༺ Land of Fighters (3) ༻
A few days had passed since the arrival of the twins.
In front of the dormitories, the group, now ready to leave, stood before a carriage and bid farewell to those remaining.
Renee was the first person to speak. She spoke in a small voice as she hugged Theresa tightly.
“Then, I’ll see you next time. It will be in the Holy Kingdom, right?”
“Yes. I’ll be resigning as a Professor this year.”
Theresa brushed the back of Renee’s hand as she answered.
Theresa felt a brief flicker of concern as she watched Renee, who was about to embark on another challenging journey, but she quickly pushed it away and added a few words of encouragement.
Renee was now a proud Saint that could manage herself without worrying others, so Theresa thought that it would be nothing but nagging if she were to worry.
“You should always put your health first. If there’s something wrong, make sure to tell him.”
“You too, Lady Theresa. Take care not to get hurt or sick.”
“Of course, well…”
After briefly embracing Renee, Theresa pulled back slightly and looked at her innocent face before speaking mischievously.
“Don’t be too clingy. There’s nothing less attractive than a clingy woman.”
She spoke softly so that only Renee could hear her. Though her words were cryptic, Renee clearly understood what she meant.
It was about her relationship with Vera.
Renee’s face turned red, and she lightly nodded her head.
Theresa giggled and stroked Renee’s head as she answered very timidly. Then, Vera’s voice rang out.
“Then, we’ll see you again in the future.”
A scowl crossed Theresa’s face as she felt the stiffness in his voice.
Naturally, it was because of Vera’s credibility, which had hit rock bottom.
‘What should I do with that brat…?’
Will he take the Saint there safely? Will he break her heart?
While those thoughts raced through her mind, Theresa sighed deeply, waved her hand, then spoke.
“Go now. You might end up camping out if it gets too late. Don’t make the Saint sleep out in the street or anything like that.”
Vera tilted his head and answered Theresa’s sudden blunt comment.
The fact that he had already become a brat in Theresa’s eyes was something that Vera would never know.
The Cradle of the Dead was the second most notorious land among the many forbidden places on the continent.
The brutality of the land could be explained in a single sentence from an ancient text.
[If the living go, they will die alone. If the dead go, they will suffer eternal agony.]
Exactly as the sentence described, the Cradle of the Dead was a cursed land filled only with the lost souls of the deceased, not accepting any form of life.
If one were to ask why such a land had appeared on this continent, a hundred people would give the same answer.
“It was because Maleus settled down in that land.”
It was Miller’s voice.
He was sitting cross-legged in the carriage as he continued the story of ‘Maleus, the King of Rotten Flesh’.
“There is a hypothesis that before civilization existed in the primordial times, the land must have been full of life. Well, it’s just a hypothesis.”
Miller’s accessories rattled as the carriage moved.
The old story, along with that steady beat, was a nice addition to break their boredom on this long journey which would last for another week.
…At least for now.
“There are a lot of oddballs among the geologists. There were many who went in there alive to find out the secrets of the Cradle. They risked their lives to survey every part of the land and died after only sending their reports outside.”
“Well, it is. They found out quite a few of the Cradle’s secrets. And that it was because of Maleus that the land became like that.”
He looked enthusiastic, the complete opposite of what he was like during lectures.
He was so excited that it looked like his freckles were dancing.
A lot passed through Vera’s mind as he looked at him, but… he held it in.
It was because he knew that Miller was about to get to the point of the story.
“Now, this is why I’m telling you this!”
As Vera had predicted, Miller loosened his legs and leaned forward.
He continued with a ‘grin’ that made Vera want to punch him in the face.
“Because that is precisely the part related to how to enter the Cradle of the Dead!”
“Ah… the one where it’s because of Maleus that the Cradle is like that?”
“Yes! That’s it! Think about it, if you put it differently, the Cradle of the Dead is Maleus’ land. In other words, entering without his permission is considered trespassing. What would you do if a stranger broke into your house, Saint?”
He suddenly asked, and Renee flinched in surprise as she answered.
“Uh… I’d ask them to leave?”
Miller’s expression became strange. He was flustered because he did not expect her answer. Miller paused for a moment as he looked for the right words, and immediately turned towards Vera and asked.
“What about you, Sir Vera? What will you do?”
Vera looked at Miller with a sullen face and answered half-heartedly.
“Is there a reason to show any mercy to a robber? I don’t think I’ll let them go safely.”
Miller’s face lit up at his answer.
“Right? I knew that’s what you would say!”
He snapped his fingers, and Vera felt disgusted for some reason.
Undisturbed by Vera’s reaction, Miller continued.
“Well, going back to what I was talking about, that’s it! The reason why no one has ever made it back alive from the Cradle of the Dead was because they entered Maleus’ house without permission. If we have his permission, we can enter the Cradle of the Dead!”
A strange look crossed Vera and Renee’s faces. The only sound that filled the space was the creaking of the carriage as it bobbed up and down.
Then, Renee asked.
“Um, I don’t quite understand… Maleus would be in the center of the Cradle of the Dead, so how do we get his permission?”
She asked because there was inconsistency in Miller’s statement.
Just as Miller was about to answer, Renee added another question.
“I mean, has that been verified? If that works, someone must have done that already.”
It was an obvious question.
Permission to enter can ensure a safe journey. If that were possible, wouldn’t there have been at least one person in history who attempted it?
If so, then why was entering the Cradle of the Dead still prohibited?
Miller replied with a grin at Renee’s question.
“It won’t work, right? Who would do such a crazy thing? It’s like saying, ‘I want to go into your house’ to an ancient species.”
“…Can you explain?”
“We don’t have to get his permission, right? Can’t we take a little detour? For example, we can ask his neighbor and say, ‘Please go ask your neighbor.’”
Renee tilted her head.
She had no idea what Miller was talking about, so she just nodded her head in agreement.
Then, Miller giggled and added, enjoying Renee’s reaction.
“What’s in front of the Cradle of the Dead?”
“The Geinex Plains.”
“And who lives there?”
The Geinex Plains covered about a third of the east. When asked about who lived there, Renee gave the answer she knew.
A species of fighters. Warriors who never stop fighting. Because of them, the Geinex Plains were called the ‘Land of Fighters’.
Near the Cradle was the Geinex Plains, the Land of the Orcs.
Miller clapped his hands and nodded at Renee’s answer.
Renee scratched her cheek disheartedly, and Miller continued.
“We are not getting the permission ourselves. We would just go there and ask the orcs for a favor.”
“In the actual orc ritual culture, there’s something like that. [Prove your fighting aura by going to the Cradle.]”
Only then did Vera and Renee understand him a little.
“…We’re going in the midst of the orcs’ coming of age ceremony.”
“Yes, exactly. Orcs have access to the Cradle of the Dead. It’s still proven by the fact that the ritual is still practiced. If it were impossible, such a culture wouldn’t exist.”
Miller chuckled. He ended the long story as his jewelry clanked.
“Now, we’re going to meet the orcs. Let’s tell them, ‘We want to participate in your ritual!’”
The first day of their journey was coming to an end.
Fortunately, they were able to enter the city on time, and they headed to the largest inn to unpack and get something to eat.
On the largest table on the inn’s first floor, sitting with her group, Renee suddenly felt strange.
‘We have more people now.’
Compared to when they first set off on their journey, the number of people had doubled.
It was strange to think that their party of four, including Vera, herself, Hela and Norn, had now grown to eight with Aisha, Miller and the twins.
A smile tugged at Renee’s lips.
‘This feels nice.’
She smiled because she felt that it wasn’t bad to travel with a lot of people.
While Renee was lost in those emotions, Aisha spoke.
“Can I have your fish if you’re not going to eat it?”
Renee’s mouth twitched into a big smile.
Aisha felt a little like a cat, or more like she sounded like a cat. Aisha’s excitement at the sight of the fish on the table made her feel ticklish on the inside.
However, it seemed that Vera did not find that pleasing, as he sternly spoke up while Aisha’s fork was about to reach Renee’s plate.
“Is it right to touch other people’s food?”
“Stupid Vera. Sloppy Vera. Blockhead Vera.”
There was tension between Vera and Aisha.
While Renee was caught between them, trying to mediate, the twins and Miller awkwardly confronted each other on the other side of the room.
After all, this was the first time they were properly introduced together.
They didn’t get to greet each other at the Academy due to their schedule, and they didn’t get to talk in the carriage.
Miller smiled and greeted the two big men, who appeared to be about his age.
“Nice to meet you. I’ll be in your care from now on.”
“Krek is happy to meet you, too. The Professor’s hair is unique.”
“Marek is happy, too. But the Professor’s hair is strange.”
The twins’ gazes turned to Miller’s curly red hair at the same time.
Miller thought, ‘Why do I feel like we’re not on the same page?’
“Ah, well… curly hair is not very common, huh?”
Miller’s thoughts were correct.
In fact, the twins weren’t paying attention to him and were only looking at the first curly hair they had ever seen, not to mention the peculiar color.
“The Professor’s hair looks like pubic hair.”
“It’s red. The Professor is aroused.”
Miller’s eyes trembled violently.
Born to an elite family where everyone was a scholar and surrounded by intellectuals all his life, Miller felt all his cognition and common sense crumble before the irrational monsters he had faced for the first time in his life.
Miller trembled, and his body jerked backwards.
The Paladin Norn, who was in full view of the three of them, as well as Vera and Aisha, who were having a war of nerves between Renee, felt drained already and sighed.
‘Theresa… I can’t do this.’
I don’t know how to handle these people.
He was already missing the past few months when he was helping Theresa with her lectures at the Academy. His shoulders slumped in response to his emotions.
Hela, who was sitting next to him, patted him on the shoulder with an indifferent expression.
“Cheer up. Father can do this.”
She said, as if it was none of her business.