Chapter 109: Cold But Pure (Part 2)

“That day was one of my darkest days… Because of her sacrifice, I survived… while she died on her own… The next day, reinforcements finally arrived. I was furious. Because of their tardiness, my wife had to die and my child to remain without a mother. My mana and chi deviated and I turned into a berserk. It took more than one hundred men to stop me and another 50 mages to set my energies in place while the fort we were able to protect was completely destroyed by my wild energies… From the damage caused, I had to pay back with my family’s fortune. We fell from the rank of Count to that of a Baron in a matter of one day… Because of that, I was made by my family to work hard and get back the family’s honor while they took care of my child. I fought again in the army after one year of discipline in the academy, and only after half the year in the front lines, I acquired the title of one thousand-man commander. I reached higher and higher, then in five years I got the title of General, continuing my campaigns in the enemy lines, years passed and my little son grew into a great warrior. After turning 20, my son wished to come with me on the front, wanting to see his father’s strategic might. However, there was no such thing as a strategic talent, I was only able to understand what my superiors were thinking. And what they wanted was to get rid of me.” → Gerome

Gerome said so while shaking his head with a tired face.

“Because of my strong instincts, I was able to tell when it was a trap set by my superiors and when it was a true mission. For unknown reasons, my superiors would always know when there would be a night raid or sudden assaults from Nostrung, sending me to repel them, even though it seemed close to impossible. After numerous victories, while doing a war campaign, I was shocked to discover that one-third of my troops were changed with new soldiers… soldiers that deserted the moment we reached the enemy fortress that we were supposed to capture. Of course, we killed every deserter, but because my army was already weakened, we got decimated while I was brought as prisoner… my son… being killed while trying to secure my escaping route… He was the second person that sacrificed himself for a useless fool like me… When the Nostrung Empire sent out a redemption letter in my name toward Vestria and my family, they didn’t send back any answer, sealing my fate as a slave…” → Gerome

He felt empty and heavy like lead. His wife and child died for him, his family sent him to sacrifice his life for a tittle, his motherland tried to get rid of him numerous times and in the end, he ended up as a slave. His family didn’t try to buy his freedom back, while the academy turned a blind eye.

No… I lost everything the moment I entered someone else’s fight… I should’ve just run away with her when I had the possibility… → Gerome

“…So… What about now? Has Antara gave you what you lost?” → Gerome

Khalid asked while feeling empathy for the old Gerome. His cold eyes were no longer present, making space for a gaze filled with emotions such as sadness, frustration, and even some hate.

What a twisted world… You fight for them, but they repay you by taking everything you have. I was right from the very beginning… War is just unfair… → Gerome

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“Oh yes… They gave me what I wished for, but I lost it all like a damn fool!” → Gerome

-BOOM!-

Gerome shouted while slamming his fist on the stone parapet, turning it into dust.

“Ah. Please excuse my sudden burst, Mister Khalid. I wasn’t myself just now.” → Gerome

“No problem. But please explain to me, what do you mean you got everything back but lost it all again?” → Khalid

Khalid was surprised at first by Gerome’s sudden rage, but his curiosity was stronger, making him forget about the ridiculous power the old man just showed.

“Yes. After becoming a resident of Antara Kingdom and became a pillar of this kingdom, I was able to meet people who shared the same pains as me, people that could understand the sadness of this old dragoon… But what made me the happiest, was that I was able to have someone that I could love. Maybe not as a lover, but surely as a family. I felt like I could be happy again. I felt like, after all these wasted years of fighting for nothing, life had meaning again…” → Gerome

Then Gerome’s eyes turned moist. Tears that did not fall even when he talked about his own wife, now wetted his palms while looking down.

“But in this last war… a war in which I finally had a reason to fight for… I lost everything. My incompetence was the only reason I lost this family I made here, and I have no one but me to blame…” → Gerome

Gerome said with a sad smile while tears flowed downward on his wrinkled face. His white hair fell over his shoulders while his once mighty and long horns seemed to be decolored by time and fragile as fossils.

“Old man…” → Khalid

Khalid felt his heart throbbing. He observed how the little bit of light still visible from the setting sun, disappeared completely in the darkness.

“I know that you hate kingdoms and wars, corruption and injustice… but you must understand that sometimes… fighting is the only way to protect what’s precious to you.” → Gerome

Gerome slowly walked toward Khalid while continuing talking.

“That’s why I said you’re still too young to have a dying heart, Mister Khalid.” → Gerome

When he reached him, he patted his shoulder with a firm hand and gazed at him with wise, old and compassionate eyes.

“I don’t know your story, but seeing how you reacted to mine, I can guess you must’ve had a similar experience, your loved ones must’ve also died for you. However hard and painful it may seem, you must try and search for happiness again, little wolf… Don’t wait for it to come on its own, because when it does come, it might be too late and your powers to protect it, won’t be the same… You are still young, Mister Khalid. Use this attribute you still have and take this one heavy step forward. Use everything you have at your disposal and search for your own happiness with your two young and strong arms and legs.” → Gerome

“Ugh…” → Khalid

His heart wasn’t able to endure it any longer and he fell on his knees. He remembered about his friends that sustained him in this world. He remembered about the only person that cared about him in this other World but died right after because of him. He remembered about the hardships he had to endure on Earth, then the ones he had to welcome on Sario once again.

“AAAAHH~!”

After years of sufferings on Earth, then months of living Hell on Sario, his pent up emotions and pains burst to the outside in a form of salty tears and sorrowful shouts. He wasn’t able to control himself and felt his knees weak while his chest explode.

George also fell on his knees and embraced the crying young wolf. His eyes were red from sorrow while tears flowed uncontrollably. He patted his head with his trembling hands, trying to comfort him.

“It’s all right… Cry for as much as you need and scream as loud as you want… May your heart calm down, knowing that the souls of the deceased are resting in heavens and are watching upon you.” → Gerome

Gerome whispered with a trembling voice while crying silently. Even though he said this for Khalid, he was also telling himself to calm down and keep on going. By helping Khalid on easing his heart, he tried to heal his old and new scars for as much as possible.

“Gah! Uuugh~…”

Khalid felt extremely tired. After crying out loud, he felt burned out and unable to think anymore. His only wish at this moment was to go and sleep. But shortly right after, he got out from Gerome’s embrace and looked with a pained and frustrated gaze at him.

I… I don’t deserve happiness… My creations brought only destruction, nothing of which I could be proud of… → Khalid

He got up and then he helped George on his feet.

“Old man… Thank you… and sorry.” → Khalid

Khalid said while bowing his head with a humble face.

“No. I did nothing to be thanked for. And I’m not the one to whom you should say sorry.” → Gerome

Gerome said with a knowing smile.

“Eh?” → Khalid

“I’m sure you know who I’m talking about. Just like you and me, she also had to go through harsh times, mister Khalid. She had to go through hell and back while she isn’t even an adult. I wonder how can she still stay strong and smile after all she has gone through? I always knew that women are strong, but sometimes even I get impressed.“ → Gerome

Gerome shook his head with a bitter smile.

“Please take good care of that child, Khalid. She might seem always happy, but only God knows what bitter feelings she’s hiding under that smile of hers.” → Gerome

He said with a serious voice while his face showed helplessness and frustration.

“W-who are you talking about? I really have no-…” → Khalid

He then paused and the image of an always cheerful young lady appeared in his mind.

Is he talking about… the little white dragoon? → Khalid

Khalid remembered how he gave her the cold shoulder while talking with indifference, then he refused to act like a true friend with her. He also remembered the face of shock, confusion, and sadness after he closed the door after him.

I… Why have I done that…? → Khalid

He then looked up with agitation and was shocked to see a wide smile on Gerome’s old face.

“W-what happened?” → Khalid

“I was just thinking about how wrong the rumors can be.” → Gerome

“Rumors? What rumors?” → Khalid

“About how a young wolf named Khalid has lifeless eyes with a dead heart. But I can see none of that in you. Your eyes are filled with emotions while your heart it’s filled with feelings. → Gerome

“W-what are you-… This!” → Khalid

Khalid retracted with one step and supported himself on the stone, only to be surprised by how cold it was.

I-I can feel it…? And this smell… It smells like blood and… grilled meat? → Khalid

He looked in the distance and saw how from a chimney atop the cafeteria, smoke evaded and filled an area of around 500-meter with the smell of grilled meat.

-GROWL~-

“…”

Khalid slightly covered himself with his cloak and evaded any eye contact.

“Boahahah~. It seems you’re hungry now. Why don’t you go and eat something? I’ll remain here some more to gaze at the distance. I think you already know what to do by now.” → Gerome

Gerome said with a smile then left toward the opposite side from the cafeteria. His lowered head and dropped shoulders looked lonely and desolate.

“… Old man.” → Khalid

He shouted after him while making a step forward. Gerome simply turned around with a small smile but said nothing.

“I-…” → Khalid

After seeing his smile, he stopped and said with a firm voice.

“I know what to do… Please stay healthy, old man.” → Khalid

Khalid then left from atop the chairs and walked slowly, but not toward the cafeteria but some other place.

-Creak~-

The door opened with a light sound then Khalid entered inside with light steps.

“Hello?”

The voice of a young girl echoed while footsteps resounded in the little house.

“Ah, welcome back. Were you able to find something interesting while strolling around?” → Tara

After seeing Khalid entering through the door, Tara welcomed him with a smile while staying right beside the door of her room. The house only had two rooms separated by a wall, a little hall and a living room with four chairs and one table.

“…”

Khalid looked at Tara with conflicted feelings and asked:

“Didn’t you leave to play outside?” → Khalid

“No. I would’ve bothered the others of my age if I did so, and the adults won’t let me help with building the walls. In the end, I remained here to read some more books that I borrowed from the library.” → Tara

She said with a calm smile while showing Khalid her book. It was Shen’s book called The First Love Story which talked about how the universe was created. Unlike when he first talked about it, he tried to turn it into a real story, personifying the characters and turning them more life-like.

Khalid shook his head then turned around.

“Y-you’re already leaving?” → Tara

Tara asked somewhat disappointed while taking a step after him.

“I’m hungry. I’m going to the cafeteria.” → Khalid

“Hungry…?” → Tara

Tara was stunned.

Since when does Khalid feel hunger? I normally had to remind him to eat or else he would’ve collapsed again, just like when I first met him. → Tara

“Yeah… So are you coming?” → Khalid

Khalid asked while looking at her normally. Without coldness or indifference, but with normal a normal welcoming gaze.

The girl was surprised to see no coldness in his eyes and hear no indifference in his voice. Even more, the fact that he wished to converse and walk with her made Tara feel like the distance between them shortened. Her smile bloomed on her face and rushed with light steps beside him.

“Gladly! So? What should we eat? I heard Severus and his wife just made the best soup with Yellow Snake and Spiky Bear. Oh! Or should we take some Wyvern meatballs? Those are also great! Or…” → Tara

While Tara enumerated the menu for the night, Khalid was dumbfounded to hear what the food contained.

Will it be alright for me to eat that? I heard the demonic beasts meat is quite toxic… → Khalid

“…”

Suddenly Tara stopped and looked with a slight feeling of fear at Khalid.

“Hm? What’s wrong?” → Khalid

Khalid asked confused.

“I-I’m sorry. I started to talk on my own again, forgetting that you don’t really like conversing.” → Tara

Tara stopped and grabbed her white dress while lowering her head and feeling guilty. She never had a friend and never knew how she should behave around one. Remembering how Khalid got mad last time she asked something out of him, she became more reserved when it came to talking with him. She was afraid of making him angry again.

“…”

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Khalid understood what she felt and sighed, feeling at wrong here.

I made a good young girl be more reserved than she already was, just because of my immaturity… Trying to protect myself, I only wounded the ones around me… → Khalid

He looked at his own claws then at the little girl with some sadness, not knowing what to tell her in return.

-Cling~, cling~-

Suddenly, the ring of a melodic and calm bell resounded in the fortress and from the night sky little white cold stars fell slowly over the entire kingdom.

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