Country of Faith, The City of Honor.
I was staying, under the guise of being wounded, in a single room at the eastern section of the expedition’s base.
It had been 10 days since Starfall lost all signs of “life”, and Breman carried me back on a wilderness eagle. Within that time, we landed where the retreating army was and made our way back to Honor.
I was basically not allowed to leave my room these past few days. Rations were sent to me by the other soldiers and during this time, while I was oblivious to the changes in the outside world.
If it wasn’t for Breman telling me that she “had no choice but to do this”, I would’ve thought I was being imprisoned.
As I laid on the bed, I looked out of my window towards the grand plaza of Honor. These past days I had noticed a number of people gathering in the plaza in what looked like a procession as they chanted the same slogan.
From to time to time I saw some exploration merchants leave the city in a hurry with their large convoys in tow. Some chose to conduct a rush sale at the plaza.
Having no way to determine what was going on, I could only trust in Breman’s “Leave it to me.”
Today, that mass of people was gathered at the entrance to the plaza once more. However, they were deathly silent this time around. This gathering was a different one from before.
Soon, I saw a parade of soldiers leave the base.
Each of them had a flyer in their hand which they put up neatly in a suitable location. Some were given directly to the passerbys.
Crowd in the distance: ……
Crowd in the distance: …–!!
The clamoring of the crowd became louder as it slowly turned into an orderly shout.
Ah ah, are they starting again?
Why do I detect a clearly different mood from today’s shouting? A mood known as “joy”.
*bam* The room door was flung open.
Seeing a smartly dressed Breman and Ethan enter the room, I abandoned my lazing around and immediately got off the bed, my back bolt upright as I stood at attention.
Breman: Leave, and chase all away all the bast*rds near this room, including you.
Di Qi Ju: ……
I thought there was no one nearby except for the soldiers on their patrol route…
Breman: It’s been a few days since we last met, how are you holding you up? Bored to death yet?
Di Qi Ju: Well, not to death yet…how’s the situation outside?
Breman: Oh, that. We just released an official announcement.
She began to recite what was probably the contents of that announcement in a monotonous tone.
Breman: “…stumbled upon a battle between two gigantic lifeforms. One has been confirmed dead while the other has gone missing. After a thorough investigation, it has been determined that this won’t cause any future disasters.”
Breman: Let’s not forget that a number of people in Honor had seen “you”. If we don’t clarify this matter soon, these people might just bring tidings of the “apocalypse” all the way back to the Divine Hall.
Di Qi Ju: Ah haha…
Di Qi Ju: Was it…that scary?
Breman: I’m not sure how it seemed from a distance but you looked surprisingly weak up close. I might even be stronger.
Breman: As of now, only the two of us in the entire world know the truth about that matter.
Breman smoothly made herself comfortable on the bed and pulled me onto the bed as well. As we sat there, she casually threw her arm around my shoulders like a kid trying to flirt.
Breman: So…exactly how did you find out about my gender?
Di Qi Ju: …
From the moment we met, my impression of him had always been that of a dashing man that had top grades in both appearance and disposition. Now that I knew that she wasn’t a man, her actions seem more like a flirtatious act by a kid.
It was just like how you would never know what a candy tasted like despite all its packaging upon examining it. Before tasting, all it gave off was a “playful” vibe.
Di Qi Ju: Err…
Di Qi Ju: Truth be told, I’ve experienced your feminine charms on several occasions and so I had a hunch that…
Breman: Why do you force yourself to lie when you aren’t good at it?
A roguish smile crossed her lips as she lightly derided me. Was she teasing me? Or was she making fun of me?
…it’s probably the latter.
Breman: It’s my scent isn’t it?
Di Qi Ju: …
Breman: No matter how much I dressed myself up as a man, whether it was my clothes, speech or habits…even after making a wish to God for a “disguise”….
Breman: Even though Ethan, the person who is by my side at all times, didn’t notice it…I knew that there was still one fatal flaw in disguise, my scent.
Breman: After all, there was no way I could change my body to that of a man’s. My female scent can’t lie.
Breman: You only found out when you saved me, didn’t you?
Di Qi Ju: ……mhm.
Di Qi Ju: But why did you—
Breman: —needs of governance.
She answered before I had to chance to ask.
Breman: While Faith’s power had been largely centralized due to the efforts of our greatest king, there were still areas that required “nobility”.
Breman: One of these areas is the military, the lifeblood of our nation.
Breman: I used to have a brother that was much older than me. He had been given command over the expedition years ago because of his bloodline and strategic mind. However, that incident ten years ago cost him his life and much more.
Breman: At that time, the king asked his family if there were others of the same bloodline who could carry on his position as only those who were close to the bloodline of Faith could stabilize the military.
Breman: And that meant the nine year old me…
Breman: In order to abide by the king’s wishes, my family covered up my gender and sent me away to study military management in the Country of Skills.
Breman: Having learnt about technology and human resource management, I returned at the age of 15 and was given command over the expedition.
Breman: All of these were the results of political machinations, but I guess you won’t understand that.
Breman: If the country needs it, I’ll gladly carry my gender to the grave.
Di Qi Ju: You…you’ve never thought setting up your own family?
Breman: I don’t see any issue there. It’s just a normal political marriage, all I have to do is find a random bride and adopt some kid.
Breman: Whatever the country needs, there’s no lengths I won’t go to.
Di Qi Ju: ……
Di Qi Ju: Is that really the kind of life you want?
Breman: Of course—
Di Qi Ju: Then…what do you want?
Breman: One day, I want to be able to take off my uniform and my male identity and live as myself. Even if it’s only for a while.
Di Qi Ju: ……
Breman: —you’ve been pretty inquisitive about my deepest secrets…shouldn’t you share some of your own as well.
With that, she threw the ball back to my court as she withdrew her hand from over my shoulder.
Breman: If you don’t have anything of equivalent value to share with me, I’m afraid I might have to find some way to trouble you.
Di Qi Ju: Ah hah…that’s going to be a problem.
Di Qi Ju: However, my secret can’t really compare to yours.
Di Qi Ju: I just wish to live that’s all.
Di Qi Ju: I, Di Qi Ju…am just a person struggling to survive.
Breman: “Other than that, I’m an ordinary person who isn’t a threat to others?”
Di Qi Ju: If that’s possible, that would be the best outcome.
Breman: —fine. In light of your contributions to the founding of a new industry in our country, I’ll accept your request.
Di Qi Ju: Industry?
Breman: Yeah. You have no idea how busy I’ve been these few days.
Breman: First, the expedition had to investigate the surroundings of Starfall in order to ensure that our wish points would no longer disappear.
Breman: That area you hit seemed to have struck an underground water source causing it to burst. Thanks to that, our plan now has to deal with a giant lake.
Di Qi Ju: What plans?
Breman: After a round of discussion with the king, we’ve come to the decision to stop this year’s expedition.
Di Qi Ju: …!?
Di Qi Ju: Huh?
Breman: From today onwards, my main mission is to explore and mine the areas around Starfall while setting up the relevant facilities.
Breman: Based on what we’ve seen so far, that area has the potential makings of a large industrial city.
Breman: Since this process is no longer about exploration. My main duties of supervising the expedition and responding to emergencies can be relegated to my second-in-command.
Breman: Even though there’s still a lot of questions left unanswered, this has been a huge step for mankind’s exploration. The shame of our previous generation has mostly been wiped clean.
Di Qi Ju: Oh….
Breman: Hmm? You seem kind of disappointed.
I smiled bitterly.
Di Qi Ju: Doesn’t this mean that I’ve lost my job?
Breman: Oh…I guess that’s true. The laborers will probably get re-hired by the Finance Bureau. As for the scouts, there’s probably no exploration jobs for them at the moment.
Breman: What’s wrong with drawing a minimum wage from the military? It’s much higher than most of the citizens working in the city.
Breman: Or is there something that you’ve missed out on as a result of this?
Di Qi Ju: …
My mind immediately drifted to Miss Poppy and that promise we had with each other.
Di Qi Ju: I wish to know about the Divine Hall…
Di Qi Ju: I want to visit it.
Breman: …I see, you want money to conduct a Sacred Rite.
Di Qi Ju: Huh…I guess you can say that.
She lowered her head and gave it some thought.
Breman: If that’s the case…
Breman: I wonder if it counts as a virtuous act if I fulfill that wish of yours.
Di Qi Ju: …hm? So you’re saying—
Breman: —our time is almost up for today, we can leave the details for tomorrow.
Breman cleverly avoided my eyes as she got up and left for the door, abruptly cutting off our conversation right as she caught my attention. She should work as those screenwriters in a TV drama…she has talent.
Breman: —oh right, there’s one last thing I need to tell you.
Di Qi Ju: …?
Breman: My original name is “Breiya”. “Breman” is the identity I use when the country needs me.
*bang* The door slammed shut.
Di Qi Ju: ……
Sounds like “Player”…
Somehow, I feel like I’ve been played.
The second day.
Within the confines of the expedition’s base, a hundred over soldiers stood at attention as they gathered within the wide open space.
These were all elite scouts who took part in mankind’s initial foray into the unknown.
Among them, I saw the figures of Mo Chuan, One’day High, Lee Sole’shot and Halfmoon Leak’age.
Thank the heavens they managed to escape from that incident safely.
I was invited by Breiya—I mean Commander Breman to stand by his side as he faced the gathered pioneers.
Breman: Our exploration mission officially comes to an end as of today.
Breman: I’m grateful for all the contributions you all have made to the expedition as the elites of our scouting corp.
Breman: However—this little commendation ceremony has been prepared solely for him.
Di Qi Ju: ……
Breman: The majority of you here shouldn’t be familiar with him. HIs name is Di Qi Ju. He is one of the new soldiers we’ve selected from the laborers.
Breman: However, that isn’t important. What’s important is his power protected me, your commander and the highest authority of this expedition.
Breman: …this matter doesn’t just concern my life but also concerns the vital interests of our country.
The gaze of the soldiers immediately fell on me, mixed within them was a hint of confusion and disbelief.
Evidently, Breman had noticed this as well.
Breman: The majority of you gathered here weren’t citizens of Faith when you first joined.
Breman: What was the first thought you had when you stepped onto the soil of my country?
Breman: Was it “this country won’t question my past and instead allow me to display my talents to the fullest; as long as I contributed, I would receive my due recognition and reward.”
Breman: Was it “No matter where I came from, this country would accept me.”
Breman: Were these not your thoughts when you joined us?
Breman: No matter what age, civilization or society, human beings always had this one unchanging habit…
Breman: …that was to gather around the exceptional.
Breman: “Faith” is merely one such point in the entirety of the human race. And yet, it’s able to gather such a large force thanks to its unique cohesion.
Breman: It is this force that should give you the faith to believe in me, a person who has the bloodlines of Faith.
Breman: “Di Qi Ju is an exceptional person and his contributions are second to none.” That is what I truly believe.
Breman: Those who saw us return together on that day should have some inkling about what I mean.
A moment of silence later, the eyes on me began to withdraw and instead fell on Breman.
This recognition was given to me by Breman.
Breman: Based on this fact, I’ve decided to award him a personal reward.
Di Qi Ju: ……?
Originally, I thought that I would be given a medal of sorts, but from the sound of it, he seemed to have something else in mind.
Breman: Tomorrow, Di Qi Ju will leave for “Reitdarke’s Corridor”, the neighboring country of the Divine Hall in order to prepare for his Sacred Rite.
Breman: As a qualified personnel, I will send in my recommendation for him to take part in a Sacred Rite within the middle ring.
Breman: All expenses incurred will be paid entirely by me.
Di Qi Ju: …???
Mo Chuan: !!
One’day High: What the hell..!!
Lee Sole’shot: —huh!?
Halfmoon Leak’age: ……
My brain froze at that moment, the sudden turn of events was simply too much for me to process in one go.
Judging from all the slack-jawed faces in front of me, this reward must’ve truly been extraordinary.
Breman: Ethan, wasn’t your hometown in Reitdarke’s Corridor? If I’m not mistaken, your family even runs an inn there.
Ethan: Yes Sir.
Breman: During that incident with Starfall, didn’t your brother Alvin suffer some injuries? Does he have plans to return home?
Ethan: He did, in fact he’s already left for home.
Breman: Very good. By the time Di Qi Ju gets there, his injuries should’ve mostly recovered.
Ethan: …I understand. I’ll prepare a letter instructing Alvin to look after him.
Breman: Hmm? Why is there a need for such a thing?
Breman: I’ll tell him myself when I meet him.
Di Qi Ju: —ah?
Ethan: You mean…
Breman: I’ll be accompanying him on his trip to Reitdarke’s Corridor.
Breman: Recently, I’ve heard of some large-scale event in the nearby country of Skill. I think I should be able to get quite a bit of sponsorship there.
Breman: We definitely need all the capital we can get to develop and investigate Starfall.
He calmly spewed out a string of shocking statements as he slapped me on the shoulder with a smile.
Breman: What’s the matter Di Qi Ju? Are you worried that you won’t get to see your friends for a long time?
Di Qi Ju: Err…
Breman: Don’t worry, I can easily fulfill a wish of that magnitude.
Breman: It’s only a short farewell, I’m sure it won’t be a major obstacle in your friendship.
I looked at Breman and then turned towards my friends in the crowd.
Mo Chuan, One’day High, Lee Sole’shot, Halfmoon Leak’age, each of them smiled at me as if to agree with his statement.
Oh…if that’s the case…
I guess I was the only one being sentimental about this.
During the incident at Starfall, I was extremely concerned about my future. Where would I go and what should I do from here on out.
However, reality didn’t turn out that way.
Whether it was my undying body or my endless supply of wish points, all these serendipitous gains had taught me an extremely important lesson.
—when the greatest of treasures are laid before you, do not forget to treasure and experience their beauty.
To me, these were my greatest treasures…
…plus, I still had one more treasure in an unknown distant corner of the world. A treasure that had always been on my mind. Miss Poppy.
Where…are you now?
There stood a giant, imposing wall of ivory colored stone, completely different from the simple and rustic walls of Honor.
Well-equipped soldiers patrolled the vast streets of the city. On it were merchants and citizens packed together in a bustling scene.
However, the figure atop of the wall knew extremely well that this wasn’t the most prosperous section of the commercial district.
For a place so close to the center of human civilization, the Divine Hall, this level of culture and commerce was merely ordinary.
??: Is this the Country of Skill?
As a gust of wind blew over the city walls, it almost seemed like the air today was warmer than usual.
It was almost time for summer in this world.
In the midst of this hot-blooded season, what will be borne out of the mix of rashness and desires?
As the figure atop the wall loosened its full-body coat, it was immediately blown up by a gust of wind.
A flowing head of long orange hair revealed itself as the figure’s hood was lifted back.
Such a comfortable wind…
However, this wasn’t the ending point.
Forward, just a little more…
Advancing forward, towards one’s hopes and dreams.
If I had still been an exile, I wouldn’t have thought to advance forward…
But this gentle wind, this warming heat and this palpitation in my heart…
—all of these weren’t able to stop my steps, advancing ever forward.
Special thanks to Steve Granger!!
Synopsis: Somewhere in the universe, there was an altar. On it, laid a bloody eye as big as the sun itself. It burst with light and bathed the entire star system in red.
"The aura of an ancestral artifact!" Someone's voice rose in surprise.
The Great Galactic Era had begun.