༺ The Empire’s Future (2) ༻
For a moment, forgotten knowledge swept through my mind.
The conversation I had with Mabu on the way to the institution. The words Daisy said at the Red Bear Inn.
The so-called ‘The Empire’s Future,’ a racist group, has been rapidly growing in number recently.
Until a few days ago, it seemed to be spreading quietly, but has it already grown to the point where they can openly protest like this?
The angry protesters shout slogans with rage-filled voices as they cross the market street.
The commotion they cause in District 8 is growing bigger and bigger.
“Get out, you earthworm bastards!”
“No, no! Why are you doing this?!”
Some protesters kicked over the display stand of a dwarf weapons merchant, knocking it to the ground. The carefully crafted swords and armor rolled on the ground, getting covered in dirt.
“It’s because you earthworm bastards came up to the surface! We’re the ones who lost our jobs!”
“What, what nonsense is that!? I was born in the Empire! My family has been doing business here for generations!”
The protesters’ words were absurd to the dwarf who was just diligently making and selling weapons, but unfortunately, the protesters were not in a state to be reasoned or reasoned with.
Instead of logically refuting the dwarf’s words, they simply kicked the dwarf in the face with anger-filled expressions.
“Shut up! Non-human scum!”
Similar incidents were happening throughout the market street.
The protesters purposely knocked over the bags of a dark-skinned spice merchant, broke the pottery of an Eastern merchant, and even accused passing cat-humanoids of being dirty drug dealers, unjustly attacking them.
It was a scene of madness.
I quickly approached the students. Oznia and Titania were witnessing the protesters’ rampage up close and were wide-eyed in shock.
Especially Titania, who had been smiling innocently just moments ago, her expression was now filled with confusion and fear.
“Both of you, follow me. We’re getting out of here. And Titania.”
I took off my instructor’s jacket and covered her head with it.
“Cover your ears for the time being.”
Titania was an elf. And the racial characteristics of elves were very distinctive. Long ears, of course, and a beautiful face that was not commonly found in humans, naturally attracted attention.
Titania tightly gripped my clothes, watching the protesters’ rampage with shaky eyes.
“Why are they doing this? Aren’t we all part of the same Empire?”
Oznia answered her question. Instead of her usual loose and absent-minded face, she spoke with a stiff expression.
“Titania, humans often can’t accept other humans just because they look different.”
“How could that be…”
Titania, who grew up in the forest, might not be familiar with the malice of humans. But there was no time to be shocked. The protesters were approaching this area.
The market was in complete chaos. People were struggling to get as far away from the protesters as possible, forgetting all order.
I held tightly onto the shoulders of Oznia and Titania to not lose them in the crowd. Titania cautiously gripped my sleeve.
“Are you just going to leave those people alone?”
Titania’s gaze was not on the rampaging protesters, but on the immigrants and other races suffering from their actions.
I spoke calmly and firmly.
“The institution’s guards will be here soon anyway. The safety of my students is the most important thing to me.”
Due to the overheated protests, the market guards were unable to do anything and were caught off guard, but considering the blatant chaos, it would only be a matter of minutes before the military police arrived, unless they were all scarecrows.
Titania still had a confused expression at my words and couldn’t take her eyes off the merchants, but at least she didn’t stubbornly insist on helping them.
I led the two of them through the crowd towards the station.
Meanwhile, the protesters were shouting their slogans even more aggressively.
“Immigrants, step back! Execute the non-humans!”
“Burn the empire’s cancer!”
With the war over, all kinds of strange things were happening.
Humans tend to attribute most of their difficulties to external causes. During the war, they could simply blame the demon king and his minions, but when the war ended and they could no longer express their anger towards the demon king, they looked for another scapegoat.
For them, that was the immigrant and non-human races.
“Aaargh! Move, get out of the way!”
“Don’t push! I said don’t push!”
This was bad. People were in full panic, and the road was completely blocked.
To make matters worse, I could see the military police, who had been dispatched in the distance, being unable to approach the protesters due to the fleeing crowd.
In this situation, people could easily be trampled to death. It would be easy to escape by climbing onto the roofs of the buildings, but unfortunately, this area was mostly made up of tents for street vendors, making it difficult to do so.
“This won’t do. We need to change our route.”
Even if it meant getting a little closer to the protesters, it was better to take a detour.
Oznia and Titania both nodded their head in agreement.
We changed direction and looked for another way.
The protesters started from the eastern street and were approaching the central street, while we tried to head south towards the tram station, but the road was blocked and impassable.
The northern route was in the opposite direction of the tram station, so we had to escape to the western street from here.
We made our way through the crowd and turned back.
Most of the people at the market were fleeing from the protesters, who were almost at the level of a riot, but some took advantage of the situation to steal unattended items, and others joined the protesters’ march.
Of course, the merchants weren’t just standing by. Some of them tried to fight the protesters to protect their property.
Those merchants were all being subjected to indiscriminate violence from the protesters.
There didn’t seem to be any fatalities yet, but it was clear that serious accidents would occur if the situation continued.
Titania opened her mouth with an almost tearful voice.
“Why? What did those people do wrong…?”
Instead of explaining to the confused Titania that humans are naturally like that, I just urged her to hurry silently.
That’s when it happened. One of the fleeing merchants, carrying a load of his goods, bumped shoulders with Titania.
“Get out of the way!”
The merchant practically shoved Titania with his shoulder, but thanks to me holding her, she barely managed not to fall. However, the cloak she had been wearing on her head fell to the ground.
One of the protesters seemed to have witnessed the situation, and someone shouted loudly.
“Hey, hey? It’s an elf! There’s an elf over there!”
“What? An elf?”
“An elf? If it’s an elf, it’s a servant of the demon king!”
There were elves who had sided with the demon king’s army and fought against humanity in the previous war.
The majority of them were from the dark elf tribe, and the story of a single elf dark mage destroying a kingdom was quite famous. However, these elves were only a tiny minority compared to the entire elf population.
Titania’s eyes widened in disbelief, and she refuted with a trembling voice.
“No! Elves are not like minions of the demon king-“
What’s with this serious response?
I embraced the waists of both of them and immediately pressed against the ground. As my view instantly became higher, I swiftly jumped into the nearest alleyway, running across the walls and rooftops of the buildings.
Titania and Oznia clung to me tightly, their eyes shut from the difficulty of adapting to the sudden movement.
“Huh? They’re running away!”
“What are you doing? Chase them!”
“Ch-chase them? Why?”
“Why? Because they’re running away! And they’re elves!”
As the impulsive protesters noticed me fleeing into the back alley, a few of them followed us into the alley.
I would’ve preferred to climb onto the rooftops, but when I briefly checked during my leap, the alleyway buildings were so old that the foundation was quite unstable.
It wouldn’t have been difficult if I were alone, but carrying the weight of two people while running posed a significant risk. Moreover, the buildings were not very tall, so I might unintentionally attract more attention from the protesters.
Instead, a narrow alleyway was much better for handling things quietly.
We had been running for a while, but we were still being followed.
Even though I was holding two people and running in a narrow alleyway, which made it difficult to pick up speed, it meant that those following us were not ordinary civilians.
Something was off. My instincts, honed over decades on the battlefield, told me so.
I could have increased my speed further to completely shake off the pursuers.
But instead, I deliberately slowed down after running a bit more in the alleyway.
I eventually came to a complete stop and set the two of them down on the ground.
“Oznia, Titania. Stand back.”
Violet currents crackled on Oznia’s small palm.
“I can fight too.”
I silently shook my head.
Oznia made a face that suggested she found it hard to accept. However, I couldn’t put my students at further risk.
And anyway, it wasn’t that dangerous of a situation.
Soon, five men arrived and revealed themselves.
“Huff… Finally caught up.”
They were breathing a little heavily, but they didn’t seem very tired.
I squinted my eyes, observing the men.
Their gait, posture, developed muscles, and the distinct atmosphere that set them apart from civilians… These were not simple protesters; they were trained fighters.
As they were about to charge at us without a word, I made the first move and took out my identification from my pocket.
“Stop. Do you see what this is?”
“Huh? What is that?”
“I am Captain Eon Graham, a member of the Imperial Special Task Force. You are currently attempting to commit violence against an Imperial soldier, which constitutes a serious violation of Imperial law. I demand that you immediately cease your threatening behavior and withdraw.”
As the men hesitated, unable to move immediately, a man with a long scar across his cheek stepped forward and cautiously spoke.
“Hey, soldier. We won’t do anything bad. Our business is only with the elf lady over there. If you hand her over, we’ll quietly withdraw.”
With my arms crossed, I spoke in a low voice.
“What if I can’t do that?”
“…If we have to see blood, then so be it.”
The man drew a sword from his waist and pointed it at me.
Even after revealing that I was a soldier, they showed no signs of backing down.
“So, you were targeting Titania from the start.”
“Since you’ve noticed that, we really can’t let you go.”
They exchanged glances and, with tense expressions, each drew their weapons.
I didn’t want this to get bloody.
I uncrossed my arms and got into position.
“It’s been a while since I’ve had a sword fight.”
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