Despite his vehement plea, the villagers’ response remained cold. No one cared to listen to his words. The feelings of hostility and disgust towards the monk was increasing in the silence, and even Tangrit who was enthusiastically ringing away at the bell felt disheartened. Still, the monk did not make any effort to evade the glares directed at himself. He spoke toward the audience with a cracked voice.
“The Insvant people are preparing to attack us. In large numbers as well. It looks as though they aren’t preparing for a simple raid, but a full out battle.”
There was all manner of complicated emotions mixed into his words, but none of it reached the hearts of those listening. The people were not only callous but also believed him to be absurd.
“The refugees are going to attack us? Us who are receiving the protection of the Tower of Recluse?”
A young man mockingly laughed at him as he spoke, and with that spark, an outpour of criticism began.
“We have Miss Kha’nes. How would some heretics from the east attack us?”
“It’ll be resolved by the foreigners’ defensive line of airships in the outskirts of the village before Miss Kha’nes even has the opportunity to step up.”
Midst the showering of criticisms, the words began to transform into a mockery of Tangrit’s character. It was clear to Sungchul how much rage and hostility the villagers had held toward the monk by the explicit language they used. An elderly one-armed man summed up the resentment the Townspeople held against Tangrit.
“The sin of forfeiting your duty and vow by abandoning those who followed you to pitifully die has not been forgotten and have only become a scar across these people’s hearts. That scar will never fade regardless of your efforts.”
Those words cut deeper into Tangrit’s heart than any insult. Tangrit who had stood tall within the countless insults hurled at him bit his lips, pulled his hood over his head, and left the plaza wordlessly.
A single rock flew toward his back and landed by his feet. Tangrit turned back to look. His eyes held rage that couldn’t be hidden any longer, but the one who committed the act was hidden within the crowd and could not be found. The former lord turned his gaze again and turned to Baron, the sole being that still followed him.
Once Tangrit’s figure faded from view, the plaza grew loud with whispers. Sungchul stopped at the plaza momentarily to eavesdrop on what the villagers were saying. Only unpleasant words were being exchanged.
“That old man. He knows how to stay alive.”
Bertelgia made a brief comment. In contrast, Sungchul could not simply ignore this as someone else’s business. He owed a debt of life to Tangrit regardless of his own intentions. And with Ahmuge lurking around his vicinity, the debt could only become heavier.
Sungchul was someone who didn’t extend a hand to anyone and never received a hand from anyone, but he was also one to always repay his debts. He quietly followed behind the aged lord.
The rickety shack on the outskirts of the village looked more shabby and dismal than before. Sungchul checked for any movements inside before entering the shack. There was a faint scent of cigarette, but there didn’t seem to be any other presence.
“What are you going to do if that Ahmuge lady is tailing us?”
Bertelgia asked in a nervous voice once they stood before the shack. She was definitely a nuisance, but it was almost impossible for Ahmuge to attempt an ambush on Sungchul in his normal state. Because no matter when or where, the moment she appeared she would be made into a bloody pancake. In any case, Sungchul had plans in such a case as well.
It was a scroll of formation for a Seal of Vigilance purchased at the village’s magic shop. Sungchul wanted to take this opportunity to learn so he ripped the scroll apart and looked at the symbols in the Magic formation that emerged. He determined that it was a formula that combined more than 5 runes.
‘I should purchase a magic scroll with higher grade formations whenever I get the opportunity.’
Sungchul let Bertelgia out of his pocket after the Seal of Vigilance was cast.
“Play around here for a bit.”
Bertelgia immediately flew over to Baron and greeted him. “Hey, cutie.”
Sungchul quietly opened the worn door and stepped inside. Tangrit was leaned back onto a rocking chair while chewing on his pipe. His expression looked unexpectedly peaceful, but then he turned his head to look at Sungchul and began to speak.
“What are you doing here? I thought you already left.”
“I heard what you said in the plaza.”
Sungchul stood at the doorway and went straight to the point. Tangrit lightly closed his eyes as he took a drag and sighed while blowing out a puff of smoke.
“While I was returning from a trip to Galatia, I saw the Insvants gathering iron and forging weapons. One of the refugees made an excuse that they were weapons for hunting with an innocent expression, but that’s bull! Do you think such a lie would work on someone like me who has spent more than his fair share of time on the battlefield?”
“But, I suppose it’s not something to be concerned about as the Tower of Recluse will protect us in times of emergencies. As the people said, we also have Kha’nes as well.”
Tangrit smirked while shaking his head.
“The Tower of Recluse will not be helpful at crucial times. It was like that even 15 years ago. When the remnant troops of the motherland attacked the village, they ignored the people’s cries for help and firmly shut their doors. They did nothing.”
It was a believable story. The Tower of Recluse was a group that fundamentally kept its distance from the outside world. Their mission was to maintain the Tower in its current state while guarding the Scripture of Calamity. It was their priority to shut their doors and isolate themselves from threats that would bring harm to the Tower.
“And it is more likely that the Miss Kha’nes the villagers spoke of will not help. The rumors are rampant that Miss Kha’nes will attend the World Parliament. As long as the Insvant aren’t stupid, they will choose to attack when the guardian isn’t here.”
Tangrit made a pained expression as the events to come was unfolding before his eyes and he rubbed his forehead.
“How about you leave the village? Since the people are treating you in such a manner, what does it matter to you whether they perish or not?”
Sungchul spoke as such and pulled out a few gold coins from his pocket.
“This should be enough to set you up anywhere else.”
“You also have a lot of money.”
Tangrit praised him as though he was in awe of Sungchul’s wealth, but he shook his head in the end.
“It is a tempting offer, but one that I cannot take.”
“The reason being?”
Tangri laughed bitterly at Sungchul’s question.
“I will not leave this place.”
That single sentence held more meaning than what was expressed. Sungchul finally understood what the monk truly desired.
‘This man. He’s looking for someplace to die.’
Sungchul stared at the shield bearing the Insignia of the old kingdom left neglected next to a wall. Though the Holy Kingdom of Rutheginea was called the Kingdom of Evil, Sungchul recalled the purity of the knights and the tenacity of the soldiers that tried to defend their dying nation.
As a member of those knights, Tangrit might consider the restoration of his honor more important than his own life, but was that for the best?
Sungchul suddenly felt doubtful.
The villagers will not change their minds regardless of whether the monk sacrifices his life for them or not. A stigma, once branded, will not fade so easily. Sungchul learned this bitter lesson first hand once he became the Enemy of the World.
He also recalled how that old man in the village had used the word ‘scar’. The monk’s honor will not be restored even if he were to die for the village. At most, some people would consider it a courageous act, but their voices would be buried under the louder voice of resentment and prejudice that had been building over the ages. In short, the only thing that awaited him was a dog’s death. Besides, there was no comparison between what was more important; self-satisfaction or survival.
‘I don’t usually do this, but I should intervene at least this once.’
Sungchul stepped out of the shack and headed directly toward the camp of refugees in order to pull out the root of the problem. If the refugees were planning to strike the village, there had to be a leader. He would be able to prevent the upcoming catastrophe if he could come to an agreement with their boss.
It was with this intention that Sungchul roamed about the camp area to see how they would react. There were hostile gazes directed toward Sungchul but no one dared to intimidate him.
Not long after, Sungchul saw something unexpected at the center of the camp. There was an Airship hovering precariously close to the top of the tall trees, and countless people were busy unloading the cargo. Sungchul soon figured out what was inside. It was weapons and armor.
Sungchul immediately looked for a flag on the Airship, but the ship was not flying any identifying flag of any kind. In other words, it was an undeclared Airship. They were openly doing something only pirates and the like would do at the Tower of Recluse, a neutral zone.
Sungchul wanted to immediately break apart the ship to pieces, but he held back the impulse and decided to observe the situation a bit longer as he slowly approached the vessel. He soon found a middle-aged man that appeared to be their leader. It was a gloomy-looking man with paranoid sunken eyes like that of a typical Insvant. Standing beside him was a single old man who looked like a mage, wearing ostentatious robes, but he looked more like a crew member of the airship rather than a refugee. They didn’t say much between the two of them.
Sungchul continued to observe. There was a group of people huddled around a campfire in the corner of the camp that was clearly distinct from the pale and gloomy Insvants. From the outside, they wore shabby outfits, but Sungchul could immediately tell with a single glance that these were trained mercenaries.
The large provision of weapons to the refugees and the dispatchment of trained men. The situation was graver than expected. What Tangrit had seen was only the tip of the iceberg. Certain forces were trying to arouse the refugees and create a disturbance. This wasn’t something that could be resolved by simply getting hold of the leader and breaking him down. Properly understanding the situation before making a move seemed to be the best course of action.
What he had to learn first was the identity of the forces that were supporting the refugees. Once he knew what he was dealing with, all he had to do was use the appropriate action to counter them. He could capture and threaten the leader if it were the Human Empire, and if it were the Ancient Kingdom, then all he had to was kill a few eminent Swordmasters to demonstrate the difference in strength. It goes without saying that he would kill everyone if the airship had connections to Aquiroa’s faction. So Sungchul thought as he made his way to the Airship.
When he stepped into the shadows drawn by the airship, one of the hot air balloons carrying passengers descended to the ground with the help of a few young men tugging on the rope. There were various people in eye-catching outfits aboard this craft, and they appeared to be important enough that the mage broke off from the conversation he was having with the leader of the refugees mid-way to greet them.
Sungchul hid between heavy cargo below the Air Balloon, thinking that identifying the people aboard would reveal faction the Airship belonged to.
The balloon soon landed.
The well-dressed figures soon disembarked from the balloon. Sungchul who was watching from the shadows felt a strange emotion rising from within him. It couldn’t be helped because he recognized the faces of the people who descended from the hot air balloon. A single question arose within his eyes.
‘What? Why are they here?’
The identity of the people was none other than Altugius Xero and his granddaughter Sarasa Xero. These two people with whom Sungchul was acquainted with had made an unexpected appearance at the Tower of Recluse.
The sound of a small animal could be heard from Sarasa, who wore a mask that covered half of her face, and it quickly rushed over to Sungchul’s direction. It was the Sky Squirrel. The creature rode up his leg and climbed onto his shoulder.
“Go away, little one! Shoo! Shoo!”
Bertelgia tried to chase it away, but the Sky Squirrel didn’t budge.
It was at this moment that the owner of the Sky Squirrel spotted Sungchul.
Sarasa approached Sungchul with a brilliant smile while Altugius, who had been behind her, gazed at him with an astonished look before nodding.
The reunion came to be under the most unexpected of circumstance.
Note: To readers who can’t recall Insvants. They are refugees from the east living beside the village in camps as they haven’t been allowed entry. Chapter 140 will get you to speed regarding their identity and the past of the monk(his betrayal that made him an outcast in the village which was mentioned in the chapter).