Chapter 154: Trying To Understand; Trying To Accept

“Y-yeah, I’m fine… Uhm… Shishu, I think I’ll go forward. See you at the Western wall…” → Jack
“…”

Shishu looked confused at his seemingly desolate back, then turned around and finally saw Bernard holding hands with Fiora.

So that’s why… → Shishu

Bernard also observed what happened and felt conflicted, not knowing what to do at this point. He then locked gazes with Shishu and he observed a glint of understanding in his eyes. Shishu simply closed his eyes and sighed, then he nodded and made a small smile at Bernard as if trying to reassure him.

A broken heart will heal with time. I wish you two happiness till death and ever after. → Shishu

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Seeing him, Bernard nodded with a solemn expression on, walking with his head held high and trying not to mind too much the broken hearts that will appear in the future.

I can’t worry now for every brother in arms. I will talk with Jack later and explain my relationship with Fiora. If he’ll understand, then that means he’s a true brother. If not, then I’ll only have to end this with a duel and severe our bonds forever. A true man shall never go after another’s woman, and if he won’t understand such then I’ll have to take the hard way as it was her right of choice. → Bernard

Seeing Bernard have some more confidence in himself, made Shishu nod his head then simply walk toward the Western wall, letting the other warriors prepare the materials for construction and gather them all besides the warehouse that was now almost filled with materials.

As he continued on his way, he saw a desolate figure beside the wall, stacking planks of wood one atop the other, clumsily making some fall, trying to put them right back on.

“You’re just making a fool out of yourself. Put those things aside and just take a break, Jack.” → Shishu

Shishu patted his shoulder when he wished to bend down and take the planks again. He looked at him for a moment then Jack did just that. With heavy eyes he looked at Shishu then dropped right beside the wall, resting his back on the stone wall. A long sigh escaped his mouth, while he tirelessly looked at the cloudy sky, feeling empty on the inside but at the same time, as if a boulder was pressing on his chest. Shishu got down by his side and started gazing at the sky just like him. Both breathed out cold air and observed how the little mist was dissipating in the air in a peaceful manner.

“What do you say about this?” → Shishu

Shishu asked as he continued to observe the mist dissipate in the air. Silence befell both of them for a while, then Jack finally opened his mouth and asked back:

“Be sincere, Shishu. Have I ever had a chance?” → Jack

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Shishu shifted his gaze to Jack and asked with the same neutral face as always.

“Shall I beautifully lie?” → Shishu
“… No. I want the truth.” → Jack
“Then there was no chance from the beginning.” → Shishu
“As ruthless as ever.” → Jack
“You said you want the truth.” → Shishu

Jack smiled weakly while Shishu answered back with a righteous expression. Jack then asked again, his smile pained and weak.

“Just why did I chase her then?” → Jack
“For love, I suppose?” → Shishu
“…Just what the Hell is that, man?” → Jack
“How should I know?” → Shishu

Shishu shook his head while Jack stared at his scarred, rough and big hands, confused and distressed by one thought:

“I don’t understand, man… Since I was born, I’ve had my life in peril at my every step. I was just a bandit. Your everyday Tom, Dick, or Henry from the slums who got caught by other bandits and made into a slave on the black market. I’ve been made to fight in the underground coliseum against animals or of the four races. I even had to fight against my own cell-mate. I had a sword in my hands for most of my life, while I only used these arms to take lives and to swing a huge and sharp piece of metal… Just why, so out of nowhere, did my stupid heart started rushing for someone I didn’t even know? For what reason have I started falling so blindly? Just how does love works, man? I’m not even amazed that she rejected me. How can someone like me be worthy of her? Rather, of such feelings? After I started raising in ranks, going from a simple soldier to a commander, then being Andrew’s replacement as a leader, it seems my ego and arrogance grew as well, unable to see my true worth and where my place is: just as another swinger of a huge plank of sharp metal.” → Jack

With a helpless look, he stared at his own palms, pain engulfing him and frustration taking over, unable to understand why he of all people, had to be struck my such a pure emotion. By such heavy feelings that only made him turn into a useless doll.

Seeing him beat himself like this, Shishu looked at the sky once again and opened his mouth. A calm voice resounded as he tried to reminiscence the past.

“… Don’t say you’re just a swinger of another piece of metal… Because that would make me a swinger of a sharp metallic stick…” → Shishu

Jack felt like laughing at Shishu’s remarks, letting him continue talking.

“Life can ask you questions with no answer, put you in front of unresolvable problems, and make you walk a crossed path with no good direction.” → Shishu
“What are you trying to say now?” → Jack

Jack weakly turned around and asked confused. Shisho then made a complicated expression on and continued talking.

“Listen, Jack. I can’t tell you what love is because I never experienced it myself. And such, I can’t tell you to get past it, but for sure I can’t tell you to try and do something as idiotic as stealing her from Bernard. That would surely kill you.” → Shishu
“Y-yeah… I know.” → Jack

Jack smiled helplessly, thinking that going neck to neck against Bernard would be the most stupid thing he could do.

Afterward, Shishu continued in a more solemn tone.

“However, Jack. I can tell that love has nothing to do with the past of a man. Love is love, that’s it. Is not good, nor bad. Is just a normal feeling, felt by us of the races which make us all take another step forward in this life the players call it as a game… And sometimes I’m thinking that they might be right. Maybe life is really just a game… of which rules and ways we have to discover on our own.” → Shishu

With deep eyes, Shishu stared upwards and Jack frowned, turned around and asked confused.

“A game…? A game is made to have fun, Shishu. Not to suffer.” → Jack


“Ever since the players showed us how to play checkmate, or cards, or so many other games, just how many times did you get mad and frustrated from losing?” → Shishu
“… Quite a lot… Especially because that fairy Aura would win all the time…” → Jack
“But she won only 3 times out of 10, you know?” → Shishu
“Impossible!? Although I wasn’t looking all the time, I did hear her laugh and cry in joy almost all the time while her opponents would drop dejected!” → Jack

Jack stared at him in shock, then Shishu continued with a calm expression.

“It was all psychological, Jack. She would shout out in joy for anyone who won, while her opponents would feel bad for defeating such a kind heart. I admit, even I felt bad after beating her at cards. You felt like she won all the times because she would laugh in joy for anyone who own. And most of the times she was truly happy when others own apart from herself.” → Shishu
“What?!” → Jack
“Yes. And that’s the same in life, Jack. The one who wins is the one who got the strength to laugh at a losing hand.” → Shishu
“… That’s ridiculous.” → Jack
“I know, right? I for sure would never be able to do the same. That’s why I find life as a sick game made by mad gods, where the true winners are either pure-hearted children or fairies…” → Shishu

Shishu shook his head and Jack sighed out helpless then got up. He tirelessly took a plank from the ground and placed it on top of another.

“Anyway, man… I need to start working once again. I can’t laze around when our brothers are sweating on their own.” → Jack

Shishu got up as well and stared at Jack’s apathetic back who was slowly working, careful not to down more planks. He then started helping him and while working he said.

“I don’t know a think about love, but I do know about brotherhood. And I know that in case you’ll ever need help, just feel free to ask, Jack.” → Shishu

Jack looked surprised at Shishu who actually said something kind for once. He smiled and this time more energetically he answered back.

“Yeah… The same for you, brother.” → Jack

After they stacked all the planks, they tied them together and carried them toward the warehouse. Even though Jack was still heartbroken, his spirit was exponentially raised by his brothers in arms who took him for a drink the moment they heard that Fiora finally got taken by Bernard. Everyone knew about the two’s feelings for each other, but there were still many who also wanted to try their luck. Only Jack was unaware of that and neither did he wanted to listen when the others told him, being too blinded by an intoxicating feeling of love.

Already late at night, the warriors drank and partied Bernard’s relation with Fiora, while behind this all they also tried to soothe Jack for his broken heart, sometimes teasing him and making him snap out of his depressive state. Bernard also tried to have a serious chat with Jack, but they ended up too drunk to talk seriously, ending up to settle everything with a match of Skanderbeg, Bernard being the obvious winner as his physical strength was the most superior inside ranks of Antara Soldiers, right under Gerome at his prime.

Atop the middle tower which also had the legendary root placed on it, Ryu was staring down from a window, toward the cafeteria where the others were still drinking and singing, some players even using their instruments as a beautiful and energetic song was now resounding everywhere around the cafeteria.

“Haha~ first Khalid, now Bernard. Knowing that everyone is relaxed enough to worry about love really makes me glad to know that the tension from before now is slowly dissipating.” → Ryu

He laughed merrily after he heard the news, unable to wait to tease Bernard the next time they meet.

Sylvia and Bonny were now inside the tower with a cup of tea in their hands, and the bandit-leader Alexander sitting down on another chair, his legs crossed as he also savored on a warm cup of green tea. With a calm smile on his face, he commented after another sip of the tea.

“I truly never tasted such great tea in my life. Not just beautiful, but sensible and delicate as well. To brew such fine tea one cannot have clumsy hands at all. I envy the one who already captured your heart, Goddess Sylvia, and also quite curious of him.” → Alexander

After observing the golden ring around her finger, Alexander suddenly felt extremely curious as for who could capture the heart of such a sensible yet strong beauty.

Hearing his words, Sylvia smiled brightly while looking at her own ring with loving eyes, then she answered to Alexander in a calm manner.

“Oh but sir has already met my destined. He should have used the name of~… Johan? If I’m not wrong. Now I think he also used the name of Shen in front of you, no? I suppose he’s still too shy to wear his ring yet? But I don’t mind. This cute side of his, I also adore it.” → Sylvia
Cough Cough!”

Alexander started coughing, trying to understand just how someone as dark like me could be together with such a dazzling person like Sylvia. He stared confused at her then at Ryu as if waiting for affirmation. Seeing his eyes, Ryu couldn’t help but laugh and shook his head, answering accordingly.

“Even though it is quite complicated for now, they are just as Sylvia said.” → Ryu
“…”

Alexander stared once again at Sylvia, observing how she looked at everything and everyone the same way, only at her ring she would look as if she was love-struck, completely different from the always calm and smiling expression she has.

So basically… to win the beauty, one doesn’t necessarily have to be strong or smart, but an oddity and weird? I would have understood if it was some big hero or great sage, not a scheming guy with creepy eyes. God damn it, how unfair can life be. → Alexander

He sighed desperately then he stared at her as she chatted with Bonny, a rather more serious expression appearing on his face.

As I was traveling with my people deeper in Eihwaz, this little goddess suddenly appeared in front of us literally out of nowhere, then starts talking about how she expected us and whatnot… Right after she made us go through a tunnel she just made through a tree, only to see ourselves in front of a huge and bloody gate, filled with claw-marks and cracks… Now that I know she is that Shen’s wife then everything makes sense… This place… Maybe might really be able to keep my people safe. → Alexander

A light smile appeared on his face after getting the approbation from Ryu. Just a few moments ago, Ryu and Alexander had a conversation about what Shen promised his people and what they should do to truly be part of this kingdom.

Here are two options for you and your people: You all can be just some immigrants that will be able to get shelter from us for at most 5 months until you lot find another safe place and be able to pay back the consumptions. Or you and everyone in your group starts working for us, partakes in the development of the kingdom and fight for it side by side with our warriors. All of this while achieving citizenship inside the empire, a place to live in, 3 portions of food every day from the cafeteria, clothes, and take part in primary classes to at least learn how to read, write, calculate, and many other basics, together with the obligatory classes of martial arts and magic. The choice is yours to make, but I’m pretty sure that Shen already told you of this and your presence here talks by itself. → Ryu

At his words, all Alexander had to do was to nod and smile, the terms already being agreed the moment he talked with me, right now Ryu only giving a brief recapitulation of what he was accepting for his entire village.

His appearance might be like that of a bandit, but his aura is like that of a general… He reminds me of David. → Ryu

Even Ryu was impressed by Alexander’s composed behavior together with his adapting abilities. He then asked curiously, still unaware of my next plans.

“Now, Sir Alexander, may I know with what else we can help at the moment?” → Ryu

At his question Alexander thought for a moment then an idea suddenly struck him.

“May I know if there is any weapons shop in this kingdom?” → Alexander
“Weapons shop? We still don’t sell weapons, but we do have a blacksmithing factory near that crafts any kind of weapon. But I must say, the materials used are from A to S+ monsters, while the metals are just as great of a rarity. Think you could come up with the necessities?” → Ryu
“W-well that’s surprising.” → Alexander

Slight sweat appeared on Alexander’s forehead at the ridiculous thought of having such great armament in just one kingdom.

“Then I’ll have to first see the cheapest products. I and my group needs around 100 new weapons and armor, and everything has to be around 600 gold coins at most.” → Alexander

With a helpless smile Alexander takes out the pouch with gold I gave him, and everyone else, Sylvia especially, stared at the pouch with frozen expressions. Sylvia then asked with the always kind tone, however, her eyes showing a slight glint of irritation.

“Sire Alexander? May we know if Sir Shen actually gifted you that pouch?” → Sylvia
“Yep. He gave it to me instantly, without me even asking.” → Alexander

Feeling her anger, Alexander threw the blame on me without thinking twice. Sylvia then sighed out somewhat exasperated, massaging her temples then trying to feel around inside herself. There around her heart, a little string from other many was stretching outside her body toward the far Nord. That little string represented the bond between us when I promised her that I won’t sleep outside or inside a cave.

The promise Shen made with me has not been broken… Sigh~ I forgot just how crafty this guy can be. He used some loopholes inside the promise and still did as he wanted. → Sylvia

Ryu then smiled awkwardly and invited Alexander outside to show him the way toward the blacksmith and leaving the two women have their own private moment for once.

Meanwhile, Bonny remained behind and continued to chat with Sylvia, feeling somewhat pressured by the great abilities she showed them right after the heroes and I left the kingdom.

She simply flew toward the bald and broken mountains used in the defense against Thanatos’ army and when we wanted to follow by the time we reached, the entire mountain disappeared and in its place appeared this kingdom built from the same piece of stone. It’s like she sculpted from more mountains this entire kingdom… When we asked how she did that, she told us that “she simply asked the mountain to give them shelter”… If I have to consider master as a being which reached God power-rank, then Sylvia is definitely an Elder God Rank. → Bonny

Bonny started to feel more and more conflicted at such thoughts. Even though she was happy for everyone after they became so strong, but she was still extremely frustrated that she was the only one who was left behind.

I think even little Tara surpassed me… Sigh~ just what else should I do? I can’t simply kill monsters for XP, this is no longer a game to just level up and get stronger… if things were just as simple… → Bonny

Seeing the frustration in her eyes, Sylvia understood immediately what she was thinking and smiled lightly then suddenly asked Bonny with a naughty glint in her eyes.

“Miss Bonny, have you slept with King Ryu at least once after he absorbed the dragon-blood?” → Sylvia
“W-why are you suddenly asking me that?” → Bonny

A deep blush appeared on her face as her head lowered. For a moment too embarrassed to answer, then she slightly shook her head for a negative answer.

“I see. Then when will the two of you have enough time to do so?” → Sylvia
“S-seriously, Miss Sylvia. Just what are you asking?!” → Bonny

Already too embarrassed, Bonny erupted with a flustered expression on. Sylvia, on the other hand, remained with a calm and smiling expression on, then she gave her own explanation.

“Miss Bonny, I think you are still not fully aware that King Ryu is slowly but surely turning into a true dragon?” → Sylvia

At her words, Bonny froze then a sad expression took over her face.

“Yes… I am aware of that…” → Bonny
“But there is nothing to be sad about, you know?” → Sylvia
“Eh?” → Bonny

Sylvia smiled at her baffled expression and continued:

“Even though his essence will turn into that of a dragon, his preferences, his soul, and his mind will all of them remain the same. Maybe the outer shell will change at a fundamental level, but what’s inside will remain the same. Just like how you players changed into a completely another person to the outside, on the inside you’re still you.” → Sylvia

Bonny’s eyes shone with a glint of understanding, but then the next words Sylvia said made her blush to intensify once again.

“And you know? There are many legends that said Dragons despised to breed with the weaker races simply because that would make an exchange of powers. And you know what that means? Now that Ryu is a dragon, your tiny little drop of a dragon can be further enchanted and acquire even greater powers simply by uniting with him. If you feel weak, then just ask Ryu to sleep with you and some characteristics of his draconic powers will get absorbed by you.” → Sylvia
“B-but won’t that make him weaker? I can’t do that!” → Bonny
“Oh! But of course not. It won’t happen as long you’ll do it the way I’ll teach it to you~.” → Sylvia
“Hm?” → Bonny

Sylvia then explained to Bonny about the Kundalini double-cultivation I taught her when I was still united with my superior spirits, and smoke evaded Bonny’s ears as she continued to listen to what she had to do, in what position she had to stay, and how to enhance Ryu into instinctively starting this cultivation.

“I-Is it needed for me to sit on his lap while facing him? That’s kind of embarrassing…” → Bonny
“Oh? So you want it from behind? Isn’t that more daring~?” → Sylvia
“I was talking about laying down in bed!” → Bonny

As the two of them talked, now and then Sylvia would continue to tease Bonny, feeling more amused by her every reaction.

While the two women continued chatting together, at the Eastern wall of the new kingdom Maru stared with a saddened and worried expression at Lilia who was now fully equipped and ready to depart together with David and his entire army. Even though he knew the answer, Maru still asked while feeling frustrated.

“Do you really have to go?” → Maru

Lilia then answered with a composed and serious expression on.

“When King Ryu asked for a volunteer to send the message to the Urius Kingdom, I already named myself. Now I can no longer fall back, even if you ask me to.” → Lilia
“Why did you volunteer, Lilia?” → Maru
“… Just like you Maru, I feel indebted to this kingdom, to the two lords. I feel like I must do more than I’m already doing to at least get rid of this feeling of debt.” → Lilia
“Let me come with you-“ → Maru
“You can’t. The library is one of the most important places inside the kingdom, and it is your role to guard it and take care of it with all you got as the librarian, Maru.” → Lilia
“B-but…” → Maru

Maru clenched his fists in frustration, unable to make Lilia remain or to at least go with her.

David, his two lieutenants, and 1,500+ men stood behind while waiting for Lilia, this time none of them trying to worsen the relations with the Antara any longer.

So a demoness will be the representant… I understand that he wants to show just how great of a kingdom Antara truly is to actually have of the proud demons as subordinates… But are they really sure they want to bring an old enemy of humans to a kingdom ruled by a human? → David

As David thought to himself, he suddenly felt a strong pressure from the front. With a rushed heart he raised his head and looked in the direction where the pressure came from, only to see Maru stare at him with a calm but firm expression on.

“Please take care of her.” → Maru

His words calm and barely audible, they still resounded like thunder in David’s ears.

A-a Semi-God?! → David

Shock flashed through David’s eyes for a second, then he nodded his head with the always neutral expression on. Even though on the outside he seemed composed and firm, at the moment his feelings were in quite the turmoil.

Such a young age and already a Semi-God… This kingdom is truly filled with hidden legends and tamed monsters… → David

Being so close to him, Lilia also felt the pressure and after she heard his words, a sudden blush took her by surprise and another impulse made her body move unintentionally.

“?!?”

Maru was suddenly surprised by a kiss on the corner of his lips, making his flapped ears to suddenly jump and stay straight.

“L-Lilia?” → Maru
“… I need nobody’s care but yours. Please just wait for me here.” → Lilia
“S-sure…” → Maru

She then turned around toward David and the others to leave toward Urius, David already talked with Ryu a while before leaving about their departure. Maru stared at them departing with a helpless expression on, then taking out black jadeite from inside his pocket and looking at it with deep and tired eyes.

“You’re right, Lilia… I am indebted to this Kingdom just as much as you… And I also love its people. For this reason, I can’t let anyone else take this role but me… I won’t let anyone stain their hands and minds with such filthy spells… but myself.” → Maru

He then turned around to return to the library, his shadow suddenly growing and taking the form of a colossal skull.

I took the path of a dark mage… codenamed: Death the Reaper. I can’t fall back any longer… → Maru

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