkable!”
Einar chuckled continuously as he explored various areas, causing residents to scream and flee due to his sinister appearance.
“You really spared no expense!”
“The war orphans look better than the noble children living in our palace. Oh dear, how is the world going to turn out!”
Despite his words, Einar proudly patted Ivan’s back.
“You brat, you’re better than me.”
Since it was an objective fact, Ivan didn’t bother to argue. Einar chuckled and then wrapped his arm around Ivan’s shoulder.
“Now, let’s take a tour of your humble abode.”
Einar glanced around the director’s office and nodded.
“A very modest office. So, where do you sleep?”
“I sleep on that sofa.”
Einar hesitated and looked around.
One old sofa. One old coffee table.
One wardrobe and a desk for office work. Weapons on the wall neatly arranged and well-maintained.
Why does this brat continue to live as if it’s still wartime?
Einar squinted his eyes. Eating and sleeping in the director’s office, well, that’s one thing…
‘He was always ready to leave at any moment.’
He was a king of a nation, the top field commander of Drovian, and someone who fought alongside soldiers on the frontline.
He instantly saw through Ivan’s condition. The office, filled only with essentials to leave without hesitation in any situation, would pose no issue for anyone to sit at the office desk, excluding the armed figures on the wall. There was no ‘color’ in this place.
No personal possessions, no hues bestowed by personal preferences in the space. It was a completely monochrome environment.
A colorless, transparent space devoid of any sense of belonging.
“Ivan, let’s have a seat.”
Einar gestured with solemn eyes. As soon as he sat on the sofa, huscals rushed in and placed a bottle and glasses in front of him.
“Let’s hear the story. How did you manage to survive after killing the Seven Dragon Generals?”
Always ready to disappear, a state where his disappearance wouldn’t be surprising at all. Einar knew that kind of guy.
Maximilian. The hero of humanity.
His state just before going missing was exactly like this.
A random mistake of the god who created the race, the essence of the evolution of a race spanning thousands and tens of thousands of years, the ultimate creation brought forth by the fate of the world.
The most powerful and, at the same time, the greatest individual across an entire race.
During the war, humans called them the ‘Seven Dragon Generals.’
Beings who obtained the name of the gods through the mortal flesh. Manifestations in the world. Representatives of each race that makes up the members of the demon race.
In human terms, they might be deemed heroes, or perhaps even more. Among humans, heroes aren’t always the most powerful individuals.
These beings can individually symbolize an entire race, essentially becoming ‘Race Gods.’
Seven of them, one who governs the seven. Under their leadership, a multi-racial coalition swept in. Humans lost half of the world in the first ten years of war.
That was the cause and history of the past war.
“How on earth did you come back alive?”
Einar asked Ivan with a sense of looking at a miracle.
He had faced the Seven Dragon Generals. In this world, surviving an encounter with them was extremely rare.
So, questions were inevitable.
Even the hero party felt despair when confronting the Seven Dragon Generals. They experienced fear and pain. They learned defeat.
It was an opponent where, after the entire hero party struggled in battle, they could only defeat them one by one.
And to think, he defeated and survived against such a creature with just a few ‘well-trained’ troops?
“The one you killed… Abiditas, was it? I heard something like that.”
“The Lord of Dragons? Wasn’t he even living in the skies of Ifeira? How on earth did you kill that bastard? How did you come back alive?”
A valid question. Einar, with his feet on the table, sipped the drink served by the huscarls, tilting his head.
Ivan, sitting on the opposite side, remained still.
Ivan found it hard to understand why this man was in this city, why he was acting so domineering towards him, and, on top of that, why they were having such a conversation.
It was just uncomfortable. Especially this conversation, which brought back memories of those times.
“Lieutenant, did you see that? Wow, I was really awesome, right? I took on all Seven Dragon Generals.”
“Hahaha, you might be able to do it again, but it’s a shame.”
“If that’s the case, Sasha, we might have been able to save that idiot. Really regrettable. Lieutenant, seriously.”
“But you won’t be lonely. We have connections, whether it’s heaven or hell.”
“Lieutenant, live for a long time. Come as late as possible.”
“If you come too soon, we’ll make you a horseman in the underworld.”
Ivan clenched his teeth at the voice that echoed in his ears like a hallucination.
On that day, the blood shed by Chernobika still vividly stained the back of his neck. That was all, but he remembered the names of every subordinate who had died that day.
156 members of the Cleansup Unit perished in killing just one of the Seven Dragon Generals.
As there were only five active Dragon Generals at the time, you could consider that the entire Cleansup Unit, with a total strength of about 700 members, oxidized in a single moment.
Kill the Dragon Generals. That was the last order the Cleansup Unit faced.
So, Ivan didn’t want to recall that day.
“Let’s talk about something else.”
“No. It can’t be like that.”
Einar’s green eyes were blazing like flames.
As if piercing through Ivan’s emotions, he stared at him with fiery eyes.
“Is it guilt? Or fear? I understand. It’s understandable. I heard Enrique and Patricia are also in this city. Well… they might not have directly killed them, so it’s understandable if you didn’t inform me. Those guys weren’t the ones who killed them ‘directly,’ after all.”
“What are you trying to say?”
“The one who directly killed the Dragon Generals. The one who bathed in the blood of the Dragon Generals can’t be completely okay.”
Einar flicked his hand. His glass was filled again with sticky liquor.
He put the glass in his mouth and swallowed it roughly. Then, exhaling a deep sigh, he spoke in a languid atmosphere.
“The first time I found out about it was… let’s see. When I killed Tumor. The bastard of Mount Tumor, when I killed him, Maximilian acted a bit strange for a while.”
Einar reminisced about the distant past, closing his eyes.
“A few days later, he returned to normal… but even if others didn’t know, I could see it. The deep-seated rage under those eyes. That guy, originally a good-natured fellow, became strangely kind after that.”
“Is that so?”
“Yeah. After that, when we caught another Dragon General, even with an injury losing an arm, he stubbornly insisted on killing him. It’s strange. He wasn’t a guy who cared about things like honor, but after that, he started yelling that he had to take care of the guy’s disposal no matter what.”
At that time, they let it slide without much consideration.
Those times were harsh for everyone. The hero party saw a decrease in their numbers and heightened emotional fluctuations.
Days without seeing family, rare moments of conversing with humans. What stepped in their path were demons, and both the land and the sky were hunting for their lives.
It was a time when one had to split the sky to find hope.
So, they decided that the deeds of the heroes were of an acceptable kind. They thought that way. Well, whether they directly slit their throats or not, what difference did it make? Anyway, the fact that they killed the Dragon Generals itself was significant.
“And in the Demon King’s Castle… um. This story might be troublesome for others. Hey, you guys, go outside.”
At Einar’s gesture, the huscals promptly exited the director’s office.
In the room left with only the two of them, Einar slowly reached out to fill his own glass. He pushed the filled glass in front of Ivan and, holding the bottle, flicked his hand.
“Drink. This older brother is thirsty.”
Ivan grasped the glass and raised it. Einar clinked the bottle against Ivan’s glass with a loud sound.
The two men simultaneously downed their drinks.
A heavy, bitter, lava-like liquid flowed down Ivan’s throat.
After a moment of silence, Einar lowered the bottle and spoke.
“Maximilian personally struck the Demon King’s neck. At that time, he was in a state where he couldn’t move. Even with Patricia’s healing, his body, which needed more than a week to recover, was in a pitiful state.”
Even so, the hero, with an injury as severe as that, walked forward and struck down the Demon King’s neck.
The spilled blood between the armor was already lethal. Patricia poured the miracle of healing onto the hero until he fainted.
Jill Ber sensed his true intention and Einar was preparing to rescue those party members who had lost consciousness. Meanwhile, Enrique and Veolgrin were facing the forces gathering at the top of the Demon King’s Castle.
In that situation, Maximilian repeatedly struck down the already dead Demon King’s neck. Unceasingly, even in a state of unconsciousness.
What felt ‘strange’ in that situation was that only Veolgrin and Einar, among the party members, noticed the warrior’s ‘oddity.’ Veolgrin with his intellect and Einar with his instinct. The other party members didn’t catch onto the hero’s ‘abnormality’ until he fainted.
“That bastard… dared to bear the curse in our stead.”
“Yes, a curse. The divine retribution poured upon mortals who killed the gods. A curse bestowed upon those who turned the blood of gods upside down.”
Intense vitality emanated from Einar’s body.
“Daringly, daringly, he took on that sin in our place. Assuming we couldn’t bear it. Reveling in his own superiority…!”
In Ivan’s eyes, it was a sense of guilt masked as anger.
It was a manifestation of helplessness and guilt, expressing the indescribable emotion solely through rage.
Ivan silently swept the glass.
“When he first killed one of the Dragon Generals. That’s when he realized. This is a curse humans can’t bear. Then he must have thought about it.”
If someone had to endure the same curse later.
Already cursed, wouldn’t it be most efficient for the one already cursed to receive it?
“That scoundrel… without even thinking of consulting others, embraced everyone alone.”
Einar tilted the bottle, pouring the liquor forcefully. After a deep exhale, his eyes opened low.
“Killing a Dragon General makes the soul more burdensome. What about after killing the Demon King? Others found Maximilian’s disappearance strange, but not me. He finally became unbearable.”
Einar placed the empty bottle down and stared at Ivan.
As if he would peer into his soul.
“Aviditas’ concept was greed. You’ve lost desire, Ivan Petrovich. The world’s wealth, fame, connections, and love.”
Despite establishing an orphanage, pouring all the assets earned through war, Ivan slept alone on a sofa.
While nobles and high-ranking officers from various sectors were still active, he lived as if disappeared.
Aging alone, rejecting all marriage proposals from the socialite women of the time.
Einar quietly controlled his breath, swallowing his anger.
He swallowed the sadness, guilt, and helplessness.
“How do you live? For the past four years. What on earth is keeping you in this world?”
Ivan lifted his head at Einar’s words.
Then, he spoke heavily.
“Respect, faith, responsibility, hope.”
Respect for the Great King.
Faith in the ending page.
Responsibility for those dying on behalf.
Hope that he can return.
And, adding one more in the end.
Not finding a reason to live.
Blind devotion to the act of living itself.
If that could sum up everything about Ivan, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration.
After finishing his words, Ivan pondered for a moment and took out a small box from his embrace.
“And I haven’t lost all desires, Einar.”
“Call me ‘sir.'”
Einar chuckled and nodded towards the box.
“Yeah, what is it? Let’s see what desire you claim I haven’t lost.”
“Don’t be surprised.”
Ivan slowly opened the box. A meticulously maintained shining metal comb carefully emerged in his hand.
With a click, he opened the comb wide and said in a subdued voice.
“This can also be used as a dagger.”
“Damn, this is amazing, you rascal!”
Einar exclaimed with a loud sound, standing up from his seat.