Chapter 82

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“If we possess this, we need not worry about grooming our beards, even during an ambush, correct?”

“Yes!”

Ivan involuntarily quivered with joy at finally encountering someone with common sense.

It’s widely known that a man is most susceptible to ambush when grooming his beard, and there’s no need for debate on this matter.

This is a convergence of individuals with common sense, transcending age and era (21st century and pre-modern). Common sense, often referred to as truth, is universally accepted regardless of time or country.

Yes, at this moment, they had grasped the truth.

Einar marveled, assessing the balance of the comb on his fingers, snapping it to release hairs, and altering its shape.

A shape-shifting comb, entirely metallic, devoid of magic, exuding a profound sense of trust.

It felt akin to the awe and determination experienced by those handling firearms for the first time. The intricate assembly of parts, the seamless functionality of metal falling into place – a feature any man would admire.

“Give it a try once…”

“Absolutely not.”

“Why?”

“You lack fundamental hygiene awareness.”

“…?”

Ivan looked at Einar, who was grinning, with disdain.

The guy with breadcrumbs still clinging to his unkempt beard from this morning—what is he talking about?

For Ivan, the beard was an emulation of the monarch’s coolness, a representation of ‘coolness.’ The ideal of coolness was exclusive to the monarch.

Hence, Ivan dedicated extensive time each morning and night to groom his beard, a display of etiquette akin to formal greetings.

However, the men from Drovian were different. They grew their beards thoughtlessly, saying, ‘It grows, so I grease it,’ roughly twisted, tangled, and even poured beer on it. (Not literally.)

One cannot allow their treasure to be entrusted to the leader of such individuals.

After hearing these explanations, Einar found himself in confusion amid emotions of anger or injustice.

In the midst of this, a faint sobbing sound was heard.

“Hey, wait a moment.”

He walked briskly, grabbed the office window, and forcefully opened it.

“…”

Below the window, two kids who seemed to be students and Isabelle, with an expression about to burst into tears, were sitting.

“This is unexpected.”

Upon seeing Einar’s face, the students all fled, but Isabelle remained, looking up at him.

That face, those eyes, even Einar recognized them well. Surprisingly similar. Einar smirked.

“Maximilian’s daughter.”

“Yes, Your Majesty.”

“Your Majesty, what nonsense. Call me uncle.”

Einar shrugged his shoulders and furrowed his brows for a moment. Naturally, he assumed his siblings had control of the situation. What a mess.

“How much did you hear?”

“…”

“You heard the whole thing, then.”

Einar let out a deep sigh.

“Let’s talk later.”

He closed the window and stepped back. Ivan showed no signs of confusion.

That brat, he knew.

Einar returned to his seat with a sly smile.

“Is there a soundproof spell here?”

“No. If there were, you wouldn’t hear outside noises.”

“Right. You’re not the type to use that… So, your reason?”

“That child also needs to know.”

“What the hell, you’re going to tell a kid like that that his father might have gone insane, and what is this, an assassin’s training camp disguised as an orphanage, and how come I didn’t notice when they got right up under my nose?”

“That’s a misunderstanding. All these kids are war orphans.”

War orphans are always pitiful children who must live while being mindful of others, society, and the world.

It should be considered natural for such children to cautiously navigate their surroundings, a sentiment implicitly endorsed by Ivan.

For these children, destined to enter society, acquiring at least one skill would enhance their chances of survival.

Einar appeared unable to grasp this straightforward common sense. Despite his vigilance, he remained a person inevitably rooted in the pre-modern era.

“Orphans capable of stealthily infiltrating from my siblings’ eyes up to my chin. What kind of orphans are they? It’s a rarity, even among demons, for someone to pull that off.”

Einar walked toward the office door with a disheartened smile.

“I came to meet you for a reason, though it seems meaningless now. Still, I have to confirm. Have you, by any chance, met Essi lately?”

“Mm.”

“Really? I thought so… What?! You met her?! You’re meeting her?!”

“Mm.”

He even brings her food and recently helps with training.

Einar glanced at Ivan’s plain face, wiped his forehead once again, and casually took out his axe.

“Come out right now, you rascal!”

The Drovian legal code lacks records of resolving situations involving a brother’s daughter being teased abroad by a scoundrel and handling them through conversation.

***

Curse?

Tainted soul?

Seven Dragons and the Demon King…?

Upon hearing an incredibly unrealistic story devoid of any hint of reality, Isabelle experienced confusion preceding sadness.

Understanding proves challenging before acceptance—a concept akin to what priests imply, a mysterious entity.

In this era, people believe in gods, adhere to strict notions of the afterlife, and prioritize scriptures over any law. However, they lack a tangible sense of whether ‘God’ truly ‘exists.’

Hence, stories involving killing a god or receiving a god’s curse are considered vague sentences within myths.

In her confusion, Isabelle stumbled, her footsteps shifting without direction.

“Father.”

Now, she attempts to summon the image of the hero, described as a hazy, exaggerated statue recognizable by feeling alone.

There’s no clear memory of his voice, speech, or any distinctive features.

Perhaps it’s because they were separated at such a young age, or the time spent together after the war was too brief, or because he was too significant for her to comprehend…

“No.”

Now she knows it’s not for that reason. Suddenly, a chill runs down her spine.

Her perception of the hero Maximilian is composed of faint, transparent memories. She distinctly recalls briefly encountering her father at the victory celebration.

He was a man who laughed brightly and shone brilliantly. That’s how she remembered him.

But did it really happen that way? Isabelle couldn’t be sure.

The hero, her father, was “fading away.” Like watercolor spreading gradually under the bright chandeliers of the victory celebration. Slowly…

It wasn’t that he had deteriorated. It wasn’t about hiding or concealing anything.

He couldn’t bear himself. Yes, to express it more clearly… mythically interpreted, he sealed himself.

If a man who could cut through the sky alone, slay the Demon King, and break through thousands and tens of thousands of military forces, succumbs to madness, what would happen?

The fear currently passing through Isabelle’s spine is likely just an echo of the emotions Maximilian had felt before her.

The hero knew more clearly than anyone what he could do.

If an individual capable of overthrowing a nation and society wields his power entirely for madness and desire, what should we call such a person? A Demon King.

Even a Demon King of a world without heroes. It would become an unavoidable disaster. Humanity cannot endure any more wars.

So, Maximilian sealed himself. He was a person who could predict quantitatively what he could do and the consequences it would bring better than anyone else.

The unaware public forgets the hero’s final sacrifice.

The nobles who swallowed up the wealth and territories left by the dead Demon King and defeated demons laughed at the vanished warrior.

And the remaining Isabelle resented her father.

A person who had dedicated her entire life, entirely, for the world.

“Bella? Are you crying? Why, in the world?! Your complexion is too… ”

“Essi…?”

“Yeah, yeah, I’m here. What’s wrong?! Come here, have this… wipe your tears…!”

“Essi.. Essi… What do I do…”

Unknowingly, they seemed to have reached near the school. Perhaps it was because it was a route she walked every time.

Isabelle sniffled as she was embraced by Ecdysis.

“Why are you like this? What’s wrong? Hm?”

“Uncle… What should I do with him…”

After struggling to utter words, Isabelle finally realized the reason she was crying.

It was pity for Ivan, that man. It was sorrow.

Her father, Maximilian, sacrificed everything to defeat the Seven Dragons and slew the Demon King.

And the same applied to Ivan. He also killed a Dragon and received a similar curse, losing part of his soul.

So, naturally, she could envisage his fate, facing an end similar to the hero’s.

Either he would self-destruct before succumbing to madness, or he would vanish into the morning dew of the prison, manipulated by madness.

The clear future was so sad, so pitiful.

Isabelle, realizing the reason for her flowing tears, broke into sobs.

“It’s not supposed to be like that, is it? Essi… It’s not supposed to be like that.”

Lifelong heroes who put everything on the line, achieving feats no ordinary human could ever accomplish.

If the final fate of such great figures is to decay in isolation, it seems too unfair.

While people who know nothing live their lives happily, and warlords exploit and absorb the achievements of heroes from behind.

Isn’t a world where heroes who laid the foundation of society rot alone underground something fundamentally wrong?

If there is a god, then this shouldn’t be allowed. If God truly loves humanity, then this should not be allowed.

Isabelle sobbed, contemplating her father, Ivan, and the unsung heroes of the past war.

Ecdysis enveloped Isabelle’s shoulders and comforted her slowly.

*

After arriving at the Basilica Orphanage, Elizaveta couldn’t hide her mixed emotions and covered her face.

The orphanage had now almost halfway transformed back into what it used to be.

“Einar King.”

“Oh, Elizaveta. It’s been a while.”

“Is this… a declaration of war?”

Elizaveta snapped her fingers, and the guards rushed to tend to the fallen Ivan. Other than Ivan, there was nothing else they could salvage. The orphanage’s playground had turned into a crater.

“Entering the country without an official letter, ignoring all procedures, and daring to attack your own aide. Einar, did you and your country seem so ridiculous?”

Elizaveta confirmed Ivan’s injuries.

Thanks to her extensive experience in field command, she could tell that Ivan’s injuries weren’t particularly severe.

She let out a relieved sigh and gently stroked Ivan’s cheek.

“Pavel.”

“Yes, Your Highness.”

“Do what must be done. In the face of external threats that disgrace the foundation of the country, Krasilov never backs down.”

“Yes, Your Highness.”

As Pavel took a step forward, the forces surrounding the orphanage raised their weapons simultaneously. Almost simultaneously, Huscals standing beside Einar drew their weapons as well. Tension hung thick in the air, as if it would snap at any moment.

In the midst of this, Einar shrugged his shoulders.

“Is that temperament genetic? Be calm. If I have to state my purpose, she was everything to me. If I must justify it, let’s just say it was a family matter.”

“A family matter? Why is your aide involved in your family matters?”

“Well, it seems like he might be now. Hey, kids, lower your weapons.”

Einar extended his hand and took another step forward. When Pavel menacingly raised his spear, Einar chuckled and gestured.

“Put that thing away, kid. No one needs to shed blood today. Elizaveta Kirillovna Krasilov, as the King of Drovian, I express my condolences. Today’s rudeness will surely be rectified.”

“I’d like to hear the reason first.”

“When that guy wakes up, you can hear it. This was an agreed-upon sparring, and any further inquiry beyond that is an insult to me. And when that kid wakes up, I hope you convey this message.”

“Permission granted, but at least wait until the kid graduates.”

Einar said that and moved on. Behind him, blood was dripping from his arms.

Einar clenched his fist and chuckled.

He has grown. This kid.

Satisfied, he continued walking. The Huscals followed him, smoothly moving through the gaps in the Krasilov guards.

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