Azhure: After a long time, I’m back making new chapters.
Year 1418 in Manegia
“Damn…” Owen couldn’t help but mutter, trying not to gag from the stench.
The last time they were here, it was a grassy field untouched by the ever-corrupting presence of the Black Mist encircling this world. It wasn’t peaceful, Beosts roamed these lands being on top of the food chain. But the sight of more aggressive animals gave this world distinguishment from other worlds.
CAW CAW CAW CAW
Now, Owen and William could see the place rendered a wasteland wrought by war with the Black Must added as an enhancing backdrop. At this point, they were desensitized enough to not choke on the many corpses dyeing the green plains red and if it wasn’t red then it was black charred by fire. Already they could see the vulture Beosts and other scavengers feasting upon the dead flesh, both human and Half-Beosts alike.
“Crom’s got to be here somewhere,” Owen said as he looked around the pile of bodies scattered throughout the battlefield. “He’s still alive, right?”
“He better be,” William declared with narrowed eyes.
“Palras and Vulgis got into a huge battle ending in a draw,” William said while on the way to the Transporter Room. “And Crom didn’t come back with the retreating army, so now his dad and girlfriend are panicking. So we’re finding him.”
Combing through the area, the two boys took note of every body they passed by. With one rhino Half-Beost even having a dozen arrows sticking on his back like a pincushion, they haven’t found Crom among the dead so far, so there was still hope. Going through the part with more humans, Owen sidestepped one soldier with a spear through his gut after lifting to see his face that was not the Bell Branch manager’s son when he saw a dogpile of corpses.
“Ugh! Bloody! Argh!”
And with the familiar voice of someone trying to push himself out of it, Owen and William immediately rushed to the bodies. While their first instinct was to push away the corpses by hand, they quickly remembered their noodle arms weren’t suited for that task, especially when the vultures were feasting through the cracks of broken armor on top.
“I’ll handle it,” William said as he took a good distance from the stack of dead soldiers with blades and arrows sticking out of them.
THUD CLANG THUD
CAW CAW CAW CAW
In one swift motion, the pile of bodies was blown away and the vulture Beosts scared away being the scavengers they were, preferring not to fight. Under the blown pile was the familiar young man in Palras Steel armor, Crom.
“Huh, that was one way to get rid of them,” he quipped.
“Hahaha! I almost died back there! I must be stuck there for hours!” Crom, with his helmet off and sitting on a rock, laughed as he opened the water bag he kept on his person. “You really saved my hide! Owen, William.”
“You’re welcome,” William remarked unamused.
Watching him about to drink, Owen and William could see the young man had been through hell. His hair was disheveled and his entire person was covered in blood and grime. Even his sword laid aside was not in the best of condition with numerous nicks and cuts along the blade.
After Crom downed the entire contents of his bag in one go, he breathed a sigh of relief. “Ahh, I’m revived!” he exclaimed, wiping his mouth before turning to the Court Wizards. “How did you guys find me anyway?”
“Your dad called us, you didn’t come back,” Owen answered.
“Oh, so that’s why,” Crom sighed. “He’s really worried about me.”
“Wouldn’t he?” William said rhetorically.
“Yeah, that’s why I’m wearing all of this,” Crom stretched his arms wide, showing himself. “Now it’s all busted.”
True, Crom’s equipment was very much better than his peers. Just seeing all the dead Palras soldiers Owen could tell Crom had more Palras Steel than they do that one might mistake him for an officer. That said, even this super tough alloy made only in the empire would break as with his sword, there were many cracks and missing pieces in Crom’s armor as a result of the battle that may have been what saved him.
“That said,” Crom lowered his water bag, leaned forward, and put on a serious expression. “I don’t think he gave me all of this just to keep me safe.”
The looks of the two Court Wizards told the manager’s son all he needed to know. From the last conversation, Owen and William knew the deep-seated hatred Crom’s father has for the Half-Beosts.
“Well, I still believe my father can let go of his hatred festering his heart,” Crom then said. “I know he will.”
“…That would be very hard to do,” William blurted out. Knowing him, he probably kept this to himself since that day and finally let it out.
“Yeah, I know,” Crom nodded. “It might be wishful thinking that ending this war would change his heart, but I still want to believe it’s possible. Maybe not immediately, but it’ll definitely happen later down the line.” Standing up, Crom then asked, “Hey, can you guys like, end the war yourselves?”
“You know we can’t do that,” William shook his head. “Even if we agreed to do it, even I can’t imagine how we are going to do it.”
“Can’t say I didn’t ask,” Crom pouted, picking up his sword and strapping it to his waist. “…What happened to both armies? Who won?”
“It’s a draw,” Owen said. “Both armies went home. That’s how your dad found out you weren’t with them.”
“I see, then all of these lives lost were for nothing,” Crom lamented, looking at the bloody aftermath of the battlefield. “I’ve lost count of how many I’ve killed and it didn’t even make any kind of progress.” Sitting back on the rock in frustration, he continued, “what was our emperor thinking? Telling us to just run straight at the enemy and try not to die?”
“…What do you mean?” William inquired.
“Didn’t I tell you? The emperor told us to do full-scale invasions on Vulgis territory, multiple times,” Crom said with an incredulous look. “It’s a lot more complicated than that but it’s a lot less sophisticated than his previous tactics. You get the idea, it’s suspicious.”
As the war progressed, Crom went from being a common foot soldier to one of the highest-ranking officers. Thanks to his skills in battle and having shinier armor, he was soon granted a seat in the Palras emperor’s tent and listened to his commands directly. To the Court Wizards, it was insider information on the empire’s side in the war.
“Maybe he decided to brute force it?” Owen suggested. “He’s gotta be fed up having the war going nowhere, right?”
“I doubt that,” Crom deflected. “Sure, he was getting impatient, but nothing was indicating him getting sloppy in his strategies.”
From everything they heard from Crom, the Palras emperor was a war genius. Being against physically superior enemies, he had to devise brilliant strategies to counter the Vulgis’ war effort. At least, that was what Crom was saying and they do sound revolutionary to Owen and William’s ears. Of course, the initial problem still remained, and coupled with the enemy side not relying on brute strength by also having a comparable tactician, the emperor was rebuffed for every victory.
“Then again, I’ve always noticed his majesty always leaned on getting as many Half-Beosts killed. We rarely take any prisoners now that I think about it…” Crom looked down and twiddled his fingers. “Perhaps he too harbors hatred for the Half-Beosts.”
“He was the one who started this war,” Owen remarked. “Isn’t that right?”
“Yeah, and it’s all the more reason to end this war as soon as possible,” Crom then said before getting up again. “…Now that I remembered it, more recently I’ve begun to hear his majesty muttering wanting to kill all Half-Beosts.”
“We won’t let that happen,” William scoffed.
“Even more reason to end the war quickly,” Crom quipped. “It must’ve been getting to him, all of this death and destruction with seemingly no end. If this goes any longer, he might even do something more insane.”
“Yeah, we’ll stop that if that happens,” Owen crossed his arms.
“I’ll count on you for that,” Crom chuckled before sighing. “Still, I think it’d be better if his majesty just, I don’t know, forgive them or something.”
“That’s never going to work,” William frowned. Glancing at him, Owen could see he was getting agitated.
“Hear me out, okay?” Crom raised both of his hands to calm down the brown-haired boy. “It’s like my father, right? That all the grudge against the Half-Beosts is hurting him. Maybe getting rid of them might get rid of the pain too, but that could never work.”
“Maybe, instead, he should forgive them to get rid of the pain,” Crom explained. “It’s not like it has to be for patting them on the back, but it could be for yourself.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, forgiving them a lot harder than the old-fashioned way, right?” Crom pointed out. “But if you do, it’s like saying everything the other guy did to you was nothing. It’s like you worked so hard to get a position only to be told all of your accomplishments were you being useless. I’m pretty sure you’d feel insulted by that.”
That, made sense, even William got it. When it was framed like that, then forgiving your enemy for everything they inflicted on you was the biggest insult you could give to them. Would my bullies feel like idiots if I said I’m cool with them? Owen wondered. Eh, if they’re still kids, they’ll think I’m easy picking but they’ll definitely get a reaction.
Looking at William, Owen could tell he was having a similar retrospection. Getting screwed over and having all that made public was just asking to get picked on. Of course, after being the Air Guardian, Ronald pulled some strings to put a stop to that even across multiple states. Then again, after being Court Wizards in general, the local bullies suddenly became unimportant, like a problem very down on the list.
Yeah, I guess we’re just too busy being Court Wizards to care, Owen thought. But if we weren’t, what would we do then?
“I’m sure it’s hard to understand and I know it’s hard to do it, but you can go a lot of ways just from admitting each other’s mistakes,” Crom remarked, straightening up his armor, preparing to go. “I’m sure that after all of this is over, we can start making peace with each other and then my father can-”
“Peace!? As if!”
Sometimes, Owen cursed the emotion suppression for not acting just because the enemy hadn’t any intention of attacking until the last moment. Being too invested in the conversation, neither he nor the others noticed an irate wolf Half-Beost leaping behind Crom with a sword in his hands. As it all happened too fast, neither he nor William could react in time as the Half-Beost plunged his sword into the cracks of Crom’s armor.
“Okay, how the hell is The Contract still active!?” Zekie ranted as he stormed from the Transporter Room.
“Try not to blaspheme, Zekie,” Gabriel softly reprimanded his fellow Guardian as he kept up with him. “But I do admit it was the most unexpected of him to quickly brandish it.”
“Exactly, it’s like he knew we were gonna immediately come for him right after we got Alice out of there, the bloody palace still burning be damned!” the Lightning Guardian said angrily. “But how does it still exist?”
“I am afraid it is the consequence of the spell queen Catherine used to save princess Alice,” Gabriel shook his head sadly. “The Contract considers her deceased when her Maneg Soul is. So not only did princess Alice inherit the Mother Soul, but also her mother’s Contract.”
“Damn, do you think he planned for all of that?” Zekie turned to Gabriel as he stopped in his tracks, right in front of the infirmary. “Making Catherine use that spell?”
“It is the only explanation that makes sense,” Gabriel stated.
“Fantastic,” Zekie groaned. “Another shortsighted fool who thinks he’s invincible just because he got us once. It already sounds like a bad plot of a book.”
“True, the moment queen Catherine’s husband dies, The Contract will expire,” Gabriel nodded. “Surely he does not think he could strengthen himself to resist us by then?”
“Considering all of the other idiots, I’m starting to wonder if letting people underestimate us does more harm than good,” Zekie sighed. “You’d think us coming from another world would make them think twice before labeling us as weaklings they can stomp over.”
“I was afraid of that,” Gabriel closed his eyes. “For now, I will see if I can apply pressure on his new regime though I cannot make any promises. My being the Guardian and the leader of my world’s faith is already a tough position.”
“Well, at least it couldn’t get any worse,” the Lightning Guardian remarked.
“My word! What is this!?”
“Get the stretcher, John! Get him to the infirmary and call a Life Wizard too!”
It got worse.
Azhure: So, what do you all think of this memory? Is it good? Are there any problems with it? Any reviews or feedback is appreciated as long as they’re not plain insults meant to blow off your stress.
Voice: Don’t do that to people! Not even on the internet!
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